Primary Evidence: Frankfurt Airport Records

First Posted 20 January 2010
last edits June 25, 2011

The System
[Analysis by Caustic Logic, based on wide but uncited skimming - may not be 100% accurate, but intended only to help understand the records below]

Frankfurt Airport in 1988 was the busiest air hub in Europe, serving many thousands of flights a day between Europe, the near east, nort Africa, and North America. The baggage handling system in 1988 was both state of the art and sloppy. Its workings can be understood as broken down to two parts, loosely termed outer and inner.

The outer portion was where luggage arrived at and left from the airport - a zone of tarmac and taxiing aircraft, wagons and luggage containers. From the planes, luggage was carted to a coding station, where items were placed on bar-code numbered trays (containers), one item per tray, and fed into the inner portion. Hard paperwork was apparently normally kept for transactions between aircraft and coding stations, both inclusive.

The Zeist Court explained “baggage for most airlines was handled by the airport authority, but PanAm had their own security and baggage handling staff.” Thus the airport and the airline each would then have responsibility for keeping track of their own efforts, and both should be called on in the investigation. The Frankfurt Airport Group would be in charge of unloading KM180, and Pan Am's people would handle loading and screening of luggage coming onto the outbound feeder flight.

The inner portion then is what the Court described as “a computer controlled automated baggage handling system” running beneath the airport. This vast electro-mechanic system automatically routed coded items along roller conveyors and through switching stations, at key spots scanned and logged. This system connected coding stations to the various stores, where luggage circulated until needed, and apparently up to loading gates. After this, they re-emerged topside and then to the connecting aircraft’s hold, where again, a record would be kept of loading procedures.

Primary Evidence
The relevant central computer data was produced, if under questionable circumstances, showing one particular item was coded at 13:07 into container no. 8849. It was then routed down to store for two hours until moved at 15:17 to gate B044, from which 103A loaded before its 16:53 departure. No passenger transferred from the air Malta flight to the PanAm one, so the bag thus illustrated was of the dreaded “unaccompanied” variety.

Apparently, no direct record of PA103A's loading was available to corroborate this. The unloading records for the Air Malta flight (KM180) that bag apparently came from, likewise do not figure in the evidence. And the mammoth central computer file aside from the items sent to 103A is missing without explanation. But the arrival of each flight at the airport, and the coding of one's luggage, were presented, aside from the crucial and curious "Frankfurt printout." Below are all available documents relevant to the claim of an unaccompanied bag, from flight KM180, being sent on to Flight 103A at Frankfurt. These will be given by the "production number" assigned them as evidence during the trial, and briefly explained. All images were originally found at Mebo pages, but seem to be genuine and unaltered. (see "Sources" at end)

Production 1068: The Opinion of the Court's paragraph 29 denotes this for “the evidence of Joachim Koscha, who was one of the managers of the baggage system at Frankfurt in 1988” It was his evidence that established KM180’s arrival and unloading time, 12:48-13:00. They do also cite a “record,” but provided no direct citation.

Production Null: This is the designation – none – given to KM180 unloading papers in the trial. Denis Phipps, former head of security, British Airways, has closely inspected the primary records of different airlines and airports connected to the disaster. He said in The Maltese Double Cross [video, 1994] “the records from Frankfurt were by no means complete." Among his concerns:
“There was no record of who unloaded that flight KM180 when it arrived at Frankfurt. We don't know who the loaders were. There was no record of the number of bags that were actually unloaded from that flight. There were no records that I could find.” 

It isn’t entirely clear if paperwork normally was kept for this – it might have been a policy to determine the number of bags from the computer system, which could count the number of items coded at a certain station and time and take that as the number from the flight coded then. It would be a grossly imperfect system, considering the reliability of this method, as mentioned above. But it would line up with the known laxness of procedure there, and mean one less suspiciously missing record.

Production 1092: This is an “interline writer’s sheet” filled out by Andreas Schreiner, who was in charge of monitoring the arrival of baggage at V3 That bears to record one wagon of baggage from KM180 arriving at V3 at 13:01.Within V3 are seven coding stations, where luggage is placed into bar-code numbered trays to enter bottomside. They cite the sheet’s contents in table form and it seems like they had these records at hand. No number of bags in that wagon is given.
This brings us to the reliability of coding station logs in determining where a particular item really came from. The Zeist judges heard testimony that “luggage was always delivered from one flight only” at any given time." [Opinion of the Court, para 29] Taking this literally would mean a station's log saying flight X was handled from 1:00-1:05 means an item shown in the computer system as coded there at 1:01 is clearly from flight X. 

