How dare Magnus Linklater (10 February) repeatedly traduce in print a book he hasn’t even had the courtesy to read! The false assumptions and downright fabrications in his latest sally make it all too clear that this is the case, despite his assurance to me two years ago that he had – even going so far as to call the unread text 'a remarkable piece of work'.
Does Mr Linklater seriously believe that I wrote a book in 2013 based entirely on premises the appeal court rejected in 2002? Of course I didn’t. Does he believe that the book merely points out (for about the ten-thousandth time) that the suitcase John Bedford saw in the baggage container an hour before the connecting flight from Frankfurt landed looks suspiciously like the bomb? There is much more to it than that. Does he imagine that I examined the Heathrow evidence in isolation from the rest of the case? The book would hardly be 220-pages long if that were so.
The break-in into Heathrow Terminal 3 the night before the disaster is irrelevant. It was freely acknowledged in court that airside security in 1988 was abysmal, and it would have been child’s play for anyone to walk in any time they liked. No midnight cutting of padlocks would have been necessary. The break-in happened, but whether it was related to the introduction of the bomb into the baggage container 17 hours later is an entirely moot point. I make this perfectly clear in the book, and I would take it very kindly if Mr Linklater would cease and desist from dragging up this irrelevancy at every turn, as if it somehow discredits my thesis.
The possibility that the bomb might have been in the case John Bedford saw was explored in the original trial, with the defence obviously keen to suggest that it was. What is remarkable is that no evidence was presented of any specific investigation into the provenance of that suitcase by the original inquiry. Apparently, it was merely assumed that it wasn’t the bomb.
The 'meat' of my book is a thorough investigation into the provenance of the case Bedford saw; the investigation which should have been done in 1989 but wasn’t. In the course of this I examine witness statements, passenger and baggage transfer records and detailed photographs of the blast-damaged luggage – evidence that was for the most part not presented either at the original trial or the appeal. The results of this analysis are clear-cut. That was indeed the bomb suitcase, beyond any reasonable doubt. Once again I challenge Mr Linklater, and indeed anyone who has read the book, to explain why they don’t accept this analysis – based on evidence and logic, not dismissive sneers.
Mr Linklater implies that I am ignoring separate evidence of 'an unaccompanied bag coming from Malta that morning'. If he were to read my book he would discover that I pick apart the evidence for the existence of this bag in exhaustive detail, and come down firmly on the side of the German policeman who was originally assigned this task and whose report concludes: 'Throughout the inquiries into the baggage for PA103A there was no evidence that the bomb suitcase had been transferred with the luggage either from or via Frankfurt Main to London'.
Indeed, some clothing packed with the bomb was purchased on Malta, but as that purchase took place several weeks before the disaster it in no way precludes the bomb itself having been introduced at Heathrow. Again I deal with this point in great detail in the book, and in particular with the contention that Megrahi was the man who made that purchase. Clearly he was not, and the SCCRC report of 2007 underlined that pretty effectively.
Far from picking at one small point and ignoring the bigger picture, putting this point in context is exactly what the book is about. Not simply the compelling evidence that the bomb was already in the baggage container an hour before the flight from Frankfurt landed, but the extremely tight and well-documented security at Malta airport that shows no sign whatsoever of an illegitimate item of luggage on Air Malta flight 180. In this context I would refer Mr Linklater to the words of Lord Osborne at the first appeal in 2002. 'There is considerable and quite convincing evidence that that could not have happened.'
Mr Linklater, as always, sets great store by what the various judges concluded. In the context of a reasoned argument showing that these conclusions were wrong, this is an unhelpful begging of the question. The evidence I have analysed was not presented in court. Mine is an entirely new and more detailed dissection of the forensics than anything previously attempted.
I ask once again, although with fading hopes, that Mr Linklater go away and read my book, and then explain exactly where he takes issue with my reasoning or my conclusions. Or else refrain from commenting on something he clearly knows nothing about.
The long arm of coincidence strikes again. My Trimedia partner Dave McClure – from Ayr originally but now based in Doha – was in Dubai for the weekend, and prompted by Kenneth Roy's latest lead story (27 January) I asked him if he remembered my namesake Donald MacDonald from his long-ago days at the BBC in Glasgow.
Dave not only remembered but launched into exactly the same story that Kenneth recounted. Dave was then a young sound technician and was doing the surreptitious recording that is is central to the yarn. Not only that, he remembers Waddell's repeated response at the time: 'Are ye recordin' this tae me?'
Not 'frae me' that might make a wee bit more sense. That led to a prank later when Kenneth and Donald were doing the interview post-mortem in the green room. Another sound technician with a gift for mimicry called on the internal phone and asked: 'Are ye recordin' this tae me?'.
My own experience of Waddell was no more enjoyable. I was then a young reporter on the Daily Express where Waddell had become sports editor. I earned some more beer money by covering football matches for the Sunday Express and ended up next to Waddell in the 'press-box' at an Ayr United-Rangers game. I put press-box in quotes as it was just the back row of benches in the Somerset Park stand, with the wind sending icicles through the holes in the corrugated iron sheets that passed for a wall.
Not knowing any better then, I was a Rangers fans and greatly impressed to meet one of the club's former stars – and a now a Daily Express colleague. His response on introducing myself was hardly encouraging. A glower worthy of something the cat had brought in – or up – and a return to shuffling through his notebook. An older and more knowing hack from the Record – our opposition – elbowed and whispered something unrepeatable along the lines of 'ignore him, don't let him bother you' with further elaboration on Waddell's anatomical deficiences, parenthood, and generally objectionable disposition.
See also Bill Heaney's article in this edition
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