Investigators trying find those responsible for the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine have recovered 25 pieces of metal from baggage and bodies, which could lead them to the missile believed to have torn the airliner apart.

Dutch prosecution service chief Fred Westerbeke, who is leading the international inquiry into the July 17 disaster, said the investigation was focusing on the theory that a surface-to-air missile was used to shoot the plane down.

“If we can establish this iron comes from such a missile, that is important of course,” Mr Westerbeke said in an interview.

“At this moment, we don’t know that, but that’s what we are investigating.”

The Dutch Safety Board released a report saying MH17 broke apart over Ukraine due to the impact from a large number of fragments, a conclusion that supported the theory that it was shot down by a ground-based missile.

Ukraine and Western countries accused the rebels of shooting the aircraft down with an advanced Russian-made missile.

One senior rebel leader said his forces did not possess such weapons.

The investigators’ access to the crash site continues to be hindered by fighting between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces, although there are hopes that a week-old ceasefire may soon allow safe access.

Currently, detectives are relying on 500 forensic samples taken from the bodies of the victims and luggage as well as trawling through digital sources, including 350 million web pages.

Patricia Zorko, who is leading a team of more than 100 Dutch police working alongside Australian and Malaysian investigators, said they remained extremely keen to get to the site.

But she said an appeal to the public in Russian, Ukrainian and English had resulted in 20,000 photos and 750 videos being provided to prosecutors.

One key clue is a telephone tap, believed to be of Ukrainian separatists discussing the plane’s downing, which is also being examined for authenticity, Ms Zorko said.

Source: ABC News