Thomas Hayes

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Person.png Thomas HayesRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Born14 July 1946

Dr Thomas Hayes (born 14 July 1946) joined the Forensic Explosives Laboratory (FEL) in Woolwich in 1974. He was appointed Head of FEL in 1985 when it was relocated to the Royal Armament Research and Development Establishment (RARDE) at Fort Halstead in Kent.[1] Dr Hayes played a crucial role in the investigation into the Lockerbie bombing of 21 December 1988.

In the latter part of 1989, Dr Hayes retired from FEL to become a chiropodist and was replaced by his deputy Alan Feraday.[2]

Early retirement

At the young age of 43, Dr Hayes resigned in 1989 just a few months after the discovery of the MEBO timer fragment to begin a new life as a chiropodist. There can be little doubt as to why he decided to embark into such new career as Defence QC Richard Keen suggested at the Lockerbie trial:

“Keen: Dr Hayes, you told us in your earlier evidence that you were head of the Forensics Explosives Laboratory at RARDE until 1989? And your change of career from forensic scientist to chiropodist would appear to coincide in point of time with the decision of the Home Secretary to appoint Sir John May to inquire into the trial of those known as the Maguire Seven. Is that true?
Hayes: I believe so. I don’t recall clearly.”

Ludwig De Braeckeleer concludes: I am convinced to this day that Hayes really did recall the date and reason. He simply did not dare say it in front of the Lockerbie trial judges. For in May 1989, even as he examined the fragment which appeared in the evidence bag with a label signed by Detective Constable Gilchrist and altered by unknown persons, a campaign was running in Parliament to have him and his colleagues investigated for their roles in both IRA trials. The Parliamentary findings were published in 1992 and 1996, long after the November 1991 indictments of the Libyan suspects Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and Lamin Khalifah Fhimah,” wrote Dr Jim Swire in his forthcoming book.[3]

Hayes called a liar

In October 2013, Thomas Hayes was called a liar by Steven Raeburn, editor of Scots Law magazine The Firm, in a devastating criticism of Morag Kerr's book about the Lockerbie bombing:

"Dangerous, suspicious Government-fed propaganda, based on the discredited Feraday/Hayes lies. Beware."[4]

Upon the death on 21 June 2014 of Gerry Conlon, wrongly convicted on the evidence of Thomas Hayes, Dr Jim Swire wrote:

Few people today are aware that that "scientific" evidence against Conlon was in part provided by Dr Thomas Hayes, a Higher Scientific Officer at RARDE. Hayes was never disciplined for his actions. Indeed, he was soon to be promoted to head of department. His career would in time merge into the Lockerbie investigation and trial.

Here is part of an account of his appearance at Camp Zeist, alongside his colleague Allen Feraday, on day 15 of the Lockerbie trial (5 June 2000):

Dr Thomas Hayes was formerly head of the Forensics Explosives Laboratory at the British RARDE. He would prove a central figure in the prosecution case. At the time of the trial he was aged fifty three, having retired from his RARDE post ten years earlier just as the joint Scottish police and FBI investigation into the Lockerbie attack was reaching its climax.
As a Bachelor of Science honours in chemistry, a Master of Science in the faculty of forensic science, a Doctor of Philosophy in the faculty of forensic science, a chartered chemist, and a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry, we might expect an outstanding memory. And yet he seemed reluctant to tell the court when he'd resigned in order to commence a radically new career as a chiropodist. When did he start work at Fort Halstead?
"In July 1974."
And when did he leave?
"The exact date of my leaving is a little circumspect, but I believe it was in 1990."
He actually resigned in 1989, a year that for him may have been circumspect, but was, in relation to the Lockerbie trial, most significant. For he possessed an uncomfortable history in relation to another major terrorist event, namely the alleged IRA bombing involving members of the Maguire family - The Maguire Seven who were convicted in 1976.[5]

Expert witness at Camp Zeist

Dr Hayes testified that he was the first to discover the piece of crucial evidence (Mebo MST-13 timer fragment) that would convict Abdelbaset al-Megrahi at the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing trial, which took place from May 2000 to January 2001 at Camp Zeist, Netherlands.[6]

Hayes admitted at the trial that he did not think it was necessary to test the tiny timer fragment coded PT/35(b) for explosive residue. Under cross-examination, Hayes agreed that an even smaller sample (from underneath a fingernail) had been tested by two other RARDE scientists (Elliott and Higgs) in the cases of the Maguire Seven and Judith Ward. Both cases were subsequently quashed on appeal, when the RARDE scientists "were found to have lied and suppressed evidence at the trials."[7]

The Scottish Court in the Netherlands also heard that Hayes had examined the timer fragment at RARDE in May 1989, four months after it was said to have been found. But the page recording his findings appeared to have been inserted out of sequence into his notebook at a later date, and the pages renumbered.[8]

An unfathomable mystery

Hayes described the changes as "an unfathomable mystery" which was highlighted at the Lockerbie trial in the following defence submission:

“Dr Hayes seemed to have no real recollection independently of his notes of having found PT/35(b). The sequence of the PT numbering and the absence from the notes of a drawing of the circuit board are unusual features. The pagination of the notes was described by Hayes as “an unfathomable mystery”, for which he did propose an explanation, but unfortunately one that does not work. The memorandum of 15 September 1989 is difficult to understand if the fragment was indeed found on 12 May 1989. PT/35(b) is an important piece of evidence on which the Crown rely and in respect of which it is for the Crown to satisfy the court as to its provenance. I submit that the irregularities and peculiarities which attend this item are some which the court ought to have some hesitation in being satisfied as to the item’s provenance.”[9]

His RARDE colleague, Alan Feraday, whose evidence followed that of Hayes, was asked to explain this apparent discrepancy but was unable to do so.

Major McKee's suitcase

The scientific report from RARDE signed by Hayes and Feraday noted:

PD/889. This is a partially disrupted grey hardshell suitcase. The suitcase measured 685 millimetres by 510 millimetres by 190 millimetres and was constructed from a rigid dark grey sheet plastics with a simulated leather finish, lined with a woven cream-coloured material backed with a white fibrous material which adhered to the grey plastics skin. The suitcase was fitted with a rigid plastics handle, bright metal trim and locks, which were devoid of any proprietary or owner's identification. A rectangular hole had been cut in the hard shell above the handle. The left-hand edge of the suitcase showed evidence of having been damaged by an explosion, with disruption and blackening of the outer skin and bright metal body frame.

Thomas Hayes gave evidence about Major Chuck McKee's suitcase at Camp Zeist in 2000 (day 16, pp 2637-2641):

Q Now, I would just like to examine your contemporaneous note of this case a little further, Dr Hayes. If we look to the right of your diagram, we see the reference "Unidentified suitcase"; is that right?
A Yes, it is.
Q And then the entry "Labels, name tag, brand name apparently removed."
A Yes.
Q All of these items had been removed from the suitcase. And then, if we look to the left at the diagram, we can see the notation "Hole cut"?
A Yes, we can.
Q Do you recollect this case and its examination, Dr Hayes?
A No more clearly than any other examination, I'm afraid.

[...snip - discussion on whether "sawn" or "cut" was the better word for the obvious rectangular hole...]

Q Taken together with the removal of all labels, name tags, brand names, would that perhaps attract your attention, Dr Hayes?
A Yes, it would.
Q And if we go on in your notes, after you record "clear indications of explosives involvement", do we see in the margin towards the bottom of the page "PD/889 attached above"?
A Yes, we do.
Q And then plastics bag and contents with attached ID label marked "Contents of grey suitcase belonging to Charles McKee."
A Yes, I see that.
Q Was it disclosed to you that Charles McKee referred to there was in the service of the United States government?
A No, it wasn't.
Q Or that this case had been returning from Beirut?
A No.

Following this, he was asked about his description of the case's contents.

Q I see. You then make this entry: "Contents: Assorted clothing with [sic] unlike the suitcase from which it was supposedly taken showed little evidence of explosives involvement."
A Yes, I did.
Q Now, I see the use of the word "supposedly" employed by you, Dr Hayes. And I take it you chose that word with care?
A Yes, I did.
Q And was that intended to convey that in your own mind the assorted clothing which had been passed to you labelled as the contents did not appear on the face of it to represent the contents of the suitcase which had been damaged in the way already described?
A Yes, that's certainly one interpretation.
Q Indeed, looking to this case and the examination note on page 22 as a whole, the reasonable inference, is it not, is that some party has interfered with the case following the disaster and prior to it being made available to you for forensic examination?
A That is an inference that could be drawn.[10]

Case reviewed

Following a three-year review, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission reported on 28 June 2007 that evidence had been uncovered suggesting that Megrahi may have been wrongly convicted. He was granted leave for a second appeal against conviction.[11]

In a statement dated 29 June 2007 Dr Hans Köchler, international observer at the Lockerbie trial, expressed his surprise at the SCCRC's narrow focus and apparent bias towards the judicial establishment:

"In giving exoneration to the police, prosecutors and forensic staff, I think they show their lack of independence. No officials to be blamed, simply a Maltese shopkeeper."[12]

Second appeal

New information casting fresh doubts about Megrahi's conviction was examined by three judges at a preliminary hearing in the Appeal Court in Edinburgh on 11 October 2007:

  1. His lawyers claimed that vital documents, which emanate from the CIA and relate to the MEBO timer that allegedly detonated the Lockerbie bomb, were withheld from the trial defence team.[13]
  2. Tony Gauci, chief prosecution witness at the trial, was alleged to have been paid $2 million for testifying against Megrahi.[14]
  3. MEBO's owner, Edwin Bollier, revealed that in 1991 the FBI offered him $4 million to testify that the timer fragment found near the scene of the crash was part of a Mebo MST-13 timer supplied to Libya.[15]
  4. Former employee of MEBO Ulrich Lumpert swore an affidavit in July 2007 saying that he had given false evidence at the trial concerning the MST-13 timer[16]

The second appeal was to have been heard by five judges in the Court of Criminal Appeal in 2008.[17]

The second appeal actually started at the High Court of Justiciary on 28 April 2009.[18] A documentary film Lockerbie Revisited, which was broadcast on Dutch television on 27 April 2009, focused on the MEBO timer fragment evidence and the role of Alan Feraday and the FBI's Thomas Thurman in its identification.

Megrahi dropped the second appeal a few days before being granted compassionate release from prison on 20 August 2009, and returning to Libya. On 20 May 2012, Megrahi died of prostate cancer.[19]


Related Documents

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:PT35B - The Most Expensive Forgery in HistoryArticle18 October 2017Ludwig De BraeckeleerLudwig De Braeckeleer proves that the Lockerbie bomb timer fragment PT/35(b) is a "fragment of the imagination"
Document:The Framing of al-MegrahiArticle24 September 2009Gareth PeirceIt is not difficult to achieve a conviction of the innocent
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