The conspiracy files

Pan Am Flight 103 – Conspiracy Theory


Pan Am Flight 103 was a regularly scheduled Pan Am transatlantic flight from Frankfurt to Detroit, via London and New York, that was destroyed by a terrorist bomb on Wednesday, 21 December 1988, killing all 243 passengers and 16 crew on board, in what became known as the Lockerbie bombing.

Large sections of the aircraft crashed onto residential areas of Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 11 more people on the ground.

The conspiracy

Pan Am Flight 103 conspiracy theories suggest a number of possible explanations for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 on 21 December 1988. Some of the theories preceded the official investigation by Scottish police and the FBI; others arose from different interpretation of evidence presented at Libyan agent Abdelbaset al-Megrahi’s 2000/2001 trial; yet others have been developed independently by individuals and organisations outside the official investigation.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC) was the first suspect, in light of a threat it issued against U.S. and Israeli interests before the bombing. The state of Iran was also in the frame very early, with its motive thought to be revenge for the July 1988 shooting down of Iran Air Flight 655 by USS Vincennes.

This theory was later reinforced by Abolghasem Mesbahi, former head of Iranian intelligence operations in Europe, who stated after defecting to Germany that Iran had asked Libya and Abu Nidal, a Palestinian guerrilla leader, to carry out the attack on Pan Am 103.

In his 1994 film The Maltese Double Cross, Allan Francovich suggested that rogue CIA agents were implicated in a plot that involved them turning a blind eye to a drug running operation in return for intelligence. Evidence presented at Megrahi’s trial, together with concerns about the reliability of his conviction, spawned a theory that Libya was framed. Abu Nidal allegedly confessed to the bombing before his death, thereby triggering another theory, while Joe Vialls put forward his own explanation that relied on the bomb being detonated remotely.

Finally, in December 2013, Patrick Haseldine suggested that the bombing was an assassination by South Africa’s apartheid government of United Nations Commissioner for Namibia, Bernt Carlsson.