As it happened: MH17 victims' bodies flown home

Key Points

  • The first 40 coffins carrying victims of the downed Malaysia Airlines plane arrive in the Netherlands
  • Netherlands holds a day of mourning for the 193 Dutch nationals killed
  • Pro-Russian rebels are widely blamed for the deaths of 298 people on board
  • UK sources say rebels have tampered with evidence at the crash site
  • Two Ukrainian air force planes have been shot down not far from where MH17 went down, Ukrainian officials say
  • All times BST (GMT +1)

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    Welcome to the BBC's live coverage of the aftermath of the MH17 air disaster. The first planes carrying bodies from the downed Malaysia Airlines flight have left Ukraine for the Netherlands, which is holding a day of mourning for the 298 victims. Forty coffins were loaded on to two military planes at Kharkiv airport on Wednesday morning by a military guard of honour.


    Pro-Russian rebels have been widely blamed for shooting down the plane on 17 July. UK government sources say intelligence shows the rebels deliberately tampered with evidence, moving bodies and placing parts from other planes in the debris.


    Meanwhile, Ukraine's military says two of its fighter jets were shot down on Wednesday just 35km (20 miles) from the crash site.


    A national day of mourning is being held in the Netherlands, including here at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam.

    Man at Schipol airport

    Members of the Dutch royal family and PM Mark Rutte are meeting the first flight, which has just landed in Eindhoven.

    14:52: Breaking News

    The first two planes carrying bodies of the victims have now landed in Eindhoven.

    Plane arrives

    Two aircraft - a Dutch military C-130 and Australian C-7 - flew the bodies to the Dutch airport, where they will be also met by families of the victims.


    Churches around the Netherlands rang their bells for five minutes before the planes landed.


    Members of the Dutch armed forces are marching towards the plane to bring the coffins onto the tarmac for the ceremony, before they are taken away for forensic identification.

    Arjen de Wolff

    tweets: Church bells ringing in The Netherlands. The plane, bringing our dead home, about to land. One minute of silence throughout the land. #MH17


    The Last Post is being played before the bodies are removed from the planes.


    A minute's silence is held before being broken by the completion of the Last Post.

    Trumpeteer plays Last Post on 23 July 2014

    A series of hearses are gathering in two lines facing each other on the runway in Eindhoven, as the first coffin emerges from the plane.


    Dutch flags are flying at half-mast across the Netherlands.

    The Dutch flag flies at half-mast on the Westertoren hotel in Amsterdam on 23 July 2014.
    The Dutch flags fly at half-mast on houses in Utrecht, the Netherlands, on 23 July 2014.

    The BBC's Annita McVeigh in Eindhoven describes images of the coffins being unloaded as "strikingly sombre".

    Coffin unloaded

    The Dutch king and queen are among those paying their respects on the runway.

    Dutch King and Queen
    Anne Disney

    tweets: While sad, very glad to finally see the victims of #MH17 finally being treated with respect at Eindhoven Airport.

    Rene Marsh, CNN correspondent

    tweets: You can hear the cries fr the crowd as #MH17 bodies are unloaded fr Dutch military plane. The sound of those cries just crushes you


    Police officers observe a minute's silence at the gate of the Korporaal van Oudheusden barracks in Hilversum where the bodies will be transferred for identification.

    Police observe silence

    Preparations are being made for a prayer service for the victims at St Joris Church in Amersfoort.

    Preparations are being made for a prayer service for the victims at St Joris Church in Amersfoort

    Each wooden coffin is being carried by eight pall bearers.


    The Dutch Safety Board, who are heading the flight MH17 investigation, say that six days on, investigators still do not have safe access to the crash site. There are four investigators in Ukraine, but none of them have been able to actually visit the site and investigate "under safe conditions", the board adds.


    The Dutch Safety Board says it is conducting two other investigations - one into the decision making process with regard to flight routes and another into the availability of passengers.


    Some 1,000 relatives of the victims have gathered at the airport. The father of Barry Sweeney (pictured), a British man who was on board the downed flight, told ITV News before the coffins arrived that the families "need closure" through the return of the bodies and the burial process.

    Barry Sweeney

    "A sad, sad procession" - the BBC's Annita McVeigh captures the mood in Eindhoven.

