The pilot of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 sent WhatsApp messages to a married woman days before the disaster, prompting speculation he may have crashed the plane deliberately because of a “broken heart”.
Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah reportedly messaged Fatima Pardi about a “personal matter” two days before the flight with 239 people on board disappeared, The Australian reported.
He reportedly had a relationship with Pardi, who has three children, and would often visit the family’s home with gifts.
Pardi, 35, said they had a “personal” and “private” final WhatsApp conversation two days before the crash, but declined to reveal what was said to The Australian.
Hours later, the flight piloted by Shah disappeared between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing in March 2014, killing him and everyone on board.
Although Pardi says they were not having an affair, Shah had become “like a father to her three children,” the Daily Mail reports.
But their friendship had “cooled” at Shah’s request a few weeks before the crash.
Pardi said the pilot, 53, regularly visited her house and gave gifts to her children.
She had been questioned four times by detectives investigating the flight, but has previously refused media interviews.
Pardi claimed she wanted to speak out now to counter theories that Shah crashed the flight on purpose.
But Pardi said she didn’t want to talk about the contents of the WhatsApp conversation because she feared she would be “misunderstood”.
”This is not a lovey-dovey story. He was a friend of mine. We were friends,” the Australian reported Pardi as saying.
“That last conversation was just between me and him. I don’t want to talk about it.
“I’m afraid what I say will be misunderstood. It was a personal matter, a private issue.
“Since the incident, I have refused all interviews because I have been afraid that what I say will be misinterpreted, and that it will hurt Captain Zaharie’s family’s feelings.
“Of course there was gossip, people will always talk whether you’re good or you’re bad. People think I am the ‘other woman’,” she said.
In July, New York magazine leaked information from the investigation that suggested a murder-suicide theory, after Shah had plotted a similar path to the one MH370 is believed to have taken on his home flight simulator less than a month beforehand.
Experts searching for the doomed flight recently voiced concerns that they have been probing the wrong area for the last two years.
Teams have been scouring a 120,000-square kilometer (46,000-square mile) expanse of southern Indian Ocean since the Boeing 777 disappeared from radar on 8 March 2014.
The Beijing-bound flight went missing an hour into its departure from Kuala Lumpur.
In July last year the first confirmed part of the Boeing 777 - a flaperon - washed up on Reunion Island in the western Indian Ocean. Several other pieces of debris have since been submitted for analysis.
But two years on the bulk of the aircraft remains missing, prompting the Dutch engineering company leading the underwater hunt to speculate the mapped search area is incorrect.