Page last updated at 16:51 GMT, Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Lockerbie bomber hid bullet proof vest under shellsuit

Megrahi boarding flight to Tripli
Megrahi had a bullet-proof vest under his clothing as he boarded the flight

The Lockerbie bomber wore a white shellsuit to hide the fact he was wearing body armour when he was released from a Scottish prison.

Abdelbaset al-Megrahi wore the casual clothing as he boarded a flight from Glasgow to Libya in August.

He later swapped his shellsuit and baseball cap for a formal grey suit before landing in Tripoli.

Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill revealed the security measure to a committee of MSPs.

The Scottish Parliament's Justice Committee is investigating the way Megrahi's compassionate release in August was handled.

Megrahi, who has terminal cancer, was released after eight years in prison for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Dumfries and Galloway in 1988, which resulted in the death of 270 people.

The committee heard that a bomb-proof vehicle was needed to transport the Libyan to the airport.

Mr MacAskill told the committee: "The release of Mr al-Megrahi from Greenock prison to Glasgow airport resulted in the Scottish Prison Service requiring to acquire, I think, a vehicle that was bomb-proof to avoid roadside devices.

"It required, as some tabloid papers referred to, the Reliance security officers, who wore body armour, receiving enhanced danger pay.

Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi with Col Gadaffi's son, Saif al-Islam
He changed into a suit before emerging in Tripoli

"It required Mr al-Megrahi dressed in a shellsuit because he was hiding the body armour that he was wearing.

"All of these things were simply to transport him from HM Prison Greenock on the short journey to Glasgow airport."

Mr MacAskill insisted that a "media circus" would have descended on Megrahi if he had been allowed to stay in Scotland.

He said 48 officers from Strathclyde Police would have been required to ensure Megrahi's safety at Newton Mearns, East Renfrewshire, where his family had a home.

He told MSPs that if Megrahi had been kept in hospital in Scotland, the necessary security would be "inappropriate and downright disrespectful" to others seeking care.

A Scottish Prison Service spokesman later said its staff wore "appropriate protective clothing" but would not comment further on "security matters".

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