pounds 500,000 deals for Lockerbie bomb families

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The Independent Online
The families of British victims murdered in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing are almost certain to finally accept an improved offer of compensation. After eight years of complex international litigation, aviation underwriters for PanAm's insurers are understood to have offered relatives yet to settle around pounds 500,000 each.

Peter Watson, the Scottish solicitor-advocate representing the United Kingdom families, confirmed yesterday that he expected to make a brief statement on the offer from the underwriters, USIR, next week.

In December 1988 259 passengers were killed in the bombing of PanAm flight 103 from Heathrow to New York. On board were 33 British passengers. When it exploded and crashed over the border town of Lockerbie, 11 villagers were also killed.

The families of American citizens killed have received large sums from the insurers of the airline, which went bust in 1991. Of the 33 British victims, 14 families had refused out of court offers.

Dr Jim Swire, of the UK families, who lost his daughter Flora, confirmed the improved offer had been put to the remaining families and said "most had accepted". "This does not bring us great joy. You cannot compensate with money for the loss of someone you love."

Over the last eight years the UK families group has met regularly to share their grief. It is only within the last six months, that the group has felt able to discuss financial compensation. Pamela Dix, secretary of the group, said: "People will be happy to put this aspect of the disaster behind them. It has been a protracted exercise; there will be a sense of relief." She said some of the UK families had already settled, as had all the 11 families who lost relatives in Lockerbie itself.

With the remaining families accepting USIR's improved offer, the civil side of proceedings will end a legal marathon. However, the criminal case, determining who was responsible for the mass murder, is far from being closed.

In 1992 warrants were simultaneously issued in Edinburgh and Washington for the immediate arrest of two Libyans, Abdel Basset Mohamed Al-Megrahi and Al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah. The men were accused by the United States and Britain of organising and planting the bomb.

The US and UK authorities demanded the men stand trial in either country. Libya's leader, Colonel Gaddafi, refused to hand over the men and sanctions were imposed.

Alistair Duff, the Scottish solicitor-advocate appointed counsel for the two men, has argued they would not receive a fair trail should proceedings go ahead in Scotland. Mr Duff said his clients were ready to sit before a Scottish judge, using Scots law, at a tribunal in a neutral country. However neither the US or UK authorities have hinted at a compromise. At a recent meeting of the International Bar Association, which discussed the setting up of an international criminal court, Mr Duff said the pair would "never stand trail in Scotland".

Dr Swire said that his campaign for justice would continue. "Financial compensation has never been the driving force behind the campaign ... It has always been for truth and justice and we remain unsatisfied." He added that "key questions" still remained unanswered, such as who was responsible, why was it not prevented and why the Americans did not take enough action to protect their aircraft.