Lockerbie Solstice 30 Years On - By Duncan Harley

I well recall the news coverage on the night that Pan Am Flight 103 came down in the Scottish borders some 30 years ago. A pregnant wife was on a late shift at the local geriatric hospital and it was cold and dark and windy with the promise of frost.
Sky and Beeb and local radio reported that a petrol station on the M74 between Moffat and Lockerbie had caught fire. But it was of course much worse than that. Oddly, I met a lady long after the event who had been the recipient of a lucky escape.

Ella Ramsden was her name as I recall and her house was badly damaged by the aircraft's fuel-filled wings which destroyed Sherwood Crescent and killed her neighbours. She survived unhurt although her house was pretty much blown to pieces.

I seem to recall that her dog had wanted out just before the explosion and that she had gone to the back door to take him out. That probably saved her life since the back of the house remained standing.
A local newspaper has this week reported that her two goldfish survived as did her budgie, which was found in a garden hedge a day or so after the explosion which shocked the world. And now, on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the murders, both the papers and the digital spaces are filled with comments and remembrances recalling the awful event.

Alongside a leader headed Shadow of Lockerbie, today's Times in Scotland carries a piece by Marc Horne describing both the remembrance day events and the suggestion that a miscarriage of justice may have occurred over the conviction of the now deceased Libyan intelligence agent Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi. On a scale of one to ten, I have no real idea if this is the case however the debate and the conspiracy theories continue to claim that one man alone could not have been responsible for such an atrocity.

Megrahi is no longer able to defend his claim to innocence although his family still pursue his case. Today's Times leader argues the case that the conviction of the Lockerbie bomber was unsafe and that any case based on circumstantial evidence remains in doubt. It was always assumed that Megrahi dropped his appeal against his conviction for those 270 murders - 243 passengers and 16 crew members were killed plus eleven Lockerbie residents died on the ground – on the basis that he was offered a deal. Drop the appeal or die in a Scottish jail.

Today however, we learn that Scotland’s former Justice Secretary – Kenny MacAskill – released the convicted Libyan not for compassionate reasons, as was reported at the time. And not for reasons relating to a fear of an unsafe conviction. But due to a fear that should the man die in a Scottish prison cell, then an onslaught of martyr attacks would be unleashed on Scottish Prisons.

“The only red line I ever set” says the former government minister “was that Megrahi wouldn’t die in a Scottish prison cell … it simply meant that he’d never be allowed to pass away here, even if it meant being medically evacuated at the last moment.”

The Times leader sheds some more light on the murky story and compares Megrahi’s predicament to that of the shadowy conspirators hiding behind Kennedy’s grassy knoll. And the author of the piece may well be right. Although the assertion of Palestinian involvement is at least credible, the statement that “The nine Scottish judges who presided over the trial and the first appeal” have been unfairly accused as having been complicit in the worst miscarriage of justice in Scottish legal history is surely  incorrect.

There have been many miscarriages over the years ranging from the wrongful incarceration of Oscar Slater to “that horrid and monstrous barbarity fixed on Royal authority on the person of the great Marquis of Montrose”.  And, of course, justice has never been wrong ...

But back to Lockerbie. On this starry-starry night, it seems appropriate to remember those events of 30 years ago in the story of The Women of Lockerbie as penned for theatre by playwright Deborah Brevoort. The YouTube recording of the play records only some 2k page views.
But I am sure the tale is worth much more than that.

Duncan Harley is author of The A-Z of Curious Aberdeenshire plus the forthcoming title: The Little History of Aberdeenshire - due out in March 2019


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