Stuart Henderson

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Died31 January 2019 (Age 78)
Children • Lissette
• Vicky
• David
Stuart Henderson was Senior Investigating Officer at the Lockerbie Incident Control Centre

Stuart Henderson was a former Detective Chief Superintendent with the Lothian and Borders Police who replaced John Orr as the Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) at the Lockerbie Incident Control Centre in 1991, and led the Lockerbie bombing investigation.

The investigation led to the conviction of Libyan Abdelbaset al-Megrahi on 31 January 2001. Stuart Henderson described the decision to release al-Megrahi in 2009 on compassionate grounds as “naive” and a “mistake”.

Eighteen years after Megrahi's conviction, Stuart Henderson died on 31 January 2019. Police Scotland Chief Constable Iain Livingstone praised Mr Henderson for remaining close to families affected by Lockerbie:

“He performed his public service with skill and commitment and will be sorely missed.”[1]

Lockerbie investigation

Megrahi convicted, Bernt Carlsson targeted on Pan Am 103

The United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and UN Commissioner for Namibia, Bernt Carlsson, was the most prominent of the 270 people murdered at Lockerbie on 21 December 1988. Yet the criminal investigation of Bernt Carlsson's murder appears to have been both peremptory and superficial, according to the account given by Scottish police detective John Crawford.

In his book, "The Lockerbie Incident: A Detective's Tale",[2] DC Crawford wrote:

"We eventually produced a report on all fifteen [the 'first fifteen' of the interline passengers] to the SIO (Stuart Henderson), each person had their own story and as many antecedents as we could gather. The other teams had also finished their profiles of their group of interline passengers. None of them had found anything which could categorically put any of the interline passengers into any frame as a target, dupe or anything else other than a victim of crime."

On 8 November 2013, former diplomat Patrick Haseldine emailed DCS Stuart Henderson to request an extract of the 'first fifteen' report (dealing specifically with interline passenger Bernt Carlsson) which Wikispooks will publish:

"Dear DCS Stuart Henderson,
"As Senior Investigating Officer of the Lockerbie criminal investigation, you received reports from teams of police investigators on the interline passengers who joined Pan Am Flight 103 on 21 December 1988 from other airlines.
"Detective Constable John Crawford submitted to you a report on the 'first fifteen' of these interline passengers, who included United Nations Assistant Secretary-General Bernt Carlsson.
"According to Swedish journalist, Jan-Olof Bengtsson, Bernt Carlsson arrived at Heathrow from Brussels on British Airways flight BA391 at 11.06am. Mr Carlsson was apparently driven to London for a pre-arranged meeting with the diamond mining and marketing firm De Beers, and returned to Heathrow in good time to catch the doomed flight.
"I should be grateful if you could email me an extract of DC Crawford's 'first fifteen' report that deals specifically with interline passenger Bernt Carlsson.
"Yours sincerely,
"Patrick Haseldine"
"PS. (Monday, 11 November 2013, 10:00) Further research reveals that DC Crawford lists sixteen names in his 'first fifteen' report."

A Detective's Tale

Crawford's book, published August 2002

This is a longer extract from DC Crawford's "The Lockerbie Incident: A Detective's Tale" (pages 79/89):

The enquiry team personnel were reorganised once again and I found myself working with Alex Brown, a DS from Carluke in Lanarkshire.... Just after being set up in this format we were told that a team of us would form the Priority Profiling team. Both Alex and I would be responsible for taking a close look at all of the so-called 'first fifteen' of the interline passengers: those most likely to have been targeted or of some status that would make them a possible target.

All fifteen had boarded 103 from another flight and therefore had their luggage checked through an airport other than Frankfurt or Heathrow. Our task was to examine every aspect of the person, obtain as much background as possible, examine every detail we could find and eliminate them from further enquiry as a target or possible 'stooge' who had been tricked into carrying anything on board. Another four groups were dealing with other interline passengers.

