Cherie Howie

Cherie Howie is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Big offer for MH17 plate

Grieving relatives of NZ-bound Malaysia Airlines crash victim pledge $100,000.

Seller Russell Montaperto. Photo / Jason Dorday
Seller Russell Montaperto. Photo / Jason Dorday

The family of a New Zealand-bound passenger killed in the MH17 plane crash has put in a bid for a personalised number plate bearing the flight number.

The grieving relatives have approached the owner of the licence plate and offered him more than $100,000 for it.

Massey delivery driver Russell Montaperto spent $650 securing rights to the plate a few days after the Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down on July 17.

The aircraft was flying over a region of Ukraine that was in the control of Russian separatists — the prime suspects for the atrocity.

Montaperto told the Herald on Sunday the yet-to-be-made plate was a "priceless piece of art", but he would give or sell it at cost to any family of MH17's 298 victims.

Last week, Montaperto was contacted by a relative who offered him "more than $100,000". He said he intended to accept their offer.

"I said, 'You can get one with [the letter] I in it instead of a one'.

"They said, 'We need to have that plate, that number and no other ... we need to do something for our family member'."

The person who contacted him was from Cambodia, but Montaperto did not know where their relative — a man — was from.

The man told Montaperto he did not want to speak to media, but revealed the family had to cancel a dinner for their relative after the tragedy.

A manager at the Auckland restaurant confirmed a booking for 20 people planned for two days after the crash had been cancelled because a family member was on board MH17.

"They said, 'We realise there will be some cost' and we were like, 'Hell, no'," the restaurateur said. "It's amazing how far this crash reached."

As well as the latest unidentified passenger, Australia-based New Zealander Mary Menke, British-born Otaki man Robert Ayley and three other people with strong connections to New Zealand — Benoit Chardome, Henk Tournier and Ineke Westerveld — were among MH17's victims.

- Herald on Sunday

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