Pan Am Flight 103 was Pan Am's daily Frankfurt-London-New York-Detroit evening flight. On December 21, 1988, a bomb exploded in its forward cargo hold as it flew over southern Scotland, near the border town of Lockerbie. Two hundred and seventy people died, including 11 on the ground. One hundred and eighty nine of the victims were American citizens, and the bombing was widely regarded as an assault on a symbol of the United States, standing as the worst act of terrorism against that country before September 11, 2001. The attack became known simply as Pan Am 103 in the U.S., and in the UK as the Lockerbie bombing or Lockerbie air disaster. It was Britain's deadliest air crash and the subject of that country's largest criminal investigation.
On the night of the bombing, a Boeing 747-121A (N739PA)  named Clipper Maid of the Seas was operating the London-New York leg of the route. At 19:02:57 UTC, almost 38 minutes into the flight, and minutes after the aircraft had entered Scottish airspace at a cruising altitude of 31,000 ft (9,400 m), around 450 grams (16 oz) of plastic explosive was detonated in the forward cargo hold underneath the business-class cabin, triggering a sequence of events that led to the rapid and almost total destruction of the aircraft. Winds aloft of 100 miles per hour (160 km/h) scattered debris from the flight along an 88 mile (142 km) corridor over an area of 845 mi².
On November 13, 1991, after a three-year joint investigation by the Scottish police and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which saw 15,000 witness statements taken, indictments were issued against Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, a Libyan intelligence officer and the head of security for Libyan Arab Airlines (LAA), and Lamin Khalifah Fhimah, the LAA station manager in Malta. United Nations sanctions against Libya and protracted negotiations with Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gadaffi secured the handover of the accused on April 5, 1999, to Scottish police in the Netherlands, chosen as a neutral venue. On January 31, 2001, Megrahi was convicted of murder by a panel of three Scottish judges and sentenced to 27 years in prison. Fhimah was acquitted. Megrahi's appeal against his conviction was refused on March 14, 2002. He is serving his sentence in Greenock Prison near Glasgow, where he continues to protest his innocence.
The flight had started as PA 103A in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, operated by a Boeing 727 for the leg to Heathrow Airport in London, England. Forty-seven of the eighty-nine passengers on PA 103A changed aircraft there to a 747, and the flight, thereafter called PA 103, continued on its journey to JFK airport in New York.
There were 243 passengers on board and 16 crew members, led by the pilot, Captain James MacQuarrie, First Officer Raymond Wagner, and flight engineer Jerry Avritt. Thirty-five students from Syracuse University were on board, flying home from an overseas study program in London. Five members of the Dixit family, including three-year-old Suruchi Rattan, were flying to Detroit from New Delhi. Suruchi became forever associated with an anonymous note left with flowers at a Lockerbie memorial site in London: "To the little girl in the red dress who made my flight from Frankfurt such fun. You didn't deserve this."
There were at least four U.S. intelligence officers on the passenger list. Matthew Gannon, the CIA's deputy station chief in Beirut, Lebanon, was sitting in Clipper Class, seat 14J. Major Chuck "Tiny" McKee , a 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m), 270 lb (122 kg), senior army officer on secondment to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in Beirut, sat behind Gannon in the center aisle in 15F; and two CIA officers, believed to be acting as bodyguards to Gannon and McKee, were sitting in economy: Ronald Lariviere, a security officer from the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, was in 20H, and Daniel O'Connor, a security officer from the U.S. Embassy in Nicosia, Cyprus, sat five rows behind Larivier in 25H, both men seated over the right wing. The four men had flown together out of Cyprus that morning. Major McKee is believed to have been in Beirut trying to locate the American hostages being held at that time by the terrorist group Hezbollah. The presence of these men on the flight later gave rise to a number of alternative theories involving them as the bombers' targets.
