Lockerbie court to hear new evidence

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The Independent Online

New evidence that could undermine the case against the Libyan intelligence officer convicted of the Lockerbie bombing was admitted yesterday by the court hearing his appeal.

Five judges sitting at the special court at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands agreed that testimony from a former security guard at Heathrow would be permitted. The presiding judge, Lord Cullen, said: "In the particular circumstance of this case and in the light of the submissions by counsel, we have decided that additional evidence should be heard."

The guard, Ray Manly, is to tell how he discovered a break-in at a baggage area only hours before Pan Am flight 103 took off for New York on 21 December 1988. Mr Manly's former boss, Philip Radley, will also give evidence – most probably starting next week.

The evidence – which the defence claims was initially ignored by police – could be crucial. The defence will argue that the testimony will cast doubt on the prosecution claim that the bomb that led to the deaths of 270 people was placed on a feeder flight in Malta.

Last year Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi was convicted of planting the bomb, largely on the evidence of two men – one who claimed to have seen him with a particular suitcase at Malta's Luqa airport and another who claimed he sold Megrahi clothes that were allegedly packed around the bomb in that same suitcase. Megrahi's co-accused, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, was found not guilty and returned to Libya.

The defence claimed the Boeing 747 was blown up above the Scottish town by a rogue Palestinian group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command.

Megrahi's lawyer, Bill Taylor, read a statement from Mr Manly in which the former guard said he found a padlock had been cut to break into a baggage area. He reported the break-in to Mr Radley, the duty officer, who informed the police.

Mr Manly said he found bolt-cutters that appeared to have been used to cut the lock. He said it was possible that Pan Am baggage tags left unguarded at a security desk could have been used to label a loose item of luggage that would then have been loaded on to the 747.