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Tags Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi , Lockerbie bombing , Scotland cases

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Old 8th February 2015, 09:54 AM   #161
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Originally Posted by Ambrosia View Post
Wooo new forum.

(I for one welcome our new Trial & Error Overseers)

Woot! Welcome Ambrosia, good to see you back.

Originally Posted by Ambrosia View Post
I think the clothing in the suitcase is just some terrorist getting hold of some clothes so that the case would pass the x-ray stuff at the airport and get loaded onto the plane. Maybe Plan A was break into Heathrow and put the case in the right pile of luggage and plan B was smuggle it through security and then not get on the flight, as it turned out plan A worked.

The clothes are weird though. Why make a positive effort to acquire clothes that could be traced, when it's so easy to get hold of clothes that could never be traced? Any garment older than a couple of years is a sure thing. Bear in mind too that this was before DNA was used in evidence. They could even have used their own old clothes!

I think plan A was for the terrorist to put the suitcase in the container with his own hands. Nothing else explains the way the radio was packed in the suitcase. If it wasn't for that, I'd be looking at other incoming flights into Heathrow that might have been used to get the bomb in, in the same way KM180 was said to have been used to get it in to Frankfurt (let's find a role for a countdown timer if we can....). Or maybe the terrorist simply walked up to the conveyor belt outside the interline shed when nobody was about, and put it on the belt. If it doesn't matter where the case is loaded in the container, this would be fine.

In some ways I'm in two minds about this. Khreesat's early bombing efforts were by way of parcel bombs sent by air mail, and then the next trick was to persuade some dupe who was going to be flying themselves to take the thing in their luggage. Hence the barometric trigger - they couldn't predict what flight the device would be on, so they couldn't use a simple timer. In neither case would the terrorist have had control over the placing of the device. On the other hand, none of the subsequent disasters was anything like as catastrophic as Lockerbie.

In that context, and given that they were using essentially the same device, I'd have thought the terrorist could simply have put the suitcase on the conveyor and scarper, to let Kamboj x-ray it and Bedford load it. But if that had been the plan, why pack the radio down one side? And I don't think Kamboj did load it.

I think plan A was to do what actually happened. Wait for a quiet moment when nobody was paying any attention to the container, and just put the suitcase in with the bomb to the outboard side. I think it's possible but not certain that a security sticker (kept nearby in an unlocked drawer!) was acquired as well. Someone might have remarked on the case if it hadn't had one.

I think plan B might have kicked in if the container hadn't been unattended. Wait for Bedford's break, take suitcase to Kamboj saying, this is one of yours mate, let Kamboj x-ray it, and then put it in the container as Bedford would have done, trying again to get it in the outboard position. Even if Kamboj had been suspicious of the radio (no reason he would have been as he hadn't had the Autumn Leaves warning), the terrorist (in his BA overalls) could just have wandered off while the problem was being dealt with. Not his case after all.

People say, but look, if the plan was to put the thing directly into the container without it ever being through security, why the radio disguise, which limited the IED to about half a kilo of Semtex? Why not stick a 10 kg lump in there? I think partly it was because these radio bombs were what Khreesat did. They were his modus operandi, his area of expertise. And partly because the suitcase would have to be carried around by the terrorists before actually getting to the container. I'm guessing they brought it into England on a channel ferry. They must have got it airside somehow. They would have had good reason for preferring something that would pass at least a cursory security check.

Originally Posted by Ambrosia View Post
I am still of the opinion that the timer used to detonate was a barometric pressure one that was going to go off ~45 mins into flight time and they fully expected the plane to go down over the sea.

If the plane goes down over water the chances of any clothing being found are remote, to say the least, and the usual flight path at 45mins puts the plane over water.

Barometric trigger with 30-minute capacitor timer extension. That gives a median time of 37 minutes after take-off. Maid of the Seas blew apart 38 minutes after the wheels left the tarmac.

But I don't think there was any great reason to be certain the plane would go down over the sea. There was a chance of the Irish Sea, to be sure (to be sure), but only a chance. I'm not even certain how much influence the high winds that night had on the plane's route. Certainly most Heathrow to JFK flights these days do go over the Irish Sea, but some still go further north even on days with normal weather. And this "Daventry departure" route that PA103 took that evening was a normal Heathrow departure route in 1988 (though it no longer is). I don't know for sure that the Daventry departure wasn't the standard route for that flight.

Originally Posted by Ambrosia View Post
I think there was also a DEA drug "thing" going on on the same flight, and that explains Jafaar and also the unusual things that were reported to be happening during the search of the crash site immediately after which was all entirely unrelated to the bombing and just happened to be on the wrong plane at the wrong time.

I think all of that has some bearing on US reticence to look at it again.

I'm inclined to agree with you there. I think Jaafar was smuggling drugs, and the story that this was part of a DEA sting against Detroit drugs gangs is pretty pervasive. He certainly turned into the red herring conspiracy theory to end all such! The Interfor report, Trail of the Octopus, The Maltese Double Cross, Cover-up of Convenience and I don't know what all else, all pushing the theory that the bomb was substituted for Khaled's suitcase full of heroin. And it wasn't.

I don't know about the goings-on at the crash site. Maybe they were trying to find and remove the heroin stash, but they were also trying to find and remove McKee's luggage with the sensitive information about the hostage rescue mission. And according to a number of people who are in a position to know, there were US personnel at the crash scene far earlier than they should have been, before the special flight laid on from Heathrow to Carlisle would have landed. John Ashton has speculated that they might have got there from the US base at the Holy Loch. Which is a thought in itself.

I spent a whole day with David Fieldhouse last month. He emailed me, wanting to come and talk to me, and came all the way from Yorkshire. There is definitely something weird going on in relation to the body he designated DCF12.

Originally Posted by Ambrosia View Post
I also think that justice should be done, though the heavens fall.

You're not Scottish, are you? Those of us who are, are absolutely incensed by the duplicity of our own criminal justice system on this issue. And others, notably Shirley McKie. It's not that it's not about Megrahi, but more than that it's about the truth, and having a criminal justice system that seems to have no regard for the truth whatsoever.
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Old 8th February 2015, 03:42 PM   #162
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Since you are lining out possibilities, I will circle back to the possibility that the bomb was designed to accommodate a range of contingencies, with a timer that could be used to delay a barometric switch, but it wasn't needed. As it turned out, they could have packed a suitcase full of dynamite, but they didn't know that when they designed and built the bomb. They approached the project less with a hierarchy of plans, A, B, etc., than by first constructing a versatile device, and then handing it to one or two operatives who conducted reconnaissance and used their best judgement.

That could explain some of the forensic oddities. It would also follow from the terrorist MO as I understand it. Specialists work sequentially and often through cut-outs, to minimize risk. That's why intelligence agencies often know something big is about to happen, but they don't know what, because their contacts and the people they capture and interrogate don't know all the details. They only know a piece of it.

In this case, the bomb maker wouldn't necessarily know how, when or where his bomb would be planted, or who would do it. He would build it to spec and give instructions as to how it needed to be handled.
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Old 8th February 2015, 03:46 PM   #163
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May I ask:
  • would the bomb have blown a hole in the plane wherever it was placed in the hold, and
  • do flights to the US from Heathrow normally remain over land as far north as Scotland?
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Old 8th February 2015, 04:13 PM   #164
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Originally Posted by Charlie Wilkes View Post
Since you are lining out possibilities, I will circle back to the possibility that the bomb was designed to accommodate a range of contingencies, with a timer that could be used to delay a barometric switch, but it wasn't needed. As it turned out, they could have packed a suitcase full of dynamite, but they didn't know that when they designed and built the bomb. They approached the project less with a hierarchy of plans, A, B, etc., than by first constructing a versatile device, and then handing it to one or two operatives who conducted reconnaissance and used their best judgement.

The point to bear in mind here is the nature of the PFLP-GC attacks on airliners going back to the 1960s. Marwan Khreesat was their bomb-maker, but he faded out of the picture in the 1970s and settled down as a TV repairman in Jordan. He was reactivated for a new mission in the autumn of 1988, and started making bombs of the same type he had always made - with an altimeter timer. He had introduced an extra wrinkle though, that is a capacitor which would delay the explosion after the required pressure had been reached (about 7 minutes after takeoff) by the time the capacitor needed to charge (20, 30 or 45 minutes). He had a limited supply of these capacitors.

This is known because the gang were spotted, stopped, and arrested in October, and one of the devices was recovered. They were however released by the German authorities not long after, for "lack of evidence". It is surmised that the Lockerbie bomb was one Khreesat made. He was set in his ways. The altimeter-delay trigger wasn't really necessay for this particular operation, but it was what he did. It was his signature, it was his modus operandi.

If you want to postulate a different sort of bomb or a different approach, you're going quite a long way off-piste.

Originally Posted by Charlie Wilkes View Post
That could explain some of the forensic oddities. It would also follow from the terrorist MO as I understand it. Specialists work sequentially and often through cut-outs, to minimize risk. That's why intelligence agencies often know something big is about to happen, but they don't know what, because their contacts and the people they capture and interrogate don't know all the details. They only know a piece of it.

In this case, the bomb maker wouldn't necessarily know how, when or where his bomb would be planted, or who would do it. He would build it to spec and give instructions as to how it needed to be handled.

Well, he was Khreesat, I think, and so do a lot of people. Do look at him. https://www.facebook.com/marwan.khrisat?fref=ts Astonishing, isn't it? He did what he always did. And indeed the devices were versatile. Whereas with a countdown timer, someone would have to know when the explosion was required when the device was made, or open it at a later date to set the timer (possibly a dangerous operation), these would remain inert ready to be placed on any plane the conspirators chose.
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Old 8th February 2015, 04:30 PM   #165
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Originally Posted by anglolawyer View Post
May I ask:
  • would the bomb have blown a hole in the plane wherever it was placed in the hold, and
  • do flights to the US from Heathrow normally remain over land as far north as Scotland?

First, I don't think so, but I'm not an expert. However there was a particular wrinkle in this case by which the overpressure from the explosion was propagated through interconnecting air spaces inside the plane, which in turn caused the skin of the plane to fail and lift off in places quite distant from the actual explosion. Watch this animation of what happened.

If the only problem had been the hole in the hull over the baggage container, I think it's possible the pilot might have made it to Prestwick. That's what oxygen masks and rapid descents are for. However the whole bloody plane came to bits within about three seconds. I'm not sure anyone could have predicted that. It took a bunch of academics quite a while to work it out.

The other problem is that the explosion knocked out the main electrical systems of the plane. The container was loaded right beside some main junction box. There's no way anyone could have predicted that.

I think the terrorists just wanted to get the explosion as close to the hull as they could, and hoped for the best - or the worst, if you like. Tragically, the worst that could possibly have happened, happened. I don't know if the overpressure would have done what it did if the bomb suitcase had been surrounded by other luggage. I'd like an expert opinion on it. But I'm damn sure none of the terrorists knew either.

Second, these flights can take a range of routes, from pretty much the Scilly Isles to skirting north of Lewis. The commonest route seems to be over Ireland, which involves crossing the Irish Sea. If PA103 had taken that sort of route that night, the explosion might have happened over the Irish Sea. But I simply don't know whether the route it took, known as the Daventry departure, was standard for that flight in 1988, or whether it was unusually chosen because of the bad weather.

You can track flights into and out of Heathrow here. https://uk.flightaware.com/live/airport/EGLL
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Old 8th February 2015, 04:42 PM   #166
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
First, I don't think so, but I'm not an expert. However there was a particular wrinkle in this case by which the overpressure from the explosion was propagated through interconnecting air spaces inside the plane, which in turn caused the skin of the plane to fail and lift off in places quite distant from the actual explosion. Watch this animation of what happened.

If the only problem had been the hole in the hull over the baggage container, I think it's possible the pilot might have made it to Prestwick. That's what oxygen masks and rapid descents are for. However the whole bloody plane came to bits within about three seconds. I'm not sure anyone could have predicted that. It took a bunch of academics quite a while to work it out.

The other problem is that the explosion knocked out the main electrical systems of the plane. The container was loaded right beside some main junction box. There's no way anyone could have predicted that.

I think the terrorists just wanted to get the explosion as close to the hull as they could, and hoped for the best - or the worst, if you like. Tragically, the worst that could possibly have happened, happened. I don't know if the overpressure would have done what it did if the bomb suitcase had been surrounded by other luggage. I'd like an expert opinion on it. But I'm damn sure none of the terrorists knew either.

Second, these flights can take a range of routes, from pretty much the Scilly Isles to skirting north of Lewis. The commonest route seems to be over Ireland, which involves crossing the Irish Sea. If PA103 had taken that sort of route that night, the explosion might have happened over the Irish Sea. But I simply don't know whether the route it took, known as the Daventry departure, was standard for that flight in 1988, or whether it was unusually chosen because of the bad weather.

You can track flights into and out of Heathrow here. https://uk.flightaware.com/live/airport/EGLL
Is it considered that it would have been difficult to impossible to "solve" the case if it had happened over
1. Shallow ocean
2. Deep ocean?
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Old 8th February 2015, 05:12 PM   #167
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It's a longstanding myth about Lockerbie that "if the flight had been on time, the plane would have vanished far out over the Atlantic. It happened as it did only because the plane was late."

This is complete moonshine. The plane was on time. The plane was bang up to time by any metric you want to use in connection with a transatlantic flight. So there was a reasonable chance it would have exploded over land, and no chance at all that it would have been far out over the ocean.

If it had gone down over the Irish Sea, it would have depended what was actually found. I think experience with shipwrecks and so on sugests that quite a lot would have been found, though not as much as was actually found. (In addiiton, the high wind would still have blown the lighter debris over western England.)
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Old 8th February 2015, 05:51 PM   #168
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
The clothes are weird though. Why make a positive effort to acquire clothes that could be traced, when it's so easy to get hold of clothes that could never be traced?
What about the clothes makes them easy to trace? they are packed in a case with enough plastic explosive to bring down an airliner and are going to be blown to bits/burnt and scattered to the winds. I'm not sure that you would expect identifiable and traceable bits to be found and traced.

On the other hand if you were a career terrorist who knew what kind of debris a suitcase explosion leaves you might want to plant a false trail.

Quote:
I think plan A was for the terrorist to put the suitcase in the container with his own hands. Nothing else explains the way the radio was packed in the suitcase.
what is important about the placing of the radio in the case? If you put a large enough bomb in the cargo hold aren't you going to get an explosive decompression almost always? If the explosion breaches the skin of the aircraft it's going to tear itself apart at the kinds of pressure differences that exist at 30000ft. Isn't it? I can see why you'd want to put the case itself close to the skin of the aircraft, am not sure about the device in the case itself.

Again - if you were an experienced bomber of planes and knew the blast radius of the explosives you'd got in the case you might be much more inclined to place the bomb in the best possible location to cause an explosive decompression.

i.e. if we can be certain that the bomb was placed in a deliberate location and other locations in the plane would not have caused the aircraft to crash then it points towards the Palestinians who had form.

Quote:
People say, but look, if the plan was to put the thing directly into the container without it ever being through security, why the radio disguise, which limited the IED to about half a kilo of Semtex? Why not stick a 10 kg lump in there?
I'd agree there. If I am a bomber dressed like a airport luggage guy, and I want to make dam sure the case gets onto the plane and I get away afterwards I'd want the case to pass a cursory inspection.

Quote:
I don't know about the goings-on at the crash site. Maybe they were trying to find and remove the heroin stash, but they were also trying to find and remove McKee's luggage with the sensitive information about the hostage rescue mission.
I'd go with McKee. I'd expect that if a large National security agency knew they had sensitive info potentially lying around they move quicksmart to get there and clean up the mess.

Quote:
I spent a whole day with David Fieldhouse last month. He emailed me, wanting to come and talk to me, and came all the way from Yorkshire. There is definitely something weird going on in relation to the body he designated DCF12.
Is that the fletchettes? it's been a while since I looked at Lockerbie stuff. the whole thing is frankly bizarre on several levels. While some of the odder things are likely never going to be explained you can still leave all of that aside and come back to the basic facts that there is no way Megrahi planted the bomb and his conviction is just wrong.

There's relatives in the UK who want a fresh appeal and relatives in the US who have been led to believe they got the right man. There are politicians saving face and stonewalling, at best. The whole thing is very sad

Quote:
You're not Scottish, are you? Those of us who are, are absolutely incensed by the duplicity of our own criminal justice system on this issue. And others, notably Shirley McKie. It's not that it's not about Megrahi, but more than that it's about the truth, and having a criminal justice system that seems to have no regard for the truth whatsoever.
I'm from Ireland originally though I grew up in Cornwall, but I kind of regard the Scottish justice system as British so it makes me mad too.
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Old 8th February 2015, 08:18 PM   #169
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
The point to bear in mind here is the nature of the PFLP-GC attacks on airliners going back to the 1960s. Marwan Khreesat was their bomb-maker, but he faded out of the picture in the 1970s and settled down as a TV repairman in Jordan. He was reactivated for a new mission in the autumn of 1988, and started making bombs of the same type he had always made - with an altimeter timer. He had introduced an extra wrinkle though, that is a capacitor which would delay the explosion after the required pressure had been reached (about 7 minutes after takeoff) by the time the capacitor needed to charge (20, 30 or 45 minutes). He had a limited supply of these capacitors.

This is known because the gang were spotted, stopped, and arrested in October, and one of the devices was recovered. They were however released by the German authorities not long after, for "lack of evidence". It is surmised that the Lockerbie bomb was one Khreesat made. He was set in his ways. The altimeter-delay trigger wasn't really necessay for this particular operation, but it was what he did. It was his signature, it was his modus operandi.

If you want to postulate a different sort of bomb or a different approach, you're going quite a long way off-piste.
Hmm. I would not dispute that Khreesat was the bomb maker, and I don't aim to be difficult. Having said that, "signature" and "MO," though often conflated, mean different things to a criminal investigator.

"Signature" is distinctive behavior a criminal chooses as a matter of preference, like taking a victim's panties as a souvenir. It does not arise from the circumstances of the crime.

"MO" is the method used to commit a crime. A serial criminal may or may not always use the same MO. His MO may change with circumstances or as he gains proficiency. Thus one might see two murders committed by the same person, with the signature of missing panties, but one victim was bludgeoned and the other was strangled.

I have read or heard that fragments of candy wrapper were associated with the Pan Am 103 bomb, and Khreesat was known to seal his explosive charge in a candy wrapper. If that is true, it sounds like a true criminal signature. But, however set in his ways Khreesat may have been, you note that he refined his MO with the "extra wrinkle" of a capacitor, to achieve a more deadly result. He might have introduced another wrinkle for this commission, perhaps because the client contributed something that was not otherwise available to Khreesat. I would not rule this out, given the indications of a Khreesat job along with a fragment of material that is not what Khreesat was known to use.

Last edited by Charlie Wilkes; 8th February 2015 at 08:20 PM.
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Old 9th February 2015, 09:08 AM   #170
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Originally Posted by Ambrosia View Post
What about the clothes makes them easy to trace? they are packed in a case with enough plastic explosive to bring down an airliner and are going to be blown to bits/burnt and scattered to the winds. I'm not sure that you would expect identifiable and traceable bits to be found and traced.

The weird thing about these clothes is how uniquely traceable they proved to be. Most clothes aren't really traceable at all. If you find the manufacturer, the chances are that similar items will have been supplied to dozens of retailers. And/or that the line is so old that no useful records are still available.

In this case, the trousers had not just a manufacturer's label on them, but a serial number. The manufacturer could tell which retailer had been supplied with that particular garment. And the date of supply was 18th November 1988. Less than five weeks before the plane crash. So there was a pretty small window during which the garment must have been bought.

And then the retailer remembered making the actual sale, and could describe the purchaser. I swear, if Agatha Christie had put this in a thriller, it would have been panned for being incredible.

Originally Posted by Ambrosia View Post
On the other hand if you were a career terrorist who knew what kind of debris a suitcase explosion leaves you might want to plant a false trail.

That's the best I can do too. Probably. It's the explanation that makes most sense, anyway.

Originally Posted by Ambrosia View Post
What is important about the placing of the radio in the case? If you put a large enough bomb in the cargo hold aren't you going to get an explosive decompression almost always? If the explosion breaches the skin of the aircraft it's going to tear itself apart at the kinds of pressure differences that exist at 30000ft. Isn't it? I can see why you'd want to put the case itself close to the skin of the aircraft, am not sure about the device in the case itself.

If you're packing a 3.5kg radio-cassette player in a case with some fairly light clothes, so that the case overall only weighs about 13 kg, where do you put it? Naturally, intuitively, you put it like this.



Rationally, it balances the weight across the axis of the case, making it easier to carry. That's how the forensics team packed their mock-up case. It's at moments like this I can't believe these people had the brains to fit anyone up and the whole thing was just a shambles from beginning to end. Because that is not how the radio was actually packed in the case. It was packed down one side. And then the side the bomb was packed in was rammed into the angle of the overhang section, to be as close as possible to the skin of the plane. I just don't see someone preparing to let a baggage handler place the case at random packing the radio in that position. And if he had, the chances that that side of the case would be rammed into the bottom of the overhang section of the container by chance were very small.

