Missing plane's pilot back in spotlight

MH370 PILOT: Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah.
MH370 PILOT: Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah.

Suicide is increasingly being seen as the most likely reason for the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 with 239 people, including two New Zealanders, on board.

The country's prime minister announced yesterday that a new analysis of satellite data confirmed the plane had crashed in a remote part of the southern Indian Ocean, killing all on board. China has demanded to see the evidence that officials used to come to the conclusion and relatives' anger has also boiled over.

It is also being reported that the wife of pilot Zaharie Ahmed Shah is to be interrogated, as suspicions grow that he may have hijacked the flight.

MH370 CO-PILOT: First Officer Fariq Abdul Hamid.
MH370 CO-PILOT: First Officer Fariq Abdul Hamid.

It appeared the pilot's marriage had deteriorated to the point where he was no longer in a relationship with his wife Faizah Khan, despite them still living with their three children, British newspaper the Mirror said.

His unstable domestic situation together with his support of a political opposition leader recently jailed in Malaysia meant his background was coming under close scrutiny.

Police were also examining reports that he received a two-minute phone call shortly before take-off from a mystery woman using a mobile number obtained using a false identity.

Faizah Khan faced questioning in an investigation supported by the FBI. A source close to the probe said vetting on co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid was almost finished and had so far found nothing untoward.

According to the International Business Times, authorities said they had delayed questioning Faizah Khan because it was not appropriate for people in situations of terrible bereavement to face the stress of intensive questioning.

The New Zealand Herald quoted an unnamed fellow pilot as saying the pilot of MH370 could have taken the Boeing 777 for a "last joyride". He was "terribly upset" when his wife told him she was leaving and he may have decided to take the plane to a part of the world where he had never flown.

Zaharie Shah had also been having relationship problems with another woman he was seeing.

Malaysia has said it has narrowed the search for the plane to an area the size of Texas and Oklahoma in the southern Indian Ocean, while the Mail Online said suicide had become the most likely cause of the flight's disappearance.

A senior industry source believed the plane was deliberately flown to an extreme altitude to knock out the passengers.

Shortly after the last voice communication from the cockpit of the plane on March 8 it was tracked by military radar flying between 43,000 and 45,000 feet (13,106 and 13,716m).

The source said the plane was tracked flying at that altitude for 23 minutes. Oxygen would have run out in a depressurised cabin, rendering passengers unconscious.

The Telegraph newspaper in Britain also quoted well-placed sources saying the plane crashed in an apparent suicide mission.

The team investigating the Boeing 777's disappearance believe no malfunction or fire was capable of causing the aircraft's unusual flight or the disabling of its communications system before it veered wildly off course on a seven-hour silent flight into the sea. An analysis of the flight's routing, signalling and communications showed it was flown "in a rational way".

An official source told the Telegraph that investigators believed "this has been a deliberate act by someone on board who had to have had the detailed knowledge to do what was done ... Nothing is emerging that points to motive."