Printer Friendly

Lockerbie's sad task of sorting victims' property.

Accounts of the massive operation to collect and store tens of thousands of items which rained down on Lockerbie after Pan Am Flight 103 was blown out of the sky emerged yesterday at the trial of two Libyans accused over the disaster.

Personal property such as rings, watches, wallets and clothing belonging to the victims was separated from aircraft wreckage, including parts of a blackened luggage container, which could provide clues to the cause of the tragedy.

Police witnesses told the specially-convened court, at Camp Zeist in Holland, how lorryloads of debris were taken to premises known as Dexstar in Lockerbie, examined and labelled for storage.

Aircraft wreckage was taken to an Ministry of Defence base in Longtown, Cumbria, where the Air Accidents Investigation Branch was attempting to reconstruct the doomed Boeing 747 in hangars.

Attempts were made to restore victims' personal items to bereaved families as quickly as possible and the women of Lockerbie spent hours cleaning the clothing of the dead so it could be returned.

On day four of the trial of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, retired police officer Douglas Roxburgh, aged 63, told how he set up the storage centre at Dexstar two days after 270 people lost their lives in the atrocity.

Items brought in by police lorries or by local residents who turned up with something they had found, were given a description and a number relating to the sector where they were discovered.

Suitcases were examined by sniffer dogs for explosives and put through X-ray machines amid fears of secondary devices, Mr Roxburgh said.

He said tens of thousands of items of debris were found and gradually personal effects could be returned to families.

Mr Roxburgh said: 'We started off by ensuring that items were not required in the legal process and we started releasing stuff back to the relatives sometimes via consulates but it was mainly personal possessions like rings, jewellery and wallets.'

A laundry was established at Dexstar to clean clothing before it was returned.

He said: 'Obviously contamination was a major factor and we tried to do our best in the way or returning stuff as quickly as possible and in a way that wouldn't cause further stress.

'We set up a laundry with industrial machines and when the ladies of Lockerbie heard about this they came in to do it.'

The court also heard that Mr Roxburgh had raised concerns about items being removed from where they fell without being logged at Dexstar first.

He said he thought the AAIB or experts from the Royal Armament Research and Development Establishment at Fort Halstead, Kent, had removed a piece of aircraft wreckage during the early days after the explosion.

He was concerned about that and added: 'My philosophy at Dexstar was that everything should be recorded meticulously.'

The court also heard how various items including a scorched circuit board and charred pieces of the aircraft's luggage container were found scattered across the country.

Officers were particularly looking for wreckage which they suspected may have been damaged by explosives.

Such debris was then examined, photographed, bagged if it was small enough, and labelled.

The hearing was adjourned until today.
COPYRIGHT 2000 Birmingham Post & Mail Ltd
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2000 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Blackburn, Rachel
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:May 9, 2000
Words:534
Previous Article:Bloody Sunday soldiers urged to go to Derry.
Next Article:'Ignorant' men go for their gums when drawn on sex clinic subject.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |