The murder of a man who spent years searching for the debris from missing plane MH370 has fuelled conspiracy theories surrounding the plane's disappearance in 2014.
Zahid Raza, Honorary Consul of Malaysia, was shot dead in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar, last week. Authorities are still trying to identify a motive.
His death has prompted speculation by French news website ZINFOS 974 that he was involved in a kidnap conspiracy in 2009, while others have expressed concern about possible links between his death and his work to piece together the puzzle of the doomed Malaysian Airlines flight.
US lawyer Blaine Gibson, an amateur investigator who is retrieving washed up debris from the Malaysian Airlines plane, said his friend Raza had been due to deliver new items to Malaysian investigators when he was killed.
Mr Gibson said he had received death threats about his attempts to retrieve debris, but he told Malay Mail that irresponsible speculation could harm the investigation of the missing plane and that of Raza’s death.
“Let the authorities investigate the tragic death of Zahid Raza, who appeared to have been specifically targeted,” he said.
“Hasty assumptions on whether this tragedy was related to his consular capacity, MH370, or other business or personal matters is premature.”
Mr Gibson wrote on his blog last week: “For the protection of those involved we decided not to make this report public until the debris was safely delivered to Malaysia.
“However tragic events have intervened. Under the agreement between the two countries, debris is supposed to be collected by Hon. Zahid Raza, the Honorary Malaysian Consul in Madagascar, and delivered by private courier to Malaysia.
“On August 24 the Hon. Zahid Raza was assassinated in Antananarivo. The debris is still safely in the hands of the Madagascar Authorities. However new arrangements must be made for the collection and delivery of debris.”
Dr Victor Iannello, who was an original member of the independent group of specialists that helped Australian investigators try to locate MH370’s crash site, wrote in his blog: “Last December, Reuters reported that Mr Raza assisted Blaine Gibson in transferring the custody of pieces believed to be from MH370 from Madagascar to Malaysia.
“At that time, six pieces were transferred. This has raised questions as to whether there was a link between those MH370 parts and Mr Raza’s death.
“What makes a possible link to MH370 even more suspicious is that in the time period surrounding his death, Mr Raza was expected to visit the Malagasy Ministry of Transport, retrieve additional recovered pieces, and deliver those pieces to Malaysia.”
Malaysia Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai told the Strait Times that he had sent officers to retrieve a small piece of debris from Madagascar.
Asked about Raza’s death and the missing plane, he said: “I don't think that it is related. It is also irresponsible and premature to speculate as the case is still under police investigation.”
Flight MH370 was carrying 239 people between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing when it vanished on 8 March 2014. Despite intensive searches for three years, the plane was not recovered and the black box has not been found.
Theories surrounding the death of Raza add to the litany of unproved hypotheses surrounding the missing plane, including that it was deliberately crashed by the pilot or co-pilot, that it had been hijacked by the Russians, and that the US shot it down fearing a terror attack on its military base on Diego Garcia.