    Kay Burley, Sky News

    tweets: Dutch say everything ready for ID process to begin 'swiftly and with discretion'. Huge respect for this small country with broken heart #mh17‏


    This is the first time in 52 years the Netherlands has had a day of mourning. The operators of windmills were asked to put their blades in the "mourning position" with their bottom blades resting slightly to the right instead of the left, a Dutch tradition.


    There have been no adverts on Dutch radio or television this afternoon as a mark of respect for the victims.


    Ukrainian soldiers stand next to the coffins containing Dutch bodies at Kharkiv airport.

    Soldiers in Ukraine stand next to the coffins containing Dutch bodies at Kharkiv airport in Ukraine

    A motorcade is leaving the airport to head to the Korporaal van Oudheusden barracks. Motorways between Eindhoven and Hilversum - where the bodies are being transferred - have been closed along a 100 kilometre (65 mile) stretch to allow the long convoy of hearses carrying coffins to pass.


    As a reminder, the remains of the unidentified victims were held in refrigerated rail carriages for several days in the rebel-held part of Ukraine, before being transported and flown out of Kharkiv to the Netherlands.

    Dutch Embassy London

    tweets: Flags flying at half-mast over Downing Street today in memory of victims #MH17 and solidarity with the #Netherlands.

    Lottie Smith, Huddersfield

    emails: Despite this terrible incident, it brings peace to see the bodies being treated humanely and with the upmost respect. I take my hat off to the Dutch for organising such a peaceful return, can't imagine what the families are going through.


    The identification process could take months, Dutch PM Mark Rutte has warned. Concerns over how the bodies have been treated, stored and transported in the rebel-controlled territory of eastern Ukraine are some of the many challenges facing forensic investigators.


    Flight attendants and mourners gather outside Amsterdam's Schiphol airport on a national day of mourning in the Netherlands.

    Flight attendants and mourners gather near flower bouquets at Schiphol Airport on 23 July 2014.
    Giedo van der Garde

    tweets: I'm @Schiphol, respect for the 1 min of silence. It's never been so quiet. #DayOfMourning


    Confusing language in a tweet posted by the Associated Press sparked fears the plane carrying the bodies of those killed in the MH17 crashed landed in Eindhoven. It came just minutes after scores of people were killed in another plane crash in Taiwan.

    AP tweet

    The Dutch Safety Board has taken over formal control of the crash investigation and will coordinate with a team of 24 investigators from Ukraine, Malaysia, Germany, the US, the UK, Russia and the International Civil Aviation Organisation.


    "There are no real answers yet for the victims' families" - the BBC's Annita McVeigh at Eindhoven Airport.


    Experts say they have only managed to verify 200 of the 282 bodies removed from the crash site. It comes amid claims pro-Russian rebels exaggerated the number of bodies transferred to the town of Kharkiv on Tuesday.


    Mourners gather at a vigil for the victims of the downed airliner in Kuala Lumpur.

    A man cries at a vigil for victims of downed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in Subang Jaya outside Kuala Lumpur on 23 July 2014.

    Windmills across the Netherlands have their sails set in the mourning position today.

    Windmill with sails in mourning position, the Netherlands, 23 July 2014
    16:27: Anna Holligan BBC News in Eindhoven

    None of these families know if their loved ones are inside these simple wooden boxes. This is a nation right now watching and mourning.

    16:32: Anna Holligan BBC News in Eindhoven

    There are hundreds of journalists here behind barricades. During the minute's silence, there was not a sound apart from the flapping of the flags, all flying at half-mast.

    jEindhoven airport journalists

    The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Wednesday it considers Ukraine to be in a state of civil war and urged both sides to respect and protect the civilian population.


    Meanwhile, fighting between Ukrainian government forces and rebels in eastern parts of the country continues, with reports of 16 people killed in clashes in the rebel stronghold of Donetsk.

    16:37: Anna Holigan, BBC News in Eindhoven

    The Dutch prime minister has said it could take days, weeks or months to identify the bodies.


    Several German lawmakers have raised the possibility of stripping Russia of its right to host the 2018 football World Cup in the wake of the Malaysia Airline disaster in Ukraine, Reuters reports.

