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Lockerbie: Heathrow alert was ignored.

PAN AM's baggage area at Heathrow was broken into hours before Flight 103 was blown up over Lockerbie, an airport guard claimed last night.

But a statement on the incident made to police by Ray Manly was lost and the crucial information was never passed on to the prosecution or the defence.

Now the missing evidence is likely to be a central part of next year's appeal by Libyan Abdelbaset Al Megrahi against his conviction for murdering the 270 who died at Lockerbie.

Prosecutors said the bomb was flown from Malta to Heathrow. The defence said it was more likely planted at Heathrow.

Mr Manly said he found a heavy-duty padlock cut open at Pan Am's baggage area at Heathrow hours before the doomed flight took off.

The open padlock left the way clear for a bomb to be planted in an area where luggage was already X-rayed and ready to be loaded.

The lock, which could yield clues, is also missing.

Mr Manly recorded the incident in a logbook and an incident report form, and told his supervisor, who alerted police at the airport.

He was told to stay at the doorway until he was relieved two hours later. In that time, neither his supervisor or police arrived.

So the break-in was not investigated before the aircraft took off.

And anti-terrorist police only questioned him about the incident the following month, and never questioned him again.

Mr Manly, 63, who has since been 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.

"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."

Mr 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.

Mr Manly, of Surbiton, Surrey, was making his rounds when he found the padlock apparently cut with bolt cutters.
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Sep 11, 2001
Words:501
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