Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - PAUL TOOHEY

IN the fields of Ukraine, where one of the great­est crimes of this cen­tury re­mains un­pros­e­cuted, there is some hope to sal­vage from the scene.

Re­flect­ing a year on from the dis­as­ter, the man who be­came Aus­tralia’s spe­cial en­voy to the Ukraine, for­mer air chief mar­shal An­gus Hous­ton, says he be­lieves those who shot down Malaysia Air­lines MH17 will be iden­ti­fied and face jus­tice.

The first task as­signed to Sir An­gus – of en­sur­ing no ef­fort was spared to iden­tify, re­cover and repa­tri­ate all re­triev­able re­mains of the 38 Aus­tralian cit­i­zens or res­i­dents aboard – has been ac­com­plished.

No Aus­tralian re­mains un­ac­counted for, and only two of the 298 pas­sen­gers and crew mur­dered on July 17 have not been iden­ti­fied af­ter painstak­ing foren­sic work.

Sir An­gus’s sec­ond task was to en­sure, to Aus­tralia’s sat­is­fac­tion, that the loss of the 777 was fully in­ves­ti­gated to in­ter­na­tional stan­dards and a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion ini­ti­ated.

That, he says, was to find who was re­spon­si­ble for “this dread­ful out­rage and to bring them to jus­tice”.

Sir An­gus, who was ap­pointed to over­see Aus­tralia’s re­sponse to the still- un­re­solved dis­ap­pear­ance of MH370 off WA in early March last year, found a very dif­fer­ent set of cir­cum­stances in the Ukraine.

The eastern part of the coun­try was, and still is, a war zone, mean­ing the Dutch- led re­cov­ery mis­sion – heav­ily sup­ported by Aus­tralian Fed­eral Po­lice and De­fence per­son­nel tem­po­rar­ily sworn into the AFP – was vexed from the start.

MH17 was shot from the skies, likely by a sep­a­ratist­fired, Rus­sian- supplied SA11 ( BUK) sur­face- to- air mis­sile, in what was prob­a­bly a case of rebels – who are fight­ing to break from the Ukraine – mis­tak­ing it for a Ukrainian mil­i­tary plane.

Sir An­gus is cer­tain MH17 was shot down by a sur­face- toair mis­sile.

“The pre­lim­i­nary re­port said the fuse­lage was pen­e­trated by a large num­ber of high­en­ergy ob­jects from out­side the air­craft,” he said.

“The sort of mis­sile sys­tems in the vicin­ity of the crash site would fit that de­scrip­tion.”

Sir An­gus is hope­ful those re­spon­si­ble will be brought to ac­count.

“I hope we are able to do that,” he says.

“It’s in­cred­i­bly chal­leng­ing but it’s a ro­bust in­ves­ti­ga­tion ( in­volv­ing Hol­land, Aus­tralia, Bel­gium, Malaysia and the Ukraine) and hope­fully we will get to the bot­tom of it.”

Small Dutch re­cov­ery teams re­turned to the site twice af­ter the 200- plus Aus­tralian in­ves­ti­ga­tors left last Au­gust, gath­er­ing more re­mains and plane parts.

There is seen to be no fur­ther need to re­turn, un­less it in­volves speak­ing to wit­nesses or per­haps de­tain­ing those re­spon­si­ble.

The fear,

of course, is that the guilty have long since slipped back across into Rus­sia, which as the likely sup­plier of the SA11 mis­sile sys­tem in­volved has its rea­sons for pro­tect­ing them.

But peo­ple in the wider sep­a­ratist move­ment – and, it is thought, in­ves­ti­ga­tors – know who did it.

Even if they are tried in ab­sen­tia, the full story of MH17 will one day be told.


CRIME SCENE: Ukrainian res­cue work­ers in­spect part of the wreck­age of Malaysia Air­lines flight MH17 on July 20 last year.

Sir An­gus Hous­ton.

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