Lockerbie documentary demolishes Maltese key witness’s testimony

Key witness Tony Gauci and his brother Paul reportedly paid some USD3 million to keep up their testimony that Abdelbaset al-Megrahi had purchased clothes from Mary’s House shop.

Key witness Tony Gauci: his testimony is at the heart of what the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission said was a 'miscarriage of justice' for Libyan Abdelbast al-Megrahi.
Key witness Tony Gauci: his testimony is at the heart of what the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission said was a 'miscarriage of justice' for Libyan Abdelbast al-Megrahi.

A documentary screened on BBC Scotland and Al Jazeera has seriously questioned the veracity of the testimony of Maltese shopkeeper Tony Gauci, the key witness who identified the Libyan man accused of the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing over the Scottish town of Lockerbie on 21 December, 1988.

Filmed in Malta and Scotland, the documentary coincided with the publication of John Ashton's Megrahi: You Are My Jury, published on Monday, which has alleged that the Crown Office, the Scottish police and UK defence ministry scientists failed to disclose numerous pieces of evidence that damaged their case against Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, 59.

The documentary delivered a devastating judgment of the testimony of Tony Gauci, the key witness who secured Megrahi's conviction by identifying him as the man who bought the clothes from his shop Mary's House. The fragments of the clothes were later found wrapped around the bomb fragments among the debris of the aircraft, and traced back to Malta.

Gauci's initial description and the resulting police drawing of the man who came to buy the clothes was found to be nothing like the pale-skinned Megrahi: Gauci's man was six-foot tall, had a big chest and large head, and his hair was very black.

But glaring discrepancies exist in the dates Gauci gave of the alleged visit of Megrahi. He first told police investigators the purchaser came on the 29 November because the Christmas lights had not yet been switched on in Tower Road, Sliema.

Then he claimed Megrahi came to the shop on 7 December, pointing out that as he left he opened a black umbrella he had just purchased - and later found among the Lockerbie debris - because it started to rain.

But the documentary consulted former chief meteorologist Major Joseph Mifsud, who said there was no rain on 7 December, 1988 between 5pm and 7pm - disputing Gauci's claim that Megrahi left as it started to rain.

And former Nationalist minister for tourism Michael Refalo turned out to be a surprising witness: he switched on the Christmas lights on 6 December, 1988 at 6pm, a fact proven by his own diary entry for the day. And this fact alone puts into serious doubt Gauci's claim that Megrahi must have purchased the clothes on 7 December.

Megrahi's conviction for the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing went for a second appeal after the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission found key aspects of Gauci's testimony seriously undermined the prosecution's request. Before the retrial, now suffering from cancer, Megrahi was released on compassionate grounds in August 2009 by the Scottish justice minister, and flown back to Libya.

Gauci was found to have met Scottish detectives as many as 50 times while the prosecution's case was being prepared, making 23 formal statements. He repeatedly changed his account, including identifying people who looked like known Middle Eastern terrorists.

The SSCRC said that by the time Gauci picked out Megrahi in an identification parade in 1999, a decade after the bombing, he had already seen Megrahi's face in an edition of Focus Magazine, and felt this may have been a miscarriage of justice.

The documentary also insisted that Gauci and his brother Paul may have been paid up to USD3 million by the US Department of Justice to uphold their version of events and the identification of Megrahi. No substantial evidence was presented in the documentary of this claim.

Megrahi forgives Gauci

The documentary featured Megrahi, visibly approaching the end of his life, "forgiving" Tony Gauci.

"Forgiving him, I am facing my God very soon," Megrahi says. "I swear I have never been in his shop or buy any clothing from his shop. I swear with my God, which is my God and his God as well, I swear I have never been in his shop or buy any clothing from his shop.

"He has to believe this, because when we meet together before the God, I want him to know that before I die. This is the truth."

Asked by his interviewer what he would say to Tony Gauci if he were in the room, he says: "I'd say he dealt with me very wrongly. I have never seen him in my life before he came to the court. But I do forgive him."

Bomb timer evidence

Documents given to Megrahi's defence lawyers a month before he dropped his appeal show that government scientists had found significant differences between a bomb timer fragment allegedly found after the attack and the type supplied to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's former regime.

The evidence, published by Megrahi defence lawyer John Ashton, shows that scientists at the Royal Armament Research and Development Establishment, discovered there were key differences in the metal coatings used in a timer fragment allegedly used in Lockerbie and a control sample from the type supplied to the Libyans. One used a coating made wholly of tin; the control sample used a tin/lead alloy.

And evidence also shows that the timer fragment had several differences from the Swiss-built devices sold to Gaddafi's regime, including the type of circuit board it used.

Book disputes prosecution's theory

Ashton's book states that if the prosecution was right, Megrahi - a member of the Libyan secret service stationed at Luqa as an employee of the Libyan Arab Airlines - carried out the attack using his own passport, stayed in his regular hotel at the Holiday Inn in Tigné, bought the clothes in a small shop rather than a large one, used normal scheduled flights to and from Malta, planted the bomb on two feeder flights before Pan Am 103, and used a timer the Libyans believed was exclusively made for them.

Money is the root of all evil.
Sammy Cutajar
I stand to be corrected. During the case, didn't auci mention that there was a competitve football match where AC Roma where playing on that evening which I think was a Tuesday when UEFA in 1988 never had any competitve games on a Tuesday? Can anybody confirm this?