UK & World News

  • 16 March 2014, 6:24

Pilots And Crew In Spotlight As Homes Raided

Police investigating the missing Malaysian airliner have searched the homes of both pilots, as authorities turned their attentions to those onboard the plane.

Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah and his First Officer Fariq Abdul Hamid are among the few who would have been in a position to tamper with equipment on Flight MH370.

Experts say the Boeing 777's transponder would have had to be turned off by someone with technical knowledge and that it is "inconceivable" anyone in the passenger cabin was involved in the diversion.

Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak said the jet's communications had been deliberately disabled by "someone on the plane".

"In view of this latest development, the Malaysian authorities have refocused their investigation into the crew and passengers on board," he said.

It later emerged that police in Malaysia had searched the homes of both Mr Shah and co-pilot Mr Hamid.

Hijacking has also not been ruled out, but the country's prime minister refused to be drawn on the matter, saying instead authorities were "refocusing their investigation into the crew and passengers on board".

Reports emerged last week that Mr Hamid, 27, had entertained two women in the cockpit during a flight between the Thai island of Phuket and Malay capital Kuala Lumpur in 2011.

Australian woman Jonti Roos alleged that Mr Hamid and another pilot had talked to her and a friend, smoked and posed for photos in a clear violation of aviation rules.

Mr Hamid has about 2,800 hours of flying experience and has worked for Malaysia Airlines since 2007.

Malaysia Airlines said it was shocked by the claims about Mr Hamid's conduct.

Neighbour Ayop Jantan told the Associated Press that he had heard that Mr Hamid was engaged and planning his wedding.

Police were seen outside the home of Captain Shah on Saturday - a gated community in the town of Shah Alam, just outside of Kuala Lumpur.

Captain Shah, 53, joined Malaysia Airlines in 1981 and was known as an avid flying buff who had clocked more than 18,000 flying hours.

The grandfather is said to have enjoyed flying miniature planes on his days off and had created a series of "community service" YouTube videos with handy hints to help cut bills.

He was also a certified flight simulator examiner and had sufficient knowledge to build his own simulator at his home.

Several days ago, the Malaysians were forced to deny raiding the pilots' homes, when suggestions that the place could have been deliberately diverted first emerged.

Despite that, police have confirmed they are looking at the pair's psychological backgrounds, their family life and connections.

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