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Malaysia Airlines investigation: Pilot Zaharie Shah named prime suspect

Malaysia Airlines pilot Zaharie Shah has been named the "prime suspect" with regard to the disappearance of Flight MH370, according to an as yet unreleased report from Malaysia government investigators.

The Sunday Times reported June 22 that the criminal investigation into the missing plane determined that the pilot was the most likely suspect given the information gleaned from nearly 200 interviews and evidence discovered at the pilot's home. The report compiled by a Malaysia special branch to investigate the disappearance of the plane noted that the 53-year-old pilot was the most likely candidate suspect if human interference played a role in Flight 370's disappearance.

The official report was released to several governments and crash investigators and will be released to the public at a later date.

The Independent noted that after 170 interviews and a thorough screening of all the 239 passengers and crew aboard Flight MH370, Zaharie Shah remained the chief suspect for several reasons. Of all those aboard the Boeing 777 that went missing on March 8, Shah was the only one who had a clear calendar after the date. For a man who meticulously recorded events and plans, the absence of future events was troubling to authorities.

Shah also had deleted several files in the flight simulator he kept in his home. Investigators learned that some of the simulations took place over the Indian Ocean and there was even some where he practiced landing on a short runway on an island.

The Boeing 777 went missing just hours after it took off. According to flight data recorded by Inmarsat, the plane suddenly moved in a westward direction shortly after contact was lost. Military radar would eventually pick up the plane again off Malaysia's western coast. By this time, the plane was headed south.

The fate of the plane is as yet unknown. Some flight projections have the plane running out of fuel and crashing somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean.

Also, even though several records were deleted from Shah's private flight simulator, experts were able to retrieve the information.

Although unable to clear the Malaysia Airlines pilot from contributing to the plane's disappearance, his piloting of the plane on a course other than its scheduled flight path to Beijing was not the only scenario as to what may have happened to Flight 370. Other things considered were a possible terrorist act and mechanical failure of some sort.

Still, no definitive conclusions have been made regarding the highly circumstantial evidence pointing at pilot Zaharie Shah.

Family members have rushed to defend Shah's reputation, noting that the truth will come out when Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370's black boxes are found.

As for the ongoing search for the missing plane, it was announced last week that when the search resumes, it will focus on an area several hundred miles south of the last searched area. The actual search has been suspended and will pick up again in a few weeks. Inmarsat satellite data suggests that the plane most likely went down in the southern Indian Ocean, far west of Australia.

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