Lockerbie: Heathrow break-in revealed

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New evidence relating to the bombing of the Lockerbie jumbo jet was revealed today.

A former security guard at Heathrow airport says he discovered a break-in at a Pan Am baggage facility early on the day that 270 people died in the bombing of the New York-bound flight.

Ray Manly, 63, was quoted in The Mirror as saying he was surprised that the incident was not mentioned during the trial of two Libyans for the bombing.

The Scottish Office, the government executive office in Scotland, would not comment on the report because an appeal is pending.

Manly said that anti-terrorist police questioned him after the bombing, but the report was not mentioned in the trial that led to the 31 January conviction of Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, a Libyan intelligence agent. A co-defendant, Lamen Khalifa Fhimah, was acquitted.

Prosecutors alleged that the bomb had been hidden in a suitcase and put aboard an aircraft in Malta. It was then alleged route through Frankfurt to London and the Pan Am flight.

Manly's statement suggested the possibility that the bomb was sneaked into a luggage area in London.

In sworn affidavits, he said he had found a padlock had been cut from a door that led to Pan Am's baggage about 18 hours before Flight 103 took off, The Mirror said.

"I believe it would have been possible for an unauthorized person to obtain tags for a particular Pan Am flight then, having broken the ... lock, to have introduced a tagged bag into the baggage buildup area," Manly was quoted as saying.

The Mirror reported that Al-Megrahi's lawyers may use the new information in an appeal scheduled to begin on 15 October at Camp Zeist, a former US air base in the Netherlands where the initial trial was held.

If the appeal is rejected, al-Megrahi, 48, will serve his life sentence in a Scottish prison. Judges recommended a minimum term of 20 years.

During the proceedings, defense attorneys suggested a bomb could have been introduced into the inter-airport luggage system, either in Frankfurt or London. The defense also tried to throw suspicion onto two Palestinian groups.

The New York-bound Pan Am flight was over Lockerbie, Scotland, on 21 December in 1988 when it exploded, sending 259 passengers and crew to their deaths. Eleven people were killed on the ground.