Germans link Heathrow with Lockerbie bomb

... back in '89
The Scots-German War over Airport Security, part 3 of 2 (addendum)
April 5 2011

Below is an article I would have found important in the two-parts of the Scots-German War over Airport Security (part one), but only heard of it later. Props to Patrick Haseldine mentioning it, and to "Buncrana" for finding me the article.  It's not factually acurate in the numbers-based finer points, which I've flagged in red, with corrections in [brackets]. But the general idea is still spot on, and his background facts are as accurate as any account I've read. Barring the Bedford suitcase story (apparently unknown to the world until David Leppard's 1991 book) and the Heathrow break-in (unknown 'til Ray Manly's revelation in 2001), the 38 minute "coincidence" referred to here, with a different number of minutes, is the best evidence to call on for a London origin for the bomb. Hat's off to Mr. Pallister for an excellent article from the archives
Germans link Heathrow with Lockerbie bomb

The Guardian (London)
November 9, 1989

WEST German forensic experts have discovered evidence which suggests that the bomb which brought down Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie last December could have been loaded at Heathrow.
The evidence comes from an examination of three other bombs made by the Palestinian group believed to be responsible for the attack. It casts serious doubt on the theory that the bomb was placed on an earlier connecting flight.

All three devices were identically constructed, with electronic timers set to detonate the Semtex explosive within 43 to 46 minutes of being activated by a barometric pressure trigger at about 3,000 feet. [see more correct version here - each one was different] The West German police believe they were destined for El Al planes or flights to Tel Aviv.

If the Lockerbie bomb was the same, it would have had to have been placed on board the jumbo at Heathrow, rather than at Frankfurt, Malta or Cyprus - the three possibilities so far publicly canvassed.

The bombs have been connected with the terrorist cell run in West Germany by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command. The first was found in October 1988 in a radio cassette player in a car driven by Hafez Dalkamoni, who has been identified as a senior member of the PFLP-GC. He is awaiting trial in Frankfurt for a bomb attack on a railway in Lower Saxony in August 1987.

The discovery of the cassette bomb led to warnings from the West Germans to airlines and other western governments in November.

In April this year West German police found three more devices in the basement of a house owned by one of Dalkamoni's relatives in the town of Neuss. One exploded at the Wiesbaden headquarters of the BKA, the federal criminal investigation agency, killing a bomb disposal expert.

The three unexploded devices were all made by the same man. The BKA thinks he was the man arrested with Dalkamoni, Marwan Khreesat, who was mysteriously released without charge two weeks later, along with 12 other Palestinians arrested in October. Khreesat, it has been alleged, was probably an agent working for either Jordanian or West German intelligence, or both.
[all correct, but the fifth device is unmentioned]

The forensic experts, working for the BKA, believe the devices were designed to withstand examination by El Al's pressure chambers which are used to screen baggage.

Dr Jim Swire, the spokesman for the UK Families-Flight 103 group, believes the findings could point to the Lockerbie bomb, which was also in a cassette player, being loaded at Heathrow.

The plane took off at 6.25pm and disappeared off the radar screens between 53 and 54 minutes later [38 minutes later, of course, at 7:03]. It takes between seven and 10 minutes to climb to 3,000 feet [I have about 7 minutes and 2,400 feet - see again this link], which fits in precisely with the timing system on the other bombs. [it would fit perfectly if it were a 30-minute timer, which was among those used - 30, 45, and 60 minutes. see again this link.]


felix said...

The article came out at a bad time - coinciding with the fall of the Berlin Wall...

Caustic Logic said...

You know, I hadn't really thought about it that way. I wonder what role that chaos had on what the Germans did with the hot potato London stuck them with. Something to look at timeline-wise.

Patrick Haseldine said...

Thanks for the credit, Adam.

David Pallister was a superb investigative journalist in 1989, and still is in 2011.