Verdict due in trial of four men accused of bringing down MH17 over Ukraine

John Alder and Liam Sweeney were among those killed when Flight MH17 was shot down in July 2014. Credit: Family photos

The verdict in the trial of four men accused of bringing down flight MH17 over Ukraine is due to be given in the Netherlands.

A total of 10 of those on board the doomed Malaysian Airlines plane were British, including Newcastle United supporters Liam Sweeney, 28, and 63-year-old John Alder.

Mr Sweeney's father Barry travelled to the Hague on Wednesday 16 November to see the verdicts in person.

Mr Sweeney, from Newcastle, and Mr Alder, from Gateshead, were on their way to New Zealand to watch Newcastle United play in a pre-season tour.

All 298 passengers and crew on board died when the aircraft came down in July 2014.

The other British victims were Leicester man Richard Mayne, 20, Glenn Thomas, 49, from Blackpool, Loughborough student Ben Pocock, 28-year-old Robert Ayley, Andrew Hoare, 59, former RAF search and rescue pilot Stephen Anderson, 44, John Allen, 44, and 43-year-old Cameron Dalziel.

A trial has been underway in Schiphol in the Netherlands, close to the runway where MH17 departed for Kuala Lumpur.

A panel of judges at the District Court of The Hague has been hearing evidence against the four men - three Russians and one Ukrainian - since March 2020.

None of the four men accused of murder for their role in the shooting down of the aircraft have attended court for the case, which has lasted more than two and a half years. 

The whereabouts of Russians Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinskiy and Oleg Pulatov as well as Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko remain unknown.

An official inquiry has already ruled the Boeing 777 was hit by a Buk missile launched from an area of Ukraine under control of pro-Russian separatists.

Pulatov is the only one of the defendants who had a legal team present for the case, who argued their client was innocent.

They claim the trial was unfair and did not properly examine alternative theories about the cause of the crash or their client's involvement.

In an audio interview recorded before the trial, Pulatov also denied involvement in the missile launch.

Barry Sweeney from Newcastle has long campaigned for justice for his son's death calling on the four men, Russia and its president Vladimir Putin to tell the truth.

He is travelling to the court to see the verdict delivered in person.

At the start of the trial in 2020 he told ITV news: "I still want to find out why my son had to die for no reason."

Leaving from Newcastle Airport on Wednesday 16 November, he said he was hoping to see some kind of justice done - even though the four men on trial will not be there.

"If anything happens in the air in general, and I feel like if anything happens in the sky, I always feel for everybody," Mr Sweeney told ITV News.

"At least if it was an accident, you'd know why it happened or what happened but I still want to find out why my son had to die for no reason. There was no reason it had to happen or should have happened.

"Have a look at yourselves, if it was your family, if it was your kids, if it was your parents or whoever, have a look at it, come back and give us the justice we deserve."

Some of the British victims: (Clockwise from top left) Robert Ayley, Richard Mayne, Cameron Dalziel, Ben Pocock, Glenn Thomas, John Allen. Credit: Family handouts

Earlier this year, an inquest into the deaths of five of the British victims - including Mr Sweeney and Mr Alder - found they had been unlawfully killed.

The inquest also considered the deaths of Richard Mayne, 20, Glenn Thomas, 49, and 20-year-old Ben Pocock.

The coroner ruled the atrocity was carried out by pro-Russian separatists.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To know...