[Diary of a Vengeance Foretold]
OCTOBER 29 1988
And yet he [Dr Thomas Hayes] seemed reluctant to tell the court why or when he’d retired to start a new career as a chiropodist. When did he start work at Fort Halstead? In July 1974. And when did he leave? “The exact date of my leaving is a little circumspect, but I believe it was in 1990.” He actually retired in 1989, a year that for him may have been circumspect, but was, in relation to our trial, most significant.
Dr Jim Swire and Peter Biddulph — Extract from their forthcoming book: “The people who moved the world”
Two UK forensic experts have helped the prosecutors to build the case against Megrahi. Dr Thomas Hayes and Allen Feraday  worked at the DERA Forensic laboratory at Fort Halstead in Kent.
Dr Hayes was employed at the Royal Armament Research Development Establishment (RARDE). In 1995, RARDE was subsumed into the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA). In 2001, part of DERA became the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL).
Dr Hayes testified that he collected the tiny fragment of the circuit board linking the bombing to Lybia on May 12, 1989. He testified that the fragment was green. His colleague, Allen Feraday, confirmed his story.
The record of its discovery is inserted on a loose-leaf page with the subsequent pages re-numbered by hand. What is more, the index number he gave to the piece is higher than some entry he made three months later.
The discovery of the MST-13 timer fragment
In the months following the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, someone discovered a piece of a grey Slalom-brand shirt in a wooded area located about 25 miles away from the town. According to a forensic expert, the cloth contained a tiny fragment – 4 mm square – of a circuit board. The testimony of three expert witnesses allowed the prosecutors to link this circuit board, described as part of the bomb trigger, to Megrahi.
There have been different accounts concerning the discovery of the timer fragment. A police source close to the investigation reported that it had been discovered by lovers. Some have said that it was picked up by a man walking his dog. Others have claimed that it was found by a policeman “combing the ground on his hands and knees.”
At the trial, the third explanation became official.
“On 13 January 1989, DC Gilchrist and DC McColm were engaged together in line searches in an area near Newcastleton. A piece of charred material was found by them which was given the police number PI/995 and which subsequently became label 168.”
The alteration of the label
The officer had initially labelled the bag ‘cloth (charred)’ but had later overwritten the word ‘cloth’ with ‘debris’.
The bag contained pieces of a shirt collar and fragments of materials said to have been extracted from it, including the tiny piece of circuit board identified as coming from an MST-13 timer made by the Swiss firm MEBO.
“The original inscription on the label, which we are satisfied, was written by DC Gilchrist, was “Cloth (charred)”. The word ‘cloth’ has been overwritten by the word ‘debris’. There was no satisfactory explanation as to why this was done,” the judges wrote in their opinion.
The judges added that Gilchrist’s evidence had been “at worst evasive and at best confusing”.
Yet the judges went on to admit the evidence.
“We are, however, satisfied that this item was indeed found in the area described, and DC McColm who corroborated DC Gilchrist on the finding of the item was not cross-examined about the detail of the finding of this item.”
It has long been rumoured that a senior former Scottish officer, who has worked at the highest level of the Lockerbie inquiry, has signed a statement in which he claims that evidence has been planted. UK media have confirmed the story. The identity of the officer remains secret and he is only known as “Golfer”.
“Golfer” has told Megrahi’s legal team that Gilchrist had told him that he had not been responsible for changing the label.
The new page 51
According to documents obtained by the Scotland on Sunday, the entry of the discovery of the timer fragment is recorded at widely different times by UK and German investigators.
The record of the discovery is inserted on a loose-leaf page with the five subsequent pages re-numbered by hand. Dr Hayes could not provide a reasonable explanation for this rather strange entry, and yet the Judges concluded that:
“Pagination was of no materiality, because each item that was examined had the date of examination incorporated into the notes.”
The argument of the Court is illogical as the index number Dr Hayes gave to the piece is higher than some entry he made three months later.
And there is more. In September 1989, Feraday sent a Polaroid photograph of the piece and wrote in the attached memorandum that it was “the best he could do in such short time.” So, are we supposed to believe that it takes forensic experts several months to take a Polaroid picture?
Dr Hayes could not explain this. He merely suggested that the person to ask about it would be the author of the memorandum, Mr Feraday. This however was not done.