Originally Posted by Ambrosia View Post
Again - if you were an experienced bomber of planes and knew the blast radius of the explosives you'd got in the case you might be much more inclined to place the bomb in the best possible location to cause an explosive decompression.

i.e. if we can be certain that the bomb was placed in a deliberate location and other locations in the plane would not have caused the aircraft to crash then it points towards the Palestinians who had form.

I look at the way the case was packed, and then the place it ended up, and I see the hands of the terrorists there, not someone loading suitcases at random. I don't know whether other locations would have caused the plane to crash or not. More to the point, I don't think they knew either. I think they were trying to maximise the chance of catastrophic damage with the tool they had available.

Originally Posted by Ambrosia View Post
I'd agree there. If I am a bomber dressed like a airport luggage guy, and I want to make damn sure the case gets onto the plane and I get away afterwards I'd want the case to pass a cursory inspection.

Or if I'm in a car with another Arab-looking guy and I'm coming off a ferry at Dover, and a customs officer is looking for something to pass the time on a dull afternoon....

Originally Posted by Ambrosia View Post
I'd go with McKee. I'd expect that if a large National security agency knew they had sensitive info potentially lying around they move quicksmart to get there and clean up the mess.

Probably. There are two stories there and they don't quite match up. One story has the CIA removing the case from the field, and later returning it to where it was found, minus contents. The other, which is well-documented by the SCCRC, has the CIA asking John Orr nicely, and him arranging to have the case given to them from the property store at Dextar without this being recorded in the daybook. And then again it was returned without its contents. (Funnily enough John Orr professed to have forgotten that this ever happened, but the policemen involved remembered the incident perfectly.)

Both stories seem to be referring to the same case, but McKee did have two cases, so it's possible both stories are true. It's certainly true that when the damaged case was examined by Hayes, the contents he was given with it in a separate bag were not what it had originally contained.

Originally Posted by Ambrosia View Post
Is that the fletchettes? it's been a while since I looked at Lockerbie stuff.

No, the flechettes story relates to a little girl, and it's moonshine. John Parkes just didn't know what he was looking at and started a whole CT about nothing. This is the missing body. David Fieldhouse worked all night, before daybreak, certifying victims dead so that the bodies could be moved. He labelled all the bodies he certified, DCF1 to DCF59. The bodies weren't removed, and were labelled again using a different system.

There's no point getting into the whys and wherefores of how that happened, but David spent some time with police officers a couple of weeks later, going over his own records of the bodies he found. Only 58 of them matched. He had found and labelled the body of an adult man in a field - from memory I think it might have been about here. https://goo.gl/maps/3riVg This body (DCF12) didn't correlate with any body recorded by the recovery teams. He had the grid reference and his notes and he remembered the body - it was only a couple of weeks previously. But it didn't seem to exist any more.

He doesn't think he was mistaken, The other 58 bodies all matched perfectly. The suspicion arises that there might have been someone on that plane travelling incognito or something, whom the authorities didn't want found.

Originally Posted by Ambrosia View Post
The whole thing is frankly bizarre on several levels. While some of the odder things are likely never going to be explained you can still leave all of that aside and come back to the basic facts that there is no way Megrahi planted the bomb and his conviction is just wrong.

I see it sometimes as a game with multiple levels. The first trick is to figure out which clues belong to which levels. Or else as a jigsaw, and you have to find the key place to start, and build it up from there. No point trying to do level 3 when you haven't solved level 1. You won't be able to solve the tricky corners with sky in them until you've done the bit with the people's faces.

Level 1, the easy bit of the jigsaw, relegates Megrahi to a completely different puzzle. He isn't part of this one.

Originally Posted by Ambrosia View Post
There's relatives in the UK who want a fresh appeal and relatives in the US who have been led to believe they got the right man. There are politicians saving face and stonewalling, at best. The whole thing is very sad.

I'm from Ireland originally though I grew up in Cornwall, but I kind of regard the Scottish justice system as British so it makes me mad too.

Subjectively it seems to me that England has a better record of sorting out miscarriages, albeit sometimes way too late (q.v. Sally Clarke and Stefan Kiszko among others). But that may just be because the larger population throws up more cases. The Scottish system's handling of the Shirley McKie case should make everyone's blood run cold.
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Old 9th February 2015, 09:17 AM   #171
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Originally Posted by Charlie Wilkes View Post
Hmm. I would not dispute that Khreesat was the bomb maker, and I don't aim to be difficult. Having said that, "signature" and "MO," though often conflated, mean different things to a criminal investigator.

"Signature" is distinctive behavior a criminal chooses as a matter of preference, like taking a victim's panties as a souvenir. It does not arise from the circumstances of the crime.

"MO" is the method used to commit a crime. A serial criminal may or may not always use the same MO. His MO may change with circumstances or as he gains proficiency. Thus one might see two murders committed by the same person, with the signature of missing panties, but one victim was bludgeoned and the other was strangled.

Yes, I take your point. I probably used the wrong term.

Originally Posted by Charlie Wilkes View Post
I have read or heard that fragments of candy wrapper were associated with the Pan Am 103 bomb, and Khreesat was known to seal his explosive charge in a candy wrapper. If that is true, it sounds like a true criminal signature. But, however set in his ways Khreesat may have been, you note that he refined his MO with the "extra wrinkle" of a capacitor, to achieve a more deadly result. He might have introduced another wrinkle for this commission, perhaps because the client contributed something that was not otherwise available to Khreesat. I would not rule this out, given the indications of a Khreesat job along with a fragment of material that is not what Khreesat was known to use.

I don't know whether the Toblerone wrapper thing was real and they sidelined it after they decided they didn't want Khreesat to be the culprit, or whether it was something that was imagined into existence at the time they did want him to be the culprit! I think it was such a small scrap it couldn't be said to prove anything one way or the other.

The client was the Ayatollah Khomeini's Iran. They commissioned the PFLP-GC because the PFLP-GC had the expertise. The atrocity as it happened is perfectly explained by a Khreesat device as identified by Autumn Leaves, loaded at Heathrow. No extra contribution is needed, and there doesn't seem to be physical room inside the radio for anything else anyway.

If you're trying to explain PT/35b, be my guest because I can't explain it. But there's an awful lot to explain, not least how it seems to be an almost perfect copy of a bit of an MST-13 timer PCB, but then the maker has simply dipped it in liquid tin rather than using the alloy manufacturing tinning.

Also, it's not needed. Also, the timer's to big. Also, you could get something smaller and anonymous from any electronics store that would do the job. It's the sort of piece I think you leave till the end and then, hopefully, see a hole it fits right in. Or not, as the case may be.
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Old 9th February 2015, 12:23 PM   #172
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
The weird thing about these clothes is how uniquely traceable they proved to be. Most clothes aren't really traceable at all. [...]

In this case, the trousers had not just a manufacturer's label on them, but a serial number. The manufacturer could tell which retailer had been supplied with that particular garment.
I'm still not completely sold on this being a breadcrumb trail. Just an amazing coincidence that that particular bit of trouser survived and was found and traced, rather than the bit of trouser 2 inches to the left that didn't have a label on it. I think the tracing of the clothes might have been the best bit of police work in the whole investigation.