But this is not completely sound. Dennis Phipps noted the unreliability of these logs in the Maltese Double Cross, and it's been widely noted that lapses of stray bags being inserted during another flight's coding are not only possible but recorded, and common sense itself suggests such a presumption is, at the least, not guaranteed to be right. The degree of correlation between coding time and flight number is certainly higher than zero and less than 100%, and debatable from there. A separate post, Coding Station Reliability, will address this controversy, but generally below it should remain an open question.

Production 1061: This document (above) was identified by witnesses Mr Schreiner and Mr Koscha “as a work sheet completed by a coder to record baggage with which he dealt.” The name of the coder in question was Koca, who was not called as a witness.” Pity, since the document shows us little detail. The signatures alternate Koca and Candar, listing either container numbers or numbers of wagons of luggage, the flight number it’s from, time they started coding, and stop time. The relevant line is the last one – one wagon of luggage from KM180 started coding at 13:04, and ended at a time disputed as 13:10 or 13:16. (13:10 yields a time closer to those previously noted, and it's what the Court decided. The difference is six minutes of time, which could have increased the likelihood of a stray bag being introduced. Again, refer to the post on coding station reliability.

Production 1062: This is the court’s code for some unspecified “documentary evidence” that “the aircraft used for PA103A arrived from Vienna (as flight PA124) and was placed at position 44, from which it left for London at 1653.”

Production 1060 (at left - r-click/new window for readable view) This is the famous computer printout, the single document that allows “the inference," drawn by the Scottish Judges, "that an item which came in on KM180 was transferred to and left on PA103A.” It's a list of items routed to PA103A, taken by airport employee Bogomira Erac for personal reasons and handed over to investigators only a month after the disaster.

It was the first time they'd seen it. What's highly unusual about this evidence is that the German federal police (BKA) were unable to secure their own copy, right off the computer, in the days after the crash. In the end, we had to rely on a memento copy from someone’s locker, which existed only by sheer luck. It was that close to having a whole airport's luggage records go completely missing, right after such a massive event demanded that information. The troubling case of the missing records is worthy of a detailed stand-alone post. Another interesting question is why the BKA then made the official investigators in Scotland and Washington wait another six months before sharing it with them. It wasn't until mid-August 1989 that Scottish police were able to see this pivotal record that wound up turning the investigation around to Malta and thence Libya.

Whatever the book got wrong, Trail of the Octopus is helpful on this issue.
"On 17 August 1989, eight months after the disaster, Chief Detective Superintendent John Orr received from the BKA what was said to be a computer print-out of the baggage-loading list for Pan Am Flight 103A from Frankfurt to London on the afternoon of 21 December 1988. Attached to this were two internal reports, dated 2 February 1989, describing the inquiries that BKA officers had made about the baggage-handling system at the airport. Also provided were two worksheets, one typewritten, the other handwritten, that were said to have been prepared on 21 December by airport workers at key points on the conveyor-belt network." [Coleman/Goddard]

Mrs. Erac' testimony at Camp Zeist in 2000 clarified that the printout was not taken to the BKA until approximately the last week of January, so a 1 February foray is a perfect match for being spurred by the printout. Any records of any earlier efforts, fruitful or not, remain under wraps. Upon getting the papers in August, Orr and his men quickly investigated the airport themselves, and also got more serious about previous clues leading to Malta.

What the printout shows, briefly, is 111 items listed numerically by container number. The relevant portions are highlighted in the condensed version below. PA103A is referred to herein as F1042. The relevant item 8849 was coded at station S0009, which it’s been determined means station 206, at 1307. That is a fit with KM180’s load. It then goes to Gate B044 at 1523, the same few-minute span most of 103's luggage arrived. What happened from there is outside the computerized system and not recorded here. But according to this, two late-coded items were sent to a separate gate B041, and curiously, these two items bracket the apparent bomb bag, numerically speaking, and so are visible below. All 108 items not shown here were sent to gate 44.

So broadly there are three possibilities:
- If it could be certain that station 209 at 1307 means KM180 and nothing else, this would be solid evidence of a bag from that flight.
- It could have been an item of another origin passing through there at just the right time to appear as from KM180. This does require a certain acceptance of coincidence, but cannot be ignored.
- The data could clearly mean to say KM180, but itself be fraudulent. This would explain the printout's appearance and the primary data's disappearance. Perhaps the two were not really unrelated bad and good luck, but two halves of a bait-and-switch routine, perhaps carried out by the BKA for uncertain reasons.

Production Null: The normal, official, system-wide, right from the computer luggage records.
As has been mentioned, for some reason the primary data of luggage movements was lost, but avoided making a big noise once a copy was luckily found. So it was no loss, we might presume. But how would we know?

There may never be answers to the riddle of the lost computer data, but a dedicated post is warranted to explore what we do and don't know about it.

Production Null: PanAm’s loading records for flight 103A.

Image: Prod 1092
Image: Prod 1060
(other images by Caustic Logic)
[Coleman/Goddard] TRAIL OF THE OCTOPUS -- FROM BEIRUT TO LOCKERBIE -- INSIDE THE DIA. Chapter 7. Online posting.
[Opinion of the Court] PDF download link

Two Secondary Suitcases?

June 13/14, 2011

The Soft, Blue and Maroon Case
Below is a screen capture from al Jazeera's new video, of a severely blasted suitcase, gathered back together for investigator's cameras following the bombing of PA103. This piece of luggage was listed in the examination notes of Dr. Hayes as item 4.2.14, a blue soft-shell American Tourister case.

It was owned by passenger Patricia Coyle, who interlined from Germany on the feeder PA103A, which also officially carried the bomb (although other evidence suggests it was manually placed in London).  By RARDE's questionable and belated finding, it was placed just beneath the bomb suitcase, on the floor of luggage container AVE 4041. It looks just about blown-up enough to have been the primary case - the one containing the bomb. But it was what I'll call "secondary", next to and touching the primary one.

I recognized the photo even without a label from the description given of the unique remains in the trial transcripts, and the readable item numbers support that call. This case had always sounded supremely blast-damaged and largely unaccounted-for, and this elusive photograph 76 shows about what I expected, if even more so. The examination notes (culled as read-back from transcripts) explain:
"The following 27 items, the larger fragments of which are collectively shown in photograph 76, were identified as component parts of a blue American Tourister brand softshell suitcase. The severe overall damage to the identified component parts is consistent with this suitcase having been located in contact with the suitcase that contained the improvised explosive device at the moment of explosion."
The case had been supported by a simple wire frame, with flexible plastic of blue, maroon, and black filling it in the body and trim. TSH/346 is the large piece wrapping around the outside, essentially the whole middle band of the case. It was said to have been blasted at least partly into the neighboring container, AVN 7511, along with some pieces of the container and of the primary suitcase.

There are only about ten further pieces not shown, all very small. As can be seen, the majority of that base material didn't turn up, left in the tiniest tatters lost to wind, sea, and mud if not to the fireball of the explosion itself.

The Hard, Antique Copper One
Here, at left, is what was assembled and called the primary suitcase. It was a different type entirely, a brown or antique copper colored hard-shell Samsonite, Silhouette 4000 series. Given in the report as luggage item 4.1.2, its remains were described thus:
The following 56 items were examined and identified as the component parts of one of the hardshell Samsonite brand suitcases from the Silhouette 4000 range. It was also established beyond any doubt that this item of luggage had been subjected to a violent internal explosion and thus had originally contained an improvised explosive device. Except where noted, all of the items examined below are collectively shown in photograph 49.
The bolded part is the one I here contend. Very similar damage, considering the material differences, had the American Tourister declared as just beneath the bomb. Here, Hayes seems a little too certain for comfort that this extremely splintered suitcase was wrapped around the explosion itself.

As with the other case, the pieces not shown are the smallest ones, especially the many fragments of the cardboard divider from the middle of the suitcase, closest to the alleged bomb (PT/68 in the lower corner is the one sample of that shown).

The delicate suitcase lining fabric not much further away is represented by one nearly-complete side of the stuff - the giant 22-inch PK/1310A, stretched across the middle of the photo. The combined effect of this gauze, the surviving cardboard, and the other very large fragments of shell plastic, is that this case experienced a very asymmetrical blast involvement, with one whole side - and even the middle, it seems - shielded by something - like the upper half of the case and half the primary case and its contents above that.

Among this possible lower half, PI/911 in the upper left is nearly a foot square, and at one point (January 1989) Dr. Thomas Hayes of RARDE had concluded it was from was from "the lower side of a suitcase, compressed and fractured in a manner suggesting it was in contact with a luggage pallet's base and subjected to explosive forces from above." This means beneath the bomb suitcase, which was on level two and blasted from within, not above. (see: the Monster of Newcastelton Forest)

That opinion changed at some uncertain later point - by the time of the final report in 1990, PI/911 was said to have flecks of blue plastic stuck to it, suggesting it had rested on the American Tourister, not the container's floor.

Two Brown Hard-Shells?
This all has direct relevance to the story of John Bedford, the luggage loader at Heathrow now famous for seeing and reporting a brown hard-shell Samsonite case - or perhaps two - inside the container's lower corner. In part, he told police in January 1989:
“They were [both] hard cases, the type Samsonite make. One was brown in color and the other one, if it wasn't the same color, it was similar.”
No passengers on Flight 103 carried any such luggage and only the one shown above was recovered after. Yet here is at least one, and possibly two, such cases confirmed in the container before a second or third such case came in from Malta on the German feeder. This was around two hours after Bedford's sighting, and officially, it was set on top of the Coyle case, in the same exact spot the Bedford bag(s) just vanished from, never to be seen again. Officially, that's what happened.

If he described two cases of the same exact color and style, where did the other one go when only the remains of one turned up?

One possibility I've aired before is the one we've seen is not the primary suitcase. Rather, it might be another secondary case, like ms. Coyle's, with the primary case having effectively vanished under the force of its own more-powerful-than-thought explosion. At right is a graphic (all to scale and accurate) that illustrates that arrangement.

I had backed off a bit on the idea of two matching cases, for the sake of simplicity. But this new image of suitcase 4.2.14 changes things, showing me that  both of the suitcases in question are comparable for extreme damage. Below I've placed both images, fragments in silhouette, side-by-side to approximately the same scale. Seeing them together like this, it's hardly obvious the left one is the most obliterated. Soft-shell vs. hard-shell construction will give different results, and the total number of recovered fragments - 56 compared to 27 - suggests that, in fact, more of Ms. Coyle's less durable case material was lost to the explosion and the elements than were  lost from the primary case that should have seen by far the worst of it.

Really, seeing this image re-affirms to me the idea that these are both cases that had been situated next to the primary one, which was presumably the other Bedford suitcase, worse off yet - gone into dust, along with everything in it. This would mean the clothes, the bomb radio, timer, umbrella, everything deemed to be from the primary case, were either from one of the neighboring cases, or were planted. Considering how neatly they pointed to Libya and Megrahi, and how plagued they are with plausibility issues and handling anomalies, I'm going with planted.

Video: Lockerbie: The Pan Am bomber

June 11 2011

This is the new documentary aired by al Jazeera English the other day, and posted by them graciously on Youtube. It's nothing short of amazing.

Feraday's Forensic Follies, Section Sixty-Seven

June 11 2010
last updates June 11/13 2011

A few days ago I posted a collected timeline of forensic finds and coclusions from RARDE's "scientists" Dr. Thomas Hayes and Mr. Allen Feraday. These were supposed to have led to the identification of a vaguely Libyan radio model holding the bomb - Toshiba BomBeat RT-SF16. The end result is bizarre, with a hundred implied complications, like those presented by a tiny bit of blasted circuit board dubbed PT/30.

