Son search ends in Lockerbie grief

Salisbury Journal: A documentary has been made marking 25 years since Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie A documentary has been made marking 25 years since Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie

A woman who decided to search for the son she gave up for adoption almost 50 years ago discovered her only child was killed in the Lockerbie bombing.

Carol King Eckersley, from Oregon in the US, had dreamt of a reunion with Ken Bissett but instead is now grieving for her son who died in the 1988 atrocity, two days after his 21st birthday.

She tells her story in a BBC Scotland documentary marking 25 years since Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie.

Mrs King Eckersley, 65, began searching for the son she gave up as a teenager earlier this year. After losing her husband she went online to try to trace Ken and found a familiar-looking face on a site featuring students from Syracuse University, New York.

She told the documentary: "I looked and I said 'my God, it's him'.

"It was his birth date, he looked just like my dad. I looked in the mirror and I said 'he looks like me'.

"I called my sister and I said 'but why are they only showing a part of his life? They've got December 1967 but then they've got December 21 1988. That's not right'.

"And it finally dawned on me that it was right and I just said 'my God, my baby's dead'.

"I realised that it was the Lockerbie Pan Am 103 remembrance page and I said 'My God, he was on that plane'.

"Two hundred and seventy people died in that tragedy and one of those happened to be the only child I ever had."

Thirty-five Syracuse University students were among the victims of the terrorist bombing four days before Christmas.

Ken had been returning to the US from a term spent studying in London.

He had been told he was adopted but had never met his birth mother, the daughter of a school principal who felt it would have been socially unacceptable for her to keep him.

She said: "I gave up Ken for adoption at birth and even though I was told his name I never looked for him because I had given my word.

"There was always the hope and dream that some day there would come a knock on the door and I would open it and there would be this tall, handsome gentleman saying 'hi, I guess you're my mum'."

Ken's adoptive parents are now both dead but left a detailed account of his childhood in Syracuse University's archives, where his mother saw a baby picture for the first time.

She said: "I had never seen him, except wrapped up in a yellow blanket on the day we left hospital."

She added: "In a way, I'm going backwards...because the getting to know him makes it sharper, makes the regret deeper. He was an incredible artist. I saw comic strips that he drew when he was 11 years old."

She described the feeling of never having felt like a proper parent as a result of giving up her son. She said: "I have carried that stigma around. It's just a real regret that I'll never, in this life, see him."

Libyan Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was convicted of the bombing in January 2001 and given a life sentence. After a cancer diagnosis he was released from a Scottish jail on compassionate grounds and died in Tripoli last year.

Living with Lockerbie will be screened on BBC One Scotland on Monday at 10.35pm.

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