Sunday, 30 March 2008
'I don't know any parent who, after the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, hasn't become more wary or held their child's hand that little bit tighter.
'I'm desperate for news about her. She's my first thought when I see the news or a newspaper and I feel deeply ashamed and disrespectful to the McCann family over my increased paranoia.
'Recently we stayed at a holiday park in a three-bedroom chalet. Despite us sleeping in the room next to our 22-month-old daughter, and my parents being in another on the other side of her, I woke constantly through the nights imagining people breaking in to steal her. It's ridiculous and totally irrational, but it got worse as the week wore on. It happens at home too. I wake at any noise and feel immense relief when I hear her mumble or move.
'A few days ago there was lots of publicity about the lack of freedom that children have these days. In all honesty, the risks to children are probably no greater than they were when we were young but in this media-hyped world we are far more exposed to the potential dangers even if they are one in a million. Of course the supposed low level of danger is no consolation to the parents whose child is that 'one' and that's what's holding us all back.'
Kirstin, mum of one
'It's a tricky one really as I think it's such an unusual case. It's not like she was snatched in a crowd or anything. Whoever it was broke into the apartment to take her.
'We were at a wedding in Cape Town last year and the hotel provided a baby sitter service. We used it, but we gave the sitter and the hotel management a good grilling first and went to check regularly. Amelia even left early to go back and take over. We also took Jess with us every time we went out to eat.
'I guess I'm saying that while it's such a terrifying thing, it hasn't really changed how I do things.'
Fraser, dad of two
'Like most people around the country I have had a really profound reaction to the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. I have a little girl myself and I feel like my reaction to the situation has been much more acute than before I was a mother. Just seeing those images of Madeleine everywhere makes my stomach churn and her family's relentless campaign to find her reduces me to tears nearly every time I see it on the news.
'It comes with the territory to be protective of your children and Kate McCann's words 'please don't frighten her...' stayed with me for days. I can only imagine the guilt and desperation of the McCann's as their frantic search continues with no positive outcome. I am really supportive of their efforts in what must be becoming more and more desperate every day.
'It won't affect our holiday plans. You have to be mindful of the odds of something like this happening to your family, but it's still horrific that you have to acknowledge that this sort of thing happens at all, especially to our most precious and vulnerable. If I'm truthful I'll have an extra eye on my daughter and probably be that little bit more vigilant on holiday and when we're out and about generally. Even this weekend, I found myself hopping out of bed to double check that her bedroom window was closed tight.'
Katie, mum of one
'I'm seeing lots of comments (not just here, everywhere) on the lines of 'I won't let my children out of my sight for a moment' and 'these days the world is so dangerous', and it got me thinking about the 'good old days'.
'I don't think these things are happening nowadays more than they used to. In this world of mass media (and mass hysteria) we just hear about them more often.
'When I was a child, my parents were very protective. I wasn't allowed to go to discos or clubs when I was a teenager. But as a little girl I was left home alone with my sister while my parents worked. My Grandmother used to come and keep an eye on us but she wasn't there all the time. I was allowed to play in the park and fields with my older sister and cousins.
'I guess my point is, that things aren't really any more dangerous these days, and perhaps we shouldn't let ourselves get carried away by 'smothering' our kids and not allowing them any freedom or independence, on the off-chance (and it is an extremely tiny chance) that some evil lowlife is waiting for the opportunity to snatch them away.
'That isn't to say I'm lax with my boys' safety. I do keep an eye on them but they do leave my sight occasionally. Last summer we managed to lose them both, separately, when they wandered of in a fun park. Thankfully we found them safe and well, and my heart was in my mouth until we did, worrying about what had happened.
We have left them in hotel rooms while we had supper in the restaurant (with the monitor switched on of course). If there are baby sitters or baby listening services we would use them, but they are not always available.
'Of course, God forbid, if anything did happen to them I would never forgive myself for not watching them enough, but I am not going to go through life constantly worrying that something will happen.
'Madeleine is very much in my thoughts and I am hoping and praying that she is found safe and well.'
Zofia, mum of four
The detectives believe there are inconsistencies in the accounts of what happened on the night the three-year-old vanished from her family's holiday apartment in Praia da Luz last May while the group of friends ate dinner with Madeleine's parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, in a nearby restaurant.
It had been believed that the detectives could spend up to two months in the UK.
However, a team led by chief investigator Paulo Rebelo is set to fly to Britain on April 7 to start interviews in Leicester the next day, and they are scheduled to return to the Algarve on April 11.
British police officers will conduct the interviews on behalf of their Portuguese counterparts, but Rebelo and his team will be allowed to sit in as they take place.
- Again it appears we have a rehash of old news!
- The questioning has been reported to be the T3 T4 T7 T9 then T3 again then T7 not T9 yet again!
- Also it was reported just last week that the PJ would be interviewing many holiday makers and other witnesses!
- Again another false leak coming from the infamous PJ sources
- The Leicestershire Police have not confirmed this story, I feel they would have if they knew for definite if the PJ was coming.
- If the PJ get here at all on April 7th don't hold your breath for Kate and Gerry to be interview, this could all change again, as apparently there is insufficient evidence to interview them, this we have from the Portuguese Judge, so can we say this it true?
- Does the left arm know what the right arm is doing?
- How many questions will it be 40? 14? 4? 100?
- Can the PJ tell their A**** from their elbows?
- It was also reported that the PJ may be here for months, well looks like they have cut their trip down to just 4 days, thus laying to rest another leak for the infamous PJ source.
- Will the Portuguese government ever get their act together and ask the PJ what the hell they think they are playing at with all these leaks?
- Will the Portuguese government ever hold a frank and open public inquiry into this farcical shambolic investigation?
- What can these questions every hope to prove?
- What exactly will they be able to accomplish 11 months after the event with memories dulling?
- If these questions were so vitally important why haven't the PJ got their act together sufficiently before 11 months was up to ask these questions?
- No mention of cuddle cat or Kate's diary!
- I suspect yet another red herring!
- If I were cynical, I maybe forgiven for thinking that the PJ deliberately leaked all this fatuous nonsense in order to put some kind of pressure onto the McCann's to see if they could crack them!
- Does it never occur to the PJ that they have never cracked, because they are in fact innocent and have been telling the truth.
- I am yet to be convinced that the PJ will arrive here on April 7th, I hope they do, but forgive me if I am sceptical, this has been said so many times already!
- I don't think they will question the McCann's
- I think they will release them fro the arguido status.
- I think they will be forced to apologise for all the unnecessary pain and suffering they have caused this couple.
- I think they will have to do this because it will soon emerge that the PJ had absolutely no evidence, on which to bring or even begin to prove and substantiate the bizarre allegations against this couple.
- I think unless the McCann's get a formal public apology, they will proceed and sue the PJ and it has been proved that they can lawfully do this.
- I think they should, do you?
- I think they should bring legal action, if only to highlight the archaic secrecy laws of Portugal, laws that have caused much of this farce of an investigation.
- I think they should bring this action for many reasons, what reasons do you think the McCann's should sue the PJ for?
Saturday, 29 March 2008
For six months David James Smith has examined the evidence surrounding the disappearance of Madeleine McCann for The Sunday Times Magazine. In this, the most comprehensive — and authoritative — investigation yet, he addresses the key issues facing Gerry and Kate.
That week in Praia da Luz, the week the McCanns were made suspects in their own daughter’s “death”, I was out there talking to them and to family and friends. I was at the home of the Anglican vicar Haynes Hubbard, sitting with him and his wife, Susan, while their own three children pottered around us. The Hubbards had flown in from Canada three days after Madeleine’s disappearance to begin Haynes’s tour of duty as the vicar of Praia da Luz. They had heard about Madeleine for the first time while changing planes at Lisbon airport, in a slightly unnerving encounter with an elderly Portuguese woman who had seized Susan’s arm and told her to “hold on” to the baby she was carrying, as a child had been taken.
The Hubbards had spent their first days at the resort fearing for their own children’s safety. Gradually they became friends with the McCanns, particularly Susan and Kate, drawn together at first perhaps by the McCanns’ need to find some comfort in religion. But mostly in Portugal the McCanns were enveloped by family and friends from the UK.
The McCanns were flying home that Sunday and had been to a farewell dinner that week at the Hubbards’. Susan told me that she and Kate had discussed how much one person could cope with. Kate seemed close to the limits of human endurance. Haynes chimed in: “And I don’t think she’s looking forward to tomorrow very much either.” The thought was left hanging there: how much can one person take?
