The English father of a woman killed in the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, 26 years ago reached out to the victims’ families of MH17, assuring them that their loved ones didn’t suffer when the Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down over eastern Ukraine last week.
Jim Swire, of Chipping Campden, Gloucester, tried to comfort the families and told them what to expect should they choose to see the bodies of their kin in a letter written to the Telegraph. His daughter, Flora, was among the 270 people killed in the Lockerbie bombing.
“Some relatives will want to see the bodies of their loved ones, some will not. They should be given the choice, but in the knowledge that many bodies will be dismembered, and that any recognizably retrieved will show the bloated features of rapid depressurization,” he wrote. “In addition, a forensic examination will probably be required, and to perform this on so many victims will require remains to be preserved; so even a lock of hair is likely to be pungent with preservative.”
Swire warned families to tread carefully when assigning blame for the tragedy, saying governments “can massage apparent facts in ways which families may be unable to unravel.” He drew a parallel with Pan Am Flight 103, saying there was an “absence of credible claims of responsibility” for the Lockerbie bombing. It was later determined that Libyan nationals were behind Pan Am Flight 103, with then-Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi accepting responsibility for the bombing in 2003.
Ukrainian and Western intelligence sources claimed a Russian-made Buk surface-to-air missile was used by pro-Russia separatists to shoot down MH17, after the rebels mistook the passenger jet for a Ukrainian army transport aircraft.
If that is the case, Swire said, then the MH17 victims would have died too soon to suffer.
“If it turns out to be true that MH17 was hit by a Buk Soviet-era SA missile, their warheads contain about 140 times the explosive in the PA 103 bomb. It seems impossible therefore that anyone aboard could have remained aware to suffer in the aftermath,” Swire wrote to CNN.
He urged families of MH17 victims not to “lust for revenge” against whoever is responsible for shooting down the Malaysia Airlines flight.
“Lust for revenge is natural, but self-defeating, for the consequence of revenge is so often further revenge. Nor does it even bring peace of mind to the avenger,” Swire wrote. “Of course we condemn the actions of perpetrators and would rightly have them punished for what they have done, but we don't have to hate the perpetrators themselves. Imprisoned, they may emerge one day to do good.”