Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Madeleine McCann left alone as 'last minute decision'

By Nick Britten and Caroline Gammell
Last Updated: 2:14AM BST 30/04/2008

The parents of Madeleine McCann have told how it was only a last-minute change of plan that led them to leave their children alone on the night their daughter disappeared.

Kate and Gerry McCann said that they had planned to take the family to The Millennium, a restaurant half a mile away. But because Madeleine and their twins, Sean and Amelie, were tired they decided to put them to bed and eat at the tapas restaurant near their apartment.

They sat down at 9pm and within an hour Madeleine had vanished.

The couple speak about their change of heart during a two-hour documentary, Madeleine, One Year On, Campaign for Change to be televised tonight.

Mrs McCann’s mother, Susan Healy, 62, from Liverpool, said she wanted to “shake” them both for leaving her granddaughter alone.

“I could shake all of them, every single one of them,” she said. “You find yourself over and over again in your head thinking: 'Why did they think it would be all right?’”

The documentary, filmed over four months, focuses on how the McCanns have coped and their campaign for the introduction of a Europe-wide Amber Alert early warning system for missing children used successfully in the US.

They talk frankly about their feelings, with Mrs McCann regularly breaking down.

On Madeleine’s disappearance

Mr McCann said that, as the search of the Mark Warner holiday complex in Praia da Luz began, he was gripped by “absolute devastation and total, just total emotion”.

He said: “Everyone knows the fear, fear for your daughter, fear for yourself, fear for your family, fear for everything and that horrible kind of adrenalin: fight, flight.”

Mrs McCann stayed in a bedroom praying. She said: “It was really cold. I knew what pyjamas she had on and I just thought she’s going to be freezing. And it was just dark and dark and every minute seemed like an hour.

“Obviously, we were up all night and just waited for the first bit of light at six o’clock.”
Mr McCann added: “And then we went out searching, the two of us. We were saying over and over again just let her be found, let her be found.”

With no sign of Madeleine, police suspicions soon turned on the couple and the theory they had killed Madeleine by accident and hid her body. In August, they were declared arguidos or persons of interest to the inquiry.

On being made suspects

Mrs McCann said the initial reaction was fury that the focus had been taken away from the hunt for Madeleine.

She said: “As soon as I realised the theory that Madeleine was dead and that we’d been involved, it just hit home: they haven’t been looking for Madeleine. I just felt yet again my daughter has had such a disservice.

“I started thinking 'if they’re saying about us being involved with Madeleine, you know it’s not too long before they say what about Sean and Amelie?’”

She said she thought of herself as a “lioness and her cubs”, saying: “I’d do whatever it took to protect them.”

It emerged yesterday that their status as arguidos will remain in place for a further three months.

On hate mail

The McCanns have boxes marked “nutty” and “nasty” in which to file hate mail. One was a Christmas card which read in part: “Gerry and Kate, how can you use the money given by poor people in good faith to pay your mortgage on your mansion. You ******* thieving bastards. Your brat is dead because of your drunken arrogance. Shame on you. I curse you and your family to suffer forever. You are scum.”

On the Amber Alert system

Mr McCann said they felt a “moral obligation” to improve the “haphazard and disorganised” response to missing children in Europe.

He said: “If you find yourself in that horrible situation we did, you want to know a photograph’s gone out, a description, borders are being alerted and there is the best possible chance of finding that child quickly.”

On the future

Mrs McCann said they will be forever driven in their search for Madeleine until they had proof she was dead.

She said: “We’re never going to get to a day where you think OK we’ve tried everything now, (that) we’re exhausted and need to start living. I can’t imagine ever getting to that day.

“I just think we need to know because the thought of living like this for another 40 years isn’t exactly a happy prospect.”

Madeleine, One Year On, Campaign for Change is on ITV1 on Wednesday, April 30 at 8pm.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Madeleine McCann's exhausted mother has thought of giving up search

The mother of Madeleine McCann has admitted for the first time to having “desperate” days when she considers giving up the search for her daughter.

Kate McCann, 40, says that lack of progress in finding Madeleine has left her feeling “down, desperate and exhausted”. The couple have also received a death threat and legal sources fear the Portuguese police may charge them with neglect for leaving Madeleine alone while they dined in a nearby restaurant.

Despite all this their spirits have been lifted since they travelled to Washington last month where they met Ed Smart, whose daughter Elizabeth was taken from her bed by a homeless preacher. She was found after nine months of campaigning.

Footage of the emotional meeting between the McCanns and Smart, to be broadcast in an ITV documentary on Wednesday, was released as the couple prepared to use this week’s anniversary to reenergise the search for Madeleine.

Kate said: “You have days when you’re so down and desperate and tired, you think you’ve got to switch off and I think, okay, we’ve tried really hard and we’ve come up with nothing and now we need to make the best of what we’ve got. [But] we’re never going to hit that day. It doesn’t matter how small the possibility is [of Madeleine being found alive], the possibility is still there.”

Their young twins, Sean and Amelie, still include Madeleine in their games. “They make phone calls to her on their toy phones, then go off to find her,” she said.

“If they talk about her they will be told that Madeleine’s not here and everyone’s looking for her. It’s not brushed under the carpet.”

Sunday, 27 April 2008

I feel desperately for Kate McCann - her life has been ruined, she loathes the spotlight

Last updated at 00:20am on 27th April 2008

I will never forget the pain that registered across their faces: primordial pain that no actor, however skilled, could reproduce.

Kate McCann didn't make a sound, her husband Gerry sat upright in his seat.

"You realise that if you get your daughter back you might not know her," warned the Portuguese child-welfare expert.

"What she will have experienced will have changed her beyond recognition."

It was the moment, I suspect, that Kate and Gerry began to realise that there would be no truly happy ending, whatever the outcome of their daughter Madeleine's disappearance.

It was mid-summer last year and the meeting was held in a second-floor apartment, my make-shift office, incongruously decorated, it seemed, with primary colours, like the set of a breakfast TV programme.

Sunshine streamed through the open window and the sound of children playing outside filled the room.

The warning came without preamble and jolted our senses. I'm sure it was not meant to be delivered quite so insensitively; the fact that English was not the woman's first language must have accounted, in part at least, for its bluntness.

Afterwards, Gerry told me how deeply upset it had made Kate. I didn't need to be told. Kate's emotions at such times weren't difficult to read.

For four extraordinary months I was at her side. At first hand, I witnessed her despair and devastation, the times, as well, when her spirits lifted – however fleetingly – with every scrap of positive information.

And once she was made a suspect, amid ceaseless media speculation, I watched her life fall apart.
Almost every morning she and Gerry would come to see me, usually armed with croissants which they bought in Baptista's, the village store, after dropping off their then two-year-old twins Amelie and Sean at kids' club.

I could tell instantly if Kate had had a good night or not.

If she was upset, possibly because of what had been in the papers or because of the approach of a poignant anniversary, I would know better than to offer a trite: "What's wrong?"

Instead I'd ask her to sit down and let her know that I was making tea. We always drank tea, endlessly, it seemed.

And if Kate wanted to talk about what was on her mind, she would do so. I just let her come out with it.

I began acting as their Press spokeswoman in June, having been interviewed by Gerry in London. They struck me as a couple deeply committed to each other.

They treated each other with care and great respect. And as well as displaying affection, they communicated constantly.

If they were physically apart they would be on the phone, all the time, and not just because of their extraordinary situation – I imagine they were always like that.

They are both intelligent. Kate is sharp and witty and self-deprecating; she is naturally shy but is the sort of woman you can sit down with and have a decent conversation.

Gerry is presentable and single-minded, an alpha male to his fingertips. Indeed, I expect even he would admit that his manner may have rubbed some of the Portuguese police up the wrong way at times.

On the first day I met Kate, they were waiting for me at Faro airport, and greeted me with a friendly: "Hello, Justine."

In the car on the way to Praia da Luz we set to work straight away, finalising plans to release balloons on the beach later that day to mark the 50th day since Madeleine's disappearance.
When the balloon launch was over, I watched as Portuguese women touched and hugged Kate, offering their support and telling her to have courage. It was deeply moving.

Later, Kate took me on a tour of the village. "That's the apartment," she whispered, nodding towards the place from where Madeleine had disappeared.

She also pointed out the home of Robert Murat, a suspect in the case, and the church that provided so much support to her.

Justine says that on the flight home she remembers thinking that unless Madeleine was found, the McCanns would never be able to fully rebut speculation and rebuild their lives.

Meal times were always a family affair. At supper, it occurred to me just how ordinary this scene would have appeared to an outsider. A normal family, passing the salad around the table and laughing with their children.

There were quite a few light moments: I remember how Kate was frequently teased about her intense dislike of sweetcorn.

There might also be talk about relatives coming out to join them, or other practical matters, but rarely during meal times, because of the children, talk of Madeleine.

Sometimes the twins, who began learning to talk in Praia, mentioned Madeleine themselves, however.

I remember Amelie saying: "That's Madeleine's" as she pointed at Cuddle Cat, the toy Kate carried with her at all times because it reminded her of the daughter she loved and missed.
Once, I remember Gerry's sister Trish saying to Kate with a smile: "Don't you think it's time Cuddle Cat had a bath?~" And on about Day 71 she finally did, a fact not lost on the photographers.

During the many conversations I had with the couple we spoke of many things, not just Madeleine.

They were interested in my voluntary work with the Liberal Democrats (I contested West Dorset in 2005 for the Lib Dems at the General Election) and I remember how we laughed about the story of Charles Kennedy, the party's former leader, being ticked off by police for smoking out of a train window.

And even though Madeleine dominated the news coverage – and, it goes without saying, the couple's thoughts – there were times when they expressed interest in other news from back home.

We spoke, for instance, of the terror attack on Glasgow airport in July. I remember Gerry, a doctor, on hearing the description of the burns one of the suspects suffered when his Jeep struck the terminal and burst into flames, saying straight away that the man would not live. It turned out he was right.

It didn't take long for me to get to know the routine the couple established as a means of getting through each day.

Justine says that if Kate and Gerry were physically apart they would be on the phone, all the time, and not just because of their extraordinary situation.

The first thing Kate did every morning was to say a prayer for Madeleine.

She then got the twins showered and dressed. After getting ready themselves, Kate and Gerry would take the children to kids' club, before stopping off at my apartment to discuss plans for the day.

The twins were a great distraction. They helped give Kate the will to get out of bed each morning.

Several times a week, Kate would go to the Catholic church in Praia. Her faith gave her hope and strength.

And both of them, particularly Gerry, kept themselves busy as a way of dealing with their trauma.

Gerry would work on the computer, sending and answering emails, in one of their rented villa's spare bedrooms which he had converted into an office.

Kate would sit on the veranda outside going through the mountain of letters. If any appeared to contain possible information they were passed straight to the police.

Every letter, even the strangest ones, were read with care. There were often toys for the twins and presents for Madeleine, which remained in their wrapping paper, awaiting her safe return.

The villa was cool and quite dark, and stood at the end of a short private drive. I remember thinking that it offered the McCanns a kind of sanctuary, and I think they felt that way, too.

Any donations were given straight away to the 'Find Madeleine' fund administrator, including all the cheques made out to Kate and Gerry, rather than the fund.

Naturally, Kate and Gerry were also contacted by people who thought they could help find Madeleine. One was Danny Kruegel, a South African former policeman who had invented a machine that, he said, could help locate people by testing a sample of their hair.

It sounds far-fetched. But he had apparently been successful in South Africa. He was very clear that the process was based on science, which appealed to the McCanns.

More recently, Mr Kruegel has been portrayed as something of a crank, but I can only say that at the time he was taken seriously.

After protracted negotiations with the authorities, he came to Portugal. Using samples of hair found on a brush Madeleine used, he set about working out where a search area should be concentrated.

After he left Portugal, Kate told me that Mr Kruegel had taken different readings, none of which really varied, implying that over the days he was in Praia da Luz, Madeleine's position had not changed or she had not moved.

I think the word that was used to describe the readings was "cold". I had the impression Mr Kruegel's machine had indicated where a body might be found.

The police warned Kate and Gerry when they would start the new search. They told me and I contacted the people I liaised with at the Foreign Office, British Embassy in Lisbon and Leicestershire Police.

Everyone was on stand-by, ready and hoping for a breakthrough.

Kate, Gerry and I thought that the reporters in Praia da Luz would spot the police searching, so we were prepared for the inevitable questions and comments.

One morning while I was working, I saw a military-style helicopter circling for what seemed like hours over Praia da Luz.

I thought I would be bombarded with questions about it when I went to see the media later, but not one was forthcoming.

In the event, the search sadly wasn't successful, of course. Once more the hope of a breakthrough had evaporated.

On August 3, we made the 55-mile journey to Huelva, the closest Spanish city to Praia da Luz, to distribute Find Madeleine posters and talk to locals.

It was a visit that would later assume significance, for all the wrong reasons. For it would be later suggested that Madeleine's body was disposed of at this point. How this could be thought possible, I have no idea.

Kate and Gerry were, after all, accompanied by a cameraman, who was filming a documentary, and Kate's old friend Jon Corner.

And as always their every move was shadowed by reporters and photographers. If they had dumped Madeleine's body, someone surely would have witnessed something.

The allegations would come later. Up until that point, at least, the couple's relationship with the police was good.

There were once-a-week meetings to discuss progress and, by and large, the detectives were receptive to ideas from Kate and Gerry, who were careful not to air their impatience at the slow pace of the investigation.

The relationship, which had been characterised by its informality (one weekend Kate and Gerry even went to a barbecue at the home of one of the officers) cooled significantly in mid August.
The meetings all but ended. And the phone calls, once unfailingly cordial, suddenly seemed aggressive and much less frequent.

When the police did ring, I think the detectives did little to disguise their suspicions.
At the same time, stories, apparently leaked by the police, began to appear in the Portuguese Press about the possible involvement of the McCanns in Madeleine's disappearance.

To the British Press I described the couple's relationship with the police during this period as having become more "formal". In truth, it had become downright hostile.

It must have been a few weeks later when, on a Monday afternoon, the McCanns received a call that triggered the second nightmarish phase of Kate's ordeal.

A police officer said that they wanted to question Kate later in the week. And he ended the conversation with a firm, devastating warning: "Kate should expect to be made an 'arguida' [formal suspect]."

Kate screamed in disbelief when she heard she was going to be declared a suspect in her daughter's case.

Everyone said the same thing – it was unbelievable.

So when Kate was interviewed on Thursday and again the following day, when she was indeed made an 'arguida', she was fully aware what was coming.

That did not make it any easier, of course. While Kate was being questioned on Friday morning Gerry was very agitated. He paced around on the phone, speaking to lawyers.

The police seemed to be working on the theory that Kate killed Madeleine, accidentally or otherwise, and that Gerry was instrumental in covering up the death.

After the relentless questioning ended, it was announced publicly that Kate had been made a formal suspect.

Afterwards, I drove Kate away from the police station and was struck by how she appeared both stoical and devastated.

And I got the distinct impression that the police had offered her a deal, or put considerable pressure on her to admit that she harmed Madeleine.

Amazingly, I was also given the impression that her lawyer initially seemed to think she should take the deal and admit she harmed her daughter.

Perhaps he was doing this to test her. I don't know. Either way, Kate was absolutely adamant that she would not be going along with any plea bargaining.

After all, this is a woman with a 'black and white' understanding of the truth.

I told Kate that the twins were being looked after by the wife of Father Haynes Hubbard, parish priest for Praia da Luz, whom Kate and Gerry had come to know well and regard as a much-valued friend.

I said I could take her there or straight to the villa. She wanted to see her children immediately. That was typical of her. Her family was the most important thing in her life.

During the journey back to Praia I reflected on the incredible events of the past week. I was absolutely clear in my own mind about Kate and Gerry's innocence.

While no one is perfect, I simply could not believe that the woman next to me had harmed Madeleine. And I did not believe, as was being suggested, that Gerry masterminded some kind of cover-up.

At the time, I described the allegations publicly as ludicrous. Nothing has happened to change that view. Had I been in any doubt I would have left the campaign immediately and gone to the British police.

But I never understood why they did not take the children with them for supper at the tapas bar on the evening Madeleine disappeared.

My two sisters, one a mother of four, the other a mother of five, have told me that is what they would do, as have plenty of other friends.

But then I don't have three children under the age of four. I, like many others, am hardly in a position to judge. I know it was a decision Kate has always deeply regretted.

A few weeks before Gerry and Kate were made suspects, friends and family had urged Kate to return to Britain with Gerry and the twins.

Gerry believed it was time to go back. But, having come to the Algarve as a family of five, Kate did not want to leave as a family of four.

In her mind it would represent an admission, symbolically perhaps, that she had given up hope, that it was the end.

In the end, she did agree – only for the sake of the twins – that they would leave Portugal in early September, when the lease on the villa ended.

When the time came we hugged at the airport and said our goodbyes. I watched Kate and Gerry walk away.

I then went back to Praia to brief the British Press for a final time, before packing. I caught a flight later that day and I was glad to be going home.

On the flight home I remember thinking that unless Madeleine was found, the McCanns would never be able to fully rebut speculation and rebuild their lives.

I feel desperately for Kate McCann. Her life has been ruined by the constant speculation and the continuing mystery surrounding her daughter's disappearance. She loathes the media spotlight.
She has to live with the knowledge that she and Gerry were not there when their daughter needed them most, something I know she deeply regrets.

Gerry has to live with the knowledge that he failed as a father and a husband in a basic duty, to protect his family. That, surely, is a terrible burden to carry, for any man.

One year after Madeleine's disappearance, I hope for Kate, Gerry and the sake of their two remaining children the media interest now ends.

I hope Madeleine is found, but I fear that will never happen. I hope the McCanns can find some sort of resolution, in private, to this hideous set of events.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Madeleine: 'We made a mistake and we would never leave the children again,' says Gerry McCann

25th April 2008

Gerry McCann told yesterday of his terrible regret at leaving his children alone on the night Madeleine disappeared.

He admitted: "We made a mistake, but we are paying more for it than anyone could ever possibly imagine."

The father of three said he and his wife Kate had thought at the time it was "perfectly reasonable" to leave Madeleine, then three, and their two-year-old twins alone in an unlocked holiday apartment in the Algarve resort of Praia da Luz.

He added: "Hindsight has proven we made a mistake and we would never leave the children again."

In a new interview, a week before the first anniversary of Madeleine's disappearance on May 3, Mr McCann, 39, said he still believes she is alive.

But he said he had so little contact with Portuguese police that he could not be sure officers are still searching for her.

The consultant cardiologist told BBC Radio 4: "One thing is for certain, I've seen nothing to suggest that she's dead. And I mean nothing, absolutely zero.

"And I'm sure if there was any evidence then we would have heard about it a long time ago."

Mr Cann defended himself against claims that he and his wife should be charged with child negligence in Portugal - a crime punishable with a five-year jail sentence.

He said of the couple's accusers: "They have no more information now than was available to them on May 4. So why are we talking about such a charge now?"

The McCanns, of Rothley, Leicestershire, have led their own campaign to find their missing daughter, believing she was abducted from the holiday complex while they dined nearby with friends.

But they remain official suspects and have had no direct contact with police since they left Portugal in September.

The President of the Portuguese Order of Lawyers, Antonio Marinho e Pinto, said yesterday that he believes detectives are hiding behind the country's strict secrecy laws.

He added: "There are strong reasons to fear that judicial secrecy is being used to conceal the fact that the police have gone down a blind alley and don't have a way out."

Portuguese police travelled to Britain earlier this month to oversee fresh interviews of the "Tapas Seven", the group of friends who ate with the McCanns on the night of May 3.

•Searching For Madeleine will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 at 1.30pm on Sunday.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Service of hope announced

A SERVICE to mark the 365 days since Madeleine McCann’s disappearance is to be held at the church of Nossa Senhora Da Luz, in Praia da Luz, where Kate and Gerry McCann regularly prayed, on Saturday, May 3 at 6.30pm.Described as a service of hope and commemorating the year since Madeleine went missing, the theme of the service is “we want you home” and will be remembering Madeleine. It will be held in both Portuguese and English.For further information regarding the service, please contact Father Haynes Q Hubbard, Senior Chaplain, on 282 789 660.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Kate: We all checked kids

MADELEINE McCann’s parents have told how they devised their own baby-listening service because the complex they were staying in had none.

Kate and Gerry McCann reveal in a new TV documentary how they and seven friends took it in turns to look in on all their kids at the Ocean Club.

At other resorts hols firm Mark Warner had a system where nannies listened at children’s doors, but not at Praia da Luz on Portugal’s Algarve.

The company has since scrapped that system at all resorts and replaced it with a drop-off service where kids are taken to an on-site creche.

The ITV programme goes out on Wednesday.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Leaks, smears ... now "plane" lies

Published: 12 Apr 2008

A few Days Old, but Important to Dispel the Myths Put About by 24 Liars Sorry I mean 24 Horas.

MADELEINE McCann’s parents yesterday blasted claims they and the Tapas Seven had demanded a private jet and five-star hotels to return to Portugal.

Cops there want them all to take part in a reconstruction of Maddie’s abduction.

But a Portuguese newspaper alleged some of the group said they would only return if their “extravagant” demands were met.

24 Horas quoted a Portuguese judicial source as saying: “One of the couples demanded a private jet to travel with their children to the Algarve. Another demanded they be put up in a five-star hotel.

“The only thing missing from the list was a request that we send them to the moon on skates.”

Official suspects Gerry and Kate McCann were already furious after full police statements they made were leaked – in what they regard as a crass attempt to smear them.

Yesterday their spokesman Clarence Mitchell angrily denied the paper’s report. He said: “No such demands have been made. All talk of private jets and five-star hotels is complete rubbish.”

The claims were also denied by the Tapas Seven – pals who were dining with the McCanns the night Maddie vanished in Praia da Luz days before her fourth birthday.

In a statement, Jane Tanner, 37, partner Dr Russell O’Brien, 36, Dr Matthew Oldfield, 37, wife Rachael, 36, David Payne, 41, wife Fiona, 34, and her mum Dianne Webster, 61, slammed the “blatant lies”.

They insisted: “All talk of private jets and luxury hotels is as nonsensical as it baseless.”
Faro police chief Guilhermino Encarnacao confirmed the group had stipulated certain conditions, the paper claimed.

But Mr Mitchell said: “They would only be in the context of logistics. For example many of them are very busy hospital doctors and would want to know how long they would be needed for.

"But I don’t think it has even got to that stage yet.”

Yesterday police chief Paulo Rebelo – who is heading the Portuguese Maddie probe – cut short his visit to Britain where he was involved in reinterviews of the Tapas Seven.
He was said to have been “red faced with fury” after the leaking of the McCanns’ police statements.

Kate’s words – read out on Spanish TV – revealed Maddie asked her why she had not come into her room when she was crying the night before she vanished.

A source close to the Maddie case said: “The first police chief in charge of Maddie’s case was removed for briefing the Portuguese press. Since Rebelo took over there have been no such leaks, until this week.

“He feels it embarrassed him while he was in England working with British officers. He has gone back early to try to track down who was behind the leaks.”

Heart specialist Gerry, 39, and Kate, 40, of Rothley, Leics, are in discussions about a possible return to Portugal to help police piece together the events of that night but mood of co-operation has soured markedly following police leaks. The McCanns want a Crimewatch-style TV reconstruction.

"All this nonsense over the last 24 or 36 hours does not in any way endear them to the idea of going back," Mr Mitchell said.

It has still to be decided whether the McCanns – who also have three-year-old twins Amelie and Sean – will be interviewed again.
Yesterday Mr Mitchell attacked the Portuguese cops’ “smear campaign” against the parents as “shameless and brazen”.

He said even Leicestershire Police had “expressed concern” over the leaked witness statements.
And he insisted Maddie’s comments about her crying “puzzled” her parents and were said as “a breezy aside”.

Mr Mitchell added: “It was out of character for Madeleine to cry, and with hindsight Kate and Gerry think someone could have disturbed her that night.

“People are asking were they negligent? But they felt that Madeleine and the twins were safe and secure.

“They decided to be even more accurate and careful in the times they checked on the children.
“They took every precaution but their system failed and they were incredibly unlucky.”

  • It was said that Paulo Rebelo returned to Portugal early to discover who was behind the leaks
  • So who was? Does Rebelo know yet?
  • Doesn't look as if he discovered much as the PJ have been leaking daily since Rebelo returned
  • Still the way this investigation has been managed, why would we expect Paulo Rebelo to detect who is behind these leaks?
  • Seems the PJ couldn't detect a gas leak with a naked flame!
  • Who leaked that Jane Tanner had changed her statement?
  • This leak came before Rebelo had scared customs officers with his passport photo on his return to Portugal.
  • Does the P in PJ stand for 'Police' or 'Plumbers'?
  • Who told Portuguese gutter press 24 Horas that the friends had demanded a private jet?
  • When does the Portuguese government intend to do something about the lack lustre performance of the PJ?
  • When is there going to be a full and open public inquiry into the Portuguese police handling of this investigation?

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

A parent's worst nightmare: Are child abductions on the rise?

As this is an older text, I have abridged it slightly. The facts remain the same!

By Steve IrsayCourt TV

First, it was the faces. Smiling in school photos and candid family snapshots, they were splashed across breaking reports and front pages around the country. Then, the names: Danielle, Elizabeth, Samantha, Erica. Their stories were painfully familiar.

The recent highly publicized cases of abducted little girls, from California to Philadelphia, seem to suggest that the insidious crime of child abduction and murder is on the rise.

But while the stories have recently dominated cable news coverage and have been splashed across the front pages, the cases of Danielle, Elizabeth and the others remain the exceptions in child abductions, according to researchers and advocates.

It's every parent's worst fear: a dangerous stranger snatches their child. However, the vast majority of missing children are not kidnapped at all. They are runaways and throwaways, kids who leave and don't come back or are told not to come back, according to a 1990 study by the U.S. Justice Department. Of the remaining cases that are considered abductions, some 350,000 each year, are committed by family members as part of a custody dispute.

In a country with some 59 million children, abductions by a stranger are perhaps the most terrifying of crimes. But they are also the rarest. There are about 114,600 such stranger abductions attempted each year, and about 3,200 to 4,600 or around 4 percent, are successful, according to the study.

Of those, an even smaller fraction, about 200 to 300, are what the FBI calls "stereotypical" kidnappings, where a child is gone overnight, transported over some distance, intended to be kept by the perpetrator or even killed. These incidents make up far less than 1 percent of the total stranger abductions.

The numbers of these cases are small and getting smaller despite the recent publicized incidents, according to FBI statistics. In 2001, agents investigated 93 cases of abduction by someone outside the family. That is a decline from the 115 cases reported in 1998, when such statistics were first kept.

The recent media attention (...) has heightened the public awareness of child abductions even though most experts agree there is no current epidemic. Some suggest that while the number of cases may not have changed, their nature has and this shift has drawn the extra attention.
"They are quite brazen and that is a different kind of perpetrator than the kind that tries to get close to the family," said Nancy McBride, director of prevention education for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, referring to the man who snatched Elizabeth Smart from her bedroom, and Alejandro Avila, the man accused of kidnapping Samantha Runnion, 5, her yard, and killing her.

"They were in their own homes and that is as gut-wrenching as it gets." Danielle van Dam, 7, was also snatched from her bedroom, while Erica Pratt, also 7, was grabbed off a street corner.
Advocates for missing children would like to see all cases get the attention that these high-profile incidents have but say they understand the types of decisions that leave the vast majority of abduction cases relatively unnoticed.

"News directors are first and foremost looking for news," Ernie Allen, president and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, told Court TV. "So if you look at the recent cases that have gotten so much attention ... those children disappeared from their homes and their own beds. It is a scenario that absolutely terrifies every parent. Thus, it's news."
Andrew Tyndall, a media researcher, disagrees.

"There have always been a few of these stories that had a special thing about them," said Tyndall, citing the beauty pageant video footage that helped to make the mysterious 1996 murder of JonBenet Ramsey a highly visual, and thereby, high-profile story.

"I don't see the hook in either [the Smart or the Runnion] cases to elevate them. It is not that there is a national epidemic. These are the sort of stories that would not traditionally be network stories but would be local stories."

Yet, these stories were elevated to the national stage. That was not the case for three recent and similar abductions.

In March 2002, 13-year-old Laura Ayala was reported missing after she left her Houston home to buy a newspaper at a nearby gas station. Only her shoes were found. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children tried to draw attention to the case but with little success.

The next month, Jahi Turner, a 2-year-old boy, disappeared while playing at a park in San Diego, the same city where Danielle van Dam was abducted and killed. In May, Alexis Patterson, 7, disappeared on her way to school in Milwaukee.

None of the cases garnered prominent national play. Ayala is Hispanic and Turner and Patterson are both black, raising the question of whether race or social class help determine which cases get media attention.

"It pains me, as a black man, a black journalist and as a journalist," Will Sutton, deputy managing editor of the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., and former president of the National Association of Black Journalists, told the Los Angeles Times. "Because for me, it's a matter of accuracy, balance and fairness as well as completeness."

Other news executives refute claims of bias, citing the circumstances of each case as the determining factors.

While a lack of national exposure strikes some as unfair, keeping kidnapping stories local may actually be beneficial, according to child advocate Marc Klaas.

"All kidnappings are local events," said Klaas, who founded the Klaas Kids Foundation after his 12-year-old daughter, Polly, was kidnapped and murdered in 1993. "You don't turn your back on your local media in an attempt to get more national publicity. As good as he is, Larry King is not going to be around when your story stops making headlines."

In his opinion, the headlines are not based on race or class but on the actual stories that prompt them, and these, he says, can be kept newsworthy with a little effort. Klaas and other advocates often counsel families of missing kids on how to effectively keep their stories and searches alive through the media even when the initial interest has died down.

"It is up to the families to keep people invested in the recovery effort of the kids," Klaas said. "You need a story that is compelling and a child that's compelling and those children can be made compelling through a variety of anecdotes and pictures. You can get that in any language and any color."

McBride even claims to offer families a sort of "P.R. 101 class" in their time of need.
"We tell parents that the media is their best friend when their child is missing," she said. "Many do not have a frame of reference on how to do this. We try to help them understand the system. Nobody gets the word out quicker than the media."

Authorities are sensitive to the fact that time is critical in investigating abduction cases. Too often, however, it is their worst enemy.

A study by the state of Washington found that in nearly three quarters of the cases of children who are abducted and murdered, the victims are killed within the first three hours. Also, in more than half of the 200 to 300 so-called "stereotypical kidnappings" each year, the children are either killed or never found.

But there are sometimes uplifting exceptions to the grim endings.

In 2002, Erica Pratt was grabbed, kicking and screaming, from the street corner in front of her Philadelphia home by two men who then sped away with her in a car. At a time of heightened attention to such cases, it sounded eerily similar to the Samantha Runnion abduction a week earlier in California.

However, this case had a happy ending. On Tuesday, the girl gnawed through the duct tape that kept her bound in a dirty basement for nearly 24 hours and escaped through a window to safety.
A Philadelphia police inspector said the dramatic escape shows that Erica's a "remarkable little person."

Monday, 21 April 2008


By Paul Lewis

OK so this is by The People, but it doesn't make it any the less true! This whole investigation has been bungled from start to finish!

A shock new plan to charge Kate McCann over daughter Maddie's kidnap was last night condemned as "spiteful and shameful".

British legal experts branded bungling Portuguese detectives "Keystone Cops" for considering neglect charges.

And they claimed police wanted to nail grieving Kate to save face after failing to solve a year-old crime that has made headlines round the world.

One lawyer said: "After an inquiry costing millions and unprecedented international help, these Keystone Cops still haven't got a clue what happened to Madeleine.

The investigation was a mess from Day One.

"But rather than admit their abject failure, they've sought to shift the blame and smear the McCanns."

As we revealed last month, cops plan to clear Kate, 40, and hubby Gerry of playing any part in Maddie's disappearance from a holiday flat in Praia da Luz on May 3 last year. But they ARE thinking of charging Kate with endangerment for leaving Maddie and two-year-old twins Sean and Amelie alone in the flat while she and Gerry, 39, dined with pals at a nearby restaurant.

The offence carries a maximum jail term of ten years.

Lawyers pointed out the move comes just a week after the couple accused the Policia Judiciaria of leaking a statement designed to smear GP Kate. She is said to have admitted that on the morning of the abduction, Maddie asked her why she hadn't gone to her when she began crying in the night.

But one lawyer said: "This is spiteful and shameful.

"By charging her with endangering Madeleine they'd be implying, 'It's all the mother's fault for leaving her' - as if that excuses them from not doing enough to find her.

"And it would mean washing their hands of Maddie when there's still a chance of finding her."

The lawyer added: "You have to ask why Kate's being targeted and not Gerry.

"Could it be the police are relying on her frankness in her statement to paint her as a bad mother, to damn her by her own words?"

Kate and cardiologist Gerry, of Rothley, Leics, are both still suspects in the inquiry.

They have co-operated fully with cops throughout the probe.

And they were even considering returning to Portugal to take part in a police reconstruction of events surrounding Maddie's disappearance.

But friends now fear Kate could be at risk of arrest if she goes back.

McCann spokesman Clarence Mitchell said last night: "We haven't heard through official channels if they are considering this charge. But you'd have to ask yourself, 'Why now?'"

My Take On this.

  • It appears that yet again we have a leak a day going on
  • When is the Portuguese government going to do something about these leaks?
  • How many more times have Kate and Gerry McCann going to be forced to endure the utter spitefulness from the PJ?
  • When is the arguido status going to be lifted?
  • There is obviously a complete lack of evidence, so how much longer can the PJ expect to spin this out?
  • What are the PJ waiting for?
  • When is the EU going to challenge the Portuguese government to do something about their archaic secrecy laws?
  • When is Portugal going to completely review its legal system?
  • So many questions surround Portugal and the handling of this investigation, one only has to look at the excellent Daily Mail article to understand this.
  • For those of you than haven't read this article either on here (just below or on the Daily mail website,) it makes absolutely shocking reading.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Madeleine special investigation: The damning case against the Portuguese police - and how Kate and Gerry are coping one year on

By DAVID ROSE (Last updated at 23:27pm on 19th April 2008)

This article is an extremely revealing report and carries some startling information such as information about: a copy of the formal indictment against Amaral, and his subordinates, the PJ inspectors Paulo Pereira Cristovao, Leonel Marques, Paulo Marques Bom and Antonio Cardoso. Obtained by the Daily Mail and also other information about one Michael Cook who was found guilty of murdering a child just outside Praia da Luz.
This report is long, but it is a MUST READ. (Thanks Christabel for giving us the link.)

Almost a year after Madeleine McCann disappeared from apartment 5A at the Ocean Club in Praia da Luz, signs on the ground in Portugal of the search for her or her body have become difficult to detect.

The posters and fliers bearing her photo are almost all gone.

All last week in Luz, I saw the police just once - two uniformed officers in a green 4x4, parked opposite the fateful flat from which she vanished during the evening of May 3.

The vehicle's doors were open and the two men peered at me listlessly while I made a few notes, before going back to their business: listening to a radio talk show.

The apartment gate was padlocked, but in the little paved front yard, a purple hibiscus and some dusty geraniums were coming into bloom. The Algarve spring is finally coming.

"It's a new season," said a British woman who works in a local restaurant.
"It's tragic they haven't found Maddie. But the time has come to move on."

Of course, moving on is one thing Madeleine's parents, Kate and Gerry, cannot do.
They remain arguidos, official suspects, - as does Robert Murat, a British expat living in Praia da Luz who has strenuously protested his innocence - still supposedly being investigated on the grounds that they may have caused her death or disappearance.

"Intellectually, they have grasped what has happened," said Gerry's elder brother, John. "Emotionally, they have learnt, to an extent, to cope: one's psychology adapts.
"But they haven't really come to terms with it. There are times when they can seem cheerful, but then the devastation bursts through. Madeleine's disappearance is a cataclysm that is horrendous for them, and horrendous for all of us close to them."

"It's an intense, full-on existence for both of them," said the McCanns' spokesman, Clarence Mitchell. "Gerry is back at work [as a cardiologist] full-time, but when he gets home the campaign to find Madeleine is like having a second job.

"Kate is determined to make family life for the twins, Sean and Amelie, as normal as possible.
"They celebrated their third birthdays in the way you'd expect - though since Madeleine went, they haven't celebrated anything else: Kate's recent 40th passed without being marked.
"But the truth is, it can't be normal. The whole situation dominates every aspect of their lives."

Last week, amid a bitter, public row between Mitchell and the Policia Judiciaria (PJ) over the leaking of Kate and Gerry's original interview statements to a Spanish television station, it became clear that the long-vexed relationship between the family and Portuguese detectives is close to breakdown.

Mitchell's insistence that the leak did not come from the McCanns sounds more than plausible: the statements' emergence overshadowed Kate and Gerry's visit to Brussels to call for a Europe-wide "amber alert" system to aid the hunt for other missing children.

Instead of their campaign, news coverage was dominated by the statements with the agonising detail that on the morning of the day she vanished, Madeleine asked Kate why she had not come to comfort her and the twins when they cried for her the previous night.

As on the evening of May 3, Kate and Gerry had been having dinner with their friends in the Ocean Club's tapas restaurant - in partial sight of apartment 5A.
However, the Portuguese police detectives' union, which has been a semi-official conduit for detectives' opinions about the McCanns for months, responded to Mitchell's demand for an inquiry to discover whether the leak had come from the PJ by calling him a "Machiavellian liar".
According to the union, the McCanns leaked the statements - with the sole aim of damaging the Policia Judiciaria.

Last autumn, after the McCanns were first made arguidos and sections of both the Portuguese and British Press were filled with untrue stories about them, apparently from police sources, relations with the PJ hit a low.

In October, after the first Madeleine investigation leader, Chief Inspector Goncalo Amaral, was fired from the case for telling a Portuguese reporter the British police were 'shielding" the McCanns, their trust in the PJ improved.

"For a while, the leaks and smears stopped," Mitchell said. Amaral, meanwhile, was last month committed for trial for alleged perjury arising from his conduct in another, earlier case of a disappearing child.

However, now the relationship is back at rock bottom. "The Portuguese justice minister needs to get a grip on his police force," Mitchell told The Mail on Sunday.

"We are confident those statements came from someone in the police chain. It's not just disappointing that after nearly a year, there is no sign of Madeleine: it's an absolute tragedy."

If the PJ had been "doing its job properly", Mitchell continued, the McCanns would never have felt compelled to engage the Barcelona private investigation agency Metodo 3, on which the Find Madeleine campaign has already spent £200,000. "Not a penny would have been spent on the private investigators," he said.

Chief Inspector Goncalo Amaral, who was fired from the McCann case
To Mitchell, the recent PJ visit to Britain to reinterview the McCanns' seven friends who were dining with them on the evening of May 3 was a diversion from what should be the inquiry's main thrust, finding Maddie:

"All of them put their case forcefully, saying nothing had changed from when they made statements first time around. The re-interviews suggest the PJ has nothing substantive to go on."

Mitchell said the PJ's performance meant the time had come for an "international inquiry" into their handling of the Madeleine case. "What we want is not just an investigation of this latest leak, but a much wider inquiry into their conduct.
"It's the sort of thing that could be done peer to peer - maybe by officers from Europol, someone senior from Scotland Yard, or the FBI. It's not about blame, but learning the necessary lessons."

