Scotland on Sunday
November 29, 1998, Sunday
FAMILIES' ANGER OVER LOCKERBIE 'SURVIVOR' TALES
BYLINE: By Peter Richardson
RELATIVES of the 270 victims of the Lockerbie disaster have written
to the Lord Advocate protesting about a "profoundly disturbing" new book
written by a special forces helicopter pilot which claims some of the passengers
aboard Pan Am Flight 103 were alive after the wreckage of the aircraft
hit the ground.
Dr Jim Swire, from UK Families Flight 103, is also disturbed by the way
he claims the media are now jumping on the bandwagon of the 10th anniversary.
He has pleaded with the Lord Advocate, Lord Hardie, to take action under
the Official Secrets Act and limit the damage the book -Chinook by David
McMullon -may cause to relatives still struggling to come to terms with
their tragic loss as the anniversary of the disaster approaches next month.
Swire has lodged a formal complaint with the Press Complaints Commission
over an article published in last Monday's Mirror which drew extensively
from the book.
Swire is also critical of a Channel 4 documentary to be broadcast tonight
which claims to describe in detail the nature of the injuries some victims
Chinook's author David McMullon served for eight years in the helicopter
equivalent of the SAS, and is now a commercial airline pilot. His book
describes in graphic detail his mission on December 21, 1988, when he was
ordered to fly to Scotland with a cargo of empty body bags so he could
assist with the recovery of the victims from the ill-fated flight.
His account of his gruesome mission, written after he left the RAF, includes
the controversial claim that at least one of the victims was conscious
when she hit the ground, still strapped into her airline seat.
He claims she had tried to claw her way out and had tufts of grass in her
That has angered relatives who were told at the fatal accident inquiry
that the suffering of their loved ones would have been limited - that no
one could have been conscious after the explosion at 30,000ft and the fall
Swire says in his letter to the Lord Advocate: "In my view Mr McMullon
has produced a voyeuristic work which has used his experiences to weave
a deliberately sensationalist 'macho' account, without thought for the
effects it may have upon families who have already suffered enough.
"As the records show I went to great lengths to establish the likelihood
of individuals remaining conscious during the fall from 30,000ft."
Regius professor of forensic medicine at Edinburgh University Anthony Busuttil
dismissed the book's claim as "a work of fiction".
Swire has also complained that to his knowledge neither McMullon nor the
Mirror contacted any relative before publication.
Yesterday McMullon apologised for any upset caused and said that it was
not his intention to be sensationalist.
"Obviously the book is quite graphic but all I can do is tell the truth
and if events are going to be described it is best that the truth be told.
I feel upset about the reaction of the relatives because I never intended
to upset anybody."
Copyright 1998 The Scotsman Publications
Click here to get a copy
of Chinook by David McMullan