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BBC Scotland's Reeval Alderson reports
"Police carried out a painstaking task"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 9 May, 2000, 15:32 GMT 16:32 UK
Trial told of case fragments
Fuselage
The main section of the fuselage was reconstructed
Tiny fragments of the suitcase suspected by police to have contained the bomb which destroyed Pan Am 103 were still being found months after the aircraft was blown up.

The fifth day of the Lockerbie trial in the Netherlands has heard that thousands of items were sifted through for signs of blast damage.

In the spring and summer of 1989, officers returned to specific search areas and turned up more evidence.


Trial details
The two accused are Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, 48, and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, 44
They deny three charges - murder, conspiracy to murder and a breach of the 1982 Aviation Security Act
The trial is expected to last a year
About 1,000 witnesses are expected to be called
The case is being heard by three Scottish judges
Giving evidence, Detective Constable Duncan McInnes described how vast amounts of aircraft parts were taken to an aircraft hanger in Cumbria by lorry and helicopter.

Teams of officers sorted and examined 40,000 pieces for signs of unusual damage. They were labelled and stored according to the search sector in which they were found.

DC McInnes identified items he had discovered from his work inside the hanger in March 1989.

They included blast-damaged fragments of a brown suitcase and burnt pieces of material about an inch square.

He then identified other items he found when further outdoor searches were conducted in Newcastleton forest in the April and May of that year.

They included more tiny pieces of a brown suitcase, possibly Samsonite.

He had labelled one find as "rubber trim, copper-coloured, possibly from the bomb case".

Signatures on tags

DC McInnes was among a number of police officers who took the stand on Tuesday and confirmed the identification of debris they recovered after Pan Am Flight 103 was destroyed over Scotland in December 1988, killing 270 people.

Alastair Campbell, for the prosecution, asked each officer to examine a particular item and confirm signatures on the tags attached when the item was found.

Cross-examined, DC McInnes acknowledged that the sheer volume of wreckage, plus erratic police labelling, meant expert guesswork was sometimes used to locate evidence and date its discovery retroactively.


Drawing of DC McInnes
DC McInnes gives evidence
He told defence counsel Bill Taylor that in the weeks following the disaster, trucks filled with wreckage arrived at a warehouse where an initial reconstruction of the plane was made.

Not every individual piece was labelled by waves of police conducting fingertip "line searches" over vast stretches of open country, forest and farmland, and some paper labels were washed out or dissolved by rain.

The detective agreed that it was now "utterly impossible" to reconstruct where, when and by whom individual pieces were found and admitted a description of another piece was written over type-correcting fluid covering words no longer legible.

Abu Nidal statement

Another officer, Thomas Gilchrist, admitted under cross-examination by defence advocate Richard Keen, that a description on one label which was shown magnified on a courtroom imager might possibly have been changed from "clothes" to "debris".

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Abu Nidal group said in Beirut that it was ready to provide a witness and evidence showing that Libya was behind the bombing.

In a statement, the former ally of Libya said Tripoli was accusing Palestinian groups to escape responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing.

"The group will present one of its members to be a witness with precise evidence," said the statement faxed to Reuters in Beirut on Tuesday.

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See also:

08 May 00 | World
Huge challenge in wake of bomb
04 May 00 | Middle East
The Palestinian connection
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