Malaysia suspected MH370 downed in murder-suicide: former Australian PM

The disappearance of Flight MH370 has long been the subject of a host of theories including that veteran pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah had gone rogue. (AFP)
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Updated 19 February 2020

Malaysia suspected MH370 downed in murder-suicide: former Australian PM

  • The Malaysia Airlines jet vanished on March 8, 2014 carrying 239 people en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing
  • No sign of the plane was found in a 120,000-square kilometer Indian Ocean search zone and the Australian-led search

SYDNEY: Former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott has claimed “very top” level Malaysian officials believed vanished Flight MH370 was deliberately downed by the captain in a mass murder-suicide.
The Malaysia Airlines jet vanished on March 8, 2014 carrying 239 people — mostly from China — en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
No sign of the plane was found in a 120,000-square kilometer Indian Ocean search zone and the Australian-led search, the largest in aviation history, was suspended in January 2017.
A US exploration firm launched a private hunt in 2018 but it ended after several months of scouring the seabed without success.
The disappearance of the plane has long been the subject of a host of theories — ranging from the credible to outlandish — including that veteran pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah had gone rogue.
In an excerpt from a Sky News documentary airing Wednesday, Abbott claims he was told within a week of it vanishing that Malaysia believed the captain had intentionally downed the jet.
“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,” he 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.”
Zaharie’s family and friends have long strongly rejected such claims as baseless.
Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, the former head of Malaysia’s civil aviation regulator, criticized Abbott’s remarks and said there was not sufficient proof to support the idea.
“It is only a theory,” Azharuddin, who led the regulator when Flight MH370 disappeared, said.
“You do this speculation and it will hurt the next of kin. The family of the pilot will also feel very bad because you are making an accusation without any proof.”
In 2016, Malaysian officials revealed the pilot had plotted a path over the Indian Ocean on a home flight simulator but stressed this did not prove he deliberately crashed the plane.
A final report into the tragedy released in 2018 pointed to failings by air traffic control and said the course of the plane was changed manually.
But they failed to come up with any firm conclusions, leaving relatives angry and disappointed.
Six passengers were Australian, including four from Queensland state, where Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk this week suggested authorities may pursue an inquest into their deaths.


UK government tries to advance coronavirus response, Boris Johnson ‘stable’ in ICU

Updated 08 April 2020

UK government tries to advance coronavirus response, Boris Johnson ‘stable’ in ICU

  • Britain’s leader was in "good spirits,” his spokesman said on Wednesday
  • The UK was slower than many other European nations to close schools, shut businesses and restrict people’s movements in a bid to curb infections

LONDON: Britain’s government sought Wednesday to keep a grip on the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic as Prime Minister Boris Johnson started a third day in the intensive care unit of a London hospital being treated for COVID-19.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab chaired a meeting of the government’s COVID-19 crisis committee while the number of virus-related deaths reported in the UK approached the levels seen in the worst-hit European nations, Italy and Spain.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is responding to treatment in intensive care at a central London hospital, his spokesman said on Wednesday, adding the British leader was in "good spirits".
"The prime minister remains clinically stable and is responding to treatment. He continues to be cared for in the intensive care unit at St Thomas' hospital. He is in good spirits," the spokesman told reporters.
The country’s confirmed death toll reached 6,159 as of Tuesday, an increase of 786 from 24 hours earlier. That was the biggest daily leap to date, although the deaths reported Tuesday occurred over several days.
The virus has hit people from all walks of life — including Johnson, the first world leader known to have been diagnosed with COVID-19. The 55-year-old prime minister was admitted to St. Thomas’ Hospital late Sunday with a fever and cough that persisted 10 days after he tested positive for the virus.
He was moved to the ICU on Monday night after his condition deteriorated. 
Johnson’s illness has unleashed a wave of sympathy for the prime minister, including from his political opponents. It has also heightened public unease about the government’s response to the outbreak, which faced criticism even with the energetic Johnson at the helm.
Britain was slower than many other European nations to close schools, shut businesses and restrict people’s movements in a bid to curb infections, and the government has struggled to meet its goal of dramatically the number of individuals tested for the virus.
Britain has no official post of deputy or acting prime minister, but Johnson has asked Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to temporarily take over many of the prime minister’s duties to lead the country’s response to the pandemic.
But Raab’s authority is limited. He can’t fire Cabinet ministers or senior officials, and he won’t hold the prime minister’s weekly audience with Queen Elizabeth II.
In the British political system, the prime minister’s power lies less in the role’s specific responsibilities — which are relatively few — than in the leader’s political capital and authority as “first among equals” in the Cabinet.
That’s especially true in Johnson’s government, which is made up of relatively inexperienced ministers appointed by a prime minister with a big personality and a hefty personal mandate from a resounding election victory in December.
In Johnson’s absence, it’s unclear who would decide whether to ease nationwide lockdown measures the British government imposed on March 23 in response the worldwide pandemic. The initial three-week period set for the restrictions expires next week, but with cases and deaths still growing, officials say it is too soon to change course.
“We need to start seeing the numbers coming down,” Argar told the BBC. “That’s when you have a sense, when that’s sustained over a period of time, that you can see it coming out of that.
“We’re not there yet and I don’t exactly know when we will be. The scientists will tell us that they are constantly modelling the data and they’re constantly looking at those stats.”
Meanwhile, officials are watching anxiously to see whether Britain’s hospitals can cope when the number of seriously ill COVID-19 patients reaches its peak. Before the outbreak, the UK had about 5,000 intensive care beds, and the government has been scrambling to increase that capacity.
The Nightingale Hospital — a temporary facility for coronavirus patients built in nine days at London’s vast ExCel conference center — admitted its first patients on Wednesday. It can accommodate 4,000 beds, if needed. even other temporary hospitals are being built around the country.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the city, which is the epicenter of Britain’s outbreak, had one-quarter of its existing hospital beds still available, as well as the new Nightingale hospital.
“It demonstrates the can-do attitude of not just Londoners but those around the country who have helped us get ready for the peak of this virus,” he said.