    "The Fifa football association should think about whether Moscow is an appropriate host if it can't even guarantee safe airways," MP Michael Fuchs is quoted telling German media.


    The Dutch football federation, meanwhile, has said it is too early to discuss the Netherlands' participation in the 2018 World Cup in Russia "during these black days", AFP reports.


    As the Netherlands mourns, fighting in the eastern Ukrainian pro-Russian stronghold of Donetsk goes on.

    A pro-Russian separatist at a checkout 25 kilometres from the city of Donetsk, Ukraine on 23 July 2014.
    16:50: Anna Holligan BBC News in Eindhoven

    This is a serene and stable nation, not used to expressing its emotions so openly. Many feel as though their children and families were thrown into somebody else's conflict.


    A reminder that British air accident investigators have started analysing information from the black boxes recovered from the wreckage of flight MH17. The recorders were delivered to the headquarters of the Air Accidents Investigation Branch in Farnborough, south-west of London, earlier on Wednesday.


    AAIB experts will have access to the cockpit voice recorder, providing hours of pilots' conversations, as well as the contents of the flight data recorder.


    The flight data recorder will reveal the time of the incident and the altitude and position of the aircraft, while the cockpit voice recorder will reveal what the crew knew was happening before disaster struck.

    A pro-Russia separatist shows members of the media a black box belonging to Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, in Donetsk on 22 July 2014.
    Imelda Flattery, BBC producer

    tweets: Hearses are driven out one by one past silent crowds. #MH17


    In case you missed it earlier, you can watch the simple ceremony held at Kharkiv airport, Ukraine, before the 40 coffins were transferred via plane to the Netherlands.

    From clockwise top, a coffin is carried to a military plane at Kharkiv airport bound for Holland, flowers are left at the airport following a ceremony for the victims of MH17, the flight carrying the bodies takes off, Ukrainian citizens hold up a sign which reads "Kharkiv is sympathizing"
    Breaking News

    Dutch air accident investigators say they have found no evidence that the black box voice recorder on MH17 was tampered with

    BBC's Anna Holligan

    tweets: Families now being taken inside aircraft... 40 coffins & most cameras have departed #MH17


    In the immediate aftermath of the crash, there were concerns over the whereabouts of the two black box recorders, after alleged recordings of intercepted calls between rebels saying Moscow had given orders not to hand them over to international monitors came to light.


    However, pro-Russian rebels did hand them over to Malaysian experts on Monday, who said they were in good condition. They are now in the hands of British air accident investigators (see 17:00, 17:02 and 17:03).


    More on the black box recorders - investigators from the Dutch Safety Board, who are watching the AAIB UK team, say the cockpit voice recorder was damaged but the memory module was intact. "No evidence or indications of manipulation of the Cockpit Voice Recorder was found," it adds.


    The cockpit voice recorder data "was successfully downloaded and contained valid data from the flight," which the Dutch investigators say will be further analysed and investigated.


    The flight data recorder will be examined tomorrow, Dutch investigators say.

    Matina Stevis, Wall Street Journal reporter

    tweets: There is so much quiet grief here at Hilversum barracks. Despite dozens of camera crews, mourners bringing flowers, it's almost still.


    The Malaysian flag was among those flying at half-mast at Eindhoven airport.

    Malaysian flag flies at Dutch coffin carried

    A motorway between Eindhoven airport and Hilversum stands empty except for a convoy of hearses carrying the first 40 coffins of the remains of passengers or crew killed on flight MH17.

    This aerial photo shows a convoy of hearses carrying coffins containing the remains of victims of the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, driving from the Eindhoven Airbase to Hilversum on 23 July 2014.
    Ivan Watson, CNN correspondent

    tweets: The crash site of Malaysian Air flight 17 feels all but abandoned. No guards, no investigators, most debris removed.

    Scene of crash

    We're wrapping up our live coverage of the return of the first victims of flight MH17 to the Netherlands where a day of mourning for those killed is being held. British aviation investigators have started analysing the two black box recorders; Dutch investigators say one of those containing voice recordings, has not been tampered with. In eastern Ukraine the fighting goes on, with reports of two Ukrainian military jets shot down by pro-Russian rebels very close to the MH17 crash site. You can follow our news story for all of the latest developments.


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