Two Secondary Suitcases?

June 13/14, 2011

The Soft, Blue and Maroon Case
Below is a screen capture from al Jazeera's new video, of a severely blasted suitcase, gathered back together for investigator's cameras following the bombing of PA103. This piece of luggage was listed in the examination notes of Dr. Hayes as item 4.2.14, a blue soft-shell American Tourister case.

It was owned by passenger Patricia Coyle, who interlined from Germany on the feeder PA103A, which also officially carried the bomb (although other evidence suggests it was manually placed in London).  By RARDE's questionable and belated finding, it was placed just beneath the bomb suitcase, on the floor of luggage container AVE 4041. It looks just about blown-up enough to have been the primary case - the one containing the bomb. But it was what I'll call "secondary", next to and touching the primary one.

I recognized the photo even without a label from the description given of the unique remains in the trial transcripts, and the readable item numbers support that call. This case had always sounded supremely blast-damaged and largely unaccounted-for, and this elusive photograph 76 shows about what I expected, if even more so. The examination notes (culled as read-back from transcripts) explain:
"The following 27 items, the larger fragments of which are collectively shown in photograph 76, were identified as component parts of a blue American Tourister brand softshell suitcase. The severe overall damage to the identified component parts is consistent with this suitcase having been located in contact with the suitcase that contained the improvised explosive device at the moment of explosion."
The case had been supported by a simple wire frame, with flexible plastic of blue, maroon, and black filling it in the body and trim. TSH/346 is the large piece wrapping around the outside, essentially the whole middle band of the case. It was said to have been blasted at least partly into the neighboring container, AVN 7511, along with some pieces of the container and of the primary suitcase.

There are only about ten further pieces not shown, all very small. As can be seen, the majority of that base material didn't turn up, left in the tiniest tatters lost to wind, sea, and mud if not to the fireball of the explosion itself.

The Hard, Antique Copper One
Here, at left, is what was assembled and called the primary suitcase. It was a different type entirely, a brown or antique copper colored hard-shell Samsonite, Silhouette 4000 series. Given in the report as luggage item 4.1.2, its remains were described thus:
The following 56 items were examined and identified as the component parts of one of the hardshell Samsonite brand suitcases from the Silhouette 4000 range. It was also established beyond any doubt that this item of luggage had been subjected to a violent internal explosion and thus had originally contained an improvised explosive device. Except where noted, all of the items examined below are collectively shown in photograph 49.
The bolded part is the one I here contend. Very similar damage, considering the material differences, had the American Tourister declared as just beneath the bomb. Here, Hayes seems a little too certain for comfort that this extremely splintered suitcase was wrapped around the explosion itself.

As with the other case, the pieces not shown are the smallest ones, especially the many fragments of the cardboard divider from the middle of the suitcase, closest to the alleged bomb (PT/68 in the lower corner is the one sample of that shown).

The delicate suitcase lining fabric not much further away is represented by one nearly-complete side of the stuff - the giant 22-inch PK/1310A, stretched across the middle of the photo. The combined effect of this gauze, the surviving cardboard, and the other very large fragments of shell plastic, is that this case experienced a very asymmetrical blast involvement, with one whole side - and even the middle, it seems - shielded by something - like the upper half of the case and half the primary case and its contents above that.

Among this possible lower half, PI/911 in the upper left is nearly a foot square, and at one point (January 1989) Dr. Thomas Hayes of RARDE had concluded it was from was from "the lower side of a suitcase, compressed and fractured in a manner suggesting it was in contact with a luggage pallet's base and subjected to explosive forces from above." This means beneath the bomb suitcase, which was on level two and blasted from within, not above. (see: the Monster of Newcastelton Forest)

That opinion changed at some uncertain later point - by the time of the final report in 1990, PI/911 was said to have flecks of blue plastic stuck to it, suggesting it had rested on the American Tourister, not the container's floor.

Two Brown Hard-Shells?
This all has direct relevance to the story of John Bedford, the luggage loader at Heathrow now famous for seeing and reporting a brown hard-shell Samsonite case - or perhaps two - inside the container's lower corner. In part, he told police in January 1989:
“They were [both] hard cases, the type Samsonite make. One was brown in color and the other one, if it wasn't the same color, it was similar.”
No passengers on Flight 103 carried any such luggage and only the one shown above was recovered after. Yet here is at least one, and possibly two, such cases confirmed in the container before a second or third such case came in from Malta on the German feeder. This was around two hours after Bedford's sighting, and officially, it was set on top of the Coyle case, in the same exact spot the Bedford bag(s) just vanished from, never to be seen again. Officially, that's what happened.

If he described two cases of the same exact color and style, where did the other one go when only the remains of one turned up?

