14 May 2000


Lockerbie report leaves trial in chaos

By Neil Mackay, Home Affairs Editor, and Ian Ferguson in New York
Publication Date: May 14 2000
By Neil Mackay, Home Affairs Editor, and Ian Ferguson in New York
Publication Date: May 14 2000

THE two Libyans accused of downing PanAm 103 could not have planted the bomb, according to a devastating scientific report submitted by one of the Crown's star witnesses. The report threw the prosecution case into disarray and forced the adjournment of the Lockerbie trial on Thursday for 12 days.

The report concludes that the Semtex bomb was attached to the inside of the aircraft in the cargo hold and was not concealed, as the prosecution case alleges, within a cassette player packed into a suitcase which was stored within a luggage container in the cargo hold.

A senior legal expert said of the new development last night: "I think this case is ready to collapse. The prosecution are running around like headless chickens. They know its going to go belly up but they don't want the fallout to hit them. At this point, I think the prosecution have no anticipation of a conviction, but they are going to try and drag out the case for as long as possible so they can say that they tried their best."

Senior Crown Office sources have admitted to the Sunday Herald that the report submitted to the Lord Advocate, Colin Boyd, just days before the trial started provided such startling new evidence that the prosecution had no alternative but to seek an adjournment to consider the future of the trial.

In a stunning own goal for the prosecution, Edwin Bollier, who is listed as prosecution witness number 548, delivered a detailed analysis of the explosion to the Lord Advocate, claiming the Crown's version of the bombing was scientifically impossible. The potentially lethal blow comes from the man that the Crown intended to call to crucially link the Libyans to the bomb's timing device. Bollier's Swiss company, MEBO, is said by the Crown to have made the timer used to detonate the bomb.

The prosecution case stands and falls on proving that the Libyans placed the bomb inside the cassette player. If the bomb was placed on the inner wall of the cargo hold, as the Bollier report claims, the link between the Lockerbie bombing and the Libyans would be broken.

The Crown clearly states that Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, placed the cassette player, packed with explosives, into a suitcase containing clothes and an umbrella onto a flight leaving Malta. The bomb later exploded over Lockerbie.

Bollier, who was legally manufacturing timing devices, initially told Scottish police, prosecutors and the FBI that recovered fragments of the timer found in woodland near Lockerbie were fragments of timers he had sold to the Libyan government.

But Bollier later changed his mind. In September last year, when he claims he was finally shown the actual pieces of the timer by police in Dumfries, Bollier was adamant that the fragments were not the same timers he had produced.

Following this, Bollier commissioned scientists, who he refuses to name, to investigate the downing of PanAm 103. Their findings make up the report he has submitted to the Lord Advocate.

In effect, Bollier has become a hostile witness to the prosecution who could now destroy the Crown's case. Crown sources said: "The last thing the prosecution wants to do now is call Bollier, but they know that if they don't call him then the defence will. It's a horrible Catch-22 for the Crown. The prosecution needs to establish a link between the Libyans and the timer, so the prosecution has to call him, but if they call him he will destroy the prosecution case. It's lose-lose, whatever way you look at it."

Bollier's report also says the blast damage to the aircraft shows that the bomb was placed directly on the inside wall of the cargo hold.

The report claims that the shape of the wreckage fragments also proves the bomb was attached to the aircraft's inner wall rather than inside the luggage container. It also says that if the bomb was held in a cassette player, in a suitcase and in a luggage container, the shockwave of the explosion would have been muffled by its surroundings and not being powerful enough to down the plane.

The report pin-points a specific spot on the inner wall of the cargo hold which it says was the position of the bomb. The authors claim this can be worked out by the shape of the wreckage, adding: "Previous forensics examinations should have come to the conclusion that the explosion did not occur inside the luggage container."

The bomb, the report claims, was placed behind a fibre-glass shell inside the cargo hold. Panels of the fibre-glass shell could be unscrewed and lifted off allowing [Text discontinued in original post.]