Pan Am Flight 103

The People - - NEWS FEATURES - By Grace Ma­caskill

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

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