The murder of a man who spent years investigating the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 has reignited conspiracy theories about the fate of the missing plane.

Honorary Consul of Malaysia Zahid Raza was shot dead in Madagascar’s capital Antananarivo last week in an apparent assassination.

While authorities have yet to identify a motive, “some have expressed concern about possible links between his death and his work to piece together the puzzle of the doomed Malaysian Airlines flight”, says The Independent.

US lawyer and amateur investigator Blaine Gibson who has spent the last three years searching for debris around the Indian Ocean said Raza had been due to deliver new items of wreckage to Malaysian investigators when he was killed and told Malay Mail that the diplomat “appeared to have been specifically targeted”.

Last December Reuters reported that Raza had assisted Gibson in transferring the custody of pieces believed to be from MH370 from Madagascar to Malaysia, after which time Gibson claims he began receiving death threats.

On Tuesday, Malaysia’s transport minister Liow Tiong Lai confirmed that officials from Malaysia’s Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) had been dispatched to Madagascar to receive and probe newly found suspected plane debris but said it was too early to tell “whether [Raza’s death] was linked to MH370 or not”.

None the less, the timing of the assassination has fuelled speculation that Raza’s death is directly linked to his search for the missing plane. However, The Sun has cited local reports “that suggest Raza was a marked man long before Mr Gibson came along”.

The French-language news website Zinfos 974 speculated Raza was killed as payback for his alleged involvement in the 2009 abduction of several residents of Indo-Pakistani descent known collectively as Karens.

Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, which disappeared in March 2014 with 239 people on board,  remains one of the world’s greatest aviation mysteries. Various pieces of wreckage including a barnacle entrusted flaperon and at least one section of interior cabin have been confirmed as having come from the missing Boeing 777 after washing up on islands off Africa’s south-east coast.

However neither the fuselage nor black box have ever been found, fuelling countless conspiracy theories about how, where and why the plane went down.

MH370: Major breakthrough in hunt for missing plane

16 August

Australian scientists claim to have found new evidence pinpointing the possible location of missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, potentially solving one of the greatest aviation mysteries in history.

“Groundbreaking evidence” from previously discarded French satellite imagery and refined ocean drift modelling appears to show mad-made items located across four areas of the Indian Ocean, north of the original search area, Huffington Post Australia reports.

The findings, released by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) and Australia’s main scientific agency the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), represent a major “breakthrough” says The Australian, in the search for the missing airline that disappeared in 2014 with 239 people on board.

CSIRO’s David Griffin told Reuters he could pinpoint the location of the plane with “unprecedented precision and certainty” and “it is hoped the data will provide a crucial starting point for a sweep of a 9,700 mile stretch of water identified last November as the likely resting place of the plane” says the Daily Mail.

The images taken by a French Military satellite two weeks after the crash lie outside the original search zone. They were discarded by authorities in late March 2014 based on data available at the time about the plane’s flight path but were passed to CSIRO for analysis in May as part of a ‘systematic process of review’ after initial searches failed to find the jet.

Greg Hood, Chief Commissioner of the ATSB, struck a more cautious note adding that “these objects have not been definitely identified as MH370 debris”.

Regardless, “the tantalising new information will reignite pressure to locate the passenger plane, [that remains] one of aviation’s greatest mysteries” says The Guardian.

The underwater search for the Boeing 777 in the southern Indian Ocean was suspended indefinitely in January to an outcry from families of the missing. While the Australian government has said it has not ruled out resuming the hunt for the plane, it said the latest findings are not specific enough to warrant a new search.

A private US firm, Ocean Infinity, has offered to resume the search for free and the new findings will pile more pressure on Malaysia, China and Australia to accept their offer.

MH370: Artificial intelligence will ‘eventually’ find lost plane, says airline boss

14 May

Artificial intelligence could one-day help locate the wreckage of lost Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, the company’s chief executive has said.

Speaking to The Australian newspaper, Peter Bellew claimed that “advances in science” as well as “the availability of artificial intelligence that’s coming on stream,” will “eventually” allow searchers to track down the remains of the aircraft.

“[There are people] who are spending a lot of their own resources at the moment and co-ordinating with authorities… I do think somebody will make a breakthrough somewhere around this, or a combination of people,” he said.

Australia, Malaysia and China called off a £122 million, two-year search for the plane in January, amid protests from the families of tho who died onboard.

Now a private US company has offered to resume the search in a bid to solve one of the world’s greatest aviation mysteries, which claimed the lives of 239 people onboard.

Grace Nathan, a Malaysian lawyer whose mother Anne Daisy was on the plane, told Reuters that US seabed exploration firm, Ocean Infinity, had offered to resume the search for free and had asked for a reward only in the event that the aircraft was found.

The company, which claims to have the world’s most advanced fleet of autonomous underwater vehicles for use in underwater mapping, survey and search, told the AP news agency on Friday that it had “offered to take on the economic risk of a renewed search” and that it was in “constructive dialogue with the relevant authorities and was hopeful the offer will be accepted”.

Ben Sandliands, the editor of aviation news website Plane Talking, says the offer by Ocean Infinity puts authorities in Malaysia, Australia and China “on the spot in terms of support”, given the controversial suspension of the official tripartite search contrary to a recommendation by Australian scientists to make a final examination of a comparatively small section of the southern Indian Ocean seabed.

According to Al Jazeera, “Malaysia, Australia and China say the newly identified area is too big to justify resuming the publicly funded search” but now the relatives of those killed onboard have stepped up pressure on the Malaysian government to demand they accept the private offer to take up the hunt for the aircraft.

Voice370, a support group for families, said the terms of the offer represented a “win-win” for all involved as Ocean Infinity “would like to be paid a reward if and only if it finds the main debris field”.

Malaysian officials have yet to formally comment on the latest developments but Sky News reports that the country’s deputy transport minister Aziz Kaprawi has previously said the agreement of China, where most of the passengers came from, and Australia, would be needed for a deal to be reached.

Australian Transport Minister Darren Chester also declined to comment on the possibility of a private search, and said that while Australia has coordinated the search on its behalf, “Malaysia, as the state of registry for the aircraft, retains overall authority for any future search and any questions regarding possible future search efforts should be directed there.”

MH370: Widow of missing passenger determined to discover truth

24 May

A widow of one of the 239 people on board missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 has spoken of her resolve to discover the truth.

Danica Weeks, from Perth, Australia, says she will never give up on the search to find out what happened to her husband Paul, a mechanical engineer who was on his way to Mongolia for work when the flight vanished.

She also called on the aviation industry, including the aircraft manufacturers, to join the search.

“I think the aviation industry should get involved, but most of all Boeing – it was their plane. I want them to prove the plane is safe by finding it and the truth,” she told the Irish Sun.

“It is important it is found, not just for the justice we and our loved ones deserve, but for the safety of the aviation industry as whole, for as long as the cause of the disappearance of MH370 remains a mystery, so too does the risk that it can happen again.”

Weeks spoke of the turmoil of trying to explain to her two sons “what really happened to Daddy”. She took the young boys to Kuala Lumpur on the third anniversary of the plane’s disappearance and said she never flies without them “just in case something happens, as I have seen the pain of them losing one parent”.

She added: “I just try to be there for them, but they have questions and most I can’t answer as I don’t know the answers myself, like, ‘What really happened to Daddy?’ I just hope one day in the future I will have the answers they so desperately want and deserve,” she said.

She added she was “completely puzzled and disappointed” that the Malaysian government had not searched a site highlighted by Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, based on where debris of the missing plane had been discovered.

“Why wouldn’t a site identified using ‘actual’ debris not be credible information to start a new search?” she asked.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 vanished en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on 8 March 2014, with 227 passengers and 12 crew on board. Australian officials called off the search for the missing Boeing 777 in January this year.

MH370: Air accident experts stand firm on refusal to release analysis 

19 May

Australian accident investigators have refused to publish their analysis of where missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 might have crashed into the ocean, after claims they should have admitted earlier they were looking in the wrong place.

Refusing a Freedom of Information (FoI) request for the same documents earlier this week, was made by The Australian newspaper, the bureau said making them public “would, or could reasonably be expected to, cause damage to the international relations of the Commonwealth”.

The newspaper asked for the papers after it reported that scientists warned “long ago” that the search was being made in the wrong place.

The documents include international assessments of satellite tracking data from the last few hours of the plane’s known flight path, which led the ATSB to conduct an underwater search in the southern Indian ocean.

