Six days after the crash of an Air-India flight en route from here to a refueling stop in London on its way to New Delhi, Canadian officials still have no hard evidence that sabotage was involved, despite widespread speculation that a bomb planted by radical Sikhs caused the crash.
However, this morning's editions of The Globe and Mail in Toronto reported that officials are investigating reports that the pilot of the flight, which carried 329 passengers and crew, was persuaded by a Sikh from Toronto to carry a package to India for him just minutes before the plane took off.
The newspaper said its reporters had interviewed the man, but said that while he acknowledged talking to the pilot, he said he had asked him to carry a message, not a package.
Meanwhile, officials are studying the autopsies of victims pulled from the Atlantic Ocean off the southwestern coast of Ireland, and tests of the few fragments of the Boeing 747 airliner that have been recovered in the search for clues to the cause of the disaster.
Canadian authorities indicated that it probably will be at least several days before searchers try to retrieve the two "black box" flight recorders that they hope will show whether the crash was caused by malfunctioning equipment.
A British ship managed late last week to pick up weak signals from the recorders, which are under about 6,000 feet of water.
[However, Irish officials in Cork reported Saturday night that they doubted the veracity of the reported location, saying they had been too hasty in concluding that the signals were from the flight recorders, The Associated Press reported.]
The Canadian Coast Guard vessel John Cabot is expected to arrive on the scene in about nine days to attempt bringing up the recorders.
Officials from India's Central Bureau of Intelligence arrived here yesterday to assist in analyzing leads in connection with the crash and an explosion an hour earlier at Tokyo's Narita International Airport that killed two baggage handlers unloading a flight from Vancouver.
Canadian investigators are working on the assumption that the two incidents were linked and were carried out by radical Sikh groups based in Canada who strongly oppose the government of Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
Sources close to the investigation have speculated that the bomb that exploded in Tokyo actually may have been intended to blow up on a connecting Air-India flight bound for Bombay.
Canadian authorities are looking for two men, identified on a passenger manifest as L. Singh and A. Singh, for questioning.
Investigators also have speculated that any sabotage of the Air-India jet that crashed also may have originated in Vancouver. They are looking for a young man who booked a connecting flight from Vancouver to Toronto, where the Air-India flight originated. Sources said the man had demanded loudly that airline agents assure him that his luggage would go all the way from Vancouver to London.