MH370: Victim’s wife meets with Malaysian PM to continue search


Five years after her husband Paul boarded flight MH370 which disappeared without a trace over the South China Sea devastating the families of 239 people aboard, Danica Weeks travelled to Malaysia desperate for answers.

She was the first relative of anyone aboard the Boeing 777 — which vanished in the early hours of March 8, 2014, shocking and baffling the world — to meet Malaysian Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad.

Speaking to Sunday night’s 60 Minutes, Ms Weeks said she had never given up hope of finding answers, to somehow explain to her sons Lincoln and Jack — now eight and six — what happened to their father and why he never came home that fateful day.

“This isn’t just about 239 people on a Boeing 777,” Danica Weeks told 60 Minutes reporter Sarah Abo. “This is about eight million people every day that get on a flight. Wives, husbands, family members off for holidays, workers that get on a plane and we don’t know what happened.”

While the events of that night form part of history’s greatest aviation mystery, now, in a world exclusive, we may be a step closer to uncovering the whereabouts of the doomed Malaysian Airlines flight.

Cameras took viewers behind the scenes to a “secret vault” holding the only known fragments of the plane held in an evidence room in Malaysia.

More than 30 bits of aircraft debris have been collected from various places around the world, but only three wing fragments that washed up along the Indian Ocean west coast have been confirmed to be from MH370.

One of the washed-up pieces confirmed to be from MH370 included a two-metre wing part known as a flaperon, which is contained within the “secret vault”.

In December 2018, five pieces of debris were found washed up off Madagascar in what was dubbed a “massive breakthrough” in the search for the missing flight.

Speaking at a news conference in Malaysia, Jacquita Gonzales, the wife of MH370 steward Patrick Gomes, held up the debris to the cameras as other relatives begged the government to allow search efforts to continue. The family members also demanded a fresh inquiry into the Malaysia Airlines mystery.

V.R. Nathan, whose wife Anne Daisy was on the doomed jet, said the debris consisted of five small plane parts found off Madagascar by fishermen.

But the “secret vault” featured on 60 Minutes claims to hold the only three pieces of debris that are confirmed as being from MH370, including the Boeing 777’s flap.

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media_camera60 Minutes reporter Sarah Abo inside the secret vault that contains the only confirmed MH370 debris.

Over the last five years since the plane’s disappearance, speculation has grown that Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah decided to commit the ultimate deadly act — hijack his own plane, killing all 239 passengers on board.

But over that time, those in charge of the Malaysian investigation have — until now — refused to answer questions on whether the man at the controls of MH370 deliberately downed his own plane and committed mass murder.

However, crisis manager Fuad Sharuji, who was in charge of Malaysia Airline’s response that terrible day five years ago, opened up to 60 Minutes about what went wrong that night.

“Everything went wrong,” he told the program. “It was on the morning of 8th of March at 2.30 in the morning when I received the first phone call that we have lost contact with MH370.

“And I knew that there was something wrong, seriously wrong. So we immediately activated our code red.”

“Was there anything peculiar about his final words?” asked Abo.

Mr Fuad replied, “His final words (were), ‘Goodnight MH370’. His voice was relatively calm. There was no signs of anxiety at all. There was nothing abnormal with his last words.”

However, he refuses to believe that Captain Zaharie deliberately crashed his plane, killing all his passengers.

“We don’t believe so,” Mr Fuad told 60 Minutes. “For a person to actually take the lives of 289 passengers and crew on board, including his own life, must be a completely deranged person.

“Madman, crazy. None of that is the character of Captain Zaharie.”

While the captain was understood to be politically active, perhaps motivated by the conviction of a man he believed to be “Malaysia’s political saviour” hours before he took off in MH370, no note has ever been found.

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media_cameraHead of the MH370 safety investigation team, Kok Soo Chon, speaks during a media briefing in Putrajaya, outside Kuala Lumpur, in July 2018. Picture: Mohd Rasfan/AFP

News Corp journalist Ean Higgins, who writes for The Australian and has authored a book The Hunt for MH370, told the program, “It was a pretty extraordinary coincidence. But did he leave a message and either it was never found or it got into other hands?

“Unless there’s some part of the puzzle we don’t know about … there was no claim of responsibility. What’s the point of doing something like that, making a political protest if you don’t let anyone know you’re doing it?”

One possible indication the terrible tragedy may have been pre-planned was the bizarre route Captain Zaharie plotted on a home simulator program in the weeks before March 8, 2014, up the Straits of Malacca and south into the Southern Indian Ocean — as MH370 did travel.

“There’s nowhere to land anywhere even close to that part of the world,” Higgins said. “It could only have been a suicide flight.”

While no one seems any closer to discovering what happened that night, 60 Minutes managed to secure a meeting between Ms Weeks and the Malaysian Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad.

Malaysia’s new government, which took power in May, has said the search could be resumed but only if new and compelling evidence comes to light.

During the 60 Minutes investigation, reporter Sarah Abo stands with Ms Weeks as she is introduced to Dr Mahathir. It’s the first time he has met with a victim’s relative since the disaster and is her final attempt at getting answers.

“It’s unheard of for a world leader of Dr Mahathir’s standing to make time for a personal plea like Danica’s,” 60 Minutes reporter Sarah Abo told the program’s viewers.

During their half-hour meeting, Dr Mahathir vowed to continue with the search for the remains of MH370.

“We intend to continue,” he told the program. “And nowadays, with electronic detection, it may be possible for us to find where the plane had come down.”

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media_cameraPaul Weeks with his wife Danica.

Ms Weeks said, “Well, that sounds very hopeful. Because it is very important, obviously, for us and five years on to have that right and that opportunity to lay my husband to rest and bring him home to us.”

Dr Mahathir replied, “Yeah, yeah. Not knowing what happened is extremely distressing because you don’t know whether he is somewhere or not. I appreciate that very much.

“God forbid that it should happen to me, but I think I will be very, very upset. Very upset, especially as the search is terminated.”

During the meeting, Dr Mahathir admitted he heard from the very beginning the plane had been hijacked, adding: “But a plane of this size going down into the sea anywhere or on land must leave signs. Here, there is absolutely no evidence. It’s strange. It’s as if the plane just vanished.”

When asked whether there was a “blind acceptance” of Captain Zaharie’s innocence, Dr Mahathir replied, “I cannot think that a person who has been flying for so long, a very senior pilot would want to do that (hijack a plane). I don’t know how he can make it disappear.”

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media_camera60 Minutes reporter Sarah Abo with MH370 widow Danica Weeks.

An official report released in July 2018 following a lengthy investigation and a long-running fruitless $144.80 million search gave no new clues about why the plane disappeared, sparking anger among relatives.

In July 2018, the Malaysian government’s report into the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 said all the evidence points to an incontrovertible conclusion — the plane was under manual control, and it was deliberately flown out into the Indian Ocean.

According to the report, the only way MH370 would have been able to deviate from its flight path was if it was under deliberate, manual control. But there were still more questions than answers after the report was handed down.

“The autopilot has to be disengaged,” was how chief investigator Kok Soo Chon described the first turn tracked by civilian and military radar after the flight deviated from its course.

“It has to be on manual. We have carried out seven simulator tests, flight simulators, three at high and four at low speed, and we found the turn was made indeed under a manual, not autopilot.”

However, it could not be established if the next two turns over the south of Penang and the north of MEKAR were under manual control or autopilot, he added.

The rest, he said, remained a mystery.

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media_cameraGrace Subathirai Nathan, daughter of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 passenger Anne Daisy, shows a piece of debris believed to be from flight MH370. Picture: Mohd Rasfan/AFP.

An Australian-led hunt was suspended in January 2017. US exploration firm Ocean Infinity resumed the search in a different location at the start of 2018 on a “no find, no fee” basis using hi-tech drones to scour the seabed.

But that search was also called off within months after failing to find anything.

There have been many theories surrounding the mysterious disappearance of flight MH370 including ones that blame Vladimir Putin and North Korea.

Others believe the pilot, Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, planned the incident.

Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull unexpectedly said it was “very likely that the captain planned this shocking event”.

He claimed the pilot wanted to “create the world’s greatest mystery”.

with AFP and Megan Palin

For more on 60 Minutes visit the official website.

Continue the conversation @mrsbecfranks.

Originally published as Wife’s desperate search for MH370 truth





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