Five years on from the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, an Australian daily has alleged that Malaysian authorities withheld details of an investigation report which has been purportedly leaked online.
This includes, according to The Australian, the previously dismissed claim that MH370 co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid may have tried to use his mobile phone just minutes before the airplane disappeared from radar on March 8, 2014.
The daily claimed that this detail, which was kept from Fariq's family, backed one of the many theories on the flight's disappearance – that the captain of MH370 "hijacked his own aircraft after locking Fariq out of the cockpit."
Fariq's father Ab Hamid Md Daud was quoted by The Australian as saying that he was not informed of his son’s mobile phone detection by a telecommunications tower at Bandar Baru Farlim, Penang.
"No. I don’t know about that," he said.
On April 12, 2014, sources told New Straits Times that Fariq had tried to call someone when the plane was flying low near Penang on March 8. The search for the missing aircraft was in its 37th day at the time.
Then-communications and multimedia minister Ahmad Shabery Cheek later said he was sure that Fariq did not attempt to make a phone call from the plane near Penang.
According to The Australian however, a police report from May 2014 "confirmed" that authorities knew about the detection of Fariq's phone by April 24, but made no mention of it in a Factual Information Safety Investigation report released in March 2015.
"MH370 co-pilot’s mobile phone was reported as detected in Celcom’s mobile network in Penang by Sector 2 of BBFARLIM2 Base Station.
"Based on the recorded flight path of MH370 obtained from the police, it is noted that MH370 was flying in the coverage area of Sector 2 BBFARLIM2 Base Station at 1.52:59am... which is close to the time it was detected by the BBFARLIM2 Base Station," it said, quoting from the leaked investigation report.
The daily also quoted industry experts who weighed in on details of the purported investigation report.
Among others, Tallinn University of Technology digital forensics expert Matthew Sorell said Fariq's mobile phone appeared to have been switched on before the plane approached Penang.
Based on his analysis of the mobile phone network records as contained in the investigation report, Sorell claimed there was an indication of a "new location area update," as the connection happened at the edge of the coverage cell.
"This means the phone was on, and responded automatically when it detected the cell signal over Penang.
"That ping occurs about 28 seconds after entering new coverage space, which is what would be expected in the case of a location-based update," he said.
“There is no reason for us to hide any key information... If I wanted to withhold information, do you think my seven counterparts from different countries would allow me to?
“None of them gave a dissenting view on it. People should read the report properly,” said Kok Soo Chon, the head of the Malaysian ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) Annex 13 Safety Investigation Team.