Graham Phillips (photos by myself, either parts in question, or parts on MH17 site in July 2015, all sent to official investigation as part of this email stream)
Even if your experience of aircraft investigations extends only to watching Aircrash Investigation, you know one thing. Aircrash investigators always want to collect every single part of the plane they possibly can – that’s the only way they can come to the correct result.
That’s certainly what I thought as I started work on the MH17 site over 9 months ago. Countless pieces found and photographed since, I’ve been collaborating with the official investigation since February of this year, sending them all my reports and relevant photos / videos from site.
On the site extensively over July, a lot came up – from human bones to sizeable parts of flight MH17 – the Dutch-led investigation, based in Amsterdam, were kept apprised of each finding, as I worked alongside journalist Patrick Lancaster, on the MH17 site shortly after the tragedy, on July 17th, 2014.
I’d always adhered to a policy of never removing parts from the site, unlike Dutch journalist who Jeroen Akkermans who decided to start removing parts from site, rather writing to investigators with photos / videos, and location details. However, when out on July 22nd questioning local people in the several villages located on the MH17 site, two of them replied that parts of MH17 (pictured) had fallen on their homes, they hadn’t known what to do with them, and thus the pieces of the downed liner were still in their possession.
Both willingly volunteered, and fetched the pieces. One of them, an Air Flow unit (right), was particularly interesting, sheared with signs of explosion all over. I immediately contacted the investigation, with photos – all these emails are as written, with individual names removed, as the investigators asked me to do from the outset –
Patrick and myself were around the villages MH17 came down in today.
2 homeowners we spoke to had pieces which had fallen on their houses, and they simply didn’t know what to do with them.
Please find photos of them attached. The Air Flow looks like an important part, with visible signs of damage.
I have them with me, and am keen to get them to you as soon as possible.
Best wishes, Graham
The next day I heard back –
Again thanks for your information. I passed threw the mail to ………@mindef.nl
You had already contact with him
I responded to that the next day –
Obviously I’m keen to get these parts to you as soon as possible. I’ll be in Russia next week, so let me know what you’d like to do.
Very best, Graham
And the next
I have the parts with me, and will be in Russia soon – I’m willing to bring them to you myself, in Amsterdam, if required.
Let me know, best, Graham
The next day, I heard back –
Thank you very much for your email.
We appreciate your help with our efforts to support the efforts of our repatriation mission.
Currently we have arrangements with the mayors of Hrabove, Rosznypne en Petropavlivka and fire chief in Torres. They collect and hold all items that are found, i.e. human remains, personal belongings and wreckage of the aircraft until we recover them. So it would be helpful if you could hand them over to any of the above.
Thank you again,
By this time, I was already on the way out of Donbass, almost at the border, travelling to Russia, and had a choice to make. Both the parts were in my possession, and Patrick was able to take them back to Donbass with him, as I went on. However, I simply wasn’t willing to let the Air Flow, which could clearly yield important information, just go to any one of several undefined places, casually mentioned. I replied –
I certainly find your reply surprising. Of the two parts, one, the Air Flow, is key. I was writing to you for several days before receiving a reply. And the reply that I should give the parts to any one of a number of people in a number of places hardly seems adequate.
As air investigators, particularly with the results of your investigation due soon, and preliminary reports already leaked, you should want all the parts at once. I even offered to deliver these parts to you myself. As it is, I’ve never heard of any agreement with those people you mention, to repatriate parts to you. Actually the men working on site to collect parts they presumed would be collected by the OSCE, in December, were similarly unaware of that.
It’s certainly not something the locals are aware of, if it exists, as you say. In any case, the vague instruction to place an important part in one of several places, showing no real interest in where, nor when you would collect it, is hardly what I’d expect of a proper, thorough airline investigation which will deliver justice for the 298 victims of flight MH17.
I’ve tried to believe in your investigation, despite all evidence and reports that the investigation is either corrupt or incompetent.
