I don't think the baggage transfer thing works quite like that, or it didn't at the time. Malta was into obsessive bag-counting, certainly, but Pan Am relied on x-raying the luggage not counting it. In any case, I don't believe Bedford would have known how many cases he was expecting. This was 1988, and computerisation wasn't what it is today. How would Bedford know how many cases someone was checking in at Larnaca, for example? I think he and his colleagues just looked at the tag
of every case that came in on the conveyor and put it in the right container. Another case or two with the right tags
wouldn't ring any alarms at all.
However, not knowing to any degree of certainty whose cases were in that container after the event is absolutely ridiculous, and suggests incredible negligence in the investigation. It had only interline baggage from Heathrow, and only about ten cases max of that, and the transfer baggage from Frankfurt. It's a known fact where each of the 243 passengers came from, so sorting out a list of everyone who interlined into Heathrow should have been child's play.
In fact there is such a list. I overlooked it earlier, but someone pointed me at Crawford's book and I've just checked. It's there. I'm going to re-type the passage from Google Books because I think it's important.
Originally Posted by John Crawford
First, contrary to what Crawford says, I think that's the lot. He says there were three other teams looking at three other groups of interline passengers, but we know he's often wrong. (For example, he says that a police team found the Toshiba manual, "almost shredded beyond recognition" high in the hills, at about this time.) I think the other three teams were looking at the Frankfurt
passengers, of whom there were about 44 I think. But I think this list is right. Although he says he's doing the whole book from memory, this has the feel of copied-from-notes about it.
Time-wise, it all makes sense. This part of the enquiry is happening very early - Crawford went straight to it after finishing the ground search on his patch, and reports that the tag end of the ground search was still going on by the time the passenger survey was completed. This probably puts it in late January or February 1989, after AVE4041 was identified as the site of the explosion, and after Bedford had told the Met about the mystery bags.
He's got all the individuals we know about, including those with no particular reason to believe there was anything odd about their background. He's even got the VW executives, which come to think of it makes sense as the geographical position of Wolfsburg
makes travel to Frankfurt to pick up the feeder flight fairly pointless - they probably flew in from Hannover.
Fifteen passengers, all of whom almost certainly had at least one case, and some definitely had more than one piece of checked-in luggage. No more than about ten cases in AVE4041, even including the mystery two. Some of these people's bags must have gone into the build-up shed, which Bedford said did happen. It's possible some of the luggage was only checked in as far as Heathrow, forcing the passengers to pick it up from baggage reclaim and re-check it.
But these are the set of passengers from whom the interline cases in AVE4041 must have come. Anybody willing to bet that the police didn't find out very very exactly what luggage each one had been carrying, and if anything hadn't been recovered, and if so, what sort of bag is was thought to have been? Even if Crawford didn't include that (and if he did he's not telling us), we have Mowatt's findings telling us that Derek Henderson did.
Just how soon the investigation was passed the statements from Bedford about the brown/maroon Samsonite I don't know, but it must have happened at some stage, probably pretty early. Maybe Adam can tell us how soon they knew the primary suitcase was a brown/maroon Samsonite, but again I think it was early.
They have this list of fifteen people, and they must know what luggage each one was carrying, and what of that was found. If anyone in that group even might
have had a brownish Samsonite that would provide a benign explanation for the Bedford suitcase, it's inconceivable we wouldn't have heard about it. If there had been a genuine investigation that has ruled this out as the bomb bag, we'd know about it.
And this was all happening in the early stages of the investigation, before the Thatcher/Bush telephone call and before any suggestion of the Malta connection. Somebody has decided not
to follow up or admit to the possibility that the bomb was smuggled in at Heathrow, this early. In spite of clear evidence that this might well have happened, including the break-in come to think of it. And nobody can blame the Americans for this.
Excuse me, I'm pretty shocked. Someone high up in the investigation has decided it's more important not to have Heathrow blamed for allowing the Lockerbie attack to happen, than catching the perpetrators.
And I'm watching TV right this minute, headline news item tonight is even more outrage about the release of Megrahi, pictures of Maid of the Seas
on the grass as usual.