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Saturday 30 August 2014

Crash of flight MH370 was 'a deliberate act'

* Investigators suspect suicide mission brought down plane * Anger as families told by text that relatives are dead

Jonathan Pearlman Kuala Lumpur

Published 25/03/2014 | 02:30

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A family member of a passenger aboard Malaysia Airlines MH370 cries as she is surrounded by journalists after watching a television broadcast of a news conference, at the Lido hotel in Beijing. Photo: REUTERS/Jason Lee
A family member of a passenger aboard Malaysia Airlines MH370 cries as she is surrounded by journalists after watching a television broadcast of a news conference, at the Lido hotel in Beijing. Photo: REUTERS/Jason Lee
A family member of a passenger aboard Malaysia Airlines MH370 shouts at journalists after watching a television broadcast of a news conference, at the Lido hotel in Beijing
A family member of a passenger aboard Malaysia Airlines MH370 shouts at journalists after watching a television broadcast of a news conference, at the Lido hotel in Beijing
A ground controller guides a Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion on the tarmac upon its return from a search for Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 over the Indian Ocean, at RAAF Base Pearce north of Perth
A ground controller guides a Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion on the tarmac upon its return from a search for Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 over the Indian Ocean, at RAAF Base Pearce north of Perth

Flight MH370 was crashed into the Indian Ocean in an apparent suicide mission, well-placed sources claimed last night after Malaysia's prime minister announced that everyone on the missing aircraft had died.

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As the agonising wait to learn the fate of the flight ended with the news they most feared, some family members fainted amid an outpouring of anger and grief.

For some, the news was delivered via a text message from Malaysia Airlines.

The team investigating the Boeing 777's disappearance believes no malfunction or fire was capable of causing the aircraft's unusual flight or the disabling of its communications system before it veered wildly off course on a seven-hour silent flight into the sea.

An analysis of the flight's routing, signalling and communications shows that it was flown "in a rational way".

An official source revealed that investigators believe "this has been a deliberate act by someone on board who had to have had the detailed knowledge to do what was done. . . Nothing is emerging that points to motive."

Asked about the possibility of a malfunction or an on-board fire, the source said: "(The investigators) have gone through processes you do to get the plane where it flew to for eight hours. They point to it being flown in a rational way."

Yesterday, the worst fears of the families of the 239 people on board were realised when Najib Razak, Malaysia’s prime minister, announced that no one could have survived.

The UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch and the British satellite firm Inmarsat provided information that led to his conclusions, but Britain was also caught in the middle of an international blame-game over delays in the right search area being pinpointed.

Relatives of the missing passengers are angry that Inmarsat worked out within 24 hours that MH370 was likely to have crashed where the search is now concentrated, but it took a further 10 days for rescue teams to act on the information.

Despite no confirmed sightings of wreckage, Mr Najib revealed that new analysis by the AAIB and Inmarsat showed the plane ended its eight-hour flight on March 8 in the deep, remote waters of the Indian Ocean, about 1,500 miles west of Perth, with no survivors.

“This is a remote location, far from any possible landing sites,” he said.

“It is therefore with deep sadness and regret that I must inform you that, according to this new data, flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean.”

At a hotel in Beijing where they had waited for news of their loved ones, some family members delivered a scathing denunciation of Malaysia Airlines and the Malaysian government, branding them “the real executioners” of the MH370 passengers.

But some continued to cling on to hope, pointing to the continued failure to find the plane.

“No confirmed wreckage, so no real closure,” said Sarah Bajc, whose American partner Philip Wood was on board.

The flight remains shrouded in mystery and misinformation. Malaysia Airlines revealed for the first time yesterday that Fariq Abdul Hamid, the 27-year-old co-pilot, was on his first flight aboard a Boeing 777 as a fully-approved pilot. Fariq joined the airline seven years ago and had flown 2,763 hours but was only on his sixth flight in the cockpit of a 777 – and his first without a check pilot overseeing him.

But analysts said the co-pilot’s inexperience in a 777 cockpit would probably not have posed a risk.

Somewhat surprisingly, Malaysia Airlines said last night its “prayers go out to all the loved ones of the 226 passengers and of our 13 friends and colleagues” – even though the passenger manifest shows 227 passengers and 12 crew. The airline has not yet explained the discrepancy.

The airline was also criticised after it sent text messages in English to families of passengers – most of whom were Chinese – to inform them that the fate of those aboard MH370 had been confirmed “beyond any reasonable doubt”.

A naval vessel was last night on its way to locate two pieces of debris spotted by an Australian air force aircraft, one orange and rectangular, one seven feet long by eight inches across and grey or green and cylindrical. In recent days, numerous floating objects have been spotted but none has yet been confirmed as wreckage.

The 26-nation search has covered half the globe from Australia to Kazakhstan and followed the plane’s disappearance during a routine flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

The aircraft issued no distress calls and – somewhat suspiciously – it vanished at the moment that its absence was least likely to raise alarm bells, just as it was passing over from Malaysian to Vietnamese air traffic controllers. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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