“I personally hope that Tony is in a better place and that he is now at peace because he must have led a tortured life knowing that he had jailed an innocent man for money.”
George Thomson — Lockerbie Investigator
Tony Gauci, the Maltese man who determined the outcome of the Lockerbie trial, has died, Times of Malta is informed.
He had pointed at Abdelbaset al-Megrahi as the man who had bought the clothes from his Sliema shop, which were said to have been wrapped around the bomb which killed 270 people over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in December 1988.
Libyan national Al-Megrahi died in 2012 with the tag ‘the Lockerbie bomber’ despite the fact that the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission had described Mr Gauci as an “unreliable” witness, putting the onus of the responsibility of the UK’s worst terrorist attack in doubt.
The SCCRC said the Crown prosecution suppressed from Megrahi’s defence team statements showing how much Gauci changed his mind about crucial details over the years.
Tony Gauci’s ‘Memories’
Doubts have been raised about his reliability. On 28 June 2007, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission ruled that there were six grounds for a second appeal against conviction.
The SCCRC concluded:
“that there is no reasonable basis in the trial court’s judgment for its conclusion that the purchase of the items [clothes that were found in the wreckage of the plane] from Mary’s House [in Malta] took place on 7 December 1988.” [WIKIPEDIA]
The ‘December 7 1988’ date was critical because it was the only possible day for Megrahi to have bought these clothes in Malta.
The SCCRC also said:
that evidence which cast doubt on Gauci’s identification of Megrahi had not been made available to the defence, a breach of rules designed to ensure a fair trial.
In particular, it said there was evidence that four days before he identified Megrahi, Gauci had seen a photograph of him in a magazine article about the bombing. [BBC]
Here are some of my own findings regarding Gauci’s testimony which were published in 2009.
A Dubious Identification
On Nov. 18, 1991, the US Dept. of State issued a “fact sheet” regarding the indictment of Libyan citizens Megrahi and Fimah for their alleged role in the bombing of Pan Am 103 on Dec. 21, 1988.
The sheet reads: In February 1991, Megrahi was described “resembling the Libyan who purchased the clothing items… most likely on Dec. 7, 1988.”
On Feb. 15, 1991, Gauci was shown some photographs and failed to identify Megrahi. When asked to concentrate on his picture – a leading procedure to say the least — Gauci correctly pointed out that the man on the picture was in his 30s while maintaining that the man who had bought the clothing items was very much older.
Previously, on Sept. 13, 1989, during a photofit session, Gauci stated that the buyer was about 50 years old. Born on April 1, 1952, Megrahi was 36 in late 1988. The next day, Gauci again told Detective Chief Inspector Bell that Megrahi was too young to be the man who bought the clothing.
“If the man in the photograph was older by about 20 years, he would look like the man who bought the clothing,” Gauci told DCI Bell.
In his first interview held on Sept. 1, 1989, Gauci told DCI Bell that the mysterious buyer was 6 feet tall or more. Megrahi is 5 feet 8, a significant discrepancy considering that it comes from a man who sells clothes for a living.
The trial judges were well aware of this striking discrepancy but they failed to provide any explanation as to how it was resolved.
A Fraudulent Line-Up
During an identity parade held at Camp Zeist in 1999, Gauci pointed out that Megrahi resembles the man who bought the clothing items.
In the line up, Megrahi was the only Libyan and was surrounded by people in their 30s and 5 feet 3 tall, i.e. people who at the time of the event would have been about 30 years younger and at least 9 inches shorter than the person originally and repeatedly described by Gauci.
Regarding the day of the purchase, Tony Gauci remembered that his brother Paul had gone home earlier to watch an evening football game (Rome vs. Dresden), that the man came just before closing time, around 7 p.m., and that there was some very light raining. (The man returned to the shop to buy an umbrella.) The game allows for only two dates: Nov. 23 or Dec. 7, 1988.
The game Rome-Dresden on Dec. 7 was played at 1 p.m., not in the evening. As a result, Paul Gauci thought that the purchases had occurred on Nov. 23, 1988.
And there is more. It did not rain on Sliema on Dec. 7, 1988. Mark Vella, the managing director of METEO-MALTA, told the author that their records – including satellite pictures — unambiguously indicate that it did not rain on Sliema on Dec. 7. On the other hand, Vella could confirm that it was dripping during the evening of Nov. 23, 1988. (NB. Official copies of their records are available.)
