MH17 crash: AAIB crash experts due in Ukraine

Alexander Hug, centre, deputy head of the OSCE mission, stands at the crash site Image copyright AP

UK experts are due in Ukraine to assist with the inquiry into the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) is joining the probe into how the plane crashed on Thursday, killing 298 people, including 10 Britons.

Number 10 said the prime minister and US president discussed the "increasing likelihood" a missile was fired from an area held by pro-Russian rebels.

No 10 said the Cobra emergency committee would meet again later.

Among the British passengers believed to have been killed in the crash were football fans John Alder and Liam Sweeney, World Health Organization press officer Glenn Thomas and student Ben Pocock, who was travelling to Australia as part of his studies.

A father-of-two, reportedly from Guildford in Surrey and living in New Zealand, is also believed to be among the dead.

The family of Robert Ayley, 28, said in a statement posted on Facebook they were "desperately sad" to confirm he was a passenger on MH17.

Meanwhile, a UK charity has said it is caring for a disabled child whose mother, father and siblings were on board the plane.

Image caption Liam Sweeney, John Alder, Glenn Thomas, Ben Pocock and Richard Mayne (clockwise from top left) are believed to have died in the tragedy

Downing Street said Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barack Obama had agreed in a phone call that an independent investigation should get under way "as soon as possible".

"Those responsible must be held to account," a No 10 spokesman said.

They also discussed potential new sanctions on Moscow over Ukraine, he said.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Flowers have also been placed outside the Netherlands Embassy in London
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption International investigators are yet to be allowed access to the crash site

Meanwhile, the Foreign Office said extra consular staff were in Ukraine. The Metropolitan Police aims to send specialist officers to the country to assist with the repatriation of bodies.

The six AAIB investigators are due to arrive in in Kiev later on Saturday.

'Gifted academic'

The latest figures released by Malaysia Airlines show the Boeing 777 was carrying 189 Dutch nationals, 27 Australians, 44 Malaysians (including 15 crew) and 10 Britons, as well as a number of other nationalities.

Among the British passengers believed to have died were:

  • Newcastle United fans John Alder and Liam Sweeney, who were travelling to New Zealand to watch the football team's pre-season tour of the country and described by the club as among their "most loyal supporters"
  • Glenn Thomas, 49, a press officer for the World Health Organization travelling to an international conference on Aids in Australia and who colleagues said would be "remembered for his ready laugh and his passion for public health"
  • Ben Pocock, a student at Loughborough University, who had been heading to Australia to study, and whose family were said to be "devastated" by his loss
  • Richard Mayne, a student at Leeds University, originally from Leicestershire, whose death attracted a wide range of tributes from his former school and university as well as Market Bosworth Rugby Club which he played for
  • Cameron Dalziel, who was born in Zimbabwe, but was travelling on a British passport

The Percy Hedley Foundation, a Newcastle-based charity that provides services for disabled people and their families, said it was looking after a child but would not confirm any further details.

Image copyright Facebook
Image caption Tributes have been paid on social media sites to University of Leeds student Richard Mayne
Image copyright United Nations
Image caption Mr Thomas is understood to have been travelling to Australia for an international conference
Image caption Ben Pocock studied business at Loughborough University
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The tributes to John Alder and Liam Sweeney outside Newcastle United's ground have been growing

Mr Pocock's family said in a statement: "He was a gifted academic, talented athlete but more importantly a warm, caring, fun-loving son and brother who had an extremely bright future ahead of him."

Newcastle's players are to wear black armbands for their games against Sydney FC and Wellington Phoenix in New Zealand in tribute to Mr Alder and Mr Sweeney.

And Sunderland supporters have raised more than £6,000 to pay for a floral tribute to the pair.

'International crimes'

Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it crashed between Krasni Luch in Luhansk region and Shakhtarsk in the neighbouring region of Donetsk after it was believed to have been hit by a surface-to-air missile.

The United Nations Security Council on Friday approved a statement calling for a "full, thorough and independent international investigation".

But a team of 25 international observers from the OSCE said pro-Russian rebels had limited their access to the wreckage.

Ukraine has also accused the rebels of trying to destroy evidence of "international crimes" at the crash site.

The two sides in Ukraine's civil conflict which broke out earlier this year have accused each other of shooting down the jet with a missile. Ukraine accuses Russia of aiding and arming rebels seeking closer ties to Moscow.

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