Appeal Court Dismissal of the Heathrow Theory

February 10, 2010
last update Jan 14 2011

The judges considering Abdelbaset al Megrahi's appeal of conviction in February 2002 [PDF] had to give the London introduction theory a listen - they had the Bedford bags, the 38-minute clue, and the recently revealed, long-suppressed break-in evidence to consider. They did some thinking about this it seems. I invite comments to criticize this ridiculous word salad.

[244] In assessing whether the additional evidence supported the hypothesis that the break-in at T3-2A provided the route by which one of the Bedford suitcases was infiltrated, the Advocate depute made a number of points. First, he submitted that an individual carrying a suitcase and, presumably, lock-breaking equipment would be rather conspicuous in Terminal 3 between 2200 and 0030 hours, since normally no members of the public would be around at that time. Secondly, setting aside speculation, for a suitcase brought airside through the forced door at T3-2A to be one of the Bedford suitcases, it required to be infiltrated into the baggage handling system at the interline shed. For that purpose it would require an interline tag. That was particularly so if it was accepted, as the Advocate depute [prosecution] submitted it should be, that the Bedford suitcases were probably placed in the container by Mr Kamboj. He would not have placed them in the container if they had not been bearing appropriate interline tags.

Okay, someone would have to have put Pan Am tags on them. That's not much of a de-bunk. They got some tags, however people do that.

... despite the fact that the trial court’s preference of Mr Bedford over Mr Kamboj (on the question of whether Mr Kamboj told Mr Bedford that he had placed the suitcases in the container) did not constitute evidence that Mr Kamboj had in fact so placed them, the natural inference was that the cases were put into the container by Mr Kamboj, whose job it was to x-ray PanAm interline baggage, rather than by some interloper. Why would an intruder through T3-2A choose to introduce a case containing an explosive device at the interline shed? He had, on the hypothesis under examination, broken in to airside at a point adjacent to the very area (the baggage build-up area) where most bags were handled. Yet he had spurned the opportunity of introducing the case into the baggage handling system there, andhad opted for the interline route which introduced the additional risk of detection when the interline baggage was x-rayed.

What if they had an inside helper, like one of the guys who ran the x-ray machines, and would vouch for it being okay? Or, as I've wondered, Bedford's story isn't directly true, but only reflects someone else's witnessing of these bags at, of all places, the wide-open and unsecured baggage build-up area?

