Statement by Mr. Tam Dalyell, MP in the House of Commons, London, 26 March 2002

(House of Commons transcript)

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Adjournment (Easter)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Sutcliffe.]

1.37 pm

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): This Easter, an innocent man—innocent of the monstrous crime that he has been found guilty of committing—languishes in Barlinnie prison in Glasgow. His name is Abdel Basset Al Megrahi. Before Parliament rises, the House ought to get an undertaking that the British Government—yes, the British Government—and not a highly controversial, devolved Crown Office in Edinburgh, will address certain questions.

Our country's relations with the Arab world have not been devolved to a Scottish Parliament, where, perhaps for understandable reasons, not one of the 129 Members has been prepared to take a sustained, in-depth view of the Lockerbie case.

Now that the appeal is over, what steps are being taken to preserve the productions amassed by the Crown for use in the Lockerbie trial? Can an assurance be given that they will not be destroyed in the same way as certain police note books have apparently been destroyed?

In particular, the British Government have a duty to look at the statement of my former constituent—she is at present a constituent of the Leader of the House—former Woman Police Constable Mary Boylan, a thoroughly credible retired police constable. She states:

    "Towards the latter part of 1999, I was asked to attend at Dumfries Police Station, to give a statement to the Procurator Fiscal regarding my duties at Lockerbie. Almost eleven years had elapsed since the disaster, so I phoned 'F' Divisional HQ at Livingston Police Station to request my notebook to refresh my memory. I was told that someone would be in touch with me, and after a few days I was informed that my notebook could not be found. Shortly after this I read in a Scottish broadsheet that Lothian and Borders Police notebooks had been destroyed."

Who gave the instruction for the destruction of notebooks? After all, this was the biggest unresolved murder trial in Scottish legal history. The answer to that question is likely to be found not in Edinburgh, but in London.

I have known and worked closely with the following distinguished police officers as heads of F Division covering West Lothian: David Garbutt, Tom Wood, David Mitchell, Kenneth Mackenzie, Gordon Munro and Allan Shanks. I have also worked with the chief constables of Lothian and Borders police: Sir William Sutherland QPM between 1983 and 1996, and Sir Roy Cameron QPM between 1996 and 2002. I simply do not believe that any one of them, off their own bat, would have allowed, for reasons of routine and storage space, the destruction of notebooks relating to the biggest murder trial in Scottish history.

Mary Boylan, the ex-police constable, states:

    "A short time later, while searching in field F72"—

this happened on 28 December 1988—

    "I recovered the handle and rim of a brown coloured suitcase (Production Label No. unknown to me). This was entered in my notebook. PC Forrest corroborated the find and signed my notebook and production label."

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Her statement continues:

    "Towards the latter part of 1999 . . . On attendance at Dumfries Police Station I was asked to describe some of the debris from memory. I was then shown the suitcase rim with handle I had found and was asked to identify it, which I did. The Production Label with my signature and that of PC Forrest, and of others whom I did not know, was still attached. A photograph was then shown to me of the said suitcase rim I had found, plus other pieces of the suitcase material. I recognised the rim but not the material. I asked the Fiscal about the significance of the suitcase and he said he could not tell me. What he did say was that the owner of said suitcase was a Joseph Patrick Curry and that I would be hearing and reading a lot about him at the time of the trial."

Mary Boylan continues:

    "After giving my statement I left Dumfries and drove to Lockerbie's Garden of Remembrance to pay my respects. I noticed a brass plaque there with the inscription 'Joseph Patrick Curry, Captain US Army Special Forces. Killed in the line of duty'."

He is also remembered at the Arlington cemetery and, I believe, in the Pentagon.

In 1989, Police Constable Boylan was informed by a colleague that the suitcase belonging to Curry was that which contained the bomb that blew up Pan Am 103. That is what she says. I want to know who will verify the statement and show whether it is true or false. If the bomb was in Curry's suitcase, Mr. Megrahi is hardly likely to be guilty. There is a whole literature on this subject—one almost needs to be a professor of Lockerbie studies—and it would be inappropriate and selfish to take up more of the House's time to go into the matter, but these questions must be addressed.

It has been said that eight Scottish judges cannot possibly be wrong. I draw to the House's attention the conclusion of the Appeal Court's ruling, which some of us have read very carefully. At paragraph 369, Lord Cullen and his colleagues state:

    "When opening the case for the appellant before this court Mr Taylor stated that the appeal was not about sufficiency of evidence: he accepted that there was a sufficiency of evidence"—

"he" being William Taylor QC. The paragraph continues:

    "He also stated that he was not seeking to found on section 106(3)(b) of the 1995 Act. His position was that the trial court had misdirected itself in various respects. Accordingly in this appeal we"—

Lord Cullen and his colleagues—

    "have not required to consider whether the evidence before the trial court, apart from the evidence which it rejected, was sufficient as a matter of law to entitle it to convict the appellant on the basis set out in its judgment. We have not had to consider whether the verdict of guilty was one which no reasonable trial court, properly directing itself, could have returned in the light of that evidence. As can be seen from this Opinion, the grounds of appeal before us have been concerned, for the most part, with complaints about the treatment by the trial court of the material which was before it and the submissions which were made to it by the defence."

That is an extremely careful statement, as one would expect of Lord Cullen and his colleague judges. It does not go into the detail of the matters that were before the trial court at Zeist.

These are complex matters, and it would be wrong and absurd of me to ask my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to respond off the top of his head. All I ask is that these extremely serious matters be taken on board by the Government in London, not just passed over to the Crown Office in Edinburgh. I ask for careful reflection on what I have said and proposed, and for a response in the fullness of time.

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