Police find 'significant clue' at home of Germanwings' co-pilot Andreas Lubitz
German police say they may have made a “significant” discovery at the home of Andreas Lubitz, the co-pilot who deliberately killed 149 passengers and crew by crashing an Airbus A320 in the French Alps.
Officers searching Lubitz’s flat in Montabaur, on the outskirts of Dusseldorf, said they found something that may offer a “clue” as to what happened to the downed jet.
They said the items had been taken away from the address for testing, but confirmed the find was not a suicide note.
Markus Niesczery from Dusseldorf Police told the Daily Mail: “We have found something which will now be taken for tests. We cannot say what it is at the moment but it may be very significant clue to what has happened.
“We hope it may give some explanations.”
German detectives were also pictured carrying evidence from another property - a £400,000 home in Montabaur, a town 40 miles from Bonn, that the pilot is believed to have shared with his parents.
Police were seen leaving with large blue bags of evidence and a computer. A man, though to be his housemate, was led out of the building, shielded by police holding up jackets.
The 27-year-old is understood to have split his time between the two addresses.
Lubitz barricaded himself alone in the cockpit of Germanwings flight 9525 and apparently set it on course to crash into an Alpine mountain, killing all 150 people on board including himself, French prosecutors said on Thursday.
They offered no motive for why he would take the controls of the Airbus A320, lock the captain out of the cockpit and deliberately set it veering down from cruising altitude at 3,000 feet per minute.
German police searched his home for evidence that might offer some explanation for what was behind Tuesday's crash in the French Alps.
The scenario stunned the aviation world. Within hours of the prosecutors' announcement, several airlines responded by immediately changing their rules to require a second crew member to be in the cockpit at all times. That is already compulsory in the United States but not in Europe.
Canada said it would now require it of all its airlines. EasyJet, Norwegian Air Shuttle and Air Berlin were among other carriers that swiftly announced such policies.
German aviation association BDL on Thursday night said all German airlines, including Germanwings and parent company Lufthansa, had agreed to discuss possible new rules requiring two crew members to be in the cockpit at all times following the crash.
French and German officials said there was no indication Lubitz was a terrorist but offered no rival theories to explain his actions. Acquaintances described him as an affable young man who had given no sign of harmful intent.
Lubitz acted "for a reason we cannot fathom right now but which looks like intent to destroy this aircraft", Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin said.
Setting the plane's controls for rapid descent was an act that "could only have been voluntary", Robin said. "He had... no reason to stop the pilot-in-command from coming back into the cockpit. He had no reason to refuse to answer to the air controller who was alerting him on the loss of altitude."
The captain, who had stepped out of the cockpit, probably to use the toilet, could be heard on flight recordings trying to force his way back in. "You can hear banging to try to smash the door down," Robin said.
Most of the passengers would not have been aware of their fate until the very end, he said: "Only towards the end do you hear screams," he said. "And bear in mind that death would have been instantaneous...the aircraft was literally smashed to bits."
FlightRadar24, an online air tracking service that uses satellite data, said it had found evidence the autopilot was abruptly switched from cruising altitude to just 100 feet, the lowest possible setting. The plane crashed at about 6,000 feet.
"Between 09:30:52 and 09:30:55 you can see that the autopilot was manually changed from 38,000 feet to 100 feet and 9 seconds later the aircraft started to descend, probably with the 'open descent' autopilot setting," Fredrik Lindahl, chief executive of the Swedish tracking service, said.
Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr said its air crew were picked carefully and subjected to psychological vetting.
"No matter your safety regulations, no matter how high you set the bar, and we have incredibly high standards, there is no way to rule out such an event," Spohr said.
Attention was focused on the motivations of Lubitz, a German national who joined the Lufthansa-owned budget carrier in September 2013 and had just 630 hours of flying time - compared with the 6,000 hours of the flight captain.
"Suicide" was the wrong word to describe actions which killed so many other people, Robin, the French prosecutor, said: "I don't necessarily call it suicide when you have responsibility for 100 or so lives."
The family of the co-pilot arrived in France for a tribute alongside other victims. They were being kept apart from the others, Robin said.
Police searched the co-pilot's home in Montabaur, Germany, leaving with large blue bags of evidence and a computer. A man was led out of the building, shielded by police holding up jackets.
Acquaintances in the town said they were stunned.
"I'm just speechless. I don't have any explanation for this. Knowing Andreas, this is just inconceivable for me," said Peter Ruecker, a long-time member of the local flight club where Lubitz received his flying license years ago.
"He was a lot of fun, even though he was perhaps sometimes a bit quiet. He was just another boy like so many others here."
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