On the 21 December 1988 a bomb planted in a suitcase on the Pan Am Flight 103 exploded in mid-air killing all on board and bringing sections of the plane down on Lockerbie, Scotland. Known as the Lockerbie bombing, or disaster, it is the deadliest terror attack in UK history. In total it claimed the lives of more than 200 people on the flight.
The disaster also resulted in the death of people on the ground in the street of Sherwood Crescent in the town where the wings of the plane fell. The investigation and bid to bring those responsible for what happened has spanned decades. Now almost 34 years after that fateful day Abu Agila Mohammad Mas’ud Kheir Al-Marimi is set to appear in a US court on suspicion of building the bomb.
He is the third man to be charged over the atrocity, with Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi convicted in 2001 following a trial in a Scottish Court set up at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands, of mass murder and jailed for life. The former Libyan intelligence officer was famously released in 2009 from prison in Scotland on compassionate grounds having been diagnosed with terminal cancer.
He died in Libya in 2012. Last year an appeal against his conviction lodged by his relatives was rejected by the Court of Appeal in Scotland. A second suspect, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, had stood trial with al-Megrahi but was acquitted.
In 2003 Libya accepted blame for the Lockerbie bombing and agreed to compensate victims’ families. Years later Libya’s former justice minister, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, told a newspaper he has proof that Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader at the time of the Lockerbie disaster, who was assasinated in 2011, ordered the bombing.
Scotland’s Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC has said officials in Scotland and the US will continue to investigate the case,and that she would be meeting with US officials next week. But what happened in Lockerbie, how many people died, and where are the memorials to the victims of the bombing?
What happened in Lockerbie?
The transatlantic Pan Am Flight 103 had taken off from Frankfurt and landed at Heathrow airport, it took off at 6.25pm bound for New York’s JFK airport, and the Detroit. The bomb had been planted in the forward hold of the plane and was hidden inside a radion cassete in a suitcase.
At around 7pm it was over the skies in the south of Scotland, however just after 7pm a loud noise was recorded on the cockpit voice recorder.
Eight seconds after the explosion a pilot flying the London-Glasgow shuttle called Scottish authorities to say he could see a huge fire on the ground.
The plane broke-up mid-air and the wreckage landed in and around the Lockerbie area. The wings and fuel tanks landed on Sherwood Crescent, detroying three homes and leaving a massive crater in the street. Jet fuel ignted by the landing impact started fires which destroyed further homes.
While the back end of the plane, where the many of the flight’s passengers had been, landed at Rosebank Crescent. Other parts of the wreckage including the nose section and flight deck of the plane, fell a couple of miles east of the town in a field opposite Tundergarth Church.
How many people died as a result of the Lockerbie bombing?
In total 270 people were killed. This was made up of 243 passengers on the plane, aged from just two months old to 82 years old, and 16 members of crew. The impact of the collision killed 11 people on the ground in Sherwood Crescent, in Lockerbie.
Thirty five of those who died were students returning home for Christmas after studying abroad in a program run by Syracuse University . The victims came from 21 different countries, 43 of who were British and 190 who were from the US.
Where are the memorials to the victims of the disaster?
There are several memorials to those who died in the bombing. In the US there is a Lockerbie Cairn in the Arlington National Cemetery. While in the UK the main memorial is at Dryfesdale Cemetery, one mile west of Lockerbie. It consists of a semicircular stone wall in the garden of rememberance with the names of the victims.
There are other memorials in the town, including a stained glass window in Lockerbie Town Hall Council Chambers. While at Sherwood Crescent there is a garden of rememberance to those killed when the wreckage fell there.