The people we had to profile were:

  1. Michael Bernstein - A Nazi hunter who was employed by the US State Department and was returning from a job in Austria to the USA.
  2. Bernt Carlsson - A United Nations Commissioner who was heavily involved in negotiations regarding the independence of South-West Africa (Namibia).
  3. Richard Cawley - An American businessman with no known links with any State function.
  4. Joseph Patrick Curry - A 31 year old Special Forces captain who had been attending an international security conference in Italy.
  5. Robert Fortune - Another American businessman, again no links with any State authority.
  6. James Fuller - Vice President of Volkswagen in America returning to the US - no links with any State authority.
  7. Matthew Gannon - A US State official who had been operating in Beirut.
  8. Ronald La Riviere - Another US State official who had been operating in Beirut and who had travelled from there to Cyprus with Gannon and McKee in a military helicopter.
  9. Charles 'Tiny' McKee - A Major in the US Army working in Beirut. A 40 year old communications and code specialist, he had travelled to Cyprus with Gannon and La Riviere.
  10. Louis Marengo - Marketing director of Volkswagen in the US. Along with his fellow senior executive James Fuller, Marengo was returning home from a business trip. He had no links with any State authority.
  11. Daniel O'Connor - Another US State official who was responsible for security at the American embassy in Cyprus. He had flown from Cyprus in company with Gannon, La Riviere and McKee.
  12. Robert Pagnucco - An American businessman returning from a business trip in Europe. No links with State authority.
  13. Peter Pierce - A US citizen returning from a postgraduate course in Italy.
  14. Arnaud Rubin - A Belgian national who was returning from a holiday at his parents' home in Belgium to his work in America.
  15. James Stow - An Englishman living in New York. He had been in Switzerland on a business trip.
  16. Elia Stratis - Another American businessman returning home from a trip. No links with any State authority.

It was not an easy task establishing all we wanted to know about each. We confirmed very quickly that the businessmen identified were just that.

We asked the FBI to make certain enquiries in the US on our behalf to establish antecedents for all our subjects. Some of the agents were slow on the uptake and seemed reluctant to carry out enquiries. They couldn't see the point of investigating someone who was patently innocent. That was our first wee sign that each investigating force had its own methods of investigation.

In Scotland we gather as much information as possible about a murder victim in an attempt to ensure that there are no skeletons lurking that might have had some effect on the crime. We never leave any stone unturned - it might conceal an all-important clue. Each fact must be examined from all angles and then filed away for any future reference that may be required.

We double then triple check everything. I suppose we have less murders to investigate than some other countries and we still place a great deal of importance on investigating them. Resources that are given over to murder enquiries in Scotland are simply not available in places where hourly murders occur. I thank God that we still value human life enough to devote the necessary resources to investigating all murders fully. Signs are this will not always be the case as more and more accountants are hitched to the police, checking every single penny spent.

I had never experienced working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation before Lockerbie. Of course I'd heard of them even if they'd never heard of us! They were, it was said, the investigators supreme; I looked forward to learning from the experience. The first paperwork we got back from the US was what the FBI called a FD402 - these are the statements made up from the interviews carried out by the FBI personnel.

I read one incredulously: it began with the two FBI agents going to the home of the relative of one of the deceased. The first part of the report was about how pleased the people were that the FBI were investigating the Lockerbie bombing, with little real information other than that added. It may well be that the family was grateful that the FBI were lending their considerable experience and expertise to the enquiry. But there was no real need to fill out the FD402 report with an advertisement for the agency - there was nothing evidential to be gained either negatively or positively from that little gem. It was a disappointment.

The reports that were starting to come through to the rest of the enquiry were often the same. They were either very good with lots of information or they were utter rubbish that was fit only for file 13 (the rubbish bin). I was willing to forget the bad ones, no investigating force has a perfect set of agents. There are always one or two who can hardly write their name, never mind a report containing the information requested.

We weren't the only ones complaining about the poor standards. The other teams had their moans, so one of the Inspectors from the HOLMES team went to the States to get some relevant answers for us. David Isles was an Englishman who worked for Strathclyde. He returned promptly and we all gathered for a briefing. He said in his northern English accent:

"The first thing that you have got to realise is that the Americans are different!"

I was flabbergasted. This guy had gone over to the States and thought fit to relate that the "Americans were different" - well we took that little diamond right to heart, imagine the Americans being different from us we mused. Whatever next! His trip had been a waste of time as far as we were concerned. The same old problems remained and were never satisfactorily sorted out.

While investigating James Ralph Stow, we turned up a guy in London who knew him well; according to his friend Mr Stow had been in Switzerland meeting with the son-in-law of the Venezuelan president. Apparently the president was trying to sell off parts of his country to the Americans without his people knowing what he was up to. It seemed a far-fetched story at the time but we took details of it nevertheless. We knew that Stow was an international banker who was a bit of a wheeler and dealer and the friend seemed genuine enough. We passed on the information we had obtained but never heard anything more about it.

Alex Brown and I eventually got fifteen fat files of information on our subjects. A few had proved very interesting - particularly those four US State Department officials who had travelled on the same flight from Cyprus.

All the theories about warnings that have been aired since the disaster (especially the so-called Helsinki Warning) that had been circulated to all the American embassies warning personnel not to travel on this particular flight seems to be a nonsense. Unless the American embassy in Cyprus was not on the address list of the warning nor, it would seem any embassy that looked after American interests in Beirut. I'm afraid that I hold no confidence in these so-called alarms that were raised. The passengers and crew were unfortunate in the extreme to have been made a target for a strike against the United States. In any case we dug up as much as possible but many questions were left unanswered about the four Americans who flew from Cyprus. They had some strange connections and were obviously working for their government in Lebanon. We were forced to make decisions on the information we had to hand. It is unlikely that any of the four would have been unprofessional enough to have had a bomb put into their baggage either in Beirut or in Cyprus before they caught their flight to London to pick up Pan Am 103. All four were professionals in their trade and I don't believe that they could have been duped.

We even went as far as consulting a very helpful lady librarian in Newcastle who contacted us with information she had on Bernt Carlsson. She provided much of the background on the political moves made by Carlsson on behalf of the United Nations. He had survived a previous attack on an aircraft he had been travelling on in Africa. It is unlikely that he was a target as the political scene in Southern Africa was moving inexorably towards its present state. No matter what happened to Carlsson after he had completed his mission in Namibia the political changes were already well in place and his demise would not have altered anything. This would have made a nonsense of any alleged assassination attempt on him as it would not have achieved anything. I discounted the theory as being almost totally beyond the realms of feasibility.

We eventually produced a report on all fifteen to the SIO, each person had their own story and as many antecedents as we could gather. The other teams had also finished their profiles of their group of interline passengers. None of them had found anything which could categorically put any of the interline passengers into the frame as a target, dupe or anything else other than a victim of crime.

a. DC Crawford's Priority Profiling list of interline passengers (the 'first fifteen') actually totals sixteen names.
b. The SIO (Senior Investigating Officer) mentioned in the final paragraph of the extract is the now retired Detective Chief Superintendent Stuart Henderson of the Lockerbie Incident Control Centre.
c. On 24 August 2009, in an article published in The Scotsman, both Henderson and the book's author, DC John Crawford, were highly critical of Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill's decision to grant compassionate release to Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi.

Bernt Carlsson's suitcase

Presikhaaf case, like Bernt Carlsson's
Bomb-damaged container AVE4041

In evidence given at the Lockerbie Trial on 15 June 2000, expert witness Alan Feraday identified at least 13 items said to be from the Brown Samsonite suitcase, which was alleged to have contained the bomb. Journalist Ian Ferguson summarised the day's proceedings on his website THELOCKERBIETRIAL.COM:

"Feraday pinpointed the location of the case down to the last centimetre, on the second layer of bags in container AVE4041. Immediately below where Feraday claims the bomb went off, investigators identified a grey Presikhaaf suitcase (belonging to UN Commissioner for Namibia, Bernt Carlsson).
"In the early stages of the investigation, Bernt Carlsson's suitcase was seen as the more likely bomb case. Police sources at the time said that this case was cleared of being the suspect case on November 23rd 1989.
"To date not one item from the contents of Bernt Carlsson's Presikhaaf have been found. If there is a scientific reason why nothing has been found from this case, situated below the bomb case then it has not yet been explained in court. To a layperson it seems odd that the case adjacent to a bomb case should have no contents remaining, but from the bomb case itself we have an array of items.
"So what happened to the contents of Bernt Carlsson's Presikhaaf suitcase?"[3]

