Thursday, 4 May 2017

Lockerbie residents testify at Camp Zeist

[What follows is excerpted from the account of the proceedings at the Lockerbie trial on this date in 2000 that appeared in a section of Safia Aoude’s Pan Am 103 Crash Website:]

Graphic accounts of the carnage inflicted when a terrorist bomb ripped apart a jumbo jet and sent it plunging into a Scottish town dominated the second day of the Lockerbie trial on Thursday. relatives of the victims attending the trial held hands as witnesses recounted the grisly scene of flaming houses and screaming. Defense lawyers did not question the five eye-witnesses who testified on the second morning of the trial to a grim court. (...)

Witnesses to the Lockerbie bombing have relived the horror of the night Pan Am flight 103 was blown up.  They described how they fled for their lives as flames and debris fell over the tiny Scottish town and of the stricken plane falling from the sky in a burning arc towards the ground.

Social worker Jasmine Bell, 53, relived how she had evaded flames and burning objects as she arrived in the Scottish town to deliver Christmas food parcels. She told the specially convened court at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands how she called at her brother's home in Sherwood Park - close to Sherwood Crescent where the Lockerbie residents lost their lives. She looked up into the sky as her brother yelled: "It's a plane, get down."

Mrs Bell, from Dumfries, told the court: "I looked up and saw what I imagined was a small plane just going over my head. I ducked down and covered my head.  "There was fire all around me, there were burning objects and the fire was falling down from the sky and as it landed on the ground I was stepping backwards to avoid the fire and I stepped back and back until my back was against the wall of the house and I couldn't go any further." Then her brother, who had entered his home through the garage, pulled her into the house, Mrs Bell said.

"Everything was burning, the driveway, the lawn, the hedges, the rooftops, it just looked like everything was burning."

William Pattie, who watched as one of the aircraft's engines landed 20ft from him, lost his 56-year old sister-in-law Dora Henry and her husband, Maurice.  They were in their house in Sherwood Crescent and their bodies were never found.

Businessman Steven Teagle, 51, told how he was driving on an upland road in Cumbria on the night of 21 December, 1988, with clear views towards southern Scotland. To one side, he saw a white and orange flash in the sky and a short time later an orange, glowing object fell, creating an arc in the sky before it hit the ground, sending up two prongs of flame in a V shape.

Stewart Kilpatrick, who found the body of a young girl a few feet from his front door, said it took years for the town to return to normal. "I do my best just not think about it. It's the easiest way to get through," he said.

Robert Peacock, a 63-year-old lorry driver from Hightae, near Lockerbie, told how his son's girlfriend came into their house and said: "Listen to that thunder."  He told the court: "I said `That's not thunder' - the noise was continuous. I went outside and saw an aircraft."  The plane was flying at between 8,000 and 12,000ft. "I knew it was quite a large aircraft and one engine was on fire, with burning fuel spewing out. He added: "It went straight for Lockerbie. I heard an explosion, you could see the flames, the sky was lit up."

Kevin Anderson, 35, a plasterer from Tundergarth, three miles from Lockerbie, saw the cockpit of the plane, one of the few recognisable sections to fall to earth. He said: "It was like an atomic bomb that you see on the telly. It was up in the air and then came down."  Then, he said, debris began falling and the cockpit landed in the field, about 100yds away from him.  "I fetched the wife and we went up to look. I couldn't believe what I was seeing.

"There were bodies lying around the cockpit. I went to get my father-in-law from his house about 100yds up the road. We went over to the cockpit to see if anyone was alive. I had a torch. We looked inside the cockpit. I could see the pilot."

Car mechanic William Wilson said his colleague left work half an hour before tragedy struck and was never seen again.  When Wilson went to check the next day, he found only the man's  car next to a hole where the house once stood.

Roland Stevenson described the "thunderous black mass" which fell from the sky. The retired Dumfries  maintenance engineer said he shouted to people to run for cover as debris - including an entire wing - rained down as he collected his daughter from Lockerbie railway station. Mr Stevenson, 65, said: "The whole of the wing was descending vertically straight down. I could see it wing tip to wing tip, a clean wing, silhouetted against the clouds from the town lights." He went on: "A rolling ball of fire was descending rapidly from the sky." (...)

The most senior police officer in Lockerbie on the night of the Pan Am 103 disaster has said he fears the town may never get back to normal.
Retired superintendent Geoffrey Carpenter was giving evidence after the recess. He was among the first officers to reach the scene and became a key figure in organising the rescue services and coping with the aftermath of the disaster. Mr Carpenter told the trial he hoped the case would mark the last chapter in the tragedy. (...)

He said: "My first impression was that it was a low-flying military aircraft, but as the house shook I realised it was something more. Then there was an almighty explosion." He rushed outside and saw a glow in the sky and debris falling. Mr Carpenter said: "I saw a metal object in the sky. It appeared suspended. I believe it was one of the engines." The former police officer tried the telephone but it was dead, so he drove towards the scene.

He said: "I was faced with debris, pools of flames in the roadway and in gardens. There was a stench of fuel and acrid smoke. "I utilised off-duty police officers to evacuate the areas in case of another explosion," he said. He described how the Rosebank area of Lockerbie was in complete darkness with debris everywhere. "At Tundergarth the nose cone was sitting on a hill. There was evidence of bodies among the debris," he said.

Cross-examined by defence lawyer William Taylor QC, Mr Carpenter agreed it was "extremely difficult" in the aftermath of what Mr Taylor called the "cataclysm" to secure the disaster area for the purposes of evidence gathering, particularly as the debris area ran east from Lockerbie to the North Sea.

1 comment:

  1. It certainly must have had some personal value for the Lockerbie folks to express their horror on that terrible day. That is of course a good thing.

    The trial, though, was not about whether a plane had actually fallen down, but whether the two accused had been involved in the disaster.

    Sufferers whose testimonies are irrelevant to the indictment must be kept out of trials. They disturb justice by prolonging matters, adding noise to the case, and stirring up emotions and thirst for revenge that will be of disadvantage for a fair evaluation of the case.