last update 23 December
"star witness" Giaka were dismissed, Gauci's evidence became of crucial importance at the 2000 trial - he became "the real star witness," as the BBC's Conspiracy Files put it.
He is not to be confused with the great Maltese singer Tony Gauci, L-Kampanjol, who passed away in March of this year.
The fallibility of eyewitness evidence is well-enough known, and many others have done a splendid job exposing the incredible weakness of Gauci's fingering of Megrahi. A standard internet search will do well enough on this issue, without my needing to offer but a few special links. One would be this re-posting of the Gauci sections from Paul Foot's Lockerbie: Flight from Justice (2001). So I needn't reinvent the wheel altogether here, but I will briefly outline the problems with Gauci's evidence for those unfamiliar and link to my few detailed posts along the way.
The Basics and Prosecution’s Case
Tony Gauci is the son of Edward Gauci, proprietor of clothiers Mary's House in Silema, Malta. His sons Tony and his brother Paul usually ran the shop, with Tony working alone December 7 1988. He says a strange Libyan man came and bought most of the items found bomb-damaged shortly after around Lockerbie. He later identified Megrahi in a photo lineup as most resembling the buyer, and did the same in a physical lineup in court.
Problems with the Evidence
1 - The Alleged Logic of Megrahi's Purchase
There are many, and cheap, and anonymous ways for an Arab agent and terrorist mastermind to secure clothing to stuff a bomb case. Going to Mary's House when and how the mystery shopper did, is not a very smooth one. Rolfe explains this point quite well throughout this JREF forum thread. This is an important consideration but in itself doesn't prove a darn thing. Megrahi could make really bad tactical choices and still be guilty. So, moving along...
2- Weakness of Libyan identification
Gauci's first statement to Scottish police, 1 September 1989:
He was speaking "Libiyon" to me. He was clearly from Lbiya. He had an Arab appearance and I would say he was in fact a "Libyon" I can tell the difference between "Libyons" and "Tunisians" when I speak to them for a while. Tunisians often start speaking French if you start talking to them for a while.
There is of course no Libyan language - it's Arabic. The only specific clue he cites is that he heard no French so the guy was probably not Tunisian. It would be a good guess, as Libyans were the most common Arabic speakers on the island, but as evidence it doesn't count for even a penny rounded up.
3 - Gauci was non-specific, and that's putting it generously
For having identified this man as THE buyer, Gauci's statements are surprisingly devoid of anyhthing as simple as "that's the man." On seeing Megrahi's photo in February 1991, in the news as "Lockerbie bomber," a photo spread was hastily called where Gauci found the same photo in a lineup of others was most:
“... similar to the man who bought the clothing. The hair is perhaps a bit long. The eyebrows are the same. The nose is the same, and his chin and shape of face are the same. The man in the photograph is in my opinion, in his thirty years. He would perhaps have to look about ten years older, and he would look like the man who bought the clothes. It's been a long time now and I can only say that this photograph resembles the man who bought the clothing, but it is younger.”Wow. Did you catch the whole subtext where he's comparing two different men? In ten years he'll look like the guy I saw is what he said. After the witness parade April 13 2000:
“not exactly the man I saw in the shop. Ten years ago I saw him, but the man who look a little bit like exactly is the number 5 [Megrahi]”
4 - Physique, complexion, age
The buyer was "about six foot or more in height," "well-built" and big in the chest for the 42" jacket he bought, 36" waist, 16-17" collar, Gauci first said. Mr. al-Megrahi was 5'8" tall, and average-slight build. Gauci first said the man seemed to be around 50 years of age. Megrahi was 36 at the time. The man was dark complected, with a tight afro. Megrahi had long wavy hair and was fairer. At trial, Gauci fudged each of these closer to the man in the dock with mantra-like repetition. "I'm not an expert on these things. I think he was below six feet. I'm not an expert on these things." [on age] "I said before, below six -- under 60. I don't have experience -- I don't have experience on height or age." [trial transcripts, p 4752-53] Baloney. He was a clothier. He measured people for a living. The mixing up of "below six" and "under sixty" is interesting, joined with a double renunciation of age AND height expertise. It suggests a mantra he was remembering to stick to.
