[This is the headline over an editorial published in The Sunday Telegraph on this date in 2009. It reads as follows:]
Telegraph View There are strong grounds for a thorough and independent investigation into Britain's worst terrorist atrocity
Lockerbie is a name burned into the consciousness of the British public. Like Omagh and other places associated with atrocious terrorist outrages, it retains a grim resonance, more than 20 years after this vicious mass murder that saw 270 innocent people, including 51 British citizens, subjected to an exceptionally cruel death. To this day it remains the worst act of terrorism perpetrated on British soil. For the victims' families it is a wound that can never heal. The trauma would be alleviated, however, if the bereaved and the wider public could confidently feel that the circumstances had been investigated to the core and the truth established.
Today, therefore, we are proud to support the campaign being launched by relations of the victims to demand an independent inquiry into who ordered and carried out the bombing. This weekend, the families have written to Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, requesting such a step. The demand is well founded: the Crown Office, the prosecuting authority in Scotland, is already pursuing fresh inquiries, following the withdrawal of a second appeal by Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, in order to secure his release.
Particularly welcome is the assurance by Scottish authorities that this is no token gesture, but a thorough investigation, focusing partly on forensic evidence and with a full-time team of detectives assigned to it. The fact that the Scottish judiciary had given Megrahi permission to appeal for a second time testifies that experienced judges believed there was merit in further consideration of the case. This businesslike response by prosecutors and police requires to be supported by the Government ordering an independent inquiry.
Virtually nobody believes that the true facts about the destruction of Pan Am Flight 103 have been revealed. Alongside the inevitable conspiracy theories, there are substantive allegations regarding possible Iranian and Palestinian involvement that have never been properly investigated, not to mention a suspicious break-in that occurred at Heathrow Airport 17 hours before Flight 103 took off from there.
Potential scrutiny of such evidence was aborted by Megrahi's abandonment of his appeal. An independent inquiry would effectively test his appeal in absentia.
It would also go some way to restoring the reputations of the Scottish and British justice systems. The decision taken by the Scottish justice minister, Kenny MacAskill, to release Megrahi from prison on compassionate grounds and allow him to return to Libya, was the wrong one. The role of the British Government – the murky rumours of oil-related deals – was shameful. American officials remain angry at how the matter was handled.
If the authorities had investigated the case more rigorously and placed all the evidence in the public domain, an inquiry would not now be necessary. Considering the history of obfuscation surrounding the Lockerbie case, however, the details must be brought into the light of day. Nobody is asking for an open-ended, Bloody Sunday-style inquiry; but a full, detailed and public investigation of all the available evidence is now essential, if any kind of closure is to be achieved for the victims' families and the country.