Lockerbie bombing anniversary: David Cameron praises 'resilience' of victims' families as memorial services mark date

The 270 victims of the tragedy will be remembered today in memorial services 

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The Independent Online

The victims of the Lockerbie bombing were being remembered today on the 25th anniversary of the tragedy in services across the UK and the US.

Memorial services attended by politicians, officials, families and members of the community were held in Lockerbie, London and in the United States.

Pan Am flight 103 was on its way from London to New York when it exploded above Lockerbie, in southern Scotland, on the evening of 21 December 1988, killing 270 people. Eleven people on the ground died when wreckage from the plane hit the area.

The flight was just over half an hour into its journey when the atrocity occurred, killing all 243 passengers and 16 crew. The majority of the victims aboard the aircraft were US citizens.

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond and Lord Wallace, Advocate General for Scotland, attended a wreath-laying ceremony at Dryfesdale Cemetery in the Dumfries and Galloway town.

Scotland Office minister David Mundell and Scotland's Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland, were present at a memorial event at Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington DC.

Scotland's Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon joined Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael and Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland the Right Reverend Lorna Hood at a service in Westminster Abbey.

Speaking before the service, she said: “It is difficult to believe that 25 years have passed since that awful night, when so many innocent lives were lost and a town in Scotland would be forever associated with one of the worst terrorist attacks in recent history.

“I remember so clearly the devastation of the town and the grief and sorrow of relatives who journeyed across the Atlantic to see the spot where their loved ones died.

“For weeks after, rescue workers, police, members of the forces and civilians worked tirelessly to recover as much evidence as possible from the wreckage and, to this day, live with difficult memories of that time.

“I know that for many there are unanswered questions and a continuing search for truth, but this is a time to remember the 270 innocent lives cut short, and the families here in Scotland and the USA living with that loss.”

Scotland's Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill attended an evening service at Dryfesdale Church in Lockerbie.

Mr Salmond said: “On this 25-year anniversary, and as the country prepares once more to relive the harrowing events of that terrible night, it is important that we remember that the pain and suffering of the families and friends of those who died has endured since that winter night in 1988.

“As the community of Lockerbie marks the milestone, memorial events will be held in Westminster Abbey, Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia and at Syracuse University which lost 35 students in the bombing.

“But, inevitably, a focus of the day will be on the memorial in Lockerbie and it is there that I will pay my respects and condolences on behalf of the people of Scotland.”

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, said: “To families, friends, neighbours, loved ones and all those caught up in the painful process of recovery, let us say to them: our admiration for you is unconditional; for the fortitude and resilience you have shown; for your determination never to give up. You have shown that terrorist acts cannot crush the human spirit. That is why terrorism will never prevail.

“And even in the darkest moments of grief, it is possible to glimpse the flickering flame of hope.”

Speaking on behalf of the Scottish prosecution service, Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland and solicitor general Lesley Thomson said: “Saturday is a time to remember those who lost their lives on 21 December 1988 and the impact it had on so many lives then and since that tragic night.

“On behalf of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, our message is simple: Always remembered, never forgotten; forever in our hearts.”

A remembrance service was being held at Hendricks Chapel of Syracuse University in New York, where 35 of its students who had been studying at its London campus died. Another service was also being held at the university's Lubin House in New York, according to the BBC.

Only one man, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, was convicted of the bombing. He was found guilty in January 2001 and given a life sentence. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2008 and was freed under compassionate release rules.

Mr MacAskill took that decision on 20 August the following year, sparking a row among politicians on both sides of the Atlantic.

Megrahi died in Tripoli, Libya in May last year.

Despite the guilty verdict and Megrahi's decision to drop a subsequent appeal against conviction, politicians, campaigners and families of victims are still dealing with the impact, with some of the British relatives considering another appeal against his conviction when they meet with lawyers in the new year.