Lockerbie — The Strange Story of Dr David Fieldhouse

“The presence of the team on Flight 103 is a clue that should not be ignored. It’s like the loose thread of a sweater. Pull on it, and the whole thing may unravel. The Mossad knew about it and didn’t give proper warning. The CIA knew about it and screwed up.”

Victor Marchetti — Former executive assistant to the CIA’s Deputy Director

“The presence of Mr McKee on PA103, along with certain others, appears to have been the focus of high level discussions between Senior Police, Security Service and American officials. It is clear that the American authorities were keen to recover any items that may have belonged to McKee in particular, which could be linked to their duties. It may well have been the case that certain items were not recorded in the normal manner to protect American interests …”

D&G letter dated 4 December 2006 — (JIG File X)

“In these circumstances the Commission believes not only that there may have been a miscarriage of justice in the applicant’s case, but also that it is in the interests of justice to refer the case to the High Court. The Commission accordingly does so.”

SCCRC 2007 Statement of Reasons — Final Conclusion

Major Charles – Chuck – Dennis McKee (December 3, 1948 – December 21, 1988) was an intelligence officer with the Defense Intelligence Agency stationed in Beirut, Lebanon. Chuck — also known as “Tiny” because of his height and bulk, 6’5″ and 270 pounds — spent the last ten years of an eighteen-year military career abroad. He was the recipient of numerous military merit awards including the Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, and the Overseas Service Medal.

On May 3 2018, Gerard Sinclair — the chief executive of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) — announced that the SCCRC will review the case of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the only man ever convicted for the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. On May 7 2008, I posted the ‘strange story of Dr David Fieldhouse’. I believe that the story is still worth reading today. Follow us on twitter: @Intel_Today

RELATED POST: Lockerbie — Megrahi Conviction to be Reviewed by the SCCRC

RELATED POST : One Year Ago — Lockerbie & Pan Am 103 : The Truth at Last?

RELATED POST: Remembering Lockerbie (Dec 21 1988) — The Saga of Pan Am 103 Told by the People Themselves

RELATED POST: LOCKERBIE — SCCRC press release on Megrahi application

Before you read this story, I would like to remind you of an old piece published by the Guardian 20 years ago: Lockerbie conspiracies: from A to Z

This article was based on a 1995 Guardian investigation by the late Paul Foot and my friend John Ashton.

Under the letter C, one can read:

“C is for coffin — Two coach-loads of officials arrived at the disaster scene in the day after the crash. Many were plain-clothed Americans with no obvious affiliation. Among their baggage was a single coffin for which no explanation has ever been given. Labour MP Tam Dalyell later produced evidence indicating that the Americans had stolen a body from the wreckage. A local doctor identified and labelled 59 bodies and was then puzzled to find that the Americans had relabelled and tagged only 58 in the area where he had been working.”

Please, keep this information in mind as you read this post. Of course, we have learned a few things over the years. For instance, we now know that the SCCRC uncovered the existence of a “Lockerbie X File”. (See update at the bottom of this post.)

The Strange Story of Dr David Fieldhouse

Back in 1988, Dr David Fieldhouse was a police surgeon from Bradford, Yorkshire. On December 21, Fieldhouse heard about the crash of Pan Am 103 on News at Ten. He immediately phoned the Lockerbie police station to volunteer his help and experience, which the Lockerbie Police eagerly accepted.

Minutes later, Fieldhouse was driving on the highway to Scotland and arrived to Lockerbie shortly before midnight. There, he reported to the police station. After having received his instructions, he was sent out with a police officer to find bodies and certify them dead.

 “My work began after briefings and involved several square miles of the crash scene over a period of about 16 hours — ending, as I recall, at about 1600 hours on 22nd December 1988.

“During those hours of the search for and confirmation of death in the case of many bodies, I was accompanied by one or more police officers at all times. We occasionally met others both during the night and the ensuing day,” Fieldhouse told me.

Fieldhouse was working to the east and southeast of Lockerbie between Middlebie and Tundergarth, which happens to be the earliest place where the bodies fell from the plane.

When he reported to the police station that evening, he had certified 58 bodies dead and labeled them accordingly from DCF 1 to DCF 58.

“I saw 58 bodies during that period of the search. Fifty-five of them were to the Northwest of a road that runs from Middlebie to Bankshill and only three were to the Southeast of that road.

“I confirmed death in the case of many bodies including one that I afterwards learned was that of McKee [an American intelligence operative returning from Lebanon].

At the time I saw the bodies I made brief notes which included, in some cases, a note of any clothing remaining on them and in every case, the sex and any major injuries visible, such as decapitation or loss of a limb,” he said.

