KUALA LUMPUR: The man who made a “mysterious” 45-minute phone call to Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah weeks before Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 vanished, and which resulted in conspiracy theories, is his cousin, an aircraft engineer.
Speaking for the first time, Zulhaimi Wahidin told The Australian newspaper that it was a normal call, adding that he had also called Zaharie three times after hearing that the plane had gone missing.
Rubbishing the conspiracy theory that Zaharie had hijacked the plane he was piloting and later crashed it, Zulhami said: “They’re trying to blame him for what happened and it’s very hard for me to swallow that because he’s not that kind of a person.”
The disappearance of the Boeing 777 carrying 238 passengers and crew on March 8, 2014, enroute to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur remains one of the greatest aviation mysteries and has given birth to various theories.
Zulhaimi, 53, who was then with Malaysia Airlines but now works for another airline, told The Australian he was very close to Zaharie and that they often met each other or chatted on the phone.
He said he was Zaharie’s first cousin and that they had gone to school together. Zaharie was, he added, more like a brother. He said he joined Malaysia Airlines soon after Zaharie did and that brought them even closer.
Zulhaimi denied he had called Zaharie on Feb 2, 2014, weeks before the plane disappeared, to provide technical details to help him hijack the plane, as conspiracy theorists had claimed.
The conspiracy theorists say Zaharie was behind the disappearance of MH370 because of the way the plane changed course, the disabling of the planes communication system, the “mysterious” call he had received weeks earlier, and another three calls the captain had received soon after the plane disappeared.
In the exclusive interview with The Australian, Zulhami revealed that it was he who had attempted thrice to make the calls as he did not believe the flight was missing.
Zulhaimi said the experienced airline captain was not the sort of man who would take himself and 238 passengers and crew to their deaths.
He said Malaysian police had interviewed him “three or four” times at his home and police headquarters following the plane’s disappearance on March 8, 2014, because of their suspicion he had provided his cousin with the technical advice to hijack the plane.
“I was at police headquarters for three days. It spanned from morning to evening. I told them that Zaharie is a smart guy. He doesn’t need me to get all of the information,” Zulhaimi was quoted as saying.
Insisting Zaharie was innocent, Zulhaimi added: “He was a jovial person. He had a lot of money. He was enjoying his life. Why would he kill himself for no reason? He had a good family and a good life. Successful children. I don’t think people are crazy (enough) to kill themselves for nothing.”
MH370 disappeared from air traffic control screens about 40 minutes into the flight when its secondary radar transponder was turned off, and just after Zaharie issued the last radio transmission, saying “Good night, Malaysian Three-Seven-Zero”.
Military primary radar and automatic satellite “handshakes” later showed MH370 flew back over Malaysia, then up the Straits of Malacca, before turning on a long track south to the southern Indian Ocean, where it remains lost despite two major undersea hunts.