Lockerbie victim's sister fails in plea for inquiry

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The Independent Online

A woman whose sister died in the Lockerbie disaster failed yesterday to persuade judges to agree to an independent inquiry into the evidence.

Marina de Larracoechea petitioned the panel of five judges – who are about to hear an appeal by the Libyan convicted of the bombing at the Scottish court set up to cover the case at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands – to consider evidence not brought before the original trial.

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi was jailed for life last January after he was convicted of the murder of 270 people killed when Pan Am flight 103 blew up over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in December 1988. His co-accused, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, was acquitted.

Despite 84 days of evidence from 230 witnesses, some of the victims' families claim there are unanswered questions. Among the details that Ms Larracoechea wanted investigated is why some people were advised not to board the flight, amid claims that the intelligence services had been warned of a bomb.

Ms de Larracoechea – a Spaniard living in New York, whose sister Maria was an air stewardess on the flight – told the judges, led by Lord Cullen, that "central aspects of the case were repeatedly shielded" during the accident inquiry. She called for an independent review of all evidence of the criminal investigation.

The judges took only a few minutes to reject her submission as "incompetent".

Ms Larracoechea, who is not convinced that Al Megrahi is guilty, said afterwards that she and others would continue to press for an independent inquiry.

Also at yesterday's hearing, the defence counsel said they intended to bring new evidence during the appeal hearing, scheduled to begin on 23 January next year. That evidence is believed to relate to a statement by an airport security guard that the Pan Am baggage area at Heathrow had been broken into hours before the disaster. His statement was never brought before the court.

Al Megrahi's defence argued that the bomb could have been placed on board the plane at Heathrow, rather than Malta.