|70,000 airside passes, all nationalities|
He was, at the time of the Lockerbie bombing, the Airport Security Manager for Heathrow Airport, working closely with the Department of Transport, and developing security procedures for Heathrow and other airports across the UK.
In a startling revelation in the Sunday Express of 11th March 2012, Professor Shanks admits that on the day that the Lockerbie attack took place, there were in circulation at Heathrow approximately 70,000 airside passes. He is quoted as saying: "Any authorised person with a pass was able to go airside, and that was around 70,000 people."
The multi-national operations at Heathrow, plus the presence on-site of major reconstruction works, meant that on 21st December 1988 the 70,000 users of airside passes were of all nationalities, all skin-colours, many and various jobs, employed by many and various companies, some with little connection to air-traffic matters. To this number must be added the staff of the many airlines arriving and departing, including Iran-Air.
In short, Heathrow authorities had no knowledge as to who was using the passes, nor where on the airport they were going, nor when, nor what was the purpose of their presence. Professor Shanks states: "This was way before we had screening of staff and a lot of staff felt they had the right to go anywhere they wanted."
A rogue suitcase could "have been brought in by an aircraft and transferred airside... It would have been equally possible [for] any country that flew into Heathrow... Several airlines had engineering stores brought in and transferred to some areas without having to come landside."
"Iran Air were one of the Middle Eastern airlines with that access."
Professor Shanks now admits that there are "legitimate questions" over the conviction of Mr Al-Megrahi.
So now - after twenty three years - we know the truth about Heathrow's vulnerability. It is a pity that Professor Shanks did not reveal this during the nine years that elapsed before the Lockerbie trial. He and others close to him also had the opportunity to say these things during the three years leading to Al-Megrahi's first appeal, but they stayed silent.