A New Zealand criminologist has come out in support of a theory that the captain of the missing Malaysia Airlines aircraft was on a suicide mission.

University of Canterbury Professor Greg Newbold, who lectures on terrorism, said the only person who could have changed MH370's computerised flight plan and switched off its electronics was someone who was highly experienced.

That person, he acknowledged, could only have been the pilot, Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah - a man with 30 years' flying experience.

His co-pilot on the March 8 flight, 27-year-old Fariq Abdul Hamid, was fairly inexperienced; having only been on his sixth flight in the cockpit and the first time as an unaided pilot.


"We know that after changing course, the aircraft flew briefly above its maximum ceiling. If the pilot had then depressurised the aircraft, all passengers and the crew - including the pilot - would have lost consciousness within a few minutes," Professor Newbold said.

"From here, the re-computerised flight plan would have allowed the plane to fly itself at a predetermined altitude and course until it eventually ran out of fuel and crashed.

"If this is correct, it would explain why no one on board apparently attempted to raise the alarm using a cellphone."

Professor Newbold's comments come after a Herald story, yesterday, of an exclusive interview with one of Captain Zaharie's closest friends, who is a pilot himself.

Gallery: The Faces of flight 370

The man, who did not want to be named for fear of repercussions, said the captain was in no state of mind to be flying a Boeing 777.

It is understood Captain Zaharie had personal issues; having recently separated from his wife - whom he had children with. It is thought his relationship with another woman was also on the rocks.

The man said his old friend's world was crumbling and felt the captain had taken MH370 on a "last joyride".