Jim Swire

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Person.png Dr Jim SwireRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Jim Swire.jpg
Born11 April 1936
Known forFather of a Lockerbie victim
Member ofJustice for Megrahi
InterestsLockerbie bombing
Father of a Lockerbie victim

Herbert 'Jim' Swire is a British doctor who is best known for his involvement in the aftermath of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, in which his daughter Flora was killed. Scottish politician Michael Russell wrote a biography of Jim Swire in August 2013.[1]

Dr Jim Swire is a founder member of the Justice for Megrahi campaign group and is a signatory of its PE1370 e-petition which calls on "the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to open an independent inquiry into the 2001 Kamp van Zeist conviction of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 in December 1988."[2] Dr Swire described the Scottish Government's reaction to JFM's petition, with its 1,646 signatures, as "despicable".[3]

On 7 May 2014, Dr Swire was reported to have made an application to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) to have al-Megrahi's case reviewed for a second time, and for his conviction to be referred to the High Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh for another appeal.[4] At a press conference in Glasgow on 5 June 2014, it was announced that an application by lawyer Aamer Anwar on behalf of six close relatives of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and 24 British Lockerbie relatives was being lodged with the SCCRC to overturn Megrahi's conviction for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.[5] In July 2015, three judges at the Appeal court in Edinburgh ruled that Scots law did not allow relatives of the Lockerbie bombing victims to pursue an appeal on Megrahi's behalf.[6]

In December 2022, following the arrest by US authorities of Libyan suspect Abu Agila Masud, Dr Swire recalled that Nelson Mandela had warned that "no one country should be complainant, prosecutor and judge" in the case of the Lockerbie bombing.

Dr Swire: "Lockerbie suspect Abu Agila Masud should not be tried in America"
"There are so many loose ends that hang from this dreadful case, largely emanating from America, that I think we should remember what Mandela said to the world and to us then, and seek a court that is free of being beholden to any nation directly involved in the atrocity itself," Dr Swire said.
"I think the trial should not take place in America. I think, in view of what we now know about how Scotland handled the case, it should not take place in Scotland."
He said the United Nations should instead choose an "appropriate" court to hold Masud's trial and also review the evidence against Megrahi.
"What we've always been after amongst the British relatives is the truth and not a fabrication that might seem to be replacing the truth," Dr Swire added.[7]

Early life and career

Jim Swire was born in Windsor, Berkshire, and educated at Eton College and the University of Cambridge. From Cambridge he was commissioned into the Royal Engineers, specialising in munitions and explosives. Having completed his short-service commission, he then decided to change direction and returned to university, this time to Birmingham University, to study medicine.

He became a family doctor, and moved to Blackwell, a village in the district of Bromsgrove in Worcestershire where he practised medicine as a GP. He married his Cambridge sweet-heart, Jane, in 1961. They had two daughters, Flora and Cathy, and a son, William.

Lockerbie bombing

On 20 December 1988, Dr Swire's 23-year-old daughter Flora, who wanted to fly to the United States to spend Christmas with her American boyfriend, had little difficulty in booking a seat on the next day's transatlantic Pan Am Flight 103. All 259 passengers and crew died when Pan Am Flight 103 crashed at the town of Lockerbie, Scotland, on 21 December 1988. Eleven residents of Lockerbie were killed by plummeting wreckage which brought the total number of fatalities to 270.

Initial inquiries

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) of Britain's Department of Transport immediately started an investigation into the Lockerbie bombing. The AAIB quickly found evidence at the scene of the crash indicating that it was not an accident but that the aircraft had been brought down by an explosion. From parts of the aircraft fuselage retrieved from the Lockerbie vicinity, the AAIB began a painstaking reconstruction of the jumbo jet in an aircraft hangar at Longtown, Cumbria.

On 29 September 1989 US President George H W Bush set up the Presidential Commission into Aviation Security and Terrorism (PCAST) to look into the security measures needed in the light of the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing. The PCAST report was presented to the President on 5 May 1990 and its recommendations were widely reported.

A Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) into the Lockerbie bombing was conducted in Scotland by Sheriff Principal John Mowatt QC in October 1990. Disappointingly for Dr Swire and for UKFF103, the FAI was – like an inquest – concerned with simply establishing the facts of the Lockerbie bombing, rather than discovering why it happened and who did it.

UKFF103 renewed its demand for a public inquiry into all of the unresolved aspects of the bombing.

Lockerbie investigation

Ultimate responsibility for the criminal investigation rested with the Scottish Lord Advocate, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, who combined the political role of Conservative cabinet minister with his judicial role as Scotland's chief prosecutor. Three years after the crash, the investigation into the bombing of Pan Am 103 was abruptly and unexpectedly concluded, with Lord Fraser and his American counterpart announcing on 13 November 1991 the indictment of two Libyans for the crime. Libya was instructed to surrender Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and Lamin Khalifah Fhimah for trial in either Britain or the United States.

Dr Swire was not entirely convinced by this indictment, but considered the Lockerbie relatives' search for truth and justice could be advanced if there were to be a trial, and especially if the trial were to be held in Scotland.

Facilitating the trial

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi in 1992 under arrest in Libya

There was no extradition treaty between any of the countries involved: Britain, the US and Libya, and Libyan law prevented the extradition of its citizens in any case. Under the 1971 Montreal Convention, which deals with prosecutions relating to aircrashes, the Libyan authorities arrested Megrahi and Fhimah, and offered to put them on trial if the US and Britain would supply the evidence. The Libyan offer was rejected by the US and Britain's Prime Minister John Major, whereupon Nelson Mandela proposed to have the two accused Libyans tried in a neutral country and by independent judges.

