The following is the Defence Precognition of Mr Michael Whitehead taken by William Henderson on 10/09/1999.
I am currently employed as the Operations Manager for El Tech UK Limited. The business of our Company is the supplying of rolls of electro deposited copper foil to laminating Companies throughout the UK and Ireland. I have worked in this industry since 1973.
At that time the employers were Yates Foil which was a family run American Business with the Factory premises at the Airfield, Silloth, Cumbria.
In 1993 the Company changed to Yates Europe and then in 1996 it became Circuit Foil and then in June of 1999 it became El Tech. We are a subsidiary of the main El Tech Group who operates from France.
There are approximately 12 to 15 copper foil manufacturing companies throughout the World. There are 4 or 5 companies in America, 3 in Europe, 4 or 5 in the Far East and one in the United Kingdom.
The copper foil is manufactured in rolls of approximately 1 meter width and 1 kilometer in length and with a thickness varying between 12 and 105 microns.
Our principal suppliers are Circuit Foil Luxembourg and we thereafter are basically a distribution company to various laminating companies throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Our main El Tech Group, based in France supplies mostly Europe.
Basically what happens is that when we supply the rolls of copper foil to the Laminating Companies they then have a manufacturing process whereby there is a base of the copper foil, on top of which is placed an epoxy impregnated glass cloth and then another sheet of the copper foil is placed on top of the glass cloth. The whole thing is put in a press and at temperature and pressure is compressed and the glass cloth melts and the whole thing is compressed and becomes rigid. When this process takes place the centre layer becomes totally nonconductive to a high degree.
Dependent on technical requirements it could be that there are 2 or 3 multi layers of the laminate, always with a bottom and top layer of the copper foil, so you do get varying thicknesses of the rigid end product.
This rigid end product then forms the base of all printed circuit boards.
Thereafter the laminating companies supply to circuit assemblers and they then have design teams designing various types of circuit board, which they then assemble, and supply to the end user companies in the electrical industry, principally computers, televisions, videos, cassette recorders and various other electrical component companies.
The epoxy impregnated glass cloth when processed at the laminating company, the solid layer between the bottom and top layers of copper foil turn green in colour.
There is also another system used by the laminating companies where, instead of using the epoxy glass cloth a wax phenolic paper is used. When this is processed between the sheets of copper foil and is then laminated the laminated part between the layers of copper foil turn brown, .so that in all cases you either see principally a green printed circuit board or a brown one. The brown ones tend to be not as efficient, conductivity wise, as the ones impregnated with the epoxy glass cloth and tend to be used for lower technical and the cheaper end of the market at the end product side of things.
In 1990 sometime, I think it was early on in the year, but I cannot now recall which month, at that time the Company was still called Circuit Foil, and at that time I was either Chief Technologist, or Chemical Process Manager with the Company. I had originally started in 1973 as a Lab Assistant.
About that time, there was one day our Company received a telephone call from a Detective Sergeant Williamson, who said that he was working on the Lockerbie bombing and was making inquiries and seeking information regarding printed circuit boards. I did not speak to him at that time, I think it was probably the Quality Control Manager, but anyway this D.S. Williamson was invited down to our place to be shown what our Company did and to give any information that we could supply to him.
He did attend, not long after his original telephone call. I can’t remember whether he was accompanied at that time by another Officer, but I think he probably was.
When he came he had with him, contained in a clear polythene bag a piece of a printed circuit board. It was a vaguely L shaped and it was approximately 12 m in length and breadth on the outer edge of the L shape. It was a dirty green coloured.
He did not indicate where this had come from but it was very obviously part of a printed circuit board, with the copper tracks with solder on it and then the green internal base showing.
Although, as I stated earlier, when the product leaves the laminating company it is still in sheets of maybe a meter square, but is then cut by guillotine by the laminators, before being onwardly transmitted to the circuit assembly companies. When they are then making the various circuit tracks on the board the only part that is left with the copper on it is the track on which the solder track is run throughout the various circuits on the board. The remainder of the copper foil is chemically removed, showing underneath the green or brown coloured solid that is the base of it, as I have previously explained.
