Peter Stefanovic
Peter Stefanovic

Search for missing flight MH370 must be reopened

It was always suspected, but never confirmed.

The pilot was the mastermind. Who else could it have been?

There were 239 passengers and crew members on board Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, but how many of them would have had the knowledge and capability to break into a locked cockpit, switch off the communication system, seize the controls, and manually steer a Boeing 777 away from its pre-programmed route?

All without raising any alarm on the ground - at least not until sleepy Vietnamese airspace observers came to their senses on that tragic day of March 8, 2014.

"It was pretty obvious that someone had been in charge of that aircraft. Aircraft do not do the kind of thing that that aircraft did unless someone is at the controls", former prime minister Tony Abbott told Sky News in an exclusive interview almost six years since the disappearance of the doomed flight.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott has told Sky News that he was told MH370 was a pilot murder/suicide. Picture: Supplied
Former prime minister Tony Abbott has told Sky News that he was told MH370 was a pilot murder/suicide. Picture: Supplied

After two Iranian passengers who were travelling on false passports were investigated and cleared (they were asylum seekers trying to get to Europe), the focus narrowed on two people: the pilot and the co-pilot.

The co-pilot, Fariq Hamid, was a young man who had just begun his career in the cockpit and was about to get married. His involvement in any sinister plot was soon ruled out.

That left one person in the spotlight: Zaharie Ahmed Shah.

"My understanding, my very clear understanding from the very top levels of the Malaysian government is that from very very early on here, they thought it was murder/suicide by the pilot," Mr Abbott told me.

For the first time, Mr Abbott revealed that he received this information just one week after the plane disappeared. By that point, no-one even knew where the plane was.

When he was pressed to elaborate on those private conversations, Mr Abbott said, "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. Mass murder/suicide by the pilot."


The significance of this statement cannot be understated - not for the many relatives of the victims, or for the people who have spent countless hours searching for the missing plane.

That senior officials believed it was a murder/suicide has never been made public before.

The most interesting part of this admission is that the Malaysians never named or blamed anyone on board - at least not publicly.

Even in their final report, which was released in 2018, investigators did not single out the culprit. This was despite the fact that investigators found on Zaharie's private home computer recorded simulator practice flights to the middle of the southern Indian Ocean.

That was a stunning piece of evidence, yet the Malaysians dug in. They stood their ground. During press conferences, officials wouldn't be drawn on Zaharie's possible involvement because a motive still couldn't be established.

Friends say Zaharie was a nice guy. A good family man. Investigators found no history of mental illness.

So why the two conflicting claims? What is being covered up?

"I've read all these stories that the Malaysians allegedly didn't want the murder/suicide theory pursued because they were embarrassed about one of their pilots doing this. I have no reason to accept that," Mr Abbott told Sky News.


"I have no reason to believe that's true. And to this day it mystifies me as to why searches were not carried out on the assumption that the pilot was in charge until the last possible moment and he took the plane as far as he possibly could to make this one of the world's greatest ever mysteries."

The Malaysians lurched from one bungle to the next in its investigation, but Australian search efforts weren't without fault.

Even though we had next to no chance of finding the wreckage, because too much time had passed before our search teams got involved, former transport minister Warren Truss has now admitted the search zone was wrong.

So, it places an increasing level of importance on expert claims the plane ended its journey just south of the search zone.

This latest revelation should be enough for authorities to send out the boats again in the hope that finally, we may, one day, get the truth of MH370.

Peter Stefanovic is a journalist with Sky News Australia . MH370 The Untold Story airs on Sky News on February 19 and 20 at 8pm AEDT


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