Last contact with Flight 103
The flight was scheduled to depart 18:00, and pushed back from the gate at 18:04, but due to a 20-minute delay in taxiing, not unusual during rush-hour at Heathrow Airport, the flight took off from Heathrow's runway 27L at 18:25, flying north over Scotland due to high winds, rather than by its normal route, west over Ireland. At 19:00, the aircraft was picked up by Oceanic Control at Prestwick, Scotland, where it needed clearance to begin its flight across the Atlantic. Alan Topp, an air traffic controller, made contact with the clipper as it entered Scottish air space. Capt James McQuarrie replied: "Good evening Scottish, Clipper one zero three. We are at level three one zero." These were the last words heard from the aircraft.
At 19:01, Topp watched Flight 103 approach the corner of the Solway Firth, and at 19:02, it crossed its northern coast. At 19:03, the plane's height readout disappeared from Topp's screen, and then the call sign with the aircraft's serial number, usually displayed in a box just underneath the bright square showing the flight's movements, disappeared too. Topp tried to make contact and asked a nearby KLM flight to do the same, but there was no reply. Topp's screen then began to show the break-up of the aircraft. At first, where there should have been one square, there were three, then five, and as the seconds passed, the squares began to fan out across his screen. About a minute later, the wing section carrying 200,000 lb (90 t) of fuel hit the ground at Sherwood Cresent, Lockerbie, with a force equivalent to an earthquake of 1.3 on the Richter scale,  wiping out all trace of two families, several houses, and the 220 foot (67 m) long left wing of the aircraft. A British Airways pilot flying nearby called Prestwick to report a massive fire on the ground. The destruction of the plane continued on Topp's screen, now full of bright squares moving eastwards with the wind. 
How the aircraft broke up
Although the explosion punched only a 20 inch (510 mm) hole in the left side of the 220 foot (67 m) long fuselage, almost directly under the P in Pan Am, the disintegration of the aircraft was rapid. Air accident investigators reported that the nose of the aircraft may have separated from the main section within three seconds of the explosion.
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) of the British Department of Transport found no evidence of a distress call, though the aircraft's oxygen masks had descended. There was only a brief hissing noise audible on the flight recorder as the power supply was lost, because the explosion destroyed the aircraft's communications center. Furthermore, as several minutes of recording were stored in volatile memory, which is erased when the power is cut, investigators were also unable to hear what had happened just before the explosion, (Shifrin, 1990). After being lowered into the cockpit in Lockerbie before it was moved, investigators from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) concluded that no emergency procedures had been started. The pressure control and fuel switches were both set for cruise, and the crew had not used their oxygen masks, which would have descended within five seconds of any emergency (Cox and Foster, 1992).
The nerve center of a 747, from which all the navigation and communication systems are controlled, sits two floors below the cockpit, separated from the forward cargo hold only by a bulkhead wall. Investigators believe the force of the explosion broke through this wall and shook the flight control cables, causing the front section of the fuselage to begin to roll, pitch, and yaw. These violent movements snapped the reinforcing belt that secured the front section to the row of windows on the left side and it began to break away. At the same time, shock waves from the blast that hit the fuselage ricocheted back in the direction of the bomb, meeting pulses still coming from the center of the explosion. This produced Mach stem shock waves, calculated to be 25 per cent faster than, and twice as powerful as, the waves from the explosion itself (Cox and Foster, 1992). These shockwaves rebounded from one side of the aircraft to the other, running down the length of the fuselage through the air-conditioning ducts and splitting the fuselage open.  (pdf) A section of the 747's roof several feet above the point of detonation peeled away. The Mach stem waves pulsing through the air-conditioning ductwork bounced off overhead luggage racks and other hard surfaces, jolting passengers. The power of the initial explosion was enhanced by the difference in air pressure between the inside of the aircraft, where it was kept at breathable levels, and outside, where at 31,000 feet (9,400 m), it was about a quarter of what it is at sea level. The nose of the aircraft, containing the crew and the first class section, broke away, striking the No. 3 engine as it snapped off.
Investigators believe that within three seconds of the explosion, the cockpit, fuselage, and No. 3 engine were falling separately. The fuselage continued moving forward and down until it reached 19,000 feet (5.8 km), at which point its dive became almost vertical. 
As it descended, the fuselage broke into smaller pieces, with the section attached to the wings landing first in Sherwood Crescent, Lockerbie, where the 200,000 pounds (90 t) of fuel inside the wings ignited, causing a fireball that destroyed several houses, and which was so intense that nothing remained of the 196 foot (60 m) left wing of the aircraft. Investigators determined that both wings had landed in the crater only after counting the number of large, steel flapjack screws that were found there (Cox and Foster, 1992).
All 243 passengers and 16 crew members were killed. A Scottish Fatal Accident Inquiry, which opened on October 1, 1990, heard that, when the cockpit was torn off, tornado-force winds would have torn through the fuselage, tearing clothes off passengers and turning objects like drink carts into lethal pieces of shrapnel. Because of the sudden change in air pressure, the gases inside the passengers would have expanded to four times their normal volume, causing their lungs to swell and then collapse. People and objects not fixed down would have been sucked out of the aircraft immediately. For most of the passengers, the six mile (9 km) fall would have lasted about two minutes (Cox and Foster, 1992). Some passengers remained attached to the fuselage by their seatbelts, and landed in Lockerbie still in their seats. Although they would have lost consciousness because of the lack of oxygen at 31,000 feet (9,400 m), forensic examiners believe some may have regained consciousness as they fell toward the oxygen-rich lower altitudes. 
Forensic pathologist Dr. William G. Eckert, director of the Milton Helpern International Center of Forensic Sciences at Wichita State University, who examined the autopsy evidence, told Scottish police he believed the flight crew, some of the flight attendants and 147 other passengers survived the bomb blast and depressurization of the aircraft, and may have been alive on impact. None of these passengers showed signs of injury from the explosion itself, or the decompression and disintegration of the aircraft. The inquest heard that a mother was found holding her baby; two friends were holding hands; and a number of passengers were found clutching crucifixes. Dr. Eckert told Scottish police that distinctive marks on the pilot's thumb suggested he had been hanging onto the yoke of the plane as he descended, and may have been alive when he landed.
Captain MacQuarrie, the first officer, the flight engineer, at least one flight attendant, and a number of first-class passengers were found still strapped to their seats inside the nose section where it landed in a field by a tiny church in the village of Tundergarth.
The inquest heard that the flight attendant was alive when found by a farmer's wife, but died before her rescuer could summon help. A male passenger was also found alive, and medical authorities concluded he might have survived had he been found earlier (Cox and Foster, 1992). Sixty passengers landed on the town's golf course, while others landed in gardens, some still attached to their seats, or were found hanging from trees. Fifty bodies, many of them the bodies of the Syracuse students, landed with part of the fuselage in the garden of Ella Ramsden, whose house was destroyed, but who survived with her dog even though she was home at the time of the explosion.
Ten passengers were never identified. Eight of these passengers, including the CIA bodyguards Ronald Lariviere and Daniel O'Connor, had been assigned seats in the economy section above the wings, and are believed to have been attached to the wing structure as it landed in Sherwood Crescent.
On the ground, 11 Lockerbie residents were killed when the wings hit the ground and exploded, creating a giant crater in Sherwood Crescent where several houses had stood, and damaging 21 others so badly they had to be demolished. Four members of one family, Jack and Rosalind Somverville and their children Paul and Lynsey, died when their house at No. 15 Sherwood Crescent exploded. All that remained of some of the houses were thousands of tiny pieces of photographs, Christmas cards, and crockery found embedded deep inside the crater. The only house left standing intact in the area belonged to Father Patrick Keegans, Lockerbie's Roman Catholic priest. 
For many days, Lockerbie residents had to live with the sight of bodies in their gardens and in the streets, as forensic workers photographed and tagged the location of each body to help investigators determine the exact position and force of the on-board explosion by coordinating information about each passenger's assigned seat, type of injury, and the location they had landed. Local resident Bunty Galloway told authors Geraldine Sheridan and Thomas Kenning (1993):
There were spoons, underwear, headsquares, everything on the ground. A boy was lying at the bottom of the steps on to the road. A young laddie with brown socks and blue trousers on. Later that evening my son-in-law asked for a blanket to cover him. I didn't know he was dead. I gave him a lamb's wool travelling rug thinking I'd keep him warm. Two more girls were lying dead across the road, one of them bent over garden railings. It was just as though they were sleeping. The boy lay at the bottom of my stairs for days. Every time I came back to my house for clothes he was still there. "My boy is still there," I used to tell the waiting policeman. Eventually on Saturday I couldn't take it no more. "You got to get my boy lifted," I told the policeman. That night he was moved. 
Reconstruction of the aircraft
Around 1,000 Scottish police officers and British army soldiers carried out a fingertip search of the crash site that lasted months, retrieving over 10,000 items from the crash site. The search area extended over 2,190 km², and the searchers were divided into parties of eight to ten people, with the instruction: "If it isn't growing and it isn't a rock, pick it up," (Emerson and Duffy, 1990).
Helicopters using infrared photography were drafted in to search the heavily wooded areas that surround Lockerbie. British military helicopters flew over the crash site, pointing out large pieces of wreckage to the search parties. Smaller, private helicopters equipped with infrared cameras were drafted in to search the heavily wooded areas that surround Lockerbie, as these were small enough to fly in low to find and photograph hidden pieces of debris. Satellites were also used in the search. Within hours of the bombing, a French satellite had delivered photographs of the area around Lockerbie to searchers. Later on, the United States Department of Defense and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) arranged for spy satellites, capable of reading a newspaper on the ground from several miles in the sky, to provide high-resolution photographs of the woods, (Emerson and Duffy, 1990).
Every item picked up was tagged, placed into a clear plastic bag, labeled, and then taken to the gymnasium of a local school, where each piece of debris was x-rayed and checked for explosive residue with a device known as a gas chromatograph, which analysed the chemical composition of each item. Then all the information about each item, such as color, description, and location, was entered into the computer tracking system called HOLMES, the Home Office Large Major Enquiry System. (ibid.)
All the parts of the recovered aircraft were taken initially to a hangar in Longtown, Scotland, where they were examined by investigators from the British Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB), and from there, moved to Farnborough, Kent, where the aircraft's 220 ft (67 m) long fuselage was reconstructed. Investigators found an area on the left side of the lower fuselage in the forward cargo hold area, at position 14L, directly under the 747's navigation and communications systems, where a small section about 20 in² (130 cm²) had been completely shattered, with signs of pitting and sooting. The skin had been bent and torn back in a so-called "starburst" pattern, petalled outwards, a pattern that was evidence of an explosion.
The forward cargo hold had been loaded by a Pan Am loader-driver, John Bedford, with suitcases placed inside 5 by 5 by 5 ft (1.5 by 1.5 by 1.5 m) containers, most of them aluminum. After the explosion, most of the containers showed damage consistent with a fall from 31,000 feet (9,400 m), but two — containers AVE 4041PA and AVN 7511PA — showed unusual damage. From the loading plan, investigators saw that AVE 4041 had been situated inboard of and slightly above the starburst-patterned hole in the fuselage, with AVN 7511 next to it. The reconstruction of AVE 4041 showed blackening, pitting, and severe damage to the floor panel and other areas, indicating that what the investigators called a "high-energy event" had taken place.  (pdf)
Though the floor of the container was damaged, there was no blackening or pitting of the floor, and from this and the distribution of sooting and pitting, investigators calculated that the suitcase containing the bomb had not rested on the floor, but had likely been on top of another suitcase. Using the damage to adjacent container AVN 7511 to guide them, they concluded the explosion had occurred about 13 inches (330 mm) from the floor of AVE 4041 and about 24 inches (610 mm) from the skin of the fuselage. Investigators with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) then conducted a series of tests in which luggage containers similar to AVE 4041 were blown up in an effort to reproduce the same sooting and pitting pattern. The tests confirmed the AAIB opinion regarding the position of the bomb.  This evidence would be crucial in determining where the bomb suitcase had originated from. Bedford's evidence about the precise location of the container, and the location of the suitcases inside it, helped investigators piece together the movements and origin of the bomb suitcase. Bedford particularly remembered handling container AVE 4041, he told the investigators, because he was born in 1940 and his wife in 1941 (Cox and Foster, 1992).
The Samsonite suitcase and the bomb
An analysis by the British Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) of the fine carbon deposits on AVE 4041 and AVN 7511 indicated that a chemical explosion had occurred; that a charge of about 450 grams of plastic explosive had been used; and that the explosion had occurred 200 millimeters from the left side of the container. Investigators at the British Royal Armaments Research and Development Establishment (RARDE) in Fort Halstead, Kent, which houses one of the world's most advanced forensic laboratories, examined two strips of metal from AVE 4041 and found traces of pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN) and cyclotrimethylene trinitramine (RDX), components of Semtex-H, a high-performance plastic explosive manufactured in the village of Semtin, Czechoslovakia.  In March 1990, Czechoslovak President Vaclav Havel disclosed that the former Communist regime had supplied 1,000 tons of Semtex to the Libyan government. 
During the fingertip searches around Lockerbie, 56 fragments of a suitcase were found that showed extensive, close-range blast damage. With the help of luggage manufacturers, it was determined that the fragments had been part of a brown, hardshell, Samsonite suitcase of the 26 inch (660 mm) Silhouette 4000 range. A further 24 items of luggage, including clothing, were determined by RARDE to have been within a very close range of the suitcase when it exploded, and probably inside it. The blast fragments included parts of a radio cassette player, and a small piece of circuit board. The German police had recovered a Semtex bomb hidden inside a Toshiba radio cassette player in an apartment in Neuss, Germany, in October 1988, two months before PA 103 exploded. The bomb, one of five, had been in the possession of members of the Damascus-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command (PFLP-GC), led by Ahmed Jibril, a former Syrian army captain. A RARDE scientist traveled to Germany to examine this bomb, and though he found that the Lockerbie fragments did not precisely match the Toshiba model, they were similar enough for him to contact Toshiba. With the company's help, RARDE discovered there were seven models in which the printed circuit board bore exactly the same details as the fragment RARDE had found.
Further examination of the clothing believed to have been in the bomb suitcase found fragments of paper from a Toshiba RT-SF 16 Bombeat radio cassette player embedded into two Slalom-brand men's shirts, a blue baby's jumpsuit of the Babygro Primark brand, and a pair of tartan trousers. Fragments of plastic consistent with the material used on a Bombeat, and pieces of loudspeaker mesh, were found embedded in other clothing which appeared to have been inside the bomb suitcase: a white, Abanderado-brand T-shirt, cream pyjamas, a fragment of a knitted, brown, woollen cardigan with the label "Puccini design," a herringbone jacket, and brown herringbone material, some of which bore a label indicating it came from a pair of size-34 Yorkie-brand men's trousers. Contained within this herringbone material were five clumps of blue and white fibers consistent with the blue Babygro material. Trapped between two pieces of Babygro fibers were the remains of a label with the words "Made in Malta." RARDE also found the fragments of a black nylon umbrella that showed signs of blast damage. Stuck to the canopy material, there were blue and white fibers, consistent with the fragments of the Babygro. 
Mary's House, Sliema, Malta
As well as the Babygro carrying the label "Made in Malta," detectives discovered that Yorkie-brand trousers are manufactured in Malta by Yorkie Clothing. In August 1989, Scottish detectives flew to Malta, to speak to the owner, who directed them to Yorkie's main outlet on the island — Mary's House in Sliema, run by Toni Gauci, who would become the prosecution's most important witness.
Gauci recalled that, about two weeks before the bombing, he had sold the Yorkie trousers to a man of Libyan appearance, who spoke a mixture of Arabic, English, and Maltese with a Libyan accent. Gauci remembered the sale well, he told the police, because the customer didn't seem to care what he was buying. He bought an old tweed jacket that Gauci had been trying to get rid of for years, a blue Babygro, a woollen cardigan, and a number of other items, all different styles and sizes. Gauci had seen this customer before and, he told police, had seen him since the bombing too, in Malta, just a few weeks previously. At this point, the Scottish police believed they might be in a position to make an arrest. Days later, the Sunday Times of London became aware of the story, not least because of the Scottish detectives' habit of going for a walk together at lunchtime every day, conspicuous as a group in their black police officers' trousers and white shirts. Rumors spread around the island that the Lockerbie police were in Malta looking for the bomber. An American journalist who approached one of the detectives to ask whether he was from Lockerbie was told "No comment" in a broad Scottish accent, which was taken as confirmation, and the story reached David Leppard, an investigative reporter with the Sunday Times. Because of the publication of his story, any chance of arresting the suspect in Malta was lost.
Before the detectives left his store that day, Gauci remembered something else. Just as the Libyan-looking customer reached the door, Gauci said, it had started to rain. Gauci had asked him whether he also wanted to buy an umbrella, and he did. The detectives paid Gauci for an umbrella identical to the one the customer had purchased. They took it back to Lockerbie and searched through the remains of the black umbrellas that were found at the crash site, until they found parts of one that seemed to match Gauci's. The parts were sent to RARDE for examination, where traces of the blue Babygro were found embedded into the umbrella's fabric, indicating that both had, indeed, been inside the Samsonite suitcase.
The timer fragment
Six months after the bombing, a Scottish detective going through a bag of evidence found a fingernail-size piece of green plastic stuck to the charred collar of a man's shirt that had been found in woods near Lockerbie. The 0.4 inch (10 mm) fragment was sent to RARDE, which identified it as possibly part of a timing device. It was sent to Washington, where Thomas Thurman, an FBI explosives expert, identified the fragment as coming from the same type of timer previously discovered inside an unexploded bomb seized from Libyan agents in the African state of Togo. The Togo timer had the letters MEBO imprinted on it.
Detectives discovered that MEBO stood for Meister and Bollier, an electronics firm in Zürich, Switzerland. It emerged at trial that Edwin Bollier had sold 20 so-called MST-13 timers identical to the one found in the Togo bomb to Megrahi days before the Lockerbie bombing. The timers were capable of being set to between one minute and 999 hours.
In 1998, as several Arab and African countries began to ignore the UN’s Lockerbie-related economic sanctions, the Libyan government conceded to a trial in a neutral country and Colonel Gadaffi agreed to the accused being handed over to Scotland for trial on April 5, 1999.
The neutral venue was in the Netherlands at the Scottish Court in the Netherlands, established in the former United States Air Force base at Camp Zeist. The area was declared sovereign territory of the United Kingdom governed by Scots Law under a treaty signed by the UK and Dutch governments. The parties finally agreed, and in August 1998, United Nations (UN) sanctions were suspended, though not lifted.
The court site contained a court room, a prison for the accused, and offices for the press and families of the victims. During the trial, the base was guarded by Scottish police officers and prison wardens. The trial began on May 3, 2000 before three judges, Lords Sutherland, McLean and Coulsfield, without a jury, which had been a Libyan stipulation.
Verdicts were reached on January 31, 2001. Abd al-Basset Ali Mohammad al-Megrahi was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison, with a recommendation that he serve at least 20 years. Megrahi did not take the stand in his own defense, which many felt hurt his case, as the court was left with no explanation for his presence in Malta on the day of the bombing, or the fact that he travelled there under an assumed name.
Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah was found not guilty and returned home to Libya the next day. An appeal by Megrahi was rejected on March 14, 2002 and he was moved to Barlinnie Prison in Glasgow, Scotland, where he lives in a specially constructed apartment-style cell containing several rooms. The prison supplies him with Arab food. He says he is the victim of a miscarriage of justice and his supporters have labelled him the 271st Lockerbie victim. The site at Camp Zeist has been decommissioned and returned to the Dutch Government.
Those who believe Megrahi is innocent have developed two alternative theories.
Iran and the PFLP-GC
There were two obvious motives for the attack on PA 103. The first was the American bombing of Tripoli and Benghazi in 1985, during which a little girl Colonel Gadaffi and his wife had adopted was killed. Another possible motive was the July 1988 downing over the Persian Gulf of Iran Air Flight 655, a passenger jet incorrectly identified by an American warship, the USS Vincennes, as a hostile military aircraft.
Some of the PA 103 relatives' groups believe that the second motive was prematurely discounted by investigators, though for many months after the bombing, the prime suspects were the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), a Damascus-based rejectionist group led by former Syrian army captain, Ahmed Jibril. This group was active in the Frankfurt area in October 1988, two months before PA 103 was bombed. The German Bundesamt fuer Verfassungsschutz (BfV), Germany's internal security service, had members of the group under surveillance as they prepared a number of bombs hidden inside household electronic equipment, including at least one Toshiba Bombeat 453 radio-cassette recorders, similar though not identical to the RT-SF 16 Bombeat used to blow up PA 103.
The detonating device of the PFLP-GC Toshiba bomb was also not identical, (Duffy and Emerson, 1990). The bombs they built contained barometric triggers, designed to go off when the aircraft reached cruising height, whereas the PA 103 bomb is believed to have contained only a timer. A barometric trigger on the PA 103 bomb would have caused it to explode when the Air Malta flight reached cruising altitude. A bomb with a reliable timing device, on the other hand, can be flown on several flights before detonating at a pre-set time. The information about the PFLP-GC in Germany is known to Western agencies because the group's bomb-maker, Marwan Khreesat, was a Jordanian double-agent, reporting everything the group did back to the GID, the Jordanian intelligence service. The GID, in turn, was passing the information to the German police. On October 26, the Germans arrested the group, but at least two members are known to have escaped arrest, and at least one of the Toshiba bombs is believed to have disappeared too. Some of the PA 103 relatives believe it is too stark a coincidence that, eight weeks later, a Toshiba Bombeat was used to down PA 103. Scottish police wrote up an arrest warrant for Marwan Khreesat in the spring of 1989, but were persuaded not to issue it. In connection with the PA 103 investigation, the late King Hussein of Jordan arranged for Khreesat to be interviewed by the FBI and Thomas Thurman, the American forensic investigator, during which Khreesat described in detail the bombs he had built. Khreesat told investigators that one of the PFLP-GC members had taken him on a visit to Frankfurt airport, where they had looked at Pan Am schedules.
Some PA 103 relatives have speculated that Libyan and Iranian-paid agents may have worked on the bombing together; or that one group handed the job over to a second group when the Germans rounded up the PFLP-GC members in Frankfurt. A former head of counter-terrorism for the CIA, Vincent Cannistaro, who worked on the PA 103 investigation, has told reporters he believes the PFLP-GC planned the attack at the behest of the Iranian government, then subcontracted it to Libyan intelligence after October 1988, because the German arrests meant the PFLP-GC was unable to complete the operation. Other investigators believe that whoever paid for the bombing arranged two parallel operations intended to ensure that at least one would succeed.
The CIA protected-suitcase theory
One theory, for which no evidence has been produced, suggests that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was allowing Syrian drug dealers to ship heroin to the United States using PA 103, in exchange for intelligence on Palestinian groups in Syria. The CIA allegedly protected these suitcases and made sure they were not searched, but on December 21, 1988, terrorists exchanged the drugs for a bomb. Another version of the same theory is that the CIA knew this exchange had been made, but let it happen anyway, because the CIA protection of the suitcases was a rogue operation, and the American intelligence officers on PA 103, Matthew Gannon and Chuck McKee, had found out about it and were on their way home to Washington to tell their superiors.
