featured, media watch, Ukraine
Comments 18

Bellingcat: the Dead Cat Factory

by Bryan Hemming


There have been two new developments in the long-awaited criminal investigation report into MH17 over the last couple of weeks. Though you might’ve read about one, you’re far less likely to have heard about the other — more important — one.

What could be seen as an interim report on the progress of the criminal investigation into the downing of MH17 wasn’t announced at a big press conference, nor did it grab the headlines in the main corporate media outlets. Signed by Fred Westerbeke, the Dutch prosecutor leading the international Joint Investigation Team (JIT) investigating MH17, the report took the form of a letter sent to family members of the victims.

But not all family members received the letter. In what has all the appearances of having been an incredibly insensitive and vindictive move by someone, Denise Kenke, daughter of Willem Grootscholten, one of the victims of the tragedy, didn’t hear about the interim report either. Not first hand, at least.

Miss Kenke is the only family member to have lodged a case charging the Ukraine Government with culpable negligence at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). An 11-page application was filed as early as November 17, 2014. And if that’s another thing you didn’t hear from in the corporate media, it might be because the ECHR has imposed a blackout covering all details of the case, which also prevents website access.

You could be forgiven for thinking a blackout of information on such a high-profile case might be something British corporate hacks would be clawing at each other to get to the bottom of. But no, they have shown as little interest in that as they have in the Fred Westerbeke letter.

Time to let a Dead Cat out of the Bag

That’s not to say two of Britain’s leading smarmsheets didn’t report anything on MH17 this week. The Independent and the Guardian both published stories on Wednesday, February 24th. And, by some amazing coincidence, both stories centred on the completely different, unofficial report.

So similar were the stories conjured up by Lizzie Dearden and Alec Luhn they could have been penned by Wonderland twins, Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Not only are both centred round a Bellingcat report on MH17, released the week following Westerbeke’s letter, but both appeared on the same day within hours of one another. And, surprise, surprise, both lend support to the Bellingcat accusation that Russia was behind the downing of the plane. But the real surprise is that there was no mention by either media outlet of the fact the Westerbeke letter makes a point of discounting the re-churned ‘evidence’ contained in the Bellingcat report, despite the Guardian story referring to the letter. Or perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise at all.

On December 26, 2015 Bellingcat has submitted a draft report to the JIT. The report has been gathered using social media and other public Internet sources, include information about members of a Russian military unit with, according to Bellingcat, a possible BUK-missile system in Ukraine.” Fred Westerbeke

In total, Westerbeke mentions Bellingcat by name no less than eight times in his letter, even if it was only to eventually conclude the report was a load of cobblers.

No evidence of direct involvement of individual members of this unit at the shooting of the MH17 follows from the report of Bellingcat.” Fred Westerbeke

You wouldn’t have guessed that from reading Tweedledum and Tweedledee. The Independent report opened with this little insight.

The missile system used to down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was transported into Ukraine by Russian soldiers with “high-level” authorisation, a new report has claimed.” Lizzie Dearden

Not to be outdone, in the Guardian’s pick’n’mix Alec Luhn chooses to meld Fred Westerbeke’s letter with Bellingcat’s report, in order to lend the latter more credence, amazingly enough.

The head of the MH17 investigation, Fred Westerbeke, told victims’ families in a letter last week that finding and prosecuting those responsible “could take a long time”. But the new report raises the likelihood that “justice could be served”, Bellingcat head Eliot Higgins told the Guardian. Although names were changed and faces blurred in the public report, the identities were provided in a version given to Dutch prosecutors in December.” Alec Luhn

All this in spite of the fact Fred Westerbeke seeks to emphasise — as part of his reason for sending the letter — his intention of clarifying any confusion some family members of the victims might suffer from believing evidence like Bellingcat’s is solid enough to be used in a court of law.

Recently, the Dutch Minister of Security and Justice informed the Lower House of radar and satellite data, the research collective Bellingcat and prosecution capabilities. The same issues are also discussed in a public hearing in the House. I noticed that among family members of the deceased there are still questions about this.” Fred Westerbeke

Unfortunately, parts of the English translation from the original Dutch are very poor. Nevertheless, for both Independent and the Guardian journalists to completely misinform their readers by repeating the discounted evidence raised in the Bellingcat report is nothing less than despicable.

To read the full Independent and Guardian articles follow the links: MH17: Buk missile system used to down plane ‘transported to Ukraine rebels by Russian soldiers’, report claims and MH17 report identifies Russian soldiers suspected of downing plane in Ukraine.

To judge by the translation it certainly looks as though the Westerbeke letter was cobbled together in bit of a rush. Rather than take the Bellingcat ‘report’ seriously journalists should be asking why such an experienced prosecutor as Westerbeke felt the urgent need to address questions about the Bellingcat ‘research’ he noticed some families of the victims feel haven’t been answered satisfactorily.

Most likely it was due to a real concern for those families, as they have been bombarded with contradictions, lies and disinformation over the last eighteen months, coming mainly from the corporate media. References mentioning Bellingcat specifically — as opposed to other sources — suggest there was information indicating Eliot Higgins was about to release his ‘evidence’ prematurely and Westerbeke decided to pre-empt it. The pain of reading another bag of disinformation produced by the dead cat factory could cause a lot of unnecessary distress.

Westerbeke may have assumed experienced journalists would realise it isn’t part of his remit to judge whether the conclusions Eliot Higgins reaches from looking at his own flawed evidence are right or wrong. The job of the international investigating team is to consider what evidence is admissible in a court of law, and what is most likely to bring about a successful prosecution, should the culprits be identified and brought to justice.

The Bellingcat research collective, or whatever it now calls itself, amounts to little more than one neo-con conspiracy nut being exploited being by Western intelligence agencies to spread disinformation.

What is particularly contemptible about the Guardian and Independent stories is that neither shows any respect for the families of the victims. The journalists involved didn’t even consider how helping Eliot Higgins throw another dead cat on the table might affect their feelings.

But through the fog of lies, propaganda and confusion being created around MH17, one thing is that is becoming abundantly clear, the international Joint Investigation Team charged with investigating the crime is coming under increasing pressure to reach the ‘right’ verdict, which has Russia taking the fall. Bellingcat is just one more tool being used to apply that pressure. The fact that Independent and Guardian journalists are now also allowing themselves to be used as tools should be a cause of great concern to us all.

Links to sources for further reading:

Global Research: European Court of Human Rights Refuses MH17 Victim’s Case against Ukraine Government, Imposes Secrecy Blackout on Evidence by John Helmer.

Global Research: The Malaysian MH17 Crash Investigation: Dutch Safety Board (DSB) Prepares “Missile Attack On Moscow” by John Helmer.

Consortium News: Here’s what Robert Parry has to say about Bellingcat.


  1. Cui bono? Nobody. So whoever shot it down probably didn’t know it was a passenger plane. What was a passenger plane doing flying through a war zone anyway? Ukrainian authoroties would’ve had to have known. & maybe they just didn’t warn them not to take that route. Anyway, nice job, America, on the latest regime change operation. Those always work out so well, don’t they…


    • sinalohr says

      Cui bono? The west benefits in blaming russia and so called “prorussian” Ukrainian rebels.
      Didnt you noticed the russophobic actions all over state/commercial western medias?


  2. Dominic says

    On the MH17 story the credibility of the Russian state was finally blown out of the water as if a torpedo had hit its magazine. All sensible normal people with any knowledge of the Russian media already knew before this that they had moved from anti-western spin to bare faced lies following the Crimean Anschluss and the resulting sanctions, but in the press conference on MH17, so diligently reported on by Elliot Higgins, it was the Ministry of Defence (with Putin at its head) that told the lies and brazenly presented the fabrications.

    I would be happy for anyone to let me know what new insight persuaded Russia and its state-controlled media that they were wrong about their original theory, presented at the press conference, that MH17 was shot down by a Ukrainian fighter plane and changed to saying that it was a Buk missile, but fired from Ukrainian controlled territory. Eliot Higgins has explained (with publicly available information) why. Because they painted themselves into a corner.

    THE MOST OBVIOUS FAKED IMAGE in the press conference was a squiggly line which they said was the flight path, without explaining why it started from a direction due west and not from Amsterdam (I checked it myself). No one else in the world agrees with that peculiar flight path.

    These fabrications have put the final nail in the coffin for Russia’s side of the story, (no need to consider the laughable photoshopped “satellite image” of the fighter plane firing the missile) and yet Off Guardian is bringing the zombie back to life.

    The Joint Investigation Team was perfectly correct in taking pains to point out thet none of their conclusions would rely on information from Bellingcat. None of mine rely on it either but it is extremely useful.


    • Eric_B says

      The Russian MoD never stated that a Ukrainian plane had shot down MH17.

      You should probably be reading statements more carefully.

      Eliot Higgins and Bellingcat are a joke.


    • Lets start from the beginning and the beginning in Ukraine was fascists and Neo-Nazis taking over Ukraine in a bloody CIA organized coup. Motive? See the Wolfowitz doctrine ( the original version, not the modified version). Read also “The Grand Chess Board” by Brezinsky. The motive is clear: Destabilize Russia, dominate Russia and China. Now to MH17. 10 questions asked by the Russian military which the fascist West is refusing to answer. Nor is the regime in Kiev willing to answer those question. Google it and you know the questions. A good video about MH17 was made by James Corbett. Watch it. Lets move forward. A Russian buk allegedly downed by Russians in Ukraine. In order to do this a buk system was smuggled from Russia to Ukraine and back to Russia and the OSCE guarding the border saw nothing. Nor American spy satellites or drones. The motive? The motive sucks. Now lets move to the claims by the Kiev junta. The Kiev junta accused Russia of smuggling a buk system ( at least 3 different equipment ) from Russia to Ukrine and back to Russia. On their website they had the picture of the “Russian” buk 312. Well, unfortunately buk 312 was a Ukrainian buk. Ten we have the non-disclosure agreement between Ukraine, Netherlands, Australia and UK. Not Malaysia. How come? And why would the prime suspect, Ukraine being part of the non-disclosure agreement? Lets move to the facts we have. The first to arrive at the scene of the crashed MH17 was a OSCE inspector frm Canada stating it looks lke MH17 was shot down by heavy machine-gun fire from a military plane. Looking at the damage we see the biggest damage was done to the pilots cockpit. Not a place a buk missile will seek. Watching the holes we entry and exit holes. Many are perfectly round. Then we have witnesses seing Ukrainian SU-25 close to MH17 before it was shot down but zero witness with regards to a buk missile trail. MH17 was burning for hours after crashing. This would not happen if MH17 ws hit by a buk missile. All the fuel would be consumed at once. I personally have screen captures from flightradar showing that after MH17 was hit, it didn’t loose altitude for the next 2 minutes. Then it went off radar. If hit by a buk missile the plane would loose tremendous altitude while falling to the ground. We know the empire lies? Don’t we? Vietnam: The gulf of Tonkin lie. Iraq: The incubator lie. Iraq 2003 the Saddam has WMD lie. 2011 the Gaddafi killing his own people lie and many many more since 240 years the empire is waging war 92% of the time and always based on lies. I had enough of the empires lies and mass-murders.


  3. Dominic says

    OG, RT what’s the difference? It is hard to believe that you have no Russian connection. (This is just to test if comment is really free on this site).


  4. O Lucky Man! says

    Bellingcat would simply be bizarre, perverse, laughable if it wasn’t for the kind of implications exposed here. I remember reading Nick Davies’ Flat Earth some years back and having my eyes opened as to how limited the sources of news have become, almost everything that any major outlet uses is filtered through two or three major agencies or gleaned from press release spin. Budgets for investigative journalism are now just a quaint antique of the 20th century.

    The Bellingcat method takes this towards its logical conclusion. A single person is charged with the authority to manufacture the news feed for a whole swathe of the media on a given subject. So much easier to manage the message. If there are enough people consuming your news at a surface skim level what’s the difference between a bloke on the internet in his bedroom and a qualified/ official/ ministry of defence/ team/ report/ assessment? Nothing. The surface is all that counts. The headline. The big deceit, the hypnotists trick.

    How many spend time to look into these things for themselves? 10%? 5%? Less than that? So easy to perpetrate this credulous nonsense to set the tone, the agenda, spread the psychic pollution. I mean I can still sit here and laugh at it, how reality has become more perverse than any satire I could have imagined twenty years back. Why such a ridiculous game? Why not just lie to our faces? Plausible deniability is the shrine at which all this is manifested. Here is our patsy who can simply be faded away wraithlike if ever the shit hits the fan. What a hollowed out worthless pantomime.


  5. Paolo says

    I wonder which “crowd” is crowd funding Bellingcat. I suspect its a rather small one. Can one donor still be referred to as a crowd?


  6. Tom Lowe says

    UK has become the desert island in Lord Of The Flies. No rule of law is left there. Nothing but utter legal chaos obtains in UK today.


  7. Sarah says

    What I don’t understand about the likes of Higgins & the other authors that write BS is when the SHTF (thanks to their propaganda) they will all be in the same boat as the rest of us. The only ones safe will be the elites and I doubt they will save a bunker place for Higgins and his mum.


  8. Allan Saunders says

    With luck Mr Higgins will soon return to the last job he did before becoming a propaganda whore, namely selling ladies’ underwear.


  9. Shelly says

    I love bellingcat. Whatever he claims I can be sure the opposite is true.

    Also he is part funded by Google which tells you a lot about Google.


  10. The fact that the Joint Investigation Team is being run out of the Kiev Prosecutor-General’s office in Ukraine should tell most people all they need to know about the desired findings. I mean, when one of the suspects is not only allowed full access to all the evidence, but is allowed to control the investigation, it sort of narrows the field of those who are going to get it pinned on them.




  11. Seamus Padraig says

    Higgins used to be known as ‘Brown Moses’ a few years ago, and his job then was to trash the Syrian government. Claimed that Assad had ‘gassed his own people’ and a whole of other nonsense. He did so well, they promoted him to propagandizing against Russia in the same way. Still total horsesh*t, of course.


  12. bevin says

    “The fact that Independent and Guardian journalists are now also allowing themselves to be used as tools should be a cause of great concern to us all.”

    These people know that they are going to be unemployed, sooner rather than later. This is their last chance to impress future employers that they can do as they are bid, churn out propaganda quickly and efficiently and have no fear of what people like us think about them.
    The Independent has already collapsed- evidently it was down to less than 50,000 a day in circulation when the plug was pulled. And all that The Guardian has going for it is that it once had a certain cachet and some credibility in liberal circles. That has got to be pretty well exhausted by now.
    Watch now as the security services start infiltrating the ranks of the independent bloggers and aggregators-all of them operating on a shoe string- they way that they have done at the Huffington Post etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amer Hudson says

      I quite agree. At the end, The Independent became a paper tiger – worthy of nowt but disdain.

      The Guardian is going the same way.

      The security services? Maybe not. But private capital sure does talk.


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