Investigators hunting for the missing flight MH370 may be looking in the wrong place, according to new research by German scientists.
The aircraft may have crashed more than 3220km north of the current search area, somewhere off the south coast of Java, oceanographers said.
The claim is based on detailed computer modelling of ocean currents that could have carried a flaperon believed to come from the missing plane to the French island of Reunion.
The wing part, found on the island in July, is the only trace of the aircraft seen so far.
There has been no shortage of theories as to the fate of MH370, which disappeared from radar screens in March last year while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
But the latest claim is based on solid scientific research.
A team at the Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel ran extensive computer modelling of ocean currents to trace how the flaperon could have ended up on Reunion.
"Our results show that the current focus of the search south-west of Australia may be too far south," said Jonathan Durgadoo, one of the researchers.
The study found a number of possible locations for where the aircraft may have crashed.
But only one corresponded to the arc of possible last positions from analysis of the plane's satellite pings: an area of some 200 square miles off the south coast of Java.
Professor Arne Biastock, another of the researchers, urged caution.
"Finding more pieces of MH370 debris would be necessary in order to make more precise statements," he said.
The findings follow claims that barnacles found on the flaperon might indicate a more northerly crash site.
But the Helmholtz Centre said its team had not been able to analyse the barnacles.
"We were asked to look into the barnacles, but we haven't been able to examine them, we only have photographs, so we can't say anything about them," Jan Steffen, a spokesman for the centre said.
- Daily Telegraph