Kate was to go to the nearby town of Portimao the next day, Thursday, September 6, to be questioned by detectives from the Policia Judiciaria (PJ). It would be Gerry’s turn the day after. For the media this would be a shocking new twist to the story – but not for the McCanns: the PJ had told them four weeks earlier they were going to be subjected to formal interviews and the McCanns had stayed on, instead of going home at the end of August as originally planned, waiting for the interviews to take place. Waiting. Waiting.
Finally, the PJ called. They told the McCanns they would be made official suspects – arguidos. The McCanns had noted the change of mood in Portugal, especially among the PJ, and the increasing viciousness of the Portuguese press. Some of the stories seemed so incredible and far-fetched – Kate, for instance, disposing of Madeleine’s body, or Madeleine’s DNA being found in the car the McCanns had hired three weeks after Madeleine disappeared – that I at first assumed they were the fanciful inventions of an unfettered press. I soon realised how well they reflected the thinking of the PJ. More recently I have discovered the stories were being fed to the press by the PJ, from the highest ranks. So much for judicial secrecy. One Portuguese journalist told me that segredo de justica – secrecy of justice – was like the speed limit. Everyone knows the law; nobody keeps to it.
It seems important to make it clear right away that I do not suspect the McCanns harmed Madeleine, nor do I think they disposed of their daughter’s body if, as the PJ believe, she died in an accident that night in their apartment.
This is not a mere prejudice on my part. I have spent a long time considering and examining every unpleasant scenario. The McCanns are not my friends and I have no axe to grind with Portugal, its police or its media.
To me, the McCanns are genuine people in the grip of despair – the accusations against them are ludicrous and a cruel distraction from the search for their daughter. That’s why I put the quotation marks around the word “death” at the top of the article. Madeleine may be dead, it may even be more likely she is dead, but nobody knows for sure. Nobody, not even the PJ, as we will see, can produce any persuasive evidence that she has come to harm.
That evening, Thursday, May 3, at just after 8pm, by their account, Kate and Gerry McCann were having a glass of wine together in apartment 5a on the ground floor of Block 5 of the Waterside Village Gardens at the Ocean Club. Their three children were asleep in the front bedroom overlooking the car park and, beyond it, the street. Madeleine was in the single bed nearest the door. There was an empty bed against the opposite wall, beneath the window. Between the two beds were two travel cots containing the twins: Sean and Amelie. Gerry had bought the wine at the Baptista supermarket, 200 yards down the hill. They had lived and worked in New Zealand for a year and that particular bottle, Montana sauvignon blanc, was their favourite. It was the sixth day of their week’s holiday in the Algarve and they were reflecting on the enjoyable time they’d had, how surprisingly easy it had been with the children.
When their old friend Dave Payne had invited them on a group holiday, it had seemed too good to resist. Dave and Fiona Payne had been on another Mark Warner holiday the year before, to Greece with Matt and Rachael Oldfield. The Algarve group would be completed by Russell O’Brien, Jane Tanner and Fiona’s mother, Dianne Webster. Six of the group were doctors. Gerry was a consultant cardiologist and had worked before with Matt and Russell. Kate had been an anaesthetist and was now a part-time GP.
The group first spent time together at Dave and Fiona’s wedding in Italy in 2003. Now they had eight children between them. Madeleine was the oldest, her fourth birthday a week after they would return from the Algarve. One of the attractions was that there were children for their own to play with. And the adults were a sporty group, a speciality of Mark Warner holidays; tennis had dominated the activities that week.
That might all sound very cosy and middle class, but that did not mean their lives had been easy or free of suffering – especially with the struggle to have children, eventually managed through IVF – or that they had been born into an advantaged world. Kate came from a modest Liverpool background and Gerry, the youngest of five, had been brought up in a tenement building on the south side of Glasgow.
The terms of the holiday were half-board, breakfast and evening meal, and the McCanns paid about £1,500. There had been some reduction when they had discovered that, unlike most Mark Warner resorts, the Ocean Club did not offer a baby-listening service. Instead, the group had asked for apartments close together, so they were all assigned to Block 5. The Paynes were on the floor above, the only couple with a functioning baby monitor. Russell O’Brien and Jane Tanner had brought a monitor too, but theirs wasn’t getting much of a signal from the Tapas restaurant 50 yards away.
The Ocean Club was not a gated, enclosed resort in the usual style of Mark Warner, but a sprawling complex open to the village of Luz and scattered over such a wide distance that shuttle buses were used.
Even though the resort was open to the village, it felt safe and secure, and in early May it was still very quiet. Gerry never saw a soul, except once, on the last night, on his evening checks, going back and forth between Tapas and the apartment, an even-paced walk of just under a minute.
As the McCanns endlessly repeated afterwards, if they had thought it was wrong or even risky, they would never have left their children. With hindsight, of course, they would never have done it and now they are riven with guilt, but we can all be wise after the event, and so many of us have taken similar chances at times, in search of a bit of respite from our children.
Gerry had knocked up at the start of the 4.30pm tennis-drills session, but had decided not to exacerbate an injury to his Achilles tendon, so had dropped out and waited around by the courts until the children came back from the kids’ clubs at 5pm for tea. That had been one of the most enjoyable times of the holiday, all the children together for tea, then the adults playing with them afterwards.
Gerry was in his apartment at 7pm, had a glass of water, then a beer, while the children sat with Kate on the couch having stories with a snack. The children were clearly shattered – the last thing any of them needed was a sedative and, anyway, it was not something the McCanns ever did. They put them to bed after a last story. The twins were asleep virtually the moment they lay down, Madeleine not far behind them.
These days it was rare for Madeleine to wake up at all once she was in bed. If she did, she’d normally wander into her parents’ bed, whether they were there or not. At home in Rothley, sometime earlier, they had begun a star chart for Madeleine staying in her own bed. The chart, still on display in the kitchen, was full of stars. At about 7.30pm, Kate and Gerry showered and changed and sat down to have a quiet glass of the sauvignon blanc. They were first to the table at the restaurant at 8.35 and spent some minutes talking to a couple from Hertfordshire – two more tennis players – at the next table, who were eating with their young children. As they chatted, Gerry thought how lucky he was, his children asleep nearby, he and Kate free to come and enjoy some adult time at the restaurant and not have to sit with their children, as this couple were.
The McCanns sat down after a few minutes and then ordered some wine. The Oldfields were next to arrive, then Russell O’Brien and Jane Tanner and, finally, always last, Dave and Fiona Payne with Dianne Webster.
That night their group ordered six bottles in total and two were still untouched on the table at 10pm. No more than half a bottle of wine each. The Portuguese magazine Sol reported that the group had drunk 14 bottles. Another Portuguese journalist told me a local GNR (national republican guard) police officer had described one of the group as being so drunk later that evening, they could barely stand.
They had just ordered starters when the routine of checking began. Matt Oldfield went first at 8.55 to check his own apartment and to hurry up the Paynes, who had still not arrived.
He was followed by Gerry, who entered his apartment at about 9.05 through the patio doors to the lounge. Earlier that week the McCanns had used a key to go in through the front door next to the children’s bedroom but, worrying the noise might wake the children, they began using the patio doors, leaving them unlocked.
When he entered the apartment, Gerry immediately saw that the children’s bedroom door, which they always left just ajar, was now open to 45 degrees. He thought that was odd, and glanced in his own bedroom to see if Madeleine had gone into her parents’ bed. But no, she and the twins were all still fast asleep.
Gerry paused over Madeleine, who – a typical doctor’s observation, this – was lying almost in “the recovery position” with Cuddle Cat, the toy her godfather, John Corner, had bought her, and her comfort blanket up near her head, and Gerry thought how gorgeous, how lovely-looking she was and how lucky he was. Putting the door back to five degrees, he went to the loo and left to return to the restaurant. That, of course, was the last time he would see his daughter.
As he walked down the hill, Gerry saw Jes Wilkins on the opposite side of the road pushing a child in a buggy. Gerry called hello and crossed over to talk. Wilkins and his partner were eating in their own apartment that night, but their youngest still wouldn’t settle. It reminded Gerry of the fraught time he and Kate used to have with Madeleine when she was a baby. In his memory, they could never eat a meal together when they went out, as she was always disturbing them and needing to be wheeled off to sleep.
