MH370: Australia′s former PM says Malaysia believed pilot downed jet in murder-suicide | News | DW | 19.02.2020
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MH370: Australia's former PM says Malaysia believed pilot downed jet in murder-suicide

Malaysian authorities thought "from very, very early on" that the MH370 jet that vanished in 2014 was crashed intentionally by its pilot, Australia's former Prime Minister Tony Abbott has claimed.

Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has claimed that Malaysian authorities believe the MH370 flight, which went missing with 239 people on board, was downed by the pilot in a murder-suicide plot. 

The Beijing-bound Malaysia Airlines jet went missing on March 8, 2014, after taking off from Kuala Lumpur.

"My understanding from the very top level of the Malaysian government is that, from very, very early on here, they thought it was a murder-suicide by the pilot," Abbott, Australia's prime minister at the time the jet went missing, said in a show that will air in full later on Wednesday.

Australia played a large role in the 12,000-square-kilometer (4,600-square-mile) search in the Indian Ocean, the largest in aviation history, which came up empty.

Read more: 'Families won't give up' on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370

"I'm not going to say who said what to whom, but let me reiterate — I want to be absolutely crystal clear — it was understood at the highest levels that this was almost certainly murder-suicide by the pilot," Abbott said in an excerpt from the Sky News documentary released ahead of broadcast.

'Never ruled out'

Responding to Abbott's comments, Najib Razak, who was the Malaysian prime minister at the time of the disappearance, confirmed that investigators had never ruled out the possibility of a murder-suicide scenario. 

Najib told the online news portal Free Malaysia Today that officials had considered such a scenario during their investigation but had chosen not to make their views public.

"It would have been deemed unfair and legally irresponsible since the black boxes and cockpit voice recorders had not been found and, hence, there was no conclusive proof whether the pilot was solely or jointly responsible," the outlet quoted Najib as saying. 

"Again I must stress that this possible scenario was never ruled out during the search effort and investigations, where no effort was spared," he said.

Cause of disappearance unknown

A roughly $130 million (€120 million) multinational underwater search of the Indian Ocean led by Malaysia, China and Australia  ended in January 2017. The US exploration firm Ocean Infinity launched a private hunt the following year, but that, too, ended after several months of scouring the seabed without success.

Watch video 02:31

Hunt for Malaysia Airlines MH370 ends – what we know

The MH370 disappearance fueled widespread public speculation. The theory that the veteran pilot, a man named Zaharie Ahmad Shah, went rogue and downed the plane has been strongly rejected by his family and friends.

A similar incident is widely believed to have taken place in 2015 in Europe, involving Germanwings Flight 9525 and its co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz. However, his father also disputed the conclusion.

Read more: Malaysia's civil aviation chief resigns over MH370 failures

A 2018 report by Malaysian authorities concluded that the investigating team was "unable to determine the real cause for the disappearance of MH370." The report, however, suggested a lapse by air traffic control and said the course of the plane was changed manually.

Earlier in February, Malaysia's government announced that officials had not yet decided whether to launch a new search for MH370, following a report that had suggested a fresh effort to find the vanished plane. In a statement, the Transport Ministry announced that it had not received evidence that would warrant a new search.

"However, the ministry will review any new evidence that it officially receives," the statement read. 

adi/msh (AFP, Reuters)

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