While Australian main stream media did not report much on an Australian coroner inquest, pro Russian websites suggested that Australian Federal Police disagreed with the Dutch Safety Board findings on the weapon used.
All those Pro Kremlin websites based their article on a single source: Moscow based journalist John Helmer who attended the hearing in Melbourne.
This blogpost will expose John Helmer as writing nonsense with the sole purpose to mislead people.
Helmer is notorious for twisting facts. See an earlier example on the MH17 case.
Facts are blown up by Helmer. It is indeed true that the Dutch prosecutor did not establish the cause of the shot down. The final report of the Joint Investigation Team is expected in 2016. More than likely in the second half of 2016.
The transcript of the hearing at December 15 was published the same day.
The final report of the coroner is available here
Just today at December 22 the Dutch Public Prosecution Service has said that the international team of criminal investigators has yet to establish the exact causes of the crash of the Malaysian airliner in Donbass.
The inquiry is moving forward each day, but it is too early to say that the exact causes of the tragedy have been established, Public Prosecution Service spokesman Wim De Bruyn told Interfax by telephone on Dec. 22. (source)
But it is much exaggerated to state that conclusions of DSB that MH17 was shot down by a BUK missile are reason for Australian Federal Police and Dutch prosecution to ‘break with DSB’ as Helmer suggests.
A much more balanced report than the one of Helmer on what was told at the Coroner’s hearing is documented by James O’Neill in his blogpost titled MH17 Coroner’s
In Australia it is common to have a hearing lead by a coronor to legally establish the cause of death of a person. In Melbourne at December 15 and 16 the Coroners Court of Victoria held two inquests (hearings) on the death of the Australian MH17 passengers.
At Wednesday one hour was used to have Detective Superintendent Andrew Donoghoe of the Australian Federal Police (AFP) make a 7-pages statement. Also Associate Professor David Ranson, a forensic pathologist, was able to testify. There were submissions from relatives of the deceased as well.
While Australian journalists reported in newspapers about this hearing, there was no report at all in European press including the Dutch press. 196 Dutch passengers died as a result of the MH17 shot down.
Donoghoe read a 7-pages statement during the hearing at December 15. Some info of his statements as published in Australian newspapers:
- The criminal investigation will continue until at least mid-2016, but for the most part, victim identification is mercifully complete.
- Detective Superintendent Andrew Donoghoe from the AFP said they were unable to confirm the origin of the missile, despite it being of Russian make and previously supplied to the Ukraine.
Some of the Australian press reports on the hearing at December 15 and 16 are listed below:
- Victorian Coroner blames missile for blowing MH17 out of the sky (SMH)
- MH17: Victorian coroner accepts Dutch findings into downing of the Malaysia Airlines flight (ABC)
- Loved ones left behind after MH17 call for justice (The Age Victoria)
- Children of MH17 victims say closure will only come with legal justice (HeraldSun)
The testify under oath of Donoghoe did not get much attention by the Australian press. Most reports of the inquest were focussed on the next of kin.
Moscow based journalist John Helmer however wrote a long blog about the statements of Donoghoe. Many blogs with a Kremlin bias copied the blog of Helmer. Also Sputnik news reported on the coroner hearing soley based on information published in Helmer’s blogpost.
Helmer told me he attended the hearing himself and interviewed Donoghoe afterwards.
In October 2015 Donoghoe was interviewed by the Sydney Morning Herald. It is a good read!
I was able to read the actual transcript of the inquest at December 15. Spoiler: John Helmer quoted Donoghoe on statements he did not make in the hearing.
John Helmer said he interviewed Donoghoe afterwards. Two people , being Helmer and Donoghoe, can confirm what was said in that interview. It would not be logical if Donoghoe make different statements in the interview than made during the court session (under oath) .
Debunking John Helmer
It is weird that Pro Kremlin blogs report about the statements of Donoghoe and Western press ignore those. So time to see if we can verify what Helmer states.
Luckily I was able to obtain a transcript of what Donoghoe testified.
Helmer’s text is in italics. My response to Helmer’s text in bold.
First the title of the blog: AUSTRALIAN POLICE, DUTCH PROSECUTORS BREAK WITH DUTCH SAFETY BOARD AT FIRST CORONER’S COURT INQUEST ON MH17 CRASH
There is no indication in the article which confirms both Australian police and Dutch prosecutors break with DSB.
Donoghoe stated :
“The OVV had concluded that the flight MH17 was shot down with a Buk missile system. The interim findings of the criminal investigation point to that conclusion, however the Dutch Prosecution Service made it clear that in order to obtain conclusive criminal evidence it was also necessary that other scenarios – such as the possibility that MH17 was shot down by another type of missile, or that it was shot down from the air – must be ruled out convincingly.
The interim findings of the criminal investigation also concur with the OVV conclusion regarding the area of the launch site. Within the scope of the criminal enquiry certain persons of interest had been identified who are of ongoing importance to the investigation.”
Helmer then writes:
He (Donoghoe) and other international investigators are unconvinced by reports from the US and Ukrainian governments, and by the DSB, of a Buk missile firing.
