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
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
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
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.