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BBC Scotland's Reevel Alderson
"Some of the families of the dead expressed gratitude for the actions of the Lockerbie residents"
 real 28k

The BBC's Joshua Rozenberg in Camp Zeist
"Items were removed from the wreckage before they could be logged by the police"
 real 28k

Monday, 8 May, 2000, 18:34 GMT 19:34 UK
Huge challenge in wake of bomb
Collecting evidence proved a massive task for police
A senior policeman has revealed details of the meticulous operation to collect evidence from the scene of the Lockerbie disaster during the trial of two men accused of the bombing.

He told judges at the specially convened Scottish Court in the Netherlands of his concern that crucial evidence could have been removed from the crash site.

Relatives of the 270 people who died when Pan Am flight 103 exploded over the Scottish town of Lockerbie on 21 December, 1988, have also heard how a circuit board was found in the debris.

My philosophy was that everything should be recorded meticulously."

Douglas Roxburgh

Two Libyans, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, 48, and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, 44, have pleaded not guilty to murder, conspiracy to murder and a breach of the 1982 Aviation Security Act.

The retired deputy chief constable of Dumfries and Galloway, Douglas Roxburgh, 63, said tight security measures were put in place to recover evidence.

However, he told the trial in Camp Zeist, now entering its second week, that he had voiced concern over some pieces of evidence being removed from Lockerbie.

Fire and police
It was a massive operation for fire and police
Lorryloads of debris were brought for storage to premises police had taken over from a company named Dexstar in Lockerbie.

Any aircraft wreckage taken there was transferred to a Ministry of Defence base in Longtown, Cumbria, where the Air Accident Investigation Branch was attempting to reconstruct the stricken Boeing 747 in hangars.

Meanwhile, a dedicated team of police officers at Dexstar sifted through suitcases and bags, labelling items and deciding what was needed for the police inquiry and what could be returned home to the relatives of the victims.

The court also heard that a circuit board was discovered about 18 miles away from Lockerbie.

Mr Roxburgh said he set up the storage centre at Dexstar. It was guarded 24 hours a day and split into sectors which corresponded to the sectors of Lockerbie and the surrounding areas being searched by teams of officers.

'Detection of explosives'

Any suitcases brought in would be examined by sniffer dogs for explosives as police feared there could be secondary devices.

He told the court: "It would be put through an x-ray machine like at an airport for the detection of explosives.

"It would then be booked in and given priority examination in case it was going to be required for further forensic examination."

If there were any explosive marks, for example, the item would be logged and taken to a special area where AAIB staff or explosive experts could examine it, he said.

Tens of thousands of items of debris were found and gradually personal effects could be returned to bereaved families.

Police at Zeist
Trial now entering its second week

Mr Roxburgh said: "We started off by ensuring that items were not required in the legal process and we started releasing stuff back to the relatives sometimes via consulates but it was mainly personal possessions like rings, jewellery and wallets."

He told how a laundry was set up at Dexstar to clean clothing before it was returned to the victims' families.

Under cross-examination from defence counsel Richard Keen QC, Mr Roxburgh admitted he had raised concerns with the Dumfries and Galloway chief constable about an agency removing items from the area without them being logged at Dexstar first.

Bereaved families

He said he thought the AAIB or military explosives experts from Fort Halstead in Kent had removed a piece of aircraft wreckage during the early days after the explosion.

He was concerned about that and added: "My philosophy at Dexstar was that everything should be recorded meticulously."

Residents of Lockerbie volunteered to clean items of clothing before they were sent back to bereaved families.

The trial continues.

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05 May 00 | World
Aircraft bomb 'links' explored
04 May 00 | Middle East
The Palestinian connection
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