Thomas Hayes

The Political Scientists of Lockerbie, part 1/3
22 October 2010

last edits 29/10

At the time of the Lockerbie investigation of 1988-1990, Dr. Thomas Hayes was head of the Forensic Explosives Laboratory at the Royal Armaments Research and Development Establishment (RARDE), at Fort Halstead, in Kent. Having worked at RARDE since June 1974, Hayes was promoted to head the lab, also called EC3, in 1985. David Leppard, in his 1991 book On the Trail of Terror, caled Hayes “probably one of the best forensic explosives experts in the world.” [p 74] Not everyone agrees.

Among the dirt dug up by those who've come before me is only one high-profile case later overturned that he was involved in, but resulting in seven convictions. This was of course the "Maguire Seven" - arrested in 1974 based on supposed IRA connections, a series of pub bombing using nitroglycerine bombs, and a finding from RARDE that Mrs. Maguire's gloves had kneaded nitro. The Guildford Four were convicted under the most unsafe of circumstances for carrying out the bombings and sentenced to life. The Maguire family of four and three friends were convicted in 1976 for supplying the explosive.

Alastair Logan, the Solicitor for the Maguire family, spoke to the Maltese Double Cross and explained Hayes' involvement in the case:
"The evidence was entirely forensic in nature. There was no other evidence at all. They made no confessions. In fact they consistently denied any involvement in any terrorist activity ... Dr. Hayes had carried out a test on gloves belonging to Mrs. Maguire on a second occasion, and detected the presence of nitroglycerine on that test. ... his role during the course of the trial as a qualified chemist ... was to reinforce what was being said [by others less qualified] and to provide the explanations that the court needed in order to be able to comprehend case against these people." [1:00:35]
Mr. Logan's view from the vantage of the mid-90s, following the convictions' annulment, was rather unsparing.
"[The expert witnesses] were all saying the same thing. They were all saying that the test was specific .They were all saying that there wasn't enough sample to run a second test. They were all saying there was no other substance known to them that could be confused with nitroglycerine. And I frankly do not believe that all of them could have been saying that if they hadn't put their heads together to say it. Because all of them were saying something that they knew and must have known was a lie. ... The only logical explanation for the pattern of conduct in not revealing all of these things that should have been revealed, including the tests that they had secretly carried out in their laboratory in order to determine their theories, which had in fact been supportive of the defense case and not their own - is that they were engaged in a giant conspiracy, which resulted in these people being convicted." [1:01:52]
They were sentenced to between four and 14 years, and had their first appeals denied. The eldest among them, Guiseppe Conlon, died in prison in 1980. The rest served their sentences through the 1980s, despite widening public pressure to review the case against all eleven imprisoned for the bombings. This would achieve a popular public inquiry that finally in 1991 quashed all convictions. But that phase of the Maguire saga had yet to unfold as Pan Am 103 was torn down on 21 December 1988, on Dr. Hayes' watch at the top of RARDE's forensic science establishment.

