Lockerbie bombing: when was the air disaster, who were the victims and what happened to Abdelbaset al-Megrahi?

The terror attack killed 270 people - including 11 on the ground in Scotland

The Lockerbie bombing is the deadliest terror attack to have ever taken place in Britain (Getty Images)
The Lockerbie bombing is the deadliest terror attack to have ever taken place in Britain (Getty Images)

The Lockerbie bombing of 1988 is the deadliest terror attack to have ever taken place on British soil.

When a Pan Am flight exploded mid-air over the Scots town of Lockerbie, 270 people were killed.

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Here is everything there is to know about the tragedy, including what happened and who was charged for planning the terrorist attack.

The aftermath of the disaster (Getty Images)

When was the Lockerbie bombing?

The Lockerbie air disaster happened at 7:02pm on 21 December 1988, just a few days before Christmas.

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What happened during the tragedy?

The aftermath of the disaster (Getty Images)

Pan Am Flight 103 was travelling from Frankfurt to Detroit, via London and New York, with 243 passengers and 16 crew members on board.

While it was passing over the Dumfries and Galloway town of Lockerbie, 38 minutes after it had left Heathrow airport, a bomb which had been placed in a suitcase caused the plane to explode in mid-air.

The explosion caused a 20-inch hole in the left side of the fuselage, resulting in a huge drop in pressure which meant the plane nose dived.

When it crashed into Lockerbie, the plane shattered and exploded, destroying 11 houses in Sherwood Crescent.

The aftermath of the disaster (Getty Images)

Who were the victims?

Everyone on the plane, 259 passengers, died during the disaster, including 11 people on the ground.

The death toll of 270 means it is the deadliest terror attack in UK history.

People from 21 different nations were killed in the tragedy, including 43 Brits and 190 Americans.

The plan nose dived into the town of Lockerbie (Getty Images)

There were 35 students from Syracuse University on the flight who were returning to the US for Christmas after a semester in London.

The Lockerbie bombing victims of Sherwood Crescent were:

Kathleen Mary Flannigan, 41
Thomas Brown Flannigan, 44
Joanne Flannigan, 10
Dora Henrietta Henry, 56
Maurice Peter Henry, 63
Mary Lancaster, 81
Jean Aitkin Murray, 82
John Somerville, 40
Rosaleen Somerville, 40
Paul Somerville, 13
Lyndsey Ann Somerville, 10

Who was charged?

Libyan intelligence officer Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was accused of plotting the bombing.

His trial did not take place until 12 years after the Lockerbie air disaster, on May 3 2000, and he was found guilty of planning the terrorist attack and sentenced to life in prison in Scotland.

In 2009, he was released early from prison because he had terminal cancer, and he returned to Libya for three years before he died aged 60 in May 2012.

Relatives of the bombing victims criticised the decision to release him from prison at the time.

Megrahi had always insisted he was innocent and unsuccessfully appealed against his 27-year sentence.

What is happening now?

The United States announced charges against another suspect in the Lockerbie air disaster on Monday 21 December 2020 – the 32-year anniversary of the tragedy.

Charges have been filed against a Libyan man, identified as Abu Agila Mohammad Masud, who is alleged to have made the bomb that blew up the plane.

He has been charged with terrorism-related crimes, Attorney General William Barr said, and prosecutors will seek the extradition of Mr Masud to stand trial in the US.

In November, a third, posthumous appeal on behalf of Megrahi by his family started at the High Court in Edinburgh.