by John Ashton - £14.99 Birlinn Ltd (2012)
paperback ISBN 13: 9781780270159 | ISBN 10: 1780270151
Megrahi finally speaks in his own defence.
The evidence concerns a tiny fragment of electronic printed circuit board (PCB), which was allegedly from the Lockerbie bomb’s timer. The judges at Mr Megrahi’s trial accepted that it was identical to ones used in timers sold to Libya, but the new evidence proves that it could not have been from those timers.
They were designed and built for the Libyan government by a Swiss company, Mebo. The Crown case, which is not disputed, was that only 20 were supplied, all of which contained PCBs made to order for Mebo by another company, Thüring.
Crown forensic expert, Dr Thomas Hayes, discovered the PCB fragment in a bomb-damaged shirt collar. Subsequent forensic analysis by his colleague Allen Feraday demonstrated that the pattern of its circuitry closely matched the PCBs used in the 20 Libyan timers. The shirt was one of a number of garments linked by the police to a shop in Malta called Mary’s House. The shopkeeper, Tony Gauci, subsequently picked out Mr Megrahi as resembling a man who had bought a selection of similar clothes a few weeks before the bombing. (Although Mr Gauci consistently described the clothes buyer as considerably older and taller than Mr Megrahi.)
The new evidence proves that the Lockerbie fragment was not from a Thüring PCB and could therefore not have originated from one of the Libyan timers. It centres on the metallic coating, known as tinning, which is applied to the copper circuitry during the manufacturing process. The appeal would have demonstrated that the tinning used on the Thüring PCBs was an alloy of tin and lead, whereas the Lockerbie fragment’s was pure tin.
Two independent scientists instructed by the Crown in 1992 noted the difference, but, as neither were electronics experts, they did not appreciate its significance. Both speculated that the explosion might have changed the fragment’s coating from tin/lead to tin. The experts’ reports were disclosed to the defence, but the issue was not explored at trial.
Experiments commissioned by Mr Megrahi’s legal team in 2009 proved that the explosion could not have changed the tin/lead alloy into pure tin. In July 2009 the Crown handed to the legal team previously undisclosed test results and notes by Mr Feraday, which proved that he too was aware of the difference. Since he was an electronics expert of almost 40 years’ standing, he should have been aware of its significance, yet he failed to comment upon it, either in his report for the Crown, or in evidence at trial.
(Price & availability last checked: June 2019)