A Not So Distinguished Career
Based on the forensic Dr Hayes had supplied, an entire family [The Maguire seven] was sent to jail in 1976. They were acquitted in 1992. Sir john May was appointed to review Dr. Hayes forensic evidence.
“The whole scientific basis on which the prosecution in [the trial of the alleged IRA Maguire Seven] was founded was in truth so vitiated that on this basis alone, the Court of Appeal should be invited to set aside the conviction,” concluded Sir john May.
The Maguire Seven shared a house. On Dec. 3 1973, their house was raided by police. Two of the so called Guildford Four had alledged that explosives were kept at that house.
Scientific tests did not reveal any explosives residue in the house. However swabs were taken from their hands as well as the rubber gloves belonging to Mrs Maguire to test for explosives residue.
The RARDE scientists conducted thin layer chromatography tests and reported positive results for nitroglycerine for all male appellants but one, and positive results for Mrs Maguire’s rubber gloves.
The issues in the appeal were: (a) was the substance nitroglycerine? And (b) if it was, could there be an innocent explanation as for example a contamination from an indirect source?
The judgment of the Court of Appeal included findings that:
1. Rarde scientists failed to disclose a explosive residue test conducted on 10.12.74;
2. Rarde scientists failed to disclose a negative “nail scrape” test conducted by a laboratory assistant on 11.2.76.
3. A Rarde scientist lied when he told the Crown Prosecutor (who passed the information on to the defence) that the scientists could distinguish between test results for nitroglycerine (the substance charged in the indictment) and another form of explosives known as PETN.
4. There had been mishandling by the judge of evidence found by the defence team late in the trial that the RARDE test was not exclusive for nitroglycerine;
5. It was revealed that tests conducted in 1977 (the same year as the Maguire Seven’s first, unsuccessful, appeal to the Court of Appeal) by Rarde scientists, and published in 1982 showed that it was not necessary to “knead” explosives (as had been said in the trial) to get traces of nitroglycerine under the fingernails.
6. Finally, it was established from fresh evidence brought out in the May inquiry that nitroglycerine traces could be innocently acquired by persons using a hand towel after one person with nitroglycerine on their hands had wiped their hands on the towel. The possibility of innocent contamination could not be excluded.
All served their full sentence, from 4 to 14 years, before being declared innocent in 1990.
At the young age of 43, Hayes resigned just a few months after the discovery of the timer fragment to begin a new life as a chiropodist. There can be little doubt as to why he decided to embark into such new career as defence QC Richard Keen suggested at the Lockerbie trial.
“KEEN. Dr Hayes, you told us in your earlier evidence that you were head of the Forensics explosives laboratory at RARDE until 1989? And your change of career from forensic scientist to chiropodist would appear to coincide in point of time with the decision of the Home Secretary to appoint Sir John May to inquire into the trial of those known as the Maguire Seven. Is that true?
HAYES. I believe so. I don’t recall clearly.”
“I am convinced to this day that Hayes really did recall the date and reason. He simply did not dare say it in front of the judges. For in May 1989, even as he examined the fragment which appeared in the evidence bag with a label signed by Detective Constable Gilchrist and altered by unknown persons, a campaign was running in Parliament to have him and his colleagues investigated for their roles in both IRA trials. The Parliamentary findings were published in 1992 and 1996, long after the November 1991 indictments of the Libyan suspects Al-Megrahi and Fhimah,” wrote Dr Swire in his forthcoming book.
In the Megrahi’s case, Dr Hayes did not even perform the basic test which would have established the presence of explosive residue on the sample. During the trial, he maintained that the fragment was too small while it is factually established that his laboratory has performed such test on smaller samples.
Had he performed such test, no residue would have been found. As noted by MEBO engineer U. Lumpert, the fragment shown at the Zeist trial belongs to a timer that was never connected to a relay. In other words, that timer never triggered a bomb.
Incidentally, Lumpert told me earlier this year that he gave a board of the MST-13 timer to a Swiss officer who was doing a favour to a friendly intelligence agency. The Swiss officer, whose identity I know, does not deny the allegation but claims, and I believe him, that he was not aware that the request was in anyway related to the Lockerbie investigation.
Lumpert gave away the board on June 22 1989. Assuming that it took a few weeks to fabricate the evidence, erase partially the label MeBo and send it back to Rarde, it would explain the numbering of it by Hayes corresponding to an item discovered in August. It would also explain why Feraday had so little time to make a Polaroid picture.
NOTES AND REFERENCES