My lost son: Carol King Eckersley retraces Lockerbie victim's life
- 17 August 2014
- From the section Scotland
A mother who only learned last year that her son was killed in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing has made an emotional visit to the town.
Carol King Eckersley travelled from America to see the spot where the child she gave up for adoption fell from the sky when his plane blew up.
She also laid flowers in the remembrance garden in the town's Dryfesdale cemetery for the first time.
She wept and said: "It shouldn't have happened. It just shouldn't have."
Mrs Eckersley's son, Kenneth Bissett, was one of the 270 people killed in what remains the deadliest terrorist attack in the UK.
It took almost 25 years for her to find out he was on Pan Am flight 103 when it exploded over southern Scotland.
As an unmarried mum in 1967, Carol King, as she was then, gave her newborn son for adoption and promised not to interfere in his life.
At the time she felt it would have been socially unacceptable for her to bring him up on her own.
For decades, she longed to know what had become of her only baby and secretly hoped for a reunion.
It was only when she decided to search for him in April 2013, after her husband passed away, that she discovered the awful truth.
She typed his name into a computer and found his details on a memorial website.
"I just said 'my God, my baby's dead'," Mrs Eckersley told the BBC in December 2013.
Her heartbreaking story made headlines around the world and prompted some who had known Ken to share their memories and photographs with her.
"That's all I have," she said.
"I can never touch him. I can never hear his voice. The things that mothers always take for granted."
Ken was among 35 Syracuse University students who died on the flight home for Christmas after a term in London.
It was the 21st of December 1988 - two days after his 21st birthday.
His birth mother has now travelled from her home in Portland, Oregon, to London, Edinburgh and Lockerbie to learn more about his life and his last moments.
In Portland, she met one of his best friends from high school, Mike Nicholas, who told her of Ken's love of jazz and Bruce Springsteen.
Mr Nicholas has named one of his children in Ken's memory.
In London, Mrs Eckersley met a photography lecturer, Ian Hessenberg, who remembers Ken as a "lovely cheeky boy" with a "very dry sense of humour".
She broke down in tears as he showed her where Ken had lived and studied in the last months of his life.
"I felt that he was right there with me and I was walking with him, not just where he had walked," she said.
"I felt him so strongly at one point, I thought I might pass out."
In Edinburgh, she visited the castle to have her photograph taken on the same spot where her son posed for a picture shortly before his death.
The most emotional part of her journey was the time she spent in Lockerbie.
"I have knots in my stomach," she said as she travelled to the town by train.
Asked why she was putting herself through such a painful experience, she said: "He had a short life. I want to find out as much about those 21 years as I can.
"So how can I not do this?"
In Lockerbie, a local police officer, who was called out on the night of the disaster, became her guide.
Colin Dorrance took her to the major crash sites including Tundergarth, where the jumbo jet's nose cone came down and Rosebank Crescent where her son fell.
As she peered into the garden where Ken's body was found, a large aeroplane flew overhead.
Mrs Eckersley looked up at the sky and said: "It's so damned far to fall."
In the Lockerbie remembrance garden, laying flowers for the child she never got the chance to know, the enormity of the tragedy overwhelmed her.
"All the horror and the sorrow just kind of all came together," she said.
"At one point I thought 'I just want to wail and wail and not stop'. But I was afraid I would not be able to stop."
There are parallels with the story of Philomena Lee whose search for the son she lost to adoption was made into a film starring Dame Judi Dench.
Unlike Carol King Eckersley, Philomena had no choice in the adoption of her son.
But both women traced their boys on the internet only to discover they were dead.
"Even though the treatment of the person can be different, the emotions are the same," Mrs Eckersley said.
"The deep longing for your child is the same."
Ken Bissett's mum is almost certainly the last person in the world to learn of a loved one lost at Lockerbie.
More than 25 years after his death, she is still in the early stages of grieving for him.
"I gave Ken an adoption for what I thought were all the best reasons," Mrs Eckersley said.
"So he would have a home with a mother and a father who loved each other and could love him.
"But I didn't know what it was going to do to me and how it would affect me for the rest of my life," she said.
Carol King Eckersley's remarkable journey is documented in "My Lost Son" to be screened on BBC1 Scotland at 7.30pm on Monday 18 August 2014.
It will also be shown subsequently on the BBC News Channel and BBC World.