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Loose ends in the PanAm bomb inquiry

Tam Dalyell, disturbed by apparent official reluctance to pursue lines of inquiry continues to press for vigorous action

ROBERT Black, professor of Scots Law in the University of Edinburgh tells us that there is an absolute obligation under Scots Law for the prosecuting authority in the form of the Crown Office to pursue any lead that would exculpate or tend to exculpate those who are charged of a major crime. In the case of the Libyan Two there are fears that this has not occurred.

The Dumfries and Galloway Police and the Crown Office appear reluctant to follow up leads which serious people believe solid enough to warrant further investigation.

Let us begin with the case of Lester Coleman. He may not be the most important witness to be interviewed but I start with Coleman simply because he is the subject of current controversy.

In September 1993 he and Don Goddard published a book called The Trail of the Octopus. In that book a number of very explicit allegations were made about the connection between a drugs-run from Lebanon through Cyprus where Coleman was based and the Rhine Main Airport at Frankfurt.

Coleman's critics accuse him of getting out of the United States to avoid charges of procuring a passport under false pretences. I believe that the passport charges were trumped up. However what Tam Dalyell believes or does not believe in this particular context is not of great importance. The important point is that the Scottish police should have the opportunity to form their own judgment of Coleman as a witness.

The FBI has said that Coleman asked for a copy of a birth certificate of a dead person -- Thomas Leavy -- with which to forge a false passport. When friends of mine approached the relevant authority in New London, Connecticut, they found that the American officials insisted that no person of that name was born at the time claimed by the FBI. The entire case seemed to be trumped up.

Coleman from his various hideouts in Europe has phoned me on many occasions. I can only form a judgment that he has been a medium-level agent telling the truth. I would like the Dumfries and Galloway Police to have the same opportunity of quizzing Coleman but face to face.

Coleman's collaborator was Don Goddard. I know him well. He was for 10 years an associate editor of the New York Times. Goddard is by no figment of the imagination anti-American. As Coleman's co-author he put his reputation on the line. The Dumfries and Galloway Police have not been prepared to talk to him properly in three years.

Again, why haven't they talked properly to the Swiss businessman Edwin Bollier and his engineer Ulrich Lumpart? The British authorities have declined even to show the crucial timing device to those who were responsible for manufacturing that device.

My own suspicion shared by serious people is that the timing device which the British say that they have was not the timing device that was involved in that bringing down of the PanAm Clipper Maid of the Seas but was substituted at a later stage. If Ministers are as sceptical of Bollier as they told me that they are, how come that they relied on his evidence when it suited them to do so?

Again the whole case involving the Malta connection depends on the evidence of the shopkeeper at Mary's Shop in Valetta who sold the garments which purported to suggest that the bomb was loaded in Malta. His name was Toni Gauchi. He was interviewed by the Scottish police at an early stage and has given 18 different accounts of what happened including identification of a man whose description was 20 years different from that of either of the accused Libyans.

Moreover the reluctance to talk sensibly to the Libyans has been total. In 33 years as a member of the House of Commons I have never been so angry as coming out of a meeting with then Lord Advocate Peter Fraser when I tried to suggest that Scottish lawyers representing the Crown Office should at least talk to the Libyans.

Dialogue would have seemed sensible with Arabs who understandably thought that in the light of the Guildford Four or the Birmingham Six, the Libyan Two would stand little chance.

I and many others have tried to persuade the Libyans that the Scottish legal system would in our opinion be fair to them. However one can understand their perceptions of a country with whom they have no extradition treaty.

No effort has been made by the Scottish police to talk seriously to the film maker Allan Francovich and his colleague John Ashton. Any reader of The Herald who saw The Maltese Double Cross screened on Channel 4 must surely conclude that at the very least it needed an answer.

Any investigating authority anxious to get to the truth of who were the perpetrators of the greatest crimes against Western civilians since 1945 would surely have asked Francovich and Ashton to sit down with them. That has not happened.

Nor do I think that there has been any attempt to talk properly to the Rt Hon Paul Channon.

Channon has been my parliamentary colleague for a third of a century and I have known him well since he was Rab Butler's Parliamentary Private Secretary. He is not a fool. He is not a liar. He is not a maker-up of stories. When he was Secretary of State for Transport in March 1989 he told a group of journalists at the Garrick Club that the perpetrators of the Lockerbie crime would be identified within a week.

The journalists who reported what Channon had said were very experienced professionals who certainly on such a topic would have no misunderstandings whatsoever. Why haven't the police asked Channon on what he based his statement as Secretary of State?

Above all why have not the police put some very direct questions to Lady Thatcher? Is it not extraordinary that in 800-pages she mentioned Lockerbie not once? What she did say was that the much vaunted ''Libyan terrorist attack'' was never to take place, when she was defending her indefensible permission to the Americans to launch a raid on Tripoli and Bengazi from British soil.

The fact of the matter is that Reagan and Bush through Sir Charles Poe asked Mrs Thatcher to play Lockerbie low-key. The police have a duty to ask her why she complied with this extraordinary request.

I am conscious that people say to me -- why nag on about something that happened over six and a half years ago? Of course there is a duty to the relatives.

But the consequences of Lockerbie drag on. Sanctions are being imposed against Libya. There is hurt to a people who have been Britain's traditional friends, most of whose leaders were educated at British universities. There is the damage to British industries which have lost their traditional markets (ask the management of Babcocks about the consequences of the loss of traditional Libyan orders) but above all there is the ongoing consequences throughout Africa which prompted Nelson Mandela to write to the British Prime Minister about our attitude to Libya.

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