No one has spoken to us, says pilot's family

FAMILY and friends of the EgyptAir co-pilot now in the cross-hairs of the crash investigation say that they have yet to be interviewed by US inquiry officials about why he may have abruptly decided to ditch the jet into the sea in an act of suicide and mass murder.

Two sons of Gameel el-Batouty and his closest friend and business partner told the Independent on Sunday that no approach has been made to them by investigators seeking information about what has now become a highly critical question: why - out of the blue - would a civil airline pilot wish to kill himself, and 216 others, including 61 of his countrymen?

Leaks from officials in the US have increasingly centred on the theory that the 59-year-old co-pilot is to blame, diverting public attention from a plethora of other unanswered questions - such as the 767 itself, two previous crashes in the same area, airport security in New York and EgyptAir's decidedly patchy safety record.

According to the theory, the crash was a calculated and cold-blooded act of mass murder, committed by a pilot who carried tens of thousands of passengers back and forth across the Atlantic in a 14-year career with EgyptAir. His motive, and psychological condition, have become essential components of the case.

Yet his friends and family in Cairo say that, although investigators have interviewed some of the co-pilot's EgyptAir colleagues in the United States, they have yet to question those that knew him best in Egypt. Nor have they heard the recording which would help identify his voice, establishing whether he was at the controls.

They include Nabil Ibrahim, 59, a life-long friend with whom Mr el-Batouty was planning to run a small market garden after his retirement, due next March. Mr Ibrahim, an engineer, saw the pilot only two hours before he left for his last trip to the US. He was, he says, "very stable" and not even remotely depressed - as some reports have suggested - or worried about money. The aviator's sons, Kamil, 20, a student at business school, and Mohammed, 22, a police officer, have also confirmed that neither they nor other family members have been quizzed about their father, although they say they would happily co-operate.

Further evidence may eventually surface, but all the motives so far offered up in news reports - from poverty to suicidal depression - have proved highly unconvincing. For example, the Washington Post stated last week that he was "long frustrated that he never made the rank of captain". Even if this was a pretext for mass murder, Mr Ibrahim says that the co- pilot had never raised this issue with him. His friend never anticipated a higher position in EgyptAir, he said, as he was a late starter with the company, having spent much of his previous career as an pilot instructor in the Egyptian Air Institute and the air force.

His cousin - and former EgyptAir colleague - Walid el-Batouty, 33, also never heard the pilot complain about his rank. "The man was about to retire in March. Why - at the end of his career - would he now start wondering why he wasn't a captain?"

Other reports have speculated that he was short of money - although it later transpired that he was a member of a wealthy and established Egyptian family. Last week his family sought to scotch these claims for good by allowing journalists to inspect his three-storey retirement home in a wealthy suburb outside Cairo, complete with luxury new furnishings, many of which the pilot had brought back from trips to the US. He was anticipating a retirement package of $180,000, (pounds 110,000) to add to riches which - according to Mr Ibrahim - he inherited from his father, a former provincial governor.

Nor has there been any evidence in Cairo to support suggestions that he was depressed, although friends concede that he had been concerned about medical treatment for his 10-year-old daughter, Aya, who suffers from lupus. All say he was a happy and sociable man who was looking forward to flying to New York for his 37th wedding anniversary. Nor was there any sign that he suffered from depression in preceding years.

Two years ago, according to his son, Kalim, and Mr Ibrahim he helped save an EgyptAir 767 jet in an emergency landing at Nairobi, after it developed problems in the left engine. Nothing has emerged to explain why Mr el-Batouty - a devout Muslim, a father of five and a healthy, wealthy man - would turn into a mass killer and excommunicate himself from his faith.

"Criminals are innocent until proven guilty," said Walid el-Batouty, "We've been accused, we've been judged, and we're just waiting for the punishment."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
wimbledonScot will face Ivo Karlovic next
Sport
football
News
Hillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test