IED Fragment Survivability Tests

last update Jan 31 2011

The Basics and Prosecution’s Case
The heart of this Improvised Explosive Device (IED) that tore down Flight 103 was Semtex-H, in an amount that can only be estimated. Official guesses at the weight are not widely reported, but Professor Christopher Peel of the Royal Aeronautical Society, at the Zeist Trial in June 2000, testified to his calculations; around 450 grams was used, and wound up a bare 25 inches from the plane's fragile skin. These findings were challenged by the Defense, according to the Scotland Herald, but Peel doesn't stand alone. [Source]

There were also forensics tests, reported by David Leppard in his 1991 book On the Trail of Terror, that are said to confirm "RARDE's initial assessment that the bomb had contained about 400 grammes of Semtex high explosive - less than a 2lb. bag of sugar." These were the Indian Head tests carried out April 89 in the USA by RARDE's Ferraday and FBI's J. "Tom" Thurman. Interestingly, Leppard cites this confirmation as "the explosive charge used to bring down the plane was 'in all probability' about 454 to 680 grammes or 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of Semtex." [p 139-141]

I'm no expert on how much energy is unleashed by 454-680 grams of this legendarily powerful compound. But consider the "trial loading" below used at trial (image found here and improved the labels a bit, added width notation). This is the alleged bomb - a Toshiba RT-SF16 "BomBeat" radio with explosive, a detonator rod, battery and MST-13 timer without waterproof casing, all fitting in a remarkably small case, about 16 inches across. It has the cassette assembly, about 4 inches wide, removed to allow the pat of semtex. This makes the timer, it seems, no more than two inches from that origin of the blast - inches of mostly air, not lead.

According to the officially accepted evidence of what actually survived these circumstances, refer to the following crucial evidence attested to.
- Fragment of bomb timer circuit board
Obviously, the half-inch square fragment of circuit board named PT/35(b) was a crucial clue to Libyan guilt, as seen on TV with its identifier "Tom" Thurman. This is the part people have been questioning in recent years. This led to Swiss makers Mebo, who only made a few of these ever, for Libyan intelligence JSO.

- Fragments of radio housing, circuit board, etc.
These were fairly small, fragmented, melted, lumped together in far-flung luggage. The radio remains are not implausible, but didn't prove the radio type. Consistent with but not exclusive to the RT-SF16.

- Fragments of radio instruction manual

This nearly-intact cover page saying Toshiba RT-SF16, was supposedly found in a field and brought in by citizens. This and other page fragments clumped together were consistent with a RT-SF16 manual, and convinced the Zeist judges of the model. This was presumably in a plastic sleeve, packed snugly in the radio box, perhaps three inches from the explosive center. Result - crumpled and torn a bit, slight singeing.

If it's bizarre, it's proportionally useful; the radio model itself is said to indicate Libyan guilt. It's not very conclusive, but 3/4 of the small run of RT-SF16s were sold to a company said to be connected to Libyan intelligence.

A Challenge: Dr. Wyatt's tests
Over the years, critics have contended the amount of explosive really used, their type, their placement, and whaether or not i would be strong enough to rupture an aircraft, or too strong to have left the clues that were found. The last question was brought to the fore, and left there it seems, by recently announced experimental evidence. Repeated tests simulating the alleged conditions indicated that larger items like, in particular, the famous bomb-timer fragment that nailed Libya, would have never been found if they were in the explosion. This was aired by, of all parties, the BBC program Newsnight, on 8 January, 2010. The program is currently viewable at this BBC page and definitely worth a watch. The tests were carried out by Dr. John Wyatt, an explosives expert retired from the British Army, now running a security consulting company called SDS, and is a blast consultant for the United Nations (Europe and North Africa region). The details behind how he came to test the official scenario – twenty times over - is unclear at the moment, and so far there’s been no detailed report of his methodology and precise findings, but just what the program shares is compelling enough.

From what Marshall explains in voice-over, Dr. Wyatt carried out his twenty tests over time, starting with the radio bomb detonated by itself. One sample he showed the cameras is at right, a suitcase filled with random clothes, and a radio (different model than alleged, a bit larger), rigged as a bomb and set in a homemade cardboard box. Another he showed contained yet another type of radio, bright red, and a suicase he says is the same model used for PA103 (Samsonite hardside). Both were soon after blown up with the pat of plastic explosives tucked inside. Of the consistent results, Wyatt told Newsnight:
“I must admit, since the quantity of explosives we were using was only three or four hundred grams, I thought there were going to be some remnants of the radio left. But it – it – (chuckling) it just totally disintegrated. I mean really just went into tiny, tiny bits."
Please note that he was using amounts, if this accurate, of 300-400 grams, when the Indian Head Tests considered 454-680 grams the likely force behind the half-inch readable chunk "found" in the Scottish countryside. Wyatt elaborated a bit on method to The Times of Malta, specifying a separate timer was included and considered, as well as the general radio unit, and that the tests were done in varying conditions.
"We tried exploding the device on its own; in a radio similar to the one it was supposed to have been planted in; in a suitcase with and without clothes; surrounded by other suitcases and, eventually, in a container. In all tests, the timer and the circuit board were completely destroyed."

He later “built the tests up” to a finale – a dozen or so pieces of luggage piled in an airliner luggage container, arranged among other containers, and detonated in a field, videotaped from several viewpoints. This last was the only outdoors test; he told the Times he had done the other 19 indoors, “to make sure we could collect all the evidence.” Collecting the remains is what it was all about, of course, and so they used sparse concrete rooms (rather than a hundreds of square km countryside) and “we even painted the circuit board bright yellow to make it easier to identify any fragments among the debris. In no circumstance did we find any fragment," Dr Wyatt explained. Presumably he means no fragments of the scale of PT/35(b), since elsewhere he does mention “tiny tiny bits.” Perhaps the yellow was simply cooked off in all cases?

Above is a dramatic image from one of the tests, in a darkened room and greatly slowed down. The curly stuff is presumably the "hard-side" suitcase material, the little bars parts of its frame. The white-hot cluster at center is that 3-400 grams of explosive, semtex it should be, consuming the whole radio and vaporizing/weaponizing everything around it. Do consider that the bomb penetrated the plane's hull, after losing force bursting from the luggage container, after tearing through the suitcase lining, surrounding clothes, cardboard box, and the radio's plastic casing. The timer would be got to right away, before any energy was lost in an of those battles. Is Wyatt's testing just an elaborate (and expensive) way of proving the patently obvious?

Presented by Newsnight host Peter Marshall with the official story again - that a 1cm square chunk of circuit board so near the blast survived inside a small piece of cloth, and was found on the ground, during manual searches, 35 km from Lockerbie? Dr. Wyatt stopped precisely this far short of calling it all a grand farce:
"Obviously these things are not impossible, we only carried out 20 tests, we didn't carry out 100 or 1,000 tests, but in every of those 20 tests we found absolutely no sign at all. So I find it highly improbable that you would find anything like that, particularly at 10,000 feet when bits are dropping into long wet grass over hundreds of miles. […] I do find it quite extraordinary and I think highly improbable, and most unlikely that you would find a fragment like that – I mean, it is unbelievable.” [emphasis as spoken]

Response and counter-response

- Crown Response / Indian Head Forensic Tests
A Scottish Crown Office response quickly followed. It started with a standard appeals to 'we already won, he was convicted,' which have no bearing on the issue at hand, which cuts to the how of the conviction. They note irrelevant facts like "Dr John Wyatt has never examined the timer fragment (PT 35)." Indeed, only certain scientists who have a history of "political" science (Feraday, Thurman) were allowed touch this one and decide it was indeed from the Libyan explosion. Erroneously, the Crown Office state "conclusive forensic evidence proved that the fragment was part of the timer ... at the time of the explosion which destroyed Pan Am 103." Such tests apparently consisted of finding it in a burnt piece of shirt. They did not test it for explosives residue, or do anything to prove it was not planted for them to find. Most interesting and relevant, the press release stated:
"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." COPFS original posting
This fragment survivability aspect is not mentioned in Leppard's book, but hinted at with the note that the clothing within the IED case was “sprayed with a distinctive colour of paint for ease of identification.” [p 139] The Crown office release continued to explain what was found:
"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 results of these tests have never been formally publicized to my knowledge, making verification impossible. David Leppard does cite a varying amount of explosive in each test - from 360 to 680 grams. [p 140] Interestingly, Alan Feraday had overseen the low end test, and probably recovered the debris from a 360-gram blast "in a condition which was consistent with the debris" that started being found and identified by Mr. Feraday himself and his scientists, right afterwards. RT-8016 radios were used in the US tests, exactly like the model later identified from 103's wreckage, except for case color - the 8016 is white, the SF16 black. The best identifier of the radio model, aside from the amazing manual, was AG/145, a lump of material including a tiny but identifiable bit of internal circuit board. This was consistent with either Toshiba model.

Conclusion: More Information Needed
If indeed there's something in the Indian Head tests that clearly contradicts Dr. Wyatt's findings, and large fragments (up to 1cm square) were indeed recovered from an equivalent blast, the details should now be brought forward. Dr. Wyatt insists 300-400 grams of semtex disntegrates the whole radio, and shown us at least some of the methodology. On the other hand, we've got a few lines in an error-filled Crown Office press release suggesting that Thurman and Feraday did it right and got big chunks similar to what they found - and that they felt was after a blast of 454-680 grams.

That is a serious discrepancy. Obviously the laws of physics are immutable and unchanging, so if two sets of tests produced different results, then some variable was set up differently (wrong) between them. So far Dr Wyatt's is more open, better illustrated, makes more sense, and reeks less of politically-driven obfuscation, but Id like to see more documentation on that as well.
Update: A little more information has come out on the tests since the first article. See "On Planted Evidence"

Update Jan 2011: Dr. Wyatt's findings and credibility are in some question. See later comments below.


Caustic Logic said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
baz said...

The key part is the Crown Office statement that "after a number of test explosions a detailed search was made and circuit board fragments, radio cassette casings and parts, fragments of instruction manual, the suitcase and clothing were recovered which was all consistent with the debris recovered in relation to the Lockerbie disaster."

I suggest this Crown Office statement is a lie. According to Leppard in constructing the test IEDs Feraday used distinctive white circuit board "similar to that believed to have been used in the actual IED." But in mid-April 1989 how did Feraday know the bomb incorporated circuit board at all when it was believed that the IED was one of Marwan Khreesat's devices incorporating a barometric trigger (and was not known to incorporate PCB.) What about the "fragments of instruction manual" which were not discovered until May 15th together with the fragment of MST-13 timer in a piece of cloth?

Further you will note that the Indian Head tests took place on a daily basis over five days. was their time to make a detailed examination of the debris noting also that the precise details of the construction of the IED were not yet known?

Caustic Logic said...

A day is plenty of time to both detonate a bomb and gather the debris. They were apparently looking for clothing scraps. I just think our knowledge of it is too limited to say what they did and didn't do, or find. I wonder if there's even a report, with FBI or FAA, that could be accessed with the Freedom of Information Act. I'm considering it. I'd love to see some photographs of this debris, or some details that could be considered...

baz said...

Sure you can gather the debris but can you examine the debris to identify the "circuit board fragments, radio cassette casings and parts, fragments of instruction manual, the suitcase and clothing" as the Crown Office statement claimed in a matter of hours? Our knowledge of what transpired is limited but then so apparently is the knowledge of the Crown Office's. I believe they just made this up!

Caustic Logic said...

" Our knowledge of what transpired is limited but then so apparently is the knowledge of the Crown Office's. I believe they just made this up!"

I wouldn't be surprised, but I'm not convinced. There may be some truth to what they say, but not of the straight-forward kind where they have proved Dr. Wyatt wrong.

Rolfe said...

Ah yes, John Wyatt.

I just watched an item on Newsnight about the ADE 651 bomb detector scam. The device in question has apparently been known to be fraudulent snake-oil for quite some time. It's a sort of a cross between the Q-ray and a dowsing stick. A few bits of random electronics that do nothing, wired up to an ordinary radio aerial which is pivoted to swing like a dowsing rod. It will move either at the whim of an informed operator, or by ideomotor activity in the hands of someone who believes it is a functioning device. The military expert interviewed called it a toy.

When Wyatt appeared, I initially assumed he was going to explain how it was a fraud (his appearance came early in the running order). But no. He is apparently promoting and selling the device on commission. He has recommended it and given it glowing references, and stands to gain thousands of pounds for every one he sells. Middle-Eastern governments (including Iraq?) have wasted millions on these useless baubles.

Wyatt's performance on-air was typical snake-oil merchant wriggling. The people doing the tests didn't know what they were doing so of course they got the wrong result. You need experience to use it properly. Oh, I didn't recommend it or give it a positive report, I just passed on the opinions of others. I do believe independent tests need to me carried out. And so on. I've heard it all before. From homoeopaths.

The man is a fraud and a charlatan and as far as I am concerned, he has nothing of any value to contribute to the Lockerbie debate one way or the other.

Caustic Logic said...

Rolfe, you made it back!

This is something troubling to chew over. Professional witness, also a scheister? Homeopathy for explosives? Say it ain't so!

For the moment, I'm still struck with these points that allow me to not dismiss Wyatt right out:
1) The stated results line up with common sense as I see it.
2) So if anyone carried these tests out, I suspect they'd find PT/35(b) and a bit else implausible.
3) He did the tests, we've seen some of the video.
4) He says he got the results I'd expect.

Maybe that's weak, but added to the pain of reevaluating / re-writing, at this time, and it's good enough for me. Maybe he's got one of those mixed records of reliability.

Rolfe said...

It's an argumentum ad hominem, if you like. A bit like realising Sikora is a shyster, and thus dismissing his contribution on that ground.

Wyatt is as much a shyster as Sikora, if not more so. His performance on Newsnight demonstrated that beyond any doubt. It doesn't prove he's wrong, but it makes his evidence worthless.

I don't necessarily believe the survival of that piece of circuit board was an impossibility. Just unreasonably convenient, that such an identifiable fragment was actually found. I found his vague statements implying that the clothes and the suitcase were all vapourised beyond any identification to be highly implausible though, and on that front, I had doubts about his entire story from the get-go.

Caustic Logic said...

Another spot where we differ. levels of blast damage, from least likely to survive to most likely:
1) timer, radio circuitry
2) radio casing, box, manual
3) clothing and umbrella
4) suitcase

I think the timer being considered different is artificial. The main circuit board was just as close, of a flimsier material, and had several readable bits found. And that manual... and the total lack of the original radio to conflict with these obvious plants. Ergo, it may have been vanished, leaving the space open for whatever they wanted to pretend had survived.

And of course, I'm of the matching bags school of Bedford reading, with less than half of one such case found. And having read of the damage to the American Tourister, it sounds about as blasted as this primary case we're looking at - not much survived, really. So is the case they found in bits primary, or another of the two flanking it? (or a mix - partly primary, but mostly the other Bedford bag?)

And if the cases above and below were so blasted, maybe the primary suitcase all but disappeared into irrecoverably small pieces. And if so, what about its contents?

So, at least this line of thinking is internally consistent, correct or not.

Caustic Logic said...

Sorry, above, I said "likely to survive," but that wasn't right. It was more "proximity to the Semtex." The manual cover was allegedly not folded, which does I think mean outside of its box, so it should maybe be listed in the clothes zone. But then, it's made of paper, so less likely to survive.

Neither of us ia a blast expert who can say X grams should do this or that. But there is some notable ambiguity on blast level. The estimate accepted at Zeist was 350-450 grams, variously cited prior. The INdian Head tests however found 450 as the low end consistent w/container damage, with as high as 680 also consistent. DeBraeckeleer says the 350-450 range would not have sufficient power to rupture the hull. And we have Dr. Hayes' own initial feeling that "primary" suitcase fragment PI/911 was on the container floor and blasted from above - that is, the lower Bedford suitcase. (Noonan's case is of course what changed that view, later on)

That would mean a very powerful explosion above it to leave even the lower side of the next case down broken into one-foot half-melted segments. And it was powerful enough to rupture the hull.
So, I suspect the weight used was more like 500-700 grams, and in that case, even the clothes aren't likely to survive, let alone anything radio.

So that's why I'm still running with that line. It feels like something that's coming together. But hey, let's use this divergence to enrich the pool of ideas and such.

Rolfe said...

Like you, I'm not at all convinced by the official version of the placing of the suitcases. As I said earlier, if the forensics were clear that Karen Noonan's case was on the floor of the container below the bomb bag, then that should have been part of the evidence at the FAI. Instead, the FAI was told that the cases Bedford saw had not been moved at all. Accepting the thesis that the bomb bag was on the second layer, that would place one of the cases he described below the bomb bag - a case which was in the container before the Frankfurt flight landed, ergo, not Karen Noonan's.

The estimated height of the explosion is however low enough to allow for the possibility that the bomb bag was on the floor of the container. The main objection seems to be the absence of pitting on the floor of the container, and I don't really know how compelling this is. Is it possible the bomb was on the top of the case as it lay flat, and the rest of the contents provided sufficient protection for the container? If that were the case, then the whole thing is childlshly simple. The bomb was in the left-hand one of the two cases Bedford saw, it was placed there deliberately (with the right-hand one perhaps acting as a place-holder), was never moved, and exploded as planned.

The FAI was held two whole years after the explosion. This was way soon enough for the theory about Karen Noonan's suitcase having been under the bomb bag to have been worked out, based on the evidence. Either it was worked out, and deliberately withheld from the FAI (not just deliberately withheld either, but the FAI given false information that the cases loaded at Heathrow weren't moved), or it's something that was dreamed up later to support the story being presented at Zeist.

We know evidence was withheld from the FAI - the whole story about Bogomira Erac and the printout was completely omitted. However, if they also withheld the evidence relating to Karen Noonan's suitcase in order to influence the sheriff to decide that the Bedford cases hadn't been moved, then I think that's even more serious. It amounts to wilful misleading of a judicial process.

My own suspicion is that the investigators realised that if they allowed the presumption that the Bedford suitcase (brown Samsonite) was below the bomb bag to remain, then someone was going to ask where were the pieces. Which would have been a bit embarassing as they had decided all the pieces of brown Samsonite were part of the actual bomb bag. So Karen Noonan's case was drafted in to prove that the Heathrow-loaded luggage was moved, so the inconvenient second (and third?) brown Samsonite could be spirited away to "a far corner of the container".

Rolfe said...

About the amount of the explosive, obviously I don't know, not being an expert. However, I cannot get my brain round any possible hypothesis which maintains that the Maltese clothes were either planted, or were innocent purchases in an adjacent case. This simply doesn't accord with Tony Gauci's evidence.

The checked trousers were traced to their manufacturer, who identified the Gauci shop as the retailer that batch had been supplied to. When detectives showed up at the shop, Tony recalled a particular customer purchasing not just these trousers, but six additional items. All six items were found blast-damaged at Lockerbie.

This is beyond coincidence.

I discount an innocent purchaser with a suitcase next to the explosion, because I don't see how that could possibly not have come to light by now.

I discount Tony being induced to make up the whole thing by the investigators because he's not bright enough, and the pay-off was far too long delayed.

Thus I'm left with ouly one possibility - that someone connected to the bombers went shopping in Sliema, three miles from Luqa airport, making a conspicious and memorable purchase of brand new, locally-manufactured, eminently traceable clothes, which were then placed in the bomb suitcase with their identifying labels still attached.

This implies that the clothes genuinely survived the explosion. And if they did, then I can cope with the idea that a few small fragments of the radio also survived, blasted into the cloth. I think they did, given the amount of random plastic and stuff that was recorded as being so found.

Whether or not it's possible for a piece of the actual IED to have survived is moot, I think. I don't think it did. However, I don't think that asserting such survival is a priori impossible is the way to prove that.

I wish Wyatt had provided more detail about his findings. He said nothing about survival of the clothes, which is absolutely crucial as all the surviving radio parts survived in association with clothing fragments. However, as he has now revealed himself as a quack who believes in fairies, I'm not sure it matters.

Rolfe said...

Just thinking a bit more about Karen Noonan and her suitcase.

Karen was fingered very early in the enquiry, because her case was found badly blast-damaged. One early theory was that it was the bomb bag. She had apparently acqwuired an Arab boyfriend while she was in Europe, and it was suspected that she might have been an unwitting mule.

This was discounted quite early on, I think when parts of an even more damaged case started coming to light. Maybe they followed up the boyfriend and he turned out to be clean, I'm not sure. Anyway, Karen Noonan's case being smashed up was known very early on.

I'm not quite sure just how badly smashed it was though. Her shoes and underwear were recognisable. And her mother was given a pack of photos recovered from the case, some of which have been shown on TV. (Desperately sad holiday snaps of a girl having a great time at all the tourist attractions.)

Anyway, how come they hadn't figured out that this bag was below the bomb suitcase, in over two years?

I think there was a re-think when they were putting the case against Megrahi together, they realised it was impossible to bring a case to court that relied on the assumption that the bag below the bomb bag was a brown Samsonite that was never recovered, and decided the reassign Karen's bag to that position.

Rolfe said...

Thinking about this a bit more, I'm getting quite convinced about the late re-think on the bag positioning.

If the investigators had been sure or fairly sure in 1990-91 that Karen's suitcase was below the bomb bag, there's no reason why they couldn't have presented that to the FAI. It would have worked there just as it did at Zeist, and indeed it might have been a better story than the one presented, which left the Bedford bags undisturbed.

The basis for the FAI finding that the bomb bag had interlined into Frankfurt rather than been checked in there was that (allegedly) the majority of the blast-damaged bags were Frankfurt interline baggage. The assumption was made that even by the time they were loaded into AVE4041, the Frankfurt bags were still roughly segregated by origin, with the interline bags in their own little cluster within the container. Therefore, as most of the damaged luggage was in that category, it could be assumed that the bomb bag was also in that category.

This is of course complete horse-feathers, given what we know about the Frankfurt baggage system and the loading of PA103A. The luggage for that flight was inevitably shuffled like a pack of cards by a good croupier by the time it was loaded, never mind unloaded at Heathrow and packed into AVE4041. The tale is an invention designed to persuade the sheriff to find that the bomb was interlined into Frankfurt, without having to lead the evidence about the Erac printout and Malta, which they were keeping under wraps.

However, you don't need to leave the Bedford bags in situ for this hypothesis to work. Indeed, putting Karen's bag under the bomb bag strengthens it a bit, because Karen interlined into Frankfurt from Vienna. Thus, while the original tale relied on the bomb bag being allegedly surrounded by interline luggage, it actually left the case below the bomb bag as a Heathrow-loaded item. The revised story rectifies this, gets rid of the Heathrow-loaded item(s), and allows the bomb bag to be entirely surrounded by interline luggage.

So I can't see any reason at all why the investigators couldn't have presented Karen's suitcase as having been below the bomb bag, if that's what they actually believed at the time. The FAI would have gone pretty much the way it did, still relying basically on the false assumption about the segregation of the interline luggage. Which makes me fairly sure that they didn't think Karen's case had been below the bomb bag at that stage.

Adam, in another post you mentioned something about some reassessment of the luggage positioning having occurred once it was decided Karen's case had been on the floor of the container. Do you know when this happened? If it was Hayes doing the reassessing, that implies it was well before the FAI, which doesn't make sense. Is it possible we have some more backdated forensics here?

Caustic Logic said...

No steam left now, but before I forget - this issue of the FAI vs. trial era and the blue Noonan case - all very interesting. I'm not familiar with that. Could you by chance work up an explanation of that I could post?

I've only noticed one thing really from the FAI which is, oddly, the panel (??) almost seeming to badger Bedford into "admitting" the brown suitcase on the left could have been blue, with brown trim.

But of curse, that was prior to the Frankfurt arrival, so... I dunno.

Caustic Logic said...

Adam, in another post you mentioned something about some reassessment of the luggage positioning having occurred once it was decided Karen's case had been on the floor of the container. Do you know when this happened? If it was Hayes doing the reassessing, that implies it was well before the FAI, which doesn't make sense. Is it possible we have some more backdated forensics here?

All I can say off-hand is Hayes thought it was on the container floor (no blue foam, presumably) on Jan 26 1989. And by the final report at latest, the flecks were there, proving - if this was the underside, after all - that it must be so. I forget the date of the final RARDE report, but it was late on. 1991 I'm pretty sure, as if some time had been spent waiting for something to settle.

But whenever, it was likely decided in that span, and that's the most specific notion ever to rule out London origin. See the new video for a neat rundown of those blue flecks.

Rolfe said...

I've added more about this in your "Monster of Newcastleton Forest" post, but I don't mind going on here.

Unfortunately the actual transcripts of the FAI don't seem to be available, however the determination is a fascinating document. The purpose of the FAI was to establish the cause of the deaths, and whether the deaths could have been avoided. It was mandatory to hold the FAI because the Pan Am crew died while they were at work which made it an "industrial accident" scenario. It was blatantly stage-managed, and one gets the impression that the sheriff was embarrassed by the legal necessity of holding it at all in the case of an international terrorist attack, and simply anxious to do what the police wanted so as not to queer their pitch.

The sheriff is the judge, but lots of people could be represented and appear either on their own behalf or have counsel question witnesses on their behalf. It is perfectly clear from the determination that the sheriff was told he had to find that the bomb suitcase was interlined into Frankfurt.

The object of the exercise was in fact to load the blame onto Pan Am for relying on x-rays and not baggage reconciliation to protect the plane. Of course from this point of view it didn't matter whether it was Maier or Kamboj who missed the bomb - both were Alert employees, and Alert was a Pan Am subsidiary responsible for security. However, it wouldn't have done to blame Kamboj, because that would have implicated Heathrow security, which wasn't a desirable outcome. So the bomb had to have come off PA103A and been missed by Maier at Frankfurt.

Maier x-rayed both the interline and the checked-in baggage at Frankfurt of course, so to get the blame where it was wanted, just finding that the bag came from PA103A would have done. Nevertheless the investigation also wanted the finding that the bag was interlined into Frankfurt, to accord with the Malta introduction theory which was well advanced by that time, but it wanted to do that without mentioning either Malta or Bogomira Erac. How they did that is quite interesting. You need to read it.

The sheriff refers to Bedford's evidence about the placement of the bags in AVE4041, but makes no reference to his impression that the one on the left was a brown Samsonite-type. He then simply states that the likeliest thing is that these bags were not disturbed, and the Frankfurt luggage was placed on top. He says, well maybe one of the interline bags was moved and replaced on the second layer, or maybe someone added another bag while the container was beside the build-up shed but I think both of these things are unlikely. QED, the bomb came off PA103A.

It gets better.

Detective Constable Henderson [....] analysed the baggage which was recovered and those pieces which were not recovered and where possible linked each piece with the person accompanying it. He gave evidence to the effect that none of the descriptions given by relatives of the baggage which they expected the victims to have been carrying fitted this suitcase.

"This suitcase" is the bomb bag, obviously. The point of this statement is to show that the bomb bag was unaccompanied. However, by definition, if none of the baggage the victims were believed to be carrying fitted the description of the bomb bag, it also didn't fit the description of the Bedford suitcase. Which means that the bag he saw wasn't legitimate interline baggage, and was unaccompanied.

Interestingly, Derek Henderson appears not to have given evidence at Zeist.

Rolfe said...

So how on earth did the sheriff conclude that the bomb had been interlined into Frankfurt, without the words "Malta" or "Erac" being mentioned? Simple.

The incidence of explosive contact among Frankfurt interline bags as compared with bags originating at Frankfurt indicated that the bags nearest to the site of the explosion were loaded at Frankfurt as interline bags. This was sufficient to establish on a balance of probabilities that the suitcase in question came to Frankfurt as an interline bag.

I have seen these statistics elsewhere, and as I recall, they don't support this conclusion. In fact the nature of the Frankfurt baggage system and the loading of both PA103A and AVE 4041 make it quite inevitable that the bags coming off that plane were as thoroughly mixed as it's possible to be. As I recall, if you take the number of bags found damaged, and the proportion of these which were interline, you need to assume that the bomb bag was not an interline bag to get the proportions to match up.

The investigators knew the bags were randomly mixed. They must have done. But they allowed the sheriff to assume otherwise. Indeed, come to think of it, they must have presented the statistics in the misleading way, or the sheriff would hardly have thought of that for himself.

Did I say stage-managed?

Rolfe said...

The other thing that was left out was any mention of the blue Tourister. At Zeist, that was what was supposed to have been under then bomb bag, not one of the Bedford suitcases. Of course, that theory completely negates the assumption that the Heathrow-loaded bags weren't moved.

Was this simply not mentioned, strategically, along with the Erac printout? Hard to say, but there seems no great reason for not mentioning it. Surrounding the bomb bag with Frankfurt interline luggage even underneath it would only strengthen the second assumption.

I think the initial strategy to avoid blaming Heathrow was simply to place the explosion at ten inches up, thus on the second layer, and trust to the observation that there was nothing on the second layer when Bedford saw the bags to support the inference that the bomb was transferred from Frankfurt. This was what was presented to the FAI.

However, it was subsequently realised, perhaps during or just after the FAI, that this assumption couldn't survive a trial hearing which would be a lot more rigorous. If there was an innocent brown Samsonite under the bomb bag, where were the pieces? If they couldn't be found, this must open the possibility that there was only one brown/bronze suitcase, the bomb bag. All they could do then was re-think the position of the Tourister to imply that the Bedford cases had been moved, and hope for the best.

This would then fit with a report written after the FAI was completed in February 1991 concluding for the first time that the Tourister suitcase which had been known about since the beginning was actually on the floor of the container.

Rolfe said...

I've had a read of Bedford's Zeist evidence, and it's interesting. It's the left-hand case he volunteers as being brown Samsonite. It's the right-hand one that's "the same or similar".

The right-hand one is subsequently ignored, and the unidentified questioner tries to persuade Bedford that the left-hand one could have been anything. Blue with a red trim, whatever. It's hard to say if Bedford just didn't remember, or if he was being facetious in 1990. I imagine the questioner was one of the lawyers representing one of the interests that didn't want the bomb to have been loaded at Heathrow. Maybe the BAA.

Maybe it was that which allowed the sheriff to ignore the Bedford bag as a possible contender for the bomb bag, but it was pretty weak. Again, it comes down to the earliest recollections usually being the most reliable, and in this case the earliest unprompted recollection is of a case in the left position which was a maroon/brown Samsonite type.

The right one - I don't know. Similar. But not recovered with some damage, as would have been expected.

I just read some more of the Zeist transcript which is totally fascinating, so I'll stop now. Maybe no more till I've assimilated this.

Caustic Logic said...

Well, I did read the left case being specified. But as I recall, it was something that came through at the FAI, along with the shift to singular, and the forced hedging on color (and thus relevance). I couldn't put any weight on it, but maybe I missed something. Another point to dig for again, and share the results...


However, it was subsequently realised, perhaps during or just after the FAI, that this assumption couldn't survive a trial hearing which would be a lot more rigorous. If there was an innocent brown Samsonite under the bomb bag, where were the pieces?
The color part, as I said, I did consider, covered here:
And you've just read the main source material. It seems at least one part of it was to imply he simply didn't know what he was talking about on January 9 1989, and he didn't observe or recall any specific color at all. It was just a case. Maybe I was reading too much in there.

So the FAI final report is available, but the transcript can only be glimpsed in the parts read back at trial. Huh. I don't suppose the full transcript could be the subject of an FOIA request? FAI FOIA?

Ideally an audio recording would help answer some questions that come up reading the text only, but that I suppose just doesn't exist.

Caustic Logic said...

OH, and very interesting stuff re: Derek Henderson and all that. Definitely a good article lurking in there, with all these shifting stories and suggestions surrounding these suitcases.

Rolfe said...

I understand the transcripts of the FAI are available for inspection by anyone who wants to go to Airdrie Sheriff Court and look at them. I did think of suggesting to Eddie that we make a date of it some time. They're not online so far as I know, I wish they were (but on the other hand I've only read a small fraction of the Zeist transcripts, there's such a thing as Too Much Information).

I'm seriously considering making a printout of the Zeist transcripts even though it would require 1,570 sheets of paper and God only knows how much ink. I just can't cope with all the scrolling up and down.

I want to take this discussion back to the JREF thread, but I'll summarise it here.

I've found the part of the Zeist transcript that deals with the tarmac handling of the transfer baggage, and it's far more interesting for what it doesn't say than what it does.

Darshan Sandhu was in charge of transfering the luggage, and he gave evidence. He moved around a bit from the unloading of the plane to the loading of the container, but mostly he helped another worker, Mr. Sidhu, load the container. Sidhu did not give evidence, and the other loaders aren't even named.

Some facts are elicited. PA103A was late, and touched down at exactly 17.36. It would have taken a few minutes at least to taxi to the stand and open the cargo doors. PA103 was ready to go by 18.00. The two planes were at adjoining stands to facilitate the transfer, nevertheless it was very much a rush job which had to be done in less than 15 minutes.

AVE4041 was brought out on to the tarmac by Mr. Sidhu. The luggage for New York was already sorted into hold 1, separate from the London luggage. There is no mention at all of separating out luggage for Detroit, or of first class baggage. (The stuff about sorting the luggage on the tarmac comes from Leppard, very early on, and I think he was just plain wrong.)

The story told is of a swift operation to get the bags from hold 1 into AVE4041 as quickly as possible. In the process three thihngs are mentioned. One is that a single bag for Heathrow was spotted and pulled out, but no other sorting is mentioned and Sandhu was confident no other Heathrow luggage was missed. The loaders were trained to check the tags as they loaded the luggage and he was confident in their competence.

The second was that Sidhu dropped a case. This was a metal case belonging to Patricia Coyle which was particularly heavy, and is described as being the type of case photographers transport their equipment in. I would presume this wasn't very large, although it was heavy.

The third was that there was a litle bit too much luggage to get into the container, and the remaining few bags were loaded loose into Maid of the Seas. The two planes were so close at this point that Sandhu could see this going on, even though he was only concerned with the incoming flight. These bags do not seem to have been sorted, but were simply the last to be unloaded.

I hate the restricted length of these comments.

Rolfe said...

Nobody asked Sandhu anything about the disposition of the cases that were already in AVE4041 when it was brought out on to the tarmac - or even whether there were already some cases in it at that point!

Nobody asked Sandhu whether any of the cases already in the container were taken out of the container while the Frankfurt luggage was being loaded.

Nobody asked Sandhu whether he and/or Sidhu moved any of the bags after their initial placement into the container.

Nobody asked Sandhu whether it was common, frequent or likely for him and his partner to remove and replace bags that were already in the container.

Nobody asked Sandhu how the camera case was placed into the container after the incident when Sidhu dropped it.

And as I said, Sidhu was not called to give evidence at all.

Well well.

The other tarmac loader who appeared at Zeist was Terence Crabtree, who was in charge of loading Maid of the Seas. All he can really say is that AVE4041 was presented to him already loaded (and Sandhu had already said that the sides were closed up at his end), and he saw that it was loaded into the correct position on the aircraft. He also said that it wasn't impossible that a couple of the odd cases left over might have been put into AVN3929, but if it had been any significant number he would have made a note of it. (Sandhu already said he personally witnessed the extra cases being put loose into the belly of the aircraft.) That's it.

However, it is CRABTREE who is asked (by Mr. Davidson) about the possibility of bags being moved around within a container to get them to pack in the optimum way.

Q Because the object of the exercise, within reason, would be to accommodate as many bags as one reasonably could within such a container?
A Yes.
Q And to achieve that, it would sometimes be necessary for a loader to initially, perhaps, move bags around in the area of the base of the container so that they would better fit in?
A During the loading of a container, that is the case, yes.
Q And you've seen that going on?
A In this case?
Q I am talking generally.
A Generally speaking, yes, sir.
Q I don't think you saw the loading of the container in this particular --
A No, sir.
Q And so, clearly, a loader would improvise, depending on the size of the bags he had to deal with and the number of bags, as to how he positioned them?
A That is correct.
Q And he might, on occasion, put some in upright and then decide that it was more effective to stack them in another position? [6306]
A Yes, sir.
Q And there would be a bit of rejigging of the bags went on to suit the demands; is that correct?
A Yes, sir.
Q Thank you.

This is daft. Crabtree, who did not see AVE4041 being loaded, is asked in general about whether, sometimes, bags might be repositioned while loading a container, and he says, in principle, yes it can happen.

No question about how frequently this happens, no question about whether loaders in a real big hurry to get a container loaded as a rush job would be likely to do it.

And no question to the guy who actually loaded that container as to whether this happened on that occasion or not.

Rolfe said...

In particular, nobody at any time touches on the difference between moving a bag or bags a short distance within the container, and a bag originally placed on the floor being repositioned in "a far corner of the container". It's quite possible Crabtree was only talking about minor re-positioning. The idea of a perfectly ordinary suitcase, originally on the floor of the container, being removed from the container and set aside while most of the rest of the luggage is put in, and then loaded near the top, seems entirely to be a figment of the judges' imagination.

I've seen baggage handlers loading containers. They stand beside them and sling the cases in one after another, pretty much as they come to hand. The skill is in positioning each case in the optimum place initially, so that it doesn't have to be re-positioned. Wholesale re-jigging is wasteful of time and energy.

Given that these guys knew they had a rush job on their hands, I don't see it as at all likely that major re-jigging took place. I'd dearly love to have asked Sandhu and Sidhu whether they remembered re-positioning the bags that were already in the container when it was brought out on to the tarmac, but nobody did.

I think nobody asked because both sides wanted to be free to speculate what had happened to the Bedford suitcase - one side wanted it moved to the second layer, while the other wanted it moved as far away as possible. Getting a definite answer would have cramped their style. Or maybe it would have been the answer they didn't want. So better not to ask. Grrrr. Lawyers!

But that means we have to speculate too. I'm not even convinced the upright cases would have been re-positioned flat, as I originally assumed. Time was short. Hell with it, just get that stuff loaded!

I could see the Bedford suitcase being pushed to the side a bit to accommodate another case (Mr. Turnbull's suggestion), but honestly why would anyone have taken it out and laid it to the side? It wasn't an unusual or awkward shape.

I'm again extremely dubious about this story that the Tourister was placed where the Bedford bag was originally. Why would it have been? As I said, I think the original assumption was that the Heathrow bags weren't moved and the bomb bag loaded on top, and it was only after the FAI it was realised this wouldn't fly in a proper court and a different story was dreamed up.

I think it's possible the Bedford bag was the bomb bag, it was never moved, and the explosion simply took place a little bit lower than we're being led to believe.

I think it's possible the terrorist got into the container again while it was beside the build-up shed, and repositioned the bomb bag on the second layer as described, with another (shallow?) Heathrow bag below it (possibly Bernt Carlsson's).

I think another possibilty raised by Mr. Turnbull is worth considering. That the terrorist left the bomb bag as Bedford saw it, content with that position, but that Sidhu simply pushed it to the left to allow something else (possibly the camera case) to be positioned between the two bags that were flat on the floor. In so doing, he pushed it partly up the slope of the overhang part of the container, thus moving the bomb closer to the skin of the aeroplane and somewhat higher than it had originally been placed.

I don't see why any loader trying to do a rush job as economically as possible would have taken the Bedford bag out of the container and re-loaded it much higher up. It's not impossible of course, but it's far less likely than any of the other suggestions, and there is no evidence it actually happened either.

Rolfe said...

Now about the height of the explosion. Ten inches is very awkward. It's pretty much between two layers of cases. This is strange, because it makes sense that the Semtex would be nearer the middle of the case it was in. Hayes says this at one point in his evidence I think - given that the Semtex was in the radio and the radio was in its box and the blue Babygro was wrapped round the box, it's not reasonable to speculate that the explosion took place right at the top of the case.

But by the same token, it's not reasonable to speculate that it took place right at the bottom of the case.

I suspect the investigators of fudging the height of that explosion to suit themselves. If it had been higher than ten inches, then that would have been fine, no reason not to say so. I suspect that ten inches was the highest they could push it, and that it might have been lower. That would fit with "the Bedford bag was the bomb bag and was not repositioned".

If the bomb bag was really on the second layer, ten inches seems too low. You think maybe it was really 12, but I don't see why they would have underestimated the height, at all. If ten was close to right, the one thing it does actually fit with is the case being pushed to the left, and the sloping part of the floor of the container raising the left-hand side of the case a few inches higher then the true floor.

I need to read more, in particular what the two advocates had to say about the positioning and repositioning. But this is my current thinking.

Caustic Logic said...

Man, I have read a lot in my time, but it hasn't all sunk in. I had already gone over the Sandhu / Sidhu story, but not in great detail. Nothing much useful. I've read your analysis here, and it's very useful in drawing out patterns. Possibly telling how they insisted on eliciting hearsay and generalities rather than asking the most relevant people. Some more excellent stuff.

"Remote corner" doesn't have to mean a full removal - as my video shows, they might be stacked on the back row, awkward as it might be. But in general, yes, the whole speculation is weak. It makes only a tiny bit of sense as its own thought, but works great for disingenuous dodging. I suspect it's the latter at work.

On blast height, you've got a point, and it does get simpler if the second-level aspect is found to be the unwarranted presumption. The blast would have to be perhaps weaker than reported, I think, which might explain the clothes and help allow for other debris (including the stuff neither of us accepts - but plants can be plausible and still be fake, it's just harder to show they're fake).

I still have a hard time with the floor though - look again at the straight-down shot of the floor from Appendix F,
and note the big difference between damage to the edge beam and the floor metal itself. A protecting case with its edge right there would explain that, with force going down the side around the lower case. Whereas a bomb on the floor would I think have more uniform damage across that whole area. at least at the points where it came apart.

Also, if this is the most blasted Bedford bag, we have nothing on the other. My theory explains where the other went - this is only the second-most blasted (tied with the Noonan case above the bomb), and the explosion explains the others' disappearance.

I'm open to revision there, but it would take some more hashing out. It's on the table to re-consider.

Caustic Logic said...

Oh, and also consider the container's whole outboard end, blown out to halfway up. If the bomb were on the floor, there would be a lot above shielding those upper stretches, and nothing shielding the floor. So it'd be a bit odd for the floor to just be warped down, while 2/3 of the sloped floor panel was vanished, along with half of the higher vertical panel.

Unless the blast was more powerful than accepted, but that would be a problem for the floor too.

Still under consideration, but so far I'm not seeing it.

Rolfe said...

I hear what you're saying, but hang on. Are you assuming the floor is of the same strength as the walls and ceiling? I think this is highly unlikely. Imagine the combined weight of 35 to 40 suitcases. That's about 800kg. That's a LOT. It's a couple of small horses or a very large beef bull. The floor has to support that, with some safety margin. Good grief, it must be adamantium. Built like a horse-box. The sides and top are only to stop the odd case falling out. They're not required to support a metric tonne of luggage, and logistics dictates they can't be so heavily engineered.

I'm sorry I've been ignoring the possibility of a second matching suitcase. I'm just not entirely convinced there was such an item. All the discussion and cross-examination refers to the left-hand case. The point about the right-hand case and what it looked like just isn't pressed anywhere as far as I can tell. We have no real evidence there was ever more than one brown/bronze Samsonite case. While I don't discount your scenario, I don't wholly buy it either.

I have a different thought. I think the right-hand case might have been one of the ones Bedford originally stacked along the back. He wasn't sure how many there were - it varies from four to eight depending on which time you ask him. Would he have noticed if one of these had been moved out of line? I postulate that the bomber showed up with the single bomb bag and put it flat to the outboard side of the container. He then placed one of the legitimate interline bags next to it in the inboard side, to try to fix the position of the bomb bag on the left. There are several GREY hardshell suitcases described as blast-damaged and apparently close to the bomb bag (I think including McKee's, actually). Did Bedford see the bronze Samsonite on the left, and a rather similar but grey hardshell case on the right?

I don't reject your hypothesis, but I don't think it's the only one.

Caustic Logic said...

Bedford did say the other cases were "still in the same position," but he might've missed one.

You mention floor strength, and indeed, I'm sure that was stringer metal by some margin. It's a fair point to consider, but I don't think it's enough to discount the point above, just to qualify it.

Until just now, I'd agree wholeheartedly that this is not the only hypothesis. But here's the sinker that just occurred to me, making it again the most likely after a moment of questioning:

Another aspect is the door edge member - Claiden used the absence of pitting to its inboard side (without specifying AFAIK about the outboard face, only the the forward or inner face). This is what had him place the blast 2" outboard of the door edge. In reality, it might be just in line with it, but not inboard of it. And that's impossible for a first-level bag, unless maybe it was in at a slope, which makes little sense.

And the floor strength actually brings up a separate point that the upper position is better for bomb placement as well. Doesn't prove it was in that spot, but might add support. That will take a graphic, tonight or soon. I may also boil all these comments down into a new post soon, so that'll go together I guess.

Rolfe said...

Can I go back to the alleged repositioning of the left-hand Bedford suitcase? This fits in with what I've been reading, Mr. Taylor's take on the loading of the container.

He buys the story that Karen's case was below the bomb bag. He makes it sound quite plausible. It was a big case, bigger than the bomb bag. Imagine it was one of the first off the 727. The bomb case is lying on the floor of the container already, and here we have a bigger case. Maybe the loaders decided they wanted the bigger case underneath, so they pulled the bomb case out of position.

They would, inevitably, have had to remove it from the container to do this. So they do that, and put Karen's case in its place. What then happens to the Bedford bag? It's not an unusual shape or particularly small. Why would the loaders have then set it aside, not to be added to the container until it was over half full - for that's the only way you'll get it far enough away from the explosion not to be damaged. It's far more likely they would simply have put it back on top of Karen's case and shoved it into the overhang to make room for another case to the right of it, more or less in the middle.

So far so good, and I don't entirely discount it. Again, the scenario in which the Bedford suitcase is the bomb bag is far more probable than the scenario where the Bedford case was laid aside for five minutes, while a completely different but virtually identical brown Samsonite suitcase just happened to come down the conveyor at that moment and get placed on top of Karen's case. But there's actually quite a lot wrong with the scenario nevertheless.

First, these guys are in a rush. I seriously think they would have been more likely just to pile in the cases as fast and as well-packed as they could, without pausing to haul out cases that were already in situ. (Pushing the Bedford bag to the left and partly into the overhang area is more plausible, because it wouldn't involve lifting it out of the container.)

Second, we have the point I have been making about the decision on the positioning of Karen's case apparently being taken after the FAI. If the conclusion that it was under the bomb bag was clear, I'd have expected it to have been fixed furniture long before the FAI. Instead, the FAI was presented with a scenario where the Bedford bag wasn't moved, and the second brown Samsonite containing the bomb was loaded on top of it. Yeah, right....

Third, there is the curious point that Karen's case is the only one which is described as having been "in contact with" the IED. If the bomb suitcase was on top of Karen's, what was on top of it? On the other hand, of the bomb suitcase was on the floor of the container, then there would indeed have been only one other case flat up against it, the one on top. Karen's case?

Fourth, I'm back to the height of the explosion. Ten inches. Oh come on. Ten inches is about the average depth of a suitcase according to a general analysis of the way these containers were loaded. The bomb suitcase was nine inches deep. the depth of the Tourister isn't stated, but my suitcase which is about the same size but actually on the slim side is 9½ inches deep, and being a soft-shell (like Karen's) it's at least ten in the middle when it's stuffed full. Karen was returning from an extended holiday in Europe, I would imagine her case would be pretty full.