A Career Ends
Having covered the period before Hayes' work on Lockerbie, let's skip over it for now and turn to the period just at the other end of it. The exact date he left as head of EC3 wasn't pinned down at trial. At one point he said “the exact date of my leaving is a little circumspect, but I believe it was in 1990.” Later the cross-examination got more specific.
Hayes: I have the dates recorded. I don't have the date in my memory.
Keen: Would that be sometime in the course of 1989?
A It would, sir.
Q But did you continue to work on as a consultant working on the Lockerbie case?
A Yes, sir, I did, for approximately three months, initially.
Q And was that extended?
A It was.
Q And did it continue until the summer of 1990?
A I believe that is correct.
So he left during the course of this most important investigation, but remained on only unofficially as his deputy Allen Feraday took things over from late 1989 and on. What amazing opportunities called Hayes away? Dr. Ludwig de Breackeleer has an interesting piece on the end of his career at RARDE, which segued into a new career as a chiropodist (otherwise known as a foot doctor, or podiatrist as we say in the States). Further, the timing is interesting, as this portion of the questioning shows.
“KEEN. Dr Hayes, you told us in your earlier evidence that you were head of the Forensics explosives laboratory at RARDE until 1989? And your change of career from forensic scientist to chiropodist would appear to coincide in point of time with the decision of the Home Secretary to appoint Sir John May to inquire into the trial of those known as the Maguire Seven. Is that true?
HAYES. I believe so. I don’t recall clearly.”
On two occasions Hayes was called to give evidence to that inquiry, which was first announced on 19 October 1989 and holding hearing some time after. The first time he was called by virtue of being one of the involved scientists. The second time was after Sir May had a chance to look at his RARDE notebooks and found numerous things not disclosed either at trial or in Hayes' first appearance. The final report of the commission reflected the second interview and was discussed in the Camp Zeist trial transcripts, [day 16, June 6 2000] - the report was entered as evidence for the second accused (Fhimah). Some highlights:
"It is clear from the notebooks that when hand kits were tested RARDE was not looking for PETN. The explanation advanced to me for this exclusion of PETN by [then EC3 head] Mr. Higgs and Dr. Hayes was that in the context of IRA terrorism they believed it to be irrelevant. I accept as genuine. It was nonetheless improper for the scientists to presume in that way to exclude it. At the time the material tests were carried out and reported on, the failure to report the confusion of nitroglycerine with PETN was honest but mistaken. However, before long an element of calculation crept into the continuing failure. When Mr. Higgs prepared a list for the consultation on the 13th of January 1976 which purported to exclude all substances which might mimic nitroglycerine by reference to three criteria, he deliberately left out PETN, which could not be so excluded."  
"Inspection of the RARDE notebooks also shows that positive results were recorded on several occasions despite wider parameters than given in evidence at trial, or to me. For instance, in one case at which the inquiry looked quite closely, a positive finding was recorded and reported to the police where the Rf value was as much as 0.12 lower than the standard. Dr. Hayes, who had confirmed the results, was unable to give an explanation so long after the event."  
"The whole scientific basis on which the prosecution [...] was founded was in truth so vitiated that on this basis alone, the Court of Appeal should be invited to set aside the conviction."
The Juicy Middle: 1989
Now that we've given it a nice frame relating to the Maguire case, let's turn to the pinnacle of Hayes' career, the largest mass-killing on Great Britain, and a case that still hasn't been overturned.  For this, Hayes' contribution cannot be fully untangled from that of his ambitious deputy, Allen Feraday (see part two). The contributions of both weave together sometimes imperceptibly, but here well try to isolate Hayes' own calls on  the science that led to Libya being blamed and Abdelbaset al-Megrahi being convicted for bombing Pan Am 103.

The previous sources dishing on Dr. Hayes' involvement latch onto one obvious red flag - his apparently inserted page 51. This is the standard old hat by now, and at this site I’ve documented numerous strange cases so far. Starting with that one, it seems to me the examination notes have two pages missing (the original pages 50 and 56) and two pages inserted – the famous page 51 and the one before it, both detailing the work of 12 May that it seems he never performed (at that time). And of course the point to take from this is the same as before - page 51 detailed the finding of the crucial PT/35(b), the Libyan timer fragment, and the point where it was vouched for as originating from the blast evidence.

Hayes examined Toshiba manual cover PK/689 (left, bottom) on 16 May 1989 (by the lab notes) and decided "that the two-page fragment of paper appears to have survived a close-range explosion involvement." [p 2544] He fails to specify if he meant a small firecracker type of explosion, or a high explosives rupturing an airliner sort. But context makes it seem he accepts this as a genuine article from within the primary suitcase, as taken elsewhere, just a couple of inches from the blast center. Its not but torn and lightly singed at the edges, and was reportedly in even better shape before RARDE got hold of it. That's not a normal conclusion. Others can believe it only because they want to and because Dr. Hayes said so.

Then there's the strange evasiveness on his and Feraday’s part over damage to a "purple coloured holdall." Being of London origin and apparently from the neighboring container AVN 7511, it was likely damaged by whatever punched the hole in that fiberglass container. But the duo from RARDE insisted in their report it was damaged some way other than the blast. I can see no reason to be so adamant about that, aside from maintaining the dogma that all blast-damaged luggage was inside container 4041. It's not clear why exactly they couldn't just admit one piece in the next container over also was damaged. The dissembling and rambling amnesia of Hayes confronted with his insane work is evident here, as are some underlying dynamics of the method Hayes and Feraday used in their collaboration. (see "purple" link)

On the other hand, some of Hayes' conclusions on the evidence are apparently honest and potentially extremely relevant, until overridden. A one-foot square piece of hard-shell suitcase dubbed PI/911 is perhaps a smoking gun for what actually happened (see The Monster of Newcastleton Forest). By the examination notes of January 1989, Hayes felt the fragment's size and condition suggested it was the underside of a case beneath the bomb bag, resting directly on the container floor. By the time of the final report he co-signed with Feraday, flecks of blue plastic on it had changed that to the primary case, resting atop a blue soft-shell suitcase from Frankfurt.

This decision may have been crucial to the whole case, given the evidence of John Bedford and one or two brown hard-shell Samsonites, which, if stacked one on the floor and the other upon the first, would explain the explosion with eerie precision. Officially, the science has ruled this out - this had to be a second (or third) such case, coming in from Malta. The first one (or two) simply never turned up.

1 comment:

Piper said...

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