The shoot down of the Malaysian Boeing flight MH17 in 2014 is an event with significant geopolitical implications still unfolding. From day one Western sources claimed there is overwhelming evidence of Russia’s guilt in the tragedy. 
After nearly six years at least some of the alleged overwhelming evidence will be tested in court. We take a closer look at a specific missile part that is already subject to scrutiny during the Dutch court proceedings.

For years the MH17 Joint Investigation Team claims it collected parts of the missile that downed the Malaysian Boeing. What if that turns out to be untrue?

Wilbert Paulissen, then head of the Dutch national crime squad, explained during the first JIT press conference 28 September 2016:

“MH17 was shot down by a missile from the 9M38 series, fired by a Buk Telar and this Telar originates from the territory of the Russian Federation and after the launch was returned to the Russian Federation. This conclusion is for an important part based on a forensic investigation and in the animation we will explain how the investigation has contributed to this conclusion.” [20Min30Secs]

Screenshot JIT animation showing a venturi.

The commentator in the video: “During the investigation at Gilze Rijen (Dutch air base) several parts of a missile were found, such as a venturi and a wing. To establish the type of the missile, material from other missiles was collected for comparison.” And:
“Investigators have dismantled various missiles of the 9M38 series. This made it possible to compare the found parts with those of the dismantled missiles and it could be established that the found parts are indeed from a 9M38 series missile.” [22Min33Secs

It took the investigators almost four years to disclose the serial numbers of the venturi and casing and ask the public for help during a press conference held 24 May 2018. While the venturi was collected (how, where and by whom remains unclear) and with other debris transported to the Netherlands, the story of the missile casing is quite different.

Casing of the Buk missile that allegedly shot down flight MH17

What does the Dutch police have to say about the missile casing?

The police report 26DLRPRIMO-05356 made public for the first time here today at The Hague Times states:

“In the period 17 April up to and including 29 April 2015 four officers with special investigative powers with the Primo numbers 17- 496, 17-495, 17-511 and 17-512 respectively, secured four parts of which it is presumed that they originated from a missile within the framework of the recovery mission. The presumed missile parts were secured in or near the municipalities Petropavlivka, Oblast Donetsk situated in East Ukraine. […]
In the presence of the investigation officers mentioned, a witness pointed out the finding locations of these parts. While doing this the witness said he had seen these parts there for the first time a few weeks before 17 April 2015.”

Investigating officer known under primo-number 17-519 made video recordings. The area within which the parts had been found by means of orientation with the following GPS-angular coordinates:

48.141, 38.517
48.148, 38.529 
48.144, 38.537 
48.135, 38.526

Coordinates plotted on a map gives this result:

Trapezium shaped area about 1 km2 in size in which missile parts were allegedly found.

Members of the Primo investigation team heard several persons as witnesses. The identity of these witnesses is known to reporting police officer Thiry: 

“Of all the relevant findings, such as the finding, the conveying and the seizing of the missile parts mentioned, separate official reports were drawn up under oath or affirmation of office by the (special) investigating officers. In addition video or audio recordings were made during the investigative activities that were eligible for it such as witness examinations, these have been annexed to these official reports. As a consequence of the publication of these reports and recordings the witnesses mentioned in them could be seriously inconvenienced or be seriously hindered in the performance of their duties of professions (187d Code of Criminal Procedure)”, Officer Thiry reports.

Annexed to the report are:

1) photograph of a fragment; sin-number AAHP8536NL
2) photograph of a fragment; sin-number AAHZ3740NL
3) photograph of a fragment; sin-number AAHZ3739NL
4) photograph of a pipe ; sin number AAHZ4351NL

Requests and applications made by the defence team of suspect Oleg Yuldashevich Pulatov

3 July 2020 the Dutch Court has rendered an interlocutory decision on requests and applications made by the defence, counsel for MH17 relatives and the Public Prosecution Service. The relevant sections for this article:

“Furthermore, the defence notes that, in the case of certain materials secured in April 2015, i.e. three shards and a tube, the case file does not state how long they had already been at the crash site, and how they got there. The defence asks what investigation was subsequently conducted on site in Ukraine to rule out the possibility that those materials might have originated, for example, from a BUK missile fired by Ukraine prior to 17 April 2015 and/or that they were planted as evidence? The defence points out that, given the tenor of the JIT agreement, it is entirely plausible that Ukraine was in a position to exert compelling influence on the investigation carried out by the JIT. […]

Section 7, para. 27
The court will also grant the request to interview the reporting officers named in official report of findings Primo-05356 on the special seizure of three shards and a tube, (Primo 17-496, Primo 17- 495, Primo 17-511 and Primo 17-512), to question them regarding their findings with respect to securing the alleged missile components.”

Defence lawyer Ten Doesschate further complains about the fact that documents are still being shielded from the defense. That hinders the defense, she explains. In addition, the lawyers are not given any reason for the foreclosure against which they could object. She asks the court to determine that video recordings are added to the file. According to Ten Doesschate, these videos probably show where exactly pieces of the BUK missile were found and how those pieces were secured.

The Defence requests records of witnesses who found missile parts. Witness M58 – some documents redacted. Some parts redacted regarding conditions for granting interviews – these should be released.
Witness X48’s statement is not included, just a summary. Even asked questions are blanked out. What happened during the making of this statement?

Is the defence team just trying to sow doubt with unsubstantiated requests?

Contrary to BBC reporter Anne Holligan who reported “gasps as MH17 investigators reveal what appears to be part of Buk missile inside press conference” and claims in absolute terms “9m38 missile series Buk missile responsible. Manufactured in Russia,” a few hours after the presser the JIT publishes an extremely important ‘nuance’, completely ignored by all media: 

“The extent to which both parts belong to the missile fired by the BUK-TELAR of the 53rd Brigade cannot yet be stated with certainty.”

Notice in the Dutch police report 26DLRPRIMO-05356: 

“a witness pointed out the finding locations of these parts. While doing this the witness said he had seen these parts there for the first time a few weeks before 17 April 2015.”

That is to say, the casing and other parts have remained unnoticed for more than eight months.
Or, the casing with measurements of about one meter in length and diameter thirty centimetres has been planted.

Notice in the Dutch police report 26DLRPRIMO-05356 officer Thiry uses the term: 

“de vermoedelijke vindlocaties van genoemde raketonderdelen”, which in the English version is translated as: “the probable supposed finding locations of the missile parts.”

If the prosecutors fail to unequivocally prove the missile casing is indeed from the Buk missile that shot down the Malaysian Boeing, they will fall back on other evidence. Nothing lost.
If the defence lawyers prove the casing is not part of the murder weapon, they will not have gained a lot. And besides, how could they prove the casing was planted if only the officers who recorded the testimonies can be interviewed, but the witnesses who allegedly collected the parts remain anonymous?

Author: Max van der Werff