Analysis: Was Megrahi guilty of the atrocity?

Information has been proactively published on topics like the Lockerbie case. Picture: AP
Information has been proactively published on topics like the Lockerbie case. Picture: AP
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NOW that one of the main witnesses to the Lockerbie bombing has gone, we may never discover the full truth of quite who and how many were involved in the biggest terrorist incident ever to hit Scotland.

Indeed, we might never have known about the Libyan connection, had the explosive device hidden in the hold of the doomed Pan Am jumbo jet detonated over the sea, as was almost certainly planned.

Instead, every item of wreckage, suitcases and clothing which rained down on a small Dumfriesshire town became a rich source of forensic evidence, some of which was later used at the court established in the Netherlands to try the two co accused under Scottish law.

Part of my remit involved me inspecting the prison at Kamp van Zeist, where the two Libyans were held, and I spoke with them at some length, though we never discussed their alleged offence. I also took the opportunity to attend the trial in the Netherlands and was impressed by the detail a small Scottish constabulary had managed to assemble, particularly evidence concerning a tiny circuitboard found near the crash site and supplied by a Swiss arms dealer.

This had particular resonance for me, a former Special Forces member and intelligence officer, well versed in the theory of timers and barometric devices.

There is no question in my sceptical mind that this and the particular circumstantial evidence accompanying it pointed very firmly at Libya and nowhere else.

Similarly, I have no doubt that Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi was the equivalent of station intelligence officer in Malta at the time the bomb was loaded on board and was closely involved in the latter stages of what was probably a very large conspiracy involving several countries and terrorist groupings.

I have doubts, however, about his identification by the Maltese shopkeeper in connection with the clothing purchased locally and later found amongst the wreckage in Scotland.

There is a possibility that this was in fact bought by someone else – possibly from a Palestinian group.

Personally, I would doubt if a sophisticated operator like Megrahi would have exposed himself in quite such an obvious way, well-trained operator that he was.

To that extent – but that alone – he may have been the victim of some twisted miscarriage of justice.

I am equally certain it was not just him who conceived the entire fiendish plot.

But only an international inquiry can truly establish that, or the countless “whodunnit” theories may continue to persist.

My strongest recollections of a mass murderer are of a gentle, cultivated individual who, when inspected, asked nothing for himself and whose one and only concern was for his family.

To that extent, he was no different to the anguished relatives involved in a deed that will live on in infamy.

• Clive Fairweather is former Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland.