THE Lockerbie bomber has less than four weeks to live, a leading cancer expert has claimed.
Karol Sikora was one of three specialists who refused to concur with the prognosis by a prison doctor last August that Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi had just three months to live when he was released last year.
But over the weekend he said that information received from Libya on the state of Megrahi's prostate cancer suggested he would be dead within a month.
The only man convicted of the murder of 270 people when Pan Am flight 103 was blown up over Lockerbie on 21 December 1988 has survived almost eight months since his release.
At the time justice secretary Kenny MacAskill said he was freeing the Libyan on compassionate grounds because he had less than three months to live.
Only the prison doctor was then willing to back up this prognosis.
But after receiving a hero's welcome in Tripoli, Megrahi appeared to respond well to chemotherapy and recent reportssuggested he had made a remarkable recovery. However, over the weekend Mr Sikora, who gets regular updates from Tripoli, said Megrahi is now in the last stages of his cancer.
Reports have said that the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, liver, kidneys and pelvis.
Megrahi, who celebrated his 58th birthday last week, is reportedly no longer receiving chemotherapy because the cancer is no longer responding to it.
He is said to have had his hospital visits stopped and is remaining at home with his family and friends. "I say he will be dead within four weeks," said Mr Sikora, the medical director of CancerPartners and Dean of Buckingham University medical school.
"My understanding is that he is bed-bound, at home, not going to hospital, receiving palliative care and no active treatment at all."
He suggested that the bomber had lived longer than some expected because of the "psychological boost" of being at home with his family.
Abdurrham Swessi, the Libyan Consul General in Glasgow, confirmed that the bomber's health had rapidly deteriorated. "It is much, much worse," he said.
There were private concerns in the Scottish Government of the potential impact of Megrahi surviving more than a year after his release, making a mockery of the Scottish justice system and having a political impact on the SNP's bid to win power again in 2011.
Even if the new reports are true, Mr MacAskill is still likely to face questions over his release of Megrahi who has survived longer than any other prisoner freed in Scotland for health reasons.
Suggestions have been made that efforts to tap into Middle Eastern capital funds by SNP ministers may have been linked to the release. There were also several prominent Nationalists in the group lobbying for his release on the grounds that they believed he was innocent of the atrocity.
However, questions have not only been asked about the SNP's motives in releasing the bomber.
The process was kicked off by Tony Blair's prisoner transfer "deal in the desert" with Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi which – despite being rejected by Mr MacAskill – was done to stop Libya developing nuclear weapons and open up the country to British companies.