Scotland

'I'm still getting to know my son who died at Lockerbie'

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionCarol King-Eckersley is building a complete picture of her son's life

Carol King-Eckersley is on "a quest" to piece together a picture of the life of the son she never knew who died in the Lockerbie bombing almost 30 years ago.

Kenneth Bissett was one of the 270 people killed in what remains the deadliest terrorist attack to take place in the UK.

It was almost 25 years after his death that his birth mother Carol found out her son was on Pan Am flight 103 when it exploded over southern Scotland in 1988.

Image caption Ken Bissett was just 21 when he died in the Lockerbie bombing

As an unmarried mum in 1967, Carol had given her newborn son up for adoption and promised not to interfere in his life.

Ken was among 35 Syracuse University students who died on the flight home for Christmas after a term in London.

He had been due to fly home a few days earlier but stayed in London for a 21st birthday party arranged by friends.

Image caption Carol King gave her son up for adoption in 1967

It would not be until her husband died in 2012 that Carol decided to search for the son she had given up at birth when she was just 19.

Her hopes of a reunion with her long-lost son were soon dashed when she discovered his name on a remembrance page for those killed in the Lockerbie bombing.

Since BBC Scotland first revealed her story five years ago, Carol has been trying to meet as many people as possible who had a connection to her son.

Image caption Carol gave up Ken for adoption soon after he was born

In an interview to mark the 30th anniversary of the tragedy, Carol told how she had made contact with Ken's cousins and former classmates.

She said: "I'm building a more complete picture.

"He is so real to me. He becomes more real to me with every person we meet who knew him.

"He's becoming a more complete person."

As part of her journey to find out about her son, Carol travelled from her home in Portland, Oregon, to London, Edinburgh and Lockerbie to learn more about his life and his last moments.

Image caption The Lockerbie bombing caused the death of 270 people

In Lockerbie, she met Colin Dorrance, who was an 18-year-old local police officer when he was called out on the night of the disaster.

He took her to the major crash sites including Tundergarth, where the jumbo jet's nose cone came down and Rosebank Crescent where her son fell.

Carol said Colin Dorrance had become her "Scottish son".

He is one of five cyclists who took part in a transatlantic challenge ahead of the 30th anniversary.

Image caption Colin Dorrance pictured now and during his earlier days in the force. He was the youngest officer on duty at Lockerbie

The final leg took the cyclists 600 miles from Washington DC to Syracuse University in time for its annual remembrance service for the victims, which Carol is also attending.

She also met Kim Cirillo Wickham who was one of Ken's roommates while he was staying in London.

Kim took the photo of Ken in a blue jumper which is one of Carol's favourite possessions.

Image caption Kim lived with Ken during his time in London
Image caption Kim and Carol met for the first time

Kim told BBC Scotland she lived with Ken and three other Syracuse boys.

She said: "These were my friends and I will remember them every day of my life."

Carol had a long conversations with Kim before they finally met and found out new things she did know about her son.

Image caption Ken Bissett died two days after his 21st birthday

"She said he was smart and then she said he was really classy, kind of elegant," Carol says.

"She would come home from class and he might be on the couch smoking a cigarette and enjoying a glass of port. I didn't know he smoked and I didn't know about the port."

Carol says she was pleased to learn that her son did a lot with his 21 years and two days.

"It was a short life but packed," she says.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption All 259 passengers and crew on board the plane died. Another 11 people died when the wreckage fell onto the Scottish town

"He was unconditionally loved. He was able to do what his talent and his intelligence and his thoughts took him to do and he was able to be himself. Not many get that chance."

Carol added: "I'm still on my quest. I'm still finding out more. It's an incredible journey.

"I have made more wonderful friends than I ever could have imagined."

As the 30th anniversary approaches on 21 December, Carol says she is saddened by all the lives that were lost that day.

"It's sad that this world has been denied 270 incredible lives who could have made it a much nicer place."

Related Topics

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites