The horror of Lockerbie


December 22: A small Scottish town became forever associated with mass murder. A Pan Am airliner on its way to New York was blown apart by a terrorist bomb over Lockerbie. The total death toll of 270 included residents of the stricken town as well as those on board the aircraft.

The scene was beyond belief. The almost-intact nose of the airliner lay exposed on a Scottish hillside. Bodies had fallen six miles into trees and buildings. On the ground, the doomed plane's fuel tanks had exploded, gouging a huge crater.

No-one ever claimed responsibility for the outrage but forensic evidence, painstakingly gathered at the scene, suggested that the bomb, concealed in a radio, had been smuggled aboard when the plane stopped over in Germany. A Midland GP, Dr Jim Swire, lost his daughter Flora in the outrage and campaigned tirelessly for international action to bring the guilty men to justice and improve airline security everywhere.

March 19. Two British soldiers met their death at the hands of a lynch mob in West Belfast. The pair - Corporals Derek Wood and Robert Howes - were driving in plain clothes through the area when they blundered into an IRA funeral cortege at high speed.

Television captured the horror as they and the car were attacked. The beaten soldiers were stripped and shot. A local priest administered last rites to the men. The incident came three days after a Loyalist gunman opened fire on a crowd of mourners at an IRA funeral in Belfast killing three people and injuring 50.

December 7. Armenia was devastated by an earthquake measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale. Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who was in New York addressing the United Nations and promising massive ams cuts, flew back to deal with the crisis. The earthquake killed more than 25,000 people and severe winter weather hindered the rescue of those trapped in the rubble.

February 24. TV weathermen were found guilty in an official report into the October 1977 storms. Fears that a hurricane was on the way had been dismissed on the air by the BBC's Michael Fish. Without naming names, the report said that the forecasters had followed their computers too closely. They had not recognised a situation in which computers might under-estimate the strength of winds. However, the report stressed than no individual should be "seriously blamed," especially as demands on them had been unusually heavy.

September 30. Ben Johnson was stripped of his gold medal from the Seoul Olympics in South Korea when he was found to have used drugs. The Canadian sprinter had set a new world record in winning the 100 metres. He flew home to Canada in disgrace.

December 4. Edwina Currie's rash claim that most British egg production is infected by salmonella started a crisis in the farming industry. Egg producers called for the resignation of the junior health minister after sales slumped. Tax payers faced picking up the bill for compensation - Mrs Currie resigned on December 16.

July 6. Hell in the North Sea - the Piper Alpha oil rig exploded killing 166. The blast on the Occidental Petroleum rig 120 miles off Wick was described as "like an atomic bomb going off". Flames more than 500ft high engulfed Piper Alpha and brought the sea to boiling point. Some survivors leapt 200ft into a sea covered in burning oil.


In brief

February 1. Wolverhampton warehouse assistant Victor Miller confessed to the abduction and murder of Hagley newspaper boy Stuart Gough. The savage killing of the 14-year-old had horrified the nation.

February 18. Wolverhampton magistrate Captain John Heydon attacked the Appeal Court for cutting sentences imposed on prostitutes by the town's bench, "leaving us to pick up the pieces."

March 3. Agreement reached on Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan.

March 7. Three IRA terrorists were shot and killed by the SAS in Gibraltar.

March 10. Prince Charles narrowly escaped death in an avalanche at Klosters in Switzerland - one member of the Prince of Wales ski-ing party died.

May 11. "Stay away at all costs" was the message to motorists as major road works began at Europe's busiest intersection, Birmingham's Spaghetti Junction.

July 3. US warship Vincennes mistook an Iranian civilian airliner for an attacking bomber and shot it down with the loss of 290 lives.

July 28. Paddy Ashdown was elected leader of the newly-formed Social and Liberal Democratic party.

August 18. President Zia ul-Haq of Pakistan died when his aircraft exploded in mid-air.

October 1. Disgraced Wolverhampton judo star Kerrith Brown flew home, stripped of his bronze medal at the Seoul Olympics, after failing two drug tests.

November 1. The death of Clinton McCurbin, as he was arrested in Wolverhampton, outraged the black community. At the inquest, to the dismay of the family, the jury returned a verdict of misadventure.

December 12. Two trains collided at Clapham and 34 people were killed.