Flight MH370: Devastated relatives lash out in pain as text message the final insult
When the news finally arrived in Beijing, it was not from a spokesperson, or even in a language the relatives could understand. Phones began to beep inside the conference room at the Lido hotel, receiving a text message in English.
After 16 days of doubt and mistrust, and heavy criticism of the calamitous misjudgments of the Malaysian authorities, the text message was a final insult. It prompted rage from the families of the 154 Chinese on board the missing plane.
By the end of the night, they would denounce Malaysia Airlines, and the Malaysian government and military as the "executioners" who had taken their loved ones' lives by their dithering and deceit.
"We will do everything possible to pursue these three, to hold them responsible for their unforgivable crime," the families said in a statement.
The vague wording of the text message brought no sense of closure for the scores inside the room, some of whom continued to cling on to hope.
There was no hard evidence of flight MH370's demise, simply an "assumption beyond all reasonable doubt" that all aboard had been lost.
Later, Malaysia Airlines claimed they told "the majority" of the relatives the news in person. But most of those gathered in Beijing said they had not been briefed before their phones buzzed.
At first there was silence. Then, at 10pm, as the Malaysian prime minister appeared on television screens to confirm the news, the screaming started. Relatives stumbled out one-by-one into a bear pit of flashing cameras and microphones.
"I'm devastated, devastated, devastated," wailed one elderly woman. Another refused to believe the news. "The information they released is wrong! Those governments just keep lying to us!" she screamed.
Distrustful of all officials, the relatives cycled between anger and despair, and sustained each other's false hopes.
Now as the emotions among the relatives began to run out of control, policemen flowed into the room to keep order.
Inside, many sat silently, the men smoking, the women pale with grief. Some lost control. Two men rushed outside to rage at the aggressive media. "Murderers! Murderers!" one man screamed.
Midnight, then one o'clock passed and most of the relatives remained in the room. Then, just after 2am, representatives of the families faced the media and delivered their damning statement.
"Eighteen days have passed, during which the Malaysian government and military constantly tried to delay, deceive the passengers' families and cheat the whole world," they said.
"This shameless behaviour not only fooled and hurt the families of the 154 passengers but also misguided and delayed rescue actions, wasting a large quantity of human resources and materials and valuable time for the rescue effort.
"If the 154 passengers did lose their lives, Malaysia Airlines, the Malaysian government and military are the real executioners who killed them. We the families of those on board submit our strongest protest against them."