Rolfe said...

Hayes makes a point of saying that the Semtex couldn't have been right up against the lid or floor of the case, because it was in the radio, in it box and the Babygro was wrapped round it. So - a couple of inches at least? If the bomb bag was on top of Karen's case, you're right, the explosion couldn't have been lower than about 12 inches. Ten inches just doesn't work. I can think of three explanations, though.

- The real height was seven or eight inches, but since that would inevitably point to a case on the bottom layer (i.e. probably Heathrow-originating) it was fudged upwards at an early stage in the investigation.

- The height was correctly reported, and in fact the bomb bag/Bedford suitcase was pushed to the left and partly into the overhang during the loading, raising the outboard side by 2 or 3 inches with respect to the true floor of the container.

- The height was correctly reported, because the case under the bomb bag was a relatively slim number, maybe just seven inches deep. So, probably not Karen's case, and probably one of the Heathrow-origin cases.

I doubt if it ever happens that normal-sized cases are removed from a container, laid aside and replaced in a very different place from where they were to start with. Crabtree never said it did. Pushing a case to the side, yes. Taking it out, putting a bigger one under it, and then putting it back, possibly. But "a far corner of the container", far enough away to be undamaged when more than half the cases in the container were damaged - I doubt if Crabtree would have agreed that was at all likely.

I still think it wasn't moved at all though, or was just pushed to the left.

Rolfe said...

Small final comment. I noticed something that would argue against any theory that the terrorist planned to place the bomb bag while the container was unattended outside the build-up shed. In the normal course of events, it wouldn't have been left there. Normally, Bedford would have taken it right out to the tarmac to meet the 727. It was only because PA103A was so late that he knocked off early and the thing ended up sitting there for close on an hour.

Thus, although I could see it as a possibility that the terrorist took advantage of this and revisited the container to reposition the suitcases, the actual plan must have been to load the bomb bag while the container was in the interline shed. And there was plenty opportunity to do that.

Caustic Logic said...

Third, there is the curious point that Karen's case is the only one which is described as having been "in contact with" the IED.

That a fact? I wasn't sure, but I thought so,,, ergo

If the bomb suitcase was on top of Karen's, what was on top of it?

A good point. They iron out the bag below the less-damaged big fragment PI/911 side with great interest, but not what was right above the small-fragment side, which surely would be even more damaged. Smells fishy.

On the other hand, if the bomb suitcase was on the floor of the container, then there would indeed have been only one other case flat up against it, the one on top. Karen's case?

Presumably the American Tourister was on top of the bomb case. It seems to have shared a broad side with it. But on the floor = thing I just "sunk," to put it too strongly as I did. But that door-edge argument needs adressed before you carry it any further. First-level flat can't fit that.

You mention a floor case slide left and partly into the overhang, which would be a slant. That makes it something to check with graphics to scale. Using a very low placement, just barely outboard, it's not too good.

And on the stacking of big cases on little, etc. here are some versions. Blue is 29", brown is 26".
Plenty room for this on the floor if the cases stacked, or one doesn't matter. Nice fit, in fact.

But it shared a flat side, not an edge, we all agree. I think it wastes less space stacked above as opposed to under (depending what the rest of the plan is,unknowable). Besides being more natural.

What you're bringing here about the FAI supports this whole idea being a concoction, and surprisingly late, to deal with a problem they thought they could ignore away but couldn't.

Good point on the last, about Baggage build-up. Would do the most good where that's been debated, where I may rebut or recant sometime soon...

Rolfe said...

The push to the left was Taylor's idea, and I think it's worth pursuing. He suggested that the loaders may have wanted to place Patricia's heavy camera case on the floor rather than on top of someone else's luggage, I think. Rather than remove one of the cases already on the floor, they simply pushed the Bedford suitcase to the left, to get the camera case in to the right of it. If that happened, then it would probably have to be pushed further than in your diagram.

I haven't read all the details there are on this idea, particularly I haven't seen anything about the recovery of the camera case, how much damage it showed, and what its dimensions were. However, I think it's worth considering as a possibility.

Rolfe said...

Presumably the American Tourister was on top of the bomb case. It seems to have shared a broad side with it.

I thought the blue American Tourister was Karen Noonan's case, no?

There is only ONE case described by Hayes as "having been located IN CONTACT WITH THE SUITCASE that contained the IED". That is the blue American Tourister I was assuming belonged to Karen Noonan.

However, go to page 6039.

Patricia Coyle is sad to have had two pieces of luggage, a blue and maroon softshell suitcase and a burgundy canvas holdall. So what about the metal camera case Sandhu described?

Karen Noonan is said to have had three pieces of luggage, two mid-blue canvas bags and a green canvas holdall. So, not the American Tourister. This is confusing the hell out of me I have to say.

We're being told that the navy blue American Tourister was under the bomb bag, I thought, and that the Bedford bag had been moved to acommodate it because it was larger. Yes we are being told that. But it doesn't match up with any of Karen Noonan's bags as described.


Caustic Logic said...

Two phrases, same bag. Karen's was on top I think, as you do. Or rather, I thought ... if I had to pick, the one with the foam surface that Feraday made up lies about. Whichever that was, was on top instead of under.

I'll figure that out later on. I'm going to cheese out now first.

Rolfe said...

Trawling round the transcripts, I'm getting the message that it's the blue Tourister which was supposed to be under the bomb bag as I always thought, but that belonged to Patricia not Karen as I had thought.

That's the story that emerges at Zeist and flat contradicts the FAI findings.

It's the Tourister that is the ONLY bag said by Hayes to show evidence of being IN CONTACT WITH the bomb bag (rather than "in close proximity to"). I don't know where Karen's bag is supposed to come in. She had three, all relatively small, according to the joint minute.

I also don't know where the metal camera case is supposed to have come from. I rechecked the transcripts and I can't see why I thought it was Patricia's.

It's worth reading what Bill Taylor has to say from page 9625 onwards, about the variability in estimation of where the explosion happened, and where the bomb bag might have been. Around page 9657 and following is what I was referring to. He thinks you could get the bomb in the right position by pushing the Bedford case to the left.

It's amazing how few items of luggage are really accounted for as to owner and provenance. Especially when Derek Henderson is said to have matched them all up, in the conclusions of the FAI. No Derek Henderson at Zeist.

Caustic Logic said...

Yeah, correct response - I don't have to figure it out. It's so awesome to have a fellow thinker with enthusiasm and time, whom I can trust. Though it seems you were wrong on the luggage-passenger reconciliation, these things happen.

Yer outta the club, Rolfe!

Kidding. I think this thread is in a rather arbitrary spot, but some great things have come into via your walls of text with windows. I guess the most coherent way to lump the core of it is the FAI;s approach to the Bedford evidence. Compared to at Zeist, compared to RARDE's shifting opinions, compared to ...

First I'm off to redistribute some comments.