An extraordinary and shocking artefact has surfaced in Europe – a video purportedly filmed by a passenger inside the cabin of Germanwings Flight 9525 just before the plane crashed into a mountain in the French Alps, killing the photographer and all 150 people aboard.
Two major European publications, the German daily Bild and the French magazine Paris Match, both claim their reporters have viewed the video. They were told it was found on a memory chip that could have come from a passenger’s mobile phone.
Paris Match said the footage was found “among the wreckage by a source close to the investigation”.
Against that, you have Lieutenant Colonel Jean-Marc Menichini, a high-ranking official involved in the recovery operation, who has categorically stated that no mobile phone footage has been found by investigators at the site. Others say the footage must be a hoax, a fake.
The crash site is remote and access to it is highly restricted. Removing potential evidence from an air accident or murder investigation is a serious crime.
The reporters are sticking to their story, though they claim only to have seen the video, not to possess the clip.
According to Paris Match “you can hear cries of ‘My God’ in several languages” and much screaming, along with the thumping of the pilot trying to open the cockpit door.
The images are very blurred and Bild said that “even though the scene on board is chaotic and completely shaky, and no individual person can be identified, the accuracy of the video is beyond question”.
Time may prove whether the clip (which the papers haven’t released) is really authentic and “beyond question”, but there is a long record of hoaxes following previous, similar disasters.
After the “9/11” attacks on New York on 11 September 2001, a photo quickly emerged of a visitor to the top deck of the World Trade Centre (WTC), smiling at the camera, unaware of a large aircraft visible over his shoulder, approaching him from behind.
The photo was said to have been taken taken a split second before one of the planes hit the WTC, and recovered from a camera memory card found in the WTC rubble. It was a hoax – a picture of a plane had been superimposed on a photo of a tourist visiting the tower.
A similar hoax happened after another air crash about seven years ago. It showed terrified passengers with oxygen masks hanging down and a hole in the aircraft cabin. That one turned out to have been taken from a movie still, and doctored.
There are people who do such ghoulish things, for motives which are unclear, perhaps just to see their handiwork go viral around the world.
Sometimes the motive is simply money, as with the notorious “Hitler Diaries” hoax. Magazines will pay huge sums for such things.
In April 1983, the West German news magazine Stern published excerpts from what purported to be the diaries of Adolf Hitler. The magazine had paid nearly 9 million German marks (USD 3.8 million) for the 60 small books, collectively known as the Hitler Diaries. You can probably double that sum now, to count for inflation.
The diaries stunned the world and Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper started serialising them.
Within two weeks, the West German Bundesarchiv revealed that the Hitler Diaries were “grotesquely superficial fakes” made on modern paper using modern ink and full of historical inaccuracies. Rather than having been penned by Hitler, they turned out to be written by Konrad Kujau, a notorious forger from the German city of Stuttgart.
Written by : Peter Needham