South Scotland

Police officer Mike Leslie recalls Lockerbie bomber arrest

Wreckage of Pan Am Flight 103 Image copyright AFP
Image caption A total of 270 people were killed when Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie in 1988

A senior police officer has spoken of the moment he arrested the man later convicted of the Lockerbie bombing.

Mike Leslie, who has retired after 30 years service, said Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was "bewildered and dazed".

It took five hours to read the arrest warrant to the Libyan intelligence officer - but he gave no reaction.

Al-Megrahi was jailed for life in 2001 for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which exploded over Lockerbie, killing 270 people.

Image copyright Bert Houston
Image caption Mike Leslie arrested Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands

He was tried at a specially convened Scottish court sitting at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands.

After serving eight years in prison, he was controversially released on compassionate grounds following a terminal cancer diagnosis.

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Mr Leslie was one of three officers from Dumfries and Galloway who were at Camp Zeist when Al-Megrahi arrived there in 1999.

He said: "I think he was pretty bewildered, dazed by the events that were unfolding in front of him.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Megrahi was convicted of mass murder in 2001

"I don't think ultimately he ever anticipated... that he would be handed over by Gaddafi.

"I actually read the warrant over to him.

"It took approximately five hours because you had to read the warrant over a line at a time, it went through an interpreter and also as part of that process, the 270 names of the victims had to be read over as well."

The former chief superintendent added: "There was never any reaction from him. It was very much staid and what you would expect from someone, I would imagine, that's been trained to give no reaction.

"But I think it boils down to the fact that he was pretty well bewildered by the fact that his country had handed him over."

Image copyright AP
Image caption Abdelbaset al-Megrahi returned to Libya after being released from prison on compassionate grounds

Three years later, after Al-Megrahi lost an appeal against his conviction, Mr Leslie escorted him to a helicopter that was to fly him from the Netherlands to Scotland.

Mr Leslie said: "The most satisfying aspect for me was the fact that having been at Lockerbie on the night it happened, the aftermath and then arresting him, reading the warrant over to him and getting the opportunity to look him in the eyes when he was sitting there in front of me.

"I got a lot of satisfaction out of that and I got a lot of satisfaction for the families, I think - the fact that justice was being brought to him.

Mr Leslie recently retired as divisional commander of Police Scotland in Dumfries and Galloway.

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