This 3mm x 4mm  fragment was allegedly found on June 8 1989 by Dr. Hayes, or June 18 by Feraday, depending. Both versions match on where it was found - embedded in a piece of soft blue American Toursiter suitcase owned by victim Karen Noonan and labeled PK/2128. [Leppard p207] Its PT number is lower than the famous PT/35 found weeks earlier (on paper), as noted by the defence at trial. This would be unusual if not for all the rest being just as out of order (see PT/31, PT/56, etc...). Stranger yet, Dr. Hayes' examination notes of PT/30 read in part:
It has been partially delaminated by the blast and, hence, does not possess the expectedgreen lacquer and/or solder tracking upon its rear face as this has been ripped completely away. The upper [brown] face of the fragment bears part of the white painted characters C32 and a depiction of an electrical resistor.
Consider the sample loading of the alleged bomb (below) in a normally-assembled RT-SF16 radio (minus its cassette assembly). The main circuit board is the one seen along the top, brown-colored component side down. This surfaces is that painted with little white markings that survived the blast of that Semtex about one inch distant. It was the inverse side, green lacquered and tracked with solder, that was blasted away. Was the board backwards?

PT/30 is not alone in having its painted face survive readable and unburnt. Consider this largest portion of the earlier find AG/145 (at right). Its markings "L106" and "101" are plain as day, and only the edges are burnt a little. The smaller part of AG/145 is similarly marked, with "02." It would thus seem the terrorists allegedly scraped off all those little  components off their contacts and flipped the board backwards to fit it back in. Except that the AG/145 fragments also had nice green backsides that showed no sign of blast either, and allowed the first identification in February.

Anyway, to bring this back to Feraday, he was reportedly excited about PT/30 turning up. The radio model RT-SF16 was already identified on May 11, we hear, and this fit it just as perfectly as the AG/145 fragments did, and was noted immediately by Hayes on June 8. So Mr. Feraday reportedly waited a few months, and then in September took the thing to the evidence holding facility Dexstar to see if it could match anything there.

Later, in December, DI William Williamson sent SIO Henderson a memo describing this: "On his visit to Dexstar on 14 September 1989 Mr Feraday viewed a large number of items of circuitry which had been withdrawn for his examination; none of these items was a match for PT 30." [Leppard p 207] (note: PT 30 is just Leppard's way of writing PT/30 - space instead of slash. It's the same item)

Williamson went on to ask Henderson to look into inspecting evidence held by the Germans to see if a match could be found to Khreesat's work - particularly some alarm clocks he was known to have bought. Feraday had "on a number of occasions repeated his keen interest in any item of circuitry," Williamson explained, "or indeed in any digital clocks or other similar items which could contain a circuit board for examination and comparison at RARDE against produsction PT 30." [Leppard 207-208]

Earth to Allen, your science guy Hayes has May 11 as the date he IDd the radio, and on June 8 found that PT/30 matches it. Why the running around drama in mid-September looking for some whole other fit? The obvious answers somehow elude this blogger, but one thing I notice is the timing of this fevered search relative to a more fruitful circuitry quest: PT/35(b), the lucky corner of a Libyan MST-13 timer main board. The day after Feraday's reported inquest at Dexstar, evidencing that "keen interest" in circuit board clues, he sent a memo to the same DI Williamson cited above. This was regarding a four-month old (on paper) find by Dr. Hayes.
In retrospect, this memo is rather vague, not mentioning PT/35(b) by name or giving many direct clues. It could almost be about PT/30, except for the cited curve. Only the mammoth MST-13 chunk and its double-underlined #1 is large enough for that detail. By my rough measurement of a scaled MST-13 jpeg the curve at upper right has a 0.5" diameter. I'd defer to Feraday here.

So this is a letter about that amazing but yet unidentified clue PT/35(b), keenly ignored it seems until that date - four months after the paperwork shows it found. But only one day after Feraday's own foray over the already identified PT/30 (says the same Williamson months later).

Or am I just making too much out of a simple mix up? Not likely, as that memo of December 19, just ahead of the anniversary, shows Feraday behind the scenes urging yet more bogus action over the already identified circuitry. Over six months following its match-up with the known bomb radio, he was pestering Williamson to pester Henderson about trying to find a match for PT/30 over in Germany if possible.

If all these things are the true exploits of professional and even-handed investigators ... my God, what kind of MKULTRA experiments were they doing with the ventilation at RARDE? No, these "facts" must have appeared as they were convenient, with little regard for those which came before or after. It's the only sane explanation.
Update June 11/13, 2011
Some amazing screen grabs from Al Jazeera English's new video.

