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July 12, 2017

The case of Amelia Earhart’s mysterious disappearance may not be closed after all.

A History Channel documentary that aired on Sunday, "Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence," pointed at a lost photograph that served as “proof” that Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, had ended up in Japanese custody and died on the island of Saipan.

The blurry image allegedly shows Earhart sitting on a dock, looking away from the camera, while Noonan stood to her left. The documentary stated that the image “may hold the key to solving one of history’s all-time greatest mysteries.”

However, a Tokyo-based blogger, Kota Yamano, is casting doubts on the image. Yamano, who specializes in military history, has unearthed evidence that the photograph actually appeared in a travel book published two years before Earhart and Noonan disappeared.

According to The Guardian, The Japanese-language book about the South Seas was published in Palau on October 10, 1935.

The Guardian noted that the book does not identify anyone in the photograph, but that it describes the “maritime activity at the harbour on Jabor in the Jaluit atoll – the headquarters for Japan’s administration of the Marshall Islands between the first world war and its defeat in the second world war.” 

Yamano told The Guardian that it only took him 30 minutes to debunk the Earhart claims in the photograph.

“I have never believed the theory that Earhart was captured by the Japanese military, so I decided to find out for myself. I was sure that the same photo must be on record in Japan,” Yamano said.

Yamano also posted his findings on Twitter.

The documentary quotes former FBI executive assistant director Shawn Henry, who claims the U.S. government knew Earhart was in Japanese custody at the time and did nothing to rescue her. The film also uses facial recognition on the photograph to “prove” the people in the photo are Earhart and Noonan.

Other experts have also cast doubt on the photo’s authenticity. The Guardian reports that Ric Gillespie, executive director of the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, said “there was no evidence that the person in the photograph was Earhart.”

Perhaps the Amelia Earhart mystery will always remain a mystery.

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