One possibility I've aired before is the one we've seen is not the primary suitcase. Rather, it might be another secondary case, like ms. Coyle's, with the primary case having effectively vanished under the force of its own more-powerful-than-thought explosion. At right is a graphic (all to scale and accurate) that illustrates that arrangement.

I had backed off a bit on the idea of two matching cases, for the sake of simplicity. But this new image of suitcase 4.2.14 changes things, showing me that  both of the suitcases in question are comparable for extreme damage. Below I've placed both images, fragments in silhouette, side-by-side to approximately the same scale. Seeing them together like this, it's hardly obvious the left one is the most obliterated. Soft-shell vs. hard-shell construction will give different results, and the total number of recovered fragments - 56 compared to 27 - suggests that, in fact, more of Ms. Coyle's less durable case material was lost to the explosion and the elements than were  lost from the primary case that should have seen by far the worst of it.

Really, seeing this image re-affirms to me the idea that these are both cases that had been situated next to the primary one, which was presumably the other Bedford suitcase, worse off yet - gone into dust, along with everything in it. This would mean the clothes, the bomb radio, timer, umbrella, everything deemed to be from the primary case, were either from one of the neighboring cases, or were planted. Considering how neatly they pointed to Libya and Megrahi, and how plagued they are with plausibility issues and handling anomalies, I'm going with planted.

22 comments:

Eddie said...

Just when you think you've got it covered, another piece of the jigsaw pops up. Interesting. It's a curious state of affairs no doubt Adam, and I agree with your implications.

That documentary has (for me anyway) lifted the lid on the investigation the little more than I'd thought possible before I viewed it.

al aplage said...

Is it not possible that the retrieved bits are from two suitcases, the assumption seeming to have been that there was only one brown/antique copper suitcase in the hold?

Caustic Logic said...

Thanks, Eddie. Indeed, that was a worthwhile video, to say the least. Do you agree with my hypothesis, then, or just with the implications were it true?

And al aplage, there is room for a mix of two cases in these remains. There are no duplicate parts admitted to that would prove that, but the total amount is less than half a case - perhaps 40% of one.

I think there were two bags (but not three!), but these pieces are almost all, if not entirely, from one case, and even from just one half of it.

If we visualize them stacked, with a top and bottom half for each, that's four halves, numbered 1-4 from top to bottom. Halves 1 and 2 are the primary case, and should be about equally blasted, depending somewhat on what's in the bag. Half 3 would be the next worst off, then half 4 relatively shielded, and so we get that lining material and several large chunks. The smaller chunks could be from 4, most likely, 3 next most likely, 1 and 2 less likely buy possible.

What do you think?

Cool profile image, by the way.

al aplage said...

I think you've got the stack of cases in the right order. It doesn't make sense to me to put a softcase on the bottom of a stack.
( I've never loaded airline luggage, but have loaded many vans and trucks over the years )

It's interesting to think that Mr Bedford's statement was ignored as it didn't fit the narrative of slack security in 'foreign ' countries and suitcase shenanigans.

Eddie said...

I'm just trying to envisage the final position Bedford claimed he saw the bags in 4041, and the final position of the explosion.

Following the official conclusions, we must initially assume there were at least two, and possibly three, bronze/brown/maroon Samsonite suitcases. At least the one Bedford saw, maybe two, and the one that arrived via Malta - and all are unaccompanied.

However, if the primary suitcase was introduced into 4041 on the arrival of 103A and, after removing/moving Bedford's bronze samsonite, it was fortuitously placed into the container just after and above Ms Coyle's, which was also just to the left and up of where Bedford's suitcase was, then it begs 3 crucial and as yet unanswered questions:

One, what became of Bedfords unknown and unaccompanied samsonite of which no remnant or scrap was ever recovered; and two, what of the suitcase that must have been therefore above the new (Malta) bronze samsonite that exploded?

The third and final question is absurd in itself: How do the investigators and judges manage to resolve the contradiction in concluding that Bedford's brown samsonite was moved to a far corner of the container and thus that it wasn't the primary suitcase at Zeist in 2000, but the 1991 FAI enquiry had concluded that Bedfords brown samsonite had remained on the floor beneath the primary suitcase?

Someone was wrong. And furthermore, with both of these contrasting conclusions, no evidence was ever recovered of any other brown samsonite other than that of the primary suitcase. Apparently.

In short, if Ms Coyle's bag was directly below the primary suicase, then what was immediately above it? We don't know, but nothing is ever referred to.

And at the FAI in 1991, it was Bedford's bag that was below the primary case but vanished completely. And again nothing above, not even Ms Coyle's.