AG/145 fragments, separated and partly cleaned, hugely magnified and looking less burnt to ash than ever:
Here's the second largest fragment, placed against its spot of origin on the brown/orange, lettered, blast-ward side of the board.
And here is the backside of the larger one against the green, shielded, solder-tracked side.
It's this precise match-up, Allen Feraday said, that helped him at least narrow down the radio model by mid-February 1989. In both images, note the material - flimsy, paper-fiber-and-resin, not fiberglass.

As we can see comparing the first and third of these images, neither side of that largest bit shows any sign of blast damage (extreme heat, for example). But where on the board are these fragments from? The middle, just one inch from the Semtex supernova? Or at one of the ends, a couple of inches away? There's an image that clears that up, and they showed it as well in the video, bless them. I compared it to the assembled IED mock-up, rotated so features matched. I then indicated the rough areas for both AG/145 and PT/30.
That gives at most about 1.5 inches for the blast wave to chill-out, and nothing but the flimsy little capacitors (or ??) attached to those spots to shield the face. The left-hand one is in as good a spot as it gets to survive, but still, I can't cite the measure of the force of this blast except that it ruptured an airliner's hull at two feet distant, after being slowed by the luggage container, the suitcase, the clothing, and the radio's case. Before all of these, at 1.5 inches, tops, fresh and full-force ... No way.

Beyond that, do recall, as explained above, that Hayes found PT/30 had the wrong side - the green one - blasted away, while all of AG/145 shows damage to neither side. Another oddity is that both AG/145 at PT/30 would go about the same direction in the blast wave - out from the center in all directions. If PT/30 were blasted straight down, AG/145 should go down and to the left pretty much.

Officially PT/30 wound up wedged into the outer frame segment (IIRC) of the blue softshell on the container floor, just beneath the bomb bag - if so, why would AG/145 wind up, as Mr. Thomas Claiden testified, blasted into a fold of the data plate, on the outside of the container, halfway up its side, two feet or more above the bomb bag?

A Costly New Libya - Rented, Not Owned

June 5 2011

This rare update is spurred by an excellent video I just saw from Journeyman productions - not sure if they made it or who they are - it says 2003, which seems right - but it's a rare video on Libya and Lockerbie that gives real insight.

The $10 billion mentioned was never paid. It was set at 2.7 billion in 2003, and settled up by, I think, 2008 to a slightly different tune. I don't have the details handy, but lawyers got a lot of it.

The video mentions this as being no admission of guilt but rather the government's purchase of "a license" to simply be allowed back into the world economy (see 7:25). Further, Libya agreed to drop its own claims over the 1986 US bombing, by "mad dog" Reagan, of Tripoli and Benghazi, that killed around fifty innocents. This was in retaliation for another attack the Libyans have sworn they never carried out, and the effects are covered touchingly in the video. Note the contrast of the victims of that bombing in seeking justice compared to those whose case was against Libya, and who had it muscled through to amazingly painful effects for Libya, by the best of Anglo-American imperial might.

Of course, as Professor Black explains here in part, that case itself is weak and unreliable, the judgment confirming it perverse. See the rest of this site for a fuller exploration of the depth of unreliability dug out by the Lockerbie case. But they paid up anyway, because the sanctions rested on the perverse verdict and those were quite real.

Detente did follow from 2003-2011, greased along with Tripoli swearing off all terroorism, real or imagined, abandonimg all WMD programs, including a nuclear deterrent, promising reforms in Libya, and opening to foreign oil companies. But the companies weren't fully happy, the system was still too Libyan, and plots still simmered under the surface, and now ...

It's insane to think eight years later, all paid-up, the country is finally being destroyed completely anyways. At least $60 billion (perhaps more like $100 billion) in Libyan government funds - for military, civilian, and all uses - was just frozen by the US and a handful of other countries. And the NATO bombs are falling across non-rebel Libya. This is all officially based on some muddled humanitarian concern that can only be answered by Gaddafi "leaving" and taking his system - women empowerment, massive benefits for citizens at large, limited foreign control, etc. - with him. This is all being handed to us sewn together wrong, and I'm still working on fixing that, as much as I can, at my new blog The Libyan Civil War: Critical Views.