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S. J. Parris and Stephanie Merritt

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The mystery of MH370 goes to the heart of our fears

Sunday 16th March 2014

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The satirical website the Onion said it best on Thursday. The investigation into the fate of flight MH370 had been widened, it declared, "to encompass not only the possibilities of mechanical failure, pilot error, terrorist activity or a botched hijacking, but also the overarching scope of space, time and humankind's place in the universe".

Is it right to joke at all about what may very well turn out to be a mass tragedy? Perhaps a combination of gallows humour and conspiracy theories are our instinctive response to the confusion surrounding an incident like this. But an incident like what? Experts on all sides repeat the word "unprecedented" and it is precisely this sense of mystery that keeps us glued to the 24-hour news, awaiting the next instalment. I'd bet there isn't a thriller writer in the world who isn't guiltily wishing they'd dreamed up a scenario like this...

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