When asked to try to assess the most likely day of the purchase by DCI Bell, Tony Gauci stated: “I’ve been asked to again try and pinpoint the day and date that I sold the man the clothing. I can only say it was a weekday. There were no Christmas decorations up, as I have already said, and I believe it was at the end of November.”
During a three years long investigation, the SCCRC has established that the Christmas lights are put up in Sliema on Dec. 6, ruling out Dec. 7 as the date of the purchase.
The defense has identified a person, not heard at the trial, who witnessed the purchase of the clothing items. Although he has not been named by the defense, I understand that the witness is David Wright, a longtime friend of the Gauci family.
Wright told the police in September and December 1989 that the purchase occurred Nov. 23 and that the buyer was not Megrahi. His interview was not passed to the defense team at the time of the trial.
During the first session of the appeal, which, there will be no new witnesses. “Any new witnesses, if the Appeal Court allows them to be heard — and the rules about fresh evidence in appeals are very restrictive — will only feature in later sessions,” writes Pr. Black.
In a phone interview conducted on Jan. 25, 2008, Tony Gauci stated that the three pairs of pajamas he sold to the mysterious buyer were the last from the 16 delivered from the John Mallia Company on Oct. 31, 1988.
On the following day, Tony Gauci called the Mallia Company to order an additional 8 pairs which were delivered 24 hours later.
In Malta, Dec. 8 is a public holiday as the mostly Catholic country celebrates Immaculate Conception Day. As a matter of fact, John Mallia Co. was closed on Dec. 8, again ruling out Dec. 7 as the day of the purchase.
According to a well informed source, the defense will establish that contradictory statements made by Gauci were not passed to the defense team at the Zeist trial.
The defense will also establish that the Gauci brothers were paid a large amount of money in exchange for helping the conviction of Megrahi and that the defense had not been informed regarding the payments themselves or the promise of rewards.
The Slalom Shirts
Although it has not yet been announced, I understand that the defense will also question the origin of the Slalom shirts alleged to have been sold by Tony Gauci to the mysterious buyer.
This issue is of paramount importance as forensic experts claimed to have discovered in the collar of one of these shirts the fragment of an electronic timer which provided the key link between the bombing and Libya. (NB. This writer has never quite understood how the size of the breast pocket did not match the size of the collar of the shirt recovered at Lockerbie, but that is another story.)
During his first interview with DCI Bell, Tony Gauci made a list of the items he had sold to the mysterious buyer. The list matched exactly the items that forensic experts at RARDE believed to have been in direct contact with the bomb, except for a black umbrella that they eventually “identify”. On that day – Sept. 1, 1989 — Gauci made no mention of the Slalom shirts.
On Jan. 30, 1990, Gauci was shown a SLALOM shirt and was asked if he had sold one to the mysterious buyer. “That man did not buy any shirt, I am sure,” Gauci stated to the investigators.
Then, on Sept. 10, 1990, Gauci suddenly recalled selling two Slalom shirts. It is not just odd, but contradicts a statement Gauci made on his first interview and repeated at the trial.
During his first interview, Gauci told DCI Bell that he remembered that the bill amounted to 76.5 Maltese pounds (LM). Gauci even clearly remembered that the man paid him with eight 10 LM bills, and that he returned 4 LM as he was not able to give a half pound in change.
Quite logically, DCI Bell then asked him to check the price of all the items he had just mentioned. And, lo and behold, the sum added to 76.5 LM… without any Slalom shirt. Had Gauci sold two shirts to the mysterious buyer, the bill would have been 84.5 LM.
Obviously, if the SLALOM shirt is a fabrication, so must be the items discovered inside it, including the infamous fragment of the MST-13 timer.
In a recent book, Former Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill had written that “clothes in the suitcase that carried the bomb were acquired in Malta, though not by Megrahi…”
Law Professor Robert Black wrote: “This is huge. If the trial court hadn’t concluded that Megrahi bought the clothes in Gauci’s shop, he couldn’t have been convicted. This finding was absolutely crucial to the verdict.
“So Kenny is saying that the court was wrong on a matter absolutely essential to its verdict.”
In April 2002, McCulloch –a former detective chief superintendent with Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary — wrote to the US Department of Justice to recommend that Tony Gauci and his brother Paul receive a reward of $3m because ‘the pair fitted the criteria for its Reward for Justice programme’.
“All proceedings were complete before I nominated the Gauci brothers for consideration.”
Maltese man who determined Lockerbie bombing trial dies— Times of Malta