Lockerbie: Unfinished Business
Capturing the human story behind the headlines
This article is from 2010.
The ongoing furore surrounding the early release on compassionate grounds of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi – the only person convicted of the Lockerbie bombing – is almost a footnote to David Benson’s one-man show on the subject, and has very little relevance to the substance of the piece. Benson’s monologue, based on the testimony of Jim Swire, father of Flora, who died when Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over the Scottish Borders in December 1988, wisely foregrounds the much more powerful human story of a father’s grief and ensuing quest for justice.
The monologue opens with Swire (a detailed but unshowy performance by Benson) and his wife hearing of the atrocity on the news. When their worst fears are confirmed the family travels to Lockerbie, and in a harrowing scene Swire takes it upon himself to identify Flora’s body in the local ice rink. Haunted by the image of Flora’s final moments on the plane, Swire determines not to rest until the perpetrators of the bombing have been brought to justice.
Swire conducts us through the ensuing investigation, the trial of the two Libyans in the Scottish court in the Hague and the holes in the evidence that led him to the view that Megrahi had nothing to do with the bombing. His testimony is punctured throughout with footage from the immediate aftermath of the bombing and scenes from the trial. Whether you agree with his view that the authorities got the wrong man is irrelevant: his investigation is compelling because it is driven by the horrific memory of identifying the body at the ice rink, and a desperate need to know who killed his precious daughter. Benson tells this extremely sensitive story without histrionics, capturing Swire’s barely suppressed anguish and the wry humour that sustains him even in harrowing moments such as a face-to-face meeting with Colonel Gaddafi.
The piece raises many emotive issues, such as the lumbering response of the British and American establishment to the bombing, the treatment of victims’ families and the generally immoral expediency of foreign policy. But the lingering impression is of a man haunted and driven almost demented by what he perceives as a lack of retribution for the death of a much-loved daughter.
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