However, i do find the lack of interest in a potential key part to be beyond the pale.
I’ve now left Donbass, one part I left there with my colleague Patrick, whom you know, they key part, the Air Flow, I have with me in Moscow. It has remained in my possession all the time, is exactly as i found it.
Let me know how you wish to proceed.
Very best, Graham
I heard this on the same day –
As I am travelling as well, I have to discuss your concerns with our backoffice. I will come back to you with a answer latest by Thursday.
In the meantime rest assured that we do appreciate your help.
I then received this yesterday, August 5th –
As promised I would come back to you with an answer regarding the aircraft parts that you have in you possession.
The current arrangement we have in place with the SES and local mayors regarding the collection and storage is working perfectly. I am sorry you have other thoughts and observations. Our agencies are currently working on a plan to recover ( in the coming weeks) the wreckages that have been collected by the local population. This also includes the parts that you and Patrick still have in your possession.
I will inform you when we have a team on the ground so you can return the item to investigation team.
Again thank you for your help and support.
I responded on the same day –
Let’s be clear about this, whether by conspiracy or incompetence, you are currently conducting what must surely be the worst major aircrash investigation in the history of the aviation industry. If you do arrive at the truth it will be a miracle rather by design.
Let me hit on the point you make about your current arrangements ‘working perfectly’. This is how ‘working perfectly’ really is –
– none of the hundreds of local people I’ve spoken to have ever made any mention of being aware of your arrangement
– you gave no addresses of the several places you listed I could put the pieces, if I chose
– you didn’t give me the names of any contacts there, or how – even if – I should confirm to whom they had been given – what documentation is there, for example, to ensure things are to procedure?
– you didn’t ask where the pieces were found
– the delay in your replying meant that by the time I received note of your intentions I had had to leave for Russia, I took the most significant part with me to Russia, the Air Flow, where I’m keeping it safely, the other is being kept safely back in Donbass, by Patrick.
I believe in such an important matter, that everything must be done to protocol. If I have an important part of the plane, you must say –
– exactly where I should take it, and who will collect it
– there must be documentation there to confirm everything is to procedure
And it should go without saying, that the matter should be resolved quickly – it’s now 2 weeks since I first contacted you about this. I certainly don’t understand why you would reject my offer to bring the parts to you myself, as a matter of urgency. I would have got on the next plane with them, at my own expense, just to give the investigation the best opportunity of reaching the truth. To do that, of course, you need all the evidence.
I note that over recent weeks various leaks have emerged from the investigation, and noises from you, that you are ‘ahead of schedule’ etc, in the run up to October’s first announcement of findings.
I find any assertion that your investigation is ‘ahead of’ or even ‘on’ schedule to be confounding. To reach any kind of meaningful result requires the analysis of all significant parts. There are significant parts still left on site, as well as human remains, as myself and Patrick have been informing you of for months.
And then, there are all kinds other parts lying all around the site – as in the below photos attached, taken July 18th and 22nd. These have both been posted on my social media sites, which you have informed me several times you follow, as well as yourselves being notified directly either by Patrick, myself, or both.
None of this investigation corresponds to anything ‘working perfectly’ – all of it is just an absolute mess. These are parts we were given by local people when we knocked on their doors – how many more parts like this are out there because people are not aware of where to take them?? People have not been made aware.
I won’t be back in Donbass until September. Please let me know how I can convey the Air Flow part to you, and Patrick, with a part of the plane’s body in his possession, is equally keen. Both of us will demand that everything is done to proper practice and protocol – the 298 victims of MH17 deserve no less, and they deserve a lot better than this.
I reserve the right to republish parts of our correspondence on my site, the Truth Speaker. I await instructions on what to do with the Air Flow.
I’m deeply disappointed in this entire experience. MH17 was a tragedy, a botched investigation blaming the wrong people, will be another one.
What else can you say to an investigation that doesn’t really want parts of the plane it’s investigating?