A man who threatened to set off a bomb onboard a Malaysian Airlines flight last year has been sentenced to 12 years jail, after pleading guilty. Manodh Marks is the first person in Australia to be sentenced for attempting to take control of an aircraft.
MH128 took off from Melbourne for Kuala Lumpur at 23:26 local time 30 May 2017 with 220 passengers. A few minutes after take off Mr Marks ran at the cockpit door while holding a suspicious device and told passengers he had a bomb. Passengers tackled him to the ground before the plane landed back at Melbourne Airport 15 minutes later. Passengers weren’t allowed off the aircraft until 1:30 1 June 2017.
The device he had was a portable speaker with a battery pack attached.
Victorian County Court judge Michael McInerney told the court, “You ran to the galley outside the pilot’s door and you announced there that you had a bomb and you wanted to destroy the plane. The passengers and crew certainly were not only concerned, but convinced, that you were indeed in possession of a bomb. One can imagine the fear and distress of everyone on board.”
“Judge McInerney said the bomb threat occurred during the take-off period, a crucial time of the flight, distracting the captain and putting passengers at increased risk.
‘I believe the passengers were placed in danger.'”
The court had previously heard that Mr Marks had taken the drug ice on his way to the airport, and had been released from a psychiatric institution earlier in the day. “A medical expert who assessed Marks gave evidence that Marks had ‘heard screaming voices, thought the plane was about to crash and thought he had to do something.'”
An unnamed passenger had also told the court, “It is the memory that remains, that replays whenever someone else makes an innocent gesture, a sudden movement … at times these memories leave me unsettled and momentarily fearful.”
Mr Marks, from Sri Lanka, had begun using ice after he came to Australia in 2016. Judge McInerney also stated that his condition had improved since he had been in prison and was now remorseful.
At an earlier stage in the court case, Judge McInerney questioned why the police took so long to board, “I don’t know who made these decisions. Why wouldn’t you get the passengers off quickly? I can’t understand in these circumstances that they’ve been left on the plane for two hours after what must have been a nightmare that you never want to see or experience.”
The Prosecutor told the judge it was a tactical decision by Victoria Police to ensure that no one else was helping Mr Marks.
Mr Marks will serve a minimum 9 years in jail and will likely be deported at the end of sentence.