On 27 June 1980 a DC9 passenger aircraft carrying 77 passengers and 4 crew crashed near Ustica, Italy in the Tyrrhenian Sea. All 81 people on board died.
Over time there were at least three official inquiries.
In September 2011 the Palermo civil tribunal ordered the Italian government to pay 100 million euros ($137 million) in civil damages to the relatives of the victims for failure to protect the flight and for concealing the truth and destroying evidence.
Finally, on 23 January 2013, Italy’s top criminal court ruled that there was “abundantly” clear evidence that the flight was brought down by a stray missile and confirming the lower court’s order that the Italian government must pay compensation.
The most likely reason is that the aircraft was shot down by an air to air missile. Parts of the glass of one of the windows were found in the body of a passenger. Another cause could be a bomb which detonated inside the aircraft. That however would not have caused glass entering bodies of passengers.
This is a very good paper on the shot down of the DC-9.
Major sources in the Italian media have alleged over the years that the aircraft was shot down during a dog fight involving Libyan, United States, French and Italian Air Force fighters in an assassination attempt by NATO members on an important Libyan politician, maybe even the leader Muammar al-Gaddafi, who was flying in the same airspace that evening. This version was supported in particular by investigative magistrate Rosario Priore in 1999. Judge Priore said in his concluding report that his investigation had been deliberately obstructed by the Italian military and members of the secret service, in compliance with NATO requests.
According to the Italian media, documents from the archives of the Libyan secret service passed on to Human Rights Watch after the fall of Tripoli, show that Flight 870 and the Libyan MiG were attacked by two French jets.
A month after the crash, the wreckage of a Libyan jet was found in southern Italy.
At March 31 2016 an new movie went into premiere. The movie Ustica is the fruit of three years’ work spent in close collaboration with two aeronautic engineers on the huge mass of reports and testimonies to have been produced over the thirty plus years that have passed since that tragic night, and presents a new theory, supported by documented material.
The movie shows NATO fighter aircraft chasing a Libyan fighter aircraft. The Libyan aircraft hides near the Itavia DC9. Both aircraft are destroyed by an air to air missile.
Like with MH17, radar recordings were initialy missing. In another documentary on the Ustica crash a NATO spokesmans tells the press that NATO does not have radar. Only states have radar.
While the crash site of MH17 was not accessible because of heavy fighting, Ustica recovery was also difficult. For example, the vessel that carried out the search for debris on the ocean floor was French, but only US officials had access to the aircraft parts they found.
Several radar reports were erased and several Italian generals were indicted 20 years later for obstruction of justice. The difficulty the investigators and the victims’ relatives had in receiving complete, reliable information on the Ustica disaster has been popularly described as un muro di gomma (literally, a rubber wall), because investigations just seemed to “bounce back”.
Many books about the crash were written as well as many tv documentaries. For example Air Crash Investigation : Massacre over the Mediterranean (Itavia flight 870) which can be viewed on YouTube. In February 1991 a movie opened in Italian theatres called “The rubber wall”.
It was said that NATO aircraft wanted to shot down Muammar Gaddafi. He was supposed to be returning from a state visit to Poland and on his way to Libya. Almost the same route as Itavia 870.
Italy has repeatedly asked NATO, and in particular the United States and France, for full cooperation in clearing up the incident. Italy had still good relations with Libya. This while the US had an embargo on Libya. An Italian company did maintenance of Libya Air Force C130 Hercules aircraft. The Italian prosecutor believes a C130 which was ferried back to Libya from Italy was escorted by a Mig 23. This Mig was shot down at the same time as the Itavia DC9.
The United States believed the aircraft was flown by a defector of the Libyan Air Force. The aircraft run out of fuel and crashed. However the Italian prosecutor has photos showing machine gun holes in the aircraft.
United States officials initially stated the DC-9 might have crashed because of an internal explosion, or “clear air turbulence”
Initially the US stated none of their aircraft were close to the Itavia flight. Later the US confirmed 5 of their aircraft were indeed operating. A U.S. Embassy spokesman in Rome said the United States has bent over backward to reply to 57 requests for information by Priore. But Priore said military secrets were withheld and that in three interrogations, Richard Coe, a former assistant to the Air Force attache at the U.S. Embassy, gave “contradictory, unreliable, and nearly tormented answers.” (Washington Post has an interesting article)
The French government initially denied there was a French Navy aircraft ‘Clemenceau’ carrier in the area. French Government denied. The government also stated the French airforce base at Corsica called Solenzara was closed four hours before the crash. However eyewitness said many aircraft operated from that airbase.
French tv station Canal Plus aired a program titled l “Ustica disaster: a French error (Il disastro di Ustica: un errore francese?) ” in January 2016 (source)
Italian officials stated the Mig crashed at July 18, 1980. However the CIA visited the crash site at July 14 and took away some of the wreckage. (source). Just how–and why–the MiG was flying over Italy remains unclear. Libya said the plane had traveled off course when it was put on autopilot during a training exercise in Libyan airspace.
Italy’s many conspiracy theorists have also pointed to a suspiciously high mortality rate among air force staff and other people linked to the case, with four committing suicide by hanging.
Another died of a heart attack at the age of 37.
The Italian Ministry of Transport had to pay compensation to the next of kin because it didn’t guarantee the security of the DC-9 and hide news and documents by “diversionary actions and destruction of official records. (source)”
The Dutch government also is doing its best to hide the truth. (link)
During investigations of the Itavia shot down, documents disappeared and air traffic voice recordings were found to have either been erased or tampered with. There was a gap of 22 minutes in NATO radar recordings. Radar tapes of a US Navy aircraft carrier disappeared.
The same is true for MH17. Ukraine did not hand over primary radar of both civil and military air traffic control. Russia did not hand over raw primary and raw secondary radar recordings.
In 2007, two former air force generals were definitively acquitted on charges of covering up the truth about the crash.
This website in Italian has a lot of info: stragediustica.info
There is a museum in Bologna showing the reconstruction of the aircraft