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
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
i100
News
Caplan says of Jacobs: 'She is a very collaborative director, and gives actors a lot of freedom. She makes things happen.'
people
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

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015