Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: New radar evidence suggests missing plane may have been hijacked

‘Pings’ were received for as much as five hours after the plane vanished

Asia correspondent

Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak has said that investigators believe the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 communications were deliberately disabled, that it turned back from its flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing and flew for more than seven hours.

Mr Najib said that authorities are now trying to trace the plane missing for more than a week across two possible "corridors" - a northern corridor from northern Thailand through to the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, and a southern corridor from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean.

The announcement confirms days of mounting speculation that the disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 a week ago with 239 people on board was not accidental, and that it was intentionally diverted or hijacked, by either a member of the crew or a passenger.

The investigation will now focus on who may have taken control of the plane and why, and the search area vastly expanded.

Mr Najib said that searching in the South China Sea, where the plane first lost contact with air traffic controllers, would be ended. He said the new search corridors were based on the latest available satellite data.

Latest: Plane's communications were 'intentionally disabled'

"Clearly the search for MH370 has entered a new phase," he said. "We hope this new information brings us one step closer to finding the plane."

 

The Andaman and Nicobar islands and the area around them were increasingly the focus of search efforts, as reports said officials were re-examining the possibility that foul play was responsible for the plane’s disappearance.

Inmarsat, the London-based communications company, confirmed that its satellites covering the region received “ping” signals from the Boeing 777 after it vanished from civilian radar and stopped communicating with the ground shortly after the plane took off in the early hours of 8 March.

The “ping” signals, sent from satellites if the aircraft has not been in contact for some time, were sent out hourly, providing information about the speed at which the plane was travelling and its altitude, which could help determine the plane’s location. Such communication between the aircraft and satellites is possible only when the plane is airborne. It is understood ‘pings’ were received for as much as five hours after the plane vanished.

Despite the vast international search operation, officials in Kuala Lumpur said yesterday that there was still no trace of the Boeing 777.

Malaysia’s Transport Minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, told a press conference that investigators were broadening their search again and examining the possibility that the plane’s transponder was deliberately shut down. He also said police were looking into the background of all the passengers and crew. More than half the passengers came from China.

“A normal investigation becomes narrower with time, as new information focuses the search. But this is not a normal investigation,” Mr Hussein said. “In this case, the information we have forces us to look further and further afield.

A US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press that investigators are examining the possibility of “human intervention” in the plane’s disappearance, adding it may have been “an act of piracy”.

Members of the Malaysian Air Force search the sea for traces of Flight MH370 Members of the Malaysian Air Force search the sea for traces of Flight MH370 (Getty Images)
Mr Hussein cautioned against speculation but maintained that there were several avenues of investigation along such lines.

“There are four or five possibilities which we are exploring. It could have been done intentionally, it could be done under duress, it could have been done because of an explosion,” he said. “That’s why I don’t want to go into the realm of speculation. We are looking at the all the possibilities.”

Syed Akbaruddin, a spokesman for India’s foreign ministry, told The Independent that India – one of 12 countries involved in the search effort – had been asked by Malaysia to search 22 specific locations in the Andaman Sea, which it estimates will take at least three days. The Indian-controlled archipelago contains 572 islands covering an area of 450 miles by 32 miles. Only 37 are inhabited and the majority are covered in dense forests.

The plane’s last location was fixed at 1.31am on Saturday. At that point it was heading north-east across the mouth of the Gulf of Thailand on what should have been a six-hour flight to Beijing. The Malaysian military said dots on secondary radar – still not confirmed as Flight MH370 – showed something heading west around 45 minutes later.


If the plane flew for a further four hours from its last known location it could have covered another 2,000 miles, putting it within easy touch of India, Indonesia and even the north-west coast of Australia.

On Thursday, Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, suggested there was new information had led the US to focus efforts on extending the search westwards. The US has since sent a destroyer and a sophisticated surveillance aircraft to the Indian Ocean,

“It’s my understanding that based on some new information that’s not necessarily conclusive – but new information – an additional search area may be opened in the Indian Ocean,” he said.

Read more: 'Pings' prove missing plane flew for up to five hours after contact lost

“There are a number of possible scenarios that are being investigated as to what happened to the flight.”

Malaysia has been criticised for the slow pace of the search operation and the often seemingly confused information it has provided.

Yet officials have pointed out they are trying to co-ordinate the efforts of a dozen countries and share sensitive information.

On Friday it emerged that experts from Britain are to join the investigation. A senior team from the Department of Transport’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch is due to arrive shortly in Malaysia.

Additional reporting by PA

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
Small winemakers say the restriction makes it hard to sell overseas
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
News
Clare Balding
peopleClare Balding on how women's football is shaking up sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
News
i100
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
Life and Style
fashionThe Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
Sport
Tony Bellew (left) and Nathan Cleverly clash at the Echo Arena in Liverpool
boxingLate surge sees Liverpudlian move into world title contention
Voices
Neil Findlay
voicesThe vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
food + drinkMeat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
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

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin