As the voice filtered through the cassette recorder, PC Ian Rae felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise.
It belonged to one of the 270 people killed when Pan-Am flight 103 blew up over Lockerbie 30 years ago.
Ian had the traumatic job of sorting though the possessions of the victims of Britain’s worst terrorist outrage.
Among the children’s teddies and Christmas presents was a businessman’s bag of cassette tapes.
Ian, 58, said: “I put one in a tape player. I heard the voice of an American, identifying himself before going on to give a presentation.
“The memory of it still makes the hair stand on the back of my neck. I’d actually cleaned up some of his jewellery before they were returned to his family. I felt a connection to him.”
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Officers were driven to tears as they spent months sifting hundreds of thousands of items in a warehouse.
“You worked for half an hour, went out for a quick break, had a cry to yourself and then went back in and got on with it,” said Ian, now retired.
Ian travelled around Britain returning belongings to families and struck up a friendship with one woman, Betty Thomas, who lost her daughter Yvonne Owen, 29, and granddaughter Bryony, aged 20 months.
Betty even spent Christmas Day after the first anniversary of Lockerbie with Ian and his family. They were joined by trainee social worker Yvonne’s boyfriend Seth, who she had been travelling to see in Boston when the plane exploded over Scotland.
Ian said: “When she told me Seth was visiting Lockerbie for the first anniversary I asked them to come for dinner. Seth was staying in a nearby hotel so it made sense.”
Also nursing emotional scars is former lorry driver Mark Herridge, who joined one of the first search parties. Mark and brother-in-law Brian Mawson heard of the crash from chat on their CB radios.
The pair, just 21 and 20 at the time, hitched a lift to Lockerbie from their homes in Brydekirk, nine miles away, to comb the hills for possible survivors at Tundergarth, where the cockpit of the 747 lay.
“There was an eerie silence as we walked,” said Mark.
“We formed a line across the field. We were hoping against hope to find someone alive, but within a mile of walking we knew there were none. By then we were no longer finding whole people.”
It is the first time Mark, who now lives near Castleford, West Yorks, has told of his part in the long night of the winter solstice on December 21, 1988.
Not even his wife Sarah, 31, has heard his story but every moment is seared in Mark’s mind.
One image stands out the most – the “little girl in the red dress” as she later became known.
Three-year-old Sur-uchi Rattan was killed with her brother Anmol, two, and her mum Garima Rattan, on their way home to Detroit after attending a wedding in India.
A passenger on the first leg of the flight from Frankfurt to Heathrow later left Suruchi a tribute at Lockerbie, describing her as the girl in the red dress who made his journey “such fun”.
Mark’s search party found her body on a hedge about eight miles from the cockpit.
He said: “I could see it was a child straight away, a little girl in a red outfit and I had to look away. I had a 10-month-old son at home.
“She was just lying in a hedge, face up, barely a scratch on her.
“The hedge was near an old farm building where another passenger had fallen in to the barn roof, still sitting in their passenger seat.
“I’d never seen a dead body before and after what I witnessed that night, I never want to see one again.
“As soon as we got close the cockpit you could tell it was a jumbo jet. Even although it had smashed down on its side it was huge.
“There were seven or eight bodies lying around outside. They just looked like shop dummies. They didn’t have a mark on them. It seemed surreal. I later read that the pilot and engineer were still strapped in their seats.”
Mark says volunteers were told “not to gaze too long” at bodies and pause only to place a small pole with a flag in the ground to mark their location.
He said: “Bits of plane were everywhere, massive luggage containers had been ripped open like tin cans from the impact and there were suitcases and Christmas presents lying around still wrapped.
“It sounds trivial but I remember those presents so well.There was cutlery and cups that hadn’t smashed and people still strapped in their airline seats as if they had taken a pause in their journey.
“It was very soft peat and you could see the impact marks where people had landed. One man was sitting upright in the field. I couldn’t bring myself to look at his face. I couldn’t look at any of their faces.
“There was a lady lying near a baby who looked just like a doll. You could see where her body had impacted in the peat but she looked like she had moved towards the child, although I realise that was impossible.
“We were all willing for someone to be found alive. The further we got from the cockpit the worse it got. Clothes had been ripped from bodies and people lay naked in fields. After a while it was clear we wouldn’t find anyone alive.”
Brother-in-law Brian, who still lives in Lockerbie, says he has never been the same since.
“It’s hard to talk about but what I saw has stayed with me,” he said.
Pan Am Flight 103
December 21, 1988 Pan Am Flight 103 from Frankfurt to Detroit, via London and New York, blows up over Lockerbie in Scotland. All 259 people on board are killed, along with 11 residents on the ground, including two families.
November 1991 Britain and the US accuse Libyans Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi and Al Amin Khailifa Fhimah of the bombing. Libya denies involvement.
January 1995 MPs demand an inquiry after US intelligence suggests Iran was behind the bombing – not Libya. American officials play down the report.
January 2001 Megrahi is convicted of mass murder. Fhimah is found not guilty
August 2003 UN lifts sanctions on Libya after Tripoli accepts the blame and compensates families of the victims.
August 2009 Megrahi is freed after being diagnosed with prostate cancer. Returns home to Tripoli to cheering crowds. He dies in 2012.
October 2015 Authorities say they are investigating two more suspects linked to Libya.
November 2018 The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission says there was no criminality in the Megrahi case.
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