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Leslie Anderson reports
"Video footage showed the effects of a bomb on the plane's fuselage"
 real 28k

Thursday, 1 June, 2000, 16:31 GMT 17:31 UK
Trial expert accused of changing opinion
A bomb blows a hole in the fuselage of a jumbo jet
Experts ran a full-scale reconstruction of the blast
A key prosecution witness at the Lockerbie bombing trial has been accused of changing his opinion of the facts to suit his theory of how Pan Am flight 103 was destroyed.

Professor Christopher Peel had earlier told the Scottish court in the Netherlands he calculated the bomb was 60cm (24 inches) inside the fuselage in a baggage container and weighed about 500 grams (one pound).

However, defence advocate Richard Keen referred to an earlier report by Professor Peel which used a different model to establish the location and size of the device.

Mr Keen put it to him that he had changed his opinion of the facts to fit his new theory.

Professor Peel replied he had not done so consciously.

Baggage container
A baggage container had to be rebuilt in court
Professor Christopher Peel was giving evidence in the trial of two Libyans who are accused of bombing the New York-bound Boeing 747.

Professor Peel, a chief scientist with the Defence Research and Evaluation Agency (Dera), explained that a reconstruction of the part of the plane where the bomb exploded was used to try to locate the source of the blast.

He said he applied a series of algebraic calculations to data describing the damage to the skin of the aircraft to work out the location and weight of the bomb.

He said only a unique combination of charge size and distance from the fuselage could have caused the damage he observed.

He added his conclusions were confirmed by a computer simulation.

On Wednesday, the court heard evidence relating to the cargo container believed to have held the suitcase containing the bomb.

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
Dera official Dr Ian Cullis told the court the bomb could not have been in a case on the floor of a cargo container.

Dr Cullis gave evidence on experiments into the effects of explosives on baggage and baggage containers within aircraft.

He said that 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 (about 1.5 miles a second).

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
31 May 00 | World
Case 'not on container floor'
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