Woman Tells of Flight 103 Debris
CAMP ZEIST, Netherlands (AP) _ A resident of an English farming village described today how she found among Pan Am Flight 103 debris strewn outside her home a cassette recorder manual that became essential to the Lockerbie investigation.
Prosecutors called a number of civilians and police constables to testify on the recovery of items from the Dec. 21, 1988, bombing in order to lay the groundwork for the case against the two Libyan defendants.
Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah are charged with the murders of 270 people _ including 189 Americans. Prosecutors say a plastic explosive inside a cassette recorder stowed in a brown suitcase detonated in the belly of the airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland.
Gwendoline Horton, of Morpeth, 60 miles east of Lockerbie, described the scene around town the day after the explosion. Air currents had carried a considerable amount of light debris into northern England and deposited it in the Morpeth area.
``All the local farmers were collecting it in the fields,″ she said. ``We went out to collect what we could ... I remember coming upon a document of some sort that made reference to a radio cassette player.″
Police constable Brian Walton confirmed that he accepted Horton’s find, which he described as an instruction handbook for a cassette player.
``It had tiny bits of cinder on the edges,″ he told the court, adding that investigators did not initially realize its significance.
Today when Horton was handed a plastic bag with fragments of the manual, she did not recognize it. ``I’m sure when I handed it in, it was in one piece,″ she testified.
It was impossible to establish with absolute certainty from the testimony whether the manual corresponded to the electronic device that held the bomb. But Scottish law requires the court to establish the origins of all incriminating evidence before it can be linked to the accused.
The morning session was cut short when the presiding judge, Lord Sutherland, called an adjournment at the request of prosecuting and defense teams.
The attorneys said they wanted to discuss out-of-court agreements that might save time-consuming testimony on uncontroversial evidence.
``I take it that without agreement we would have days of this sort of evidence?″ Sutherland asked dryly.
``More than days,″ said prosecutor Alastair Campbell.
The Lockerbie trial, which began May 3, is being conducted before Scottish judges on a former U.S. Air Force base in the Netherlands as part of an agreement that persuaded Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to hand over the suspects last year.
If found guilty of murder, the defendants face life imprisonment in Scotland. They have pleaded innocent, blaming Palestinian terrorist factions based in Syria for the attack.