Dutch prosecutors require conclusive evidence on other types of missile,” Donoghoe said, intimating that “initial information that the aircraft was shot down by a [Buk] surface to air missile” did not meet the Australian or international standard of evidence.
a tougher standard than the DSB report” is required before the criminal investigation can identify the weapon which brought the aircraft down, or pinpoint the perpetrators.
Helmer is twisting. Donoghue did not state this. There is not a single reference in the hearing from which could be concluded that Donoghou, Dutch prosecutor, JIT or the AFP are unconvinced of a BUK missile firing.
JIT preliminary findings are the same as final report of DSB.
Helmer just want his reader to believe a BUK missile is not the likely casue of the MH17 shot down.
Testifying on oath, Donoghoe revealed for the first time that the Australian government had quietly negotiated two agreements to investigate the crash site in eastern Ukraine. The first, he said, was with the Ukrainian government in Kiev for security around the crash site. The second was with Novorussian leaders in order for the Australians to carry out their searches for victims’ bodies, personal property and other evidence, as well as to run a command post in Donetsk city. Political recognition by the Australians of the separatists has never been acknowledged before. Donoghoe refused to say who signed the agreement for the Novorussians.
Donoghoe did tell about three agreements. He did not say these had ‘quietly negotiated’. During the inquest Donoghoe was not asked about who signed the agreement for the pro-Russian separatist (Novorussian is a text of Helmer). It could be Donoghoe refused to say who signed the agreement when asked by Helmer during the interview.
For the first time also, Donoghoe acknowledged publicly that the international investigators had had “no ability to collect aircraft parts or other debris”. It was not until May 2015, he added, that forensic examination of the aircraft began.
That is nonsense. First of all Helmer uses the word ‘for the first time’ to make the statement of Donoghoe a scoop. It is not. What was said was “Due to the security situation at the time, there was no ability to collect aircraft parts or other evidential material from the crash site and the debris sites”
This is nothing new. Investigators could not get unlimited access to the site in the first months.
The final report of the DSB states that at December 10 2014 forensic investigation started at Gilze Rijen airforce base. At May 12 2015 forensic investigation started of a second batch of debris collected between April 19-May 2 in Ukraine.
The transcript does not say that “It was not until May 2015, he added, that forensic examination of the aircraft began.”
The draft final report of DSB was sent at June 2 to all participating states. Anyone can understand it is impossible to do forensic investigation in less than a month!
In his testimony Donoghoe said that ten months after the crash, and after Kiev officials had handed over less than half the fuselage fragments to the Dutch, the discovery was made of “some fragments not consistent with debris of the aircraft”.
Kiev did not hand over fuselage debris. The separatists handed over debris. OVSE negotiated with the Netherlands for recovery.
DSB stated it will not collect the complete aircraft. Just the cockpit and business class section is enough to perform the investigation into the cause of the crash.
Donoghoe indeed stated about “fragments which do not appear to be consistent with material from the aircraft” The DSB report documents fragments of a BUK missile (being fragments not consistent with material from the aircraft) were found in the cockpit and wing.
Australian police calls for Ukrainian witnesses on the ground, who may have seen or heard what happened on the fateful day, were issued in March 2015, and then again in June. Some of those who came forward to testify refused to do so, Donoghoe said Tuesday, unless the Australian and Dutch police protected them in “a safe location”; excluded Ukrainian government officials; and kept the identities of the witnesses secret.
This is confirmed by Dutch newsstation NOS who interviewed Dutch and Australian prosecutors.
The transcript tells a different story
As indicated above, John Helmer just invents quotes and is misleading his reader. I obtained the transcript documenting what Donoghoe testified. When I am sure the transcript can be made public I will do so.
I contacted by email four Australian journalists who attended the hearing. One responded replying he did not pay much attention to the statements of the AFP. I did not get replies from the other journalists yet.
As we can conclude from the transcript, Donoghoe did not state much we did not already knew.
Day 2 of the inquest
At Day 2 the coroner Ian West issued a statement of findings.
Helmer reports in a second blog here on the statements of West.
Helmer makes a big mistake in the text below:
It was further determined that the Buk surface-to-air missile system is the only weapon system to carry one of the distinctive pre-formed fragments in its warhead and that such a missile system was present in the region at the time of the incident.”
West’s statement of finding doesn’t reveal the “forensic evidence” he thinks is determinative. By the “presence” of the Buk missile, West appears to have been referring to missile batteries operated by Ukrainian government forces recorded by satellite photographs at locations on the ground at the time.
Helmer here suggests to his reader that coroner West might suggest Ukraine shot down MH17.
The next lines of Helmer’s blog are just incorrect.
The DSB report, and subsequent media statements by its chairman, Tjibbe Joustra (right), explicitly point blame at Russia for allegedly supplying Buk missiles and to Novorussian units fighting the Kiev regime for firing at least one of them.
The DSB report does not document any blame at Russia. Chairman Joustra stated in a different location to journalists: “the missile was fired from an area under control of the separatists. But situation was fluid’. Joustra did not say anything about who supplied the BUK missile system.
Blogs of John Helmer are far from recording facts. It is twisting and adding stuff that fits the Kremlin agenda.