THE Lockerbie bomber's health has worsened "very considerably" and he is desperate to get home to Libya to die surrounded by his family, it has been announced.
Doctors treating Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, 57, yesterday reported his aggressive prostate cancer had reached the terminal stage, and the prognosis was "extremely limited".
Maggie Scott, the Libyan's QC, was given formal leave by the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh to abandon his appeal against his conviction for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 and the murders of 270 people.
Ms Scott said it was Megrahi's belief that abandoning the appeal would assist in the early determination of his applications to the Scottish ministers for either a transfer to prison in Libya, or release on compassionate grounds.
The father of one of the victims was dismayed that evidence that might have been heard at an appeal would not reach the public domain. The Rev John Mosey said: "We are back where we started 21 years ago, asking for a wide-ranging inquiry into all aspects of this disaster."
Professor Robert Black, QC, a veteran Lockerbie commentator who believes Megrahi should have been acquitted at his trial, said the Libyan's conviction would remain a cloud over Scottish justice. Ms Scott had told the court: "My client's condition has now reached the terminal stage … and has recently worsened very considerably. Up-to-date medical reports from three eminent experts are all clear in the view that he has a very aggressive cancer, his condition is grave and the prognosis is 'extremely limited'.
"The appellant is now very weak. He is suffering from severe pain and is in distress. His absolute priority is, what little time he has left, to spent it with his family and to die united with them in his homeland."
Under the prisoner transfer agreement between the UK and Libya, a transfer cannot take place if any court proceedings remain active. While Megrahi has dropped his appeal, the Crown still has an appeal against his jail term, arguing that a minimum of 27 years under a life sentence is unduly lenient for his offence.
The court heard the Lord Advocate, Elish Angiolini, QC, had yet to decide whether to continue the sentence appeal. She wanted to see if Megrahi was allowed to abandon his appeal, and to hear the outcome of his prisoner transfer request. She undertook not to prolong the transfer request process, and would give "prompt consideration" to the issue of the appeal.
Rev Mosey, who lost his daughter, Helga, 19, in the bombing, said:
"It is a sad day. We have lost the opportunity to hear the evidence which the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (which sanctioned an appeal) thought was worth putting forward."