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Flight MH370: Search confusion as police admit cause may never be known

The fourth week of the extensive sea and air search off the Western Australian coast  for Flight MH370 has found no physical signs of the missing Boeing 777-200 and Malaysian police are saying the cause may never be known.

The Malaysia Airlines aircraft with 239 people aboard was last tracked by radar off the northwestern coast of the Malay peninsular heading into the Indian Ocean. 

The search then switched to an area in the southern ocean southwest of Perth before switching suddenly three days later to another area hundreds of miles away and further north as the location of where the plane could have gone down.

This has led to reports of diverging calculations and confusion over where to search, with one team working on the plane's likely speed and rate of fuel consumption based on radar data and aircraft-performance modelling.

Another team worked separately for at least several days using satellite data to calculate the plane's likely trajectory, according to Wall Street Journal sources.

The Journal says the failure to promptly coordinate the analyses raises questions about the flow of information among the many participants in the multinational operation, particularly in the process of identifying the initial search area in the Indian Ocean.

Meanwhile, Malaysia's police chief has tried to lower expectations of a quick and conclusive determination of what caused the disappearance.

"Give us more time," Inspector General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar told reporters. "We may not even know the real cause of this incident."

Malaysian police are still treating it as a  criminal case and are focusing on hijacking, sabotage and personal or psychological problems as the cause.

But so far extensive interviews and background checking have raised no red flags about those on board. The passengers have all been cleared and nothing suspicious has turned up on the crew, though the pilot and co-pilot would have had most knowledge of the airplane's navigation systems.

Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein has reiterated investigators' belief the way the Boeing 777-200 flew before it vanished was consistent with "deliberate action" by someone on the plane, though mechanical failure hasn’t been ruled out.