Debris from the missing Boeing 777 flight is believed to have been found off Vietnam as Interpol investigates whether up to four passengers boarded the plane using stolen passports.
A Vietnamese search team has found what they believe is part of a door and an airplane’s tail in the first major breakthrough in the hunt for missing aircraft.
The suspected fragments have been located around 50 miles from south-west of Tho Chu Island, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Investigators are narrowing the focus of their inquiries on the possibility that the plane disintegrated in mid-flight, a senior source said on Sunday
‘The fact that we are unable to find any debris so far appears to indicate that the aircraft is likely to have disintegrated at around 35,000 feet,’ said the source, who is involved in the investigations in Malaysia.
It comes as Interpol criticised Thailand’s lax airport security after it emerged at least two passengers boarded the Malaysia Airlines flight MH307 with stolen passports – giving rise to the possibility that the missing 239 passengers are victims of a terrorist attack.
From above: A picture taken by personnel on a Vietnamese search aircraft and made available by Tienphong.vn shows what is believed to be a piece of debris of missing Malaysia Airlines airplane at an undisclosed location.
Italian tourist Luigi Maraldi, 37, shows his current passport during a press conference at a police station in Phuket island, southern Thailand. One passenger on the missing plane travelled on the stolen passport of Mr Maraldi.
Italian national Mr Maraldi had reported his passport stolen in August 2013.
The possibility of a further two stolen passports used on the same flight is now being investigated as it emerges that no cross checks were carried out against Interpol’s lost and stolen database.
Procedural checks would have revealed that at least two passengers were travelling on stolen passports stolen.
The passports were used to buy tickets booked in the names of Italian Luigi Maraldi and Austrian Christian Kozel on March 6, 2014, and issued in the Thai city of Pattaya, a popular beach resort south of the capital Bangkok.
Luigi Maraldi, 37, the owner of one of the passports, was listed as the sole Italian national on the missing flight. This afternoon he told how the document was stolen while he was on holiday in July last year on the island Phuket.
Mr Maraldi said it happened when a deal went wrong at a motorcycle shop in Patong.
Mr Maraldi reported his passport stolen in Thailand last August and was allowed to travel back to his native Italy on temporary documents.
On Sunday, his father Walter explained the original was stolen after he used it to hire a motorbike.
‘Last summer he was in Thailand and handed over the passport so he could hire a scooter but when he brought it back, they said they had already given it back to someone else, so he reported it stolen,’ he said.
Mr Maraldi added:’The whole thing is a mix up – we have no idea who the person was that used my son’s passport. The first I knew something had happened was when my son rang from Thailand on Saturday morning to say he was alive.
He said he had seen his name on the news reports as being on the missing airplane and he wanted to let us know he was alive and well. To be honest, I had no idea whet he was talking about as I hadn’t seen the news by then.
‘Once everything was cleared up, we said goodbye and I went and watched the news – a few minutes later the Italian Foreign Ministry rang to ask if I was the father of Luigi Maraldi and to say that he was on the passenger list.
‘They were amazed when I said they were mistaken as I had just spoken to him and he was fine. They asked me for his number so they could call and check for themselves.
‘They said his passport had been used by someone and they needed to check for certain he was ok. We are delighted that he is ok but he was never really involved in the disaster directly.’