The captain of MH370 is now ‘chief suspect’ in Malaysia’s official police investigation into the ongoing mystery of the Malaysia Airlines jet’s disappearance – after investigators found suspicious evidence from a flight simulator in his home.
Captain Zaharie Shah, 53, reportedly used his home simulator to practice take-off and landings in remote locations, including some airstrips in the southern Indian Ocean. Investigators have now managed to obtain the files – which had been deleted before they swept the machine.
After more than 170 interviews, detectives determined that Captain Shah was the most likely culprit if the plane – which went missing on March 8 with 239 people on board – was lost due to human intervention, according to The Sunday Times. The criminal inquiry completed intelligence checks on all of the people on board the flight to Beijing via Kuala Lumpur, but the only individual arousing suspicion was Captain Zaharie.
The father-of-three was found to have no social or work-related future plans, unlike the rest of the crew including his co-pilot, Fariq Hamid. The newspaper has also stated that police were told of rumours that the captain was experiencing tensions at home with his partner and family members, however this was denied by friends and family who continue to defend him.
The criminal inquiry, which is yet to rule out other reasons for the plane’s disappearance including a mechanical failure and terrorism, has so far only released its results to foreign governments and their investigators.
‘The police investigation is still ongoing. To date no conclusions can be made as to the contributor to the incident and it would be sub judice (a legal term referring to not commenting on ongoing cases) to say so,’ Malaysian police were quoted a saying. ‘Nevertheless, the police are still looking into all possible angles.’ Captain Shah was said to be a ‘fanatical’ supporter of the country’s opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim – jailed for homosexuality just hours before the jet disappeared.
He was described as was an ‘obsessive’ supporter of Ibrahim. And hours before the doomed flight left Kuala Lumpur it is understood 53-year-old Shah attended a controversial trial in which Ibrahim was jailed for five years. Campaigners say the politician, the key challenger to Malaysia’s ruling party, was the victim of a long-running smear campaign and had faced trumped-up charges.
Police sources have confirmed that Shah was a vocal political activist – and fear that the court decision left him profoundly upset. It was against this background that, seven hours later, he took control of a Boeing 777-200 bound for Beijing and carrying 238 passengers and crew.
It’s not the first time Captain Zaharie has been the centre of suspicion regarding the missing airline. Varying testimonials from his family members alluding to the pilot displaying erratic behaviour a few weeks before the missing flight, as well as rumours that he has been recently estranged from his wife and family, have been both revealed and later consistently denied.
The search area where it is believed the plane crashed, has changed several times, but a group of countries are continuing to negotiate on how to fund the next phase of the sonar search, which will cover an area of 21,600 square miles.
Countries involved in the search include Malaysia, Australia, the United States, China, Japan, Britain, South Korea and New Zealand. Earlier this month it was revealed that the Australian government expects to spend around £50 million on the search by July 2015.