On December 21, 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 from London to New York explodes in midair over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 243 passengers and 16 crew members aboard, as well as 11 Lockerbie residents on the ground. A bomb hidden inside an audio cassette player detonated in the cargo area when the plane was at an altitude of 31,000 feet. The disaster, which became the subject of Britain’s largest criminal investigation, was believed to be an attack against the United States.
Until 9/11, The Lockerbie bombing was one of the world’s most lethal acts of air terrorism and one of the largest and most complex acts of international terrorism ever investigated by the FBI. The bombing became the subject of Britain’s largest criminal inquiry led by its smallest police force, the Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary. This widely regarded assault on a symbol of the United States, with 189 of the victims being Americans, stood as the deadliest terrorist attack on American civilians until the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Though it was almost immediately evident that a bomb had caused the disaster, it took more than eleven years to bring anyone to trial. What happened to the plane? Why would someone plant a bomb on Flight 103? Why did it take eleven years to have a trial?