Summary of Lockerbie Revisited

Lockerbie Revisited is a Dutch 50-minute documentary film from the VPRO television documentary series Backlight which was broadcast in the Netherlands on the eve of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi's second appeal against conviction for the Lockerbie Bombing that started at the High Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh on 28 April 2009. The film's director, Gideon Levy, narrates in Dutch and conducts interviews in English with: retired FBI agent Richard Marquise; Detective Chief Superintendent Stuart Henderson of the Scottish police; ex-FBI Crime Laboratory head Thomas Thurman; UN Observer at the Lockerbie trial Hans Köchler; author, journalist and the film's researcher Ian Ferguson; former CIA agent Robert Baer; ex-FBI laboratory scientist Frederic Whitehurst and a former Lord Advocate, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie.

Robert Baer says that geopolitics and inter-agency rivalry prevented the CIA passing intelligence-derived evidence to the FBI. Richard Marquise states categorically that no money was paid to any of the witnesses before the Lockerbie bombing trial. In relation to witness Tony Gauci, Marquise refuses to say whether any money was paid out after the trial. Lord Fraser says he gave strict instructions that no payment should be made to witnesses. Dr Whitehurst describes the FBI laboratory as a "crime scene", where his unqualified colleague Thomas Thurman would routinely alter Whitehurst's scientific reports over a five-year period. Ian Ferguson reports that the timer fragment - allegedly found in the Pan Am Flight 103 debris and which allegedly was part of the MEBO timer that triggered the bomb - had not been tested for explosives residue because of 'budgetary reasons'. Whitehurst does not accept that cost could be the reason since it would have taken him just a morning's work to have tested the timer fragment. Thurman confirms that the fragment - the only real piece of evidence against Libya - had been brought over from the UK to the FBI crime lab, where he had personally identified it as coming from the circuit board of a MEBO MST-13 timer, only 20 of which had been made and all were supplied to Libya. Marquise agrees that "without the timer fragment we would have been unable to develop additional evidence against Libya." He says that of all the evidence retrieved from the crash scene, only one piece - the timer fragment - was brought to America. Lord Fraser disagrees saying he would have had to authorise the handing over to the FBI of this crucial piece of evidence, and he had not done so.

In another interview towards the end of the film, Marquise changes his mind and is prompted by DCS Henderson to say that the "fragment never came to the US." Marquise volunteers that he actually saw the timer fragment (PT-35) in London, but Henderson corrects him saying Marquise had seen it where all the other evidence was kept in the UK. Before taking his leave, DCS Stuart Henderson emphasises to the camera that there are "no hidden holes to find because the culprit (Megrahi) is in custody - take my word for it!"[4]

Releasing Megrahi

In August 2009, Stuart Henderson called the Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill "naive" for granting Abdelbaset al-Megrahi compassionate release from jail in Scotland:

The decision to release the Lockerbie bomber has been described as "naive" and a "mistake" by the Scottish detective who led the investigation into the Pan Am atrocity.
In a dramatic intervention ahead of the Justice Secretary's statement to the Scottish Parliament today (24 August 2009), Stuart Henderson – the retired senior investigating officer at the Lockerbie Incident Control Centre – also said Libya's jubilant celebrations on Thursday following the return of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, who has who has terminal cancer, had "rubbed salt into the wounds" of the victims' families.
The retired officer's comments heaped further pressure on Mr MacAskill as protests from the United States intensified.
The top US military commander, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said he was appalled at the release on compassionate grounds of the only man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, adding "this is obviously a political decision".
Warnings of a trade boycott in protest at the decision grew last night, with one US state senator calling for a bar on Scottish products, including whisky, and even on banks.
The outrage, both at home and abroad, comes as Mr MacAskill prepares to face the Scottish Parliament today. MSPs have been recalled a week early to discuss the situation.
US protests were rebuffed by First Minister Alex Salmond, who insisted that the decision on Megrahi had not been taken to "court popularity" and reminded US authorities that it was a matter for Scots law.
While the row raged, Prime Minister Gordon Brown maintained his silence on whether he backed the decision to free Megrahi, although last night it emerged he would make the time to write to the England cricket team to congratulate them on the Ashes win.
Mr Henderson, a former Detective Chief Superintendent with Lothian and Borders Police, who was brought in to lead the investigation, said:
"It was a very unfortunate mistake to make. It should not have been handled that way and I feel sorry for Mr MacAskill's naivety about what has happened. We all knew he (Megrahi) would get a hero's welcome when he went back. It was distressing to see the Saltires being waved, that was really rubbing salt into the wounds, but that is the Libyans for you. That is how they operate. Gordon Brown should have known this would happen."
Mr Henderson spent four years leading the investigation, which took him to 47 countries. He retired in 1992 after handing over a report to the procurator-fiscal naming Megrahi and Al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah, who was later acquitted. Mr Henderson, 69, and Richard Marquise, the FBI special agent in charge of the US task force, had written to Mr MacAskill urging him not to release Megrahi.
Yesterday Mr Henderson said: "I think the only possible thing was to consider the grief caused to the families involved and to think of the lives of the 270 victims first before thinking about the criminal, who is now unwell."
Conspiracy theorists who insist Megrahi was innocent and that evidence was tampered with "make my blood boil", Mr Henderson said.
"It is an insult to our police officers. It's an insult to the Americans, to the Germans, to the Swiss and the Maltese officers. We visited 47 countries in the course of this investigation. We had officers working for four years. People think there is some doubt and they want to know who was behind it and who sponsored it? Up until now we have not been able to speak because there was an ongoing appeal and even if you are a retired officer it is not your place. But I would hope now that people will listen. We have nothing to hide. It has been very frustrating listening to all this nonsense. As a police officer you don't take sides, you follow the evidence and report what you find and if you don't find enough evidence then you report that. Let's be clear. He was convicted and then he was convicted again after an appeal. Are we saying eight Scottish high court judges don't know what they are talking about?"
He was supported yesterday by John Crawford, a fellow detective, who said:
"I think the compassion angle was all wrong. It was inevitable that people would use it against the decision he made as it was so obvious that Megrahi did not show one jot of compassion when he cold bloodedly went about his business of killing 270 innocent people."[5]

You must be joking!

On 6 October 2010, Stuart Henderson gave an extended interview to STV, the summary of which is as follows:

Retired Detective Chief Superindendent Stuart Henderson was the senior investigating officer during the Lockerbie inquiry.
He defends Tony Gauci, the Maltese shopkeeper who said Megrahi "resembled a lot" the Libyan who bought clothes which were packed into a suitcase around the Lockerbie bomb.
Gauci was the most important single witness in the case and his evidence was central to Megrahi's second appeal.
Mr Henderson denies that Gauci had been influenced by the offer of a reward and angrily rejects suggestions that Libya was framed for political reasons:
"We as Police Officers, do the best we can. What is in it for me, to try and fit somebody up, to go behind bars or 40 years..? You must be joking! Anybody that makes suggestions like that, has got to be twisted, because we were being watched on a daily basis. The whole World was watching us."[6]

My Brother's Bomber

In September 2015 Ken Dornstein, brother of Lockerbie victim David Dornstein, produced a three-part film for PBS Frontline entitled "My Brother's Bomber" which is an attempt to re-investigate the December 1988 Pan Am Flight 103 bombing, for which Abdelbaset al-Megrahi remains the only person convicted. To assist Dornstein's investigation, Stuart Henderson gave him a list of ten of Megrahi's “unindicted co-conspirators” who had never been put on trial. Thought to be included in that list were former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and Swiss businessman Edwin Bollier whose firm MEBO manufactured electronic timers. Top of Henderson's list was Gaddafi's former spy chief Abdullah al-Senussi, who was convicted in Tripoli of "crimes against humanity" in July 2015, and sentenced to death. The remaining seven were:

Nasser Ali Ashour, the Armourer. A "smooth, cultured" spy who supplied Semtex and guns to the Provisional IRA for Gaddafi in the 1980s. Adrian Hopkins, the Irish skipper who helped smuggle the arms, told French police: "He spoke English with a very distinguished accent. He never looked you in the face, likes to parade, has small feet, wears Italian shoes, drinks whisky but does not smoke." He managed Libya's network of agents in the Mediterranean and hunted down Libyan dissidents throughout Europe. Now aged 68, his whereabouts are unknown.
Mohammed Abouagela Masud (aka Abu Agila Mas’ud), the Technician. Introduced to a CIA undercover agent as an airline technician, he worked with Megrahi and Fhimah in Malta where the bomb was allegedly planted on a feeder flight in an unaccompanied Samsonite suitcase. The evidence against Mas'ud is thought to have been the subject of secret court hearings held behind closed doors in Valletta in 2012, at the request of the Crown Office. His whereabouts are unknown.
Said Rashid, the Assassin. A former head of JSO's operations section and close friend of Gaddafi who went on to become a powerful government figure. He was killed in a shoot-out with rebels in February 2011 following a speech by the dictator's son, Saif. In 1983, Rashid was arrested in France in connection with the murders of Libyan dissidents in London, Bonn and Rome, but later released.
Ezzadin Hinshiri, the Diplomat. Another senior JSO figure who became a top official and one of Gaddafi's most loyal lieutenants. He was killed along with 52 other regime supporters in an infamous massacre at a seafront hotel in Sirte in the final days of the uprising in April 2011.
Badri Hussan, the Businessman. Set up a front company with Megrahi and rented an office in Zurich from Mebo, the Swiss firm linked to the timers used in the bombing. The firm's co-founder, Edwin Bollier, told the Lockerbie trial that he delivered a suitcase from Hussan to Hinshiri in Tripoli on December 17, 1988 - just days before the terror strike. Whereabouts unknown.
Mohamed Marzouk and Mansour Omran Saber, the Missing Links. Arrested at Dakar airport in Senegal in February 1988 with Semtex, TNT and bomb triggers. They were released without charge. In 1991, a "brilliant, young" CIA analyst realised the triggers matched those used in the Lockerbie bombing, changing the entire course of the investigation. Whereabouts unknown.[7]

Henderson told Dornstein that if he could get to Libya it might be possible to track down the men who could then be brought to trial. Over the course of three trips to Libya starting in 2011, Dornstein sought out the eight men on the list, finally revealing that Abu Agila Mas’ud was his main suspect.[8]

Film researcher John Ashton who acted as a paid consultant for "My Brother's Bomber" was not impressed:

Megrahi was on the same flight as Mas’ud on at least three occasions prior to Lockerbie, including on the morning of the bombing when they flew from Malta to Libya. It was in Malta that Megrahi was alleged to have put the bomb onto an Air Malta flight to Frankfurt, which was supposedly transferred to a feeder flight to Heathrow and again at Heathrow to Pan Am Flight 103. Megrahi and numerous other Libyan witnesses denied knowing Mas’ud, but the film suggests that Mas'ud was in the car that greeted Megrahi on his return to Libya. Earlier this year a Libyan court convicted Mas’ud of making booby-trapped car bombs during the country’s 2011 revolution.
So far, so convincing. Clearly there is a prima facie case against Mas’ud, just as there was against Megrahi. Now that his whereabouts are known, we must hope that he can be brought to trial and the new evidence tested in a Scottish court. However, if that happens, the prosecution will face far greater difficulties than they did in trying Megrahi.
The fear is that the Frontline film’s claims will provide the Crown Office with a smokescreen, from behind which it can brief that Megrahi was guilty all along and that its failures were therefore immaterial. They were anything but and, until it is held to account for them, they will remain a terrible stain on Scottish justice.[9][10]

See also


External links