What Sort of Person Was MH370’s Captain?

After nearly five years of investigation, it has long since become glaringly obvious that if MH370 did fly south into the southern Indian Ocean, as the Inmarsat data and recovered debris suggest, then the perpetrator was almost certainly the plane’s captain, Zaharie Ahmad Shah.

But Shah’s character poses a riddle. As I wrote in a post last year,

In the months after the disappearance of MH370, Malaysian police searched for any clues that might suggest that the plane’s captain, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, was the culprit. This would have been the simplest explanation for why the Boeing 777 suddenly went electronically dark and pulled a U-turn forty minutes into its flight, and scarcely a minute after Shah’s voice was heard over the radio calmly telling air traffic controllers “Good night, Malaysia 370.” But to their chagrin, the evidence was slim. Zaharie had left no note. His family and friends had noticed no sign of mental disturbance. There was no evidence of political or religious extremism or of marital discord. He was under no financial pressure. He just didn’t fit the profile of someone who would kill hundreds of innocent people and take his own life in the process.

The suicidal pilot who brought down Germanwings 2925 (covered in my Kindle Single “Fatal Descent”) had a long psychiatric history and left numerous clues in his browser history. In contrast Shah seems to have been a boringly stable personality. Two of the leaked Royal Malaysian Police Reports contain detailed information about him. “Folder 1: Pilot” includes documentation of his work history, an assessment by a psychologist, and raw data pulled from his flight simulator. “Folder 4: SKMM Analysis” looks at his internet and cell phone use, as well as that of other crew members. The totality of all evidence left investigators with the impression that:

“The PIC’s ability to handle stress at work and home was reported to be good. There was no known history of apathy, anxiety, or irritability. There were no significant changes in his lifestyle, interpersonal conflict or family stresses… there were no behavioural signs of social isolation, change in habits or interest, self-neglect, drug or alcohol abuse…” (Safety Investigation Report, 1.5.11-1.5.12)

However, a recent  article in the UK’s The Sun suggested that, based on Shah’s Facebook activity reported in Folder 4, the MH370 captain was “self-destructive” and “should have been fired.” The main focus of the article is the 97 responses he reportedly posted to Facebook postings by minor-league Malaysian models, which prove (the article alleges) that Shah was a googly-eyed pervert.

This claim struck me as eminently worth investigating. In modern life one’s computer is practically a part of one’s brain; what one browses, emails and texts about is virtually a life cast of one’s personality and interests. If Shah was deranged, it would certainly show up in the tracings of his internet use.

According to Folder 4, Zaharie’s favorite site to comment on was one of two Facebook accounts maintained by model QiMin Lan. I scrolled through her feed and found that the pictures she posted to be chaste. They are mostly head shots; where her full body is shown, she’s fully clad.

She posted about 50 times a month, so over 100 posts from the beginning of 2014 until Zaharie’s disappearance. In that time I was only able to find a single comment from Zaharie:

He wrote:

Two months earlier he had posted the same comment…

Before that…

I don’t know what “chomel u!” means.

And that’s all I was able to find, going back to November 1, 2013. Far from a pestering nuisance, he seems to have commented rather sparingly, and his comments were benign (at least as far as I could understand them).

Now, the Star reports that one of his comments was “just showered?”, which does have a rather leering tone to it. But I wasn’t able to find that particular post. It’s hard to judge out of context, and the article provides none.

I’d be curious to know if any readers have better luck than me in tracking down Shah’s comments. The URLs, and thumbnails of the pictures he commented on, can be found on pages 9-41 of Appendix A-3 of Folder 4 (pages 60- 92 of the pdf linked above).

55 thoughts on “What Sort of Person Was MH370’s Captain?”

  1. Hmm.. well that seemed to end awkwardly.

    @Jeff Wise, mate appreciate your site a great deal, and that you keep it real..

    And to all you regular peeps (most) that continue to comment .. educated, and knowledgeable comments.. I love listening and learning from you all.. keep up the good work.

    Merry Christmas

Comments are closed.