MH17 murder charge announcement a bittersweet moment for victims’ families

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Family members speak to the ABC after hearing of the charges.

The parents of an Australian man who was on MH17 have admitted it was hard seeing the “hard” faces of the men who are set to be charged with murdering their son.

Key points:

  • Investigators have named four suspects they will charge with murder over the downing of MH17
  • The parents of victim Jack O’Brien say they’re not surprised Russia is not co-operating with investigators
  • Jack, 25, was killed as he was returning from seven weeks in Europe

Jack O’Brien was one of 38 Australians killed when the Malaysian Airlines flight was shot down over the Ukraine after leaving from Amsterdam in July 2014.

Yesterday, Dutch authorities revealed Russia’s Igor Girkin, Sergei Dubinsky and Oleg Poelatov and a Ukrainian, Leonid Kharchenko, will be charged with the murder of MH17’s 298 passengers and crew.

O’Brien’s parents John and Meryn, who live in Sydney’s south-west, admitted seeing the men identified was gut-wrenching.

“I thought, what hard faces of people who could commit this sort of act and completely disregard it,” Mr O’Brien said.

“I also looked at the faces of the average soldiers from that brigade and wondered if any of them were remorseful for the role they played.”

The Boeing 777 was travelling over an area in eastern Ukraine held by pro-Russia separatists when it was struck by a BUK surface-to-air missile.

Chief prosecutor Fred Westerbeke claimed the four suspects were responsible for bringing the missile launcher into the area it was used to shoot down the flight.

Sydney's Jack O'Brien

Ms O’Brien said she hoped investigators would find who was responsible for actually firing the missile.

“I hope investigators have a lot further to go up the chain of command,” she said.

Yesterday’s main development was that the group would be charged with murder.

“The wheels grind very slowly, but it’s happening, it’s progressing,” Mr O’Brien said.

“And to actually name of these four people — that’s the first very concrete step.”

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.VIDEO 1:31

Suspects named by international investigationABC NEWS

Russia has consistently denied any involvement in the incident.

It is anticipated the accused will be tried in absentia, however the men will be subject to international arrest warrants and placed on international wanted lists.

“Russia haven’t cooperated right throughout the entire process so it’s unsurprising they’re not now,” Mr O’Brien said. 

Meanwhile, Queensland man Paul Guard, whose parents Roger and Jill were on MH17, said he was glad the investigation had progressed.

“I think a lot of people are waiting to see the evidence … I’m sure that will be helpful for families,” he said.

“I don’t think the point of the trial is necessarily to punish people. That’s part of it, but most of it is about presenting the facts so that people know what happened.

“I’d hope also that out of that comes some sort of way to prevent this happening in future.”

West Australian Lyn Schoof was unemotional when she heard murder charges would be laid.

Ms Schoof’s brother, Arjen Ryder, and his wife Yvonne, were onboard MH17 returning home to Perth from a visit to Amsterdam. 

“There’s no anger at all, and there never has been,” she said.

“Right from the start we said as a family we forgive the people who’ve done this and, in a sense, not give them any power over our lives, because that wastes energy, and even anger wastes energy.”

A composite image shows four men, three of whom are wearing military uniforms.

Special Counsel Michael Hyland from LHD Lawyers is representing several victims’ families in a Federal Court class action against Malaysian Airlines which is still before the court.

He said many of his clients felt overwhelmed.

“They’re obviously well aware of the fact that the perpetrators may never — even if they’re successfully prosecuted and convicted — face justice in terms of sentencing because they may well be in jurisdictions such as Russia and eastern Ukraine whereby they cannot be extradited from there,” he said.

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