“Clipper 103 requesting oceanic clearance”
It was a small Scottish town 32 km (20 mi) from the England border and 121 km (75 mi) from Glasgow that became internationally known on Wednesday 21 December 1988. The wreckage of Pan Am Flight 103, a Boeing 747-121, named Clipper Maid of the Seas, landed there, following a terrorist bomb, 38 minutes after take-off.
Until the 11 September 2001 attacks (search the article), the bombing of Flight 103 was the worst act of terrorism against Americans. Of the 270 victims (259 on the plane, 11 on the ground) from 21 nations. 189 were Americans. Eleven residents were killed in Sherwood Crescent, where the plane’s wings and fuel tanks crashed, leaving a huge crater.
At just after 7pm, when Flight 103 was cruising at 9,500 m (31,000 ft) First Officer Ray Wagner spoke to Scottish Air Traffic Control, “Clipper 103 requesting oceanic clearance.” Those were the last words heard from the plane. Eight seconds later the plane was disintegrating over a 1.85 nautical km (1 nautical mi) radius.
Forensic pathologist, Dr William G. Eckert, told police that he thought that the flight crew, some of the air hostesses, and 147 passengers survived the bomb blast and were killed only when the plane crashed. The police investigation that followed was the largest ever mounted in Scottish history and became a murder inquiry when evidence of a bomb was found.
Airspace over Lockerbie, Scotland
7.02:46pm Wednesday 21 December 1988
Two men accused of being Libyan intelligence agents were eventually charged with planting the bomb and their trial began on 3 May 2000. Abdelbaset all Mohmed al-Megrahi was jailed for life on Wednesday 31 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.
On 14 March 2002 Al Megrahi’s appeal against conviction was rejected. In 2005 a former Scottish police chief came forward to corroborate a statement made in 2003 by a retired CIA officer, claiming that the evidence against al Megrahi had been planted. A date for a second appeal has yet to be set and he remains in prison.
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
The FBI took 15,000 witness statements during their joint investigation with the Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary.