Yet another Red Flag From Heathrow

The Evidence of Peter Walker
June 8 2010

Previously at this site, the various accounts of two Pan Am employees, John Bedford and Sulkash Kamboj, have been laid out. While Bedford's statements offer an invaluable clue, collectively their testimonies were riddled with inconsistencies. Both insisted they always told the truth before, even when two truths conflicted, and their memory is too hazy now to help. Recounting the events in the interline shed of terminal three - on the afternoon before Pan Am 103 fell apart upon leaving there - should have been of immense importance. But with attention drawn to points east, these and other Heathrow clues were left hanging and clouded.

Yet another red flag appears just down the way from their workplace, with Mr. Peter Walker, who ran the “baggage build-up area” at terminal three. Here baggage from Heathrow-originating passengers was consolidated into containers, and occasionally a container from interline would be topped off or await an incoming flight here. Walker was mentioned previously as Bedford’s supervisor and casual friend. By Bedford’s story, the two had tea together in the late afternoon of December 21, and Walker gave Bedford leave to go home around 5pm, telling him to bring near-empty container AVE4041 to build-up on his way out.

The main thing about this is the container just sitting there, in the open, not visible inside the build-up office, but accessible to any terrorist who could blend in. Bedford's clues point to the bomb getting in the tin back at interline, but the extra opportunity of this long unattended span (perhaps 45 minutes) must be considered by those thinking about London origin.

But my point here is an inconsistency in Walker’s testimony that eerily recalls Beford and Kamboj. JREF forum member “Buncrana” tipped me off that in this case, Walker first swore he made no such arrangement with Bedford and had no clue a container (“tin”) had been left at build-up at all. And yet a year and a half later casually claimed to recall just what Bedford had said.

[Source throughout: Camp Zeist trial transcripts. Day 43, August 24 2000.
pp 6246-6292]

(from) Production 1227; statement of Peter Walker to DC Adrian Dixon. January 10, 1988 [sic] Original reference number S2206
I have been asked about an AVE tin that came from interline to baggage build-up. I understand that a tin was brought round from interline, but I have no knowledge of who brought it round or what time this would have been. I can't recall seeing it in baggage build-up.

Earlier that afternoon, I think about 3.30 p.m., John Bedford, the loader working in interline, came to my office. This is a quiet period in interline, and he came for a cup of tea. I did not make any arrangements with John about him bringing the tin across from interline.

I again saw John Bedford at about 5.00 p.m.. He was on his way home.
I have been informed * that an AVE tin came from interline to luggage build-up and then to Kilo 16, where it was filled with Frankfurt to New York baggage. I have no knowledge of this and do not recall seeing this AVE tin.
* Q Then part of the next sentence appears to be deleted:
I have been told ... And then it goes on instead: I have been informed -- do you see that? --
A Yes.

(from) Production 1221
Transcript of the Fatal Accident Inquiry, 1990
Peter Walker testimony, page 4170

Q Did you see Mr. Bedford at any time in the course of that afternoon?
A Yes, I did.
Q What time was that at?
A Approximately 3.30, 3.45.
Q And was there any particular reason for his visit at that point?
A We had a cup of tea together.
Q It was simply a social call?
A A social call, yes.

Q Did you see him again in the course of that afternoon?
A Yes, I did.
Q And what time was that at?
A Somewhere between 5.00 and 5.15.
Q And what was the reason for his visit then?
A He brought some bags round that he had at the interline, and then he went home.
Q Were these bags which were simply lying individually, or were they in a container?
A They were in a container. 
Q Did you see the container that Mr. Bedford brought round?
A Yes, I did.
Q Where did he leave that container?
A Outside my office.
Q Did you have a clear view?
A Not clearly entirely, no.
Q Did you see how many bags were in the container?
A I was told; I didn't see them personally. I was told there was approximately six.
Q Was that information Mr. Bedford gave you?
A Yes, he did.
Camp Zeist Trial, Cross-examination by Mr. Davidson for the accused, following police statement
Q Now, did you say that to the police?
A Yes.
Q And that was the truth?
A Yes.
Q And to remind ourselves, this was on the 10th of January 1989, I think we can safely assume?
A Yes.
Q So as of that date, Mr. Bedford [sic], you are effectively saying to the police that you didn't know anything from your own knowledge about any such tin, or through any conversation with John Bedford?
A Yes.

Mr. Davidson, following FAI testimony
Q Now, do you accept that you made all these answers to these questions, Mr. Bedford [sic]?
A Yes, sir.
Q Do you accept, then, Mr. Bedford [sic], that that represents quite a significant departure from the position that you adopted when first interviewed by the police on the date already quoted -- I think it was the 10th of January 1989.
A Yes.
Q Are you able to explain for the Court's benefit, please, Mr. Walker, what it was that caused such a change of position on your part?
A I can't answer that.
Q You've already told us that you didn't have any discussion with Mr. Bedford of any significant nature about this disaster; is that correct?
A Yes.
Q And, I take it, it follows from that answer that you didn't have any discussion with him about what he could recollect about that day in relation to containers from the interline shed and when he brought it and what number of bags he told you, none of that --
A Yeah.
Q -- occurred by way of conversation with Mr. Bedford; is that so?
A Yes.
Q But, apart from that, you are not able to assist us, explain this apparent change of position?
A I can't explain it.
Q You can't. Would you accept, on the face of it, it seems a bit unusual?
A Yes.

Q So is the position this, Mr. Walker: That you did not see any container that afternoon brought around from interline shed destined for the New York flight by Mr. Bedford?
A I can't honestly remember, sir.
Q You see, when you were interviewed by the police, and you effectively told them that, you said that that was the truth that you told the police?
A Yes.
Q A matter of three weeks, perhaps, approximately, after the incident?
A Yes.
Q Is that correct? And for some unexplained reason your position changed quite radically by the time you came to give evidence --
A I can't explain that. I'm sorry, I don't know why that happened.
Q All right, Mr. Walker. Thank you.
By all accounts, Walker would have to approve Bedford going home, and even in the first, most distanced version, he admits seeing Bedford going home. He would have been aware of timetables, and that flight 103A hadn’t arrived yet, so whatever Bedford had been loading at interline wouldn’t be out on the tarmac meeting it yet and it wouldn't be left alone at interline. He swore he knew nothing of a container at build-up, but simple deduction should have left Walker suspecting one was sitting out there.

And besides the logic of his police statement, there’s Walker telling a different story, one consistent with Bedford’s, to the FAI in 1990. He says he told the truth both times, but can’t explain how that’s possible, and can’t now remember what happened at all. So we’re left on our own.

Early ’89 and late 1990 are two quite different times, and I’m inclined to favor the latter statement as more truthful. One salient difference is that in January, Walker wouldn’t know that a Heathrow origin for the bomb would be ruled out. By the later testimony, everyone knew it came in from Frankfurt with its abysmal security. So there was less pressure to disavow anything you had thought might have to do with the bomb.

We know that when he talked to the cops, Peter Walker knew more about AVE4041 and its contents than he told them. The pertinent question now is how much more did he know?


baz said...

It may lead your readers to misunderstand the position to say that Mr Bedford's and Mr Kamboj's statements were "riddled with inconsistencies". On their own each is quite consistent. However they are fundamentally conflicting accounts than cannot be reconciled.

This conflict was ignored or glossed over. Somebody had placed two "extra" suitcases in AVE4041 but the Police ignored this vital clue when concluding on spurious and essentially political grounds that the primary suitcase had arrived from Frankfurt.

To conclude otherwise would have clouded the issue of jurisdiction. Did the Crime occur in Scotland or England?

Caustic Logic said...

True, I struggled a little with the language, but collectively it didn't line up and the link's there for details. Close enough, and a set-up for another puzzling "can't remember."

Jurisdiction issue... that's putting it softly.

I'm trying at the moment to question the particulars of Bedford's story, to think outside the box. Here's one possibility this could mean (copied from a JREF discussion):
Walker steps out as the guys come to fetch the tin as the 103A is landing. He seems the six bags Bedford told him of, plus two new Samsonites... gulp. Oh well, best not to make noise... They take it away, he gets the news, calls Bedford. Within 24 hours anyway the suddenly-closer friends concoct the Camjob did it story, over a light dinner (both just nibble) at a steak and salad place on the upper west side (nice place, pretty quiet - excellent service but they expect good tips. No problem that evening). One of them (doesn't matter which) has a minor accident driving home too tipsy, breaks down crying, then recomposes and drives on.

Perhaps I'm carrying that too far, but I learned one thing about witness testimony that never changes: ultimately, it's all just words. Often true, usually true, but never necessarily true.

Caustic Logic said...

Bedford's clues point to the bomb getting in the tin back at interline, but the extra opportunity of this long unattended span (perhaps 45 minutes) must be considered by those thinking about London origin.

To clarify that point - that applies if Bedford's strory is true and the bomb was inserted while Kamboj was in charge. That was the terrorist's chosen moment, expecting no others that would work. Then the unattended span at build-up is a bonus to consider - the point where he double-checks and stacks them just as the 103A is landing.

Either way, the security there was about non-existent, so all options are open.