Most of us who are old enough will remember the shock with which we learned of the atrocity which ended the lives of 270 people at Lockerbie on 21 December 1988. I first heard about it from an evening BBC radio news bulletin while lying in bed with a nasty dose of flu. At first I thought it was a preposterous fantasy conjured up by my fevered condition and staggered through to the television in the sitting room to have the horror confirmed.
Dr. Morag Kerr is a Borders-based vet who has previously written books on veterinary laboratory medicine and pet care. A trip which involved driving along the A74 less than two days after the Maid of the Seas fell from the sky was the initial stimulus for her meticulous research into how that terrible event came about. She has been Secretary Depute of “Justice for Megrahi” since 2010.
The safety of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi’s conviction at the trial at Camp Zeist has troubled the national conscience for the last 13 years. Dr. Jim Swire whose daughter Flora died at Lockerbie was one of those not persuaded by the prosecution case. He subsequently befriended Megrahi and has campaigned tirelessly and with great integrity and dignity for a re-examination of the evidence. Dramatisations challenging the version of events accepted in the Camp Zeist judgement have played to packed houses at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. James Robertson’s novel, The Professor of Truth, draws its power from the widespread unease over the official attribution of responsibility.
A number of books have examined the voluminous evidence accumulated as a result of the investigations into the crime. John Ashton’s Megrahi: You are my Jury explores in detail the provenance of the circuit board fragment identified by investigators as part of a timer used in the bomb and the questions over the reliability of Tony Gauci’s identification of Megrahi as the man who bought the clothes packed in the bomb suitcase. And disquieting revelations about the case continue to emerge. On 20 December, Channel 4 News reported that between 1990 and 1995 several senior Syrian officials had told CIA agent Dr. Richard Fuisz that the Syrian-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, led by Ahmed Jibril, was responsible for the bombing.
Morag Kerr’s book is the first book about Lockerbie to deal rigorously with the detail of the transfer baggage evidence. On the basis of a careful analysis of reports, statements and photographs not previously available to the public she presents compelling evidence that the Samsonite hardshell case containing the bomb could not have been loaded on flight KM180 in Malta because it was already in luggage container AVE4041 in the interline shed at Heathrow an hour before the connecting Boeing 727 from Frankfurt (PA103A) had landed.
If the bomb was indeed introduced into the luggage transfer system at Heathrow, then the whole case against Megrahi and Libya crumbles away. Morag Kerr wants to see an inquiry into the police and forensic investigations of Lockerbie which she regards as seriously flawed. Given the growing body of evidence which cannot readily be reconciled with the Camp Zeist judgement, only a fresh consideration of the case by a Scottish court can assuage public concern that a great injustice may have been done in 2001.