Family, friends condemn British tabloid report on MH370 pilot

KUALA LUMPUR - A British tabloid has come under fire from Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah's family and friends over its report that the MH370 pilot was distracted and withdrawn weeks from the March 8 flight that vanished.

The Malaysia Airlines (MAS) pilot has been the subject of investigations by Malaysian authorities after the plane carrying 239 people disappeared, but the US Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) has cleared him after finding nothing in his self-built Boeing 777 simulator, Malaysian Insider reported on Monday.

The Daily Mail had previously reported that Captain Zaharie, who has been with MAS for 33 years and has more than 18,000 flying hours, had personal problems and was a fanatical supporter of opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

"Dear Daily Mail, You should consider making movies since you are so good at making up stories and scripts out of thin air...

"May god have mercy on your souls. You can bet your a** I will not forgive you," the pilot's daughter, Aishah Zaharie, wrote on her Facebook status on Sunday night.

The tabloid's weekly edition, The Mail on Sunday, reported on Sunday that Captain Zaharie's wife, Faizah Khanum Mustafa Khan, had allegedly told investigators that "he retreated into a shell", spending time alone in his room in the house they shared.

It has been more than three weeks since flight MH370 disappeared with 239 crew and passengers aboard, and investigators in Malaysia suspect that the plane may have been deliberately steered off course.

The plane is thought to have flown hundreds of miles out over the southern Indian Ocean where it eventually ran out of fuel and plunged into the sea.

No wreckage or debris has been found as yet from the plane.

The tabloid had said they spoke to the wife and daughter of the 53-year-old pilot and both said he had been distracted and withdrawn in the weeks before the aircraft's disappearance.

But an email sent to The Malaysian Insider denied that family members, except for Mr Zaharie's son, had spoken to the Daily Mail.

The weekly, saying no suicide note had been found and no motive established, claimed police were continuing to concentrate on the pilot's background and his state of mind before the flight.

The report further said that police interviews with family members confirmed that the pilot, who lived with his family in an upmarket neighbourhood in Shah Alam, did not have any obvious financial problems.