John Urquhart Cameron
| John Urquhart Cameron |
10 June 1943|
Dundee, Scotland, United Kingdom
• Jill Cameron|
• née Sjoberg
|Interests||Pan Am Flight 103|
•John Urquhart Cameron/Lockerbie Forensic Evidence Report|
John Urquhart Cameron is a distinguished academic and social reformer and a former parish minister of the Church of Scotland. Following a request in 2003 by Nelson Mandela, Dr Cameron conducted a scientific examination of the forensic evidence which convicted Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and produced a highly critical report on the Lockerbie bombing trial.
Cameron was born in Dundee, Scotland, and was educated at Falkirk High School and at Pomona College in California, St Andrews University and Edinburgh University. He holds a PhD in both Physics and Theology.
During his time in California he attended lectures given at Caltech by the great theoretical Physicist Richard Feynman. The Nobel Laureate's third wife, Gwyneth Howarth, was a distant relative of Cameron and the two men became friends, remaining close until Feynman's death in 1989. Cameron and another friend and associate of Feynman, Freeman Dyson, later became leading critics of the "Global Warming" hypothesis.
Cameron was an outstanding athlete and was selected for the Scottish international athletics team while he was still at school and later gained one of the first American sports scholarships awarded to a Scottish runner. After the Tokyo Olympics he turned to golf, playing for St Andrews University in the 1960s and Edinburgh University in the 1970s before becoming a member of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club.
Cameron met and married the Anglo-Swedish skier Jill Sjoberg when he was a marketing executive with GlaxoSmithKline in London, and they have a daughter Clare and a son Alex. Leaving GlaxoSmithKline he joined the Church of Scotland. He was parish minister of Broughty Ferry for thirty five years during which time he also taught religious studies at the High School of Dundee. At other times during his career he lectured in Physics and Mathematics at Napier University, Dundee University and Abertay University.
A member of a distinguished extended family of journalists which included James Cameron he wrote articles for The Courier, The Scotsman, The Good Ski Guide, The Good Holiday Magazine and The Scottish Review. He was also a senior chaplain for many years in the Royal Naval Reserve and later padre to the Black Watch.
He is best known as the leading social reformer among the Scottish clergy and has often collaborated with the Very Rev Professor Iain Torrance of Princeton University to address some of the most controversial topics of the day. He has been a powerful advocate and supporter of same-sex marriage, ordination of gay clergy, the right to physician assisted suicide, women’s right to choose and the decriminalisation of narcotics.
Lockerbie Bombing Forensic Evidence Review
- Full article: John Urquhart Cameron/Lockerbie Forensic Evidence Report
- Full article: John Urquhart Cameron/Lockerbie Forensic Evidence Report
Cameron joined Professor Iain Torrance and Dr Jim Swire to launch the initial campaign for the retrial of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi the Libyan controversially convicted of the Lockerbie Bombing. Dr Cameron's highly critical report of the scientific and forensic evidence presented at the trial at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands marked a water-shed in the Scottish public's attitude to Megrahi. Dr Cameron wrote in The Scottish Review: 
- "I first became involved in the Lockerbie case when Nelson Mandela asked the Church of Scotland to support his efforts to have Abdelbaset al-Megrahi's conviction overturned.
- "As an experienced lawyer, Mandela studied the transcripts and decided there had been a miscarriage of justice, pointing especially to serious problems with the forensic evidence. I was the only research physicist among the clergy and was the obvious person to review the evidence to produce a technical report which might be understood by the Kirk.
- "Scientists always select the competing hypothesis that makes the fewest assumptions to eliminate complicated constructions and keep theories grounded in the laws of science. This is 'Occam's razor' and from the outset the theory that the bomb entered the system in Malta as unaccompanied baggage and rattled around Europe seemed quite mad. I contacted everyone I knew in aviation and they all were of the opinion it was placed on board at the notoriously insecure Heathrow and that the trigger had to be barometric.
- "It is therefore unfortunate that it would be difficult to find three more disreputable practitioners than Thurman, Hayes and Feraday. It should be a matter of deep concern that Megrahi is the only man convicted on the evidence of these three individuals whose conviction was not reversed on appeal.
- "There is also no credible evidence that the clothes from Tony Gauci’s shop found among the Lockerbie wreckage were really bought on the day stated in the trial. The sale seemed much more likely to have happened on a day when Abu Talb was on Malta and Megrahi definitely was not. It is also known that when the Swedish police arrested Abu Talb for a different terrorist offence they found some of the same batch of clothing in his flat in Uppsala. No explanation for that was forthcoming at the trial.
- "Finally, the behaviour of the chief prosecutor Colin Boyd, both in concealing the nefarious activity of his forensic scientists and withholding essential evidence from the defence, is utterly reprehensible. Together with lack of moral fibre shown by Lord Cullen and the Court of Criminal Appeal it has left a permanent stain on the reputation of the entire Scottish legal system."
On 24 December 2014, The Scotsman printed the following letter headed "Forensic folly" from Dr Cameron:
- Few forensic-based cases have caused greater concern than the Lockerbie trial, with the review commission deeply concerned by the prosecution’s tactics of disinformation (your report, 23 December).
- The lead prosecutor, Colin Boyd, was also involved in an earlier forensic disaster when the fingerprint evidence against Detective Constable Shirley McKie was thrown out and then she was acquitted.
- One of the foremost critics of the trial is the famous criminal lawyer Michael Mansfield, who has long warned against over-reliance on forensic evidence to secure convictions. He said: “Some of the worst miscarriages of justice in British legal history have come from cases in which the forensic science was later shown to have been grossly misleading.”
- The idea of a long-timer bomb starting at Malta in a piece of unaccompanied baggage before finding its way on to Pan Am 103 is beyond absurdity.
- There is no proof it entered at Malta – in fact, Air Malta won a libel action establishing it did not – and the evidence of a Heathrow-loaded barometric device is overwhelming.
- (Dr) John Cameron
- Howard Place
- St Andrews
Megrahi book review
Dr Cameron reviewed John Ashton's 2012 book, as follows:
- "I read John Ashton's 500-page tour de force "Megrahi: You Are My Jury" at a sitting and though I would not expect anyone else to do so it is an invaluable 'source' for the public. His dissection of the trial in general and the 80-page judgement of Lords Sutherland, Coulsfield and MacLean in particular make compelling if disturbing reading.
- "The British public, media and politicians have a spectacularly poor knowledge of science and technology as debates over such things as windfarms and GM crops makes clear. It would be unreasonable to expect our Law Lords, classically educated at public schools where the teaching of science was bad and technology non-existent, to be any better. It was therefore only to be expected they would struggle to comprehend the weakness of the forensic evidence or to understand the operation of Frankfurt airport's X-ray security. Yet, as the UN observer wrote, that does not excuse their reliance on the partial evidence from wholly unreliable witnesses to reach a verdict 'beyond any reasonable doubt'. The Crown's case was that Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and Lamin Fhimah, acting together, smuggled the bomb on board a feeder flight from Malta in unaccompanied baggage. The Prosecution insisted they were either both innocent or both guilty however the only evidence linking Fhimah to this scenario depended on the evidence of one witness. This was Majid Giaka, a CIA informant, and by the time Fhimah's counsel, Richard Keen, had finished with him it was clear Giaka was both a liar and a fantasist.
- "I thought the trial was over and though it still dragged on with increasing absurdity I was not surprised when the Crown closed that Keen submitted Fhimah had no case to answer. However, I had not counted on Alastair Campbell, who led the Crown's case, informing the court he was dropping the conspiracy charge i.e. separating al-Megrahi and Fhimah. This was allowed but conspiracy was the basis of the case so I asked a leading figure in our judiciary if they could do that and he said the Law Lords could do what they liked.
- "When I replied that was illogical and unfair he archly responded, 'Show me where it says Scots Law must be logical and fair,' and an historic miscarriage of justice was inevitable."
- "Lockerbie: Mandela and Dr John Cameron's Report"
- Intemperate words by Michael Alexander in The Courier March 7, 2012.
- Abortion time limit debated in General Assembly by Gordon Dean in the Scotsman May 25, 1988.
- Call for hard drug legalisation by Jonathon Petre, Daily Telegraph, May 28, 1980.
- Legalise Dope Call Sparks Storm in Kirk Assembly by Rob Fairbairn in The Sun May 22, 1990.
- US Drug Prohibition Methods Condemned by Christopher Reekie in the Scotsman May 23, 1993.
- Jeans, Chris. "The Case of the Lockerbie Bomber" Al Jazeere documentary, June 2011.
- "We should beware forensic evidence to secure convictions"
- "Forensic Report on the Lockerbie Bombing"
- "Forensic folly"
- "Dr Cameron's review of John Ashton's 2012 book"
- "Scottish Who's Who" edited by Martin Frost.
- "Legalise assisted suicide, Kirk minister says." by Melanie Read in The Times, published 25 November 2009.
- Gay clergy discrimination absolutely illegal: Rev John Cameron. by David Lord in the Courier, published 29 April 2011.
- [Fasti Ecclesiæ Scoticanæ. XI. Edinburgh: T&T Clark Ltd. 2000. ISBN 0-567-08750-6]
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