South Scotland

Lockerbie girl mystery 'laid to rest'

Bryony Owen with her mum Yvonne
Image caption Bryony Owen and her mum Yvonne both died in the bombing

For almost 30 years, a police officer who witnessed the aftermath of the Lockerbie bombing has been haunted by a single incident from a night of horror.

Colin Dorrance was on duty outside the town hall when a farmer drove down from the hills in a pick-up truck with debris from Pan Am 103 and, placed in the front seat, the body of a young girl.

The child was the first victim to arrive at what became a makeshift mortuary, but the young constable never discovered who she was, until a chance meeting with the farmer's son finally solved the mystery.

A terrorist bomb destroyed the airliner on 21 December, 1988, killing all 259 passengers and crew on board. Another 11 people died when the wreckage fell onto the Scottish town which gave the atrocity its name.

At 18, Colin Dorrance was the youngest police officer on duty that night and has never forgotten the child who was brought to him by the farmer.

He had carried the child into the town hall.

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

"It was the body of a child he'd found in a field at the back of his farm," he said. "It was a young child under the age of five. It looked as though they were asleep, it wasn't obviously injured, and it was just a shock to realise it was a passenger from Pan Am 103.

"At the time it all happened so fast. There were hundreds of passengers brought into the town hall. It was just a case of moving on then, but in years since it was something that bothered me. It was such an extreme, intense moment."

Colin chose not to use his position in the police to find out who the child was, feeling that it would have been unprofessional to do so.

"It took me 25 years to find out who the farmer was but I gathered that he suffered quite terribly as a result of what he experienced that night, and I didn't want to awaken any bad feelings, so I left it alone."

Like many people in Lockerbie, Colin has formed a close bond with relatives of the American victims, taking them on tours of the area so they can better understand what happened to their loved ones.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Pan Am 103 was blown up over Lockerbie, killing all 259 passengers and crew on board. Another 11 people died when the wreckage fell onto the Scottish town

It was on such a trip on Friday that Colin finally discovered who the child was.

He'd gone to the farm where the body of 21-year-old student Lynne Hartunian was found, along with many other passengers from the plane.

"Fate just fell into place," Colin said. "The farmer was there and it was his father who'd brought the child to the town hall.

"He said it was a child by the name of Bryony Owen who was 20 months old and it had affected his father very badly over the years.

"The mystery if that's what you want to call it was laid to rest."

Bryony was travelling to the United States with her mother Yvonne Owen from Wales, to spend Christmas in Boston. They were laid to rest in a single coffin in the West Wales village of Pendine, Carmarthenshire.

Image caption Colin Dorrance (centre) is taking part in the fundraising bike ride to mark the 30th anniversary of the Lockerbie disaster

Now retired, the 48-year-old is one of five men representing the emergency services who are taking part in a transatlantic fundraising bike ride to mark the 30th anniversary.

On Saturday, accompanied by 70 supporters, they cycled from Lockerbie to Edinburgh Castle. The next stage will see the group cycling 600 miles from the Lockerbie memorial at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia to Syracuse University, which lost 35 students in the bombing.

Speaking after he arrived at Edinburgh Castle, Colin said: "I was thinking about Bryony today.

"There's just a sense of peace, a sense of conclusion to it.

"I now know the person I need to remember."

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