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The BBC's James Shaw reports
"His account was very clinical, very scientific"
 real 28k

Thursday, 1 June, 2000, 10:42 GMT 11:42 UK
Case 'not on container floor'
Reconstructed plane
The fuselage was ripped apart by the blast
An explosives expert has told the Lockerbie trial the bomb on Pan Am Flight 103 could not have been in a suitcase on the floor of a cargo container.

Dr Ian Cullis gave evidence at Camp Zeist in The Netherlands, where two Libyans are accused of bombing the New York-bound Boeing 747.

Correspondents say his testimony has bolstered the prosecution case that the airliner was blown up by a powerful plastic explosive hidden in a suitcase.

Defence lawyers had raised questions about the exact location of the bomb.

Baggage container
The baggage container was examined in court
Dr Cullis, 47, who has worked for the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (Dera) since 1978, told the court he was also part of a team carrying out work for the Civil Aviation Authority.

He said the CAA project included experiments into the effects of explosives on baggage and baggage containers within aircraft.

The witness, who is employed in Dera's warhead and terminal effects department, was questioned by prosecuting counsel Alan Turnbull QC, about the effects of an explosion on metal.

Dr Cullis said carbon deposits which looked like a very fine soot were one of the most obvious signs.

"There are a number of effects you can get. A metal can be shattered into small pieces if it has a certain structural integrity," he said.

"It can be pitted by very fine impact craters. It can shear. It can fracture."

Dr Cullis said the pitting, which could look like a roughening of the surface, was caused by small particles from the explosion travelling at speeds of up to 2,500 metres a second.

The trial
Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, 48, and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, 44, plead not guilty
They are charged with murdering 270 people
They face alternative charges of conspiracy to murder and a breach of the 1982 Aviation Security Act
They have lodged special defences of incrimination blaming, among others, members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command
About 1,000 witnesses are expected to give evidence
The trial could last for a year
The prosecution witness, who said the presence of pitting could be used to determine the location of an explosive device, was instructed to examine the base of the reassembled baggage hold, which standing within the well of the court.

He said: "I would associate the presence of pitting and the downward depression .... as indicative there was a bag of some sort of structure between the device and the floor.

"The device was not in a suitcase that was immediately on the floor of this container.

"Look at this region immediately in the corner nearest to me," said Dr Cullis pointing to the structure.

"There is an indent. That looks like the imprint of a suitcase that has been impulsively driven into the base of the container."

The trial continues.

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See also:

25 May 00 | World
Lockerbie bomb report 'error'
24 May 00 | World
Paper defends Lockerbie story
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