Accusations cloud the truth behind Lockerbie wreck -


All disasters provoke in us a hunger for explanation and these days you're never at a loss for someone prepared to feed you, to appease your pangs with conspiracy theories - that intellectual junk food. In more faithful times blame was less complex. Writing about the Titanic, Thomas Hardy mused on the separate creation of ship and iceberg: "No mortal eye could see/ The intimate welding of their later history,/ Or sign that they were bent/ By paths coincident/ On being anon twin halves of one august event./ Till the Spinner of the Years/ Said 'Now!' And each one hears,/ And consummation comes, and jars two hemispheres."

Alan Francovich's film about the Lockerbie disaster, The Maltese Double Cross (Channel 4), opened with a similarly baleful sense of ineluctable collision - a suitcase and a plane full of people, fated to meet. But where Hardy lays the blame on the Spinner of the Years (current whereabouts unknown) Francovich has more earthly agencies in mind. That terrible explosion was entirely eluctable, he suggests, so much so that several potential victims changed their travel plans after specific warnings from intelligence sources. Worse, he alleges, the bomb was actually placed on the plane with the assistance of DEA officials, protecting a drugs-for-intelligence operation in the Lebanon. The Libyan connection is simply a front, a cynical attempt to turn a political profit from the disaster and to conceal the murky dealings of American intelligence.

This is airport novel stuff, a convoluted story traced through a swamp of mendacity and impure motive. It might even be true - after all, Iran- Contra sounded like a Hollywood fantasy. But it doesn't greatly help your confidence that Francovich's film almost immediately adopted the conspiracist's unshakeable conviction that nothing is quite what it seems. "Americans" were on the scene very quickly, noted various witnesses, hinting darkly at foreknowledge. The CIA was there and the FBI, interfering with the work of Scottish policemen, combing those low hills for evidence. This seems "odd" to Tam Dalyell - but it doesn't seem very odd to me. It's explicable in a number of ways - management panic, jurisdictional squabbles, even the sick crowd instinct generated by such an event. Intelligence officers aren't immune from the impulse that makes people pull over to stare at traffic accidents and they have much better excuse at hand.

It was clear too that Francovich wasn't exactly a dispassionate seeker after truth. At times the script buckled beneath the weight of sarcastic insinuation. What about this, read over footage of night-time Tripoli? "Oliver North. Lieutenant-Colonel US Marine Corps. His commander-in-chief the Honourable Ronald Reagan and still sleeping the sleep of the just, as he had in cabinet meetings, had his three presidential obsessions - hostages, Contra and Gaddafi." Come again? Scorning the official explanation that a fragment of microchip proved Libyan guilt, Francovich showed you the pine forest where it was notionally found and "where it is as dark as it must have been before time began, with the first big bang". I guess the searchers needed torches. Later we travelled to Zurich - "Where money grows in banks. Where the hand that steals is not cut off, just grows other hands."

This sort of portentous nonsense is all very well, but it is not a good idea to stoke up such a generalised sense of double-dealing if your own film has been partly financed by Libyan money and if one of your principal witnesses was also employed by Pan-Am lawyers, hoping to stave off huge payments in damages. Francovich's film raises some real questions about the official account, about it's political convenience and expedient omissions. But it didn't replace it with any reliable truth of its own. You switched off, thinking you couldn't trust anything but the continuing grief of the bereaved.

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year


Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living