Friday, 1 September 2017

The centrepiece of the case against Megrahi

[On this date in 1989 the Maltese shopkeeper Tony Gauci was first interviewed by Scottish police in connection with Lockerbie. What follows is a section from Dr Kevin Bannon’s PhD thesis:]

The development of Tony Gauci’s statements from his first police interviews in September 1989 through to his testimony in court, reveal his recollections systematically developing in favour of the Crown narrative, in increasing contradiction of all his freshest recollections. This is transparently evident in the following compendium in which each subject of Gauci’s testimony in bold type is followed by actual or accepted facts summarised in italics, below which the essential statements are put chronologically:

1. Stature of the Purchaser:

The height and build of the purchaser. Al-Megrahi was 5’7” tall, average build.
1 September1989: ‘Six feet or more in height’ big chest, large head, well built.
26 September 1989: ‘around six feet or just under that in height’ and ‘broad built’.
11 July 2000 (Camp Zeist): ‘..below six feet’. ‘He wasn’t small. He was a normal stature’.

2. Purchase of clothing:

Slalom shirts. 2 Slalom shirts found at Lockerbie, one grey and one blue & white.
1 September 1989: No mention in statements of any shirts sold.
30 January 1990: ‘That man didn’t buy any shirts for sure’…‘I am sure I did not sell him a shirt’.
10 September 1990: I now remember that the man who bought the clothing also bought a beige ‘Slalom’ shirt and a blue and white striped shirt.’
11 July 2000 (Camp Zeist: asked ‘How many shirts did the Libyan buy?’): ‘Two’ shirts ‘Slalom, something Slalom’ one ‘blue checked’ and the other ‘greenish’. ‘It’s greenish and greyish. It’s more greyish…’

Pyjamas. 1 pair, striped, found at Lockerbie.
1 September 1989: ‘3 pair pyjamas’ (un-described).
11 July 2000: Did he buy any pairs of pyjamas? ‘Yes he did. He bought two pairs, striped’.

Cardigans. Fragments of 2 Cardigans found, one black and one brown.
1 September 1989: 1 cardigan (listed). Black and red colour.
11 July 2000: ‘..two pullovers.’ ‘They were cardigans.’ ‘One was blue, the other was a brownish colour’.

‘Babygro’ romper suit. Crash-site find had lamb’s head motif.
1 September 1989: Gauci said that the Babygro had a sheep’s face on the front.
13 September 1989: Gauci reiterated that the Babygro had a sheep’s head, even when shown the control sample with a lamb’s head, declaring that the sheep’s head design had been discontinued since he received it. Police subsequently established that the Babygro manufacturer had never produced a sheep’s head design.
4 October 1989: Gauci initially declared he was not sure about the sheep’s head design. Then said he was "fairly certain" that the Babygro sold to the purchaser had a lamb motif.

Payments for items sold. Gauci’s uncorroborated figures (in Maltese Pounds):
1 September 1989: Sale was £76.50, purchaser paid in £10 notes and received £4 change. Gauci later said the purchaser paid a total of £56 in cash.
19 September 1989: Second cardigan recollection; raises the sale to £88.
10 September 1990: Sale of 2 shirts raises Gauci’s recollected bill to £97 or £98.50.
11 July 2000: Purchaser gave him £80 for a total bill of £77.

3. Time and circumstances of purchase:

Rain. Meteorological evidence: 90% probability of no rain in Sliema on December 7.
1 September1989: ‘ was raining’.
21 February 1990: ‘it had almost stopped raining, and it was just drops coming down’.
10 September 1990: ‘very little rain on the ground, no running water, just damp’.
11 July 2000, (Camp Zeist): ‘ started dripping. Not very -- it was not raining heavily. It was simply -- it was simply dripping’.
11 July 2000: ‘It wasn't raining. It wasn't raining. It was just drizzling’.

Christmas lights/decorations. Decorations up and switched on 6 December 1988.
19 September 1989: ‘The decorations were not up when the man bought the clothes’.
10 September 1990: ‘There were no Christmas decorations up, as I have already said...’
11 July, 2000 (Camp Zeist): ‘..yes, there were Christmas lights. They were on already. I’m sure.

Date of purchase. Only December 7 fitted with al-Megrahi’s movements.
19 September 1989: ‘…I believe it…was at the end of November’.
8 October 1999 Precognition of Tony Gauci: ‘I remember it was the 29th of the month. I think it was November’. (Gauci recalled the date because he’d had a row with his girlfriend on that day).
11 July 2000 (Camp Zeist) : It must have been about a fortnight before Christmas. I don’t know whether it was a week or two weeks before Christmas’.

Second visit of Libyan customer. Al-Megrahi was not in Malta on September, 25 1989.
26 Sept 1989: Gauci said that the Libyan customer had returned to his shop the previous day (September 25) to buy dresses for a four-year-old child.
2 October 1989: (DCI Bell’s report of statement) Gauci said he was only 50% sure that the same Libyan had returned to the shop.
4 November 1991: Gauci said that the man who bought children’s dresses ‘really looked like’ [the purchaser]. Gauci seemed confused about the date of the visit.
18 March 1999 / 25 August 1999 (Precognition of Tony Gauci). Noted in DCI Bell’s words: ‘the man who bought the dresses looked like the purchaser but it was not the same person’.

Even minor details of Gauci’s testimony, including the collar sizes of shirts and the size of a jacket sold to the Libyan, drift consistently in favour of the Crown narrative.

It was not a secret that well before the Camp Zeist identification parade, Gauci had been exposed to newspaper articles featuring pictures of al-Megrahi including speculation about him as a suspect. In later SCCRC interviews, Gauci firstly admitted seeing the articles but could not recall specifics about them. Later he said that he could not recall seeing the articles at all, and later still he confirmed that he had not seen them - a transformation in the same, stepped fashion as most of his ‘recollections’ which at the very least, confirm his ineptitude as a witness.

Therefore, it is not merely the case (as has often been stated) that Gauci’s evidence was contradictory, but that in every aspect, it changed in favour of the Crown narrative, in some instances quite drastically. Gauci’s original, freshest recollections about the appearance of the Libyan purchaser and the time of his visit, would have, and should have, categorically eliminated al-Megrahi from suspicion.

Gauci’s testimony, the centrepiece of the case against al-Megrahi and, by implication, the principal Libyan connection to the crime, simply has no integrity whatsoever - nevertheless he was given a substantial financial reward for his latter evidence. These discrepancies render the entire case against al-Megrahi invalid. Of course this means that the considerable body of Camp Zeist testimony implicating al-Megrahi, such as the testimony of Majid Giaka, is false.


  1. Dr Bannon is a living example of the process that has occurred with all who take the trouble to objectively study the facts of Lockerbie. When the full panoply of events - statements, police evidence revealed, police evidence concealed, huge offers of money in exchange for evidence, forensic facts - are available, in every case their conclusion is that the trial was a travesty, and the judges made a serious mistake.

    The one exception to this is the iron-clad mindset of certain American relatives, and members of the legal profession, the FBI and CIA whose careers then, and pensions now, rely on maintaining a defensive front.

    1. THey couldn't strip someone of their pension for breaking ranks nearly 30 years later, could they?

  2. The evidence is strong that someone came into Tony Gauci's shop, probably on 23rd November, and bought some items which were later found burned on the ground at Lockerbie in a condition consistent with them having been in the suitcase close to the bomb. The brown checked Yorkie trousers are the most convincing item, with a complete chain of evidence connecting this uniquely identifiable pair of cheap slacks to Mary's House. That being the case it seems almost irrefutable that Tony Gauci did speak to one of the terrorist gang that day.

    The completeness of the chain of evidence identifying that unremarkable garment is itself a bit of a facer. It looks too good to be true and it does raise some questions. However, if we take that at face value, where does it leave us?

    The police attempts to get Tony to "remember" selling every bloody item they thought had been in the bomb suitcase were really ill-advised. There's no law of nature that says the terrorists must have stocked the bomb suitcase all from the same shop. Who cares if the man bought the Slalom shirts in a different shop? Do we really care whether the Babygro had a lamb or a sheep on it? (Can anyone really distinguish, given that it will have been a cartoon motif?)

    The Yorkie trousers were solid, and linked the buyer Tony saw that evening to the bombing. Maybe some of the other items were also bought at the same time (the pyjamas, the umbrella, the Angia jacket) but it's not that important. It's certainly not necessary to get him to remember selling the shirts. Why were the cops so exercised to tie all the items down to the one shop? Did they even try any other local clothes shops to see if anyone else remembered the man shopping there? No, they put all their eggs in the basket labelled Tony.

