Tony Gauci's "Identification" of Megrahi

posted Jan 17 2010
last update 23 December

Maltese shopkeeper Anthony "Tony" Gauci's supposed identification of al Megrahi (as the buyer of clothes found in the bomb suitcase) is a key plank of the Libyan's conviction for the bombing of PA103. In fact, it's the only evidence that the Zeist judges actually accepted that explicitly ties him to the physical evidence in any way.  After the fanciful tales of "star witness" Giaka were dismissed, Gauci's evidence became of crucial importance at the 2000 trial - he became "the real star witness," as the BBC's Conspiracy Files put it.

He is not to be confused with the great Maltese singer Tony Gauci, L-Kampanjol, who passed away in March of this year.

The fallibility of eyewitness evidence is well-enough known, and many others have done a splendid job exposing the incredible weakness of Gauci's fingering of Megrahi. A standard internet search will do well enough on this issue, without my needing to offer but a few special links. One would be this re-posting of the Gauci sections from Paul Foot's Lockerbie: Flight from Justice (2001). So I needn't reinvent the wheel altogether here, but I will briefly outline the problems with Gauci's evidence for those unfamiliar and link to my few detailed posts along the way.

The Basics and Prosecution’s Case
Tony Gauci is the son of Edward Gauci, proprietor of clothiers Mary's House in Silema, Malta. His sons Tony and his brother Paul usually ran the shop, with Tony working alone December 7 1988. He says a strange Libyan man came and bought most of the items found bomb-damaged shortly after around Lockerbie. He later identified Megrahi in a photo lineup as most resembling the buyer, and did the same in a physical lineup in court.

Problems with the Evidence
1 - The Alleged Logic of Megrahi's Purchase
There are many, and cheap, and anonymous ways for an Arab agent and terrorist mastermind to secure clothing to stuff a bomb case. Going to Mary's House when and how the mystery shopper did, is not a very smooth one. Rolfe explains this point quite well throughout this JREF forum thread. This is an important consideration but in itself doesn't prove a darn thing. Megrahi could make really bad tactical choices and still be guilty. So, moving along...

2- Weakness of Libyan identification
Gauci's first statement to Scottish police, 1 September 1989:
He was speaking "Libiyon" to me. He was clearly from Lbiya. He had an Arab appearance and I would say he was in fact a "Libyon" I can tell the difference between "Libyons" and "Tunisians" when I speak to them for a while. Tunisians often start speaking French if you start talking to them for a while.
There is of course no Libyan language - it's Arabic. The only specific clue he cites is that he heard no French so the guy was probably not Tunisian. It would be a good guess, as Libyans were the most common Arabic speakers on the island, but as evidence it doesn't count for even a penny rounded up. 

3 - Gauci was non-specific, and that's putting it generously
For having identified this man as THE buyer, Gauci's statements are surprisingly devoid of anyhthing as simple as "that's the man." On seeing Megrahi's photo in February 1991, in the news as "Lockerbie bomber," a photo spread was hastily called where Gauci found the same photo in a lineup of others was most:
“... similar to the man who bought the clothing. The hair is perhaps a bit long. The eyebrows are the same. The nose is the same, and his chin and shape of face are the same. The man in the photograph is in my opinion, in his thirty years. He would perhaps have to look about ten years older, and he would look like the man who bought the clothes. It's been a long time now and I can only say that this photograph resembles the man who bought the clothing, but it is younger.”
Wow. Did you catch the whole subtext where he's comparing two different men? In ten years he'll look like the guy I saw is what he said. After the witness parade April 13 2000:
not exactly the man I saw in the shop. Ten years ago I saw him, but the man who look a little bit like exactly is the number 5 [Megrahi]”

4 - Physique, complexion, age
The buyer was "about six foot or more in height," "well-built" and big in the chest for the 42" jacket he bought, 36" waist, 16-17" collar, Gauci first said. Mr. al-Megrahi was 5'8" tall, and average-slight build. Gauci first said the man seemed to be around 50 years of age. Megrahi was 36 at the time. The man was dark complected, with a tight afro. Megrahi had long wavy hair and was fairer. At trial, Gauci fudged each of these closer to the man in the dock with mantra-like repetition. "I'm not an expert on these things. I think he was below six feet. I'm not an expert on these things." [on age] "I said before, below six -- under 60. I don't have experience -- I don't have experience on height or age." [trial transcripts, p 4752-53] Baloney. He was a clothier. He measured people for a living. The mixing up of "below six" and "under sixty" is interesting, joined with a double renunciation of age AND height expertise. It suggests a mantra he was remembering to stick to. 

