Ray Manly

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Person.png Ray ManlyRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
(security guard, witness)
Ray Manly.jpg
BornRaymond Walter Manly
Died2010 (Age 72)
Heathrow airport security guard & disregarded defence witness at Megrahi's 2002 appeal

Security guard Ray Manly discovered that Pan Am's baggage area at Heathrow airport was broken into hours before Pan Am Flight 103 was blown up over Lockerbie on 21 December 1988. Manly found a heavy-duty padlock cut open at a security door in Terminal 3 leaving the way clear for a bomb to be planted in an area where luggage was already X-rayed and ready to be loaded. Manly recorded the incident in a logbook and an incident report form, and told his supervisor, Philip Radley, who alerted police at the airport. Manly was told to stay at the doorway until he was relieved two hours later. In that time, neither his supervisor nor police arrived, so the break-in was not investigated before Pan Am Flight 103 took off at 18:25 hours.

Ray Manly was in charge of four staff at control posts on the public side of the airport to ensure only authorised personnel could enter the aircraft section. One control post was on the ground floor of the terminal, less than 50 feet from the Pan Am check-in desk next to the entrance to an area used by the airline for oversize luggage. An unlocked door linked the check-in area and the control post. When all the bags had been checked in under guard, the doors of the normal baggage entrance were closed with a padlocked metal bar. Manly, of Surbiton, Surrey, was making his rounds when he found the padlock apparently cut with bolt cutters.

It was not until 31 January 1989 that Ray Manly was interviewed by Scotland Yard's Anti-Terrorist Squad. He was never questioned again. No publicity was given to the break-in at Heathrow, nor was the issue raised at the Lockerbie trial that was held at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands (2000-2001). Manly said:

"When there was no mention of my evidence at the trial I rang the police, who put me in touch with the defence. They told me no one knew about my statement or the break-in. I find that just incredible. My statement has disappeared and so has the padlock. No one can even tell me if it was tested for fingerprints. This has been weighing on my mind for over 12 years.

Manly, who was subsequently questioned for three hours by prosecutors, told a friend:

"I can't believe my evidence was not part of the trial and my statement went missing. A terrorist who wanted to put a bomb on that plane would have gained access to the perfect place. The luggage would not be checked again before being loaded on the plane. Although police took a statement, I never heard from anyone afterwards."[1][2][3][4]

Radley's evidence

Giving evidence, Manly's supervisor Philip Radley told the five appeal court Judges that Terminal 3's landside area, where passengers arrived to check in, was separated from airside by two thick rubber doors at the end of a corridor. Access to the airside area was restricted to staff. The doors were secured by a 4ft long iron bar and a heavy duty padlock and security guards were on duty on each side of the doors. Radley said he was on the nightshift on 20 December 1988 when his supervisor called to tell him that the padlock on the doors had been broken. A guard was placed on the doors - designated T3/2a and T3/2b - until the morning, when a replacement padlock was found.

The court was shown Philip Radley's log book for the night including an entry recorded at 35 minutes past midnight on 21 December 1988:

"Door at T3/2a lock broken off."

Questioned by Alan Turnbull QC, for the prosecution, Radley explained that baggage handlers working airside would pass through the doors when starting their shift and leave the same way - unless they were delayed and the doors at T3/2a and 2b had been locked for the night. In that case, he said, baggage handlers would have to take a longer route out of the terminal and there had been complaints about having to do so. On the night of 20 December 1988, baggage handlers had to stay late because of a delayed flight, he confirmed. Mr Turnbull suggested that a member of staff taking a short cut, could have forced the door, breaking the padlock.

Philip Radley disputed Turnbull's suggestion that a baggage handler probably forced open the double doors that were also secured with a long metal bolt.

"You couldn't break it out like that," he said.

Questioned by the defence, Radley said the detour for baggage handlers if the doors were locked was only "a couple of minutes". He could not recall any previous incident in which staff had forced open locked doors.

Muted response by police?

The prosecution's Alan Turnbull QC said a muted response by airport officials and police to the incident showed they did not believe an intruder had slipped into sensitive areas at the airport. The prosecution has also been allowed to present 11 new witnesses, to counter the new evidence. Although the court's decision to allow the new evidence to be heard can be seen as a boost to the defence case, under Scottish law the appeal Judges have to weigh whether the new testimony, had it been heard at the original trial, would have changed the outcome of that case.

Comments by Lockerbie Divide

On 14 January 2011, on his Lockerbie Divide website, Caustic Logic (Adam Larson) commented:

Former Heathrow airport security guard Ray Manly was indeed a manly man. I hear he has deceased, but I haven’t been able to verify that easily enough. He apparently suffered greatly at the end of his life (see below), but before it was over, he became the epic whistleblower whose actions dredged up perhaps the key piece to the puzzle of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.
The same clue had been erased from the record early on by authorities, and kept from the world for over a decade. That long silence ended for good with his clue’s first publication in the news, nearly eight months after Megrahi’s conviction for his plot on Malta. This came on Tuesday, 11 September 2001, and it was obviously superseded by events overseas. A new record was set that day - by a landslide - for American civilians killed in a terrorist attack. But the explosive power of Manly’s revelation to understanding the previous record-holder, also involving an airliner, was not diminished.
Patrolling Heathrow’s terminal three shortly after midnight on 21 December 1988, he had discovered a padlock that had been cut (or at least forcibly broken, see below) on a certain door called T32A. This had left open the way to the usually-secured airside area, where luggage is loaded onto airliners. He dutifully reported this to his superiors, but apparently nothing further was done, and about 17 hours later, Pan Am 103 was loaded with a bomb at terminal three.
Somehow the fact of this breach never emerged during the investigation, as attention turned first to Germany, and then to Malta. For years it remained unknown, up to and even at the trial in 2000. There, Megrahi’s defence tried to argue for a bomb introduction at Heathrow, based on other compelling evidence (see below). But they were as clueless as anyone that there was also a reported break-in at the airport, almost a smoking gun in that context.
Manly says the memory remained with and “weighed” on him over the years, and when it still hadn’t come up as of the wrongful verdict at the end of January 2001, he contacted al-Megrahi’s defence team and, later, the media.[5]

Scottish Mirror - 11 September 2001

11 September 2001 - Front Page News

News of the Heathrow break-in was first published on 11 September 2001 by the Scottish Mirror ("Lockerbie: The Lost Evidence" "Break-in at Pan Am Heathrow just hours before disaster", "Guard's interview with police 'vanishes' along with padlock", "New pointers to real bombers could free jailed Libyan"):

A Pan Am luggage depot at Heathrow was broken into just hours before the Lockerbie disaster, the Mirror can reveal. But the three Scots Judges who convicted Libyan Abdelbaset al-Megrahi of the 1988 atrocity never heard the crucial evidence. The damning statement from a security guard and a padlock snapped during the raid vanished before the trial even began. Al Megrahi, 49, hopes the new evidence will win his freedom at an appeal next year. His conviction was based on the bomb being put on an Air Malta flight to Frankfurt, before being transferred to London and loaded onto Flight 103.

Security guard Ray Manly, now 63, told last night how he discovered the break-in at 12.30am on 21 December 1988, 18 hours before New York-bound Flight 103 was blown up, killing 270 people. He came forward after his vital evidence failed to come up at the trial. He said:

"Lawyers had no idea about my statement. No one knew about the break-in. I just find that incredible. Whoever is guilty is not my concern but I'm sure the relatives of those who were killed want to get to the truth."[6]

Ray Manly told correspondent David Pilditch that the break-in was “the most serious security breach that I came across in 17 years at Heathrow.” The padlock he found on the floor was “cut like butter,” he said, in what he considered “a professional operation.” Manly elaborated on the potential significance of it:

"I believe it would have been possible for an unauthorised person to obtain tags for a particular Pan Am flight then, having broken the CP2 lock, to have introduced a tagged bag into the baggage build up area.
"A terrorist who wanted to put a bomb on that plane would have gained access to the perfect place. The luggage would not be checked again before being loaded on the plane."

Alternately, this perceived breach could be some kind of coincidence. But he was rightly alarmed at how it was completely ignored or forgotten, as if it was definitely irrelevant, but without any explanation – or even acknowledgment - given.

