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  1. 17. QUESTION
    Research the Pan Am Flight 103 (Lockerbie Disaster) Investigation.

    Review this case study from the perspective of a forensic or crime scene investigator and compile a paper. The paper should explain what you feel is relevant in this case to the crime scene and forensic techniques and methodologies.


Subject Law and governance Pages 4 Style APA


Pan Am Flight 103 (Lockerbie Disaster) Investigation

Crime scene investigators (CSIs) have an instrumental role to play in ensuring that they gather as much information as possible about a crime scene. The aim of information gathering is to prevent the destruction of valuable and fragile evidence which could be used in crime scene analysis (Pepper, 2010). Additionally, crime scene investigation aids in ensuring that the integrity of the crime scene is maintained and that only minimal contamination of evidence happens. Forensic scientists use various scientific techniques and methodologies to not only preserve crime scene, but also trace evidence and ultimately help in solving crimes and other legal disputes. Forensic experts and crime scene investigators work hand in hand to ensure that all relevant materials and evidence are documented and analyzed and hence, a resolution of a criminal case (Mundorff, 2012). As such, in a crime scene, they ought to observe and document aspects that they feel are critical to the resolution of a crime. This paper provides an explanation of the aspects from the Pan Am Flight 103 case which are relevant to the crime scene as well as forensic techniques and methodologies.

Lockerbie Disaster Case Study

On the 21st day of December 1988, the world experienced one of the most tragic incidences in the realm of civil aviation. In specific, a Pan Am Flight 103 which was bound to New York from Lockerbie (Scotland) blew up in the sky only 38 minutes after takeoff. The Pan Am Flight had intended to fly from Frankfurt to Detroit via London and finally to New York (Ushynskyi, 2009). However, after flying 31,000ft over Lockerbie, an explosive (bomb) was detonated aboard the plane resulting in the death of all the 259 passengers and crew as well as the residents on the ground, hence bringing the death toll to 270. A joint investigation by the Scottish police and the FBI ensued and found fragments of a circuit board as well as a timer. As a result, it was concluded that the cause of the explosion was a bomb explosion. It was later found that the bomb came from a Semtex plastic explosives which had been concealed in a Toshiba cassette recorder hidden in a Samsonite suitcase (Ushynskyi, 2009). After a three-year investigation, Libyan intelligence officer, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, was found culpable for the 270 counts of murder and jailed for life.

Aspects in the Case Study Relevant to the Crime Scene

From the perspective of forensic or crime scene investigator, I feel that there are various elements in the Pan Am Flight 103 case which are relevant to the crime scene. One of the aspects which I feel is relevant is the examination of the crime scene. In specific, according to Pepper (2010), a crime scene examination entails the walk-through of the area along the trail of the crime and any apparent actions associated with the happening of the crime. The trail is in most cases marked by the existence of physical evidence. In the case of the Pan Am Flight 103, the aspect of crime scene examination is important in establishing where the number and types of physical evidence present and their location. In specific, it entails the examination of any residues of the Improvised Explosive Device (IED), the Toshiba radio cassette recorder and any chemicals which could be used to identify the type of bomb and the area where the bomb was placed in the plane. Additionally, the identities of the victims of the explosion should be examined, the clothes the wore, their designs and fibers, and any other personal identification documents.

I feel that documenting the materials found in the crime scene in the case study is vital to ensuring that all evidence is well recorded and preserved for forensic analysis. Various methods could be used in the documentation process including the taking of notes, videotaping the crime scene, and taking still photographs. Pepper (2010) argues that a videotape is key to providing the perspective on the crime scene layout which is not easily perceived on the photographs and the sketches. One of the aspects to be videotaped and photographed is the nature of the damage of the plane including the debris and all materials from the plane which could be recovered. Additionally, videotaping would show the location of the victims and their belongings and can be used in the identification of any pieces of evidence at a later date. Documenting the crime scene using such methods will ensure that no piece of evidence is lost and that the scene can be analyzed later to make inferences and connections.

Aspects in the Case Study Relevant to Forensic Techniques and Methodologies

Apart from the relevance of various aspects of the case study to the crime scene, other items and aspects are vital to forensic techniques and methodologies. Notably, forensic techniques are those steps and procedures deployed in the preservation and protection of the crime scene (Mundorff, 2012). One of the aspects which I feel is relevant in the case study is the preservation of the chain of custody. In specific, everything in the crime scene should be documented including those present (victims), the plane debris and wreckage, personal belongings of the victims, and other materials which can be found in the crime scene. Additionally, trace evidence is vital in the current case to forensics. In specific, trace evidence is the presence of any items which could provide information about the location of a suspect. In the current case, the trace evidence should be gathered from the clothing design and fibers (such as the Yorkie 1705 pair of trousers) and any residues such as the Toshiba cassette recorder and the Samsonite suitcase. Such aspects would be key as the forensic scientists will need to use them to make any inferences and connection as to the cause of the crime and the perpetrator.

I feel that the remains of the explosive are relevant and thus securing the printed circuit board was vital. Upon establishing that the cause of the explosion was not a mechanical failure but rather an explosion, the debris which emanated from the explosion is relevant in establishing not only the impact of the explosion but the strengths of the bomb used in the explosion. Additionally, the chemicals emitted from the explosion are vital in gauging the producer of the IED materials and possibly the person who organized the crime. A post-blast investigation should entail the tracing of any amounts of explosive residue and hence vital in the determination of the type of explosive. DNA profiling of the victims of the explosion in the crime scene is vital in not only identifying them but also in establishing those involved in the blast and any possible perpetrators among the victims. Identifying the species of individuals who were in the plane will be key for forensic experts in the quest to get to the perpetrator of the bombing. I feel that such aspects are relevant in ensuring that all elements of the crime scene are documented and that every piece of evidence is well recorded.

In conclusion, crime scene investigators and forensic experts work in tandem to ensure that crimes are resolved. One of the crimes which will remain in the history of civil aviation is the explosion of Pan Am Flight 103 at Lockerbie in Scotland resulting in the death of 270 people. An investigation into the case by Scottish police and FBI agents led to the conviction of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, a Libyan intelligence officer. From the perspective of a forensic or crime scene investigator, I feel that various aspects in the case are relevant to the crime scene and forensic techniques and methodologies. In specific, crime scene investigation and documentation are vital in ensuring that the physical evidence is not contaminated and all relevant materials are preserved. Additionally, the use of videography and photography is key to the documentation and preservation of key information related to the crime scene. Using DNA profiling, preserving the chain of custody at the scene, and using trace evidence is relevant as it ensures that any residues of the bomb and clothing fiber of the victims are preserved for further analysis.



Mundorff, A. Z. (2012). Integrating forensic anthropology into disaster victim identification. Forensic science, medicine, and pathology8(2), 131-139.

Pepper, I. (2010). Crime Scene Investigation: Methods And Procedures: Methods and Procedures. McGraw-Hill Education (UK).

Ushynskyi, S. (2009). Pan Am flight 103 investigation and lessons learned. Aviation13(3), 78-86.














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