First public showing in the UK, the Glasgow Film Theatre, 17.11.94
In 1994 the London Film Festival dropped its planned screening of the Maltese Double Cross – a documentary blaming Iran not Libya. I wondered why. And as Assistant Editor of the Scotsman at the time, I felt an obligation to DO something. After all, Lockerbie, still fresh in Scottish minds six years after the bombing -- was the biggest ever terrorist atrocity on British soil. And back then, there was still no agreement about who was to blame.
So I suggested to the then Scotsman editor Andrew Jaspan that we should arrange to show it instead – and he agreed. That was just the start of the hard work to make it legally possible!
I sat with a reporter for a full week checking claims made by the controversial American film-maker Allan Frankovich.
Scotsman lawyers needed sight of relevant documents and sworn affidavits from interviewees – including one that was finally faxed through by a witness living in hiding in Sweden. After three small edits, the film was "legalled" and ready but our booked venue in Edinburgh had suddenly discovered a double-booking. The Glasgow Film Theatre stepped in -- though they too received phone calls threatening legal action from men purporting to be lawyers for one of the American Drug Enforcement Agency officials named in the film.
Cuts were still being made in London to the second half of the 162 minute long film the night before the GFT screening – so I asked the stalwart Lockerbie relative Dr Jim Swire to bring the final version of the second "reel" north with him the following morning. Jim was at the first screening of the film by Tam Dalyell in the House of Commons – a private showing protected from possible libel claims by parliamentary privilege. It was a big night for Jim – whose daughter Flora died on Flight Pan Am 103 – one of the first big opportunities for British relatives to raise questions about the government's account of what happened the night those 270 people died.
After the event, and doubtless after a few long-postponed and well-deserved jars, Jim sat with a blanket at the open front door of the friend's house he was staying in to make sure he didn't miss the despatch rider who arrived at 3am with the completed film.
As Jim was (hopefully) heading north the next morning – these were the days before mobile phones! – I got news that the only other copy of the film held by a Human Rights Group in Birmingham had been destroyed in a mysterious overnight fire. Not one to believe in conspiracies, I was starting to think twice about travelling from Edinburgh to Glasgow with the first of the large BETA cassettes solo. But weirdly, although this was such a huge story and maybe even a moment of history, no-one could be spared from the "shop floor" to go with me, except for the stalwart Stephen Breen who had worked through every inch of the film to verify its claims. I stuck the film in a rucksack reckoning a casual appearance might be the safest strategy.
Jim appeared and told me the GFT was full of "spooks." Certainly there were a lot of eye-contact avoiding men about, who left the second the film was over – not waiting for the question and answer session with Jim Swire. Everyone involved at the Scotsman held our collective breath. Would the Scotsman, as one prominent journalist had warned, find itself frozen out of Crown Office briefings for a decade? Would we be sued, contradicted, even disappeared?
In fact next to nothing happened, and the cassettes are still sitting on my bookshelf. The Edinburgh Film Festival awarded Best Documentary to the Double Cross and bizarrely, Frankovich himself died of a heart attack three years later at the relatively young age of 56.
The unsayable had been said – that Palestinians backed by Iran may have been responsible for Lockerbie. Like all well-formed conspiracy theories it shook faith in the conventional explanation but didn't offer a full-proof alternative. And despite the emergence of key bits of information since then, there still is none.
That's why I wrote today's Scotsman article, recalling the saga of showing the film (the year before Channel Four in fact) and calling for an inquiry now to hear all the evidence that's been uncovered in the 21 years since the crash.
If anyone thinks the demise through cancer of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi will end this story – they're badly mistaken. See http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/lesleyriddoch/Lesley-Riddoch-Fate-of-Lockerbie.5558810.jp