THE HAGUE: Dutch criminal investigators will “within months” establish the spot from where the missile that downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was fired, media reports said Friday.
“The Public Prosecutor’s office (OM) will within a few months have finished its criminal probe into what type of BUK rocket was used and is expected to prove exactly where it was fired from,” the public newscaster NOS said.
All 298 passengers and crew – the majority of them Dutch – died when the plane was shot down with a Russian-made BUK anti-aircraft missile over war-torn eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014.
Officials with the Dutch Safety Board (OVV) concluded last year in their investigation that the Boeing 777 was hit by a BUK fired from rebel-held territory, but did not give precise details nor definitively say who was responsible.
Dutch media on Friday said chief criminal investigator Fred Westerbeke said in a confidential letter that there were no film or video images of the actual missile launch.
“There are also no satellite images as a result of cloud cover” over the area in war-ravaged eastern Ukraine, Westerbeke told victims’ families.
Victims’ families last month urged the Dutch government to launch a global campaign to obtain primary radar images which may help pinpoint who fired the missile.
But Westerbeke wrote that Ukraine did not have the data and that investigators were still “in talks” with Moscow for their radar images, while the United States have handed over its radar data.
Russian aviation authorities earlier this month in a separate letter told victims’ families they had handed over primary radar data to the OVV and “still keeps the data and is ready to re-submit it to relevant authorised organisations.”
Westerbeke’s letter added that finding and prosecuting those responsible “could take a long time,” the NOS reported, similar to that of those responsible for the Lockerbie bombing in 1988.
It took years to prosecute and sentence a single suspect involved in the bombing of Pan Am flight 103, which crashed over the Scottish town in December 1988, killing 259 passengers and crew onboard and 11 people on the ground.
Relatives of the MH17 disaster are to be further briefed on Westerbeke’s letter a meeting early next month, the NOS said.