As Jane Tanner walked up the hill, she saw Gerry talking to Jes and, as she passed them, she saw ahead of her a man walking quickly across the top of the road in front of her, going away from the apartment block, heading to the outer road of the resort complex. The man was carrying a little girl who was hanging limply from his open arms. The sighting was odd, but hardly exceptional in a holiday resort.
Her daughter fine, Jane returned to the table. At 9.30, Kate got up to make the next check on her children, but Matt Oldfield was checking too, as was Russell O’Brien, and Matt offered to do Kate’s check for her, which she accepted. Gerry teased that she would not be excused her turn at the next check.
In the McCanns’ apartment, Oldfield noticed the children’s bedroom door was again open, but that meant nothing to him, so he merely observed all was quiet and made a cursory glance inside the room, seeing the twins in their cots but, agonisingly, not directly seeing Madeleine’s bed from the angle at which he stood. Afterwards, he could not say for sure if she had been there or not. Nor could he say if the window and shutter had been open.
He would get a hard time from the police because of this, during his interviews not long afterwards, being aggressively accused of taking Madeleine – you passed her out of the window, didn’t you! – being suspected because he had offered to take Kate’s turn.
Jane Tanner, too, would be accused of fabricating or misremembering her sighting of this stranger with a child. There could be no answer to such an accusation – except that she was an ordinary, honest person who knew what she had seen. Sometime after 10pm, Rachael Oldfield would go to Jane’s apartment to tell her Madeleine had been taken and Jane would say: “Oh my God. I saw a man carrying a girl.”
It perhaps needs to be stated openly that all these timings and details, the way in which they weave and dovetail together, are based on witness accounts – corroborated not just by the McCann group but by others, such as Jes Wilkins – and that, despite suggestions to the contrary, there are no obvious contradictions or differences between them. Nor has any of the McCann group, at any time since, said they wanted to retract or change their statement.
That suggestion too is a lie.
Russell O’Brien checked his own daughter at 9.30 and found she had been sick. Jane returned to the apartment to be with her daughter, and Russell went back to the table. Russell would later fall under suspicion too, because of those few minutes he spent away from the table.
Finally, at 10pm, it was Kate’s turn to check the apartment. She only became alarmed when she reached out to the children’s bedroom door and it blew shut. Inside the room the window was open, the shutter was up and Madeleine’s bed was empty. Kate quickly searched everywhere and ran back down the hill and into the restaurant: “Madeleine’s gone, somebody’s taken her” or “Madeleine’s gone, someone’s taken her.”
Gerry stood up. “She can’t be gone.” “I’m telling you she’s gone, someone’s taken her.”
It was reported that Kate had said “They’ve taken her,” as if it was someone that she knew. She did use those words, but only later, back in the apartment, in her despair, as she said: “We’ve let her down. They’ve taken her.”
Matt went down to the 24-hour reception at the bottom of the hill to raise the alarm. The call to the police went in at 10.15. They arrived 55 minutes later. It is widely believed among the Portuguese media, and perhaps the police too, even now, that the McCanns called Sky News before they called the police. For the record, Sky News picked up the story from GMTV breakfast television, at around 7.30am the following day.
There was a latch lock on the sliding glass window, and the McCanns thought, but could not be sure, that they had locked it at the start of the holiday. They would later discover it was common for cleaners to open the shutters and windows to give the rooms an airing, so there was no way of knowing whether the window was locked that night or not and no forensic trace to indicate where and how an abductor had gone in and out. They could easily have used the front door, perhaps even had access to a key.
In the McCanns’ minds now, there is no doubt Jane Tanner saw their daughter being taken, but there was so little time to talk in the first few days that it was not until Jane saw the description of Madeleine’s pyjamas in the media, around Monday or Tuesday of the following week, that she told them the little girl she had seen was wearing the same design: pink top and white bottoms with a floral design.
While searches began, Gerry was worried about Kate, as she was so distraught and kept talking about paedophiles, saying Madeleine would be dead. He tried to be reassuring, but of course he was thinking the same things.
It all came pouring out of him at 23.40 – from his phone records – when he called his sister Trish in Scotland ranting and raving semi-coherently on the phone about Madeleine being taken, and Trish kept trying to get him to calm down. A sharp contrast with the way he would be later, particularly in public, once he had regained his self-control.
The detectives from PJ arrived at about 1am. By 3.30am they had gone and there was no police action at all, or none visible to the McCanns.
Four times that night they put in calls via the British consul; four times the message came back from the PJ, a message that the McCanns would never forget: “Everything that can be done is being done.”
One of the PJ officers had put on surgical gloves and begun trying to dust down the bedroom, but his powder was not working properly. He tried to take the McCanns’ fingerprints for elimination, but that didn’t work either. It all had to be done again the next day.
The twins slept on like logs, just as they always did at home, though even their parents were fleetingly worried – had they been sedated by an abductor? – that they should be quite so comatose. The Ocean Club gave them another apartment, but the McCanns did not want to be alone, so the twins were taken to the Paynes’ apartment, and Kate and Gerry went there later too, to try to rest.
They got up at first light and went to search alone on the open scrubland beyond the resort, wandering around, calling Madeleine’s name. It was cold and lonely – there was no answer.
Gerry had asked the departing PJ detectives at half three about contacting the media to make an appeal. One of the officers had reacted with surprising agitation, waving his hand emphatically: “No journalists! No journalists!” That, of course, was not quite how it worked out.
For many weeks, the McCanns enjoyed a good relationship with the Portuguese police and were treated to regular updates and a flow of information via the family-liaison officers sent out by Leicestershire police. The problem with the three Leicester officers was that they didn’t have a word of Portuguese between them.
The first public indication of police thinking came at the end of June when the magazine Sol published a story about the McCann group, casting doubts on their evidence and claiming they had undertaken a pact of silence. It was the first time the McCanns’ friends had been named in public, but Sol’s journalist Felicia Cabrita had their names and phone numbers and details from their witness statements. She had called them all, and at least one other witness, Jes Wilkins.
The information had been handed to Cabrita by the police – she says she acquired the material through good journalism, which in a sense it was – and her source is widely believed by her colleagues to have been the former head of the inquiry, Goncalo Amaral.
The PJ appointed an official spokesman, Olegario Sousa. He was apparently plucked from his day job – he was a chief inspector on the art-robbery squad – because he was the only one who spoke decent English. He was never directly involved in the investigation and was rarely told much of what was really going on.
Initial suspicion focused on Robert Murat, who made himself busy with police and journalists from the first day, offering his services as an interpreter, as he spoke both languages and lived across the road from the Ocean Club with his mother at the villa Casa Liliana. In fact, the man Jane Tanner had seen carrying a child was walking straight towards the Murat villa.
Murat later said to me that he told the PJ the press were suspicious of him, and they told him not to worry and to keep away from the press and work for them instead. He had signed papers to become an official interpreter and even sat in during the witness interview of Rachael Oldfield.
Leaving the police station in Portimao one evening, a week after becoming an official police interpreter, Murat became aware he was being followed. Shortly after that he was arrested and interviewed himself and made an arguido.
Murat always denied he was out the night Madeleine disappeared, but three of the McCann group claimed at the time they had seen him and still insist they were right. I was told there was at least one new independent sighting of Murat out on the night of May 3.
Bizarrely, the McCanns believe they were inadvertently responsible for encouraging the PJ to take them seriously as potential suspects, as it was them bringing in a South African “body finder”, Danie Krugel, that led to search dogs being used. The PJ agreed to work with Krugel, and an officer from the UK National Policing Improvement Agency was called in to advise on a search based on Krugel’s findings. It was agreed the British would supply some specialist equipment for spotting disturbed soil and also some search dogs, including one trained in human-remains detection (HRD) and one trained to detect the scent of blood.
Ultimately, only those who were there and involved know exactly what happened, but the McCanns wonder just how the search dogs were presented to the PJ and what claims were made for their success rate and infallibility.
All British policing techniques are meant to be practised uniformly by every force across the country and defined in written policy created by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO). But the ACPO was unable to produce for me any policy relating to search dogs.
Gerry was initially optimistic at the prospect of the searches by these supposedly elite British dogs and techniques. The dogs then went on to search the apartments of the McCanns and their friends. A line-up of cars were also called in by the police, including the cars owned or used by Murat and the Renault the McCanns had been using, which they had hired on May 27.
Those who told me about the dogs’ searches say they involved little objective science. It has been suggested that the HRD dog was treated differently in the McCanns’ apartment than in the others. The dog kept sniffing and running off and it was called back on several occasions. Eventually it “alerted”, meaning it went stiff and stayed still.
Then the blood dog was called in and directed to the area where the other dog had alerted. Eventually this dog alerted in the same place – behind the sofa in the lounge, which is where the trace of blood was supposedly found.
The cars were lined up, not in a controlled environment, but in the underground public car park opposite Portimao police station. Again the dog was led quickly from one car to the next until he reached a Renault with “Find Madeleine” stickers all over it. The dog sniffed and moved on to the next car, but was called back. The dog was taken around the McCanns’ car for about a minute, as opposed to the few seconds devoted to the other cars. Then the dog went rigid, an “alert”, and the doors and the boot were opened. It was this that led to the recovery of some body fluids that the PJ suspected would contain traces of Madeleine’s DNA, and which led to the supposed revelation that her body must have been carried in the car.
The role of such dogs is normally intended to find a body or remains. Without any subsequent discovery the alerts amount to little more than an indication – or worse: in one recent case in Wisconsin a judge concluded that similarly trained dogs were “no more reliable than the flip of a coin”, after hearing evidence that they were wrong far more often than they were right. The McCanns’ lawyers are in touch with the defence lawyers in that case. The PJ had never attempted to obtain a “control sample” of Madeleine’s DNA. That had been left to the McCanns, who had found traces of her saliva on the pillow of her bed at home in Rothley and provided that DNA sample to the Portuguese police.
Whatever the public’s perception – based on a slew of news stories – at this stage there is no published evidence that Madeleine’s DNA, or any trace of her blood, has been recovered from the apartment or the car. Any suggestion to the contrary appears to be misinformation from the PJ. Some Portuguese journalists and, apparently, some members of the PJ believed the UK’s Forensic Science Service (FSS), based in Birmingham, had been deliberately delaying the tests. There are some who suspect the involvement of the British secret services.
In fact, both the PJ’s national director, Alipio Ribeiro, and another PJ official, Carlos Anjos, have both said openly that the police have failed to establish a perfect match. The PJ found several specks of what they believe to be blood in apartment 5a, including one sample that someone had apparently tried to wash off.
They found a trace of body fluid – that is, not blood – in the boot of the Renault and a tiny trace of blood in the Renault’s key fob. Some forensic tests were carried out at the PJ’s own laboratories in Lisbon, where tests on samples related to Robert Murat were also made. The tests on the traces that were potentially the most significant came to the FSS. One sample was said to have produced DNA that was similar to Madeleine’s. An exact match would be 20 out of 20 bands, this sample was said to be similar in 15 out of 20 bands. But in reality, that result was meaningless, as any family member could produce the same match.
Some journalists were told that more advanced tests were being carried out on the smallest blood traces – tests called low copy number profiling, which could produce DNA findings in the slightest of samples. They were a slow process, but did not normally take more than two weeks.
In late November, PJ officers and forensic experts came to meet police and FSS experts in the UK, amid claims the PJ were still waiting for further results. Leicestershire police have apparently paid for all the forensic tests being carried out in the case by the FSS – they are the client in the case, not the Portuguese. The PJ have used this as evidence that the British are suspicious of the McCanns too – even the McCanns think the British police doubted them for a while, until the forensic results emerged – but you might think the PJ would have wanted to be in control of their own forensic findings.
I heard that a PJ officer had been surprised to find a member of MI5 at a UK meeting about the case, and this made him suspicious that shadowy forces could be at work. The Sol journalist Felicia Cabrita mentioned the “mysterious Clarence” – Clarence Mitchell, the former government PR officer turned McCann spokesman – and I was told there was suspicion too about another government official, Sheree Dodd, who had acted as a PR officer for the McCanns briefly in the early days – had she come out from MI6 to help dispose of the body?
These theories might seem preposterous, but for those involved in the case in Portugal, they fitted a pattern in which the Portuguese government and in turn the PJ had felt the heavy weight of diplomatic pressure from the UK – a pressure that the police and the journalists very much resented, with its implication that the police were not doing their job properly. This could be one reason why the PJ were so ready to suspect the McCanns.
There seemed to be no doubt that the PJ really did think the McCanns had done it. I was outlined a scenario in which Kate had come back to the apartment and found that Madeleine had fallen from the sofa and hit her head – hence the blood – and cleaned up and hid the body somewhere in the apartment, and perhaps had not even told Gerry until the next day.
The police could not answer all the questions, of course. They were almost as unanswerable as they were unimaginable. Where would they have hidden the body? How would they have got it into the car 24 days later, and where would they have taken it? What kind of people would they have to be – what borderline personality disorders must they both share – to keep that to themselves for six months, maintain a facade in front of everyone they knew, and at the same time not hiding away but going out to ask the world to help find Madeleine?
I know the McCanns believe the PJ were oversold the value of the dogs. It was after the dogs came out that the PJ’s attitude towards the McCanns changed and it became harder for the McCanns to obtain a briefing meeting. They were disturbed when the press began reporting that the PJ knew Madeleine was dead. Finally, after pressing for a meeting, one was arranged for Wednesday, August 8, three days before the 100-day point after Madeleine’s disappearance.
When they arrived at the station in Portimao the couple were separated and both interrogated. Kate especially was given “the third degree”. Gerry broke down and cried, pleading with the PJ to share any evidence that Madeleine was dead. “It’s coming, it’s coming,” he was told.
The interviews caused the couple “incredible emotional distress”. But they agreed, if they had been guilty, they probably would have cracked and confessed at that point. The police said there would be no more briefings. The next time they saw the McCanns it would be across the table, for formal interviews.
What was doubly dispiriting, of course, was that while the PJ treated them as suspects, they were no longer looking for Madeleine. I was told the PJ had “abandoned the abduction theory”. It was open season now on the McCanns. The publicity was wretched.
The British press were not blameless either, often lazily repeating allegations and sometimes repeating them despite emphatic denials from the McCann camp. If you read the blog sites on the internet you would discover an even darker, nastier tone. The McCanns and their holiday friends were swingers, apparently. That allegation was even made on the Portuguese equivalent of the BBC by a former PJ detective, Jose Barra da Costa. When I checked with him, he said he had been told by a friend in the UK who happened to be a police officer. No doubt that officer had plucked it from the internet. It is not true.
During Kate’s interviews with the PJ in September, just before she was declared an arguido, she was separated from her lawyer, and he was presented with a long list of factors pointing to her guilt, including entries from her entirely innocuous diary and a passage they believed she had marked in a Bible (which in fact had been given to her and marked by the original owner).
The PJ also told the lawyer there was a 100% DNA match with Madeleine in the car and showed him a document that appeared to prove it. Possibly, this was the document showing Madeleine’s control sample of DNA. The McCanns feared even their own lawyer thought they were guilty. Kate was asked by the PJ to explain the dog alerts by her car. “You’re the police,” she said. “You tell me.” Kate asked the PJ: “Are you trying to destroy our family altogether?”
Gerry was asked the same questions the next day but could not answer. (Sometime earlier a Leicestershire officer had said to him, just stick to what you know.) Why did the dogs only alert next to material belonging to the McCanns? The officer was brandishing the dog-handler’s report. And then: “Your daughter’s DNA, your daughter Madeleine McCann, how do you explain that?” “Show me that report,” Gerry asked. “No. This is the report that matters – with the dog.” Of course, they could not produce a DNA match because there wasn’t one.
The McCanns took heart when Goncalo Amaral was forced to step down after making public criticisms of them and the Leicestershire police – he had made the criticisms in a phone call to a journalist contact, not suggesting the comments were private or off the record.
The McCanns hope that Amaral’s replacement, Paulo Rebelo, a more sober, conservative character, will take a wide view of the inquiry. He is said to have stopped leaks to the press, and has been locked away on the upper floors of the station in Portimao reviewing the evidence with a team of officers.
Meanwhile, the McCanns are back home trying to recover some kind of normality. How long can you put your life on hold? They have the twins to think of. Gerry has gone back to work half-days, and has finally told the British Heart Foundation he plans to go ahead with the research fellowship they awarded him, a week before he was accused of being involved in his daughter’s death. He had told me, weeks ago, about the six-figure grant and how it meant almost nothing in terms of professional advancement, but might one day help in the prevention and treatment of heart disease.
He had prepared the application in his own time, working evenings and weekends.
In other circumstances it would have meant the world to him but, right now, he had other things on his mind.
Posted by Tinks
Friday, 28 March 2008
In excess of 800,000 children are reported missing each year
Another 500,000 go missing without ever being reported…”
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP)
Why so many?
June 20, 2007 by MCA
The problem of missing children is complex and multifaceted. There are different types of missing children including family abductions; endangered runaways; non-family abductions; and lost, injured, or otherwise missing children. When the public hears of a missing child case, it is generally involving one of the estimated 115 child victims of the most serious, long-term non-family abduction called “stereotypical kidnappings”.
The best national estimates for the number of missing children are from incidence studies conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. To date two such studies have been completed.
The first National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children (NISMART-1) was released in 1990, and the second, known as NISMART-2, was released in October 2002. According to NISMART-2 research, which studied the year 1999, an estimated 797,500 children were reported missing; 58,200 children were abducted by non-family members; 115 children were the victims of the most serious, long-term nonfamily abductions called “stereotypical kidnappings”; and 203,900 children were the victims of family abductions.
[Andrea J. Sedlak, David Finkelhor, Heather Hammer, and Dana J. Schultz. U.S. Department of Justice. “National Estimates of Missing Children: An Overview” in National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, October 2002, page 5.]
What would you do if your child went missing?
Would you have the needed critical information immediately available?
Would you have current poster quality photos with you to distribute?
If you were traveling, on vacation or visiting friends would you, in a moment of panic and stress, be able to retrieve vital information to aid in search efforts?
Thursday, 27 March 2008
Madeleine McCann's parents want police to investigate Spanish paedophileKate and Gerry McCann have urged Portuguese police to investigate the movement
The 52-year-old man was arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of killing five-year-old Mari Luz Cortes, who went missing just across the border from where Madeleine disappeared in the Algarve on May 3 last year.
The first anniversary of Madeleine's disappearance is approaching
Mr and Mrs McCann, from Rothley in Leicestershire, joined forces with Mari Luz’s family to try and track down the two girls, printing thousands of posters bearing both their faces and distributing them across the Iberian Peninsula.
But while the body of Mari Luz, who went missing after going out to buy sweets on January 13, was found in an estuary in the Spanish border town of Huelva on March 7, there has been no trace of Madeleine.
The McCann’s spokesman Clarence Mitchell said it was important to establish if there was any connection to the missing British four-year-old, who vanished from the family’s holiday apartment in Praia da Luz as her parents dined nearby.
“We hope the Portuguese police will be liaising with the Spanish police to establish this man’s movements around the time Madeleine disappeared,”
“We have no indication there is a direct link between the two cases.
“But given the proximity of the places Madeleine and Mari Luz disappeared from and the similarity in their ages, we believe it’s important the Portuguese police make absolutely sure there’s no connection now there’s been an arrest.”
The man being held by Spanish police is reported to have convictions for child abuse and indecent assault on minors and is already said to have confessed to Mari Luz’s murder.
Although his name has not been released by police, Spanish TV station Telecinco named him as Santiago del Valle Garcia.
His sister, named locally as Rosa, and his wife, named locally as Isabel, were also arrested - although one of the women is thought to have been released early Wednesday morning.
All three were detained in a rented house in Cuenca, an hour and a half’s drive south of Madrid.
The arrested man is a former neighbour of Mari Luz’s family and lived less than 100 yards from her parents Juan Jose and Irene on the route she would have taken as she returned from the local sweet shop.
He had been questioned already by police after causing suspicion by leaving Huelva the day after Mari Luz disappeared.
Shortly after the arrest, Mr Cortes said:
“This comes as no surprise to me. We know it’s him.”
Wednesday, 26 March 2008
Sunday, 9 March 2008
Ours is a Government that wants us to know how much it cares about children. For 10 years, we had higher child benefit, the end of child poverty, Sure Start, Early Years and free fruit. When Gordon Brown became Prime Minister nine months ago, the rhetorical effort was redoubled. Mr Brown, who has been known to declare that "children are 40 per cent of the population but 100 per cent of our future", even renamed the Department for Education the Department for Children.
Indeed, so all-encompassing has Labour's concern seemed that the charge of nanny-statism is often made. Our children seem to be tracked, tested and monitored to an unprecedented degree. And yet, for all these professions of concern, and for all this machinery of surveillance, the Government seems to be failing in its duty to the most vulnerable children – and in particular to the one group of children for whom it has the most direct responsibility, namely children in the care of the state. As we report today, local councils and the police are disorganised and confused in their response to the 900 children that go missing from residential care every year, 160 of whom are still missing at the end of the year.
This has long been a neglected corner of the welfare state, with some of the worst excesses of the past only now being excavated – literally so in Jersey, a separate jurisdiction but culturally part of the same British society. Matters are, we hope, not so bad now, but our investigation suggests that there is still much to do.
Nor is this the only example of the state failing in its duty of care for children in neglected and unlit institutions. The Independent on Sunday reported in December on the shocking level of violence inflicted on children in custody. The use of painful "restraint" in young offender institutions and secure training centres has been condemned by Professor Sir Al Aynsley-Green, the Children's Commissioner for England.
Of course, we do not pretend that nothing worthwhile has been achieved by this Government. Children generally are better off. This newspaper's concerns about the stresses of modern childhood, the fracturing of family life and the demonisation of some youngsters have been expressed against a background of rising hope and expectations.
We accept, too, that Alan Johnson, while he was Secretary of State for Education, did a great deal to raise the status of children in care as an issue across government. As an orphan himself, who owed his chances in life to the enlightened attitude of social services in allowing his teenage sister to look after him when his mother died, he has a personal stake in the subject.
Unfortunately, once again, words seem at least as important as actions; in this case, the replacement of one euphemism that had acquired negative connotations, "children in care", with another that means the same, "looked-after children". In time, unless the facts on the ground change, the new phrase will acquire the same unwanted associations as the old.
We also acknowledge that policy in this area has been increasingly complicated in recent years by, among other things, the increase in unaccompanied children seeking asylum. They are sometimes brought to this country by people traffickers, taken into care, and then disappear.
Our criticism of the Government on this issue is symbolised by the national child database, ContactPoint, a register of all the children in the country that is supposed to become operational later this year. This arose out of a Green Paper in 2003 called Every Child Matters, which sought to overhaul children's services after the death of Victoria Climbié. There is a problem with this approach that no minister has been brave enough to confront, which is that every child does not matter – to the Government – as much as every other. There are some groups of children on whom the public authorities need to devote more attention than others. The promise of ContactPoint, of a comprehensive safety net of co-ordinated agencies through which no child can fall, cannot be realised for the entire child population of Britain. But it is a promise that could be kept for specific groups that are known to be at risk: looked-after children, children in custody, the children of asylum-seekers and children who may be being taken out of the country for forced marriages.
It is only by focusing on the most vulnerable that the grandiose rhetoric of a child-friendly society can be matched by actions. Instead of constructing a database of every child in the country that is expensive and time consuming to operate and keep secure, the Government could be devoting a tiny part of those resources to ensuring a consistent national response to known categories of vulnerable children who go missing.
Tuesday, 25 March 2008
Terrible things happen, but we trust they are not going to happen to us.
That is one of the reasons why we continue to go out in the world with hope and confidence, and to encourage our children, and others, to do the same. In the dark times, it seems foolish and utterly absurd that we do. Yet it remains an unquenchable part of human nature to trust in the good disposition of others, to rely on their sense of morality and tacit concern. It is this web of mutual reliance and good citizenship that keeps the civilised world turning; the belief in the comfort of strangers and the inherent goodness of others are the hem stitches in the fabric of society.
We trust that the teachers taking their pupils on a canoeing trip will return home without drowning half their charges. We trust that the coach driver won't take the wet bend at 80mph because he is running late, or that the Roman Catholic priest won't sleep with the vulnerable immigrant. We trust that the pilot isn't drunk, the doctor is not distracted and that the caretaker in charge of the school is not Ian Huntley. But somehow we do it again and again; we make a leap of faith that is against rational calculation, but is part of the warmth of humanity, the excitement of life. We are idiots, of course. For there is an increasing chance these days that something awful will happen, and the brittle threads of our trust will be snapped, like the bars on a cage of spun sugar.
Gerry and Kate McCann had every reason to trust that their daughter Madeleine would be safe in their holiday complex. They chose their resort with care, they spent wisely. Then when the unthinkable happened, and their three-year-old daughter was snatched from her bed and spirited away into the warm night, as seems increasingly likely, they had every reason to trust that the Portuguese police would do everything to help bring her back to safety.
Yet with the best will in the world, it is becoming obvious that this has not happened. Even if one factors in cultural differences and the inexplicable burden of the Portuguese secrecy of justice law, which prohibits even the parents of the missing being given details of evidence collected, it is clear that the police operation has been flawed and flat-footed from the start.
I should point out that I write this as the daughter, sister and niece of policemen. So I'm not predisposed to blame the cops for everything. Nevertheless, there seems to have been unforgivable lapses of protocol and procedure in this case, and there have been times when it has seemed that the local police can't be trusted to dish out a parking ticket properly, let alone find a child on the southern tip of Europe.
All through the long, dread days since Madeleine disappeared, it seemed that the silence of the Portuguese sleuths was because they had definite leads, a game plan, perhaps even a lonely house surrounded by surveillance teams armed to the teeth.
Yet as time moves on, this appears not to be the case. At a belated and chaotic press conference on Monday, the police were, if anything, belligerent instead of supportive, with an uncomfortable whisper of southern Mediterranean machismo sweeping through their statements and body language. "We are not magicians," said Olegario Sousa, the officer leading the investigation. No, senhor, but perhaps you are clowns instead.
Sousa's insensitive remark followed days of chaos. Until yesterday morning, news crews were filing reports uncomfortably close to the McCanns' apartment, further tainting a crime scene that had already been catastrophically contaminated. Police who were supposed to be patrolling the Portuguese/Spanish border exits were filmed taking refuge from the rain in their squad cars, while ignoring the vans with blacked out windows, lorries and legions of cars that hurtled past.
And what privacy law prevented authorities from papering the entire Algarve with posters of Madeleine, or releasing important details, such as the pyjamas she was last seen in, not to mention properly co-ordinating the well-meaning but haphazard public search in the days following the child's disappearance?
The McCanns trusted the police to do all they could in the search for their daughter, while it is their agony that she trusted them to keep her safe. As vigils and prayer meetings are held in her honour, a long shadow is cast over the summer to come, and on millions of forthcoming family holidays. We hope for the best, but fear the worst, as various reports describe suspects to be a dark-skinned man, a British man, a man with a bald spot. Who can we trust now, on either side of the law?
Monday, 24 March 2008
Last Updated: 1:31am GMT 24/03/2008
Robert Murat has moved a step closer to being cleared as a suspect in Madeleine McCann’s disappearance after police returned possessions seized from him 10 months ago.
Public prosecutor Jose Magalhaes e Menezes’s ordered detectives to return the items, including a computer, to the 34-year-old last week.
Murat was made an “arguido” or formal suspect on 14 May last year, 11 days after Madeleine went missing.
He lives with his mother Jenny in Praia da Luz, 100 yards from the Ocean Club holiday flat where Madeleine disappeared.
Mrs Murat, 74, said: “Every single item that the police took has been returned to us. Of course we hope it means Robert’s arguido status will be lifted shortly.
“But we’ve had no official confirmation that that is the case and we’re not getting too excited.”
Portuguese police were reported to be preparing to fly to Britain on April 7 to interview members of the holiday party - the so-called Tapas Nine - in a last bid for a breakthough in the case.
It was claimed that prosecutors have rejected police requests to call the McCanns in for a second round of questioning.
But they have agreed to an application to quiz the McCanns’ former spokeswoman Justine McGuinness and a psychologist who comforted GP Kate, 39, after Madeleine went missing, it was claimed.
Miss McGuinness was surprised when the Telegraph broke the news to her.
“I haven’t heard anything about being interviewed,” she said.
“I can’t imagine I can tell them anything they don’t already know.”
Sunday, 23 March 2008
Cases in which children are kidnapped and are subsequently rescued alive after a gap of several week are very rare. Nonetheless, a handful of individuals have come through the experience in recent years. Their journey back to normal life has often been traumatic.
An Austrian schoolgirl who disappeared at the age of 10 became a media celebrity when she was found eight years later in August 2006.
Her kidnapper, Wolfgang Priklopil, threw himself in front of a train shortly after she escaped from the house she was being held in near Vienna.
A 15-year-old girl who went missing in June 2006 was discovered by police a year later, locked in a secret understairs cupboard in West Hartford, Connecticut and pale due to a lack of sunlight.
Police had gone to the house to arrest Adam Gault, 41, whom they suspected of murder, but instead managed to free Danielle.
A teenage Australian girl who had been missing for nearly five years reappeared during the trial of a man the prosecution said had confessed to murdering her.
Natasha Ryan was found in a cupboard in a house she shared with her boyfriend, aged 18 in 2003.
She had last been seen in 1998, being driven away by an unidentified man from her Queensland home.
Last January, police in America searching for missing 13-year-old William Ownby were stunned when they also found Shawn Hornbeck at a flat in St Louis.
Shawn had last been seen aged 12 in October 2002. A man was charged with kidnapping.
Nine months after 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart disappeared in 2002, the pretty blonde teenager re-appeared a few miles from her family home in Salt Lake City.
She was found in the company of a married couple who said they could speak to God, as all three wandered up a commercial street in the suburban town of Sandy.
Charlene Lunnon and Lisa Hoodless
Two 10-year-old girls were missing from their home in Hastings for three days in 1999 before they were discovered safe and well near Eastbourne.
They were found after a suspicious member of the public alerted police after a massive police search failed to find them. A man was arrested.
Saturday, 22 March 2008
Excerpts translated from Jornal de Noticias
Kate and Gerry McCann will not be questioned again, when the investigators of Policia Judiciaria (PJ) travel to England, on the 7th of April, if (IF) Portuguese detectives travel to England as reported.
The Judiciaria wanted to, but the Public Ministry (PM) did not deem it necessary to hear Madeleine's parents, Madeleine disappeared in the Algarve, on the 3rd of May last year. Apparently according to this report, the PJ had prepared several questions that they wanted to ask Kate and Gerry but the Public Ministery allegedly removed the request from the list of priorities.
A source that is connected to the process explained that:
"the prosecutor understood that the diligence was useless and a waste of time, because the parents could refuse to answer the questions, according to the rights that the Portuguese law gives to arguidos".
That was precisely what the couple did when they were questioned by the PJ in Portimao, before they suddenly left for home, in Leicester, England, right after they were made arguidos.
"The couple never cooperated with the Portuguese police, in spite of what they publicly announce, through their spokesman. There were no guarantees that they would do so now, but in a criminal investigation, there are no absolute certainties. It was necessary to take the risk",
Apparent the JN was told that investigators were annoyed that they could not question the parents again.
Both the PJ and the Public Ministery have been criticised over the delay in writing and sending the rogatory letter to England. But JN knows that the document was changed several times.
It is also reported that among other factors, were new questions that were requested by the McCanns, through their lawyers, this a right that is given official suspects (arguidos) in Portugal.
Among the requests are the questioning of the psychologist who has been accompanying Kate, and the questioning of Justine McGuinness, a former spokesperson for the couple. These diligences were accepted by the Public Ministery.
Among other requests, the rogatory letter includes new questionings of witnesses, including the "Tapa 9" (the group of friends with whom the McCann's were spending their holidays in Praia da Luz), and the apprehension of Kate's diary.
When in England, the Portuguese investigators will only be allowed to accompany the performance of these actions, the questions will be asked in a set of interviews held by the local police.
The date that has been advanced for the trip has yet to be confirmed. The PJ awaits confirmation from Stuart Prior, the top senior official at Leicester police.
Again we have an incredibly biased and slanted report from a Portuguese Newspaper, if by some remote chance that Kate and Gerry do stand trial in Portugal, the number one and overriding questions has to be:
- Will Kate and Gerry McCann ever be able to have a fair and just trial?
- Will Portugal be accused of allowing gross defamation of the characters of Kate and Gerry, by allowing the publication of gutter fast buck making books by ex arguido PJ officers?
- Will the question of scurrilous leaks said to emulate from the offices of the Portuguese Policia Judiciaria be brought into question?
- It is said that the Portuguese Prosecutor did not allow the re- question of Kate and Gerry because apparently they had already refused to answer questions in Portugal last September! Do you believe this is really the reason or is this just more spurious journalism carried out by Portuguese press with a chip on their shoulders?
- Surely if investigators wanted to ask questions and it was legal to do so, they would ask them, so the question is why?
- Why has the Portuguese prosecutor decided that no further questioning can be allowed at this time?
- Could it be because under Portuguese law the PJ have absolutely no grounds to ask the McCann's these questions?
- Bearing that in mind and also the sacking of disgraced detective Goncalo Amaral from this case and the haste in which the McCann's were made arguidos due to a change in Portuguese law, were there ever grounds to ask these questions?
- Under Portuguese law apparently you have to have evidence to ask arguidos questions, does this mean there is no evidence to ask questions and was there ever any evidence to ask this couple questions?
- Do you think it fair that this couple were made arguidos and under that status, were given certain rights and acting under advice given to them by their Portuguese lawyers and exercising their rights under Portuguese law, that this coupe are then defamed against in the Portuguese press for acting within their human rights under Portuguese law?
- How did the press come to understand that such questions were asked and not answered?
- Who is leaking from the offices of the PJ?
- Should the Portuguese government now act to get to the bottom of the leaks that have mainly all turned out to be deliberate attempts to pervert the course of justice, which have allegedly come from a source from within the offices and ranks of the PJ?
- Again another date the 7th April has been "leaked to the press" that the PJ are to travel to England to ask these now infamous set of questions which have been said to number between 4, 14, 40 and a 100
- Do you believe that the letters are here in England as reported?
- Do you think it right that the PJ and the Portuguese Attorney General's office have totally mishandled the deliverance of these rogatory letters, which have been said to be arriving here since last September 2007 and turn around and blame their apparent incompetence on the UK government, the McCann's, in fact anyone but themselves?
- Again Portugal are pointing the finger at the UK and Leicestershire police, this time Stuart Prior seems to be the latest scapegoat to blame for these elusive "letters rogatory"
- Laughably the JN is not also attempting to blame the UK for Portugal's incompetence, I ask
- Just how much longer the UK government take a back seat and allow this farce to continue? And allow the human rights of two UK citizens to be abused in this way?
Is it time to start asking our MPs to act and ask questions in Parliament? Is it time to start lobbying the British government to put pressure on the Portuguese government to act? Apparently the front page apologies printed by the Express group newspapers has seen a revival in sympathy and donations into the the Find Madeleine Fund. Is it time to galvanise the support that is still obviously there for this couple and channel it to do something positive?
After all at the centre of this chaotic and farcical shambolic Portuguese investigation is a missing innocent little 4 year old girl and all these leaks and underhand tactics are seeking to divert attention away from this abduction of an innocent from her bed in Praia da Luz, Portugal. One question I would like to ask is why? Why are some people hell bent on diverting attention away from this fact by trying to lay blame of this abduction at the parents feet?
Friday, 21 March 2008
His book, The Star Of Madeleine, is based on the real cop investigation.It stops short of saying who is responsible, but drops clues.He says the McCanns decided she was kidnapped without considering she may have walked out of their holiday flat.Retired inspector Cristovao mysteriously claims two of the couple’s holiday pals – the so-called Tapas Seven – are “fundamental” to discovering the truth about Maddie, four.In the preface he writes:
“For legal reasons I, as the author, cannot tell you what the truth, the reality of this case, is. I can, however, assure you that you can find it here, in the lines of this book.”
The novel ends with two fictional coppers gazing out at the Atlantic Ocean following a huge land search.
Cristovao and four other cops stand trial later this year over the case of another missing girl. He is accused of torturing her mum into a false confession of murder.
Last night Kate and Gerry's spokesman said:
“It’s a great shame that people still want to make money out of Madeleine’s situation.”
DisgustingA friend of the couple, from Rothley, Leics, added: “This man is a suspect himself, having been accused of beating up a woman to make her confess to killing her daughter.“He is hardly a reliable source. To bring out a book about Madeleine is just disgusting.”Cristovao, whose book was launched yesterday, angered the couple last year by claiming they should have been arrested for leaving their kids alone at Praia da Luz.
What do you think of the fact that while Portugal effectively gags two people who have not been charged with any crime, with archaic Secrecy Laws, yet allows and Ex Police Chief to write and publish a lot of spurious unsubstantiated nonsense WHILE HIMSELF AN ARGUIDO, WAITING TO FACE TRIAL OVER ALLEGATIONS THAT HE PLAYED A PART IN THE TORTURE OF ANOTHER PARENT OF ANOTHER MISSING CHILD?
- Do you think this is right?
- Do you think this is just?
- Do you think this is the way a country should behave?
- Do you think Portugal should be part of the EU while allowing this kind of behaviour
- How much longer is this going to go on for?
- How much longer can Portugal get away with treating people so appalling in what appears to be an extreme abuse of their human rights?
- Do you think it is time that Portugal held a full and OPEN inquiry into this bungled investigation?
- Do you think the UK government shold now take a pro-active stance and force Portugal to act over this appalling set of circumstances?
- What do you think? Have Your Say .
Thursday, 20 March 2008
From hoaxes to errors of judgment, the front-page apologies in the Daily Star and the Daily Express today are the latest in a long history of expressions of regret by newspapers.
In 1887, The Times published a reproduction of a letter, apparently signed by the Irish parliamentarian Charles Stewart Parnell, linking him with the 1882 Phoenix Park Murders, the name given to the assassination of the British secretary for Ireland, and his undersecretary, in Phoenix Park, Dublin. A special commission found that the letter had been forged and The Times had to eat humble pie.
The front-page apologies are the latest in a long and inglorious tradition of newspaper retractions.
The 19th century artist Edward Burne-Jones is said to have brought a newspaper apology from the US to show his friend Lady Horner of Mells. It read: "Instead of being arrested as we stated, for kicking his wife down a flight of stairs, and hurling a lighted kerosene lamp after her, the Rev James P Wellman died unmarried four years ago."
In 2003 the Daily Telegraph in Sydney, Australia, published the following apology: "The Daily Telegraph reported yesterday that the English rugby team was boring. This was incorrect. The entire country of England is boring. The Daily Telegraph wishes to apologise for this error."
In May 2004, the New York Times apologised in an editorial to its readers for misleading them about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. The paper, widely considered the most influential in America, confessed that the US government urged it to carry unfounded claims to justify the war. The editorial admitted coverage "was not as rigorous as it should have been".
In the same month, the Daily Mirror in the UK isssued a front-page apology declaring "Sorry .. We Were Hoaxed" for printing faked pictures of British soldiers abusing an Iraqi. The apology was followed with a pledge by the paper to donate all money made from the sale of the pictures to charity.
In July that year, The Sun newspaper apologised for making "the most terrible mistake in its history" over the 1989 Hillsborough stadium tragedy, saying it was "truly sorry". It said that by making "grave and untrue allegations" about the behaviour of Liverpool fans during the Hillsborough disaster, it had enraged the city.
In February 2006 a full-page apology in Arabic by Jyllands-Posten, the Danish paper that first commissioned works such as a caricature of the Prophet Mohammed with a bomb-shaped turban, was published in newspapers in Saudi Arabia.
"Allow me in the name of Jyllands-Posten to apologise for what happened and declare my strong condemnation of any step that attacks specific religions, ethnic groups and peoples.
"I hope that with this I have removed the misunderstanding," wrote Carsten Juste, the editor of Jyllands-Posten. The apology was not enough to stop worldwide unrest, including attacks by extremists on churches in Africa and Pakistan as well as the US Embassy in Indonesia.
Wednesday, 19 March 2008
"The Daily Express today takes the unprecedented step of making a front-page apology to Kate and Gerry McCann."
We do so because we accept that a number of articles in the newspaper have suggested that the couple caused the death of their missing daughter Madeleine and then covered it up.
We acknowledge that there is no evidence whatsoever to support this theory and that Kate and Gerry are completely innocent of any involvement in their daughter's disappearance.
We trust that the suspicion that has clouded their lives for many months will soon be lifted.
As an expression of its regret, the Daily Express has now paid a very substantial sum into the Madeleine Fund and we promise to do all in our power to help efforts to find her.
Kate and Gerry, we are truly sorry to have added to your distress.
We assure you that we hope Madeleine will one day be found alive and well and will be restored to her loving family.
Tuesday, 18 March 2008
In the case of the McCanns, a degree of public anger focused on their decision to leave their three children alone while they went for dinner with friends nearby. In that of Scarlett Keeling, her mother, Fiona MacKeown - who has eight other children and a complicated personal life - has been harshly castigated for permitting her daughter to remain with a 25-year-old male tour guide and his aunt while the rest of the family travelled elsewhere.
A front page in the Daily Mail last week advertised an opinion piece with the tastelessly emphatic headline: "Sorry, but I blame Scarlett Keeling's mother". There was little mention of the culpability of the men who allegedly gave Scarlett drugs, raped her and left her on the beach to die.
In the cases of both Madeleine McCann and Scarlett Keeling, few would question that their parents made a misjudgment for which they have paid a truly terrible price. Yet the nasty fury that has frequently been directed at those unfortunate parents, most often by other parents, suggests something deeper at work. So profound and constant is our fear for our children, that upon hearing of such cases the mind searches furtively for some parental error that rendered them vulnerable: if we don't make the same mistake, the reckoning goes, our own will be all right.
The reality is, of course, that it is impossible both to eliminate all risk from our children's lives and to allow them and us to live sanely and happily. In general, parents are a lot closer to the kind of decisions taken by the McCanns and Ms MacKeown than many would like to admit.
The answer of most parents, I think, to Scarlett's request to stay on in Goa would have been "no". But what of a request from a 16 or 17-year-old girl to go on holiday in Britain with friends from school? Despite the assurances to anxious parents, there may indeed be evenings in clubs and bars, with alcohol and perhaps drugs in the mix. At a certain point, one must have the discussions, deliver the warnings, and then trust enough to let a teenager go.
Both the finely balanced decisions and the fears are so tricky to negotiate that it is tempting to reduce them to simple, knowable dramas: in Shannon's, The Child Lost and Found; in Scarlett's, The Neglectful Mother. A more disturbing truth to face is that the reality of risk, both for them and for us, will always be complicated.
Monday, 17 March 2008
We just don’t get it, do we? We have simply no idea, us douce middle classes, what the Shannon Matthews story is about. We’ve watched the saga unfold, first with the polite concern we would feel for any missing child, then with mild amazement when she was found alive. We’re delighted there’s been something we can imagine is a fairytale ending, especially so because now we don’t have to feel guilty any more about how little we care.
We don’t understand. At no point have we grasped the horrifying scale of emotional poverty and chaos that Shannon’s story reveals, because we are as removed from that kind of poverty as we are from events in Afghanistan.
For life among the white working class of Dewsbury looks like a foreign country. And because we don’t live there, and are never likely to, we have no concept of the reality in which hundreds of thousands of British children, just like Shannon, grow up.
Since 1997 the middle classes have heard Gordon Brown chunter on about his goals for ending child poverty in Britain, but they have done so with a profound lack of engagement. Poverty? In modern Britain? Yeah, yeah, we all know what that’s really about, don’t we? Feckless parents who waste all their money on widescreen TVs and booze and don’t have enough left for the children. We know the type. But the truth is, we don’t have a clue what modern social deprivation means.
Poverty has a new face now, and it’s called Shannon Matthews. What her sad little story has destroyed, possibly for ever, is the convenient middle-class myth of coherent, material poverty. Instead, it has revealed that what devastates the lives of modern children is something altogether much worse – inner poverty; poverty of the soul.
Although clothed and fed, often with a parent or a stepparent in work, children in Shannon’s world have to exist in a state of pervasive, low-level psychological chaos that is beyond the remedy of any social worker. There are no state palliatives for emotional neglect; or an endemic lack of emotional stability. There is absolutely no cure for the horrors of growing up with adults who exist in a state of permanent volatility.
In a world such as Shannon’s, there are no certainties other than the fact that there are no certainties.
These children are not like our children. Their parents are not adults we would recognise as adults. The children do not come home from school to someone to ask them how their day was. Many are denied anything but fleeting attention, interest and stimulation.
Many, furthermore, spend their lives trying to be invisible in order to cope with the adults in the house – hostile boyfriends; stressed, angry mothers. Any children’s charity will tell you that the biggest threat to children comes from violent boyfriends and lovers; from mothers, in other words, who prioritise their own relationships over their children.
Add to this households where drink and drug abuse by adults is a common factor, and you begin to see how scary and unstable some children’s lives are.
What was so telling about Shannon’s story, so far as it has been revealed, is that her abduction was not the extremely rare act by a stranger, but allegedly by someone she knew. Someone from this lost society in which adults, damaged and isolated, are incapable of adult responsiblities. Most children know those who harm them. Shannon was found concealed in the house of the extended relative – the uncle of her mother’s boyfriend; someone who had apparently played with her at a recent family funeral. Did the nine-year-old go off with someone she knew because he had offered her kindness in the past? Neighbours near to where she was found have spoken of hearing a child laughing and the sound of light footsteps.
Indeed, there were suggestions yesterday that other members from the little girl’s vast, complex network of fragmented family may have been involved. Only time will tell to what degree this was a sinister act, or simply a manifestation of inappropriate behaviour within a dysfunctional family group.
Reports say that Shannon was unhappy at home. She was described as a shy, quiet girl and her maternal grandparents have alleged that not only was her mother, their daughter, unfit to care, but that her live-in boyfriend was violent to the children. He denies this, and other family members support him.
Whatever the truth, there is little doubt the family was chaotic. Shannon’s mother, with seven children from five or even six different fathers – choose which paper to believe – cared for four of them aged between 11 and 2. The others lived with their natural fathers.
Before she disappeared Shannon scribbled a note on her bedroom wall saying that she wanted to live with her father, a man who – fitting perfectly into the pattern of her fractured familial life – lived a short distance away but did not appear to see her with any regularity. Did anyone, we are entitled to wonder, offer this little girl the basic attention and stability a child craves?
Shannon’s story is not, thankfully, a tragedy on the scale of Milly Dowler or Sarah Payne. But it is a tragedy nevertheless – a totemic little tale of everyday childhood misery in Britain, illustrative of so much more widespread suffering. Yes, the child has been found alive, but there is no real fairytale ending. To what does she return? To which version of least chaos? There is no happy-ever-after, and as her name fades from the headlines, and the privileged classes go back to pampering our own beloved offspring, I hope the memory of poor little Shannon stays with us.
Sunday, 16 March 2008
kate and Gerry In The Clear - Not A Shred Of Evidence, Yet Still These Parents Left Dangling By The Portuguese Policia Judiciaria!
Police do not have a shred of evidence against Gerry and Kate McCann and they are set to be cleared as suspects, it was claimed yesterday.
The couple's status as 'arguidos' in the case of missing daughter Maddie, four, will be lifted unless they make "screaming contradictions" in a new police quiz, said Portugal paper Expresso.
Cops had to make the McCanns formal suspects in order to reveal evidence they had to Kate.
That move was branded "hasty" lastweek by police chief Alipio Ribeiro because if cops had waited two weeks, the law changed and they could have shown Kate that evidence without making her a suspect.
A McCann spokesman said the Expresso report is "extremely encouraging".
Legal letters outlining 40 questions police want to ask the McCanns will be sent to the UK this week after months of delays.
The People Feb 10th 2008
My Take On This:
This report was dated Feb 10th. Note that those "Letters Rogatory" Were supposed to be sent in that week around the 10th, it is now March 16th, over one month later - still NO letters rogatory and still no detectives from the supposedly elite Policia Judiciaria have arrived in Britain. The only thing that we have is "talk" of them coming. I know we have differences between countries, inevitably we will experience language prolems and differences in procedures etc, but in all honesty, is it really acceptable in these days of technology, that it has taken a supposed modern day police force 10 months to get to where?
- "Where are we exactly?"
- Where exactly is this case?
- What is happening?
- Why is is taking so long?
- Is it acceptable to keep people dangling around on a thread like this?
- Is it acceptable that the PJ apparently stopped looking for Madeleine in week 3?
- Is it acceptable that a police force can leak scurrilous information to the Portuguese press?
- When Goncalo Amaral was in charge if this investigation, highly sensitive information was leaked - Who leaked this information giving reports of witness statements; Names, addresses home and mobile telephone numbers?
- Who was responsible for the letters rogatory being sent to Britain, but never arrived?
- Is it acceptable that the PJ then turn around and blame the British government for stalling the process and do not even apologise, when it became clear that it was the Portuguese Attorney General's Office which was at fault?
There are so many questions about this investigation where anyone with a modicom of common sense realises has slipped into shambolic chaos - a farce, I have three further questions to ask of the Potuguese government:
- "When are you going to make your police force accountable to you and your people?"
- "At the centre of this is a missing innocent child - When is there going to be an official inquiry into this farcical disgrace of an investigation?"
- "When are you going to get rid of Portugal's archaic secerecy laws, which have been used and abused in this case, often allegedly by the PJ themselves?"