“All I was after was the truth,” says Dr Jim Swire.
The retired GP’s 35-year seek for solutions has seen him board a US-bound flight from Heathrow carrying a duplicate bomb, maintain a secret assembly with Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, and collapse in shock after a felony trial at a former navy base in the Netherlands.
His 23-year-old daughter was among the many 270 folks killed within the Lockerbie bombing on 21 December 1988 – the deadliest ever UK terrorist assault.
“I think I know who was responsible for killing her and I think I can prove it,” the outdated Etonian, now 87, says in a brand new four-part Sky documentary.
He retains the proof he has collected in cardboard folders in a steel submitting cupboard in an workplace within the Cotswolds residence he shares along with his spouse Jane.
‘No one had actually heard of Lockerbie’
Flora “was everything a parent could wish for”, says Mrs Swire.
She was about to show 24 and learning medication when she set off to the US to satisfy her boyfriend for Christmas.
“Everything was booked up, except there were plenty of seats available on a certain flight known as Pan Am 103,” says Dr Swire, sitting in a leather-based armchair in his cottage, overlooking the rugged shoreline on the Isle of Skye.
Less than 40 minutes after taking off from Heathrow on the transatlantic leg to New York’s JFK, the Boeing 747 was 31,000ft over the Scottish city of Lockerbie when the plane was nearly immediately destroyed by a large blast.
Residents keep in mind “a huge explosion” earlier than the sky lit up with “bright red flames” and a “great big mushroom ball of fire”.
“Before 1988, no one had really heard of Lockerbie,” says Colin Dorrance, who was a 19-year-old recruit simply three months into his police profession on the time.
“Life here was just undramatic.”
That all modified at 7.03pm that night. All 259 passengers and crew members on board the airplane have been killed together with 11 folks within the city as home windows have been blown in and wreckage destroyed their properties.
Locals are nonetheless haunted by photographs of the our bodies that fell from the sky, some nonetheless strapped of their seats as they landed in gardens and fields.
The odor of aviation gasoline hung thick within the air as they surveyed the carnage strewn with baggage and the Christmas presents victims have been carrying for family members.
Peter Giesecke cannot shake the picture of the girl nonetheless sporting one high-heeled shoe, whereas Margaret and Hugh Connell grew to become “attached” to the person they present in a subject close to their residence, watching over him for twenty-four hours till his physique was recovered.
“We developed quite a love for ‘our boy’, not knowing who he was,” says Mr Connell.
As information of the catastrophe broke, family members have been determined to know whether or not their family members have been on board.
Unable to get by to Heathrow, Dr Swire rang the Pan Am desk in New York and will hear “chaos in the background and women screaming” as households of the victims, a lot of whom have been American, obtained the horrible information.
Dr Swire, tall and slim with a full head of white hair, is measured as he recollects the kindness of the pathologist who allowed him to see his daughter’s physique within the native ice rink, the place the post-mortems have been being carried out.
“She was barely recognisable,” he says, the grief which nonetheless bubbles just below the floor in spite of everything these years coming to the fore as he tells how he was allowed to take a lock of Flora’s hair.
“Human kindness can be very important when these things happen,” he provides, with tears in his eyes.
‘Nothing fairly provides up’
It took investigators every week to find the catastrophe was brought on by a bomb in a terrorist assault in opposition to the US – the largest within the nation’s historical past till 9/11.
“My first reaction was of fury, which led me to want to find the truth,” says Dr Swire. And that did so much to assist with the grief as a result of I used to be busy doing issues. It was quite how, I believe, Flora would’ve reacted.”
The prime suspect was Iran, but they have always denied any involvement in the attack.
Iran had vowed to take revenge for the accidental downing of an Iran Air passenger flight by the US Navy in the Gulf in July 1988, which killed 290 people.
But the sprawling international investigation was just beginning.
“Nothing is what it appears within the Lockerbie story, nothing fairly provides up,” says local reporter David Johnston, one of the first journalists on the scene.
It soon emerged a call was made to the US embassy in the Finnish capital that a Pan Am plane from Frankfurt to the US would be bombed in what was known as the “Helsinki warning”, with American diplomats in Europe told of a threat.
Passengers and luggage were transferred at Heathrow to Pan Am 103 from a feeder flight originating in Frankfurt and Dr Swire believes the plane was only two-thirds full because people were “warned off”. “We weren’t warned. Nobody informed us,” he says.
“I felt I had a proper to know the reality about how my daughter had come to be killed and why she wasn’t protected in opposition to being killed. And these have been the bases on which we very quickly discovered we have been being richly and profusely deceived by the authorities.”
The ‘greatest crime scene in historical past’
Wreckage from the airplane was unfold over 845 sq. miles in what Richard Marquise, who headed up the FBI Lockerbie taskforce, describes as “the biggest crime scene in history”.
Investigators concluded the bomb was in a cassette participant that was wrapped in garments and put inside a brown hard-sided Samsonite suitcase.
A fraction of Toshiba circuit board pointed to potential hyperlinks to tape recorder bombs made by Iran-backed PLFP-GC, a Palestinian terror group lively within the Seventies and Nineteen Eighties, who have been suspected of finishing up the assault for the Iranians.
Dr Swire took his personal duplicate bomb – the explosive materials substituted for marzipan – on a airplane from Heathrow to the US to focus on the safety flaws.
“It was an obsession,” he admits. “All I was after was the truth of why our beautiful daughter had been murdered and I was bloody determined to find out who did it.”
The kindness of the ladies in Lockerbie
Meanwhile, in Lockerbie volunteers have been cleansing the mud, blood and aviation gasoline from the victims’ belongings left scattered amid the wreckage and our bodies.
Clothes have been washed, pressed and folded, jewelry was polished, and the pages of a tattered bible have been individually ironed.
Miami-based Victoria Cummock, whose husband John died on board, was stunned to obtain his clear laundry.
“I got back his personal effects due to the kindness of the women in Lockerbie,” she says.
The Malta connection and the Libyans
Charred garments which have been full of the bomb have been traced to a store in Malta, and two Libyan suspects got here into the FBI’s sights.
Colonel Gaddafi’s Libya had a motive for the assault after an American bombing in capital Tripoli and a tiny fragment of circuit board, known as PT35, discovered embedded in a shirt collar 20 miles from Lockerbie, was traced to Swiss electronics knowledgeable Edwin Bollier, who mentioned he bought a batch of timers to the rogue state.
After CIA asset Majid Giaka, a Libyan double agent codenamed “Puzzle Piece”, mentioned he noticed the suspects with a brown suitcase at Malta airport the day earlier than the bombing, two males have been charged.
But there was little hope of Colonel Gaddafi handing over Abdelbaset al Megrahi, a Libyan intelligence officer, and Lamin Khalifah Fhimah, a safety official for Libyan Arab Airlines, to face trial.
Telling solely his spouse for concern he can be intercepted by the safety providers, Dr Swire travelled to Libya to satisfy the dictator nose to nose in an try to steer him.
“I was pretty crazy at that time,” he says. “I was so determined that I wasn’t scared, nervous yes, but not scared.”
Dr Swire says he heard the “click, click, click” of Gaddafi’s feminine troopers readying their AK47s as he opened his briefcase to disclose footage of his daughter, then once more on the finish of the assembly when he pinned a badge studying “Lockerbie the truth must be known” to the Libyan chief’s lapel.
The assembly had no apparent impression, and it was not till 11 years after the bombing that Gaddafi lastly agreed to extradite the suspects within the face of robust financial sanctions imposed in response to the atrocity.
‘The shock was so nice I collapsed’
The trial was held at former US Airforce base Camp Zeist, within the Netherlands, underneath Scottish legislation, and Dr Swire rented an condominium with Rev John Mosey, whose 19-year-old daughter Helga died on board Pan Am 103, to observe the proof carefully over 84 days.
Supergrass Giaka crumbled within the witness field as he was proven to be a liar and a fantasist, whereas Bollier could not affirm he provided the bomb timer to Libya.
“I couldn’t continue to believe that there was a cogent body of evidence that justifies the finding of either of those two men guilty,” says Dr Swire.
The Scottish judges cleared Fhimah however discovered al Megrahi responsible of 270 counts of homicide for which he was later handed a life sentence.
“The shock of the verdict initially was so great I collapsed,” says Dr Swire.
Families of the American victims have been happy with the responsible verdict and FBI brokers felt vindicated by the discovering Libya was behind the bombing.
But Dr Swire “couldn’t believe three senior Scottish judges could convict someone on that evidence”, which he believes to be “false” in an effort to body Libya to guard the West’s fragile relationship with Iran.
“I wasn’t prepared to have anything associated with Flora’s death as untrue and debasing as the story that was raised by the authorities against those two men,” he says.
“I was very shaken up psychologically by the fact I knew al Megrahi was innocent, and the authorities protected her killers.”
Sky News has contacted the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service in Scotland for a response.
‘The fact may be very easy’
In 2009, al Megrahi was launched from a Scottish jail on compassionate grounds after he was recognized with terminal prostate most cancers, having spent simply 9 years behind bars.
But some imagine he was freed in trade for an oil cope with Libya.
He obtained a hero’s welcome when he landed again residence with Scottish flags waved as he bought off the airplane.
Families of the American victims have been disgusted however Dr Swire was glad and even visited him earlier than he died in 2012.
From his Zurich workplace, Mr Bollier now claims the PT35 fragment is a pretend and says he believes police tampered with the proof.
He additionally says he was proven a brochure with two briefcases full of money and supplied $4m (£3.2m) by Mr Marquise, however the ex-FBI agent insists he did not provide him “one cent”.
For Dr Swire “the truth is very simple but the consequences of trying to conceal the truth are very complicated”.
“I think she (Flora) was killed by a bomb which was ordained by the Iranian authorities,” he says.
“They had had an Airbus destroyed by an American missile and 290 people killed. Therefore, they were lusting for revenge.”
Former CIA operations officer John Holt, the one-time handler of Giaka, agrees. “I have no doubt it was Iran,” he says, including that the PLFP-GC carried out the assault on their behalf.
However, most individuals nonetheless imagine the official narrative and Libya has formally accepted duty, agreeing to a $2.7bn (£1.95bn) compensation cope with the victims’ households, albeit with expectations sanctions can be lifted.
Dr Swire’s seek for solutions continues because the alleged bombmaker Abu Agila Mohammad Mas’ud Kheir al Marimi is in US custody awaiting trial accused of being the third man concerned within the terrorist assault.
Back in Lockerbie, the Connells did discover out who their “boy” was – New Yorker Frank Ciulla.
The couple have shaped a long-lasting friendship along with his widow Mary Lou Ciulla and daughter Michelle Ciulla Lipkin, who’re greeted with heat smiles and hugs as they step into their residence from the Scottish drizzle.
“I felt that he was alone somewhere and yet when I came here, he wasn’t alone,” says Mrs Ciulla, her good friend Mrs Connell’s arm round her shoulder. “Mine was actually… a nice story.”