Lockerbie: QC read names of all the victims. It took an hour

The list of passengers and crew, given as evidence, provides possible clues as to why bombers attacked Pan Am flight 103
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The Independent Online

First came the names of the passengers. They were read out along with their addresses in alphabetical order, starting with John Ahern of Sherman Avenue, New York, and ending with Mark Zwynenburg, from a suburb of the same city.

Next was read a list of the 16 crew who had been on board the Pan Am jet as it took off from Heathrow on 21 December 1988, bound for America. And then, finally, read at the same slow pace, came the names of the 11 residents of Lockerbie who died when flight 103 exploded above their town. All had lived in the same street.

There were 270 names in all and it took Alistair Campbell QC 13 seconds shy of an hour yesterday afternoon to work his way through them at a dignified pace. He stumbled just once.

The identity of those who were killed by the Lockerbie bombing is no secret. But as their names were read to the Scottish Court in the Netherlands yesterday - technically lodged as a piece of uncontested evidence - they took on a power far outweighing that of a simple list.

For the families of those whose names were read out it was an emotional event. This week, they have seen the two Libyans accused of murder - Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah - and heard the outline of the evidence against them. But yesterday appeared to be much more upsetting.

"Today, the prosecution brought in it's most important 270 witnesses - in absentia," said Bert Ammerman, one of the relatives. He could barely speak for tears.

Mr Ammerman's brother, Thomas, 36, a shipping executive with two daughters, was fifth on the list. He had been travelling back alone on flight 103 to his home in New Jersey after a business trip. Others were travelling in groups: couples, mothers with their babies and families.

The bombers of flight 103 did not discriminate on grounds of nationality. Most of the victims were Americans, but the dead included South Africans, Swedes and French. Three of the names belonged to a family from Koto Utca in Hungary.

The list also contained possible clues as to why the plane was brought down. Name 110 was Khaled Jaafar, 20, a Lebanese-American and allegedly a member of a drug-producing family from the Bekaa Valley who had been ordered by Hizbollah to take heroin to America. One theory says that, unknown to him, the package was swapped for a bomb at Frankfurt by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command.

A few moments later, the court was read the name of Charles McKee, a senior officer with the US Central Intelligence Agency, returning from Beirut. Another theory says Major McKee was working to free the Lebanon hostages and was murdered to stop him getting back to America with information. Major McKee was name number 137: half an hour had passed and we were only half way through the list.

Afterwards, the court adjourned for the weekend, and the families filed out. "Normally you would expect a prayer after the list of the dead," said Bruce Smith, whose British wife Ingrid was among the victims. "But in some ways I suppose it was a prayer in itself."