Nieces tell of MH17 leading steward's stubble trick

A picture shows a piece of debris of the fuselage at the crash site of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo), some 80km east of Donetsk, on July 25, 2014. The downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 "may amount to a war crime", the UN said on Monday, July 28, adding that fighting in east Ukraine has claimed over 1,100 lives with both government and rebel forces using heavy weaponry in built-up areas.

MALAYSIA - For a man who was stocky and large, leading steward Mohd Ghafar Abu Bakar was quite a funny guy.

His niece Nur Munirah Mokhtar, 17, says he was well-liked, mild-mannered and funny.

She recalled: "His favourite trick was to ask us to salam (greet) him, but when we extend our hands, he would pull them to his chin so that the back of our hands would rub against his stubble, sending us squealing."

She said the last time they met was in June during a wedding celebration in Malacca.

Her sister Nur Masturah said he was a kind man who loved to try new food.

"We bonded through food because he loved tasting new dishes while his wife enjoys cooking," said a teary Mohtar, 19, at their uncle's home in Ampang.

The sisters heard about the MH17 crash from their mother, another of Mohd Ghafar's younger sisters.

"I was at the office when Mum called and I just could not believe it," she said. "So she sent me a photo of the crew manifest and I broke down," said Nur Munirah.

Before taking off on flight MH17, Mohd Ghafar had told his mother that he would not be back in Malacca for the coming Hari Raya.

"He informed our mother via WhatsApp that he could not return to Malacca for Raya due to work. I couldn't believe that it was his last message to us," said Suzana Ismail, 48, Mohd Ghafar's half-sister.

She said Mohd Ghafar,a father-of-four (three sons and a daughter), was a humble, helpful and friendly person who was close to their mother.