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Thursday, 14 March, 2002, 08:43 GMT
Lockerbie: A long search for the truth
Crash scene
The Pan Am jumbo jet came down over Lockerbie
By BBC Scotland Home Affairs Correspondent Reevel Alderson

An entire generation of children has grown up in Lockerbie with little more than their parents' recollection of the day this small market town's name was written into the annals of world terrorism.

The death and destruction which rained down on Lockerbie killed 11 people there and 259 people on the Pan Am jumbo jet which exploded above it in December 1988.

Immediately the questions were asked. How? Why?

Most of the victims were American and their relatives believe the conviction of Libyan secret service agent Abdelbaset ali Mohmed al-Megrahi answers those questions.

Robert Monetti, president of the Victims of Flight 103, said: "I started out not being a believer, but by the end of his trial I was absolutely sure al-Megrahi was guilty."

Robert Minetti
Robert Minetti: Absolutely sure
Relatives of British passengers were more sceptical.

They insist the answers to many fundamental questions were hidden by the trial process.

Rita Cadman said: "I am not convinced at all by the trial.

"Anyone who's read the transcripts of the trial must question the verdict. They absolutely must."

But why was Pan Am 103 destroyed?

Blood of its martyrs

On the bridge of the USS Vincennes in 1988, an aircraft was identified as a target and missiles launched towards it.

The triumph of the ship's company soon turned sour as it was realised that the enemy aircraft was in fact and Iranian Airbus carrying pilgrims to Mecca.

Iran vowed to avenge the blood of its martyrs.

Was Lockerbie, five months later, that retaliation?

It was one of many theories focussing on Middle Eastern terrorists and liberation groups, which detectives were quick to explore.

Luqa airport, Malta
Malta became the centre of the investigation
Within two years, as coalition forces massed to evict Iraq from Kuwait, Syria, previously a major suspect, achieved strategic importance.

Syria was an implacable enemy of the West's enemy Iraq.

Did we need a new scapegoat?

Three years before Lockerbie, in 1985, American planes, launched from Britain, had bombed Libya.

Was Lockerbie Libya's retaliation for that?

Or were the Libyans scapegoats with a motive when earlier theories were inconvenient because the West needed Syria and Iran?

Purely evidential

There was considerable surprise when Scotland's Lord Advocate at the time, Lord Fraser, announced the indictment against two Libyan secret service agents - investigations having previously centred on a Palestinian group.

Today Lord Fraser of Carmyllie insists there was no political pressure to shift the emphasis of the investigation; it was purely evidential.

"We went down the road to prosecuting the Libyans because that was the way all the evidence we had before us directed us to," he said.

"We had had a great deal of examination of other leads which took us not just to Germany but to Scandinavia, and to the former Yugoslavia.

"But ultimately the focus of the evidence led to Malta.

Prosecution case

"And it was on that basis, evidence not intelligence, that caused the switch in direction and led ultimately to the arrest warrants being sought against these two.

Having watched during the trial, the unfolding of the gathered evidence, American relatives of those killed have accepted the prosecution case, which ultimately discarded all other theories about how the jumbo was destroyed.

Mr Monetti said: "The bag had Maltese clothes wrapped around the bomb.

"And the bomb radio was one which was virtually only sold into Libya.

"So if you are going to use a Libyan radio and Maltese clothes, why would you bring them to London when it is just as easy to get into the system at Malta?"

Bill Cadman
Bill Cadman: Killed in the bombing

Whilst most of the American relatives would agree that the man convicted of the bombing did it, among the British relatives, there's considerably more disquiet.

The Cadman Requiem was written as a tribute to a talented young sound engineer, Bill Cadman, one of the British victims of the Lockerbie disaster.

His parents, like many British relatives are convinced the truth of the atrocity has been suppressed by the legal process.

The appeal judgement is far from being the end of the line.

Questions unanswered

Bill Cadman's father, Martin, said: "I was certainly cynical right from the start.

"Before the trial started I had taken the view that it was going to be a farce.

"And nothing that has happened since, however important it was to all the players in it, has changed that.

"The trial has got in the way of the truth."

His wife Rita said: "There are so many, many questions unanswered, that if they (the judges) come back and say 'yes, we were right, he's guilty', I can't draw a line under that."

Martin Cadman, victims father
Martin Cadman: Farce

An American lawyer has been a regular attender throughout the 86-day trial and the appeal.

When the criminal process is complete, he will resume a civil suit designed, American relatives say, ultimately to prevent a similar atrocity.

Mr Monetti said: "We would like to make Libya pay as much as possible.

"The bomb, even with the fancy Swiss timer, cost less than $1000. If we can make them pay $10bn then killing our loved ones cost, not just $1000 but $10bn and $1000.

Public inquiry

"And even for an oil rich country like Libya that should give them second thoughts about ever doing such a thing again."

British families like the Cadmans only want a full public inquiry into how a lethal bomb could be loaded onto a plane leaving Heathrow.

Only that, revealing the truth, could guarantee it could never happen again.

Mr Cadman said: "My very strong conviction is that if Britain and America had gone the right way about dealing with Lockerbie disaster in the immediate aftermath, then what happened on 11 September, 2001, would not have happened. "

Lockerbie, devastated by the bombing, has largely been left untouched by the events at Camp Zeist.

It wants to move on, and townsfolk hope the judges' decision will finally allow them to do so.

Lockerbie councillor Marjorie McQueen said: "We have no pressure groups in this area.

Protracted legal process

"There are very few relatives of those who died in Lockerbie around now, and we have never really involved ourselves in all the machinations of all the court cases that has been going on.

"We have just tried to function as a normal market town, and that's what we are desperately trying to get back to."

The decision to be announced by five Scottish appeal court judges will bring to an end that protracted legal process which began that December night in 1988.

But for many bereaved relatives, many questions about how and why it happened will never be answered.

Lockerbie megapuff graphic


Appeal concludes

Key stories


The trial
See also:

14 Feb 02 | In Depth
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