Key Lockerbie trial witness Tony Gauci dies

Shopkeeper Tony Gauci  PICTURE: PA
Shopkeeper Tony Gauci PICTURE: PA
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A Maltese shopkeeper whose evidence was crucial to the conviction of Abdelbaset-Al-Megrahi over the Lockerbie bombings, has died.

Tony Gauci, 75, is believed to have died of natural causes in Malta on Saturday.

Gauci, who owned a clothes shop said he had sold Megrahi clothing said to be wrapped round the bomb, inside a suitcase, which destroyed Pan Am Flight 103 as it flew over Scotland in on 21 December 1988.

The explosion killed 259 passengers and crew members and 11 people in Lockerbie.

Megrahi was convicted on 270 counts of murder in 2001 following his trial at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands, before being flown to Scotland to serve his sentence.

Megrahi maintained he was innocent and doubts were raised about Gauci’s evidence at the trial and about his reliability in the intervening years.

In 2002 the Libyan lost an appeal against his conviction, but in 2007 the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission referred the case back to the appeal court ruling that there were six grounds for a second appeal, raising doubts about the original conviction.

The Commission questioned evidence about the date the clothes were said to have been bought from Gauci’s shop.

It also said evidence casting doubt on Gauci’s identification of Megrahi had not been made available to the defence, in particular that four days before he identified Megrahi, Mr Gauci had seen a photograph of him in a magazine article about the bombing.

There were also questions about whether Gauci had received a financial reward from the Americans for his participation in the trial.

A retired senior police officer involved in the case described Gauci as a “man of great honesty and integrity.”

Megrahi, who remains the only person convicted of the bombing, dropped his second appeal in 2009 after being diagnosed with terminal cancer and given six months to live. The Scottish Government released him on compassionate grounds and returned to Libya where he died in May 2012.

In 2014, Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC reaffirmed his belief Megrahi was guilty, saying no Crown Office investigator or prosecutor had ever raised concerns about the evidence used to convict him.

In May Mr Mulholland said, in an interview marking his departure from the post, that he believed there was a “realistic possibility” of a second trial, after Scottish and American investigators announced in 2015 they had identified two Libyans as suspects.