"I can't believe my evidence was not part of the trial and my statement went missing. Although police took a statement, I never heard from anyone afterwards. They told me no one knew about my statement or the break-in. I find that just incredible. My statement has disappeared and so has the padlock. No one can even tell me if it was tested for fingerprints.”

That’s strong evidence for two things that are already heavily illustrated to those who dig deep enough – the bomb did in fact start only in London, and British authorities have done all they can to avoid acknowledging that.[7]

BBC News report

On Tuesday, 11 September 2001, BBC News carried the Scottish Mirror story at 08:42 GMT 09:42 UK: New evidence has emerged which casts doubt over the Lockerbie bombing conviction, a national newspaper reported on Tuesday. The Mirror claims that the device which blew up Pan Am Flight 103 over the small Scottish town may not have been loaded at Frankfurt, an assertion made by the prosecution team.

Its theory stems from an interview with Heathrow Airport security guard Ray Manly who said he told police that Pan Am's baggage area was broken into on 21 December 1988, some 17 hours before the plane set off for New York. Mr Manly was interviewed by anti-terrorist officers a month after the tragedy, but his evidence was "lost" and never used in court.

During the trial in the Netherlands it was claimed by the prosecution that accused Libyan Abdelbaset al-Megrahi placed the bomb on a flight from Malta to Frankfurt, where it was then "interlined" on to a flight to Heathrow before being loaded on to Flight 103.

In February this year, al-Megrahi was convicted of mass murder and jailed for a minimum of 20 years. Fellow accused, Libyan Lamin Khalifah Fhimah, was acquitted of the crime. Al Megrahi's defence team said during the trial at Camp Zeist that it was more likely the bomb was introduced at Heathrow.

Mr Manly told police he found that a padlock near the Pan Am desk at Heathrow's Terminal Three appeared to have been severed with bolt cutters. This would have cleared the way for a bomb to be planted among Pan Am luggage which had already passed through security checks, the newspaper said. Mr Manly told the Mirror:

"I can't believe the statement was lost. No one at the trial knew about the break-in."

Dr Jim Swire, whose 23-year-old daughter Flora died in the crash, said the new claims added to his continued calls for a full public inquiry:

"These kind of aspects not only show failures at Heathrow, they bring questions that serious mistakes have been made during the (police) inquiry. As soon as the appeal process is over we want a full inquiry into why Heathrow didn't take full steps to protect our loved ones."

Dr Swire said the fact the plane had been loaded from empty at the London airport also showed the need for the UK Government to set up an inquiry to determine exactly what happened.

"What we are after is the whole truth," added Dr Swire.

The High Court of Judiciary in Edinburgh last month granted al-Megrahi, 49, permission to appeal against his conviction. A preliminary hearing is scheduled to take place in Camp Zeist next month.[8]

This newsworthy Lockerbie story was effectively buried a few hours after publication when reports of the 9/11 attacks in America began to swamp the media.

Court's flippant rejection

Ray Manly swore a few affidavits with the defence about the break-in as he remembered it. He recalled making a police statement, but none was found to confirm or deny that. The records from Heathrow security, however, existed and bore Manly out. And his superior, one Philip Radley, remembered the incident as well. The defence then made the verified new clue a central point of the appeal of conviction – a revived London-origin argument, put before a five Judge panel at Camp Zeist in February 2002.

The case they made, calling on this plus the previously known evidence, was quite compelling. But the court rebuffed it, using highly questionable reasoning that is covered elsewhere. Their flippant rejection does nothing to the actual theory except prove that it is not 100% proven and too obvious to deny. That we already knew, seeing it denied in court once already and dismissed by investigators for over a decade by then. I imagine that Judges are not always fond of questioning the findings of their peers, and are perhaps less inclined yet to re-create police investigations to re-solve a crime in their own parallel universe. So despite the evidence in their faces, the appeal court decided the Zeist court had it right, and compared to Malta, a London introduction "was a theoretical rather than an actual possibility," whatever that means.[9]

