Criminal case into missing MH370 opened

Another press briefing was held today on developments on the search for the missing plane.

Visitors write on a banner carrying messages for the passengers of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) in Sepang, outside Kuala Lumpur on March 16, 2014. Picture: AFP.

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian authorities say they've opened a criminal investigation into the disappearance of flight MH370.

They held a press briefing in the capital today and briefed the media on developments on the search for the missing plane.

They've confirmed that investigators have visited the home of the pilot and co-pilot to interview their families and collect evidence.

The flight from Kuala Lampur to Beijing last Saturday disappeared off civilian radar with 239 people on board.

Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said, "The search area has been significantly expanded and the nature of the search changed from focusing on shallow seas to large tracts of land, crossing 11 countries and deep, remote oceans."

This week authorities confirmed the aircraft had been deliberately steered off course by someone on the plane.

MH370 INVESTIGATORS SEEK MOTIVE

Police are combing through the personal, political and religious backgrounds of pilots and crew of a missing Malaysian jetliner, a senior officer said on Sunday, trying to work out why someone aboard flew the plane hundreds of miles off course.

"We are not ruling out any sort of motivation at the moment," a senior police official with knowledge of the investigation told Reuters.

Satellite data revealed by Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak on Saturday suggests the plane could be anywhere in either of two arcs: one stretching from northern Thailand to the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, or a southern arc heading from Indonesia to the vast southern Indian Ocean.

A source familiar with official US assessments said it was thought most likely the plane had headed south into the Indian Ocean, where it would presumably have run out of fuel and crashed. Air space to the north is much busier, and the plane would likely have been detected.

As authorities desperately try to re-focus the multinational search, India said it was suspending operations around island chains northwest of the Malay Peninsula, at the request of Malaysian officials.

Indian defence officials said Malaysia wanted to reassess priorities. Malaysian officials coordinating the search could not be reached for comment.

For relatives of those missing, the wait for any firm news has been agonising.