PETALING JAYA: Almost seven years after Flight MH370 disappeared without a trace an explosive new theory has emerged — that it was blown out of the sky by a modern weapon.
In a startling interview with the Sun of London, investigative journalist Florence de Changy claims that the plane that disappeared on March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board, was shot down by a “fighter jet, missile or a new laser-guided weapon system being tested in the region at the time”.
She does not know if it was an accident or a planned attack.
Official accounts have concluded the Boeing-777 did a U-turn less than an hour into its planned flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, before plummeting somewhere into the southern Indian Ocean.
But Florence claims it stayed on course and was shot down over the Gulf of Thailand, off Vietnam.
The writer of the book — The Disappearing Act: The Impossible Case Of MH370 — centres her theory around what she claims to be conversations between the crew and others before the plane went missing.
Florence claims an intelligence source had told her that MH370 was approached by two US planes between 1.21am and 2.25am. She, however, does not explain what US planes were doing over Thai or Vietnamese airspace.
She said another aircraft nearby made radio contact with MH370 at 1.30am. There was no sign of panic from its crew.
When air traffic control in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, made contact, the plane’s crew announced it would be landing.
At 2.37am, they told Kuala Lumpur control: “The aircraft is landing at (unintelligible).” Two seconds later, Kuala Lumpur replied: “Say again. Say again for Malaysian 370.”
The Kuala Lumpur controller shared the aircraft’s location on the coast of Vietnam, close to Da Nang.
Florence writes in her book: “Unfortunately, the transcript of that conversation stops there.”
By 2.43am, the plane issued a Mayday message saying the cabin was disintegrating and they needed to make an emergency landing. That message, according to The Sun report, can still be heard on a Taiwanese website.
In the official investigations, however, there is no mention of such conversations. The last message from the cockpit to Malaysian air control was: “All right, good night.” It was made at 1.19am.
The plane went off the radar at 2.22am, over the Andaman Sea after making a U-turn. A plane fitting the description of MH370 was tracked flying over Butterworth before the plane disappeared.
Florence, however, believes that the official version of events was a “diversion operation” and “the biggest cover-up in recent times” to hide the fact that the plane was carrying illicit cargo not checked before being put on board.
She again raises the debunked theory of mangosteens on board the planes.
While officials have made it clear mangosteens do not cause explosions, Florence claims the 4.5 tonnes of fruit on board could have been something else.
She said: “The mangosteens made no sense. It was not the right season; it was a ridiculous amount. Then I found ‘fresh mangosteens’ on every flight of MH370 for the following month.
“The largest hub for illegal trade between Africa and China is Kuala Lumpur airport. So mangosteens could be the cover for all sorts of things, including rhino horns or elephant tusks.”
Even stranger, she says, was 2.5 tonnes of small electrical items from Motorola on the manifest — lithium-ion batteries, walkie-talkie accessories and chargers.
Florence said: “It was supposed to be small things, not very valuable, not very heavy. The official report said this cargo was not X-rayed.
“This is a very big problem. The head of one of the biggest cargo airlines in the world said never in his life had he accepted cargo on a plane that had not been X-rayed. The reason given was that it was too bulky. How can walkie-talkies and chargers be bulky?”
Florence’s theory is that the mysterious cargo might have been why the plane was forced to make an emergency landing. She described “a cargo confiscation operation” with an aim to “force the plane to make a landing, confiscate whatever that cargo was and let it fly again”.
She added: “If you are surrounded by military planes, you are to follow orders. But if it is just an order over the radio, it is legitimate to refuse. No one would notice a slight delay into Beijing. But the captain would have to follow orders to make an unscheduled landing.”
Florence claimed that “the plane continued to fly for another 80 minutes, until 2.40am. A new laser weapons system was being tested at the time. The shooting-down could have been a blunder or a last resort to stop the plane’s special cargo falling into the wrong hands.
“Only military or intelligence sources could provide this kind of detail. The strength of my book is in the timing and the cluster of clues that prove a disaster around 2.45am in the north of Vietnam,” she said