Lockerbie victim’s mother on quest to ‘discover’ son she never knew

Carol King-Eckersley's son was one of the 270 people killed in the 1988 bombing of Pan-Am flight 103 over Lockerbie. Picture: BBC
Carol King-Eckersley's son was one of the 270 people killed in the 1988 bombing of Pan-Am flight 103 over Lockerbie. Picture: BBC
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It has been a bittersweet journey by one parent to discover the son she gave away, but who was taken from her forever by the worst terrorist attack in Britain’s history.

Now, the mother of one of the victims of the Lockerbie bombing has spoken of how the son she gave up for adoption in 1967 has become “so real” to her after retracing his steps.

Carol King-Eckersley was just 19 and unmarried when she made the difficult decision to part ways with her newborn son, Kenneth, who was adopted by parents in New York.

He went on to thrive, attending Cornell University and eventually enrolling in Syracuse University’s foreign study course in London, yet his mother stayed true to her promise not to interfere in his life.

When Kenneth boarded Pan Am Flight 103 to return home on 21 December 1988, he was among 270 people who lost their lives, yet Carol remained oblivious to his death until 2012.

Having decided to search for details about her son, she found only heartbreak after finding his name on a rememberance page for Lockerbie’s dead.

With her hopes of a reunion dashed, Carol underwent grief counselling and, as part of the process, decided on the next best thing – to travel through Kenneth’s past.

In an interview with BBC Scotland to mark the 30th anniversary of Lockerbie, she revealed how she has made contact with Kenneth’s cousins and former classmates, and is “building a more complete picture” of him.

Having travelled to Lockerbie itself as well as Edinburgh and London, she has also learned about his last days, visiting the crash site with Colin Dorrance, who was an 18-year-old police officer on duty on the night of the disaster.

Carol’s journey also led her to Kim Cirillo Wickham, one of Kenneth’s roommates during his time in London. She took a photograph of him wearing a blue jumper, an image which is among Carol’s most prized possessions.

“She said he was smart and then she said he was really classy, kind of elegant,” Carol recalled of their conversations.

Carol, from Portland, Oregon, said she is “finding out more” about her son, adding: “It was short life but packed.

“He was unconditionally loved. He was able to do what his talent and his intelligence and his thoughts took him to do and he was able to be 
himself. Not many get that chance.

“It’s sad that this world has been denied 270 incredible lives who could have made it a much nicer place.”