Malaysia never ruled out the possibility missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 could have been downed by a suicidal pilot, former Prime Minister Najib Razak said.
Najib, premier when MH370 vanished with 239 people on board six years ago, was responding to remarks by former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott that Malaysian leaders considered from the outset flight captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah may have committed mass murder.
“My clear understanding from the top levels of Malaysian government is from early on, they thought it was a murder-suicide by the pilot,” Abbott said in a clip from a Sky News documentary on the tragedy.
Najib told online news portal Free Malaysia Today Malaysian officials considered the scenario during their investigation but chose not to make their views public.
“It would have been unfair and legally irresponsible since the black boxes and cockpit voice recorders had not been found and there was no conclusive proof whether the pilot was solely or jointly responsible,” Najib was quoted as saying.
“I must stress this possible scenario was never ruled out during the search effort and investigations, where no effort was spared.”
A spokesman for Najib confirmed his remarks.
Malaysia’s transport ministry declined to comment. Authorities previously said there was nothing suspicious in the captain’s background, training or mental health, but did not rule out the possibility the aircraft was deliberately taken off course.
Najib said there were reasons for authorities to suspect Zaharie’s involvement, including ownership of a home flight simulator and findings showing MH370 transponders switched off shortly after leaving Malaysian airspace.
Flight MH370 became one of the world’s greatest aviation mysteries when it disappeared from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014.
Malaysia, China, and Australia, called off a two-year, A$200 million ($130 million) underwater search in the southern Indian Ocean in January 2017 after finding no trace of the aircraft.
A second three-month search, led by US firm Ocean Infinity ended similarly in May 2018.