Early in 1994, Professor of Scots Law, Robert Black began negotiating a solution whereby the two Libyans would be prosecuted under Scots law, with a panel of international judges sitting without a jury, but in a neutral country. In November 1994, President Mandela formally offered South Africa as a neutral venue for the Lockerbie trial but this was again rejected by Prime Minister, John Major, who said that the British government did not have confidence in foreign courts. Prof Black’s views on Mandela's proposal for South Africa to host the Lockerbie trial are not known but, presumably, he was strongly opposed since the apartheid regime’s role in the Pan Am bombing would undoubtedly have come to light as a result of a South African trial.

A further three years elapsed until Mandela's offer was repeated to Major's successor, Tony Blair, when President Mandela visited London in July 1997 and again at the 1997 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Edinburgh between 24 and 27 October 1997. At the latter meeting, Mandela warned that "no one nation should be complainant, prosecutor and judge" in the Lockerbie case. Immediately before attending CHOGM, Mandela paid his first visit as President to Colonel Gaddafi in Libya, and visited Gaddafi again on 29 October 1997 which prompted speculation that Mandela was trying to mediate an end to the UN sanctions imposed on Libya over Lockerbie.[8]

The new foreign secretary, Robin Cook, while initially taking the line that a neutral country was not possible under Scots law, met UKFF103 and was persuaded to go along with the proposed solution. Dr Swire was said to have been baffled as to how Cook and prime minister, Tony Blair, managed to get the Americans to agree.

In the latter part of 1997, Dr Swire and Professor Black decided to lobby internationally for support of Black's revised proposal for a trial by a panel of three Scottish judges sitting without a jury, and visited Egypt and Libya. Dr Swire went to America, the United Nations, Germany, back to Libya and then visited key cities throughout the United Kingdom.[9] Eventually the Dutch government offered a choice of sites, and Camp Zeist, Netherlands was chosen, becoming British territory for the duration of criminal proceedings.

The accused were handed over to Scottish police at Camp Zeist in May 1999, and the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing trial finally began on 5 May 2000. Dr Swire was present for the whole trial and when the verdicts were announced on 31 January 2001, acquitting Fhimah and convicting Megrahi, Swire fainted and had to be carried from the courtroom.

Unfinished Business

David Benson as Dr Jim Swire in "Lockerbie: Unfinished Business"

"Lockerbie: Unfinished Business" is an award-winning solo play written and performed by David Benson who portrays Dr Jim Swire in his continuing search for truth and justice about the murder of his daughter Flora and 269 other people in the worst terrorist atrocity on UK soil. Pan Am Flight 103 was blown out of the sky on 21st December 1988, falling to earth on the small Scottish border town of Lockerbie and surrounding areas.[10]

David Benson has performed the hour-long play at venues throughout the UK, afterwards fielding questions from the audience about the Lockerbie bombing. The only recording of "Lockerbie: Unfinished Business" took place at the Gilded Balloon in Edinburgh during the 2010 Edinburgh Festival Fringe.[11]

This production garnered Benson international notices, including the New York Times[12] and as far afield as Hollywood,[13] winning him a Scotsman Fringe First award,[14] and for which he was nominated for an Amnesty International Freedom of Expression award.[15] He talked in his on-line blog about the national and international media coverage which the production received.[16]

Swire meets Megrahi

Dr Swire met Abdelbaset al-Megrahi for the first time on Wednesday 16 November 2005 and spent an hour with him in the prison governor's office. The purpose of the meeting, according to Dr Swire, was to ask Megrahi whether he would still press for the SCCRC to continue its review of his case if rumours of Megrahi's likely repatriation to Libya to serve the remainder of his sentence proved to be correct. Dr Swire said:

"Megrahi was happy for me to make it known that he is determined to pursue a review of the case, no matter what might evolve concerning his future detention. It is very important to the members of UKFF103 campaign group that there be a full review of the entire Lockerbie scenario through an appropriately powered and independent inquiry, but absence of a further review of the court case would also damage our search for truth and justice."

Dr Swire added that even if Megrahi did not continue with his appeal bid, UKFF103 would press the SCCRC to review the case, as interested parties.[17]

Second appeal

On 28 June 2007 the SCCRC announced the completion of its four-year review. It decided that Megrahi's conviction could have been a miscarriage of justice and granted him leave for a second appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh. Swire was interviewed on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme a few hours before the SCCRC announced its decision.[18] Megrahi's second appeal was expected to be heard at the Court of Criminal Appeal in 2009.

In October 2007 Swire offered £500,000 to lawyers trying to prove the innocence of al-Megrahi.[19]

In December 2008, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, the former Lord Advocate, said that Swire's insistence that al-Megrahi was innocent was comparable to the "Stockholm syndrome", where captives grow to admire and defend their captors. Many American families of victims criticised Swire for his support of Libya.[20] Swire said that he felt upset by Fraser's comments. Fraser defended his position, insisting on his choice of words.[21]

In the same month, Dr Swire became a founder member of the Justice for Megrahi campaign group which sought interim release from jail for Megrahi, who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and was terminally ill, so that he could return to his family in Libya pending his second appeal against conviction.[22]

Megrahi's release

Full article: Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi/Compassionate release

On 20 August 2009, owing to the cancer, Megrahi was released on compassionate grounds by the Scottish Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill. Although application had also been made to transfer Megrahi back to Libya through a Prisoner Transfer Agreement between the UK government and Libya, such a transfer could not be made if the conviction of a prisoner was still subject to appeal, so to facilitate his repatriation, Megrahi was encouraged to abandon his appeal.

Dr Swire expressed his approval of the release but disappointment that the appeal had been abandoned. He stated: "It's a blow to those of us who seek the truth but it is not an ending. I think it is a splitting of the ways."[23] In January 2012, Swire travelled to Tripoli to meet and say goodbye to Megrahi who, Swire had become "entirely satisfied", was not to blame for the Lockerbie bombing.[24]

UK Families Flight 103

The 270 Lockerbie Bombing victims came from 21 countries.

In February 1989, the US group Victims of Pan Am Flight 103 (VPAF103) was formed to represent the interests of the families of the 189 American victims. The same year, the British relatives founded their own campaigning group, UK Families Flight 103 (UKFF103), to press for a public inquiry into the crash, and to seek truth and justice for all of the victims of Pan Am Flight 103. In the British media, in radio and TV interviews, and in letters to newspapers, the spokesman for UKFF103 would, more often than not, be Dr Swire, though the position of spokesman was never defined in the organisation.

On 18 May 1990, Swire took a fake bomb on board a British Airways from London Heathrow to New York JFK[25] and then on a flight from New York JFK to Boston to show that airline security had not improved; his fake bomb consisted of a radio cassette player and the confectionery marzipan, which was used as a substitute for Semtex. Some American family members asked Swire to keep the news of the stunt quiet for a while; it became public six weeks after Swire did it. Susan and Daniel Cohen, parents of Pan Am Flight 103 victim Theodora Cohen approved of the plan, while some other family members of American victims did not.[26]

Susan Cohen said that in the beginning she admired Dr Swire "a great deal." The Cohens said that both they and Swire felt suspicious about the development in the mainstream account that Libya was solely responsible for the bombing; unlike the Cohens, Swire believed that Libya had no responsibility at all. Daniel Cohen said that he and his wife did not approve of Swire travelling to Tripoli, Libya and placing a photograph of Flora next to the photograph of Hanna, Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi's adopted daughter, who died in the 1986 US bombing of Tripoli and Benghazi. The Cohens said that they thought that Swire "was being foolish and worse" since the Cohens believed that his actions were forming Libyan propaganda and that Gaddafi was using Swire to benefit himself. As Swire made more trips to Libya, Susan Cohen said that he began to remind her of Lieutenant Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness) in the film The Bridge on the River Kwai since the character was, in Susan Cohen's words, "a brave and decent man whose obsession led him to unwittingly serve the enemy cause."[27]

The Cohens said in their book that Dr Swire had praised a book project, which became Trail of the Octopus. When the Cohens discovered that Lester Coleman was the author, they told Swire to have a suspicion about the project; they said that Swire wanted to "keep an open mind" about the book project.[28]

UK-US feuding

Frank Duggan accuses Dr Swire of lying

In November 2013, in response to VPAF103 president Frank Duggan's accusation that UK relatives of Lockerbie victims were liars, Jim Swire wrote:

I do not usually reply to statements in the media from Mr Frank Duggan, however he has recently very publicly accused me of lying, concerning an event which happened in the United States embassy, where Mr Duggan was present, acting as relatives' liaison officer over the Lockerbie case, I believe.
I was also present. Mr Duggan now claims that an alleged remark to one of the British relatives was not made. It is hard to understand how he would know that because the remark was made 'off the record', confidentially in an aside to the father of another British victim. I know and trust that victim's father. The remark made to him was "Your government and ours know exactly what happened but they're never going to tell."
That is not the kind of remark which any bereaved parent is ever likely to forget, but Mr Duggan could not have overheard it; perhaps he also does not understand its implications for a bereaved family.
Perhaps whatever Mr Duggan does not hear does not happen?
I do however owe Mr Duggan and others an apology: the meeting in the US embassy in London apparently took place in February 1990 not in 1989 as I had thoughtlessly previously claimed. Forgive the weakness of an old man's memory for dates, Mr Duggan, but these days there is always Google.
Those who wish to view Mr Duggan in action may like to dig out of the net the Channel Four showing of a film about Lockerbie called The Maltese Double Cross on 11 May 1995, which was followed by a live on air discussion where again I was present, as was Mr Duggan and where I had to ask a Mr Buck Revell of the FBI (appearing by satellite) why his son had cancelled his flight on Pan Am 103 instead of getting murdered like my daughter. Mr Revell is, I understand, no longer in the FBI. If I recall correctly he told us that his son had received an unexpected change of leave dates from the army. His son was not claimed to be a member of the staff at the US Embassy in Moscow, where warnings about a terrorist threat specific to Pan Am had been posted on a staff notice board well before the tragedy.
We have always been mystified as to why the Pan Am 103 plane was 'only' 2/3 full just before Christmas.
I won't ascribe a date to that discussion group, in case my memory might again prove defective.
There was also a British near equivalent to this amazing revelation from PCAST. In her autobiographical book published in 1993 - two years after the two Libyans had been indicted over involvement in the Lockerbie disaster. Lady Thatcher wrote, speaking of the attack by the USAF on Tripoli in 1986, itself an alleged reprisal for a terrorist bombing of a German disco:
It turned out to be a more decisive blow against Libyan sponsored terrorism than I could ever have imagined....the much vaunted Libyan counter attack did not and could not take place. Gaddafi had not been destroyed but he had been humbled."[29]
I fear, Mr Duggan, we shall continue to seek the truth and since we are European citizens we have an inalienable right to that truth under the provisions of the ECHR. Please Google that.[30]

Support for bereaved relatives

Following the downing over Ukraine on 17 July 2014 of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 with the loss of 283 passengers (193 Dutch nationals) and 15 crew, Dr Swire advised the MH17 relatives to form a support group:

After Lockerbie, there was no support group, no protocol and many mistakes were made. We were kept in the dark by the authorities and treated insensitively by politicians and the media. It took many years of persistence to feel we had achieved any level of justice.
I would advise the families of MH17 victims to form a group, perhaps taking advice from the charity "Disaster Action", which was established in 1991 by relatives in the aftermath of Lockerbie and other tragedies. They need to appoint a legal counsel and a spokesman. They must insist on being kept informed at every stage of the investigation.
Some relatives will want justice, others to forget, but some may demand revenge. I will never forget being approached at the Lockerbie trial by another relative who suggested that the answer was "to nuke Tripoli". This hunger for retribution will stalk some lives in the months and years to come, but it will only damage them.
Incredibly to some, the convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi became my friend before he died. I had come to believe firmly that he was innocent of any involvement. It helped my grieving process.
But first, for the traumatised families of the victims of MH17, the bodies must be recovered and returned home. Then the truth must come out. After that, their healing can begin.[31]

Francis Boyle's book

In an April 2013 email to Professor Francis Boyle, Dr Swire thanked Prof Boyle for sending him a signed copy of the book "Destroying Libya and World Order: The Three-Decade US Campaign to Reverse the Qaddafi Revolution", and wrote:

"Chapter four closely follows what we have laboriously decoded from amongst the rubbish that we are peddled by the politicians and through the media. I would have greatly valued the opportunity of discussions with you many years ago. (...)
"Now your book reinforces the knowledge that we do know what didn't happen, even if we must accept that we do not have much proof of what really did.
"How can we hold up our heads as if we were citizens of truth and honesty espousing communities?
"It might interest you to know that on one of my trips (in my naivety) to try to persuade Gaddafi to allow his citizens to be tried in what I then believed would be a fair Scottish court, I had a meeting with their Chief Justice. He explained that Libya wished to act in conformity with the Montreal Convention [1971] but that they could not, because, would you believe, the West would not provide the evidence which they claimed to have against the two accused. I had already discussed Montreal with Rodney Wallis of ICAO, and could only sympathise with the Chief Justice's position. I accepted a carefully sealed packet from him, which he told me contained details of the Libyan position so that there should be no ambiguity about it in the British Foreign Office.
"With some difficulty I persuaded the pilot on the flight back to the UK to radio ahead that I had a sealed package which I wanted to pass to a Foreign Office courier unopened upon landing at Heathrow. No one turned up. I delivered it myself in Whitehall immediately and of course nothing was ever heard about that package again.
"Interesting how deceit is actually enacted amongst the humbler citizens who simply seek the truth, poor suckers that we are.
"Anyway thank you again for sending the book, it has an honoured place in my Lockerbie library. I am satisfied that you were spot on in your positions over this disgraceful episode."

Professor Boyle replied to Dr Swire:

"The purpose of my writing that book was to set the record straight from my perspective after the 2011 US/NATO war against Libya. I owed it to Colonel Gaddafi, Libya, the Libyans, the victims of the Lockerbie Bombing, and their next-of-kin. If and when Scotland obtains independence in the forthcoming referendum, maybe we can get to the bottom of what really happened here:
  1. who did it; and,
  2. the cover-up."[32]

Living in the shadow of Lockerbie

This is the title of an article that was published on 16 August 2013 in the West Highland Free Press:

Dr Jim Swire is a prominent Lockerbie truth campaigner — but there’s more to the man than that, as Michael Russell found out …
Obviously, inevitably, we talk about Lockerbie. Since losing his beloved daughter Flora in that atrocity almost 25 years ago, Dr Jim Swire has thought about little else.
"It has been difficult, but I try to keep my campaigning on Lockerbie within certain bounds," he tells me at the family’s home-from-home in Orbost, north Skye. "I have to try to remain a human being, in spite of all this."
That effort involves regular breaks at Leobost, the house that Jim built in the 1970s in an area where he spent a much of his childhood.[33]
"I did the plastering, the ceilings, the wiring and the plumbing. It was a hectic time, and we came close to not being able to build this house."
Finance for Leobost came from the sale of Orbost House, which is just a few hundred yards away and was bought in 1948 by Jim’s parents, Roger and Otta — the latter a well-known folklorist. Before that, the property was in the possession of cousins the Robertson-Macleods, who also owned Greshornish House Hotel.
Both Jim’s grandmothers came from Skye, but the man himself has grander origins.
He was born in Windsor Castle in 1936. As an officer in the Royal Engineers, his father was entitled to a house within the estate.
"There is a photo in a newspaper of the time that showed King Edward VIII addressing a group of Boy Scouts in St George’s chapel in the castle and my pram is visible in the corner of the photo."
Not long afterwards the family moved to Bermuda, where Colonel Roger Swire was the garrison commander. Then along came World War Two.
"My father was ordered to come back with his family to Britain at the height of the U Boat emergency and we had an interesting time joining the convoy. We had to get to Canada and the convoy was assembling in the St Lawrence estuary and so my parents had to take me through the US to Canada. My mother used to chuckle when she told me that when we got to the US-Canadian border she had to fill out a form — I was then aged four or five — asking had I ever attempted to overthrow the Government of the United States."
The family made it back safely across the Atlantic. However, their luggage, in fact most of their possessions, had been travelling in a different vessel which wasn’t so lucky.
"We were on a vessel called the ‘Alpherat’. It was Dutch and the crew had surrendered to the Brits on the outbreak of war — they spoiled me and sister Flora outrageously. I was allowed to steer the ship on an anti-torpedo exercise. So there I was zig-zagging this ocean-going steamer. There was one glorious day when I remember a mine that had broken its moorings came floating through the convoy and I was allowed to fire the machine gun which was on a tripod, though I didn’t hit it."
Landfall wasn’t Liverpool, as scheduled, but Oban, where a sister of family nanny Louisa Macdonald lived. Then it was off to Muirtown near Inverness, to live with grandfather Sir William Tarn, who was knighted for his services to classical literature.
"He was the guy with sufficient pennies to enable me to go to private school, a prep school in Oxford. I remember the journeys back with great pleasure — the overnight sleeper when I was usually awake enough to go to the breakfast car to have kippers when we were crossing Culloden Moor. I also went to a school called Summerfields in Oxford which I didn’t like that much because it didn’t do science. I was then sent to Eton which I did enjoy thoroughly because they did science. The plot thickened while I was at Eton when I invited my science tutor, a chap called Francis Gardiner, to come up to the Skye Balls with my family and he fell in love with my elder sister, Flora, and they got married. But they had to hush up the romance while I was at Eton as it would never have done to have a boy there associated with such a thing. When I left they announced their engagement and got married in Eton College chapel. They had four boys and now live in Cornwall."
While living at Orbost House, Jim used to trudge across the moors shooting rabbits, wearing a Macdonald tartan kilt (he is descended from Flora Macdonald, who helped Bonnie Prince Charlie escape from the redcoats). Post-war rationing meant that rabbit meat was a valuable source of extra protein. When his parents died in the 1970s, Jim and Jane couldn’t afford to keep Orbost House so they sold it.
After Eton, it was off on national service and his first brush with terrorism.
"I was sent out to Cyprus and the Greeks under Archbishop Makarios were killing British soldiers whenever they could. I saw what happened to morale in our regiment when someone was killed. Our sympathies were with the Turks so when I was on night patrol you went to the Turkish part — it was safe there."
Talk of terrorism brings Lockerbie to Jim’s mind; I suspect it’s always there, waiting to erupt. We spend the next 10 minutes discussing timers, break-ins, and geopolitics.
To summarise a horrendous quarter-century of heartbreak, struggle and dogged persistence is, on the face of it, quite simple. Libyan Abdelbaset al-Megrahi didn’t plant the bomb onboard Pan Am Flight 103 — Iranian proxies did, in revenge for the shooting down earlier in 1988 of an Iranian airliner.
Jim’s own journey has taken him from being a "cloth cap-doffing member of the establishment" to having no faith whatsoever in politicians or the judicial system. And behind it all he still misses his daughter.
"She really was a smasher," he says. "She loved Skye. She came up here on holiday at every opportunity and would go cycling round the island. And when I think of her joking and laughing, walking down through the departure gate, not knowing that just a few hours before there was a break-in at the airport… "
He stops himself before he gets too upset. Continuing with his life story, Jim tells me that after national service he went to Cambridge University to study geology. It was here that he met his wife, Jane.
Geology still fascinates Jim, although it never formed the basis of a career.
"They were glorious times," he recounts. "One of the highlights of my three years at Cambridge was a trip to the Isle of Arran. It has amazing geology. But what I learned later was that you didn’t have to be too earnest chipping rocks on Arran because the students always stayed in the main hotel in Brodick and at the end of the course all the students would throw all their bits of rock out of the window, so in front of the hotel contains every type of geology on the island in the gravel. You didn’t have to go climbing Goat Fell to get the right sample — they were all in front of the hotel."
After Cambridge came 18 months at the BBC in London working as an electronics engineer. This, too, would not form the basis of a career.
In the early 1960s, after achieving the necessary A-level grades in evening classes, Jim went to medical school in Birmingham.
"I wanted to do something that benefited humanity. I wanted to use my manual skills and people skills, which weren’t that bright because of my strange, lonely upbringing here. I led a very isolated childhood. I enjoyed it in my own way but it left me not a natural mixer. But medicine was perfect because in a medical situation you get people coming to see you because they want some skill that you have got so you don’t need the normal meeting skills as the situation is already structured for you. The role is already cast for you, and I made some good friends through it."
His first and only practice as a GP was in Bromsgrove, just a few miles south of Birmingham. This is where Jim and Jane have their permanent home. Their remaining children, William and Catherine, live near Edinburgh and Malvern, Worcestershire, respectively and have children of their own.
In 1991 Jim left the Bromsgrove practice and the medical profession when Lockerbie — first as he tried to bring the Libyans to justice, and then as a post-verdict convert — took over his life. He thinks, however, that his time in the front line of campaigning is drawing to a close.
"We’ll see what happens with e-petition 1370," he says. "It’s in the hands of the 'Justice for Megrahi' group now."
Jim hinted that a major revelation would coincide with this December’s 25th anniversary of the bombing. Perhaps he’ll finally be able to lay the past to rest before too long.[34]

Scotland's Shame

Published on 3 October 2013

John Ashton's book "Scotland’s Shame: Why Lockerbie Still Matters" was published by Birlinn on 3 October 2013.

It features a remarkable foreword by Dr Jim Swire.

The advance blurb says:

"The bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over the small Scottish town of Lockerbie in December 1988 was one of the most notorious acts of terrorism in recent history. Its political and foreign policy repercussions have been enormous, and twenty-five years after the atrocity in which 270 lost their lives, debate still rages over the conviction of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, as well as his controversial release on compassionate grounds by Scotland’s SNP government in 2009.
"John Ashton argues that the guilty verdict, delivered by some of Scotland’s most senior judges, was perverse and irrational, and details how prosecutors withheld numerous items of evidence that were favourable to Megrahi.
"It accuses successive Scottish governments of turning their back on the scandal and pretending that the country’s treasured independent criminal justice system remains untainted.
"With numerous observers believing the Crown Office is out of control and the judiciary stuck in the last century, politicians must address these problems or their aspirations for Scotland to become a modern European social democracy are bound to fail."[35]

Independence and Lockerbie

Dr Swire asserted that the unresolved Lockerbie question will prove to be a block on Scotland's independence:

"Scottish justice survived the Act of Union with England with its independence intact: perhaps since then it has been a talisman of Scotland's reputation as an independent nation capable of running its own affairs. If that is so, Scotland - my country - would do well to address the apparent problem of the impenetrable arrogance of her prosecuting authorities that seem to have blighted her justice system ever since it became clear that the Lockerbie trial had been defective.
"It is best addressed from within Scotland herself and may well be a factor which will block independence until it is resolved, for an independent community with an obscured and mistrusted justice system can never be a healthy community.
"We would wish healing, not harm, for Scotland and all her people, but the arrogant refusal to consider fault has dragged on so long that the cure is not likely to be found within the timescale now scheduled for the independence debate. It is to be hoped that the refusal of the current Scottish Government to intervene with an independent inquiry, despite clearly having the powers required to do so, is not driven by motives of party advantage."[36]

Jo G takes Dr Swire to task

Lockerbie campaigner Jo G took Dr Swire to task:

"I am sorry, very sorry, to say I have to disagree with Jim Swire on this point.
"There are many people within even the SNP who know the SNP betrayed Scotland on Lockerbie in every way imaginable and yet will not condemn them for it. Shame on them I would say. I have condemned them on this blog repeatedly for it. For they are truly to be condemned. MacAskill's conduct in particular, on Lockerbie, is utterly disgraceful.
"Tory hands were filthy on Lockerbie. Labour hands were filthy too.
"SNP hands are now toxic for they were in charge at Holyrood when they could have made a difference and chose not to. Instead MacAskill came out to say this, that and the other, on the day he announced Megrahi was going home.
"He also omitted a great deal. (His office was fingered when it came to the pressure put on Megrahi to drop his appeal.) MacAskill also overreached himself by declaring 'the original verdict was sound' even when the SCCRC had already stated there were six grounds to challenge that conviction. (Why would that not bother him?)
"Salmond has uttered the same sentence. Neither of them had the authority to overrule the SCCRC. Both of them have left some of their supporters, including this writer, wondering about their commitment to a truly just Scottish Justice System.
"MacAskill went on to alter the remit of the SCCRC. The SCCRC exists to examine cases, scrutinise them even, 'without political or judicial interference.' MacAskill did away with that when he put through 'emergency' legislation hidden under legislation designed to deal with another case entirely. His aim was to put a Judge in charge of the SCCRC. Such a move destroyed the whole point of having an SCCRC. That action alone was, solely, about Lockerbie and the Megrahi conviction. Let no supporter of the SNP, no matter how passionate, attempt to suggest otherwise. It also proved just how closely the SNP were working with Westminster to keep the lid on the truth behind Lockerbie! Shame on them!
"I am sorry Jim Swire is linking this with independence and the referendum. It could have been linked in 2007 but not now. For had the SNP had the balls to take on the establishment in 2007 and said that appeal would be heard no matter what, the truth about Lockerbie, or at least about the very dodgy conviction, may have come out and that would have taken them forward. Alas, in 2007 the SNP decided to work with a UK government which was committed to keeping the truth about Lockerbie buried. SNP members have failed to challenge Salmond on Lockerbie. More fool them. For ultimately the SNP has proved to be as dishonest, on Lockerbie, as the Unionist Parties. There is nothing to be proud of in that.
"The other thing, of course, is that a significant number in Scotland are so disengaged from politics anyway that there is no hope of them even voting in the referendum. They are more likely to vote on who should win 'X Factor'."[37]

And rebuking Dr Morag Kerr who had earlier said: "Whether or not the current Scottish government have behaved well as regards Lockerbie just isn't an issue", Jo G said:

"Oh it absolutely is an issue. Some of us challenged them on it.
"I recall challenging you on this very blog when you defended the SNP!
"You forgive them so willingly. I cannot.[38]

Riposte from "Rolfe"

Morag Kerr countered by saying it would be "insane" to vote against the SNP and Scottish independence because of such an "essentially unrelated matter" as Lockerbie:

"I just don't see the issue. No matter how much you hate the SNP for whatever reason, independence isn't about the SNP, it's about Scotland's future. To vote against something so immeasurably beneficial just because you have a quarrel with the main proponent over an essentially unrelated matter is insane.
"And as Robert said, if you're picking the future with the better likelihood for a resolution, independence is the way to go. The union isn't working, for that or for anything else. (Apart from sending failed Labour and LibDem politicians to the Lords that is, Lord Jeremy Purves, pardon me while I vomit.)
"I don't know what's going on behind the scenes in the Scottish government over Lockerbie. I'm seriously hacked off about it, just like anyone else, but I don't claim to know how and why it happened.
"But, even to be able to make sure the right people are first in front of the wall when the revolution comes, you actually have to have a revolution. You don't get one by voting No, that's for sure."[39]

Jo G told "Rolfe" she had a habit of missing the point:

"I do not hate the SNP. You missed the point. You always do when it suits.
"Why are you seeking to make money out of a book which kills, stone dead, the SNP position on Lockerbie and still defending them?
"Don't patronise me. Have a word with your own conscience. If you have one."[40]

Westminster Abbey Lockerbie Remembrance Service

Lockerbie 25th Anniversary Service of Remembrance

On 22 November 2013, Dr Jim Swire emailed his friends to announce that, on the 25th Anniversary of the Lockerbie air disaster, a Westminster Abbey Remembrance Service is to take place at 6.45pm on 21 December 2013.

The service is likely to last about one hour and the tickets are free.

Dr Swire wrote:

By kind permission of the Dean and Chapter, a service coordinated with those to be held in America and Lockerbie will be held in Westminster Abbey starting at 6.45pm on 21 December 2013, to remember the 270 people who died in the Lockerbie air disaster on 21 December 1988.
All are most welcome to come, and tickets can be obtained by writing to:
Matthew Arnoldi, Room 21, The Chapter Office, Westminster Abbey, 20 Dean’s Yard, London, SW1P 3PA.
Would all applicants please write, enclosing a stamped addressed envelope, to the above address.
Any publicity that you can give to this event, so that those wishing to come can get their tickets in good time, would be much appreciated.
All media enquiries: Press & Communications, Westminster Abbey, ++44 (0)207 654 4923, press@westminster-abbey.org


Morag Kerr regrets she won't be attending:

"Thank you for that. While travelling to London for a 45-minute service is not really practical for me, Lockerbie itself is only about an hour's drive. In addition, while I have more reason to believe that London has significance in this case than many who will be attending there, it is Lockerbie and Dryfesdale that pull me at this sorrowful time, not Westminster.
"I am currently revising my plans for that day in the hope of being able to be present at Lockerbie."[41]

43rd Lockerbie victim

Bernt Carlsson's Memorial in Dryfesdale Cemetery "In remembrance of a dedicated internationalist and a committed social democrat on the tenth anniversary of the sad loss of Bernt Carlsson (1938-1988), Secretary-General of the Socialist International (1976-1983), distinguished in his service to Sweden, the international community and the United Nations until his untimely death on flight Pan Am 103."

On 6 January 2014, The Ecologist published an article entitled "Flight 103: it was the Uranium", which began:

Mystery continues to surround the 1988 downing of Pan Am Flight 103 at Lockerbie - who did it, how, and why? After 25 years study of the topic Patrick Haseldine reveals the shocking truth.

A little over two weeks ago, my wife and I were seated beside the flower bedecked pulpit in a packed Westminster Abbey.
There was an eerie hush as Big Ben's muffled chimes tolled 7:00 pm - the exact moment 25 years earlier when Pan Am Flight 103 was sabotaged over Lockerbie in Scotland on 21st December 1988.
All 259 passengers and crew were killed, as were 11 people in the town. The names of the 270 Lockerbie bombing victims were listed alphabetically in the Order of Service, and five relatives took it in turns to read them out.
Thus it was Jane Swire, mother of victim Flora and wife of Dr Jim Swire, who read the name of the 43rd victim on the list: Bernt Wilmar Carlsson.
United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and Commissioner for Namibia, Bernt Carlsson, was Lockerbie's highest profile victim, yet the authorities and the media never mention him. Why?
As comedian Kenneth Williams used to say: "I think the answer lies in the soil."
More specifically, I believe the answer lies in the processed uranium ore (Yellowcake) that was illegally extracted from Namibia in the period 1976 to 1989. A TV documentary film in March 1980 described succinctly what was going on:
"World In Action investigates the secret contract and operations arranged by British-based Rio Tinto Zinc Corp to import into Britain uranium (Yellowcake) from the Rössing Uranium Mine in Namibia, whose major shareholders are the governments of Iran and South Africa.
"This contract having received the blessing of the British government is now compromising the UK's position in the United Nations negotiations to remove apartheid South Africa from Namibia, which it is illegally occupying."[42]
Within four months of the Lockerbie disaster, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher decided to make a whistle-stop tour of southern Africa, and found time to visit Namibia's Rössing Uranium Mine where she was accompanied by David Cameron, then a youthful Conservative Central Office researcher.
Mrs Thatcher was so impressed by the Rössing Uranium Mine that she declared it made her "proud to be British".
While Mrs Thatcher was in Namibia, she put improper pressure on the UN's man, Martti Ahtisaari, head of the United Nations Transition Assistance Group, to permit the South African Defence Force (SADF) to take action against SWAPO soldiers who were peacefully returning to Namibia to vote in the November 1989 independence elections.
As a result, as many as 308 SWAPO soldiers were killed - "shot in the back" according to former SADF major Nico Basson.
Whether Mrs Thatcher could have persuaded UN Commissioner for Namibia, Bernt Carlsson, to agree to such treachery we shall never know since Mr Carlsson was assassinated fifteen weeks earlier, on 21st December 1988.[43]

The Ecologist article can be read in full here.[44] On 7 January 2014, Global Research also published the article, heading it "The Downing of Flight 103 over Lockerbie: It was the Uranium" with the attribution "Copyright Patrick Haseldine, The Ecologist, 2014".[45]

A Father's Search For Justice

"A Father's Search For Justice"

"The Lockerbie Bombing – A Father's Search For Justice" is Jim Swire's book, co-authored with Peter Biddulph, which is to be launched on 6 May 2021, the day of the 2021 Scottish Parliament election. The launch program includes an interview with the BBC's former Chief News Correspondent Kate Adie on the evening of 21 May 2021:

"The destruction of Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in December 1988 was the largest attack on Britain since World War Two. 259 passengers and 11 townsfolk of Lockerbie were murdered. Libyan Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was convicted of the crime. He maintained his innocence until his death in 2012.

"Among the passengers was Flora, beloved daughter of Dr Jim Swire. Jim accepted American claims that Libya was responsible, but during the Lockerbie Trial he began to distrust key witnesses and supposed firm evidence.

Since then it has been revealed that the USA paid millions of dollars to two central identification witnesses, and the only forensic evidence central to the prosecution has been discredited.

The book takes us along Dr Swire’s journey as his initial grief and loss becomes a campaign to uncover the truth behind not only a personal tragedy but one of the modern world’s most shocking events."[46]

Lobster review

The book was reviewed in The Lobster in 2022 by John Booth:

The story "The Lockerbie Bombing" tells is too long and complex to summarise in a short review. But the theme running through it is well expressed by Swire in its preface: "After many years running the British Empire we have evolved all sorts of subtle ways of concealing truth when it is inconvenient for government to admit failure.

