Airline knew Andreas Lubitz has suffered "serious depressive episode"

'Depressive': Andreas Lubitz
'Depressive': Andreas Lubitz

Airline Lufthansa knew six years ago that the co-pilot of the passenger plane that crashed in the French Alps last week had suffered from a "serious depressive episode", it said tonight.

All 150 people on board the Germanwings flight from Barcelona to Dusseldorf, including three Britons, were killed in the disaster.

Germanwings parent airline Lufthansa said that as part of its internal research it found emails that Andreas Lubitz sent to the Lufthansa flight school in Bremen when he resumed his training there after an interruption of several months.

In them, he told the school he had suffered a "serious depressive episode", which had since subsided.

The airline said Lubitz subsequently passed all medical checks and that it has provided the documents to prosecutors.

The development came as it emerged that all the victims could be identified by the end of the week.

Earlier today, the head of the criminal research institute at France's National Gendarmerie was reported as saying DNA identification would take two to four months.

But at a news conference in Berlin, French president Francois Hollande said: "The French interior minister confirmed that by the end of the week at the latest it will be possible to identify all of the victims thanks to DNA samples."

As the grim task of searching through the wreckage continued, Lufthansa said its insurers were setting aside 300 million US dollars (£203 million) to deal with possible costs resulting from the crash.

Spokeswoman Kerstin Lau said that is the amount reserved to deal with "all costs arising in connection with the case".

Last week, the company offered immediate aid of up to 50,000 euro (£36,000) per passenger to relatives of the victims.

Those payments are separate from any eventual compensation payments over the Airbus A320 crash, which cockpit voice recordings have indicated was deliberately caused by Lubitz, 27.

Lufthansa said that out of respect for the victims it was cancelling festivities for the 60th anniversary of the airline which were to have taken place on April 15.

Instead the company will provide a live broadcast for its employees of the official state ceremony in Cologne Cathedral on April 17 which will be attended by bereaved families.

With Lubitz having been treated for suicidal tendencies, France's air accident investigation agency the BEA is examining cockpit entry and psychological screening procedures following the crash.

The BEA said its investigation was aiming to provide a "detailed analysis" of flight data.

It also said it would be studying "systemic weaknesses" that could have led to the crash, notably psychological screening procedures and cockpit door procedures.