January 14 2011
last edits Jan 16
Former Heathrow airport security guard Ray Manly was indeed a manly man. I hear he has deceased, but I haven’t been able to verify that easily enough. He apparently suffered greatly at the end of his life (see below), but before it was over, he became the epic whistleblower whose actions dredged up perhaps the key piece to the puzzle of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.
The same clue had been erased from the record early on by authorities, and kept from the world for over a decade. That long silence ended for good with his clue’s first publication in the news, nearly eight months after Megrahi’s conviction for his plot on Malta. This came on Tuesday, September 11 2001, and it was obviously superceded by events overseas. A new record was set that day - by a landslide - for American civilians killed in a terrorist attack. But the explosive power of Manly’s revelation to understanding the previous record-holder, also involving an airliner, was not diminished.
Patrolling Heathrow’s terminal three shortly after midnight on December 21, he had discovered a padlock that had been cut (or at least forcibly broken, see below) on a certain door called T32A. This had left open the way to the usually-secured airside area, where luggage is loaded onto airliners. He dutifully reported this to his superiors, but apparently nothing further was done, and about 17 hours later, Pan Am 103 was loaded with a bomb at terminal three.
Somehow the fact of this breach never emerged during the investigation, as attention turned first to Germany, and then to Malta. For years it remained unknown, up to and even at the trial in 2000. There, Megrahi’s defense tried to argue for a bomb introduction at Heathrow, based on other compelling evidence (see below). But they were as clueless as anyone that there was also a reported break-in at the airport, almost a smoking gun in that context.
Manly says the memory remained with and “weighed” on him over the years, and when it still hadn’t come up as of the wrongful verdict at the end of January 2001, he contacted al-Megrahi’s defense team and, later, the media.
“My statement has disappeared” - what he said
News of the Heathrow break-in was first published on September 11 by the Daily Mirror, and soon widely reported. Manly told correspondent David Pidlitch that the break-in was “the most serious security breach that I came across in 17 years at Heathrow.” The padlock he found on the floor was “cut like butter,” he said, in what he considered “a professional operation.”
He elaborated on the potential significance of it:
"I believe it would have been possible for an unauthorised person to obtain tags for a particular Pan Am flight then, having broken the CP2 lock, to have introduced a tagged bag into the baggage build up area.Alternately, this perceived breach could be some kind of coincidence. But he was rightly alarmed at how it was completely ignored or forgotten, as if it was definitely irrelevant, but without any explanation – or even acknowledgment - given.
A terrorist who wanted to put a bomb on that plane would have gained access to the perfect place. The luggage would not be checked again before being loaded on the plane."
"I can't believe my evidence was not part of the trial and my statement went missing. […] Although police took a statement, I never heard from anyone afterwards. […] They told me no one knew about my statement or the break-in. I find that just incredible. My statement has disappeared and so has the padlock. No one can even tell me if it was tested for fingerprints.”That’s strong evidence for two things that are already heavily illustrated to those who dig deep enough – the bomb did in fact start only in London, and British authorities have done all they can to avoid acknowledging that.
Tested in Court 1: A Problem Witness
Mr. Manly swore a few affidavits with the defense about the break-in as he remembered it. He recalled making a police statement, but none was found to confirm or deny that. The records from Heathrow security, however, existed and bore Manly out. And his superior, one Phillip Radley, remembered the incident as well. The defense then made the verified new clue a central point of the appeal of conviction – a revived London-origin argument, put before a five judge panel at Camp Zeist in February 2002.
The case they made, calling on this plus the previously known evidence, was quite compelling. But the court rebuffed it, using highly questionable reasoning that is covered elsewhere. Their flippant rejection does nothing to the actual theory except prove that it is not 100% proven and too obvious to deny. That we already knew, seeing it denied in court once already and dismissed by investigators for over a decade by then. I imagine that judges are not always fond of questioning the findings of their peers, and are perhaps less inclined yet to re-create police investigations to re-solve a crime in their own parallel universe. So despite the evidence in their faces, the appeal court decided the Zeist court had it right, and compared to Malta, a London introduction "was a theoretical rather than an actual possibility," whatever that means.
