On This Day — Operation Flavius (Death on the Rock) [March 6 1988]

“For the government to claim the right to kill British people, based on highly unreliable secret intelligence and a secret declaration of legality, is so shocking I find it difficult to believe it is happening even as I type the words. Are we so cowed as to accept this?”

Craig Murray — Former UK Embassador

On March 6 1988, three unarmed members of the IRA were shot dead on the territory of Gibraltar by British Special Air Service (SAS) troops. The killings of Sean Savage, Daniel McCann, and Mairéad Farrell sparked two weeks of increasingly macabre happenings in the trio’s native Belfast. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY

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Operation Flavius (also referred to as the “Gibraltar killings”) was a controversial military operation in which three unarmed members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) were shot dead by the British Special Air Service (SAS) in Gibraltar on March 6 1988.

The three—Seán Savage, Daniel McCann, and Mairéad Farrell (all Volunteers of the Provisional IRA Belfast Brigade ) —were believed to be mounting a car bomb attack on British military personnel in Gibraltar.

Plain-clothed SAS soldiers approached them in the forecourt of a petrol station, then opened fire, killing them.

All three were found to be unarmed, and no bomb was discovered in Savage’s car, leading to accusations that the British government had conspired to murder them.

An inquest in Gibraltar ruled that the SAS had acted lawfully, while the European Court of Human Rights held that, although there had been no conspiracy, the planning and control of the operation was so flawed as to make the use of lethal force almost inevitable.

The deaths were the first in a chain of violent events in a fourteen-day period. On March 16 , the funeral of the three IRA members was attacked by a loyalist wielding pistols and grenades, leaving three mourners dead.

Then, at the funeral of one of the mourners, the IRA shot two undercover British soldiers who had driven into the procession.

Death on the Rock

“Death on the Rock” is a television documentary, an episode of Thames Television’s current affairs series This Week, broadcast in the United Kingdom on ITV on April 28 1988.

“Death on the Rock” presented evidence that the IRA members were shot without warning or while attempting to surrender.

It was condemned by the British government, while tabloid newspapers denounced it as sensationalist.

“Death on the Rock” subsequently became the first individual documentary to be the subject of an independent inquiry, in which it was largely vindicated.

British forensic expert Allen Feraday

One of the first civilians to give evidence was Allen Feraday, an explosives expert who worked for the Ministry of Defence.

Feraday gave “a scientific rationale to the controversial decision,” claiming that the improvised explosive device (IED) “could have been triggered from anywhere in Gibraltar, or even from Spain.”

Another forensic expert Dr Michael Scott, who was also called as a witness at this inquest, later told the documentary film the Maltese Double Cross:

“Particularly my experience in the Gibraltar case, one thing that struck me then at the time, very strongly – the British government employs hundreds of people, extraordinarily well qualified, in the areas of radio communications and electronics.

Allen Feraday is not qualified, yet they use him? I mean, I have to ask the question why?”

Allen Feraday & Lockerbie

PT/35(b) is a small fragment of a circuit timer that was allegedly found among the debris of Pan Am 103 near the town of Lockerbie.

According to Richard Marquise — the FBI Agent who led the US side of the Lockerbie investigation — this fragment was absolutely critical to the investigation.

“Without PT/35(b), there would have been no indictment.”

Although the tracks of the Thuring boards — used to build the MST-13 timers delivered to Libya — are covered with a mix of Tin/Lead [70/30 %], PT/35(b) tracks are covered with pure Tin. Thus PT/35(b) is a forgery. No discussion. Full stop!

There is not doubt whatsoever that one of the key forensic investigator — RARDE scientist Allen Feraday — KNEW that PT/35(b) was obviously NOT similar to these boards used in the MST-13 timers delivered to Libya.

Yet, Allen Feraday testified that PT/35(b) was “similar in all respects” to the THURING boards of the MEBO MST-13 timer which proved the crucial link to Libya and Megrahi.

Based on the testimony of Allen Feraday, dozen of innocent people — mostly IRA related cases — spent countless years in jail. Some of them died in jail.

And then, case after case, it was demonstrated that these people were innocent.

There is obviously a serious problem with this kind of “forensic science”…  And this kind of “forensic scientists”.