    But Tony didn't remember. Or rather, he remembered very well, but not what the cops wanted him to remember. His recollection of that one particular purchase was remarkable, ten months, a summer season and many hundreds of other customers later. It was an amazing stroke of luck that he remembered anything. The trouble was, he didn't remember the man's face.

    Tony sold clothes for a living. He looked at people's bodies, not their faces. He gave a remarkable description of the man's vital statistics (initially nothing like Megrahi's), but only an impression of a clean-shaven face and a full head of black frizzy hair. How many faces in the middle east fit that description?

    But the cops ignored the vital statistics and spent months showing Tony head-only mugshots of people with hair on their heads. No clue as to the shape of the bodies attached to these heads. Whatever hazy memory Tony had of the original purchaser would soon have been drowned under the deluge of new images.

    His uncertainty as regards later sightings of the same man should have disallowed his evidence also. At least twice he told the police he thought he'd seen the man again, but it's clear he wasn't sure and he kept changing his mind. If he couldn't be sure that he'd seen the same man again only months later, how reliable was his tentative "identification" at Camp Zeist ten years later?

    Dr Bannon doesn't mention age in that particular extract, but Tony's evidence was consistent in estimating the purchaser's age as being about 50, that is older than himself, at the time of the purchase. Megrahi was 36 in 1988, several years younger than Tony. Nevertheless at the identity parade at Camp Zeist Megrahi, by then 47, was the second-oldest of the men in the line-up. The only man older than him (by a year) was only 5' 3" in height, so couldn't possibly have been the sic-foot purchaser. Some of the other men were impossibly young to have been the purchaser, and some of them weren't even Arab.


    1. Tony's first words after viewing the line-up? "NOT the man I saw in my shop..." He went on to say, "... but the man who LOOKS LIKE HIM is the number five." He was saying he recognised Megrahi as being the man he'd been saying RESEMBLED the purchaser, but he wasn't actually him. And the judges said that was a reliable identification.

      Of course if you'd pressed Tony on that you'd have got a string of internally contradictory waffle and obfuscation, but from what he actually said, he was indicating that the man who was no. 5 in the line-up WASN'T the purchaser.

      It beggars belief that the judges accepted that as reliable evidence of identification. Their reasoning, as laid out in the Opinion of the Court, is bizarre. "Well of course he couldn't have been certain after all this time so it's as you'd expect. He wasn't dogmatic about it so he wasn't just doing it for the money, so it must have been the same man." More or less.

      How anyone can read any of this and claim for one second that this was a strong identification boggles my mind.

  3. What nobody seems to remember is that the entire case hinges on this identification, including the route of the bomb.

    There was no evidence of the bomb at Luqa, and the evidence from Frankfurt was weak and confused. Why Malta? The eventual decision was that while the route of the bomb had not been clearly demonstrated, the fact that the man who bought the clothes in the bomb suitcase was at the airport when flight KM180 departed for Frankfurt was too much of a coincidence so it had to have been that.

    But if Megrahi wasn't the man who bought the clothes, then there is no evidence at all that the man who bought the clothes was at the airport that morning. Poof, there goes the entire case.

    You'd think lawyers and clever people like that would be able to work that out, wouldn't you? But a lot of them can't.

  4. People often forget Megrahi's words on his death-bed. He said he knew he was dying and he hoped that in the fulness of time he would meet Tony Gauci in heaven and he'd ask him why he did it and he would forgive him.

    This is worth a bit of analysis. Megrahi, a devout Moslem, believed that he would inhabit the same heaven as Tony Gauci, a Christian. He believed that Tony would indeed go to heaven, despite what he'd done. No screeching of "burn in hell, unbeliever" in this narrative. And he wanted to forgive Tony, personally.

    This is so far from the fanatical jihadist Moslem that Megrahi is sometimes portrayed as by the utterly ignorant that it's worth remarking on. The theological sophistication of the recognition that heaven is heaven (and presumably God is God) no matter which faith journey you've come on to get there is something a lot of people around the world would do well to take on board.

    1. What a very thought-provoking observation. Thank you, Rolfe.