People light up candles and hold a banner during a candlelight vigil for the passengers aboard the missing Boeing 777-200 plane of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 10 March 2014.
People light up candles and hold a banner during a candlelight vigil for the passengers aboard the missing Boeing 777-200 plane of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 10 March 2014. Mo cun

One year since MH370: the mystery and the grief

IRENE Burrows is waiting for a miracle to emerge from the dark icy depths of the southern Indian Ocean.

The 85-year-old knows she will never see her son Rodney and daughter-in-law Mary again, and she has no wish for their bodies to be removed from their watery grave.

However, she is desperate for searchers to find the remnants of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 so her questions about their fate can be answered.

It is an important dream to cling to as the Burrows' family wraps up a terrible year of firsts, which includes birthdays and Christmas without their loved ones.

Unable to hold back her tears, Mrs Burrows said she dreaded the next first most - the 12-month anniversary on Sunday of the Boeing 777's disappearance.

"I think the first for everything is always hard," she told APN Newsdesk from the home she shares with her husband George in Biloela, in central Queensland.

"We've had Rodney's first birthday, we've had Mary's first birthday without them around.

"We've had a first Christmas and now it's the first anniversary of when the plane went down.

"We miss them dreadfully." 

Flight MH370, carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew, left the Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 12.41am on March 8.The Beijing-bound plane disappeared from radar, 38 minutes into the flight, while over the South China Sea.

Rodney and Mary Burrows set off on their holiday just five days earlier on March 3.

Excited about their once-in-a-lifetime trip to Malaysia and China, with close friends Bob and Cathy Lawton, the only thing concerning the Brisbane couple was the impending birth of their grandson.

George and Irene Burrows spent the past week in Brisbane with family, the trip proving emotional and exhausting for the elderly couple as they marked the day Rodney and Mary left the country.

"(It) was hard in Brisbane because Rodney and Mary flew out on the third of March and that was the last time any of the family saw them," Mrs Burrows said.

"We spoke to them just before they'd left. "They were quite thrilled to be going. "Mary had a few reservations because their eldest daughter was expecting a baby within the month and she was terrified the baby would be born before she got back.

"So she had little reservations about the timing being bad."

Mary never got to hold her first grandson, Harrison Rodney McMasters.

He was born on April 9 - a month after the plane disappeared.Mrs Burrows said Rodney's three adult children believed that until their parents' bodies were found there was a chance they were still alive.

"I'm afraid my husband and I have crossed it off (finding them alive)," Mrs Burrows said.

"Rodney's children have always had hope - I suppose every time there's a new theory - but unfortunately I have given that up. "I just hope that they do find the plane.

"That's my only hope now."

Mrs Burrows said she did not expect to bury her son and daughter-in-law."

After 12 months I think just leave them (their bodies) be," she said.

"That's my feeling - I don't know how the others feel but that's how I feel."

The families of the Burrows, the Lawtons, Sydney couple Gu Naijun and Li Yuan and Perth's Paul Weeks would struggle this week to make sense of their loss, University of Queensland psychology academic Judith Murray said.

Professor Murray said "ambiguous loss" - when closure is impossible because no bodies have been found - was extremely hard for anyone but it was even tougher as global attention turned its focus on the tragic milestone.

"(The tragedy) is constantly reignited for them a lot of the time," Professor Murray said.

"It's like if you have a wound and you keep pulling the Band-Aid off all the time, it struggles to get a chance to heal well."Professor Murray said the days leading up to the anniversary would be the hardest for relatives and friends of the victims.

"People will experience what we call 'anniversary reaction' and for many people the build-up to the anniversary, the anticipation is sometimes worse than the day itself," she said.

"You've got that anticipation of something you're dreading."

Relatives of Chinese passengers from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 attend prayers in Thean Hou temple, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 01 March 2015. About two-thirds of the 239 passengers were Chinese nationals
Relatives of Chinese passengers from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 attend prayers in Thean Hou temple, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 01 March 2015. About two-thirds of the 239 passengers were Chinese nationals FAZRY ISMAIL

Timeline of MH370: what we know

PIECING together the puzzle that is flight MH370 is a harrowing task.

The plane left Kuala Lumpur in good weather under the control of a pilot and co-pilot who were very experienced.

"Goodnight Malaysian three-seven-zero," were the last words Kuala Lumpur Air Traffic Control received.

After 38 minutes in the air, the plane disappeared.

Experts initially believed it had crashed into the South China Sea.

On March 9, searchers moved their focus from the South China Sea to the Malacca Strait and within days they had moved west toward the Indian Ocean.

On March 15, it was revealed the plane's communication system and transponder were switched off when it reached the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia.

Five days later, Prime Minister Tony Abbott called his Malaysian counter-part, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, to tell him objects possibly related to the plane were spotted in the southern Indian Ocean about 2500km south-west of Perth.

A handout picture made available by the Australian Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) on 08 October 2014 shows the underwater search areas for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in the Indian Ocean, off Western Australia.
A handout picture made available by the Australian Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) on 08 October 2014 shows the underwater search areas for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in the Indian Ocean, off Western Australia. JACC

As the search moved to this location, a black box detector picked up two short pulse signals from what authorities believed was the aircraft.

In September last year, the searchers, with the help of 112 aircraft and 13 ships, found 58 objects on the Indian Ocean floor but there was no confirmation they came from MH370.

Australia committed a fourth ship to the $140 million search of a 60,000sq km site on January 14.

Two weeks later, the Malaysian Government made a move that would ensure compensation payouts for victims. It declared the missing flight an accident.

To date, contractor Fugro has searched 26,000sq km and nothing of interest has been found.Mr Abbott said the search had proved fruitless.

"For the families and the loved ones of those on that flight, it is a harrowing nightmare," he told parliament on Thursday.

"With sadness ... I have to admit to the House that, so far, we have not found any trace of MH370. "I can't promise that the search will go on at this intensity forever, but we will continue our very best efforts to resolve this mystery and provide some answers."

Fugro project director Paul Kennedy revealed the cost and complexity of the hunt meant the area would only be searched once.  

"It is literally like mowing the grass when we're out there and we run up and down the search area, systematically searching every square metre," Mr Kennedy said in a video released by the Joint Agency Coordination Centre.

"We actually create images of the sea floor to a 1m resolution and, as everybody knows, a 777 aircraft is significantly larger than 1sq m, so there's very little chance of us flying over it and not finding the aircraft."

Former air safety investigator Geoffrey Dell said the search would have ended quickly and successfully if Malaysia Airlines had turned on a device on the plane that could communicate its position to a satellite.

"The technology that was on the plane, the satellite could receive the signal from the plane but in this case Malaysia Airlines was not subscribed to it," the Central Queensland University Accident Investigation and Forensics Associate Professor said.

Oceanographer Charitha Pattiaratchi said time would not erase the plane and the evidence it holds.

"The plane would be at the bottom of the ocean - as it is very cold it will be preserved," the University of Western Australia professor said."

Look at the Titanic - after 100 years it is still recognisable.

"They say that if a whale carcass ends up the bottom of the ocean it would take years for it to decompose."

The mystery and the conspiracy

NO CONFIRMED debris, an uncertain and difficult search area and little communication between the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 pilot and ground control makes a great recipe for conspiracy theories.

From Vladimir Putin kidnapping the plane and its passengers to aliens stealing it, theories are popping up across the world.US science writer Jeff Wise has suggested the Russian PM has the plane.

"Maybe he wanted to demonstrate to the United States, which had imposed the first punitive sanctions on Russia the day before, that he could hurt the West and its allies anywhere in the world," Wise wrote in New York Magazine. 

 CNN recently reported a former French airline manager claimed the plane was shot by the American military because it feared it had been hijacked and was set to attack a US army base.

Not long after MH370 disappeared, the Malaysian Police Inspector-General claimed the missing plane was part of a huge insurance scam.

Believing something really is out there, a survey of Americans by Reason.com found 5% of respondents reckoned the plane was in the possession of aliens.

Almost daily, new conspiracy theories emerge, but University of Leicester modern culture expert Martin Parker said "sensible scepticism" had its place in society.

"... if Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein had believed what they were told the then US president, Richard Nixon, would never have been impeached," the professor of Organisation and Culture said.

"The point is that conspiracies don't need to involve aliens, or the Illuminati, or the Holy Grail, because they can easily use forms of forensic common sense to reach some remarkable conclusions.

"The asking of questions is not in itself pathological and it's a fine line between a scientific scepticism that begins with doubt and a form of paranoia which assumes that the world is deceiving us."

A Malaysian Department of Civil Aviation report into the missing plane, to be released today may put some of the conspiracy theories to rest.

The search for missing Flight MH370 continues
The search for missing Flight MH370 continues Australian Defence

A look into history: planes from the past that went off the grid

FROM Amelia Earhart's disappearance in 1937 to the mystery surrounding last year's Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, nothing quite grabs the public imagination like the loss of a plane.

It's almost 78 years since the flying pioneer and author's Lockheed Model 10 Electra went missing over the central Pacific Ocean.

Born in 1897, Earhart was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.She broke a number of aviation records and helped form an American organisation for female pilots.

Her plane disappeared while she was circumnavigating the globe.Her body and her plane are still missing.

Just a few years earlier, about 1934, a US military plane with 90 people on board disappeared on its way to the Philippines from Guam.

The Flying Tiger Line flight 739 pilot did not send out a distress call and no trace of the plane was found.A ship's crew claimed to see a strange light in the sky around the time the plane disappeared, leading to fears it exploded but authorities were unable to confirm this.

The Bermuda Triangle has claimed a number of planes over the years.

The Triangle gets its name from the shape of the region between Bermuda, Puerto Rico and Florida.In the 1940s, two British South American Airways jets went down in the area, killing 51 people, as did five American military planes.

And more recently, a worldwide search failed to uncover what happened to a Boeing 727-233 which disappeared after leaving an airport in Angola in 2003.

On board were two men who apparently could not fly a plane and when it left the airport there was no communication with ground-control staff. The jet flew west over the Atlantic Ocean and has not been seen since.

- APN NEWSDESK


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