Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370: Mystery of the missing plane ‘may never be solved,’ police warn

Officers have made little progress with their investigation despite scrutinising the provenance of every piece of cargo

Sydney

With as little as two days left in which to recover the black box of Flight MH370, Malaysian police have warned that the mystery of the plane's disappearance nearly four weeks ago may never be solved.

The country's Prime Minister, Najib Razak, who visited the headquarters of the multinational search in Perth today, promised relatives of the 239 passengers and crew that “we will not rest until answers are… found”. However, batteries in the locator beacons of flight recorders only last about 30 days, which means MH370's will die next Monday, or even this weekend.

The hunt for wreckage of the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 continued in the Indian Ocean, with two British Royal Navy vessels joining seven other ships and eight planes. But since the search switched to the remote waters a fortnight ago, not a single piece of debris linked to the doomed flight has been found, despite exhaustive efforts.

Police, meanwhile, have yet to make any progress with their criminal investigation. Malaysia's most senior police officer, Inspector-General Khalid Abu Bakar, said that every possible angle was being scrutinised, including whether meals served during the Beijing-bound flight had been poisoned.

Officers were also scrutinising the provenance of every piece of cargo - even a consignment of mangosteens, an Asian tropical fruit. “We had to find out where the mangosteens came from,” said Mr Khalid. “We tracked down who plucked the fruits, who packed them and shipped them out, who put them on the plane. Imagine how many people we must interview, and that was just the mangosteens.”

The enormity of the task facing search teams was acknowledged by Mr Najib, who described it as “a gargantuan challenge”, and by the Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, who called the search “the most difficult in human history”.

While Mr Abbott, who hosted his Malaysian counterpart in Perth, said that Australia was “throwing everything we have at it”, he also warned that “we cannot be certain of ultimate success” - a contrast with previous statements in which he pledged that if there was wreckage to be found, Australia would find it.

The search force was bolstered by Britain's HMS Echo and HMS Tireless, the latter a nuclear-powered submarine with advanced underwater search capability. The hope is that it may detect signals emitted by MH370's black box - the flight data and cockpit voice recorders which hold the key to why the plane diverted radically off course soon after leaving Kuala Lumpur on 8 March.

Also on its way to the search zone, which was refined today to about 1,680 kilometres north-west of Perth, is the Ocean Shield, an Australian warship carrying a US-supplied black box detector. However, experts have warned that the device will be of little use unless the crash site can be identified much more precisely.

The failure to find any debris - and the imminent black box deadline - are exacerbating the anguish of relatives. “I know that until we find the plane, many families cannot start to grieve,” Mr Najib said. “I cannot imagine what they must be going through. But I can promise them that we will not give up.”

Selamat Omar, whose 29-year-old son, Mohammed Khairul Amri Selamat, was on the plane, told Australia's ABC radio that he was still hoping he was alive. “After such a long time, they could not find any object [wreckage], even with the expertise of the helpers,” he said. “We are sure that there is hope of life.”

Mr Khalid, though, warned that “at the end of the investigations, we may not even know the real cause… the reason for this incident”.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£16575 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity is ava...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue