Co-pilot deliberately crashed plane: French prosecutor

The 28-year old German co-pilot of the Germanwings plane that crashed in the French Alps on Tuesday ''deliberately'' brought the plane down after locking the captain out of the cabin, according to a French prosecutor, who cited the recordings on the plane's black box.

A 30-minute cockpit voice recording retrieved from the black box "clearly" suggests that Andreas Lubitz, thought to be from Montabaur in western Germany, "profited from the captain's absence" after he left the cockpit to relieve himself to lock himself in and activate the descent button on the plane. From then on, he ignored the increasingly desperate attempts of the captain to get back in.

Most of the passengers on board may not have been aware of their impending doom, he said, as the plane descended gradually as if it were coming down to land before slamming into the mountains of Le Vernet, in the Provence Alps near Seyne-les-Alpes.

But as the horror of the situation suddenly became clear, the prosecutor said "we only hear screams in the last seconds. Death was instant." All 150 passengers and crew on the plane were killed.

Brice Robin, the Marseille prosecutor, said, "There was manifestly a deliberate desire to destroy this plane," as the co-pilot can be heard "breathing normally" until impact - he was alone in the cockpit after turning off the autopilot and activating the descent button.

He said the flight started normally with jovial exchanges in German. "But when we hear the captain discuss the landing check list, the co-pilot's response appears laconic. We hear the captain ask the co-pilot to take control, then we hear the noise of a seat that goes back and a door open, we can assume he went to relieve himself.

"The co-pilot was alone. It is it this moment that he turns the buttons of the flight monitoring system to action the descent of the plane. The action of this selection of altitude can only be deliberate," he said.

''When the captain returns, he tries to speak to the co-pilot via a visual intercom system, but got no response from the co-pilot.

"He taps on door, no response from the copilot. All we can hear is the sound of breathing until impact suggesting the co-pilot was alive until impact," he said.

Air traffic control repeatedly tried to communicate with him, and asked other nearby planes to do so, to no avail. He sent no distress messages.

Alarms sounded to signal to crew the proximity of the ground. "Then we hear banging of someone trying to break down the door," he said.

The alarm to pull the plane up then goes off.

Just before the final impact one can hear what appears to be the first impact of the plane on a mountain top.

"The most plausible and realistic conclusion is that the co-pilot, through a deliberate decision, refused to open the cabin door to the captain and actioned the button commanding a loss of altitude. There was a deliberate desire to destroy this plane," said the prosecutor.

Asked whether it was an apparent suicide, he said, "When you have 150 people in your responsibility, I can't call this suicide, but I understand you can pose this question."

He also appeared to rule out a terrorist act, saying. "I don't think this is the main line of inquiry". He was asked about the ethnicity and religion of the co-pilot but he said he did not think it was a main direction for the investigation.

Robin said he had informed victims' families who arrived this morning in Marseille, and are due to travel near the crash site where a special chapel memorial hall has been erected.

He confirmed that the pilots' families would also be coming but separately from the others. (See: Germanwings disaster: pilot was locked out of cabin).