The former version of the protected-suitcase theory was suggested in October 1989 by Juval Aviv, the owner of Interfor Inc., a private investigation company in New York. Aviv says he is the former Mossad officer who led the Israeli "Wrath of God" team that killed several Palestinians believed to be responsible for the 1972 Munich Massacre during which 11 Israeli athletes were killed at the Olympic Village in Munich by Black September. Aviv's story was told by Canadian journalist George Jonas in his 1984 book Vengeance and in the 1986 film The Sword of Gideon. Aviv was employed by Pan Am as a consultant after the bombing and submitted a report to the airline, the so-called Interfor Report, which blamed the bombing on a CIA-protected drugs route. This scenario provided Pan Am with a defense against claims for compensation from relatives, because if the United States government had helped the bomb bypass Pan Am's security, then the airline could not be held liable. However, the New York court hearing the relatives' case against Pan Am rejected the Interfor report.
The protected-suitcase theory was later supported by Lester Coleman, a self-proclaimed former freelance journalist turned informant for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in Cyprus. Coleman claimed to have seen one of the PA 103 passengers, Lebanese-American Khalid Jafar, in a DEA office in Cyprus, thereby implying that Jafar was a DEA drugs mule, and may have unwittingly carried the bomb. In 1993, Coleman turned his story into a book, Trail of the Octopus. No evidence has been advanced to support his claims.
There have been calls for a fresh appeal and for Megrahi to serve his sentence in a Muslim country. A commission from the Organisation of African Unity criticised the conviction, and in June 2002 Nelson Mandela showed his sympathy by visiting him in prison.
In October 2002, it was reported that the Libyan government had made a compensation offer to victims' relatives of $2.7 billion, about $10 million per victim. On August 15, 2003, Libya formally accepted responsibility for the bombing, although the statement lacked an expression of remorse for the lives lost. Some people believe that the acceptance of responsibility is nothing more than a business deal aimed at removing economic sanctions, and is not a true admission of guilt. On September 12, 2003, the UN ended its 15-year old sanctions against Libya.
On 24 February 2004, Libyan Prime Minister Shukri Ghanem stated in an interview broadcast by BBC Radio 4 that his country had only paid the compensation as the "price for peace" and to secure the lifting of UN sanctions. Asked if Libya did not accept guilt, he said "I agree with that." He also said there was no evidence to link his country with the April 1984 shooting of police officer Yvonne Fletcher outside the Libyan Embassy in London. His comments were retracted by Gadaffi, under intense and immediate pressure from Washington and London.
On November 24 2003, as required by European Human Rights law, the Scottish High Court of Justiciary set Megrahi's tariff — the length of time he must serve before becoming eligible for parole — at 27 years, backdated to his detention in 1999. Scotland's Lord Advocate Colin Boyd lodged an appeal over the sentence after he was approached by the families of American victims, claiming the sentence was "too lenient," and Megrahi's legal team is appealing it because they say it is too harsh.
In February 2005, Megrahi was moved unexpectedly from the Barlinnie jail unit that was specially built for him and Fhimah to Greenock Prison, where he will no longer live in solitary confinement. His lawyers have protested the move, which they say violates the agreement with Libya and the UN that Megrahi would receive special treatment.
There are a number of official and private memorials to the PA 103 victims. Dark Elegy  is the work of sculptor Susan Lowenstein of Long Island, whose son Alexander, then 21, was a passenger on the flight. The work consists of 43 statues of the naked wives and mothers who lost a husband or a child. Inside each sculpture, there is a personal momento of the victim.
U.S. President Bill Clinton dedicated a memorial to the victims at Arlington National Cemetery on November 3, 1995, and there are similar memorials at Syracuse University; Dryfesdale Cemetery, near Lockerbie; and in Sherwood Crescent, Lockerbie.
Syracuse University holds a memorial week called "Remembrance Week," to commemorate its lost students. Every December 21, a service is held in the university's chapel by the university's chaplains at 2:03 p.m. (19:03 UTC), marking the exact moment in 1988 the plane was bombed. The service features a procession to the memorial. The university also awards two Lockerbie Academy students' tuition annually, in the form of its Lockerbie Scholarship.
Its memorial is located on the main footpath into the university, in front of its signature building.
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