For his part, Mr. Manly performed poorly in court. Consider the following, from a March 2002 report by Dr. Hans Köchler, UN observer at the trial and appeal:
13. The defense strategy was further seriously undermined by the rather bizarre
circumstances of the testimony given by the Defense's key additional witness, Mr. Manly. While being adamant about the technical details about how the padlock at Heathrow airport was broken (“cut like butter”), he was highly confused and proven totally wrong in regard to the exact location of the door and the way in which the padlock was attached to the door. At the beginning of his testimony he told the court that, because of an accident, he was under medication and that he was afraid he might have to vomit in the course of his testimony. He looked very frail and behaved in a highly emotional, at times even aggressive manner. For the undersigned it was impossible to obtain any specific information about the factors which led to this deplorable state of health. In spite of the efforts promised by the Scottish Court Service, it was not possible to obtain any information on the kind of medication under the influence of which Mr. Manly may have acted in the way he did, or on the time and nature of the accident that made this medication necessary. In fact, Mr. Manly’s testimony – seen in its entirety – may even have been counterproductive in regard to the defense strategy. The question remains why the Defense introduced Mr. Manly as an additional witness under these particular circumstances.
Dr. Köchler, who incidentally is intrigued by the London origin theory, hovers here over the mysteries of Manly’s health. In so doing, he almost seems to be wondering if someone were “enhancing” his medication. Its side-effects did seem to damage his credibility, and cast some doubt on his recall of the breach, making the judges’ task of ignoring it that much easier. But of course to really keep this off the record, it would have been best to kill Manly altogether some time not-too-soon after the bombing, but before he was driven to talk. There is only a small bit of room to wonder, as I have, if someone would go so far as to connive against Mr. Manly’s mental state. And that room is because of the enormous stakes of what had been covered up before this whistleblower’s bold step forward.
What’s at Stake: “If somebody had done their job…”
Whatever they did about it, the same forces that denied his evidence in 1989 couldn’t have been happy to see Ray Manly surface with it again in 2001. It’s really a horrendous thing they were hiding. There was a security breach but someone decided not to sound the alarm, perhaps more interested in business as usual for the Holiday season. Terrorists could have planted a nuclear device for all we knew. Luckily Mr. Manly caught the breach, but negligently nothing further was done. He and Mr. Radley both say no police came when they were called, no one searched the area, and no alerts were put out. And after the murders of 270 people later that day, investigators decided, first thing out of the gate, that the bomb had to come from anywhere other than the breached terminal three.
At Malta we have a suggestion of a phantom Libyan no one saw circumventing security, slipping a bomb onto KM180, and leaving no evidence at all. At Frankfurt we’ve heard of an unexplained failure to catch with X-ray that Maltese-origin bomb. And at London, a final failure is admitted, but the loading there had to be rushed with no additional checks. And the bomb should have been caught before that, the Brits chastised.
And this whole time they were sitting on Manly’s and Radley’s reports of a physical breach of padlock security at their airport the morning before the bombing. And the police simply didn’t factor this in to their globe-trotting quest for the truth because they simply lost the statement they took about it, and then forgot all about it. We’re to presume this was on accident, but we aren’t.
The break-in is not, as some have painted it, some lone clue floating without context. Heathrow is the most logical place to load a bomb onto a London-to-NY flight, for one thing. For another, there’s the alternate villain – Iran and their contractors in the PFLP-GC who had a known bomb style that is an eerie fit with what happened. These radio IEDs – one of which went missing six weeks before Lockerbie - would be triggered by altitude change and blow up early - between 30 and 60 minutes after leaving the ground. PA 103 fell apart 38 minutes after leaving Heathrow’s runway. And, further, a case matching the primary case description (brown, hard-shell Samsonite) was noticed at the bottom of container AVE4041, inside which a case just like that, in about the spot reported, blew up. It’s clear that this is likely the bomb bag, but it was there before the Malta one could have been, so it was ruled a coincidence.
