[What follows is excerpted from an article by Jonathan Brocklebank headlined A box-set binge or a genuine murder mystery? published today in the Scottish edition of the Daily Mail:]
Sixteen years ago I sat with a notebook and listened as witnesses told a courtroom what it was like to have a bombed Boeing 747 drop out of the sky in flames onto their town.
A wall of bullet-proof glass separated me from the people giving evidence and from the two Libyan men being tried for the atrocity. It afforded no protection from the searing images haunting the memories of those who watched Pan Am 103’s hellish descent.
These were painted so vividly, so matter-of-factly, that it felt rather like watching Lockerbie happen through binoculars. One man saw a ‘clean wing’, silhouetted against the clouds by the town lights, plunging vertically towards people’s houses.
Amidst a ‘rolling ball of fire’ descending from the sky, he saw much smaller black objects plunging earthward. Were these passengers? He did not say. I guessed so.
The testimony of the Lockerbie residents who travelled to the Scottish Court at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands took up most of a day and I will never forget it. Nothing they had to say about the night of December 21, 1988, may have shed any light on the guilt or innocence of the two Libyan men sitting feet away from them in the dock, betraying no emotion.
But their graphic narration left no doubt about the monstrous scale of the crime being tried before three Scottish judges in 2000.
With a death toll of 270 people, it remains Britain’s worst terrorist atrocity. And, if you’re into that kind of thing, it remains something of a murder mystery.
Even if you believe Adbelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi planted the bomb that blew up Pan Am 103 – and I am not convinced beyond all reasonable doubt that I do – then you almost certainly do not believe that he acted in isolation. Who were his co-conspirators? Are they still alive? How many more years must their victims’ families wait before they are brought to justice?
Alternatively, could it be credible that an innocent man was tried and convicted of carrying out the most heinous act in Scottish criminal history? Can the most crucial trial ever conducted in Scots Law truly have returned the wrong verdict? Alternatively, could it be credible that an innocent man was tried and convicted of carrying out the most heinous act in Scottish criminal history? Can the most crucial trial ever conducted in Scots Law truly have returned the wrong verdict?
This is not simply the belief of a few conspiracy theorists with Sellotape holding their spectacles together. Some highly respected legal and investigative experts believe so, too – not to mention figures such as Dr Jim Swire, a former GP who has spent more than 25 years in pursuit of the truth about his daughter Flora’s killers.
At a time when much of the nation is glued to a documentary series on Netflix called Making a Murderer, concerning a man from Wisconsin whose name meant nothing to us a month ago, these seem questions worth asking... together with this one: are we just bored with Lockerbie now?
Six weeks before the story of convicted US murderer Steven Avery became the most obsessed-over topic at office water coolers across the land, another true crime TV documentary surfaced on BBC4 to little fanfare. It was not the full, three-part investigative film which Ken Dornstein made about the Lockerbie bombing following half a lifetime of research into the atrocity that killed his brother David.
It seems that was too much TV for a feature of global significance about an atrocity in Scotland. Instead, the three utterly compelling hour-long programmes in which Mr Dornstein identifies two possible further suspects for the bombing were chopped into one 90-minute film and broadcast on one of the Beeb’s out-ofthe-way channels on a rainy November night. (...)
As a direct result of his investigative odyssey across three continents, the Crown Office formally announced in October that there were now two new Lockerbie bombing suspects, Abu Agila Mas’ud and Abdullah Al Senussi.
I wonder how Mr Dornstein’s viewing figures on the BBC compared to those on Netflix for Making a Murderer, a tenpart, 607-minute splurge of true crime programming in which viewers are supposed to decide what kind of a man Steven Avery is. (...)
Me, I gave Making a Murderer an hour and no more. By contrast, who placed the bomb on board Pan Am 103, how and why, matters far more to my country, to the US and many other nations whose citizens died.
There are critical questions concerning the compassionate release of Megrahi in 2009 after little more than eight years in prison. Was he really freed by then Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill because of his prostate cancer – and, if so, why three full years before the cancer took his life?
Or was Megrahi packed off home purely to ensure that his appeal against conviction went away, for it was an appeal which might result in an unthinkably embarrassing quashed verdict?
I don’t know the answers to these questions any more than I know who killed Teresa Halbach. But, in the land of Lockerbie, it would be nice to think they were more pressing.