This article should be published in the Mail on Sunday (Scotland) tomorrow. It is intended to inform 'the common man' in Scotland as to some of what went on in Zeist.


Please do not communicate any of it to the media before Sunday




Mail on Sunday requested 11-1300 word article 20/6/07


Dr Jim Swire for Alan Crow


There is no torture as exquisite, nor knife so sharp as the brutal murder of an innocent child. Our 23 year old daughter Flora and 269 others were murdered at Lockerbie on 21/12/88, 38 minutes into their flight to JFK. My wife Jane understood that the identification and punishment of the killers was my personal way of trying to cope. Together with other distraught relatives, we soon formed the group UK Families-Flight 103” to offer support to each other, and began to follow the progress of the international hunt for the killers.


Our country owed us an explanation of why the plane was not protected despite the timely warnings. We were also entitled to expect that a relentless search for the killers would be pursued, and that when identified, no effort would be spared to bring them to justice. To renege on these duties would be to demean the memory of those who died.


For two years the investigation pointed to Iran as the revenge-seeker, using the terrorist Syrian group, the PFLP-GC, as their executives. Iran had lost 290 pilgrims in an airbus to a US missile six months before Lockerbie.


Expert German forensic evidence showed that the PFLP-GC had developed bombs which, if placed in an aircraft would inevitably explode around 40 minutes after take off, no matter how long they had hung around at ground level. The CIA had found that Iranian money had flowed into the PFLP-GC’s Swiss accounts after Lockerbie. The PFLP-GC’s leader, Ahmed Jibril, boasted ‘they’ll never find out how I did it’, Iran had publicly warned ‘the skies will rain blood on America. The path to identification of those responsible seemed set.


Many of us felt that despite the sheer evil of the deed, justice , not revenge, should be sought. The old story of a terrorist attack followed by military retaliation was a well worn path to more deaths and more hatred. We were determined that this should not be followed in the name of those who had died.


Then in 1991, amid the gathering storm clouds around the first Gulf war, and desperation over US hostages held by Iranian backed groups, the UK Foreign Secretary told us that the investigation now pointed towards Libya: there was no evidence, he said, against any other country.


But an official of President Bush (Snr’s) investigation into Lockerbie had quietly confided to us in 1990 when we went to the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square to hear its findings – “Our government and yours know exactly what happened, but they’re never going to tell”


By late 1991 indictments were issued against the two Libyans. It was claimed that they had put a bomb aboard in Malta and that it had been transferred between planes, unaccompanied, at Frankfurt and Heathrow airports, and then exploded 38 minutes after take off from Heathrow, over Lockerbie.


Professor Robert Black of Edinburgh, emeritus professor of Scots law, proposed a neutral country trial under Scots law. Most of us were opposed to a US trial, objecting to the death penalty, even for so heinous a crime as this: had Megrahi been tried in the USA I am sure he would have been executed long before now.


 Shortly after the indictments had been issued, I went to beg Colonel Gaddafi to allow his citizens to be handed over for trial. Twice more the professor and I returned to meet the Colonel.


In 1998, thanks to the intervention of many, including Nelson Mandela, the Saudis, and the then UK Foreign Secretary the late Robin Cook, President Clinton agreed to the trial. So then did the Libyans.


When I entered the specially created court at Zeist in Holland, and heard again the long list of the names of the dead read out, I felt something worthwhile had been achieved in their names. This was a far better way for nations to interact than with tit for tat violence. I felt proud that we had contributed a little to a ground-breaking method of resolving international disputes in the future.


Listening to all the proceedings, I was soon to remember the wise words of Nelson Mandela spoken in Edinburgh days before the Zeist trial was agreed by President Clinton: “ No one country should be complainant prosecutor and judge”, yet the UK and US (whose intelligence services supplied much of the evidence) had arranged that triple role for Scotland


Within days of the trial starting, my confidence that I was watching the trial of guilty men began to ebb. There was no proof that they had penetrated security at Malta’s Luqa airport, no convincing record that a suitcase from Malta had transferred to a Pan Am feeder flight at Frankfurt. Even the prosecution case that Megrahi had bought clothes in a Malta shop to wrap around the bomb was shot through with doubt.


Worst of all the prosecution case depended absolutely on Megrahi having used a digital timer which he could have set to explode any time up to 99 hours after planting it. Yet the fragment of circuit board ‘found’ at Lockerbie, was the only ‘objective’ evidence of such a timer and was in the only police evidence bag to have had its label mysteriously altered. It had only been included in the British forensic report as an afterthought, requiring the renumbering (by hand) of subsequent pages to accommodate it. The forensic ‘experts’ had not even tested the fragment for explosive residues. Later I was to hear how the senior UK forensic scientist responsible had been found by an inquiry to have introduced false evidence in the case of the Maguire 7, in 1976, while his co-‘expert’ was described as unfit to present himself as an expert in electronics in 2005, following another terrorist case. Yet there was no other evidence than this one fragment to support the use of a digital timer.


And how very strange that a digitally timed bomb from Malta should have gone off at exactly the time in the Lockerbie flight when a PFLP-GC device would have had to go off had one been inserted at Heathrow. The PFLP-GC devices could not be altered by the user, all were set to the same approximately 40 minute time window. The user of a digital device however could easily have arranged for the explosion to occur hours later over the Atlantic.


By the end of the main trial at Zeist I had become convinced that neither Libyan was guilty as charged. The trial evidence itself seemed to reveal that the prosecution case was a fabrication. When the first appeal (at Zeist) confirmed that a break-in at Heathrow the night before had provided the perfect opportunity for the Lockerbie bomb to be given to the IranAir personnel there, I fully expected both accused to be acquitted.


Fortunately the decision whether or not to review the case again still rests with the Scottish Criminal Case Review Commission. I believe now that Scotland too was an innocent victim in a deadly game of international politics, and pray that she will find the strength to review the evidence. If she does, and decides the verdict must be overturned, then it would follow that Scotland should also found an inquiry into how this extraordinary predicament fell upon her, since the UK authorities have resolutely turned their backs on our calls for an independent inquiry over the last eighteen and a half years.


Mr Megrahi needs to go home to his family for whom he pines. His has been a terrible ordeal and he is desperate to clear his name.


We still need and deserve the truth including to know who among those who should have supported us has instead deceived us. A way must now be found to prevent such deception, as well as healing the wounds of terrorism.


Dr Jim Swire (