If the AAIB concluded their estimation correctly then it appears the bag was on the second layer, but if that conclusion was skewed slightly to aid the 'not heathrow' theory, then perhaps the primary suitcase was actually on the floor (say 7 rather than 10 inches), and therefore there was only one bag directly on top, and that would be Ms Coyle's.

So, there is one scenario were it is plausible for the remnants discovered to be that of the primary suitcase, and Ms Coyle's the only other bag in direct contact. Only not below the primary case, but above.

Of course, that would not have been at all satisfactory for the prosecution who would then have to explained Bedford's case not needing to be moved from the position he'd pretty much seen it -before 103A arrived.

Eddie said...

(cont..)

So, on the evidence that was produced at Zeist, lets remove the possibility of the Maltese samsonite since there is no evidence that such a bag was loaded at Malta or passed through Frankfurt, and work from the premise that Bedford saw one, and possibly two brown/bronze samsonite suitcases, and if they were indeed both that colour and make, then we also now know they were both unaccompanied.

If we assume the AAIB report was relying on outlier variables (although possibly skewing conclusions) for the benefit of Heathrow, and the explosion being about 10 inches above the base (at the most) and 2 inches into the overhang, is seems likely to me that the left side bag seen by Bedford was just slid along to the left by the handlers loading 103A luggage into it, meaning it ended up on the sloping edge itself.

Thus, this bags contents would no doubt shift, even if only just slightly, to the right, so the device if located hard against the left (as we look) would possibly shift to the right.

But, throughout this, the case would remain on the base of the container/curved edge. Can this still fit with the AAIB conclusions? Not quite, but if we consider any possibility of a skewed result, then it could quite likely be.

Meanwhile, the other bag, possibly another samsonite, seen by Bedford is immediately to this bags right, and also on the base. Ms Coyle's bag is then loaded on top of both these cases as it arrives from Frankfurt. At the explosion, the primary suitcase disintegrates and the extensive damage we now see is the other samsonite-style case seen by Bedford and, of course, Ms Coyle's.

If not however, and we can take that the estimation by the AAIB was as exact as could be possibly evaluated, then the explosion would seem not to have occurred within a bag that was located on the base of the container.

Therefore, looking back at the final position Bedford reported the suitcases, then one of those cases, and it appears the left one in particular, would need to end up on the second layer, with the other 'samsonite-type' he saw underneath the primary suitcase, and Ms Coyle's then placed on top of the primary suitcase.

It seems intuitive that if any of the cases Bedford seen were going to end up on the second layer, it would be the right hand case, which we presume did not contain the device, because if this bag did, then it wasn't initially placed in what we think was the desired location for the explosion to succeed.

However, obviously there still remains the possibility that the right hand bag Bedford saw was simply shifted to the left and the 'bronze samsonite' that was there and held the device was thus placed on top, now on the second layer, and Ms Coyle's above that on the third.

Now, obviously neither of these scenarios allow for Ms Coyle's case to be underneath the primary suitcase, or on the base of the container as the official narrative requires, but that issue it dealt with at the beginning and for which there is no plausible nor rational explanation.

Of course, the other theory that the bags were rearranged outside Walkers shed has been considered, and as much as I agree with you that it's clearly the most opportune 45mins or so to place or replace the suitcase, it's something that couldn't have been anticipated for any plan.

However, opportune moments and taking that opportunity is exactly that.

Or, of course, is there any plausibility in the argument that there was more than one primary suitcase?

Nevertheless, with any of the initial scenarios I have illustrated, if now accepted that the other suitcase seen by Bedford was another bronze samsonite, would render the whole primary suitcase being obliterated and the two suitcases produced were the two cases (the only two cases) in direct contact with the explosion: one being the other samsonite seen by Bedford and Ms Coyle's.

Rolfe said...

I can see this as a reasonable proposition, but I think there are an awful lot of assumptions.

The question of what might have been above the bomb bag if Patricia's case was underneath it is a crucial one. It was specifically stated at the trial that there was only one suitcase recovered that was flat alongside the bomb bag - Patricia's. Nobody ever seems to have asked what was above it! Another case that vanished on the way to the ground? Or even Bedford's innocent clone Samsonite? Never discussed.

So the idea that the bomb suitcase itself was obliterated and the two suitcases found in shreds were on either side of it is attractive, but only to a point. It tends to imply that the FAI was right all along and that Bedford's case was never moved, was innocent - but its fragments were mistaken for those of the bomb bag. So where does that leave us as regards the bomb bag? Nowhere, it seems. Did it come off the feeder flight all along? Hardly, for all the other reasons we've explored elsewhere. Or was it one of the other cases Bedford loaded? If so, how did it get there? It wasn't there when Bedford left the container. And if it wasn't there, then it wasn't in the optimum place for the bomb to go off, by a mile, which suggests the terrorist had passed up on the chance to position the case correctly. How was that corrected - did the terrorist come back for another bite at the cherry later, when the container was unexpectedly left unattended again? But why not place it correctly to start with?

Sorry, this is all getting a bit complicated for me.

Then again whose was Bedford's brown Samsonite if it wasn't the bomb bag? None of the passengers had such a case. And what about the Maltese clothes? If the entire bomb suitcase was obliterated, so must have been its contents. So were the mysterious Maltese clothes, bought by the mysterious "Libyan", innocently in this innocent brown Samsonite that no passenger carried on to the plane?

This is making my head hurt, quite honestly. I find it much easier to propose that The forensics were mistaken about there being another case between the bomb bag and the floor of the container, and that the way the case was packed meant that the contents themselves shielded the floor. That the case was simply pushed aside to allow a small item in to its right, so elevating the left-hand side enough to get the bomb in the position Claiden calculated. And that Patricia's case, the only one identified as being flat alongside the bomb bag, was on top of it.

I think the terrorist packed the case carefully with the radio along the right-hand side (not the back as seen in the "trial loading"), and placed it carefully in the container with the handle to the back and the radio as close to the skin of the plane as possible at that time. I think he then pulled Charles McKee's GREY Samsonite from the row at the back and placed it to the right, to fill the floor of the container so as to minimise the possibility of "a bit of re-jigging" pushing it to the right. And in fact, the little bit of re-jigging that did happen actually put the bomb in a slightly better position than the one in which it was originally placed.

This saves us having to deal with the brown Samsonite Bedford saw being unaccompanied but innocent, and it saves a lot of complicated speculation about rearrangement of the luggage after Bedford last saw it (which suggests a terrorist not nearly as in control as he seems to have been, and introduces just about as much luck as if it had come off the feeder flight and been perfectly placed by chance). It also saves us having to find another bizarre explanation for these mysterious Maltese clothes.

I could be wrong. It could be far more complicated than I imagine. But for now, I call on the spirit of William of Ockham to my support.

Caustic Logic said...

Eddie, Rolfe, excellent comments. Thanks. I'll deal with a few ideas from both of you below. And even now, sorry, not comprehensive. I'm kind os short on time again for the moment.

What was above the official primary case is a very interesting issue I haven't talked about much. I did note it with the question mark in the image used. I've never seen it specified either. They go to pains to fill the left-hand Bedford bag slot with ms. Coyle's, give no new location for the bag it replaced, and no clue what was above it. Not a good set-up.

I still haven't ruled out the Walker/build-up ntroduction idea, on the off-chance, but I'll stick with Interline here, and take Bedford's description as totally accurate (that's two assumptions, but reasonable ones)

However, obviously there still remains the possibility that the right hand bag Bedford saw was simply shifted to the left and the 'bronze samsonite' that was there and held the device was thus placed on top, now on the second layer, and Ms Coyle's above that on the third.
Tat's what I'm going with, although there are about five ways it could go down. He reports the brown case on the left, and if he left it that way, it should be the bomb bag. The one on the right, which I suspect matched it, was the spacer.

I'll propose a worker tilted the bomb bag up, slid the other one under it, and slid them both left into the overhang, and then started with the Frankfurt bags, with Coyle's on top of the hard-shells.

I appreciate the alternative thoughts, but I'm still having a hard time accepting as more than possible that Bedford saw McKee's gray bag and thought it was similar enough to brown to say it might be "the same colour."

And, just considering blast damage to the container, the hull, and at least one suitcase I take as next to the bomb bag, the primary case almost had to have disintegrated. Blast force decreases exponentially from the center outward, I hear, so the very center would just be insanely violent for its dimmer 2-foot-distant version to rupture the hull like it did.

This is making my head hurt, quite honestly.
I don't think it's that complicated. I spotted a few points where you're making it complicated, maybe. Will come back to that in some more detail.

Caustic Logic said...

I think you've got the stack of cases in the right order. It doesn't make sense to me to put a softcase on the bottom of a stack.
( I've never loaded airline luggage, but have loaded many vans and trucks over the years )


Well the order is mostly law of superposition. The Am. Tourister came in later than Bedford's, so it went on top.

But I'm agreed totally on this other aspect. It might have been relatively firm and adequate for the job, but just aesthetically, if I see a hard-shell and a soft-shell, and thehard one's already on the floor - why would I go out of my way to just deny that natural impulse and slide the soft one underneath? To help investigators down the road rule out the relevance of Bedford's story? What am I, psychic and accomplice to a cover-up? No, I'm a worker and I stack things.

It's interesting to think that Mr Bedford's statement was ignored as it didn't fit the narrative of slack security in 'foreign ' countries and suitcase shenanigans.
It's depressing really how all parties insisted on de-blaming their airports. With Malta and Germany, we could chalk it up to really knowing they weren't at fault, and not wanting the investigation to go wrong. But the UK didn't have that excuse, they knew it happned there. Yet they were the first to decide on blaming Germany and eventually somehow they both helped blame Malta.

How can an investigation ever go right with impulses like these at work and unchecked?

So yeah, they had to ignore his story and downplay it, as well as completely deleting Ray Manly's report.

Caustic Logic said...

It was specifically stated at the trial that there was only one suitcase recovered that was flat alongside the bomb bag - Patricia's.

Really? That's impossible, as the container was stuffed full. Something was on top of it as well as below.

So the idea that the bomb suitcase itself was obliterated and the two suitcases found in shreds were on either side of it is attractive, but only to a point. It tends to imply that the FAI was right all along and that Bedford's case was never moved, was innocent - but its fragments were mistaken for those of the bomb bag.

No, it could imply that, but I'm going with this being the less-discussed one on the right, to start with.

So where does that leave us as regards the bomb bag? Nowhere, it seems.

As you know, there are different ways to deal with this problem, but since simplicity is the order of the day, I propose this:
- A matching set, placed by the perp, as reported by Bedford - side-by-side.
- The bomb was on the left, for the obvious reasons, the spacer on the left. (they are marked somehow, of course, so he knows which is which)
- If they were left as is, it would work. If the right case were stacked on the left it would work. If the right case was slid beneath the left it would work. It's a smart way.
- If it weren't for the container evidence, I'd go either way for how they got stacked. But that evidence suggests to me the left one wound up on top.

Sorry, this is all getting a bit complicated for me.

Any better now?

However I will add, whether it plays into this or not, if I were the perp who'd already breached security, and desired optimal placement, I would not just place it and walk away. I'd know the departure time and ideally find a way to hang around until then, and look for any opportunity to double-check or fix anything wrong. Depends on how much he knew of airport routines.

Either way you want to bypass Kamboj somehow, which means passing the x-ray and while you're at it, time to set them right. Any chance for a follow-up is bonus.

And what about the Maltese clothes? If the entire bomb suitcase was obliterated, so must have been its contents. So were the mysterious Maltese clothes, bought by the mysterious "Libyan", innocently in this innocent brown Samsonite that no passenger carried on to the plane?

IF they weren't planted (I'm agnostic but leaning towards planted), they were in the bottom case, and helped shield PK/130A and PI/911 and the floor. Is that innocent? Anything Maltese has a tendency (not overwhelming but notable) of pointing at Libya. And not just Malta, but the Gaucis ... Did the PFLP-GC provide the first tip that Bollier and the CIA only built on?

I'd rather not try to decide there or dwell on it, only hoping to find it plausible enough either way so as to focus on the scientific evidence that remained and didn't.

I find it much easier to propose that The forensics were mistaken about there being another case between the bomb bag and the floor of the container, and that the way the case was packed meant that the contents themselves shielded the floor.

I'm open there, but it's to a more detailed explanation. There's some major asymmetry going on there if so, and while I've tried the idea out, and considered odd clothes arrangments (packed as a vacuum-sealed brick), I just couldn't do it on my own. Would need some help.

prolly need to continue ...

Caustic Logic said...

That the case was simply pushed aside to allow a small item in to its right, so elevating the left-hand side enough to get the bomb in the position Claiden calculated. And that Patricia's case, the only one identified as being flat alongside the bomb bag, was on top of it.

I don't think the various slid-into positions quite worked (the graphic with the four positions shown - it's around...). Claiden might have had the basics right, just RARDE got the bags mixed up in a way that sidelined Bedford.

Look at it this way: The timer we agree is fake and planted. The radio, same. We might have to expand that to clothes, if we read Bedford most literally and consider how on-par the two cases in question are. One missing suitcase explains a lot, seems plausible enough, and forces the point further on the planting we already know happened.

All it requires is the left-hand bag winding up on top of the right, or any other solution that explains the container and suitcase damage. A lift-slide move is my proposal - not the most obvious, but not outlandish either.

I think the terrorist packed the case carefully with the radio along the right-hand side (not the back as seen in the "trial loading"), and placed it carefully in the container with the handle to the back and the radio as close to the skin of the plane as possible at that time. I think he then pulled Charles McKee's GREY Samsonite from the row at the back and placed it to the right, to fill the floor of the container so as to minimise the possibility of "a bit of re-jigging" pushing it to the right.

Same thing to a "T", but with the matching case instead of McKee's, and then some re-jiggering that explains the container floor. Barring a really good suitcase-packing explanation, it's a geometry problem between suitcase inside a well-defined space. The solution should be in graphic form, all to scale.

But for now, I call on the spirit of William of Ockham to my support.

And do continue. Just remember the part about explaining all the facts. Any versiona that accounts for all will have some degree of complexity. Let me know when you've got one as comprehensive yet simple as this one. :)

And thanks for the comments and pulling me back to the land of things more historical and stationary. It's calming, compared to what I've been doing.

Rolfe said...

Bear in mind as you hypothesise, what I've been saying about the orientation of the suitcase. The position of the explosion shows that the bomb wasn't symmetrically packed, but was packed along one side. This is the act of someone who already has an eye to how he wants to place the case in the container.

He's not then going to place the case on the inboard side. He's going to place it outboard, with the bomb side to the left. Also bear in mind that any further manipulation of the case has to account for the side with the bomb remaining outboard.

Rolfe said...

Oh and it was certainly stated at the trial that Patricia's case was the only one that had been flat alongside the bomb suitcase. There were quite a few impossible things stated at that trial, remember.

Caustic Logic said...

Bear in mind as you hypothesise, what I've been saying about the orientation of the suitcase. The position of the explosion shows that the bomb wasn't symmetrically packed, but was packed along one side. This is the act of someone who already has an eye to how he wants to place the case in the container.

Absolutely, and that's an important point you've helped me notice the significance of. Aside from the right spot in the container, it wound up laid the right way in that spot. It was packed with manual placement in mind, methinks.

He's not then going to place the case on the inboard side. He's going to place it outboard, with the bomb side to the left. Also bear in mind that any further manipulation of the case has to account for the side with the bomb remaining outboard.

No, as I said, I think it was the left one (hough I goofed and said the spacer was also on the left). The only reason I ever though of it on the right is that makes a little more sense from a stacking PoV. But slid under is not that much weirder, just depends on the mood and thoughts of the worker at that moment. And it makes more sense in this more important way - the bomb was well-placed to begin with.

Rolfe said...

"The mood and the thoughts of the worker at that moment."

That worker was probably Sidhu, with an outside chance it could have been Darshan Sandhu. What do we know about their mood and thoughts? Since Sidhu was never called to give evidence and Sandhu was never asked about the specifics of the arrangement or rearrangement of the luggage, we have to take an educated guess.

The feeder flight was late. So late that the loaders had less than 15 minutes to get everything out of the 727, into the container, and across the tarmac to the 747 at the next stand. They didn't do it completely blindly, because one piece of luggage tagged for Heathrow was found among the US-bound stuff and laid aside to be sent to the carousel. The only other thing we know is that Sidhu dropped a metal case (the sort of case photographers carry their equipment in) which was heavier than it looked, and Sandhu helped him pick it up and lift in into the container. Taylor later suggested they might have pushed the left-hand Bedford case to the left to get this heavy item on the floor of the container, but since nobody asked Sidhu if that was what had happened, it's pure speculation. I don't recall the photographer's case featuring in the description of luggage identified as having been near the explosion either.

So I have a picture of a couple of guys quickly glancing at the tags to make sure all the luggage they are loading is for the USA, and then just getting the cases into the container as quickly as possible. How much finesse was really going to happen here?

First, as has already been observed, why would the loaders decide to remove a hardshell case from the floor of the container and replace it with a soft-top case (Patricia's)? It doesn't make sense.

Second, if for some reason one of the loaders decided to place the two cases that were side by side one on top of the other, it's NOT an even guess whether they'd slide the right-hand one under the left-hand one, or place it on top. It's perfectly obvious that the natural action would be to place the right-hand case on top of the left-hand one, and that the other action would be more laborious and wasteful of energy.

And the suggestion that the bomb suitcase was placed on the right by the terrorist and then Sidhu did his work for him, unwittingly, by moving it to the left above the other case, is highly improbable. It puts the positioning of the case as much in the realms of chance as sending it via Malta.

Rolfe said...

That case was packed with precise hand-placement in mind, that's obvious. The first priority of the terrorist would be to get it in the correct position and orientation in the container, first time. Which means it must have been the left-hand case Bedford saw, which was after all the one he said was a maroony-brown hardshell.

So what happened?

Maybe the terrorist came back while the container was unattended and rearranged the cases to get the bomb right into the overhang section by placing that case on top of another one. However, why take the risk? It was fine the way it was, why risk being spotted and alerting Security to the fact that someone was tampering with that container?

Maybe Sidhu did take the case out to put Patricia's on the floor, and replaced the bomb bag on top of it, fortuitously retaining the same orientation. I think it's unlikely, for the reasons I stated, and I think it also puts the explosion higher than Crabtree's estimate. But if you're determined to have the bomb bag on the second layer, that's the one that makes best sense to me. (And then what was above it? Nobody knows.)

Or alternatively, maybe they just shoved the case a few inches to the left, raising the left-hand side in the process. That gets the bomb at least as close to the calculated position as any of the second-layer theories.

If the bomb bag wasn't the brown Samsonite, and was completely obliterated, and the Maltese clothes weren't in the bomb bag, where are we? (Or are we going to allege that the clothes were planted? That's a helluva can of worms to open.) Whose was the brown Samsonite Bedford saw? Which case where the Maltese clothes in? How did the bomb bag, whatever it looked like, get in the position of the explosion, rationally?

I'm not against blue-sky thinking, and indeed it's that sort of thinking which may solve the case, but this one seems to create far more problems than it addresses.

Caustic Logic said...

If the bomb bag wasn't the brown Samsonite, and was completely obliterated, and the Maltese clothes weren't in the bomb bag, where are we?

Which one was "the brown samsonite?" The premise at work here is the description that might well be of two such cases. You mean the one on the left, I presume, and I propose it was obliterated, not but the smallest bits perhaps in that photo.

And the suggestion that the bomb suitcase was placed on the right by the terrorist and then Sidhu did his work for him, unwittingly, by moving it to the left above the other case, is highly improbable. It puts the positioning of the case as much in the realms of chance as sending it via Malta.

Again, no one's making that claim, at the moment (I did before, but no more for now). It was on the left, and either wound up on top some way when stacked, or stayed put and wound up beneath - and the AAIB and RARDE are wrong in a way I can't for once see.

The lift-and-slide move isn't really so weird. It's like shuffling together cards that are spread out. You might get sick of fully lifting cases all day, might have a bad back that causes you to drop a case shortly after. You might just have an autistic fixation, from being tired maybe, on seeing cases slide across metal and pile together with satisfying "fump" sounds. It takes the same time, basically, and might keep the brain more active than lift, pivot, drop.

Micro-reasons is what we're dealing with, not worth this level of analysis as if either of us could know.

The evidence and the science, I think, points to this spot, and ... I dunno. Doesn't seem that hard a gap to bridge.

In fact, I think you're really close here.
Or alternatively, maybe they just shoved the case a few inches to the left, raising the left-hand side in the process. That gets the bomb at least as close to the calculated position as any of the second-layer theories.
Just visualize the same intended, except it goes wrong and the outboard edge of the left case snags, the inboard end lifts instead, and the right-hand case slides beneath it. Eh, close enough, push it all the way left and it levels out that way against the slope.

Because, again, the floor's not visibly pitted beneath that bottom case, only along the exposed edge member. You need to account for that somehow.

Eddie said...

A multitude of possibilities confound this particular area.

During the FAI in 1991 Bedford's brown samsonite, despite matching the description of the primary suitcase, remained on the floor, but simply vanishes from the container, and worse, from the narrative altogether. And yet, it's also revealed during all this that Bedfords brown samsonite was actually an unaccompanied bag.

At Zeist in 2000, Bedford's brown samsonite, instead of remaining on the floor, was now moved to a corner of the container perhaps, but again it subsequently vanishes into thin air. Not quite from the whole narrative as on this occasion as the defence did try to illustrate, but to no avail, and the judges, similiar to the FAI, simply dimiss it out-of-hand.

Although at Zeist, the court was never made aware that Bedford's bag didn't belong to any of the interline passengers already at Heathrow before 103A landed.

So, whichever way anyone wishes to cut it, Bedfords bag was going to completely disappear no matter how someone presented the baggage construct.

So, what was there to be gained by asserting that Ms Coyle's bag was now where Bedford had seen a brown samsonite?

Yeah, it must mean Bedford's bag was moved, but nonetheless, movement didn't matter at the FAI, and in any case, the explosion happened higher than Bedfords bag last known position. So what's the worry?

Why not Bedford's bag still on the floor, underneath the primary case, and Ms Coyle's arriving on 103A place on top?

Thus, precisely what we now have, the remnants of Bedford's bag and Ms Coyle's that both sandwiched the primary suicase.

Moreover, with the evidence given at the FAI that the bag witnessed by Bedford was unaccompanied, and everyone at Zeist was presuming it was a piece of legitimate luggage, then why not leave it on the floor where it initially was said to have been?

Indeed, there appears more reason to infer that Bedford's bag remained in its last known position at Zeist, as no one knew it was unaccompanied. And thus, as the explosion occurred on the second layer, this rules out Bedfords bag on the floor as the source. Then Ms Coyle's bag arrived from Frankfurt to be loaded just above the primary case.

