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1988: First clue to Lockerbie crash found

Crash investigators have uncovered wreckage from Pan Am flight 103 which may hold the key to the Lockerbie air disaster.

A suitcase discovered in the wreckage of the Boeing 747 has been sent for testing at a government research centre amid speculation it may contain evidence the crash was caused by sabotage.

Bomb experts at the Royal Armament Research and Development Establishment in Fort Halstead, Kent, will be looking for particles which may have penetrated the suitcase and show evidence of an explosive.

It is being seen as a significant development in the investigation as it is the first piece from the wreckage to be sent for testing.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence, which runs the research unit, said: "This is the first wreckage to be sent to us. The police have chosen what they want to be examined."

Results of the study are expected to be available by the end of the week.

Investigations

Meanwhile, police have announced the search for clues may mean the process of retrieving bodies could take some time.

This is because the bodies may also contain particles which show if a bomb was planted, and could shed light on the investigation.

Michael Charles, who is heading the investigation said it is not known yet if the crash was caused by structural failure or a bomb.

Investigators cannot establish if the plane disintegrated before it came to ground, suggesting a bomb, or if it was destroyed by impact on the ground after severe structural failure led to its descent.

Aviation experts have said they believe the most likely cause is structural failure after an initial inspection of the black box flight recorders did not disclose anything.

Only a split second before radar contact was lost there was a 'faint unquantified noise'.

Rescue teams are continuing their search for bodies and the death toll currently remains at 240.

Divers are searching lochs and reservoirs for one wing of the plane which is still missing.

In Context
By examining fabric fragments and other debris from the crash, forensic scientists found an explosive device had been inside a brown hard shell Samsonite suitcase.

Further analysis of clothing and suitcase fragments indicated the bomb itself had been hidden inside a Toshiba RT-SF 16 BomBeat radio cassette player.

Two men said to be Libyan intelligence agents were accused of planting the bomb.

Abdelbaset ali Mohmed al-Megrahi was jailed for life in January 2001 following an 84-day trial under Scottish law, at Camp Zeist in Holland.

His alleged accomplice, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, was found not guilty.

In total 259 people aboard the flight and 11 on the ground died in the crash which took place 38 minutes after take off.


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