Lockerbie families welcome new police inquiry

Forensic science evidence to be reviewed as Scottish detectives seek fresh leads

The review of Lockerbie bombing evidence announced by Scottish police was cautiously welcomed yesterday by relatives of those who died in Britain's worst terrorist attack. But victims' families also repeated their demand for a full independent inquiry.

An email sent to families by the Scottish authorities said that detectives were still following several lines of inquiry into the deliberate downing of Pan Am Flight 103 in December 1988 which led to the deaths of 270 people.

The email from Lindsey Miller, a senior Procurator Fiscal with the Scottish judiciary, said that a review of the case was taking place, including a potential re-examination of the forensic science evidence. Only one person, former Libyan intelligence operative Abdelbasset al-Megrahi, has been convicted of the attack which the authorities insist was carried out by Libya. But many British families of those who died believe the full truth of the attack has yet to be revealed.

Megrahi, who has terminal prostate cancer, was released from his life sentence in the summer on compassionate grounds after he abandoned his appeal against his conviction. Victims' families had hoped that his reappearance in court would either lead to his exoneration or shed fresh light on who else was responsible for the carefully co-ordinated attack. His release sparked outrage in the US where victims' families are generally more convinced of Megrahi's guilt.

In the letter to British families, Ms Miller said that a new review of the evidence was being carried out "with a view to identifying further lines of inquiry that can be pursued". Any review would look into who might have helped Megrahi and there was also the suggestion that the forensic evidence would be re-examined. "You will, of course, appreciate that it would not be appropriate for me to elaborate on these lines but please be assured that this is not simply paying lip service to the idea of an 'open case'," she wrote.

The Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary's Chief Constable, Patrick Shearer, insisted the case had always remained open and that evidence reviews were carried out regularly by detectives. Pamela Dix, whose brother, Peter, was killed in the attack, said: "As far as we understand it, there are avenues which are being pursued, and that should be interpreted as a good thing. Expectations around Megrahi's appeal were quite high but hopes were profoundly dashed when the appeal was abandoned."

Dr Jim Swire, who lost his daughter in the bombing and has long been convinced of Megrahi's innocence, was more cautious. "If they are really going to [do] a meaningful investigation, then that is all well and good and long overdue," he said. "But if it is a dodge to prevent an investigation into why the lives of those killed were not protected, then I would be livid."

In a separate development, Libyan dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi said during an interview with Sky News that he was "sorry" about the death of Wpc Yvonne Fletcher. Fletcher was killed by a shot fired from within the Libyan Embassy in London in 1984. Her killer has never been caught.