The Lockerbie split

The US and UK Lockerbie families’ differ in their views on Megrahi’s role in blowing up Pan Am flight 103 in 1988.

Helen Engelhardt, from Brooklyn, will not be grieving for Abdel Basset al-Megrahi. She prefers not to think about him at all.

She is convinced he took her husband Tony’s life 24-years ago and those of 269 others when Pan Am flight 103 came down over the Scottish town of Lockerbie just days before Christmas in 1988 – the jet was half-full, despite the season.

On Sunday, within hours of hearing of the death of the only person convicted in the Lockerbie case, Helen spoke to Al Jazeera in the quiet of her home, just a few minutes from New York’s JFK Airport, where the jumbo jet had been heading on December 21 that year. 

“My first reaction was so – it’s about time – I don’t care about him, what I care about is that he continued to protest his innocence,” Helen said.

A rift has opened up between the US family members, like Helen, and their UK counterparts led by Dr Jim Swire, the father of a victim, who has long been convinced of Megrahi’s innocence.

Dr Swire told Al Jazeera: “I am half sad, but half a bit relieved because I knew this man quite well and because I had become satisfied he was nothing to do with Lockerbie he had become my friend.

“I met him last in December last year and he was in a lot of pain then and I knew he would have been in a lot of pain in between so at least his death has brought his pain and suffering to his end, but I was very glad that the last part of his life was led back with his family in Trip.”

The American families, however, tend to think justice was served when Megrahi was convicted and they say his release by Scottish authorities on compassionate grounds in 2009 was wrong.

“Why the British familes feel the way they do, and I don’t know how many of them do, I just know that Dr Swire is obsessed with it. He visited Gadaffi to commiserate with him after the American’s bombed Tripoli which … I will just leave it at that,” Helen said.

It has been said that Megrahi intended to reveal more about Lockerbie bombing close to his death and, it’s possible, that more may come out now he has passed.

But Helen Engelhardt has got more to say too. She has already published a boxed set of CDs containing her memoirs, a book will follow in September, and she hopes that Megrahi’s family might fill in some of the blanks.

“They’re mourning him and I’m mourning the fact that he died not telling us the truth,” she said.

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