For several weeks after the explosion, Fieldhouse traveled on one day per week to Lockerbie to work on the computers installed at the temporary headquarters of the team at the Academy, a school in Lockerbie, in order to help the police identify the bodies and where they had been found. On each of those occasions, Fieldhouse was officially signed, or logged, in on arrival and logged out on departure.

“I always had a police officer, not always the same one, to assist me in the work. The aim was to work out the identities of the bodies I had certified as dead at the scene of the crash during the night of 21st and the daylight hours of 22nd December 1988 by looking through all the information available at the time such as statements, post-mortem notes, other reports,” Fieldhouse explained to me.

Fieldhouse was told that information was made available on a “need to know” basis only. It is thus likely that so some was probably withheld from him. He was told that the computers were linked to Washington.

“My identification was limited to correlating the bodies I had certified as being dead with those logged by the police. My sole aim in doing so was to enable me to write an accurate report of which persons I had pronounced deceased and at roughly what times I had done so,” he said.

Nearly two years later, during the Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) into the Lockerbie disaster, Fieldhouse was unjustifiably tarnished by a police officer in official sworn evidence.

Led by Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, the Scottish Lord Advocate, Sgt David Johnston of the Strathclyde police started his evidence about Fieldhouse as follows.

“On the evening of the disaster, and in the early hours of the following day, Fieldhouse went out and examined a number of victims on his own, pronouncing life extinct, and attached on them his own form of identification. This was not known to us until some considerable time later,” Johnston said.

The Lord Advocate continued with a series of similar questions that were all intended to destroy the credibility of Fieldhouse. After asking about the discovery of the body of American businessman Tom Ammerman, Fraser went as far as suggesting that Fieldhouse was not a medical doctor.

“Would this be another example of or Mr Fieldhouse carrying out a search on his own?” the Lord Advocate asked.

“It would, my Lord,” Johnston said.

“And marking the body of a person who is dead without notifying the police?”

“That is correct.”

In fact, Fieldhouse was accompanied throughout by police officers, three of whom he has named. Ammerman’s body had been found by Fieldhouse and an accompanying police officer. Both men agreed on the report.

On Jan 22, 1991, Fieldhouse appeared at the inquiry. He had no difficulty to swiftly dispose of all the false allegations that had been tossed against him.

 “I would record my thanks to Fieldhouse and my apologies for the undeserved criticism of his activities,” concluded Sheriff Mowat, who was in charge of the inquiry.

“I was accompanied by three Police Officers at about 1500 hours GMT on 22nd December 1988,” stated Fieldhouse.

“One of them made notes for me as I dictated what I wished to be recorded. There were several bodies in a few fields near a monument south of Tundergarth church, near to Lockerbie town.

“I labeled one body DCF 49 and recorded: Heavy adult male, multi-colored T-shirt, blue jeans, field going northwest from monument.

“I knew that the identification of McKee was absolutely correct because of the clothing which correlated closely with the other reports and statements, and the computers that were linked up to Washington,” he concluded.

In a letter to me, former FBI agent R Marquise, who led the Lockerbie investigation, wrote:

“I would like to know about the statement attributed to Fieldhouse where he spoke of the clothing worn by McKee based on reports and statements and the computers that were linked up to Washington. Please we are talking about FBI computers I assume and we did not have any then. Before we ever had any infrastructure in place, I would imagine that McKee was identified.”

Fieldhouse explained:

“The quote is very slightly incorrect and should have read: … reports and statements on the computers that were linked to Washington. I noted this at the time of reading the FAI report, but did not make any comment as I did not think that it was relevant, though the sense is slightly altered by the correct version of what (I think) I said.”

In the early weeks of 1989, Fieldhouse studied the records held on the computers in the Academy (Investigation Headquarters) at Lockerbie.

He noted that none of the codes (DCF 1 to 58) he had given to bodies was recorded on the computers. He was amazed that all except two of his labels had all been thrown away and replaced with others.

“This was astounding to me,” Fieldhouse said.

Fieldhouse claims that the computer record, which seemed to match his notes relating to DCF 49, gave the mortuary body number as 225 and although he did not recall and did not note the description of the clothing on the computer file, it would certainly have correlated with his findings sufficiently for him to be confident that he had correctly “married them up.”

Fieldhouse told me a very disturbing story. He is adamant that nobody on the computer files matched the location of the one that he recorded as “DCF 12.” He is almost certain of this because the body was found at a very particular location. DCF 12 was one of the three bodies southeast of the road that runs from Middlebie to Bankshill.

 “I saw 58 bodies during that period of the search,” Fieldhouse told me. “Fifty-five of them were to the north of a road and only three were to the south of that road. DCF 12 was one of the three bodies south of the road. I was as confident as I could have been that I had not made any errors, but I do accept it is possible that I misunderstood the location of the body when trying to pinpoint its position on a map and trying to provide a map reference number.

“However, if the police had recorded my codes (DCF 1 to DCF 58) on the computer records which they were compiling, there would have been no difficulty in marrying up the bodies which I had seen and the ones which they had recovered.

“When the bodies were being examined by the pathologist, all notable characteristics such as sex, fractures, clothing were noted, but apparently not my labels. It seems inconceivable that 58 consecutive numbered codes on 58 bodies could be disregarded. Clearly it would have been obvious to the most ignorant observer that they served a purpose and that, in any event, it would have been better to record the details in case they had a usefulness not then apparent to the person recording the details in the mortuary.

“You could not, for example get any results for a ‘search and find’ instruction given to the computer for ‘DCF 12,’ whereas it was easy enough to get results in the search for a ‘black … face … ewe.’ It does make one wonder why they ignored, for official purposes at least, all my reference codes and labels and this gives rise to suspicions that there was an ulterior motive on their part.”

Nearly two years later, in December 1993, Fieldhouse gave an interview for a film about Lockerbie, The Maltese Double Cross, in which he narrates some of the events discussed in this article.

A few days after the interview, Fieldhouse was summoned to a meeting with two senior West Yorkshire police officers at Wakefield. Without explanation, he was sacked as police surgeon with a three-month notice.

“In my wildest dreams, I did not realize that I was to set a ball rolling which resulted in the ensuing lies by the police to the Fatal Accident Inquiry about what I had done or about the apparent missing body — DCF 12,” Fieldhouse wrote to me.

The day before the Lockerbie bombing McKee called his mother. “Meet me at the Pittsburgh airport tomorrow night,” McKee told his mother.

 “This was the first time Chuck ever telephoned me from Beirut,” McKee’s mother said. “I was flabbergasted. It’s a surprise. Always before he would wait until he was back in Virginia to call and say he was coming home.”

McKee’s mother says she is sure her son’s sudden decision to fly home was not known to his superiors in Virginia.

If indeed McKee was returning unannounced, one is left wondering how the computers in Washington had information concerning the clothes he was wearing on December 21.

UPDATE ( May 7 2018) — The Lockerbie X File

During its investigation, the SCCRC uncovered the existence of a “Lockerbie X File”.

12.44 Although the trial court was aware of the alleged interference with Mr McKee’s suitcase there was no explanation given for this in evidence nor is there any such explanation in the relevant HOLMES statements or in the police report. The Commission therefore wrote to D&G on 14 December 2005 requesting all information in its possession as to who might have been responsible for the alleged interference.

The Commission also enquired as to whether any items were removed from the suitcase (either permanently or temporarily) and whether records of such items existed. A response to these enquiries was not received from D&G until 29 November 2006. In the intervening period members of the Commission’s enquiry team noted that there was reference to Mr McKee in JIG file X. D&G was informed of this in order that they could take account of the contents of that file in preparing their response.

12.45 In its letter of 29 November 2006 D&G confirmed that there is no information held on HOLMES which would explain the hole that was allegedly cut in Mr McKee’s suitcase and that no other records of any relevance had been found. As the letter made no reference to the contents of JIG file X, the Commission asked that this be examined to establish whether it contained any information relevant to Mr McKee’s suitcase.

In a further letter dated 4 December 2006 D&G confirmed that JIG file X contained several references to Mr McKee’s property, as well as photocopies of various photographs and personal papers. The file was said also to contain an inventory of Mr McKee’s effects which D&G assumed related to a separate entry in the Dexstar log, PD/1324 (described in the log as “Miscellaneous Leaflets/Papers, Charles McKee” found in PD/889). According to the letter, which was written by DCI Dalgleish, now senior investigating officer in the case:

“the presence of Mr McKee on PA103, along with certain others, appears to have been the focus of high level discussions between Senior Police, Security Service and American officials. It is clear that the American authorities were keen to recover any items that may have belonged to McKee in particular, which could be linked to their duties. It may well have been the case that certain items were not recorded in the normal manner to protect American interests but this is purely speculation on my part. Again it is my opinion that the Senior Investigating Officer would be aware if such a decision had been taken.”


Pan Am 103 Why Did They Die? by ROY ROWAN — TIME (June 24, 2001)


Ten Years Ago — Dr David Fieldhouse and Lockerbie

Lockerbie — The Strange Story of Dr David Fieldhouse

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