I found body in my hedge & saw passenger on roof still strapped to chair after Lockerbie bombing nearly took out my home | The Sun

PETER Giesecke was enjoying a quiet night in watching Michael Aspel’s This is Your Life on TV when he heard a deep rumbling noise – before the windows blew out of his house.

It was December 21, 1988 and as a shocked Peter stepped outside his home in Lockerbie, Dumfriesshire, he was greeted by an apocalyptic scene.

He could see at least 25 bodies – including one poor girl in his hedge.

Though he didn’t know it at the time, he was looking at the tragic results of the Lockerbie bombing, which saw Pan Am Flight 103 blown up by a Semtex bomb hidden in a suitcase and detonated at 31,000 feet.

All 259 people on board were killed, along with 11 others on the ground.

Now, nearly 35 years on from the tragedy, Peter is speaking ahead of a new ITV documentary, Return to Lockerbie With Lorraine Kelly, which airs tonight.



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Peter, now 70, tells the Sun: “I heard a noise and then a crash. I went outside to my back garden.

“I just couldn’t believe what I saw. It was like a horror movie.

“I actually found the girl in my garden. She was over my hedge. I thought, ‘Is she dead or is she not?’

“I was so scared that night and I can still remember it all.”

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Lorraine Kelly was one of the first TV reporters to arrive at the scene after the disaster
Peter shows Lorraine Kelly the spot where he found Lindsey Otenasek in his garden

The plane had taken off just half an hour earlier from London Heathrow when the bomb went off, creating a lethal fireball.

Recalling the devastation he witnessed that night, the retired Royal Mail vehicle technician reveals he saw the bodies of “25 people across from me”.

Peter says: “On the roof of one house a passenger was still strapped into a chair.

“The smell of aviation fuel, I can still smell that.”

He adds: “My three kids were in bed at the time. They came down the stairs crying.

"I told them to keep out of the way of the windows while I fetched a torch.”

'Like a horror movie'

Peter made it out of his back door and was confronted with the broken remains of the aircraft, which had come close to wiping out his Park Place home, where he still lives with wife Susan, 57.

He found the young woman, who he later discovered was Lindsey Otenasek, a 21-year-old Syracuse University student from the US, lying face down.

She was wearing a blue jumper and only had one shoe on.

Months after the disaster, Lindsey’s mum Peggy travelled to Lockerbie, Dumfriesshire, and tracked down Peter.

On the roof of one house a passenger was still strapped into a chair

He recalls: “She knocked on the door and asked: ‘Are you Peter? I believe you found my daughter in your garden?’

"I said, ‘Oh yes, I can show you exactly where I found her.’

“She said it was important for her to come where her daughter was found. It was her final resting place.”

Peter says he gave her a pebble to take back home to remind her of the place her daughter was found.

'Lifelong bond'

Speaking in 2018, Peggy said: “I will never forget meeting Peter because my darling daughter was found in his garden.

“She had been so excited about coming home for Christmas. She was my youngest, a lovely girl who was so fun loving and wanted to teach deaf children.

“I remember I’d been baking ahead of her arrival and our home looked like Christmas and smelled like Christmas as we waited for our family to be with us again.”

It wasn’t until Peter met second wife Susan, a sales assistant, in 2011, that the two families became close.

Susan managed to find the Otenaseks on Facebook and sent a message to Lindsey’s brother Rick, who also features in the film.

They have kept in regular contact over the years. Peter says: “I always send an email on the anniversary and a Christmas card.”

And last July, the couple travelled to Baltimore, Maryland, where Lindsey, who was the youngest of six children and dreamt of becoming a teacher, was from.

Peter says: “We met all her brothers and sisters. Rick showed us around. He took us everywhere.

"We went to Syracuse University and the cemetery.”

They also visited her mum Peggy, 90, who is now in a nursing home.

Peter says: “She said she had been looking forward to us coming across. She was holding out for us coming.”

And he says of Rick: “He’s just like a brother now. It’s lovely. I’m hoping they will come across next year.”

Susan says: “I think it has been a comfort to both Peter and Rick, the whole family.

"There’s good that has come out of it. The bonds we have made are lifelong.”

International controversy

The bombing was Europe’s largest terror attack but Lockerbie was never the intended target.

Had it not been for a delayed departure, the bomb, concealed inside a radio cassette recorder, would have exploded over the Atlantic.

Peter says: “And nobody would have been found at all.”

In Sherwood Crescent, the explosion from the falling aircraft wiped out houses and created a huge crater. In total, 11 residents died there.

Peter says: “I lost people I knew there.”

Former Libyan intelligence agent Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi was sentenced to life in a Scottish prison in 2001 for the Lockerbie bombing.

His 2009 release on compassionate grounds after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer sparked international controversy.

He maintained his innocence until his death in Libya in 2012.

Last December it emerged that another Libyan man, Abu Agila Mohammad Masud, is reportedly in US custody after being accused of building the bomb that destroyed the flight.

He has pleaded not guilty to three charges relating to the attack before a Washington court and is believed to be awaiting trial.

Peter says of the reason he has decided to speak out: “Some people say put it to sleep but that’s not right. Young people have got to know what happened that night and understand it.”

He says he feels “a lot of responsibility” because “I found that wee girl there.” He added: “I could not imagine what it would have been like for her up there.”

In the film, he shows Lorraine, one of the first TV reporters to arrive at the scene after the disaster, the spot in his garden where he lays a wreath every year on the anniversary in Lindsey’s memory.

The documentary also features Renee Boulanger whose sister Nicole’s story made headlines across the world after her mum was filmed sobbing at JFK airport upon hearing the news that her daughter was dead.

Speaking in the film, Renee says: “I turned on the television and that’s when I saw my mother on the floor of the airport screaming ‘My baby!’ and my dad was trying to pick her up.

"The most painful moment of my mother and father’s life was captured and shown all over the world.”

Survivor's guilt

Nicole’s best friend Kim Wickham, reveals in the film that she was due to fly on the plane with Nicole but changed her plans at the last minute.

Renee tells Lorraine she turned to alcohol and drugs to numb her grief, while Kim reveals she has suffered from survivor’s guilt.

Kim says in the film: “I visited Nicole that morning and I’ll never forget it.

“I gave her a Christmas present so she could listen on the plane – a cassette tape with musical theatre songs – and I was in Germany when I found out.

"My Grandmother called and I said, ‘What’s going on? Why are you calling?’ And she said, ‘Your plane crashed.’”

I kind of wished I was dead because I thought I deserved to be. Why was it Nicole out of anybody? Why wasn’t it me? I felt so guilty

She becomes tearful as she continues: “And right away I was like, ‘what are you talking about?’ I knew Nicole was on the plane.

"We turned the TV on and all we saw was flames.”

Five years ago the two women, who have both been diagnosed with PTSD because of it, travelled to Lockerbie.

Explaining why she wanted to make the journey, Kim said: “I was struggling a lot. I kind of wished I was dead because I thought I deserved to be.

"Why was it Nicole out of anybody? Why wasn’t it me? I felt so guilty.

“It was overwhelming for a very long time and I think I was desperate to heal.”

And it seems that the kindness of Lockerbie residents like Peter has helped both families to come to terms with their devastating loss.

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Renee says: “When I came here and talked about it, I felt comfortable because they knew exactly what I was going through.”

Return To Lockerbie With Lorraine Kelly airs on ITV on Wednesday November 15 at 9pm and is available to stream on ITVX.

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