Overview & Timeline

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

Richard Marquise — FBI Agent who led the US side of the Lockerbie investigation

“I regard the Lockerbie verdict against Megrahi as a Grand Monument to Human Stupidity.  Indeed, the written opinion of the Lockerbie judges is a remarkable document that claims an honoured place in the history of British miscarriages of justice.”

INTEL TODAY — July 5 2017

“More than 31 years after the atrocity the Government’s documents relating to it are still being sequestered in a special category of security in the National Archives where they are not accessible to requests under FOI nor from the media. Why would they do that? Government in secrecy is not democracy, any more than justice delayed is justice. Let us make the clearing up of these cruel mysteries our vision for 2020.”

Dr Jim Swire — Open Letter (The Herald – January 1st 2020)

The Lockerbie Case — Official Timeline & Legal Truth

On 21 December 1988 Pan Am flight 103 fell out of the sky. All 259 passengers and crew members died. Eleven residents of Lockerbie were killed.

A strong westerly wind spread the debris over two trails stretching from the south of Scotland through the north of England and out into the North Sea.

On 28 December 1988, Michael Charles, Inspector of Accidents for the AAIB, announced that traces of high explosive had been found on two pieces of metal. On that date, a criminal investigation was officially launched. The crime scene covered about 845 square miles.

On 13 January 1989, Detective Constables Thomas Gilchrist and Thomas McColm found a fragment of charred clothing in search sector I, near Newcastleton. This piece of charred grey cloth was bagged, labelled “Charred Debris” and given a reference number: PI/995.

On 17 January 1989, it was registered in the Dexstar log.

On 6 February 1989, PI/995 was sent to the Forensic Explosives Laboratory at Fort Halstead in Kent for forensic examination.

On 12 May 1989, Dr. Thomas Hayes examined PI/995. Inside the cloth, Dr.Hayes found fragments of paper, fragments of black plastic and a tiny piece of circuitry.

Dr. Hayes gave to these items the reference number PT/35 as well as an alphabetical suffix to each one of them. The fragment of the circuit board was named PT/35 (b).

In June 1990, with some help from the FBI, Allen Feraday of the Explosives Laboratory was able to match PT/35 (b) to the board of  a Swiss timer known as a MST-13 timer.

Two MST-13 timers had been seized in Togo in September 1986. BATF agent Richard Sherrow had brought one of these back to the US. Two Libyan citizens were caught in possession of an other MST-13 timer in Senegal in 1988.

MST-13 Timer seized in TOGO

An analysis of the Togo timer led the investigators to a small business named MEBO in Zürich.

The owners of MEBO told the investigators that these timers had been manufactured to the order of two Libyans: Ezzadin Hinshin, the director of the Central Security Organisation of the Libyan External Security Organisation and Said Rashid, the head of the Operations Administration of the ESO.

Main board of the MST-13

On 14 November 1991, the Lord Advocate and the acting United States Attorney General jointly announced that they had obtained warrants for the arrest of Abdelbasset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah.

On 27 November 1991, the British and United States Governments issued a joint statement calling on the Libyan government to surrender the two men for trial.

On 21 January 1992, the United Nations Security Council adopted resolution 731 calling on Libya to surrender Megrahi and Fhimah for trial either in the United States or in the United Kingdom.

On 31 March 1992, the Security Council passed resolution 748 imposing mandatory sanctions on Libya for failing to hand over Megrahi and Fhimah. On 11 November 1993, the Security Council passed resolution 883 that imposed further international sanctions on Libya.

On 31 January 2001, a Court found Megrahi guilty and Fimah not guilty.

On 28 June 2007, the SCCRC announced that Megrahi may have been the victim of a miscarriage of justice. The SCCRC announced that there were six grounds upon which it had concluded that a miscarriage of justice might have occurred. Accordingly, the SCCRC decided to refer the case to the Court of Criminal Appeal.

On 25 July 2009, Megrahi  applied to be released from jail on compassionate grounds. On 12 August 2009, Megrahi — under enormous pressure — applied to have his second appeal dropped. Megrahi was granted compassionate release for his terminal prostate cancer.

On 20 August 2009, Megrahi was released from prison and returned to Libya where he died on May 20 2012.

On July 4 2017, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission [SCCRC] confirmed that it has received a new application to review the conviction in the case of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi. [1]

On May 3 2018, SCCRC chief executive Gerard Sinclair  stated that “the (SCCRC) commission has decided that it is in the interests of justice to accept the current application for a full review of his conviction.”

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

March 11 2020 — Glasgow (14:00) — The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission [SCCRC] has decided to refer the Lockerbie case back to the High Court of Justiciary for determination.  As a result of the Commission’s decision, Mr Megrahi’s family is now entitled to instruct an appeal against his conviction

RELATED POST: Lockerbie — SCCRC Refers Case Back to Court

NB. Most facts and dates cited in this timeline are taken from a presentation made by Lord Boyd at the 15th International Conference in Australia in late August 2001. (See references.) This timeline must therefore be regarded as the “legal truth”.

About Lockerbie and Pan Am 103

For those interested in the Lockerbie Trial tragedy, I recommend the excellent blog of Professor Robert Black: TheLockerbieCase.

Those who want to study the forensic history of PT/35(b) will find many resources and original documents on the  PT35B blog.

Also, you may want to check the blog of Dr Jim Swire and Peter Biddulph: The LockerbieTruth.

The book “Megrahi: You Are My Jury: The Lockerbie Evidence” by John Ashton is truly excellent and a must-read.


[1] Professor Black — who is known as the architect of the Lockerbie trial — has explained for INTEL TODAY the role and competence of the SCCRC.

RELATED POST: Lockerbie and the SCCRC — A primer from Law Professor Robert Black


Overview & Timeline