5 - He Identified Abu Talb, too
Mohammed Abu Talb (or just Abu Talb) is a PFLP-GC connected suspect found to possess some clothes from Malta and share links with those busted in the Autumn Leaves op. Arrested in Sweden and considered suspect no. 1 for a while. Gauci enthusiastically fingered this man as the buyer. He had a return plane ticket that might have gotten him to Malta for free that day, but no evidence he used it. Abu Talb is himself even younger than Megrahi, and has a plausible alternate story for how he got those clothes (including many at home that matched none of Gauci's story). This blogger doubts either of the men Gauci identified was the clothes buyer, and I'm not convinced that Tony's story of one discrete buyer is even true. [See: Abu Talb and Tony Gauci]
6 - He Had Two Million Reasons to Fudge it
Mr. Gauci was eventually paid $2 million by the US government, following the trial, and given a new life and identity in Australia. His brother Paul Gauci was never called to testify, despite being an assett to the investigation." (note: not to be confused with the Maltese clothing maker Paul Gauci who did testify at Zeist) He's been suspected of helping coach his dim brother into affirming the police story, but whatever his role, it earned him a million of his own and a slot next to Tony among the Aussies. (Detailed post on the payments aspect)
The prize was no surprise - money talks happened from the beginning, with the Gaucis' mentioning the danger they were in by exposing Libya's plot, and Scots police acknoweldging large payments might help grease the story along. Wouldn’t a huge cash reward and the weight of a world-class terror investigation be expected to crush the reliability from his fragile memories? Sure, but the thing to focus on is what's crushed in.
7 - Photo Spread / Lineup Procedures and Tainted Memory
Most famously, Mr.Gauci was shown a photo of Megrahi, in a news magazine, as Lockerbie suspect. Days later he pointed straight to al Megrahi after traveling to Camp Zeist. But beyond this, there are some great observations of lineup procedure contained in reports commissioned for the convict's second appeal. These are available at Megrahi My Story [Valentine and Clark reports]. The details I haven't studied, but it seems on several fronts, both the 1991 photo lineup and 2000 in-person version at camp Zeist, there was a leading arrangement notably regarding subject ages. Recall that Megrahi at the time was about 15 years younger than Gauci's buyer (36 compared to app.50).
Anthony Gauci testimony, Camp Zeist, day 31, July 11 2000
Statement to police, 15 Feb 1991:
The first impression I had was that all the photographs were of men younger than the man who bought the clothing. I told Mr. Bell this. I was asked to look at all the photographs carefully and to try and allow for any age difference. I then pointed out one of the photographs, and I later counted the photographs from the left as number 1 to the photograph at number 8."Tony usually sounds like an idiot, but this is clarity in action – a textbook description of a slanted line-up. Witness to young? Compare him to men younger yet, and have the witness pick the closest one. This is just how the pivotal September 15 "identification" of al-Megrahi was achieved. He was photo number 8, an unusual picture, in part, for looking almost nothing like al-Megrahi. [See: Gauci and the Czexh photo]
8 - Discrepancies, uncertainties in sold items recall
Gauci initially gave authorities a reportedly perfect list of items recovered - tied up with a bow and cash totals tendered, tax, minor discount and change returned. The only discrepancy I'm recalling at the moment is that he first insisted no shirts were in the order. This was a problem, as at least one piece of "Slalom" shirt collar had contained the miraculous timer fragment PT/35(b).
No problem, they could just say Megrahi bought a few of the items elsewhere, but too late. Mr. Gauci changed his story to reflect the sale of said shirt (as well as I believe one or two other shirts that had turned up), and revised all the neat math to reflect the new total. The second time, after marinading a while in close proximity to police evidence, is more accurate, we are to believe.
Also, one must wonder how they got Gauci's memory rolling in the first place without mentioning at least some of the items he needed to remember. I hear that dozens of police chats/interviews were either not recorded or had the records lost, including the first talks where Gauci initially decided on the laundry list. But then again, if he were coached, why wouldn't the Slalom shirt be included in the first list he came up with?
9 - Date of Purchase - Best Evidence that Gauci's Testimony specifically Ruled out Megrahi before it implicated him
Eyewitness evidence is never very solid to begin with, but here we have the most reliable (early) memories sidelined when convenient. Tony Gauci's initial identification evidence – before he was just pointing at faces and still giving details - rainfall, the Christmas lights, and the football game his brother Paul was watching at home - pointed to a purchase on November 23, 1988. I mean, clearly and with no room for doubt, pointed at the 23rd.
Megrahi was simply not on Malta at all that day. Investigators and the Gaucis instead have fudged things to fit an alternated date of December 7, when their villain was nearby. The mental gymnastics required to do so are astounding. This is the one point I felt is strongest in indicating Megrahi's innocence of this on solid link to the crime. And since this post is long enough, that explanation will reside in this long post of its own.