Amelia Earhart mystery: How Britain missed simple chance to solve disappearance

Speculation and conspiracy surrounds the details of the Americans final days after radio contact was lost during their round-the-world-flight attempt in 1937. Despite search efforts to find the pioneering pair, authorities claimed they had found nothing. Even legendary Robert Ballard, who discovered the Titanic wreckage, was left stumped during his investigation and abandoned his attempt last year. But one historian, Richard Gillespie, who has spent 32 years and a staggering $7million (£5.4million) on the mystery believes he has the answers. He told about a series of British mistakes that could have meant Amelia Earhart’s demise was lost to history.

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Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan were en route to Lae Airfield in Papua New Guinea to Howland Island, in the Pacific Ocean, when they vanished.

This 2,556-mile stint was believed to be the lengthiest trek of their entire voyage. 

But when it came to finding the small island they were supposed to land on Ms Earhart allegedly could not find it. 

Mr Gillespie, 72, said: “She probably ran out of gas looking for a tiny ocean in a big ocean.”

Amelia Earhart vanished going round the worldAmelia Earhart vanished during her round-the-world flight, claims say she died on Nikumaroro Island (Image: GETTY)

Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan analysingAmelia Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan analysing a map of the Pacific Ocean (Image: GETTY)

From there, wild theories surfaced about the pair’s possible end.

They included them both being eaten alive by giant coconut crabs that measured up to 40-centimetres in length and even devoured by cannibals.

Others related to war, such as theories that they were captured as prisoners of war by Japanese forces and died. 

Another was that they faked their own deaths in order to become spies for the US.

But Mr Gillespie believes the suggested conclusions couldn’t possibly have happened.

Instead he believes a catalogue of “mistakes and misunderstandings” – especially one large error – meant that the truth remained buried.

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Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan vanishedAmelia Earhart and Fred Noonan vanished without a trace... or so it was thought (Image: GETTY)

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The historian claims that the British actually discovered Ms Earhart’s skeleton three years after she and Mr Noonan vanished – but didn’t realise it was her. 

He said: “Her remains were found in 1940 by a British colonial officer, they were then misidentified by a British doctor in Fiji and then were essentially forgotten.”

After decades of research, archeological digs and more, Mr Gillespie concluded that the pair’s final resting place was on Nikumaroro Island.

At the time, it was known as Gardner Island and measured 4.5 miles in length and 1.5 miles in width.

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