There is the problem of elapsed hours, as brought up by the prosecution and appeal judges. Why break in, plant a bomb bag among the luggage, and then leave, only to have it loaded to the last flight of the day many hours later? And is that even possible? It’s a fair question but not a slam-dunk. If someone were on the ground cutting locks at midnight to hide a bomb, might they not be willing to come back for a second penetration to actually place it for liftoff? (I’ve split off my theory about this two-phase plan into a separate article, to be posted soon)
So the actual bomb case might have been introduced to the airport following the break-in, and his report could well have led to the plot being halted. During his 2002 testimony, Manly was right to say, during a dispute with prosecution counsel Alan Turnbull:
"Maybe if this had been acted on at the time we may not be sitting here now. I'm suffering still and I have suffered all this time from the horror of it. If somebody had done their job then maybe, maybe it may not have happened."Simple human sloppiness, and lack of vigilance could explain this and so much other suffering. But what on earth can explain the failure to put the pieces together even after the fact?
Tested in Court 2: Break-In confirmed, end of story
The dispute with Turnbull cited above was started by the latter, one report says, when he “at one point accused [Manly] of not taking the hearing seriously.” Hence the sharp reply: "I think I'm treating this more serious than you. That's the reason I'm here. It's very, very serious. You may not think so but I do and I have lived with it for 13 years.”
Turnbull’s speculations could, to a decent person, appear like the musings of a joker who did not in fact take these things seriously. To answer the whole notion of a security breach, he proposed that a worker on the airside could have forced the door enough to break the lock, just so he could take a short-cut through landside. To the same effect, “Turnbull said a muted response by airport officials and police to the incident showed they did not believe an intruder had slipped into sensitive areas at the airport.”
And of course Manly was shown wrong by the prosecution of the location of the door and other minor details, as if these matter. His report was confirmed, shown to the court, describing the break-in as "a very deliberate act, leaving easy access to airside." That was his impression doing something Turnbull has never done - looking at the evidence himself in context. Mr Radley's log book was also shown, with an entry for 12:35 saying "Door at T3 2a lock broken off." And as an excellent AP article from the time put it:
Philip Radley, Manly's supervisor, also disputed Turnbull's suggestion that a baggage handler probably forced open the double doors that were also secured with a long metal bolt. "You couldn't break it out like that," he said. […] Mr Radley said the detour for baggage handlers if the doors were locked was only "a couple of minutes". He could not recall any previous incident in which staff had forced open locked doors.The experts on the scene agree in rejecting this bollocks speculation. It was a padlocked airside door, and it was clearly broken by someone quite intent on breaching security for possibly criminal purposes. And the appeal court even agreed on this:
"We would not ourselves be inclined to draw the inference, argued for by the Crown, that the lock was forced from airside by airport employees seeking to take a shortcut to landside from their place of work in the airside area." 
It was apparently then a deliberate breach of security, which Manly described as the most serious he ever saw, and it happened by sheer coincidence, the same day as the Lockerbie bombing. It was not acted on before the bombing, and was apparently covered up after. Because if anyone was in a position to understand the importance of Manly’s find, it would be the same police who lost his statement after learning some of the other clues that it tied together.
But “lost” is such a passive word when more likely it was a decision, from early and high, that the real mechanical truth must not emerge. From this denial, it was only a matter of time before the Libyan plot on Malta, or some other suitable replacement narrative, would emerge of necessity.
More on the implications: After the Break-In
- Evidence of a lock cut like butter." Feb 13 2002. AP. http://plane-truth.com/Aoude/geocities/appealweek4.html
- Maltese trail that left judges with no doubts. Guardian, March 15 2002. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2002/mar/15/lockerbie.gerardseenan
- Lockerbie: Heathrow break-in revealed. The Independent, Sept. 11 2001. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/lockerbie-heathrow-breakin-revealed-668981.html
- Lost for 12 Years... David Pilditch. Daily Mirror. Sept. 11 2001. http://www.thefreelibrary.com/LOST+FOR+12+YEARS%3B+12.30+AM+DECEMBER+21,+1988+Guard+finds+break-in+at...-a078106831
- I have had to live with this for more than 13 years. I believe my evidence was swept under the carpet. http://www.thefreelibrary.com/I+have+had+to+live+with+this+for+more+than+13+years.+I+believe+my...-a082837639
- Hans Köchler, report on appeal proceedings. March 26 2002. http://www.defraudingamerica.com/lockerbie_un_report_march_26_2002.html
- Appeal Court Judgment (Opinion of the Court), March 14 2002 (PDF)