January 02, 2008

Too Little, Too Late: Scotland Yard to Probe Bhutto Assassination

For what little it is worth:

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said Wednesday that British investigators are heading to Pakistan to help clear up the confusion surrounding Thursday's assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

"I am very thankful to [British] Prime Minister Gordon Brown that when I made this request he accepted that," Musharraf said in a nationally televised address.

The Scotland Yard team, he said, "will solve all the confusion" surrounding how Bhutto died last week.

Musharraf expressed his condolences about the killing of Bhutto, who he said "has been martyred by terrorists."

Frankly, I have my doubts on what good this investigation will do, and that is not meant as a slight against Scotland Yard, but instead against what little evidence they will have on hand.

The crime scene where Bhutto was apparently shot and a suicide bomber detonated had been cleared within hours; the debris, blood, and any remaining evidence washed away. Benazir Bhutto has been interred, as have the bodies of the victims of the suicide blast, and it remains to be seen if Bhutto's husband, Asif Ali Zardari, will allow Scotland Yard to exume Bhutto's remains for an autopsy.

The remaining evidence seems to include:

  • part of the head of the suicide bomber
  • forensic evidence in the two vehicles that transported Bhutto
  • the assassin's pistol, tentatively identified as a Steyr M
  • several video tapes of the attack
  • still photos
  • eyewitness accounts
  • X-rays
  • doctor's notes

The documentary evidence will presumably add little to the investigation. The media-provided X-rays seem to show little, and a formal autopsy was never performed. Both pundits and professionals have examined the video, and it would be surprising if they hold much in the way of substantial new information, outside of audio recorded on the videotapes which may prove or disprove the theory of additional gunshots being fired. The eyewitness accounts are very conflicted, and as a rule, are typically unreliable.

If positively identified, the suicide bomber may provide some clues as to his associations, but that is far from a certainty.

Then there are the two vehicles in the attack, if they have not been compromised.

The first was the vehicle that Bhutto was riding in at the time of the attack, and it could presumably tell us quite a bit about the blast itself, and may account for any bullets fired low that hit the vehicle. An examination of the right rear sunroof lever may be able to account for the blood on the lever, and if bent or stressed, may give some insight into how hard Bhutto hit the lever, if at all. Bhutto's supporters transferred the former prime minster to a second vehicle on the way to the hospital as the first had suffered significant damage as a result of the blast, but I would expect it to have less useful forensic evidence.

The pistol's serial number should give investigators an idea of the firearm's origins, and if bullets or shell casings are recovered from the crime scene or the vehicle (or less likely, Bhutto) that match those cartridges presumably still in the recovered pistol's magazine, it could verify that the weapon was that used in the assassination attempt.

Scotland Yard's entry will provide the appearance of something being done, but it comes long after the most useful evidence has been literally washed away.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at January 2, 2008 01:13 PM

I highly doubt CSI:Rawalpindi will ever be green lit. I don't have much faith in the forensic ability of the police in Islamabad let alone the little garrison town where Mrs. Bhutto was murdered.

Posted by: Dan Irving at January 2, 2008 03:19 PM