[What follows is the text of an article published in The Guardian on this date in 1999. Some of the "conspiracies" have since been comprehensively debunked. Others have not:]
Lockerbie conspiracies: from A to Z
is for Africa, South
Several pieces of evidence (see H and W) suggest that the authorities knew in advance that the Boeing 747 which blew up over Lockerbie in southern Scotland on December 21 1988 was in danger. The German newspaper Die Zeit claimed that the South African foreign minister, Pik Botha, intended to fly on Pan Am 103 but had been warned off. Mr Botha flew on an earlier flight, Pan Am 101, which, unlike flight 103, had special security checks at Heathrow. No one has been able to definitively confirm or refute the Die Zeit story.
is for bomb-maker
The German anti-terror campaign Operation Autumn Leaves (see J, O and P) led to the arrest of bomb-maker Marwan Khreesat weeks before the Lockerbie disaster. Khreesat was released after a few days because of a lack of evidence. In April 1989 further German police raids resulted in the discovery of two more bombs designed by Khreesat specifically to blow up aircraft. Did he make the bomb which was placed on feeder flight Pan Am 103A before it left Frankfurt for Heathrow?
is for coffin
Two coach-loads of officials arrived at the disaster scene in the day after the crash. Many were plain-clothed Americans with no obvious affiliation. Among their baggage was a single coffin for which no explanation has ever been given. Labour MP Tam Dalyell later produced evidence indicating that the Americans had "stolen" a body from the wreckage. A local doctor identified and labelled 59 bodies and was then puzzled to find that the Americans had relabelled and tagged only 58 in the area where he had been working.
is for drugs
Lockerbie farmer Jim Wilson found a suitcase full of cellophane packets containing white powder among the debris in his fields. The suitcase was taken away, no explanation was given, and the authorities continued to insist that no drugs (apart from a small quantity of cannabis) had been found on the plane. But it was later discovered that the name Mr Wilson saw on the suitcase did not correspond with any of the names on the Pan Am 103 passenger list.
is for the Express
Ten days after the Lockerbie disaster, the Daily Express devoted its front page to exposing a Lebanese American called Khaled Jafaar whom it named as the "bomb carrier". The Express's sources were "the FBI and Scotland Yard". The Interfor report (see I) also named Khaled Jafaar as the bomb carrier.
is for fiction
It has been argued that talk of the CIA, cover-ups, bombs, timers and Maltese trousers (see M) is just entertaining fiction. Some observers believe that there was no bomb on Pan Am 103 and that explosive decompression or an electrical fault caused the Lockerbie disaster, as they caused other Boeing 747 crashes.
is for Garrick
Paul Channon, British Secretary of State for Transport, lunched five journalists at the Garrick Club three months after Lockerbie and told them, off-the-record, that the Lockerbie killers had been identified and would soon be arrested. Yet the two Libyans who came to be the prime suspects were not charged until November 1991. It seems likely that at that time Mr Channon was confident that the Lockerbie bomb was the work of the Palestinians (see P).
is for Helsinki
Sixteen days before the disaster, a man rang the US embassy in Helsinki, Finland, and warned of a bomb aboard a Pan Am aircraft flying from Frankfurt to the US. The 1990 US President's Commission report on aviation security said that "thousands of US government employees saw the Helsinki threat". Not a single US worker at the Moscow embassy took flight Pan Am 103 from Frankfurt, a standard and popular route home for Christmas. But the British Department of Transport had told Pan Am in December that British intelligence dismissed the threat as "not real".
is for Interfor
A report by Interfor, a New York corporate investigative company hired by Pan Am, suggested that a Palestinian gang (see P) had got the bomb on to the airliner at Frankfurt by exploiting a US intelligence deal (see U). In a bid to free American hostages in Beirut, American intelligence agents had apparently struck a deal with Syrian drug smugglers: in exchange for hostage information, the agents smoothed the Lebanon-US drugs route by relaxing security restrictions and allowing drug luggage to sail through customs. The terrorist gang simply switched the drug luggage for a bomb.
is for Ahmed Jibril
Ahmed Jibril was the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command (PFLP-GC) (see P). He enjoyed the protection of the Syrian government. Intelligence agents reported that Jibril had been assigned by a furious Iran to avenge the shooting down of an Iranian airbus by a US warship in 1988 (which killed 290 people). The leader of Jibril's terrorist gang, Hafez Dalkamoni, was one of the Palestinians arrested in Operation Autumn Leaves (see O).
is for Kuwait
In 1990 Kuwait was invaded by Saddam Hussein. Anglo-American attitudes to the Middle East were transformed. Paul Foot and John Ashton argue that theories about Lockerbie are inextricably linked to this changing political situation. In 1989 intelligence-based evidence fitted snugly with US and British foreign policy in the Middle East. Both countries had severed relations with Syria, and the Iraq-Iran war ended in 1988 with America and Britain continuing to be hostile to Iran and supportive of Iraq. The US and British governments were content with the prime Lockerbie suspects: a Palestinian gang (see P), backed by Syria and Iran. But in 1990, the impending Anglo-American war against Iraq necessitated neutralising Iran and winning the support of Syria. Britain's diplomatic relations with Syria were duly restored in November 1990 and the Gulf war commenced in 1991. Sure enough, the credibility of intelligence theories about the Lockerbie bombing being masterminded by the Iran- and Syria-backed Palestinian gang was soon dismantled.
is for Libya
In November 1991, the American and British governments charged two Libyan airline officials, Abdel Basset Ali Al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah, with planting the Lockerbie bomb. To justify the radical change in the investigation's focus away from the Palestinians, the US State Department said: "Fresh evidence undermined the initial theory linking the PFLP-GC (see P) to the bomb". This included evidence that the Lockerbie bomb's "sophisticated electronic timer" had been delivered from Switzerland to Libya. And, in contrast, the bombs discovered in the hands of the Palestinians in Germany (see B) had "relatively crude timers".
is for the Maltese connection
A series of Sunday Times investigative pieces reported that the Lockerbie bomb had first been put on a plane in Malta. The bombing had been carried out by the Palestinian group (see P), after a gang member, Abu Talb, visited Malta. He was identified by a Maltese boutique owner as the man who bought clothes later found in the bomb suitcase. A bag which ended up on Pan Am 103 was identified by a baggage handler as coming from an Air Malta flight. When a Granada TV documentary repeated the allegations, Air Malta sued Granada for libel. A hitherto unpublished document from Air Malta's lawyers demonstrated that there were no bags on the flight which went on to Pan Am 103 or 103A. Granada settled out of court.
is for not proven
Legally defined as "a criminal verdict, somewhere between guilty and not guilty, the consequences of which are that the accused is treated as if found not guilty". Britain and the US fear that if attention is paid to the conflicting conspiracy theories, the case against the Libyans in The Hague could only be "not proven".
is for Operation Autumn Leaves
Five weeks before the Palestinian warning (see I) was received, a German anti-terrorism campaign, Operation Autumn Leaves, arrested a "team of Palestinians not associated with the PLO" in possession of a bomb in a cassette recorder (see T) strikingly similar to the Lockerbie bomb. These Palestinians, including Hafez Dalkamoni (see J) and Marwan Khreesat (see B) had been arrested outside a flat in Neuss - two hours' drive from Frankfurt, from whose airport Pan Am 103's feeder flight had originated. They were released after five days because there was not enough evidence against them.
is for Palestinians
Operation Autumn Leaves led to the arrest of a gang associated with a splinter group of the Palestinian movement the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command (PFLP-GC). Was Pan Am 103 blown up by a Palestinian gang, protected by Syria and paid for by Iran?
is for Queen's English
The official air accident report concludes: "The detonation of an improvised explosive device led directly to the destruction of the aircraft". If it was a bomb why wasn't it called a bomb in plain English?
is for red tarpaulin
On the night of the disaster teams of rescue volunteers scouring the area discovered a large object under a red tarpaulin. As they approached it, they were warned off by gunmen in the doorway of a hovering helicopter. A local farmer, Innes Graham, was also warned by US investigators to stay away from a small wooded area a few miles east of Lockerbie.
is for the Swiss circuit board
A central piece of evidence which pointed to the Libyans (see L) was a tiny fragment of a circuit board found among the Lockerbie debris. This was traced to a firm in Switzerland which exported timers to Libya. Apart from the confusion over when and where the circuit board was found (reports vary between June and November 1990), the Libyan connection to the timers is not as clear-cut as investigators have claimed. The US state department maintained that all timers from the Swiss firm had been delivered to Libya, but a BBC radio programme later proved that the firm had provided identical timers to the East German secret police, the Stasi.
is for Toshiba
The German anti-terror campaign Operation Autumn Leaves (see O) discovered a Toshiba cassette recorder packed with semtex. Pieces of a similar model of recorder had been found in the wreckage at Lockerbie.
is for US intelligence
There have been several claims that the bomb was planted on Pan Am 103 by a crack team of US intelligence agents. A Radio Forth journalist reported the claim and, within an hour, was threatened with prosecution or, bizarrely, invited to disclose his source to the Prime Minister. The Interfor report (see I) also alleged that Major Charles McKee, the head of the US intelligence team, who was travelling on the plane, was shocked by his colleagues' deal with Syrian drug smugglers and was returning on Pan Am 103 to report them. The inference was obvious - Pan Am 103 was sacrificed by the intelligence community to get rid of Major McKee. But the Interfor report was greeted with widespread scepticism.
is for Vincent Cannistraro
In the early 1990s the Lockerbie investigation shifted from the Scottish Borders to the CIA base in America. The man in charge there was Vincent Cannistraro. Mr Cannistraro had worked with Oliver North in President Reagan's National Security Council and, Paul Foot and John Ashton argue, he "specialised in the US vendetta against Libya". Mr Cannistraro was part of a secret programme to destabilise the Libyan regime which culminated in the US bombing of Libya in 1986. He retired from the CIA in September 1990 but by then had helped lay the foundations for a completely new approach to the bombing investigation, in which the chief suspect was not Iran or Syria, but Libya.
is for warning
Three days before the Helsinki threat (see H), an intelligence source in the US state department's office of diplomatic security warned that a team of Palestinians, not associated with the PLO, was targeting Pan Am airline and US military bases in Europe. The comment attached to the message read: "We cannot refute or confirm this".
is for xenophobia
In 1989 Anglo-American intelligence services and politicians widely blamed the Lockerbie bomb on a Palestinian terror group (see P), backed by Syria and Iran. In 1990, (see K) Iraq became the Anglo-American Arab enemy number one in the run-up to the Gulf war; Iran became neutral and Syrian troops joined the Allied forces. Only Libya remained adamantly aligned with Iraq. Suddenly, coincidentally, the Lockerbie bomb was blamed on the Libyans.
is for Yvonne Fletcher
PC Yvonne Fletcher was shot dead outside the Libyan embassy in London in 1984, causing diplomatic relations between Britain and Libya to be severed. The file on Yvonne Fletcher is still open and Britain continues to demand Libyan co-operation on the matter. The fairness of the trial of the two Libyan suspects could yet affect this case.
is for Zeist
Camp Zeist is the former US air base in The Hague where the two Libyans are being tried under Scottish law. But even the conviction of Abdel Basset Ali Al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah seems unlikely to still the disquiet and conspiracies that continue to surround flight Pan Am 103.