The way the plane disintegrated, first the bomb blows in the cargo hold and the blast wave from it blows the suitcase it's contents and the baggage container to bits. It then breaches the skin of the aircraft blowing out a sizeable hole and probably does structural damage to the aircraft as well as knocking out some avionics. All of the bits of luggage get immediately blown out through this hole and would be the first bits to fall to earth, the rush of air and luggage fragments blown out further damage the plane and it disintegrates and drops from the sky, it would have been doing 600mph or so when the bomb first went off and took several seconds from detonation to where it was no longer a plane and then as it fell to earth it would have broken up more and more and wind scatters the lighter debris as well so the whole thing is spread over a very large area.

What I'm getting at is that the stuff in the case if it survives the heat of the initial explosion is going to be the most fragmented and scattered debris so why rely on a clothes label to be a breadcrumb, why not leave a wallet in the trouser pocket or some receipts or some identifiable easily traceable thing(s)

I think it's most likely that someone was told to pack the case like a tourist and just happened to be in Malta bought the clothes at Marys House and assumed they were as generic and unlikely to be traced as any others and that the explosion would get rid of anything identifiable in the case almost always.

Quote:
that is not how the radio was actually packed in the case. It was packed down one side.
How do we know that? reconstruction of the case itself?

If that's correct and the placement of the case is right then yeah, that sounds like terrorist deliberately placing what they had for maximum effect and not the random placement of it getting loaded via a baggage handler.

If you follow all that to it's logical conclusion it's a Khreesat made bomb planted by PFLP-GC operatives at Heathrow.

Quote:
He doesn't think he was mistaken, The other 58 bodies all matched perfectly. The suspicion arises that there might have been someone on that plane travelling incognito or something, whom the authorities didn't want found.
I remember now. Sees the disaster on TV and then drives from his house in Bradford to the scene after volunteering his services, then spends all night IDing human remains. I'd take his word over the the investigations official line every day of the week.

Probably tied up with the DEA stuff or the McKee stuff and is another oddity that we'll never know the truth of.
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Old 9th February 2015, 12:54 PM   #173
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Originally Posted by Ambrosia View Post
I'm still not completely sold on this being a breadcrumb trail. Just an amazing coincidence that that particular bit of trouser survived and was found and traced, rather than the bit of trouser 2 inches to the left that didn't have a label on it. I think the tracing of the clothes might have been the best bit of police work in the whole investigation.

They were criticised for not getting there faster, but I agree, it was impressive. There were several items of clothing from the bomb bag that had labels on them, that item just happened to be the one that was traceable to a retailer. And it wasn't just a scrap, it was a fair chunk of the garment.

My policeman friend who gave me the statements and photos I used to do the suitcase jigsaw swears there's evidence of tampering with the piece of trousers, but he's awfully hair-trigger with the tampering allegations and I haven't seen in detail what he's talking about. He has promised to show me some time though.

It could just be a coincidence, as you say. Or a bow-at-a-venture piece of misdirection that succeeded beyond someone's wildest dreams. If it was the only breadcrumb. But it ain't, and that's what bothers me.

Originally Posted by Ambrosia View Post
How do we know that? reconstruction of the case itself?

If that's correct and the placement of the case is right then yeah, that sounds like terrorist deliberately placing what they had for maximum effect and not the random placement of it getting loaded via a baggage handler.

If you follow all that to it's logical conclusion it's a Khreesat made bomb planted by PFLP-GC operatives at Heathrow.

We know it because of the placement of the suitcase in the container. Handle to the back, hinge end towards the open side, and left-hand side (containing the bomb) right into the bottom of the overhang section.



The grey lines cross approximately where the explosion was. There or thereabouts. The radio was packed down one side.

Tragically, the forensics team never realised this, not really. I think Feraday's preferred placement for the suitcase, which was demonstrably wrong, was informed by his desire to get the radio in the right place when packed along the bottom. But they always admitted of a second possible position, flat-loaded on the second layer of cases, and this was the one they gradually converged on and presented in court. Since we know the handle of the bomb bag was facing the back of the container, that packing arrangement also applies to the Crown's preferred positioning. And nobody seems even to have realised what that implied for the rationale. The only "trial loading" packing of the case had the radio as shown above, that is across the hinge end. That's demonstrably wrong.

What were these guys using for brains? Hayes had a PhD in forensic science. They should have been able to do better than this.

Originally Posted by Ambrosia View Post
I remember now. Sees the disaster on TV and then drives from his house in Bradford to the scene after volunteering his services, then spends all night IDing human remains. I'd take his word over the the investigations official line every day of the week.

Probably tied up with the DEA stuff or the McKee stuff and is another oddity that we'll never know the truth of.

It's almost certain we'll never find the truth behind every little odd wrinkle in this case.
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Old 9th February 2015, 04:13 PM   #174
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
I don't know whether the Toblerone wrapper thing was real and they sidelined it after they decided they didn't want Khreesat to be the culprit, or whether it was something that was imagined into existence at the time they did want him to be the culprit! I think it was such a small scrap it couldn't be said to prove anything one way or the other.

The client was the Ayatollah Khomeini's Iran. They commissioned the PFLP-GC because the PFLP-GC had the expertise. The atrocity as it happened is perfectly explained by a Khreesat device as identified by Autumn Leaves, loaded at Heathrow. No extra contribution is needed, and there doesn't seem to be physical room inside the radio for anything else anyway.

If you're trying to explain PT/35b, be my guest because I can't explain it. But there's an awful lot to explain, not least how it seems to be an almost perfect copy of a bit of an MST-13 timer PCB, but then the maker has simply dipped it in liquid tin rather than using the alloy manufacturing tinning.

Also, it's not needed. Also, the timer's to big. Also, you could get something smaller and anonymous from any electronics store that would do the job. It's the sort of piece I think you leave till the end and then, hopefully, see a hole it fits right in. Or not, as the case may be.
I agree, in the realm of rational thinking, that's how it should be. You have pieced together a narrative that is incomplete, but is rooted in solid evidence that cannot plausibly be explained any other way. The remaining questions in this case can only be answered by people who know what happened. The priority should be to elicit a full accounting before they all die, not to puzzle over an oddity from the crime scene.

But, for cynical officials who are wedded to a false accusation, PT/35b is a piece of evidence they can exploit to confuse your narrative and undermine its credibility. They can use it to stonewall the process that might lead to a full accounting.

That is why I am entertaining you with my speculation. It would be helpful for your side to have an explanation that need not be established as fact, but can serve as a realistic possibility.
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Old 9th February 2015, 04:21 PM   #175
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Oh, I've got an explanation. It's one that would get this thread thrown into CT before you could say LIHOP, though. So maybe not tonight.

You're right about the fragment's potential as a straw man. Frank Mulholland is trying to give the impression that so long as he can show the fragment wasn't a fabrication or a plant, the conviction is sound. It's got nothing to do with that. The bomb started at Heathrow whether PT/35b fell from the sky, was sneakily planted at Dextar by - cough cough Tom Thurman cough cough - or miraculously appeared in the evidence bag by spontaneous generation. I'd sure as hell like to know what it is and how it got there, but Megrahi was still in Tripoli when the bomb was planted in London, regardless.
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Old 9th February 2015, 09:41 PM   #176
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I am trying to follow the conversation but remain very much in the foothills. I have a question to which there is probably an obvious answer but I can't work it out: if the bomb with the barometric device plus timer delay was loaded in Malta then why didn't it go off between Malta and Frankfurt and why again between Frankfurt and Heathrow?

I also have another one: Rolfe, do you think the particular positioning of the samsonite at Heathrow was deliberate? I.e, in a container that would be stored against the side of the fuselage?
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Old 9th February 2015, 10:08 PM   #177
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Originally Posted by anglolawyer View Post
May I ask:
  • would the bomb have blown a hole in the plane wherever it was placed in the hold, and
  • do flights to the US from Heathrow normally remain over land as far north as Scotland?
As far as the highlighted is concerned, FWIW, my dad worked for the CAA and said that he understood that it almost certainly would not have happened unless the bomb had been placed in some particular part of the hold.

As for the second, I don't know, although my dad's area of work was Scotland's airfields, so he would probably know the answer.

I can possibly email these questions to him.
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Old 9th February 2015, 11:38 PM   #178
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Originally Posted by anglolawyer View Post
I am trying to follow the conversation but remain very much in the foothills. I have a question to which there is probably an obvious answer but I can't work it out: if the bomb with the barometric device plus timer delay was loaded in Malta then why didn't it go off between Malta and Frankfurt and why again between Frankfurt and Heathrow?

I also have another one: Rolfe, do you think the particular positioning of the samsonite at Heathrow was deliberate? I.e, in a container that would be stored against the side of the fuselage?
$8.09 US gets you Rolfe's excellent book.

http://www.amazon.com/Adequately-Exp.../dp/1783062509

It is packed with forensic information and it explains the case thoroughly. And best of all, Rolfe dispenses with the moronic conventions of the crime genre. You won't have to skim through victim hagiographies and the self-serving discourse of everyone she interviewed. This is about what happened to bring down an airliner, and how the investigation veered off course.
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Old 10th February 2015, 02:09 AM   #179
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Originally Posted by Charlie Wilkes View Post
$8.09 US gets you Rolfe's excellent book.

http://www.amazon.com/Adequately-Exp.../dp/1783062509

It is packed with forensic information and it explains the case thoroughly. And best of all, Rolfe dispenses with the moronic conventions of the crime genre. You won't have to skim through victim hagiographies and the self-serving discourse of everyone she interviewed. This is about what happened to bring down an airliner, and how the investigation veered off course.
Ha! I have had the book for sometime and have even started it. Are you saying I actually have to read the whole thing? Yikes. I had better get on with it. Presently, I am still making my way through Paul Foot's 32 page Private Eye report that Rolfe linked upthread. It's a good read but I'm very slow.
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Old 10th February 2015, 02:58 AM   #180
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Originally Posted by anglolawyer View Post
Ha! I have had the book for sometime and have even started it. Are you saying I actually have to read the whole thing? Yikes. I had better get on with it. Presently, I am still making my way through Paul Foot's 32 page Private Eye report that Rolfe linked upthread. It's a good read but I'm very slow.
I know how that goes. I have a stack of crime books teed up. At least I don't have to deal with physical "books" any more.

But dive into Rolfe's, because it's a good read if you like forensic investigation, and she has unraveled what happened here.

It won't go away, either, so it's worth understanding.
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Old 10th February 2015, 03:00 AM   #181
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Originally Posted by anglolawyer View Post
I am trying to follow the conversation but remain very much in the foothills. I have a question to which there is probably an obvious answer but I can't work it out: if the bomb with the barometric device plus timer delay was loaded in Malta then why didn't it go off between Malta and Frankfurt and why again between Frankfurt and Heathrow?

It wasn't loaded at Malta.

Sorry, that's the short answer. The long answer is that the British side of the inquiry never seriously considered that it might have been loaded at Heathrow even at the beginning, when it was believed that a Khreesat barometric device had brought the plane down.

The German team, who understood how the devices worked (mirabile dictu, as brilliant intellectual insight wasn't in great supply there either) tried to insist to the British team that Heathrow was the obvious starting point. Allen Feraday basically fobbed them off with a selection of fairy-stories about how the thing could have been loaded at Frankfurt and still not explode until the second take-off. Things like a malfunction on the first leg, and even the suggestion that the feeder flight had done the entire journey under 8,000 feet! It was basically bonkers, but the British investigators were in charge of the inquiry so there wasn't a lot the Germans could do about it.

Then in September 1989 both teams went for the idea that Malta was the real starting point, in a big way. It allowed them to bury their differences and start co-operating. A bit like this, I've always thought. (I can't believe I found the clip! Just go from 30 seconds to 45 seconds if you're in a hurry.)

YouTube Video This video is not hosted by the ISF. The ISF can not be held responsible for the suitability or legality of this material. By clicking the link below you agree to view content from an external website.
I AGREE

Except for the last few frames you have to substitute the combined fleets annihilating a much smaller fleet that never did them any harm.

It's really stretching credulity much too far to imagine that a Khreesat device did a three-flight hop and didn't go off until the third take-off. Not without major modification. However, nobody seemed even to consider that by this time - they were too pleased to have found an airport that wouldn't cause embarrassment to either side if it had been responsible for the disaster. They just went right on believing it had been a Khreesat device, somehow, don't ask difficult questions kid.

Then a full year later PT/35b was identified as being part of a count-down timer and they decided that was fine, the whole thing had been done using a count-down timer all along and Khreesat had nothing to do with it. And that's where the theory stayed and that's what was brought to court.

Except the bomb wasn't loaded at Malta, or at Frankfurt, it was loaded at Heathrow. And the 38-minute detonation is exactly how you would expect a Khreesat device loaded at Heathrow to behave. (And nobody in their right mind, in possession of a long-running count-down timer, would set it to go off only an hour after the gate departure time from Heathrow on a stormy winter evening, when they had a whole 7-hour flight ahead of them to lose the plane over the Atlantic. If that plane had missed its departure slot, and it easily might have done, it would still have been on the tarmac at 7.03 pm.)

Originally Posted by anglolawyer View Post
I also have another one: Rolfe, do you think the particular positioning of the samsonite at Heathrow was deliberate? I.e, in a container that would be stored against the side of the fuselage?

Yes. As I explained in an earlier post, the radio was packed in a really strange position in the case. If you couldn't control where the suitcase was placed in the container, there was no reason at all to pack it like that. It only makes sense if you know you can control where the suitcase goes, and make sure that side of the case is in the outboard position.

All the containers were stored against the side of the fuselage. It was just a matter of getting the right position within the container to put the case in that position. You really should read my book. This is covered in the very first chapter I think. Near the beginning, anyway.

Originally Posted by anglolawyer View Post
Ha! I have had the book for sometime and have even started it. Are you saying I actually have to read the whole thing? Yikes. I had better get on with it. Presently, I am still making my way through Paul Foot's 32 page Private Eye report that Rolfe linked upthread. It's a good read but I'm very slow.

It really is very good indeed. There are some assumptions that were superseded later though. It's a crying shame Foot died before the whole thing was teased out in more detail. Francovich too of course.
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Old 10th February 2015, 03:14 AM   #182
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Originally Posted by angrysoba View Post
As far as the highlighted is concerned, FWIW, my dad worked for the CAA and said that he understood that it almost certainly would not have happened unless the bomb had been placed in some particular part of the hold.

As for the second, I don't know, although my dad's area of work was Scotland's airfields, so he would probably know the answer.

I can possibly email these questions to him.

I'd certainly like to understand this in greater detail.

I think it's 100% certain that the bomb wouldn't have blown a hole in the fuselage the way it did, if it hadn't been more or less right up against the skin of the plane. What I don't know is whether the overpressure would still have caused the skin to fail in the distant locations, which is what really caused the break-up of the plane.

On one hand, without the hole in the fuselage venting a fair bit of the explosion to the outside, surely the overpressure inside would have been significantly worse? On the other hand, the AAIB report seems to indicate that again the positioning of the device was deadly, because it forced the overpressure through internal ducting spaces in the aircraft's construction which put intolerable pressure on the skin.

Nevertheless, leaving this to the side for the moment, I think the terrorists simply tried to get the thing as far outboard as they could because the blast from 450 g Semtex is absorbed fairly effectively by a pile of suitcases. I don't think they knew about the overpressure or the ducting in any case.

As far as the route of the plane is concerned, it's generally assumed that the flight would have gone over the Irish Sea if it hadn't been for the very strong westerly gale blowing that evening. However, I've never seen official confirmation of that and it could be an misconception in the same category as "it's generally assumed the plane was late" - which it wasn't.

So I'd really like to know if PA103 regularly departed from Heathrow via the Daventry departure route, in 1988, or if that was indeed unusual for the flight.
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Old 10th February 2015, 03:30 AM   #183
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Originally Posted by Charlie Wilkes View Post
$8.09 US gets you Rolfe's excellent book.

http://www.amazon.com/Adequately-Exp.../dp/1783062509

It is packed with forensic information and it explains the case thoroughly. And best of all, Rolfe dispenses with the moronic conventions of the crime genre. You won't have to skim through victim hagiographies and the self-serving discourse of everyone she interviewed. This is about what happened to bring down an airliner, and how the investigation veered off course.

Originally Posted by Charlie Wilkes View Post
I know how that goes. I have a stack of crime books teed up. At least I don't have to deal with physical "books" any more.

But dive into Rolfe's, because it's a good read if you like forensic investigation, and she has unraveled what happened here.

It won't go away, either, so it's worth understanding.

Well, you know, I didn't really interview anyone. I read all the interviews that had already been published. My only piece of original evidence-gathering was to do with one of the pieces of late-arriving Heathrow interline luggage, which was listed as not having been recovered. However, a relative of the owner of that piece of luggage used to be a JREF forum member (before she was banned!), and she happened to mention that the piece of luggage in question was returned to the family many years after the disaster. It's no more than an aside.

Oh yes, and there was an observation from LittleSwan which could be described as an original contribution. He thinks the explosion was a few inches lower in the container than the RARDE scientists estimated, and I worked that in. But my thesis still flies even if the RARDE estimate is used.

I assembled all the evidence that was already there and analysed it de novo in a logical and dispassionate manner. Apparently I was the first person to try that approach!

I did have a little more about some of the victims, but it held up the narrative of the detective work, and I didn't know any of these people anyway. I cut it down to the bare minimum of who some people were and where they were going and why. I managed to leave in a very brief mention of the Roller/Gabor party, which was such a senseless muddle, but I had to leave out Suruchi Rattan and her red dress entirely because that family's luggage wasn't even on the plane and there was no way to work it in.

You can't kept but grieve for the victims, when you spend time examining their suitcases and what was in them, and you know they packed them in anticipation of travelling to meet loved ones for Christmas. The photo of Karen Noonan's 32A "Maidenform" bra, packed in her blue holdall and burned by the explosion, has me in tears every time. That's why I went to Lockerbie for the 25th anniversary memorial service. But the book is about how the suitcase got on the plane, how it's possible to figure this out, how the original investigation didn't, and then how the prosecution noticed what had happened and re-packaged the case to get a conviction regardless.
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Old 10th February 2015, 03:37 AM   #184
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
snip
Yes. As I explained in an earlier post, the radio was packed in a really strange position in the case. If you couldn't control where the suitcase was placed in the container, there was no reason at all to pack it like that. It only makes sense if you know you can control where the suitcase goes, and make sure that side of the case is in the outboard position.

All the containers were stored against the side of the fuselage. It was just a matter of getting the right position within the container to put the case in that position. You really should read my book. This is covered in the very first chapter I think. Near the beginning, anyway.

snip
Thanks for that informative post (which I did read). I had forgotten that the containers were two abreast. I thought it might have been three with a middle box-shaped one. I would want my bomb hard up against the fuselage and so I was wondering whether part of the plot entailed having such access to airside as to ensure the ideal location, as your theory suggests.

And my surmise was right, thank you - the idea of a barometric device with delayed timer causes big problems (among others) for the Luqa airport theory.
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Old 10th February 2015, 03:56 AM   #185
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Another beginner's question: is the whole aircraft pressurised or just the bit with passengers in? i.e. does a hole in the cargo hold matter other than aerodynamically?
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Old 10th February 2015, 04:05 AM   #186
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Originally Posted by anglolawyer View Post
Another beginner's question: is the whole aircraft pressurised or just the bit with passengers in? i.e. does a hole in the cargo hold matter other than aerodynamically?

The whole plane. It can only work like that. It's a bit like a balloon. The shape means the whole skin is pressurised. So the cargo hold is at the same pressure as the passenger compartment.

You know, it took me ages to find out the real facts on a lot of the things you're questioning. I remember when the original thread was in the foothills and struggling to figure out how a barometric device could have flown from Malta. It took a while. (I had been under the false impression that the cargo hold wasn't pressurised, due to a couple of burst cans of Irn Bru in my luggage twice upon a time, also the IATA regulations on packaging of pathological specimens. But I was wrong.)

But I finally got my head round it, and you're welcome to take the direct route as a result.
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Old 10th February 2015, 04:11 AM   #187
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Originally Posted by anglolawyer View Post
I would want my bomb hard up against the fuselage and so I was wondering whether part of the plot entailed having such access to airside as to ensure the ideal location, as your theory suggests.

It's a fact that the PFLP-GC had used Khreesat's devices in the past in situations where the suitcase or parcel was loaded at random by airport staff. Posting parcel bombs, and using dupes to pack the booby-trapped item in their luggage. Some planes did crash as a result.

I think they wanted to be sure with this one though. Some of the other attempts went off a bit half-cock.
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Old 10th February 2015, 04:14 AM   #188
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
The whole plane. It can only work like that. It's a bit like a balloon. The shape means the whole skin is pressurised. So the cargo hold is at the same pressure as the passenger compartment.

You know, it took me ages to find out the real facts on a lot of the things you're questioning. I remember when the original thread was in the foothills and struggling to figure out how a barometric device could have flown from Malta. It took a while. (I had been under the false impression that the cargo hold wasn't pressurised, due to a couple of burst cans of Irn Bru in my luggage twice upon a time, also the IATA regulations on packaging of pathological specimens. But I was wrong.)

But I finally got my head round it, and you're welcome to take the direct route as a result.
Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
It's a fact that the PFLP-GC had used Khreesat's devices in the past in situations where the suitcase or parcel was loaded at random by airport staff. Posting parcel bombs, and using dupes to pack the booby-trapped item in their luggage. Some planes did crash as a result.

I think they wanted to be sure with this one though. Some of the other attempts went off a bit half-cock.
Thanks Rolfe. You are a mine of info.
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Old 10th February 2015, 04:45 AM   #189
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I'm thinking of applying to go on Mastermind.
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Old 10th February 2015, 04:52 AM   #190
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
I'm thinking of applying to go on Mastermind.
You can get into training on the Trivia Quiz thread right here at ISF!
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Old 10th February 2015, 05:27 AM   #191
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
The whole plane. It can only work like that. It's a bit like a balloon. The shape means the whole skin is pressurised. So the cargo hold is at the same pressure as the passenger compartment.

You know, it took me ages to find out the real facts on a lot of the things you're questioning. I remember when the original thread was in the foothills and struggling to figure out how a barometric device could have flown from Malta. It took a while. (I had been under the false impression that the cargo hold wasn't pressurised, due to a couple of burst cans of Irn Bru in my luggage twice upon a time, also the IATA regulations on packaging of pathological specimens. But I was wrong.)
[minor derail] I was also convinced that the baggage compartment of an airliner wasn't pressurised or was at least only partly pressurised. Then I had occassion to fly a puppy from the Netherlands to here and was surprised to learn that she would fly in the baggage compartment of a normal passenger flight.
[/minor derail]
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Old 10th February 2015, 05:42 AM   #192
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Originally Posted by Octavo View Post
[minor derail] I was also convinced that the baggage compartment of an airliner wasn't pressurised or was at least only partly pressurised. Then I had occassion to fly a puppy from the Netherlands to here and was surprised to learn that she would fly in the baggage compartment of a normal passenger flight.
[/minor derail]
Unfortunately, she arrived at the other end with her eyes popped out and frozen to death but otherwise fine, I guess.
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Old 10th February 2015, 06:37 AM   #193
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I used to take my cat with me on flights between Gatwick and Glasgow. A couple of times they put his cat carrier on the carousel instead of delivering it by hand to the baggage office, which was entertaining. Once they locked the plane up and parked it for the night with him still inside, and someone had to go and find the keys.

I knew there was a designated pet area in the hold and at one point I thought that was pressurised and the rest wasn't. Partly as I say due to the IATA regs that are actually designed to keep packages secure if there's an explosive decompression, and partly because I twice had Irn Bru cans burst in my checked-in luggage. I don't know what happened to burst the cans, but I do know now that the entire plane is pressurised!
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Old 10th February 2015, 06:39 AM   #194
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Originally Posted by anglolawyer View Post
Unfortunately, she arrived at the other end with her eyes popped out and frozen to death but otherwise fine, I guess.
hahaha, not at all. I remember arriving at the cargo terminal very late at night and hearing her squealing and generally causing havoc. Once we got her signed out and into the car, she was just the perfect angel. Fell asleep in my ex-wife's lap on the drive home. I still miss that dog (she ended up as spoils in the divorce settlement).
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Old 10th February 2015, 07:00 AM   #195
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Originally Posted by Octavo View Post
hahaha, not at all. I remember arriving at the cargo terminal very late at night and hearing her squealing and generally causing havoc. Once we got her signed out and into the car, she was just the perfect angel. Fell asleep in my ex-wife's lap on the drive home. I still miss that dog (she ended up as spoils in the divorce settlement).
Aahh yes, that brings back fond memories of my happy days of family law work, deploying my expensively-acquired education and training in arguing about who should get the spoons, the cat etc.

Not.
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Old 10th February 2015, 07:01 AM   #196
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Planes have keys?
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Old 10th February 2015, 07:04 AM   #197
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Apparently so. Stands to reason, when you think about it.
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Old 10th February 2015, 07:15 AM   #198
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This is actually quite an important point. So many people never understood the way Khreesat's triggers worked, and an enormous amount of guff has been written about it as a result.

Yes the package was in the hold, but the hold is pressurised. The altimeter will not be able to detect cruising height because it will never be exposed to the atmospheric pressure outside the plane (which of course an altimeter in normal use would be). All it can do is detect the drop from sea level at the airport to the 8,000 feet height or so at which the internal pressure stabilises for the flight. And that's what these altimeters were set to do. The bombs would also go off if you drove them to a destination in the Alps that was above 8,000 feet, as Jibril archly pointed out when trying to evade accusations of being behind the bombing. If they didn't go off in a plane at that height, they would never go off, as the fuselage would pressurise and the pressure wouldn't fall any lower.

So if all you had was the altimeter, the bomb would go off at 8,000 feet or so. That's what Khreesat's early efforts did, with varying success. Some planes crashed, some made it back to the airport. One made it back after some people were sucked out of the hole in the side, which is pretty horrifying. Nothing underwent explosive decompression, because the planes weren't high enough and the pressure differential wasn't great enough.

The addition of the capacitor delay allowed the devices to evade the pressure chambers some airports had installed to screen for these things, and it let the plane get far enough away from the airport it couldn't easily turn back if it was only winged, so to speak, but most of all it let the plane climb right up to cruising altitude (31,000 feet in the case of PA103) so that an explosive decompression was likely. It was the very low external pressure that allowed the overpressure to rip the plane apart the way it did.

You know, there are days when I think about all this when I think I might never want to get on a plane again.
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Old 10th February 2015, 07:25 AM   #199
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Presumably the main alternative is just a simple timer device that assumes the plane will take off on time, more or less. You are a critic of that idea but are there precedents for the use of such devices, successful or otherwise?
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Old 10th February 2015, 08:23 AM   #200
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There's nothing wrong with that idea if you know which flight you're going to hit, and it has a fairly long flight time to give you a bit of leeway if the plane is late. In other words, if the plane's departure time from Heathrow is 6 pm GMT and it's scheduled to get in to JFK at 7.40 pm EST (1.40 am the following day, GMT), you set the timer for maybe eleven or midnight GMT, depending on how big a risk you want to take of it crashing on land in some remote uninhabited region of Canada. Even if it's delayed pretty badly, it's going to be well on its way by then.

The thing you don't do is set such a timer for only an hour after the scheduled gate departure time, which is probably going to be only about 40 minutes into the flight given the time it takes to taxi to the runway and so on. If a transatlantic flight misses its slot, it will still be on the tarmac an hour after its scheduled gate departure time.

PA103 could easily have missed its slot. The captain was worried he would miss it, first because the feeder flight was late. But they managed to make up that time on the turnover. Then a passenger with checked-in luggage was a no-show at the departure gate. Management said "sod it" and left the guy behind. Jaswant Basuta, the luckiest man in known space.
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