This part of the circuit board that I was shown looked fairly smooth on the outer edges of it, but on the inside part of the L, it was slightly more jagged and I could see that one part of it was burned and charred.
Basically I was asked by D.S. Williamson what I could tell him about this piece and I suggested to him that certain analysis could be made of it and that I may be able to indicate where the copper foil had been manufactured.
To do this I said that I could analyse the copper foil on the laminate of this piece and probably give further information, but I stated that if I did this I would require to take a small sample of the copper foil from the part of the printed circuit board and he agreed to allow me to do this.
He did not specifically state that I couldn’t touch the part, although he did seem quite reticent about me handling it, but I did not require to touch it with my hands and I used tweezers and a scalpel and removed a corner piece of the copper foil in a triangular shape, approximately 1 mm at the top and 3 mm at the widest part of the triangle.
The reason I had to remove the part was that I could not learn a great deal from seeing the gold or yellow coloured side of the copper foil. The information I was going to try to obtain could be better obtained from examination of the matt side of the copper foil, which was the part that is laminated onto the epoxy impregnated cloth.
I thereafter placed this sample into the scanning electron microscope which we had and to make the material conductive I then painted it with silver paint and thereafter coated the whole lot with gold, which when the electrons are fired through the microscope atomizes the gold and it falls like a small cloud of atomized gold over the top of the sample, making it consistent level throughout.
Thereafter when the microscope is operated the results of the examination of the material are then produced in micrograph film, which shows the patterns taken from the scanning electron microscope.
I should say at this point that as a matter of routine I regularly examined copper foil under this process from the different manufacturers of the foil throughout the World and although all use similar type processes there are slight differences. The manufacturing process differences show up on the micrographs in the form of groups of about 5 or 6 small triangles, each of which are slightly different to each manufacturing Company in the various Countries in the World, which I have mentioned previously, namely Europe, the UK, the Far East and America.
During and after the examination of the part from the printed circuit board given to me by D.S. Williamson I was able to conclude that the copper foil on that particular printed circuit board was not manufactured by Circuit Foil, Luxembourg, our suppliers, that it was not manufactured by our principal competitors, which are Gould of Southampton.
I was unable to identify a single manufacturing source, other than it looked like it had been manufactured using Far Eastern Technology.
As I have said earlier I regularly check all the various copper foil manufactured in the various countries, basically because of keeping up to date with advanced technology. There has been a requirement over the last 10 years to improve the adhesion power of the copper foil to the laminate because of increased technical requirements and for this reason certain additives have been added by the various worldwide manufacturers to increase the adhesion power.
When these various foils are examined under the electron microscope they show the lots of small pyramids and troughs that I have mentioned and these are individual to each manufacturer.
To exemplify the difference I then examined and produced micrographs in respect of the copper foil manufactured by our suppliers, Circuit Foil Luxembourg and from that used by our principal competitors Gould in Southampton and in comparing the three micrographs, all were totally different.
At the conclusion of my examinations I handed over to D.S. Williamson the micrographs from the three different types of copper foil and I also returned to him, placed in a separate container, the small sample of foil which I had taken from the part of the printed circuit board which he had brought with him. This part contained the needle like holder which had contained the sample within the microscope and still with the silver and gold on it.
I signed a brown police label which was made up in respect of the micrographs and I also signed a police label which was accompanying the part of the printed circuit board which I had examined.
At no time did D.S. Williamson indicate to me the background to this part of the printed circuit board other than it was associated with the Lockerbie bombing.
At no time did D.S. Williamson ask me what type of electrical product that this particular part of a printed circuit board could have come from and at no time were electronic timers mentioned to me. If he had asked I could have told him, because of the fact that it was green coloured base, that it had been laminated using the epoxy impregnated glass cloth system, which in general terms indicates that the printed circuit board would be installed in some item in the more expensive region of whatever electrical product it had been placed in.
I again was not asked but I could not tell him, from the size of the sample I was shown, what the overall size of that original printed circuit board would have been.
