The families of passengers aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight have criticised the release of the first book about the subject, saying it was premature and its claims that the plane was accidentally shot down were speculation.

The book by the London-based author Nigel Cawthorne, Flight MH370: The Mystery, reportedly claims that the plane may have been shot down accidentally during joint United States-Thai military exercises in the South China Sea and that the search may have been led astray as part of a cover-up.

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The book, published this month by John Blake Publishing in London, is being released less than 11 weeks after the disappearance of the Boeing 777, which was carrying 239 crew and passengers. No wreckage from the plane has been found despite a continuing international search, which is focused on the southern Indian Ocean.


"The drill was to involve mock warfare on land, in water and in the air, and would include live-fire exercises," says the book, according to Fairfax Media.

"Say a participant accidentally shot down Flight MH370. Such things do happen. No one wants another Lockerbie, so those involved would have every reason to keep quiet about it."

Cawthorne's book says the failure to find wreckage is "in itself is suspicious" and that even if the plane's black box is eventually found, it may not be the original. "Another black box could have been dropped in the sea 1,000 miles from Perth while the search was going on in the South China Sea," the book says.

The book was criticised as premature by Irene Burrows, an Australian whose son and daughter-in-law were on the flight. "Nobody knows what happened so why would anyone want to put out a book at this stage?" she told Fairfax Media.

"There's absolutely no answers. It's devastating for the families. There are so many theories that I only want to believe one, that they were all unconscious and didn't know what was going on... That keeps me sane. All I want is for somebody to find a bit of plane."

Christine Negroni, an aviation author, is also writing a book about the flight.

A film loosely based on the missing jet, The Vanishing Act, is also reportedly being produced.