In a report last December, the bureau said it was confident the 46,000sq-mi search had been conducted around 300 miles too far south and the most likely crash site was between the latitudes 40°S and 30.5°S.

The Australian reported last month that drift modelling, carried out after a flaperon from the plane washed up on Reunion, had led scientists to believe as early as July 2015 that investigators were not in the right place.

“The University of Western Australia scientist who led the independent drift modelling study, Charitha Pattiaratchi, said as soon as the flaperon was discovered in July 2015, it was pretty obvious the ATSB was looking in the wrong place,” said the paper.

The newspaper added that it was 15 months before investigators came to the same conclusion “after stubbornly continuing to search the southern zone”.

ATSB chief Greg Hood write to the newspaper accusing it of “inaccurate reporting” and stating his concern that the paper was misleading the families of the missing passengers.

One relative, Danica Weeks, accused Hood of putting “diplomatic niceties” ahead of “the sensitivities of the families and friends” of the people who had been on board the plane.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 vanished on 8 March 2014 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, carrying  239 people.

MH370: Fresh evidence raises hope of finding missing plane

21 April

Scientists in Australia say they are more confident than ever that a three-year search for the wreckage of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 took place too far south.

After monitoring the movement of an actual aircraft part released into the ocean, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation says it has pinpointed an area of around 10,000sq-miles in which it believes the plane came down.

However, Australian transport minister Darren Chester said the new finding did not satisfy the requirement to relaunch the search, which was called off in January until “credible new evidence” was found.

He added: “This body of ‘drift modelling’ work, along with review of satellite imagery, forms part of the ongoing activities being undertaken by the ATSB in the search for MH370.

“But it is important to note that it does not provide new evidence leading to a specific location of MH370.”

An underwater search of some 46,000sq-miles carried out between October 2014 and January 2017 found of trace of the missing plane, which vanished on 8 March 2014 with 239 people on board.

Last December, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau released a report concluding the search had taken place too far south in the Indian Ocean and the real crash site was somewhere between the latitudes 40°S and 30.5°S.

This was based on computer modelling of ocean currents, working backwards from the discovery of wreckage from the plane thousands of miles away off the coast of Africa on the island of Reunion.

A flaperon found washed up on the island in July 2015 was confirmed as having been part of MH370. Other pieces of debris have since been found in the same general area.

Malaysia Airlines announced this week that it will become the first airline to monitor all its jets from space, delivering “minute-by-minute, 100 per cent global, flight-tracking data”.

The technique will mean the airline – which has struggled to fill its flights after also losing MH17, which was shot down over the Ukraine – will know exactly where every plane is, even when they are passing over a remote stretch of ocean or desert.

MH370: Details of search to remain secret

20 April

Australian officials have faced a backlash after saying some details about the hunt for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 will be kept confidential.

Employees at the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) have been warned they face prison time if they reveal certain information about the search.

Families of the 239 passengers who died on board the flight expressed outrage, saying it made the agency “look more guilty” of a cover-up.

News of the decision came after The Australian filed a freedom of information (FOI) request to see documents regarding the ATSB’s “ghost flight” theory.

The bureau says expert analysis has led them to believe pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah was unconscious or dead when the plane vanished en route to Beijing in March 2014. This theory was used as the basis for their ultimately fruitless search for the crash site.

However, some aviation experts and amateur sleuths claim Shah deliberately steered his plane off course before crashing it and argue the ATSB should recalculate a new search area based on this assumption.

Documents requested in the FOI request include the opinions of international experts from the UK and US air crash agencies, British satellite group Inmarsat and Boeing.

However, the ATSB said releasing the information could “cause damage to the international relations of the Commonwealth”.

ATSB chief commissioner Greg Hood added: “The activities of the ATSB with respect to assisting the Malaysian investigation are covered by the Transport Safety Investigation Act.”

The act stipulates that any “serving or former ATSB staffer or consultant” who publicly discloses restricted information is liable to face two years in prison.

Danica Weeks, whose husband Paul is among the missing, told Free Malaysia Today she was “stunned” by the decision.

“I cannot come up with any solid reason why they wouldn’t release the information other than it makes them or the Malaysian government look incompetent,” she added.