Four suspects charged with murder over the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in 2014, & more in News in 5.

— With AAP.

1. Four suspects charged with murder over the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in 2014.

Three Russians and a Ukrainian have been charged over the MH17 tragedy but Australian investigators say it’s just the beginning of the effort to bring those responsible to justice.

Australian Federal Police Assistant Commissioner Peter Crozier says the probe into who was responsible for shooting down the plane and killing all 298 people on board will continue until all possible suspects have been identified.

Dutch prosecutors on Wednesday identified the suspects as Russians Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinsky and Oleg Pulatov and Ukrainian Leonie Kharachenko. They have been charged over the July 17, 2014 disaster in eastern Ukraine that left 38 Australians dead.

All four were officials in the pro-Russian Donetsk People’s Republic, which is fighting for independence from Ukraine, and were allegedly responsible for the Buk missile launcher being brought into the area from Russia.

Mr Crozier said investigators were still hunting for not only the crew of the Buk launcher that fired the missile but also the Russian government and military officials who allowed it to be sent to Ukraine.

“We will continue to investigate as new leads, as new opportunities appear we will follow those,” he told AAP.

“Australia will be involved until there are no further opportunities for us to be involved. Through the investigation and the prosecution we will stay the course.

“One of the key things for us is not to lose sight of why we are doing this and this is about those 298 people, this is about all those families that are affected by this.”

The Joint Investigation Team leading the MH17 probe said Girkin was defence minister, Dubinsky and Pulatov were intelligence heads, and Kharachenko was a field commander in the Donetsk People’s Republic.

The four have been all charged with both causing the crash and with murdering 298 people.

They will be placed on national and international wanted lists, but the Russian Constitution forbids extradition of Russian nationals for overseas trials, saying Russians can only be tried in Russia. They will be tried – likely in absentia – in The Hague, the Netherlands, on March 9, 2020.

“Even though they have not pushed the button themselves … they are just as punishable,” Netherlands Chief Constable Wilbert Paulissen said.

Girkin, known by the nom de guerre Strelkov (“Shooter”), insisted on Wednesday that he’s innocent and said he would not testify in the Dutch-led legal proceedings against him.

“Neither I nor any other separatist is to blame,” Girkin said in comments carried by the Russian news agency Interfax.


Russia’s Foreign Ministry said it regretted the findings of the MH17 crash investigation and called the murder charges against Russian suspects groundless.

Girkin and the two other Russian suspects charged on Wednesday all previously served in the Russian military or intelligence services.

The JIT said it was possible the Buk weapon, which came from the 53rd Anti-aircraft Missile Brigade based in the city of Kursk, was being crewed by Russians when it shot the plane down.

The JIT used phone taps, social media, big data and witness statements to establish the position of the suspects in the chain of command.

As well as 38 Australians, there was one New Zealander, 193 Dutch, 43 Malaysians and 12 Indonesians aboard MH17, plus 10 British passengers.

The other passengers were from Germany, Belgium, the Philippines and Canada.

Silene Fredriksz, whose son Bryce and daughter-in-law Daisy Oehlers were killed in the disaster said she was happy that the trial is going to start and the suspects nameswere announced.

“It’s a start. I’m satisfied,” she said.

When asked if she personally blamed anyone for the case, Fredriksz said: “Mr [Russian President Vladimir] Putin.

“Because he made this possible. He created this situation. He is the main responsible person.”

Australia’s chief investigator Detective Superintendent David Nelson, who has been based in the Netherlands for two years, hopes the bereaved families will be able to take some solace from the breakthrough.

“Today would be incredibly important after nearly five years, to have this announcement now, I hope that brings some comfort to the next of kin who I know have been incredibly patient with the JIT as we investigate this highly complex matter,” he told AAP.

“Today has been really good and I hope it brings some comfort to the next of kin.”

2. Victoria has become the first state to legalise euthanasia.


Australia’s only euthanasia laws are in place but it could take weeks, if not months, for the first person to die under the Victorian scheme and maybe much longer for the public to know.

Terminally-ill Victorian adults in intolerable pain and with less than six months to live, or 12 months for neurodegenerative diseases, and who meet 68 safeguards can request their doctor’s help to die.

But the application process takes at least 10 days before approval is granted.

“There will be perhaps a number of weeks before we become aware that a person has accessed the first permit in Victoria, it’s very difficult to predict the exact timing,” Health Minister Jenny Mikakos told reporters at parliament on Wednesday.

“But look, there are people who have been waiting a long period of time for this change to commence today and my thoughts are with them.”

The coroner and an independent review board, headed by former supreme court justice Betty King, will be alerted to each of the lethal-medication deaths, for review.

The government expects up to 150 people a year will eventually use the scheme but those numbers might only be known through the review board’s annual report which will include the number of permits issued and deaths that occur.

“We will look at all of the material that has been placed before the people, the secretary who makes the decision, and we will review it to ensure it was compliant with the law,” Ms King said.

“If there is something that is an impediment or blockage, then we will talk about it, we will report it to the parliament.”

If there is any suspicious activity, it will be reported to the police, coroner or medical review board, she said.

It’s been 18 months since parliament narrowly passed the laws.

Catholic Health Australia, which is one of the largest health and aged care service providers in the state, says it does not consider the prescription of the lethal medicine a part of end-of-life care.

But its services will not stand in the way of patients wanting to seek the assistance of other providers.

Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said doctors can conscientiously object to taking part in the scheme and more money is being put into palliative care.


“For the vast majority of Victorians, they will continue to access this world-class palliative care but we know that even the best of palliative care is not sufficient to alleviate the pain and suffering of all individuals,” she said.

The introduction to the scheme should encourage more people to talk about death and their pain, the minister added.

While the laws have a large amount of support and long-time advocates hope it will spark similar legislation across the country, critics remain.

“We cannot co-operate with the facilitation of suicide even when it seems motivated by empathy or kindness,” read a letter signed by the Catholic bishops of Melbourne, Ballarat, Sale and Sandhurst shortly before the laws came into place.

3. Human bones belonging to one or more people have been found on popular NSW beaches.

Bones belonging to one or more humans have been discovered at Port Macquarie beaches on the NSW mid north coast.

A spear fisherman contacted police on Saturday after finding a bone in the water at Flynn’s Beach. No other items were found during a search a day later.

More bones were found by another spear fisherman at nearby Flat Rock, east of Nobby Head, on Monday.

The bones have been handed to police and are being forensically tested to try to identify the person or people via DNA.

Any results with be compared with missing person records, NSW Police said in a statement.

A further search of the area, involving police divers, began on Wednesday.


4. Zixi Wang has been charged with the alleged murder of her ex-girlfriend Shuyu Zhou in Sydney.

A woman will remain in custody charged with murder after a young Sydney woman plunged to her death from an inner-city unit block.

Shuyu Zhou, 23, was discovered with critical injuries on a footpath at the back of the 11-storey complex on Rose Valley Way in Zetland about 8.45pm on Monday.

Emergency services were called but she could not be revived.

Police appealed for help to find 29-year-old Zixi Wang, also known as Jessie – believed to be Ms Zhou’s former partner – who was wanted on an outstanding arrest warrant in relation to the domestic-related incident.

Wang was arrested on Tuesday afternoon near the Sea Cliff Bridge, north of Wollongong, after a member of the public spotted the wanted white Mercedes-Benz SUV.

The vehicle was seized for forensic testing, while she was taken to Wollongong Police Station for questioning.

She was charged on Wednesday with Ms Zhou’s murder and taking and driving a conveyance without the consent of the owner.

Wang’s case came before magistrate Mark Douglass at Wollongong Local Court on Wednesday afternoon.

The 29-year-old made no application for bail and it was formally refused.

She’s been remanded in custody until August 28, when she is due to appear via video link at Central Local Court in Sydney.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service or Lifelife (13 11 14) for support.


5. NSW conman Hamish McLaren faces jail time.

A serial fraudster known to dress like James Bond is awaiting sentence after swindling more than $7.6 million from people including girlfriends and good friends.

Hamish Earle McLaren, who also used the names Hamish Watson and Max Tavita, has pleaded guilty to 17 counts of dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception and one count of knowingly dealing with proceeds of crime.

The charges carry a maximum jail term of 10 and 15 years respectively.

McLaren is due to be sentenced in the NSW District Court on Thursday by Acting Judge Colin Charteris.

The judge, at McLaren’s sentence hearing, said he had given his victims “a life sentence” regarding their losses.

The fraudster, in a letter to the judge, said he was truly sorry and “the labels of conman and alike are deserved”.

The 49-year-old was arrested in 2017 after his multiple faux investment schemes – including in currency, gold and shares in a “profitable” Papua New Guinea gold mine – came unstuck.

McLaren has no formal financial qualifications and on one occasion also pretended to be a practising barrister.

He fleeced 15 victims over six years, the majority being through a Ponzi or pyramid scheme, including Australian fashion designer Lisa Ho and ex-girlfriend Tracy Hall.

Ms Hall gave $317,000 to McLaren – who provided her with false tax invoices – and has never been paid back, the agreed facts state.

Ms Ho gave McLaren $850,000 in superannuation after he promised a low-risk investment with a high return.

She took him to court after being duped and McLaren was declared bankrupt in 2016 but continued his scam.

The facts state he didn’t invest their funds, transferred money between his accounts and “spent as he decided”.

His brother-in-law, Christopher Rourke, testified at McLaren’s sentence hearing: “He would watch a James Bond movie and then dress like James Bond. Same suit, same hair.”

He said McLaren also owned an Aston Martin and, at another stage, he believed he was leasing two Ferraris.

Crown prosecutor Carl Young said McLaren “was motivated by greed, not need” and his “systematic dishonesty” wasn’t related to any mental illness.

McLaren has been in custody since his arrest in July 2017.

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