As Lorraine Kelly revisits the site of the Lockerbie bombing for a new ITV documentary, many will be remembering the 270 individuals who died in the devastating attack
This week, people up and down the UK will be remembering the Pan Am Flight 103 Lockerbie bombing – an attack that left 270 individuals dead and a community completely shellshocked. Shortly before Christmas, on December 21, 1988, a terrorist planted a bomb on Pan Am Flight 103, causing it to explode mid-air before crashing into the Dumfries and Galloway market town of Lockerbie.
All 259 passengers were killed plus an additional 11 on the ground, in what remains to this day the deadliest terrorist attack on British soil in UK history. TV host Lorraine Kelly was one of the first journalists to arrive on the scene, and the events that unfolded that harrowing day remain with her to this day.
In her new ITV documentary Return To Lockerbie With Lorraine Kelly, the 63-year-old presenter has opened up about the profound effect the attack has had on her, leaving her suffering severe PTSD. Many of those tuning into the doc this week will be remembering those who have passed away, including a little girl who was just 20 months old at the time of her death.
An 18-year-old police officer on duty outside the town hall that night was left haunted by the sight of the first victim to be brought to what would become a makeshift mortuary – a child who looked as though she’d simply fallen asleep. A local farmer had driven over from the debris with the young girl’s body in the front seat of his pick-up truck, and at that point, her identity was completely unknown.
Speaking with BBC News in 2018, Colin, who carried the girl into the hall himself, recalled: “It was the body of a child he’d found in a field at the back of his farm. It was a young child under the age of five. It looked as though they were asleep, it wasn’t obviously injured, and it was just a shock to realise it was a passenger from Pan Am 103. At the time it all happened so fast. There were hundreds of passengers brought into the town hall. It was just a case of moving on then, but in years since it was something that bothered me. It was such an extreme, intense moment.”
Although the memory of the little girl stayed with him for many years, Colin felt it would have been unprofessional to use his police powers to find out who she was so chose not to use his position in the police to find out. He explained: “It took me 25 years to find out who the farmer was but I gathered that he suffered quite terribly as a result of what he experienced that night, and I didn’t want to awaken any bad feelings, so I left it alone.”
In the years that followed, Colin forged a bond with the families of the American victims, taking them on tours of the area where their loved ones passed away. It was during a visit to the farm where the body of 21-year-old student Lynne Hartunian was recovered that Colin encountered the son of the farmer who had driven the little child over, all those many years ago.
Colin remembered: “Fate just fell into place. The farmer was there and it was his father who’d brought the child to the town hall. He said it was a child by the name of Bryony Owen who was 20 months old and it had affected his father very badly over the years. The mystery if that’s what you want to call it was laid to rest.”
As per the Pan Am 103 Lockerbie Legacy Foundation, Bryony had been flying with mother Yvonne from Wales to New York. They had plans to spend Christmas in Boston, and to meet Yvonne’s American fiancé Seth Friedman, who she intended to marry early in the New Year. Yvonne, who was expecting her second child at the time of the attack, occupied a single seat on row 19, with Bryony seated on her lap. Both mother and daughter were laid to rest in the Welsh village of Pendine, Carmarthenshire, buried in the same coffin.
Remembering them in a touching tribute, Bryony’s grandmother, Elizabeth Thomas wrote: “Yvonne was a very artistic person; her paintings and pottery are something everyone should see. You would never meet a kinder or more generous person than Yvonne. She would help anyone who needed her. She had a BA degree in Social Sciences, and she was back in college to take another degree to be a social worker so that she could help more people. She would have finished college in June 1989. During her college studies, she worked at a ‘woman’s aid’, a refuge for battered wives and children. She was broken-hearted at the way they were treated and did everything in her power to help them.
“She was a single parent with a beautiful little girl called Bryony Elise, whom she lived for. Bryony was like a little angel (which she is now). The only thing I can thank God for is that Yvonne and Bryony were together, as I know that my Yvonne could never have lived without her daughter…and that’s the way I feel without my daughter and granddaughter.”
If you’re struggling and need to talk, the Samaritans operate a free helpline open 24/7 on 116 123. Alternatively, you can email [email protected] or visit their site to find your local branch
Return To Lockerbie With Lorraine Kelly will air 9pm, Wednesday, November 15 on ITV1