Moreover, although readily discoverable evidence of the break-in had been left behind in the form of the damaged padlock, the hypothesis involved that the case was not introduced into the interline shed until some fifteen hours later. Unless the risk of opening the case airside to set the timer was to be undertaken, the timer would have had to be set before the break-in. No method of arranging for the bag to pass through the system to the interline shed had been identified. 
If I had  hidden two brown Samsonites, say, behind an air vent cover at midnight, I'd come back at the end of the day in Pan Am costume, retrieve the bags, and either
1) pay an Indian guy at Interline some money to let me place them on the floor and make him agree to vouch for them but not to move them, or
2) set them in myself at build-up, where the container sat completely unattended for almost 45 minutes.
I'd also have tags, since that would help thm not stand out otherwise.
The intruder would have required either to wait for fifteen hours himself, or to have the assistance of an accomplice. No place of concealment for the intruder or the suitcase had been identified. There was nothing in the evidence to explain why a suitcase, brought through T3-2A between 2205 and 0030 hours, would not be placed in the interline shed in time for either of the two earlier PanAm flights. On the hypothesis under examination, the suitcase had been tagged for flight PA103, although there were two earlier flights that would have involved a shorter period of concealment of a suitcase containing an armed explosive device. Yet there was no evidence that there was anything about flight PA103 or its passengers that singled it out as the target. Moreover, if an accomplice with airport identification, genuine or false, was involved, there was no need to break in to airside. All that was required was to smuggle the components of the explosive device through an access point, such as T3-2A, where persons with appropriate identification were not searched. The effect of all these points, the Advocate depute submitted, was to show that the hypothesis that the break-in at T3-2A was the means of infiltrating one of the Bedford suitcases was so weak and flawed that the additional evidence could not pass the Cameron test.
[245] The third stage at which the Advocate depute suggested the significance of the additional evidence might be tested was in the context of all the other evidence led at the trial, not merely the other evidence bearing on events at Heathrow airport. The critical issue at the trial was not a simple competition between infiltration at Heathrow and infiltration at Luqa. It was in any event wrong to say, as Mr Taylor did, that the evidence of Heathrow infiltration was no worse than the evidence of Luqa infiltration.
To better Mr. Taylor, it's physically demonstrated to a high degree (see next paragraph), while even the Luqa theorists' best hypotheses are barely verbalized. They just don't bother. They musta snuck it, since a piece of paper shows a thing kinda like maybe the thing Giaka saw, or whatever... As they explain in this ridiculous paragraph: :
There was evidence, which the trial court had accepted, that an unaccompanied and unaccounted for bag had travelled from Malta on flight KM180, had transferred at Frankfurt to flight PA103A, and had thence been loaded on flight PA103. There was evidence associating the bag containing the explosive device with Malta. On the other hand, in respect of Heathrow there was evidence that a door from landside to airside was forced, and evidence that a suitcase matching the description of the primary suitcase was placed in container AVE 4041. There was no evidence that the explosive device was in that suitcase.
Uh... How can one piece of paper, that went missing for a month and says only B8849, station 206, 1307, show all the stuff these judges say it shows? Because that AWOL printout is the only evidence for such a bag at three airports. As for London, we have a credible visual ID of a bag of the right type (two actually) placed in that precise corner of AVE4041 soon after blown up by a bomb (or bombs) in just that kind of case. As for evidence that case(s) had a bomb(s) inside, see the previous sentence, dummy.
[246] There were nine components in the evidence before the trial court, the Advocate depute submitted, which were unaffected by the additional evidence. They were:
(1) The clothing in the primary suitcase was purchased by a Libyan, and the timer was supplied to the Libyan secret service. The trial court concluded that the plot was promoted by the Libyan secret service.
(2) The clothes were purchased in Malta, showing that a Libyan had gone to Malta in furtherance of the plot.
(3) The records of Frankfurt airport were shown to be capable of allowing the origin of baggage transferred there to be tracked.
(4) Those records demonstrated the carriage of an unaccompanied bag from Malta on flight KM180. The evidence of Mr Borg did not rule out the possibility of that happening. It was to be remembered that the Crown case was that the security measures at Luqa had been deliberately circumvented by a criminal act.
And no proof save that lonely printout?

(5) The clothing in the primary suitcase suggested that it had been sent from Malta.
(6) The promoters of the plot, the Libyan secret service, had a presence at Luqa airport.
(7) The appellant, a member of the JSO and the purchaser of the clothing, flew into Malta the evening before the carriage of the unaccompanied bag on flight KM180. He did so using a false identity obtained for him by that organisation.
(8) The appellant was again present at Luqa airport the following morning, during some of the time when flight KM180 was loading. He then left on the first available flight for the safety of Tripoli, and never again used the false identity.
(9) Malta, because of its proximity, provided an airport to and from which Libyans could easily travel.
None of those nine features of the evidence was affected by the additional evidence. They all supported the Crown case. No feature of the additional evidence was consistent with the promotion of the plot by the Libyan secret service.

And that last about sums it up. "The new evidence challenges our preconceptions. It casts doubt on the accused's guilt. That's crazy. Whaddyou think this is, an appeal? Come back with something rational that blames Gadhafi or if possible Megrahi, and then we'll talk..."


baz said...

I of the opinion that "Camp Zeist" was a major factor in Megrahi's conviction and that the Scottish Judiciary were determined that he should receive no advantage from negotiating the form of tribunal before which he would agree to appear and were determined that this precedent would never be repeated. I suspect this attitude was reflected in the 1st Appeal (heard at Camp Zeist.

The Judges felt that an individual (without assistance) would be conspicuous with a suitcase and boltcutters in the period between 2200 and 0030 when there were few members of the public around. Would this be true? The fact remains that somebody did cut the padlock in this period. Why? I do not know and neither does anybody else because this was not investigated.

Perhaps the break-in is unrelated but the two bags seen by Bedford did get into the Interline Baggage Shed. How? Likely by the estruding conveyor belt. Were they Interline bags? If they were they should have been recovered and linked to a particular passenger of which there were seven only six of whose luggae was actually on the plane. As far as I know all Interline luggage was reconciled. So who's bags were they?

Their Lordships make numerous assumptions on the basic assumption that whoever placed the two "Kamboj bags" in AVE4041 did so innocently and therefore they would have to have a PanAm tag attached which would make it even easier trace their owners and origin save that they were never recovered.

They later state that "there was no evidence this suitcase contained the explosive". There was evidence that the IED was contained within a brown Samsonite and this is the only evidence of the introduction of a brown Samsonite (or two).
Indeed while fragments of a brown Samsonite were recovered it could have been fragments of two identical bags.

It is curious dismiss actual evidence of the loading of an unaccounted for brown Samsonite into AVE4041PA at Heathrow while concluding, in the face of the evidence that an unaccompanied item (not necessarily a Samsonite or even a suitcase)travelled from Malta to Frankfurt where it was transferred.

Caustic Logic said...

Baz said:
"Indeed while fragments of a brown Samsonite were recovered it could have been fragments of two identical bags."

Yep. Two brown hardshell Samsonites in the very corner, both officially moved somewhere and not producable later. In their place - a single separate case of just that type put right where they had been. A bag that smells like fiction everywhere else it's reported too.

I think the chunks they found were NOT from the "primary" suitcase. It may have had a bomb in it too, perhaps half-blowing up because of the other (top) one blowing first. (Semtex ignited, not detonated) That's a pretty novel thought, and likely wrong, but it's too plausible to ignore.

baz said...

Belt and braces?

Caustic Logic said...

I recently learned braces can mean (in UK) what we in the US call Suspenders. (learned it from a movie about skinheads, called Welcome to England, which was good but sad).

So belt and braces what? I am tired now, so maybe I missed...

pete said...

Belt and braces = two ways to hold your trousers up. If one fails, the other will still work.

It's clear that the appeal court dismissed the Heathrow theory on grounds weaker than the trial court's reasoning for accepting the Luqa theory. However, as you point out, the Heathrow theory contradicts the Crown's case, and the appeal judges specifically exempted themselves from re-evaluating any of the conclusions reached by the trial court from the evidence.

This was because the Defence failed to appeal under Section 106(b) of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995: "the jury's having returned a verdict which no reasonable jury, properly directed, could have returned." (See David Morrison's article)

The implication of the SCCRC's findings is that such an appeal might well have succeeded.

Caustic Logic said...

Thanks and thanks, Pete.

Belt and braces, two cases... Yeah, could be. Since the last, I've added a bit if anyone missed it - Dr. Hayes describing the largest (square-foot) piece if primary suitcase as being from a bag on the floor, benetah the bomb. Dynamite.

On the more relevant points:

That's pretty sick in a way that these Lordships can allow themselves, if a procedure isn't followed, to consider whatever level of truth seems relevant to the guyy's obvious innocence of the ridiculous and feeble case.

But it does give a structural reason, a blanket excuse for what was required - wholesale rubber-stamping, not re-examination, of the magical results achieved in 2001.

And then the defensel just failing to go that route. Why? It's self-sabotage. Who got to the, or what, I wonder?

Caustic Logic said...

Sorry, some typos, and the middle part should read "these Lordships can allow themselves, if a procedure isn't followed, to just not consider whatever..."

And the first part was supposed to have a link. See The Monster of Newcastleton Forest.