That concluded my involvement on that particular day. I heard no more until, it was some time in 1992, I do not know when, but once again I received a visitation from two CID Officers working on the Lockerbie bombing. I can’t be positive, I think D.S. Williamson was one of them, but I am not quite sure now. On this occasion they had with them another piece of printed circuit board. This piece was square shaped, each side measuring approximately 25 mm.
This was a portion of a complete circuit board but it looked like it had been guillotined and been taken away from the whole. This particular piece looked in much better condition than the original piece that I had examined. I was not told where it had come from but the Officers asked me if I could do an identical examination of that piece of circuit board as I had done with the first one and that they would like to know my conclusions, as to where the copper in that one had been manufactured.
Thereafter I did exactly the same exercise again as I have described, that I did with the original part I had examined, with the exception that on this occasion I cut a complete piece off the sample shown to me, including the laminates. I did not, as I did in the original one, peel a small part of the copper foil off.
After again examining this under the scanning electron microscope I produced a micrograph film of the results and again examining the triangular shaped patterns which came out on the micrograph, again I was able to conclude that the copper in this was not from Circuit Foil, Luxembourg, it was not from Gould Southampton and once again it had the style of having been manufactured in the Far East, although I should say I was ‘not as confident on this occasion that it had come from the Far East. I was more or less certain with the original part I was shown but this was due to the fact that because of the advanced technology of manufacture which I have related to earlier on, namely the requirement for stronger adhesive powers, that the micrograph film is not quite as clear and is not as definitive in separating the country of manufacture as was in 1990. In other words all the various ‘ manufacturing companies, although using principally the same systems, they were getting closer to each other in that respect, SO that the individual trade mark, if you want to call it that, of each company was not as specific as it had been in the late 1980s and up to 1990.
I was then asked what I considered the latest sample I had seen was in relation to the original one and I stated that both were the product of the same manufacturing technology of copper foil, but were not identical.
Once again they did not tell me where this one had come from or whether it was a control sample or not.
I also provided the two micrographs of this second specimen I had examined and handed it over to the Police Officers and once again I signed labels in respect of each.
I heard no more after that until early 1999 when I had a phone call from the Police. I thought they said it was in Edinburgh, but I am not quite sure, but it was purely a phone call to check up on my current address.
The next I heard was in mid-June of 1999. I then got another call from Mt. Williamson, who by this time was a Detective Chief Inspector and he explained to me that involving the pending case the police wanted to make sure that all the facts were correct and wished to review my input through the Procurator Fiscal. Mr. Williamson then arranged for me to see the Procurator Fiscal at Dumfries.
I attended there roughly four weeks ago (mid July). It was a female Fiscal. I do not know her name, but she went over the whole thing with me, exactly as you have done today.
I was then shown the original piece of printed circuit board which I had examined and I identified my signature on the police label which was attached to that piece, which was once again in its clear polythene bag. I was also shown the bag containing the small sample that I had removed from that for examination and again identified my signature on that.
f was then shown the second sample which I examined and once again I identified my signature on that and that was really all there was to it.
I was told by the Procurator Fiscal that I would probably be required to go as a Crown Witness to Holland. I did notice that when I was looking at the labels with my signature my recollection was that there was a number P135 on the label attached to the original sample of printed circuit board which I had examined. (Note – this could be P then a letter and 35 as opposed to be P135, which is not consistent with the system used of numbering productions namely the second letter being the sector in which found. It would be interesting to monitor the number 35 in the various Sectors and may at same stage identify who originally found this obviously important evidential piece. )
I should also say that when I originally spoke to D.S. Williamson, at the time of the first examination, I suggested to him that as far as further examination of the laminate was concerned that it might be an idea to contact some laminating Company (Interesting to note that the witness immediately previously to Michael Whitehead on the list, namely 636 is a George Wheadon c/o of New England Laminates, 1 Paddock Road, Skelmersdale, Lancarshire.
I also suggested to D.S. Williamson that it may be productive for them to conduct the Materials Department at Strathclyde University for maybe further examination of the part that I had examined (Also interesting to note that the witness immediately after Michael Whitehead, namely 638 is the witness Rosemary Wilkinson, and that the witness 639 is Allan Worroll, c/o Ferranti Computers, Cairo Mil, Oldham, England)