On this day: the Lockerbie bombing
December 21 1988: Pan Am flight 203 is attacked
When a bomb exploded on the Boeing 747 that was flying between London and New York, all 259 people – passengers and crew – were killed. The terrorist attack was so-named because 11 others died in the Scottish town of Lockerbie when sections of the plane crashed there.
Among the dead were Jewish victims from Britain, America and Israel, including David Dorenstein, a 25-year-old with hopes of becoming a writer, and Theodora Cohen, a 20-year-old student from New Jersey.
In 2001 Libyan intelligence agent Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi was convicted of the bombing and given a life sentence.
However, shocking many, the special Scottish court convened for the case, which garnered worldwide attention and was the biggest mass murder trial in British history, cleared and also released his co -defendant Al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah.
Questions still remain about who else was behind the bombing – theorists have suggested Iranian or Syrian involvement - and what was known by the Libyan government. In August 2009 Al-Megrahi was released on compassionate grounds because he was suffering from terminal prostate cancer – an illness to which he has not yet succumbed.
Many of the victims’ families were incensed by the decision by Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, including the parents of Jewish victim Marc Tager, a charity worker from north London who was just 22 when he was killed.
Michael and Birthe Tager told the JC that letting Al-Megrahi out of jail was "ridiculous" in an interview with the JC. They said: “To let him out for sympathy reasons is ridiculous when so many people were killed and so many families lost relatives.
“The sad thing is we will never get to the bottom of what happened and why it happened.”
What the JC said: The Chief Rabbi, Lord Jakobovits, joined the Prime Minister Mrs Margaret Thatcher, and hundreds of mourners from around the world in Lockerbie on Wednesday for the victims of the Pan Am air disaster…Lord Jakobovits also visited the police academy where bodies are still being identified. The Chief Rabbi said he had attended the church service because it was important to pay his respects to all the victims of the disaster and to honour the work of the emergency services. Their efforts had been a “rare demonstration” of “the spark of godliness in us all.”
See more from the JC archives here