MH17 crash: Dutch court gives long-awaited verdict on tragedy that killed two loyal Newcastle United fans

Three men were found to have brought down the aircraft and killing 298 people, including Newcastle fans John Alder and Liam Sweeney.

Three men in the Netherlands have been found guilty of shooting down passenger jet MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014, killing 298 people including two Newcastle United fans.

The court found that the plane was brought down by a Russian-made missile fired by an armed group under Russian control. Two Russian men and one Ukrainian man were found guilty in absentia and sentenced to life in jail. A third Russian was acquitted.

The three men had intended to shoot down a military plane rather than a civilian aircraft, but judges ruled that it was a deliberate action to bring down the plane.

Igor Girkin was convicted of deploying the missile and seeing Russian help, Sergei Dubinsky was convicted of having ordered and overseen the transport of the missile launcher and Leonid Kharchenko was convicted of having overseen the operation. The fourth member of the trial, Oleg Pulatov, was the only one to have legal representation in the case and he was acquitted - although found to have knowledge of the missile.

The attack on the plane took place on July 17, 2014 and 298 people, including 80 children and 15 crew were killed on the flight that left Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport to travel to Kuala Lumpur. The flight was operated by Malaysia Airlines.

On the plane were two keen Newcastle United fans, John Alder, 63, and Liam Sweeney, 28. The duo were on their way to watch The Magpies play in a pre-season tour.

An inquest was held at the City Hall in Leicester on Friday for five of the British passengers who died on board the flight. Detective Chief Superintendent Dominic Murphy, Head of Operations for counter-terrorism policing unit SO15, gave evidence at the inquest. He said: "MH17 departed Amsterdam and had been flying for around three hours when it lost contact with air traffic control.

"At that time a missile launching system was fired from a field in Ukraine. It actually detonated on the upper left side, in front of the cockpit of the aircraft.

"Fragments (of the missile) penetrated the left side of the cockpit… a pressure wave caused the fuselage to break up and caused the crash. That missile system appears to have been smuggled over the border into Ukraine from the Russian Federation on the 16th and 17th of July overnight."

Following their death, the Magpies fans were honoured by the football club and its fanbase with a memorial outside of St. James' Park.

Two committed Newcastle fans lost their lives in the tragedy (Image: Getty Images)
Two committed Newcastle fans lost their lives in the tragedy (Image: Getty Images)
Two committed Newcastle fans lost their lives in the tragedy (Image: Getty Images)

John had missed just one of Newcastle's matches home and away in 40 years and was the first member of the Platinum Club. Shortly after his death, his sister, Joyce Robbins, said: "My brother was an extremely private man and he would have been so uncomfortable with all the publicity about him in the last year. The last year has been a rollercoaster, really. It's difficult to explain. Sometimes I've felt like we were living someone else's life.

"We've had so much to do and become so involved with John's life, even though he wasn't here, that it's been like walking in his shoes. We became his representative. It's been very difficult, and extremely painful at times, but we've had fantastic support from so many people."