So again, what purpose does it serve to have Ms Coyle's on the floor.

Perhaps, it was thought it much better to have Bedford's bag be moved, in the hope to divert attention away from it should the defence started to look too closely at Bedfords bag and eventually uncover DC Henderson's evidence provided to the FAI?

Because, this evidence, had it emerged at Zeist, would surely be absolutely devastating to the prosecution case by demonstrating that there was already an unaccompanied brown samsonite in AVE4041 before 103A had arrived at Heathrow?

Caustic Logic said...

Eddie, an exceptionally brilliant comment. We're quibbling here, but we're all on the same page on this bigger pattern of shell games to obscure the damning truth.

Why not Bedford's bag still on the floor, underneath the primary case, and Ms Coyle's arriving on 103A place on top?

Because, in my construct, Bedford's (if using singular, we mean the left one, the likely bomb one) was the primary one. One of them was, and it was the one most likely on the floor to the left.

Either it was raised somehow with the spacer beneath, by Sidhu, Sanhdu, or the still-lurking infiltrator during the unwatched span at baggage build-up.

Or it stayed right there and was piled on by whatever. Directly that makes most sense, but for me to accept it, someone must explain what happened in the few inches between the bomb and the lower suitcase lining PK1310A that could protect that, the lower case material, and the floor beneath.

I'd also want to know where Patricia's case was to be so annihilated, and what really was the other case Bedford thought might be an exact match for the other one that appeared in his absence.

These last two are smaller points I could concede (to the side, McKee's (dark?) grey case, etc.), but the big chunks, the lining, and the floor are crucial.

The clothes - someone actually bought them Nov 23 - a terrorist plotter who either supplied the clothes put in the spacer case or the bomb case, depending, or one arrested, his possessions that pointed to Malta coming into CIA hands to be planted, in hopes they could mangle this buyer into whoever else fit their Libyan profile.

Lookythis: clothes, radio, timer. In chronological order, suggesting Libya faintly, stronger, then bam. Is that the deployment of the key plants?

So, Rolfe, you don't have to agree or get it. But there's my theory, however many steps past usual it may be. I just can't explain it any better or see where I've gone off the rails.

.

Caustic Logic said...

I don't mean to be too dismissive of the first layer but slid option Rolfe proposes. Here again is the image I did, where I think she found something most like position B as what might do it, or maybe right between B and C.
image

Just considering the bag/blast geometry I'd agree, but both seem to have a lot of direct force (near center) on that floor, with some pitting expected - The AAIB photos (fig F13A) show about where the protection ends and the exposed edge was burnt and pitted to hell.

Position D, I think, is the only one that comes fairly close to having that distinct difference in the floor damage. Or A, except the brown one is the bomb one, judging by where the terrorist laid it.

Eddie said...

As I said, with all the various final positionings possible in 4041, it obviously no more than guesswork, and really figs B and C in your diagram are certainly plausible, but instinct and what info we do have, I'm immediately drawn to fig D.

Why? Well, a number of reasons.

1/ Importantly, I think, it offers the slight protection against the damage to the base, which the AAIB concluded, with the 'Bedford bag #2' to the right doing just that.
2/ It remains on the bottom layer (well the sloped wall), suggesting that it was just shoved over to the left to accommodate the Frankfurt luggage.
3/ Ms Coyle's bag is then placed directly on top of the primary case, possibly partially touching 'Bedford bag #2'.
4/ It remains in a pretty good position to puncture the outer skin but not in direct contact with the floor.

The obvious problem with D is that the actual device would have to shift slightly within the primary suitcase, if it was initially placed to the cases' right side (as you look into the case with handle facing you, and then when inserted into 4041 it was with the handle facing to the back). Unless the case was spun round, or lifted and put back into 4041 but with its handle now to the front? That doesn't feel intuitively right however, but we will probably never know.

This scenario could result in exactly what was presented; remnants of a badly damaged Tourister in direct contact, although above and not below, and of course the primary case. Bedford case #2 would then be the only other one which is contact, but was somewhat protected from the full force by the Tourister partially on top. Was any other luggage noted for its damage? Ms Hudsons purple bag perhaps? McKee's was relatively undamaged IIRC. Well apart from the assertion that McKee's was deliberately damaged of course.

Everything however, is simply speculation, as it is simply impossible to take account of movement of the baggage made by the handlers when adding the Frankfurt luggage, and thereafter what bumps, jolts and any other possible shifts, even if only inches, that might occur to luggage during loading, take off, and so on.. And, as it is, all these variables cannot be concluded with any certainty.

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