“Same bad Scientists”

Gareth Peirce — Solicitor for the Guildford Four and the Birmingham Six — tells it very well:

“Exactly the same forensic scientists who produced the wrongful conviction of Guiseppe Conlon, the Maguire family and of Danny McNamee, and had been stood down for the role they played. Yet here they were.

Without them, there wouldn’t have been a prosecution, far less a conviction in Lockerbie.”

“What shocked me most was that I thought that all that had been gone through on Guildford and Birmingham, the one thing that had been achieved was that nobody would be convicted again on bad science.

But yet in the Lockerbie case, it isn’t just the same bad science, it is the same bad scientists.”

I suggest that Pierce is a bit too nice with these “scientists”. Under cross-examination by Richard Keen QC, Feraday admitted that he has no formal qualifications whatsoever.

Feraday’s credentials are however impeccable. In three separate cases [The 1982 Hide Park Bomb, the John Berry Case and the Hassan Assali Case] where men were convicted on the basis of his forensic evidence, the initial ruling was overturned in appeal.

Eventually,  a senior judge presiding over the Berry appeal said in 1993 (some 7 years before the Lockerbie trial) that:

“Mr. Feraday should not be allowed to present himself as an expert in electronics.”

In early February 1989, Feraday wrote that he was completely satisfied that fragments recovered at the Lockerbie crime scene originated from a white Toshiba brand radio stereo cassette recorder types RT-8016 or RT-8026. This very specific Toshiba radio strongly hinted to the involvement of a Palestinian terror group (the PFLP-GC) based in Syria and sponsored by Iran.

By the time the US and UK issued a joined indictment against the two Libyan men, Feraday had established that the bomb had been hidden in a black Toshiba radio model RT-SF16 almost solely sold to Libya. That is subtle or what?

Death On The Rock : SAS execute IRA cell in Gibraltar — Thames Television (1988)

The back story of this film illustrates how low BBC & UK TV has sunk since 1988. Thames TV lost the London ITV franchise after this film was broadcast.

Death on the Rock was the title of a documentary in the current affairs series This Week, made by Thames Television and broadcast on the ITV network on 28 April 1988.

The programme investigated the incident, on Sunday 6 March 1988, when three members of the IRA, sent to Gibraltar on an active service mission, were shot and killed by members of British special forces.

The incident, and subsequently the programme about it, became controversial as a result of uncertainty and conflicting evidence about the manner in which the killing was carried out and the degree to which it was an “execution” with no attempted arrest.

The programme interviewed witnesses who claimed to have heard no prior warning given by the SAS troops and to have seen the shooting as one carried out “in cold blood.”

Furthermore, the defence that the IRA team might, if allowed time, have had the capacity to trigger by remote control a car bomb in the main street, was also subject to criticism, including that from an Army bomb disposal expert.

Claiming that its transmission prior to the official inquest was an impediment to justice, the then foreign secretary, Sir Geoffrey Howe, attempted to stop the programme being broadcast by writing to the chairman of the Independent Broadcasting Authority, Lord Thomson of Monifieth.

Lord Thomson refused to prevent transmission noting that “the issues as we see them relate to free speech and free inquiry which underpin individual liberty in a democracy.”

Following transmission, there was some criticism of the programme’s investigative stance in the press (e.g. “Storm at SAS Telly Trial” The Sun; “Fury over SAS ‘Trial by TV’,” Daily Mail; “TV Slur on the SAS,” Daily Star).

Subsequently, a number of papers, notably The Sunday Times and The Sun, attempted to show not only that the programme’s procedures of inquiry were faulty but that the character of some of its witnesses was dubious (in one case, this latter charge resulted in a successful libel action being brought).

Such was the debate which developed around the programme, intensified by one of its witnesses subsequently repudiating his testimony in it, that an independent inquiry was conducted at the behest of Thames Television.

REFERENCES

30 years ago a trio of killings sparked one of the darkest, most bizarre, fortnights of The Troubles — The Journal

Operation Flavius — Wikipedia

Death on the Rock — Wikipedia

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On This Day — Operation Flavius (Death on the Rock) [March 6 1988]

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