Newly discovered photo reignites Amelia Earhart conspiracy theory

A newly unearthed picture from the US national archives has given new credence to a popular theory about the disappearance of pioneering aviator Amelia Earhart.

Some experts say the image shows the pilot, her navigator Fred Noonan and her airplane in the Marshall Islands in 1937, when the archipelago was occupied by Japan – proving that she died in Japanese custody, rather than during a crash landing in the Pacific.

Kent Gibson, a forensic analyst who specializes in facial recognition, told the History Channel that it was “very likely” the individuals pictured are Earhart and Noonan, in a programme on the Earhart mystery scheduled to air this Sunday.

Not everyone is so convinced, however.

“There is such an appetite for anything related to Amelia Earhart that even something this ridiculous will get everybody talking about it,” said Ric Gillespie, author of Finding Amelia and the executive director of the The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (Tighar).

Japanese officials have stated on more than one occasion that they have no records of Earhart or Noonan ever having been in their custody, but many of the nation’s records did not survive the second world war.