UN Observer's report

A March 2002 report by Dr Hans Köchler, UN observer at the trial and appeal, noted that Ray Manly performed poorly in court: 13. The defence strategy was further seriously undermined by the rather bizarre circumstances of the testimony given by the Defence's key additional witness, Mr Manly. While being adamant about the technical details about how the padlock at Heathrow airport was broken (“cut like butter”), he was highly confused and proven totally wrong in regard to the exact location of the door and the way in which the padlock was attached to the door. At the beginning of his testimony he told the court that, because of an accident, he was under medication and that he was afraid he might have to vomit in the course of his testimony. He looked very frail and behaved in a highly emotional, at times even aggressive manner. For the undersigned it was impossible to obtain any specific information about the factors which led to this deplorable state of health. In spite of the efforts promised by the Scottish Court Service, it was not possible to obtain any information on the kind of medication under the influence of which Mr Manly may have acted in the way he did, or on the time and nature of the accident that made this medication necessary. In fact, Mr Manly’s testimony – seen in its entirety – may even have been counterproductive in regard to the defence strategy. The question remains why the Defence introduced Mr Manly as an additional witness under these particular circumstances. Hans Köchler concluded:

The Defence did not raise the issue of why important evidence about the breaking of a lock at the luggage storage area at Heathrow airport had disappeared from the police records and why it was not made available to the trial court; instead, the Defence Counsel stated at the beginning of the appeal hearings that there was no fault on the part of the Prosecution in regard to the non-availability of this important evidence. It is hard to understand why, in an adversarial system, the Defence should come to the defence of the Prosecution on such a crucial matter which could cast doubt over the entire strategy of the prosecution.[10]

Manly wanted to be there

Manly’s recall of events is what mattered when he forced the issue to the surface in 2001. Since then it’s the established facts of a deliberate break-in at terminal three, supported by Philip Radley and by records, that matter. So Manly himself was arguably not needed to pursue the London angle, making the question a fair one. But from what I’ve seen, it seems that Manly wanted to be there, suffering or not (see photo at left, from first link below), to tell it himself to a court of law. I haven’t verified what was wrong about his memories as outlined here, but will take Köchler’s word. And as far as his “aggressive” behaviour, see below.

Dr Köchler, who incidentally is intrigued by the London origin theory, hovers here over the mysteries of Manly’s health. In so doing, he almost seems to be wondering if someone were “enhancing” his medication. Its side-effects did seem to damage his credibility, and cast some doubt on his recall of the breach, making the Judges’ task of ignoring it that much easier. But of course to really keep this off the record, it would have been best to kill Manly altogether some time not-too-soon after the bombing, but before he was driven to talk. There is only a small bit of room to wonder, as I have, if someone would go so far as to connive against Mr Manly’s mental state. And that room is because of the enormous stakes of what had been covered up before this whistleblower’s bold step forward.

Anywhere other than the breached Terminal 3

Whatever they did about it, the same forces that denied his evidence in 1989 couldn’t have been happy to see Ray Manly surface with it again in 2001. It’s really a horrendous thing they were hiding. There was a security breach but someone decided not to sound the alarm, perhaps more interested in business as usual for the Holiday season. Terrorists could have planted a nuclear device for all we knew. Luckily Mr Manly caught the breach, but negligently nothing further was done. He and Mr Radley both say no police came when they were called, no one searched the area, and no alerts were put out. And after the murders of 270 people later that day, investigators decided, first thing out of the gate, that the bomb had to come from anywhere other than the breached terminal three.

At Malta we have a suggestion of a phantom Libyan no one saw circumventing security, slipping a bomb onto Malta Airlines flight KM180, and leaving no evidence at all. At Frankfurt we’ve heard of an unexplained failure to catch with X-ray that Maltese-origin bomb. And at London, a final failure is admitted, but the loading there had to be rushed with no additional checks. And the bomb should have been caught before that, the Brits chastised.

And this whole time they were sitting on Manly’s and Radley’s reports of a physical breach of padlock security at their airport the morning before the bombing. And the police simply didn’t factor this in to their globe-trotting quest for the truth because they simply lost the statement they took about it, and then forgot all about it. We’re to presume this was an accident, but we aren’t.[11]

Heathrow is the most logical place

The break-in is not, as some have painted it, some lone clue floating without context. Heathrow is the most logical place to load a bomb onto a London-to-NY flight, for one thing. For another, there’s the alternate villain – Iran and their contractors in the PFLP-GC who had a known bomb style that is an eerie fit with what happened. These radio IEDs – one of which went missing six weeks before Lockerbie - would be triggered by altitude change and blow up early - between 30 and 60 minutes after leaving the ground. Pan Am 103 fell apart 38 minutes after leaving Heathrow’s runway. And, further, a case matching the primary case description (brown, hard-shell Samsonite) was noticed at the bottom of container AVE4041, inside which a case just like that, in about the spot reported, blew up. It’s clear that this is likely the bomb bag, but it was there before the Malta one could have been, so it was ruled a coincidence.

There is the problem of elapsed hours, as brought up by the prosecution and appeal Judges. Why break in, plant a bomb bag among the luggage, and then leave, only to have it loaded to the last flight of the day many hours later? And is that even possible? It’s a fair question but not a slam-dunk. If someone were on the ground cutting locks at midnight to hide a bomb, might they not be willing to come back for a second penetration to actually place it for liftoff? (I’ve split off my theory about this two-phase plan into a separate article, to be posted soon)

So the actual bomb case might have been introduced to the airport following the break-in, and his report could well have led to the plot being halted. During his 2002 testimony, Manly was right to say, during a dispute with prosecution counsel Alan Turnbull:

"Maybe if this had been acted on at the time we may not be sitting here now. I'm suffering still and I have suffered all this time from the horror of it. If somebody had done their job then maybe, maybe it may not have happened."

Simple human sloppiness, and lack of vigilance could explain this and so much other suffering. But what on earth can explain the failure to put the pieces together even after the fact?

"It's very, very serious"

The dispute with Turnbull cited above was started by the latter, one report says, when he “at one point accused [Manly] of not taking the hearing seriously.” Hence the sharp reply:

"I think I'm treating this more serious than you. That's the reason I'm here. It's very, very serious. You may not think so but I do and I have lived with it for 13 years.”

Turnbull’s speculations could, to a decent person, appear like the musings of a joker who did not in fact take these things seriously. To answer the whole notion of a security breach, he proposed that a worker on the airside could have forced the door enough to break the lock, just so he could take a short-cut through landside. To the same effect, “Turnbull said a muted response by airport officials and police to the incident showed they did not believe an intruder had slipped into sensitive areas at the airport.”

And of course Manly was shown wrong by the prosecution of the location of the door and other minor details, as if these matter. His report was confirmed, shown to the court, describing the break-in as "a very deliberate act, leaving easy access to airside." That was his impression doing something Turnbull has never done - looking at the evidence himself in context. Mr Radley's log book was also shown, with an entry for 12:35 saying "Door at T3 2a lock broken off." And as an excellent AP article from the time put it:

Philip Radley, Manly's supervisor, also disputed Turnbull's suggestion that a baggage handler probably forced open the double doors that were also secured with a long metal bolt. "You couldn't break it out like that," he said. Mr Radley said the detour for baggage handlers if the doors were locked was only "a couple of minutes". He could not recall any previous incident in which staff had forced open locked doors.

The experts on the scene agree in rejecting this bollocks speculation. It was a padlocked airside door, and it was clearly broken by someone quite intent on breaching security for possibly criminal purposes. And the appeal court even agreed on this:

"We would not ourselves be inclined to draw the inference, argued for by the Crown, that the lock was forced from airside by airport employees seeking to take a shortcut to landside from their place of work in the airside area." [248]

It was apparently then a deliberate breach of security, which Manly described as the most serious he ever saw, and it happened by sheer coincidence, the same day as the Lockerbie bombing. It was not acted on before the bombing, and was apparently covered up after. Because if anyone was in a position to understand the importance of Manly’s find, it would be the same police who lost his statement after learning some of the other clues that it tied together.

But “lost” is such a passive word when more likely it was a decision, from early and high, that the real mechanical truth must not emerge. From this denial, it was only a matter of time before the Libyan plot on Malta, or some other suitable replacement narrative, would emerge of necessity.


Related Document

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:Lockerbie bombing: Megrahi's posthumous appeal rejected by Scottish judgesArticle19 January 2021Steve JamesNo explanation or significance has been attached to a break in at Heathrow airport, where security was poor, the night before, adjacent to the luggage loading area for PA103.


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