Flight MH370 & the presumption of death

In March 2014 Danica Weeks drove her husband Paul to Perth International Airport where he boarded a flight to Kuala Lumpur. They were married in November 2007 and had two sons. Paul was an engineer who was travelling to a new job in Mongolia.

Paul boarded the flight to Kuala Lumpur. He had a ticket for onward legs to Beijing on Malaysia Airlines MH370 and thence to Ulaanbaatar by Mongolian Airlines. Paul sent an email to Danica from Kuala Lumpur confirming the onward trip.

Paul Boarded Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 to Beijing, the flight disappeared, and there has been no trace of any person on board that aircraft since.

In January this year Danica sought leave to swear to the death of Paul so that she can apply for letters of administration. It has been reported that Paul died Intestate.

In these circumstances there is no direct evidence of Paul’s death therefore Danica cannot swear an oath to the death of the deceased. However Paul’s death may be presumed to have taken place. This presumption may arise:

“….from his having been on board a ship, which, from its non-arrival in port within a reasonable time, from the absence of tidings of any of those on board, and from other circumstances, is supposed to have been lost at sea; and similarly in the case of a missing or totally destroyed aeroplane.”

The Court will only grant leave to swear to Paul’s death if, it is satisfied that he has died.

Danica swore an affidavit deposing that she and Paul were married, showing that she is entitled to apply for letters of administration. The email that Paul sent from Kuala Lumpur confirming his onward flight was attached. It further deposed that she had identified a photo of Paul shown to her by the Australian Federal Police taken from CCTV footage at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport screening point adjacent to the boarding lounge for MH370.

The affidavit also contained attachments from Malaysia Airlines, the Malaysian Government, and the Australian Government, all to the general effect that (bar one aircraft component found months later on La Réunion) nothing has since been found of the aircraft or its occupants.

The Court was satisfied that Paul boarded MH370 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport around midnight on 7-8 March 2014.

Although on strict analysis much of the material in the affidavit might be considered to be hearsay the disappearance of MH370 is so notorious the Court believes it has disappeared and there is now no hope of survivors. All those aboard must be presumed to be dead.

The Court found that Danica can swear to the death of Paul as of 8 March 2014.

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