Crown Office statement on BBC Lockerbie evidence claim

On 7 January 2010 the Crown Office issued a "STATEMENT ON LOCKERBIE TIMER FRAGMENT CLAIMS", responding to a BBC Newsnight item the previous evening (which, ironically, could not be seen in Scotland because the item was shown after the show split from its UK to its Scottish version at 11 a.m.

The statement reads as follows:

"On 6 January 2010, the BBC’s Newsnight reported claims regarding the timer fragment (PT 35), which formed part of the case against the convicted Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi.

The report included an interview with a consultant, Dr John Wyatt, who suggested that it was unlikely that the timer fragment survived the mid-air explosion over Lockerbie.

The trial court accepted evidence that the PT 35 fragment was part of the timer which had detonated the explosion on Pan Am Flight 103.

A Crown Office spokesperson said:

"The only appropriate forum for the determination of guilt or innocence is the criminal court. Mr Megrahi was convicted unanimously by three senior judges following trial and his conviction was upheld unanimously by five judges, in an Appeal Court presided over by the Lord Justice General, Scotland’s most senior judge. Mr Megrahi remains convicted of the worst terrorist atrocity in UK history.

Dr John Wyatt has never examined the timer fragment (PT 35) or the piece of clothing from which it was extracted by forensic experts, later identified as part of a shirt sold to a Libyan man in Malta two weeks before the bombing. Crown Office has not seen any report of Dr Wyatt’s findings, nor were we approached by the BBC for any comment. Had the BBC asked the Crown for a comment, it would have been possible to identify the errors in the report, including the inaccurate description of the piece of clothing as containing a label which said “Made in Malta”.

The steps taken by the police to identify the origin of the fragment were described in evidence to the trial court at Camp Zeist and conclusive forensic evidence proved that the fragment was part of the timer in the Improvised Explosive Device (IED), a Toshiba radio cassette recorder, at the time of the explosion which destroyed Pan Am 103.

It was reported in the programme that tests carried out by Dr Wyatt suggest that the fragment was unlikely to have survived the mid-air explosion and that the radio used in his tests “totally disintegrated” and “went into tiny, tiny bits”.

In fact, extensive explosives tests were carried out in the United States in 1989, some time before the fragment PT35 was extracted by the forensic experts,  as part of the Lockerbie investigation. The purpose of these tests was:

o to estimate the amount and location of the explosives used on PA103;

o to establish the extent of damage to the improvised explosive device (“IED”), the adjacent suitcases and their contents; and

o to ascertain what parts of the IED and its contents it was possible to recover and identify.

After a number of test explosions a detailed search was made and circuit board fragments, radio cassette casing and parts, fragments of instruction manual, the suitcase and clothing were all recovered in a condition which was consistent with the debris recovered in relation to the Lockerbie disaster.

The forensic evidence placed before the court included:

*Evidence about the appearance of the fragment;

*The fact that when it was recovered, it was embedded within a fragment of a blast damaged grey Slalom brand shirt, which had been found in Newcastleton, Roxburghshire on 13 January 1989 and which in the opinion of the scientists, had been packed within the suitcase housing the IED (the “primary suitcase”);   This piece of shirt did not, contrary to the claims made in the BBC programme, contain a label saying “Made in Malta”.

*Also embedded within that same clothing fragment were pieces of a Toshiba RT-SF 16 radio cassette recorder owner’s manual. Separately, another fragment of the owner’s manual was found on 22 December 1988 in Morpeth, Northumberland;

*The fragments of the owner's manual recovered from the grey Slalom shirt by the forensic scientists were found to have come from parts of the same page of the same manual, close to one another"."

The BBC programme is available on the iPlayer here – thanks to Scott Wortley for the link.