5 - He Identified Abu Talb, too
Mohammed Abu Talb (or just Abu Talb) is a PFLP-GC connected suspect found to possess some clothes from Malta and share links with those busted in the Autumn Leaves op. Arrested in Sweden and considered suspect no. 1 for a while. Gauci enthusiastically fingered this man as the buyer. He had a return plane ticket that might have gotten him to Malta for free that day, but no evidence he used it. Abu Talb is himself even younger than Megrahi, and has a plausible alternate story for how he got those clothes (including many at home that matched none of Gauci's story). This blogger doubts either of the men Gauci identified was the clothes buyer, and I'm not convinced that Tony's story of one discrete buyer is even true. [See: Abu Talb and Tony Gauci]

6 - He Had Two Million Reasons to Fudge it
Mr. Gauci was eventually paid $2 million by the US government, following the trial, and given a new life and identity in Australia. His brother Paul Gauci was never called to testify, despite being an assett to the investigation." (note: not to be confused with the Maltese clothing maker Paul Gauci who did testify at Zeist) He's been suspected of helping coach his dim brother into affirming the police story, but whatever his role, it earned him a million of his own and a slot next to Tony among the Aussies. (Detailed post on the payments aspect)

The prize was no surprise - money talks happened from the beginning, with the Gaucis' mentioning the danger they were in by exposing Libya's plot, and Scots police acknoweldging large payments might help grease the story along. Wouldn’t a huge cash reward and the weight of a world-class terror investigation be expected to crush the reliability from his fragile memories? Sure, but the thing to focus on is what's crushed in.

7 - Photo Spread / Lineup Procedures and Tainted Memory
Most famously, Mr.Gauci was shown a photo of Megrahi, in a news magazine, as Lockerbie suspect. Days later he pointed straight to al Megrahi after traveling to Camp Zeist. But beyond this, there are some great observations of lineup procedure contained in reports commissioned for the convict's second appeal. These are available at Megrahi My Story [Valentine and Clark reports]. The details I haven't studied, but it seems on several fronts, both the 1991 photo lineup and 2000 in-person version at camp Zeist, there was a leading arrangement notably regarding subject ages. Recall that Megrahi at the time was about 15 years younger than Gauci's buyer (36 compared to app.50).

Anthony Gauci testimony, Camp Zeist, day 31, July 11 2000
Statement to police, 15 Feb 1991:
The first impression I had was that all the photographs were of men younger than the man who bought the clothing. I told Mr. Bell this. I was asked to look at all the photographs carefully and to try and allow for any age difference. I then pointed out one of the photographs, and I later counted the photographs from the left as number 1 to the photograph at number 8."
Tony usually sounds like an idiot, but this is clarity in action – a textbook description of a slanted line-up. Witness to young? Compare him to men younger yet, and have the witness pick the closest one. This is just how the pivotal September 15 "identification" of al-Megrahi was achieved. He was photo number 8, an unusual picture, in part, for looking almost nothing like al-Megrahi. [See: Gauci and the Czexh photo]

8 - Discrepancies, uncertainties in sold items recall
Gauci initially gave authorities a reportedly perfect list of items recovered - tied up with a bow and cash totals tendered, tax, minor discount and change returned. The only discrepancy I'm recalling at the moment is that he first insisted no shirts were in the order. This was a problem, as at least one piece of "Slalom" shirt collar had contained the miraculous timer fragment PT/35(b).

No problem, they could just say Megrahi bought a few of the items elsewhere, but too late. Mr. Gauci changed his story to reflect the sale of said shirt (as well as I believe one or two other shirts that had turned up), and revised all the neat math to reflect the new total. The second time, after marinading a while in close proximity to police evidence, is more accurate, we are to believe.

Also, one must wonder how they got Gauci's memory rolling in the first place without mentioning at least some of the items he needed to remember. I hear that dozens of police chats/interviews were either not recorded or had the records lost, including the first talks where Gauci initially decided on the laundry list. But then again, if he were coached, why wouldn't the Slalom shirt be included in the first list he came up with?

9 - Date of Purchase - Best Evidence that Gauci's Testimony specifically Ruled out Megrahi before it implicated him
Eyewitness evidence is never very solid to begin with, but here we have the most reliable (early) memories sidelined when convenient. Tony Gauci's initial identification evidence – before he was just pointing at faces and still giving details - rainfall, the Christmas lights, and the football game his brother Paul was watching at home - pointed to a purchase on November 23, 1988. I mean, clearly and with no room for doubt, pointed at the 23rd.

Megrahi was simply not on Malta at all that day. Investigators and the Gaucis instead have fudged things to fit an alternated date of December 7, when their villain was nearby. The mental gymnastics required to do so are astounding. This is the one point I felt is strongest in indicating Megrahi's innocence of this on solid link to the crime. And since this post is long enough, that explanation will reside in this long post of its own.


ebol said...

Since August 1990, definitely a wrong date was created (7th of December, 1988) in order to accuse deliberately the libyan official Mr. Abdelbaset al Megrahi as the buyer of the cloths in "Mary's House".

A further proof from MEBO that the sale of dresses in Anhony Gauci "Mary's House" took undoubtedly place on Wednesday, 23th of November 1988 by a supposedly Libyan buyer:

Tony Gauci told Bollier on 25.01.2008 in Malta, that the 2 pieces of pyjamas, label "John Mallia", were the last two pyjamas he had sold to a Libyan in his shop. On the other day, the 24th of November 1988, Gauci by phon *ordered at the company "John Mallia" additionally 8 pieces of the same pyjamas. The 8 pyjamas were delivered on the 25th of November 1988 with the calculation/delivery note, dated 25th of November 1988 to Gauci' s Mary' s House at Sliema Malta. Prod. 477-1.

