Lockerbie relatives in dispute over film

BRITISH AND American families whose relatives died in the Lockerbie bombing are involved in an acrimonious dispute over a controversial new documentary about the atrocity.

Friends and relatives of American victims, who have waged a bitter campaign against the documentary and its producer, Allan Francovich, have severed ties with British relatives, who have expressed support for the project. Angered by the Americans' campaign, Mr Francovich is seeking damages from one New Jersey family after they described him as 'a journeyman film-maker . . . for (the Libyan leader) Muammar Gadaffi'.

American relatives argue that the documentary project is 'hopelessly compromised' because part of its intitial pounds 650,000 funding came from Libya, through the Lafico investment company. Two alleged Libyan agents have been charged with the terrorist attack in December 1988 which killed 270 people.

But UK relatives, who have met Mr Francovich, insist he should be allowed to investigate doubts that Libya alone carried out the attack. Dr Jim Swire, spokesman for UK families, said: 'We are not apologists for Francovich but we believe he should be able to present his findings and be judged.'

Susan and Daniel Cohen, from New Jersey, whose 20-year-old daughter Theodora died in the bombing, have waged a determined campaign against Mr Francovich, writing to broadcasters who expressed interest in the project. In letters to senior editors at Channel 4, which began negotiating to screen the documentary, they condemned him as a 'Los Angeles wannabe' who used 'fugitives and felons' for research and relied upon 'dubious' intelligence sources.

After Channel 4 announced late last month that it had abandoned plans to screen the film, Mr Francovich wrote to Mr and Mrs Cohen demanding an apology and seeking damages for their 'deliberate attempts to damage my reputation and interfere with my legitimate business interests'.

He said yesterday he was disappointed Channel 4 had abandoned plans to screen the film, but the project was continuing.