MH17: eight-year wait for justice is finally over for families of Australian victims

Mother of victim speaks of relief at guilty verdicts in the Netherlands against three accused of 2014 massacre

The mother of an Australian victim of MH17 has spoken of her relief after guilty verdicts were read out in a court in the Netherlands against three of the four men accused of shooting the plane out of the sky.

Meryn O’Brien, who lost her 25-year-old son Jack, said: “Everyone was relieved the process has come to an end, and it is very fair, and it has been meticulous.”

Judges in the Hague ruled on Thursday that the Russians Igor Girkin and Sergey Dubinskiy and the Ukraine national Leonid Kharchenko caused a missile attack on 17 July 2014 which led to the deaths of all 298 people on board. The fourth defendant, Oleg Pulatov, the only one who had defence lawyers, was acquitted.

Michael and Carol Clancy were among the 38 Australians who died when the plane travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down over eastern Ukraine. Michael’s brother, Bryan, from Singleton in New South Wales, gave a victim impact statement that was read out in court, while Carol’s daughter, Jane Malcolm, was in the Netherlands to hear the verdicts.

“To this day I feel emptiness. My brother and I did everything together,” Bryan Clancy’s statement read. “I have not been able to open up, explain how the murder of Mick has shattered me. I just can’t talk about it because it’s too raw, and nobody can go anywhere near understanding the feeling of loss, anger, terror and helplessness that I continue to experience.

“I don’t think I will ever be able to come to terms with this senseless act of mass murder.”

Sister Philomene Tiernan was another of the Australian victims and a statement from her sister, Madeleine Wright, was also read out. “My dear older sister, my only surviving sibling blown to smithereens. A life taken in an instant, a one in a million chance.

“I felt angry that she was on MH17, that she had chosen to fly from Amsterdam, not take her usual route back to Australia through London. I think of Phil every day. We lived in different cities, but Phil managed to attend significant family events. We saw each other often, [and] spoke weekly by phone.

“Since Phil’s death I have not enjoyed flying, Phil is always beside me in the plane and life seems very fragile.”

Also present in court was the deputy chief of Australian Federal Police, Peter Crozier, who has led the Australian end of the search for the killers. More than 500 AFP officers have been involved in the investigation.

Speaking outside the court, Crozier said he had full confidence in the impartiality, independence and professionalism of the Dutch legal system. “The delivery of these verdicts is an important milestone in our collective efforts to hold those responsible to account,” he said.


Martin Farrer

The GuardianTramp

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