The day after Wednesday, December 7, December 8, 1988 was an official public holiday (Immaculate Conception Day) and the "John Mallia" company was closed. But the day after November 23, November 24, 1988 was not an official public holiday, the company "John Mallia" was open.

Court at Kamp van Zeist, Excerpt:

Excerpt: described by witness no. 595, Anthony Gauci:
+++ Question: Q-- And if we can have Production 4771, do we see that that's a similar invoice to your shop from John Mallia dated 25th November 1988 for eight pairs of pyjamas?
Answer: A-- Yes. I used to buy stock, and when it finished, I used to buy -- I used to *phone often. It's an item that is quite sold in winter. +++

Mr. Abdelbaset al Megrahi was not in Malta on Wednesday, 23th of November 1988, thus Mr. Megrahi is definetely not the buyer of the dresses !

by Edwin and Mahnaz Bollier, MEBO LTD, Switzerland

Caustic Logic said...

Thanks for that. I had meant to work in the Pajamas (as we spell it in the U.S. per Noah Webster's tradition of writing a bit different than Brits). It's definitely a decent-sounding support for this. Good work, Ebol!

Patrick Haseldine said...

In her letter of 9 February 2011 to the PPC, the Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini writes:

The only appropriate forum for the determination of guilt or innocence is the criminal court and the High Court of Justiciary sitting as the Court of Criminal Appeal is the only body with the power (as set out in the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995) to quash this conviction. The Supreme Court has this power also on consideration of a devolution issue. Mr al-Megrahi was convicted unanimously by three senior judges following trial and his conviction was upheld unanimously by five judges in the Appeal Court presided over by the Lord Justice General, Scotland's most senior judge.

Yes, that's all perfectly true.

But none of those judges knew about the Gauci brothers being bribed $3m to secure Mr al-Megrahi's conviction.

In view of which, why doesn't the Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini immediately apply to the High Court of Justiciary to have al-Megrahi's conviction quashed?

Caustic Logic said...

Absolutely, dude.

Independently, the judges ruled unreasonably. The SCCRC said as much about the date of purchase at least. But just stepping back from the content of what was said, a $3 million bribe for and evidence delivery tag team is clearly a problem. It was the fourth Gauci-related point, apparently, the one not specified except in casting doubt on Gauci's credibility.

(BTW, I now suspect one of the other two, not revealed even to that degree, regarded the handling of the London origin evidence. I respect the SCCRC too much now to not suspect them calling that one out. Diplomatically, it was not revealed in the public press release. In the full report Kenny's threatening with, however...)

melbo said...

Never read that before about Mr Gauci being given a new identity and life in Australia. Interesting.

Caustic Logic said...

Been a while since I had a comment here.

Hey, checkout the new site

On where Tony wound up, most recently it was back on Malta, per the great AJE documentary viewable here.

I actually forget just what the Australia evidence was, and no part specified, but it's probably above. And as a side-note, he might have spent some time on St. John's, a Dutch-owned island in the Caribbean. That was just from a Google search someone did that led to my site, per the stats. Interesting possibility - he was last seen at Zeist in the Netherlands...

Keepon learnin, Melbo in Melbourne!

Caustic Logic said...

Note: Funny thing, first comment here from "ebol" aka Edwin Bollier of MEBO, a longtime stalker who I've blocked, sorta, still mad he helped set Libya up in the first place backin '89...

so at first I though "Melbo" was another "ebol"/MEBO parody like "Ebol." :)

baz said...


I was having a look through David Leppard's "On the trail on Terror" trying to get my head round matters relating to the supposed discovery of PT 35 (a) (b) & (c) by Dr Hayes on or about the 12th May 1989.

I was looking at page 164 & 165 of David Leppard's "On the Trail of Terror" which covered Harry Bell's early encounters with Tony Gauci beginning on the 1st September 1989.

In detailing the sale Leppard wrote "Gauci's recollection was crystal clear". However he did not recall selling a slalom shirt from which Hayes had supposedly recovered PT/35 almost four moths earlier.

Leppard continued "Gauci was able to establish a probable date of purchase for the clothing: 23rd November 1988".

and "the most startling aspect of Tony Gauci's account was the revelation that he had sighted the mysterious Libyan customer at least twice since 23 November 1988. In subsequent interviews with Bell and the FBI the Maltese shopkeeper recalled that one occassion was in June or July 1989. The second time had been during the following September." (i.e.after his first meeting with Bell.) Surprised the defence team did not pick up on this.


Tunisian-Maltese Cantilena said...

The article titled "Malta & Tunisia: The Cantilena (1470) and ‘Blooming May’ (1672) in Arabic (Original Research). Subtitle: The most ancient texts in Maltese at last translated into (Tunisian) Arabic with an annex about Malta and the neighbouring Libyan Jamahiriya” contains interesting linguistic clues (Libyan Arabic, Tunisian Arabic, Maltese) related to the conversation supposed to have taken place between Anthony Gauci, the Maltese shopkeeper, and the accused Libyan.