BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: In Depth  
News Front Page
Middle East
South Asia
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
Thursday, 1 February, 2001, 20:17 GMT
Lockerbie relatives push for answers
Memorial in Lockerbie
The names of the dead listed on a memorial in Lockerbie
UK relatives of the Lockerbie bombing victims have renewed their demand for a far-reaching public inquiry into "unanswered questions" about the disaster.

They want several areas not investigated at the criminal trial of two Libyans or a fatal accident inquiry in 1991 to be put under the spotlight.

Members of UK Families Flight 103 were speaking at a news conference the day after Libyan intelligence officer Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, 49, was convicted of murdering 270 people.

Their comments came as Scotland's most senior legal official ruled out the possibility of any further criminal action in the Lockerbie case for the foreseeable future.

'People's tenacity'

Rev. John Mosey, who lost his daughter Helga, said: "Because of the trial, terrorists will never again be able to feel safe in their beds.

"They will be aware that ordinary people do have the tenacity to pursue the truth and that governments can and will support such pursuits."

Central to the group's concerns is the failure of the intelligence services and the aviation authorities to prevent a suitcase packed with plastic explosive from being loaded onto Pan Am flight 103 from Heathrow to New York on 21 December 1988.

Rev. Mosey and Dr JIm Swire
Rev. Mosey and Dr Jim Swire
Several bomb warnings were circulating at the time of the disaster, including one focusing on the risk of a bomb inside a Toshiba radio cassette recorder being placed on a plane.

The bomb which blew up the Boeing 747 was hidden in a Toshiba radio cassette recorder.

Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was among the dead, stressed: "I do not intend to challenge the verdict of the judges nor the excellent work of the Scottish police.

"It does, however, affect the question of how the atrocity was actually carried out as well as the question about who else might have been involved.

German arrests

"Why on earth did Pan Am flight 103 fall upon Lockerbie?

"Why did it not fall in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean?"

He said Megrahi could have used the highly-accurate timer on the bomb to blow the plane up over water, making it almost impossible to retrieve vital evidence.

"It seems to imply almost unbelievable incompetence," he said.

Megrahi: Jailed for life

Durign a forum broadcast live on BBC News Online at 1830GMT on Wednesday, Dr Swire was asked whether he would prefer a United Nations inquiry into the case rather than one led by the UK.

"A UN inquiry might have a much longer time scale, and we're a bit fed up," said Dr Swire, who collapsed on Wednesday after hearing the verdicts.

But he added that a UK-based inquiry would be restricted because many of those involved were based abroad.

"If a job is going to be done, it might as well be done well," he said.

The campaigner also suggested that plans to establish an international criminal court might be given a boost by the Lockerbie trial and this could be the ideal venue for further investigations.

However, any future inquiries are likely to be held up while an appeal to the guilty verdict is considered.

Dr Swire rejected suggestions that an appeal could "drag on for years".

"Under Scottish law the appeal process will be exhausted this year," he told BBC News Online.

Thatcher is a 'key witness'

Dr Swire had earlier suggested the possible involvement of a group of Palestinian extremists, some of whose members were arrested by police near Frankfurt in Germany two months before the disaster.

They were found to have been making bombs similar to the one Megrahi was convicted of planting.

The families want politicians in power at the time of the bombing to be called before a public inquiry to explain exactly what they knew in 1988 and in subsequent years.

Dr Swire said the then prime minister Margaret Thatcher was "undoubtedly" a key witness and that she should appear to give evidence.

'Doubt about guilt'

Another relative sitting at the top table, Martin Cadman, appeared to jar with Dr Swire's comments about not impugning the court's verdicts.

He said: "We have our doubts about the guilt of Megrahi and that will have to remain the subject of an appeal."

It would appear that there is not a unanimity of view as to perhaps what the best way forward is, even among the relatives

Lord Advocate Colin Boyd QC
The group's secretary, Pamela Dix, said Prime Minister Tony Blair and Foreign Secretary Robin Cook - who were in opposition when the plane crashed - had admitted there would be "unanswered questions".

A Foreign Office representative was said to have told the group on Thursday morning that no decision about a public inquiry could be made until the entire criminal process had been completed.

Opinions 'divided'

Scotland's senior law officer, Lord Advocate Colin Boyd QC, was asked for his position on a public inquiry while addressing the Scottish Parliament on Thursday.

He said: "It is for the UK Government to consider whether or not there should be any further inquiries of the nature that has been suggested."

Mr Boyd pointed out that some relatives of those who died were more in favour of a public inquiry than others.

Colin Boyd
Colin Boyd: No further proceedings
"The American families are focussed on further criminal proceedings and also civil proceedings raised in the United States district court.

"It would appear that there is not a unanimity of view as to perhaps what the best way forward is, even among the relatives."

Mr Boyd pointed out that Megrahi had been convicted of "acting along with others" but said he had no plans for further criminal proceedings at present because of a lack of evidence.

'Hero's welcome'

Fhimah returned to Libya after being released from custody at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands and is expected to receive "something approaching a hero's welcome", according to a BBC correspondent in Tripoli.

Efforts are continuing on the diplomatic front to clarify Libya's formal position in relation to conditions for lifting United Nations sanctions.

The West is pressing Colonel Gaddafi's regime to accept responsibility for the bombing and pay compensation to the victims' families.

Dr Jim Swire
"We want the answers to questions we have been asking for a very long time"
Judge Richard Goldstone
"What one needs of course is a permanent international criminal court"

Full verdicts
Lockerbie opinion posted by Scots Court Service
Lockerbie megapuff graphic


Appeal concludes

Key stories


The trial
See also:

01 Feb 01 | In Depth
01 Feb 01 | In Depth
01 Feb 01 | Middle East
01 Feb 01 | In Depth
01 Feb 01 | In Depth
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

E-mail this story to a friend

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |