An investigator looking into the crash of Swissair Flight 111 near Peggy's Cove, N.S., says he was prevented by senior RCMP and aviation safety officials from pursuing his theory that an incendiary device might have been the cause.
"There was sufficient grounds to suspect a criminal device on that plane," retired RCMP sergeant Tom Juby, who was an arson investigator assigned to the Swissair file, told CBC's The Fifth Estate.
"I'm convinced that the investigation was improperly done," he said.
The flight from New York to Geneva crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on Sept. 2, 1998, killing 229 passengers and crew. The plane carried a Saudi prince, a relative of the former shah of Iran and high profile UN officials. A half a billion dollars of diamonds and gems were also never found.
The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada said that it was an accident caused by a fire in the cockpit, likely sparked by an electrical fault.
But Juby said high levels of magnesium — a key ingredient in an incendiary device — were discovered in the cockpit area. Several other investigators and a federal scientist who The Fifth Estate spoke to supported Juby's informed suspicions.
Metallurgist Dr. Jim Brown discovered suspicious levels of magnesium and other elements associated with arson in melted wiring from the section of the plane that suffered the greatest fire damage.
"There was a lot of magnesium. More than I would have expected," he said.
Instead, the TSB was focused on the crash being the result of an accident. Any hint of criminal activity meant it would be forced to drop the probe and turn it over to the RCMP.
Juby said the RCMP did not support his findings and that he was pressured to stop his own inquiries. He said the RCMP brass ordered him to remove any reference to magnesium or a suspected bomb from his investigative notes.
Juby said he has tried but failed to set the record straight inside the RCMP for years. He said the system failed too.
"If Canada can't follow through on 229 potential homicides, then you know, what happens when there's only one?" he said.
The RCMP or the TSB repeatedly refused to comment about Juby's allegations.
PHOTOS: THE LOSS OF SWISSAIR FLIGHT 111
MORE RELATED LINKS:
- Last minutes of Swissair crash released on tapes
- Names of the victims
- Investigation Report, Transportation Safety Board of Canada
The Mystery of Swissair Flight 111 (NOVA, Part 1 of 4)
Swissair 111, Air Crash Investigation (Mayday Air Disaster)
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said the flight was from New York to Zurich. The flight was destined for Geneva. This story has been been updated.