Pan Am Flight 103
AS the voice filtered through the cassette recorder, PC Ian Rae felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise.
It belonged to one of the 270 people killed when Pan-am flight 103 blew up over Lockerbie 30 years ago.
Ian had the traumatic job of sorting though the possessions of the victims of Britain’s worst terrorist outrage.
Among the children’s teddies and Christmas presents was a businessman’s bag of cassette tapes.
Ian, 58, said: “I put one in a tape player. I heard the voice of an American, identifying himself before going on to give a presentation.
“The memory of it still makes the hair stand on the back of my neck. I’d actually cleaned up some of his jewellery before they were returned to his family. I felt a connection to him.”
Officers were driven to tears as they spent months sifting hundreds of thousands of items in a warehouse.
“You worked for half an hour, went out for a quick break, had a cry to yourself and then went back in and got on with it,” said Ian, now retired.
Ian travelled around Britain returning belongings to families and struck up a friendship with one woman, Betty Thomas, who lost her daughter Yvonne Owen, 29, and granddaughter Bryony, aged 20 months.
Betty even spent Christmas Day after the first anniversary of Lockerbie with Ian and his family. They were joined by trainee social worker Yvonne’s boyfriend Seth, who she had been travelling to see in Boston when the plane exploded over Scotland.
Ian said: “When she told me Seth was visiting Lockerbie for the first anniversary I asked them to come for dinner. Seth was staying in a nearby hotel so it made sense.”
Also nursing emotional scars is former lorry driver Mark Herridge, who joined one of the first search parties. Mark and brother-in-law Brian Mawson heard of the crash from chat on their CB radios.
The pair, just 21 and 20 at the time, hitched a lift to Lockerbie from their homes in Brydekirk, nine miles away, to comb the hills for possible survivors at Tundergarth, where the cockpit of the 747 lay. “There was an eerie silence as we walked,” said Mark. “We formed a line across the field. We were hoping against hope to find someone alive, but within a mile of walking we knew there
Pan Am Flight 103 from Frankfurt to Detroit, via London and New York, blows up over Lockerbie in Scotland. All 259 people on board are killed, along with 11 residents on the ground, including two families. were none. By then we were no longer finding whole people.”
It is the first time Mark, who now lives near Castleford, West Yorks, has told of his part in the long night of the winter solstice on December 21, 1988.
Not even his wife Sarah, 31, has heard his story but every moment is seared in Mark’s mind.
One image stands out the most – the “little girl in the red dress” as she later became known.
Three-year-old Suruchi Rattan was killed with her brother Anmol, two, and her mum Garima Rattan, on their way home to Detroit after attending a wedding in India.
A passenger on the first leg of the flight from Frankfurt to Heathrow later left Suruchi a tribute at
Britain and the US accuse Libyans Abdelbaset Al-megrahi and Al Amin Khailifa Fhimah of the bombing. Libya denies involvement.
CARNAGE: Houses hit by debris of 747 in Lockerbie HAUNTING: Former PC Ian Rae and, left, boxes of the victims’ belongings VICTIMS: Yvonne and baby Bryony