"Supposedly even these subtle secrecies are limited by a ‘thirty-year rule’; but now we sail into a future where up to fifty Lockerbie documents are sequestered from public view well beyond that thirty-year limit with no explanation as to why.

"There seems no sign of conscience or even knowledge of right and wrong. My daughter and all those who died with her deserve better; it is as though their deaths did not matter."[47]

See also


Related Documents

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:CIA wanted to kill Lockerbie bomber before trialarticle5 July 2013Gareth Rose
Bob Smyth
A report of William Chasey's allegation (after being diagnosed with incurable cancer) that CIA agents tried to convince him to plant homing devices on Megrahi and Fhimah as part of the plot to assassinate them before the Lockerbie trial.
Document:Fragments of TruthArticle1 December 2009Mark Hirst
Document:Justice for Megrahi - Black's lies matterLetter18 April 2021Patrick HaseldineDon't let Suppressor Black mess up again at the UK/Supreme Court: much better to employ an English lawyer such as Gareth Peirce with a proven track record of success (Guildford Four, Birmingham Six etc.)
Document:The Crime of LockerbieArticle16 August 2009Tam DalyellTam Dalyell said: "Yes, I have read 'The Downing Street Years' very carefully. Why in 800 pages did you not mention Lockerbie once?" Mrs Thatcher replied: "Because I didn’t know what happened and I don’t write about things that I don’t know about."
Document:Unanswered questions over LockerbieArticleJanuary 1995Phil JohnsonAccording to Tam Dalyell MP: "The American and British governments do not want the film shown. The American families do not want the film shown because they want their compensation money ($2.7 billion). More importantly, their lawyers want their money ($810 million)."
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  1. "Living in the shadow of Lockerbie"
  2. "Public Petition PE1370"
  3. "Denial of Justice for Megrahi is Despicable, says Dr Jim Swire"
  4. "Lockerbie: new appeal into Megrahi's conviction"
  5. "We need the truth" - Jim Swire
  6. "Scottish judges refuse permission for third appeal"
  7. "Call for UN to choose Lockerbie bomb trial court"
  8. "Mandela's visit to Libya to discuss Lockerbie affair"
  9. "Dr Jim Swire's visit to Egypt and Libya in April 1998"
  10. "Lockerbie: Unfinished Business" in David Benson's on-line Blog
  11. "Lockerbie: Unfinished Business" David Benson's performance is not intended as an impersonation of Dr Swire but an evocation of his character and his position regarding the Lockerbie atrocity.
  12. New York Times review of "Lockerbie - Unfinished Business"
  13. Hollywood trade papers review of Lockerbie - Unfinished Business
  14. "David Benson wins Fringe First Award at 2010 Edinburgh Festival"
  15. "Nomination for Amnesty International award 2010"
  16. "Blog: Edinburgh Round-up" at David Benson's website
  17. "Lockerbie dad meets man jailed for bombing"
  18. "Dr Jim Swire interviewed on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme", 28 June 2007
  19. "Swire offered cash help to al-Megrahi" The Scotsman. 7 October 2007. Retrieved on 8 August 2009.
  20. Macaskill, Mark. "Swire is victim of Stockholm Syndrome, says Lord Fraser" The Times. 21 December 2008. Retrieved on 9 August 2009.
  21. Davidson, Lorraine. "Lord Fraser unrepentant over attack on Jim Swire" The Times. 21 December 2008. Retrieved on 9 August 2009.
  22. "Justice for Megrahi"
  23. "Lockerbie: Al Megrahi release welcomed by victims' relatives"
  24. "Lockerbie bomber 'close to death'"
  25. "One Man's Crusade: Fake Bomb Shows Hole in Security"
  26. Cohen, Susan and Daniel. "Chapter 16." Pan Am 103: The Bombing, the Betrayals, and a Bereaved Family's Search for Justice. New American Library. 2000. 225.
  27. Cohen, Susan and Daniel. "Chapter 16." Pan Am 103: The Bombing, the Betrayals, and a Bereaved Family's Search for Justice. New American Library. 2000. 225–226.
  28. Cohen, Susan and Daniel. "Chapter 16." Pan Am 103: The Bombing, the Betrayals, and a Bereaved Family's Search for Justice. New American Library. 2000. 227.
  29. "The Downing Street Years", pp 448-9
  30. "Jim Swire responds to Frank Duggan's falsehood and fable accusation"
  31. "It’s only after the bodies are returned that the families’ healing can begin"
  32. "Lockerbie: we do know what didn't happen"
  33. "Leobost House - 5 Bed Self Catering in Dunvegan, Isle of Skye"
  34. "Living in the shadow of Lockerbie"
  35. "Scotland’s Shame: Why Lockerbie Still Matters"
  36. "Jim Swire: SNP's failure to order Lockerbie bombing inquiry will harm its indyref chances"
  37. "Jo G takes Dr Swire to task"
  38. "Jo G cannot forgive the SNP"
  39. "Riposte from 'Rolfe'"
  40. "Morag Kerr's habit of missing the point"
  41. "Morag Kerr is going to Lockerbie instead"
  42. "World In Action 'Follow The Yellowcake Road'"
  43. Missing diplomatic links and the Lockerbie tragedy
  44. "Flight 103: it was the Uranium"
  45. "The Downing of Flight 103 over Lockerbie: It was the Uranium"
  46. "Birlinn Publishing book launch on 6 May 2021"
  47. "The Lockerbie Bombing: A Father’s Search for Justice" Review by John Booth in The Lobster

External links

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