Wednesday, 8 January 2014

RIP Chris Jeans, Lockerbie documentary producer

[What follows is a short excerpt from The Guardian’s obituary of Chris Jeans, published on Monday:]

Christopher Jeans abandoned the constraints of a BBC suit for the riskier freedom of an independent television producer. He has died of cancer aged 68, two weeks after finishing his final programme, the third part in a trilogy for Al Jazeera about the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie 25 years ago. Chris worked until days before his death, showing his customary exuberance and unyielding persistence, chasing down facts and negotiating his way though complex challenges with a combination of shrewd guile and disarming laughter.

[Two of Chris Jeans’s Aljazeera documentaries have aready been broadcast, Lockerbie: The Pan Am Bomber  and Lockerbie: Case Closed.  The third, provisionally entitled If not Megrahi, then who?, has yet to be shown. 

I am grateful to George Thomson, who was associated with Chris Jeans in all three of Aljazeera’s Lockerbie documentaries, for allowing me to publish this tribute:]

I only met Chris for the first time three years ago when he and Bill Cran approached me to ask for my assistance in producing what was to be one documentary film on Lockerbie.  We went on to make three and I can assure anyone waiting to view the third film that, it will be broadcast.

I agree with Morag [Kerr] it should be broadcast if for nothing else, in honour of one of the kindest, most jovial men I have ever met.

Chris could act the clown, he was great fun to work with but he got the best out of all the people he interviewed.  I was there during the filming of Morag's piece and I can vouch for everything she has so kindly said.

Jim Swire has described him as perhaps the best informed interviewer to have interviewed him on the case.

Bill and Chris were a great double act and I christened them "The Last of the Summer Wine", but they were brilliant and prolific documentary makers who made hard work fun.

When we were on location in Malta Chris would have us up and in the sea before 7am every morning, he loved swimming.  I got my own back by getting him arrested by the local police for hunting down Tony Gauci.

I was with him the day before he died at his home in London, he was very, very ill, but miraculously he managed a smile and squeezed my hand. He could not have been better looked after, his son and new daughter-in-law are both doctors and they assisted his lovely Wife Jessica to care for him right to the very end.  

The world of television documentaries has lost a star, I have lost a very good pal.


  1. I worked with Chris for about four hours on the third part of that documentary. He came to my house with a cameraman, and shot and shot until he believed he could get the perfect sequence from the material on these memory cards. We only stopped for about 15 minutes for tea and biscuits when I thought I was about to dehydrate.

    I don't know about the rest of the material he had, but the sequence we did has got to be the best explanation of the Heathrow loading that exists at the moment. I printed out some flash cards of the most important evidential pictures, and was able to use them to explain visually what went where and why certain bits of charring and blast damage wee so important. He also spoke about having an animation created of what I explained to him. I don't know if he did, and if he did I have never seen it, but a good animation of this could be absolutely key to getting across what actually happened.

    I had no idea at the time that he was fighting cancer. When the director called me from California just before Christmas to tell me he'd been taken to hospital and had only a week or two to live, I was profoundly shocked. He died the day after the Lockerbie anniversary. The second day scheduled for broadcasting the finished film, the second date that was cancelled.

    I hope Aljazeera will show that documentary, for the sake of Chris's memory if nothing else.

  2. So has the documentary been cancelled? With the odd exception Al-Jazeera documentaries tend to be pretty dire. I did suggest Morag Kerr's book might be dismissed as well-timed Zionist propaganda!