It is an extraordinary demand, born of exasperation, which is certain to be resisted in Portugal. Yet an examination by The Mail on Sunday of the PJ's record --not only in its failure to find Madeleine, but in the previous two Algarve cases where children have disappeared or been murdered - suggests it may well be justified.

"You have to remember: until 1974 Portugal was a dictatorship," said a veteran Algarve journalist, who asked not to be named. "That was the climate in which the PJ was created. Their methods were pretty rough."

Brutal treatment of suspects was routine.
One expatriate British woman told me how a friend of her mother had been arrested in the late Eighties on suspicion of breaking and entering a house - only to be savagely beaten in custody.

"She was bruised all over her body. Of course, the police said they hadn't done anything, and were never called to account," the woman said.
"This is Heartbeat country," another expat said. "People talk to the police, and so often they think they know who's guilty, but can't prove it. So they make an arrest and turn up the pressure in the hope of getting a confession."

In the Portuguese criminal justice system, confessions are still regarded as they were in the days of the Inquisition - as the "queen of proofs". British police, it has to be said, sometimes used to operate in a similar way.
But it has its drawbacks, as shown by the succession of miscarriages of justice based on false confessions, such as the Guildford Four and Birmingham Six IRA cases.

The abduction of a child by a stranger is, mercifully, a rare event: in Britain, there have been about seven cases a year since records were first kept in 1970. But it poses daunting challenges to investigators.

"In these circumstances, having close contacts in the community may be of limited help," said Mark Williams-Thomas, a former Surrey police detective and an expert in paedophile crime. "You need to progress scientifically. Above all, you must preserve the scene and every scrap of physical evidence."

It has been widely reported that in the hours and days after Madeleine went missing, the PJ failed to do this, reacting sluggishly to her disappearance and allowing apartment 5A to become contaminated. It was not the first time the PJ has made such mistakes.

Thirty miles east of Praia da Luz lies the resort of Albufeira, where a collection of clifftop villas known as Val Novio was once a thriving development, favoured by British expats.
Now largely abandoned, it was there, on November 19, 1990, that Rachel Charles, aged nine, went missing.

Neil McKay, a Bafta-winning TV scriptwriter who has specialised in factual dramas about crime, was on holiday nearby with his father at the time. "We were sitting in a bar having a beer one evening," he recalled.

"This English guy came in, saying a little girl had disappeared two days earlier but the police were refusing to mount a proper search. He said her family wanted every British tourist or expat to meet on the beach at seven next morning to try to find her.

"So we went. There must have been more than 200 of us. Tragically, it didn't take long to find her body, hidden among some pines."

Len Port, now an Algarve publisher who covered the case for The Portugal News, said: "The police search was highly inefficient, as, frankly, was everything else about the case. The way the police handled it was desperately amateurish - and ultimately, a travesty of justice."

Just as they would later do with the McCanns, the PJ soon hit on a suspect who knew the victim and her family. But according to Port, who attended his trial, it had "no real evidence. It was an unjust trial".

The defendant was Michael Cook, a British expat businessman who had taken part in the search, and in 1992 he was convicted and sentenced to 19 years. Having protested his innocence, he was released in 2002. Last week, he told of his ordeal for the first time.

"This has ruined my life," he said. "I still carry the scars from the six times I was stabbed in prison; as for the times I had the s*** kicked out of me, I long ago lost count."

Following Cook's conviction, his then-Labour MP, Bob Spink, became involved in his campaign. In a Commons debate in 1992, he said: "The only hard evidence linking Cook to the murder was bogus" - a claim by an elderly gardener that he had seen Cook bundling Rachel into his car.

However, Spink said, the police had hidden the fact that tyre tracks left by Rachel's abductor "were of an entirely different type" from those that would have been made by Cook's vehicle.

The PJ, Spink told the Commons, claimed Cook confessed - something he has always denied - and that they had tortured him: "Cook appeared in court, with black eyes and a missing tooth, and he was deeply bruised.

"It is claimed that Cook was hung from an upstairs window by his feet, that his feet were beaten until he could not stand, that he was tied to a chair and beaten, that he was deprived of sleep and that a revolver was forced into his mouth and the trigger pulled in a mock execution."

The PJ also claimed Cook had a record as a paedophile, Spink went on. This, too, was "entirely bogus". The trial judge had asked a PJ witness how he knew this: "The officer replied that someone, unnamed, had told him. The judge accepted that so-called 'evidence' as clear and unequivocal."

It emerged at the trial that while there was no forensic link between Rachel or her clothes and Cook's car, blood had been found under her fingernails - presumably that of her attacker. But when Cook's lawyers tried to obtain it to test it for DNA, they were told the samples had been "lost".
Cook told The Mail on Sunday: "I was with the PJ four days and they gave me no food nor let me go to the lavatory - I literally s*** myself and p****d myself. I was in that state when they first brought me to court.

"What I learnt about Portugal is that once convicted, you never get the chance to get it reversed, because they destroyed the evidence."

Spink, who is still MP for Castle Point, Essex, said yesterday that as the Madeleine case had unfolded, he had become increasingly concerned by the "disturbing parallels' between the way the PJ had dealt with Maddie and the murder of Rachel Charles.
"In both cases, there was incompetence at the outset. And then, having become convinced they had the right suspects, the police seem to have ignored other avenues of investigation - especially the possibility that both were abducted by a stranger."

After the death of Rachel Charles, it was not for a further 14 years that another girl went missing on the Algarve.
On September 12, 2004, Joana Cipriano, aged ten, failed to return to her home in Figueira, near Praia da Luz, from a shopping trip. The parallels with the McCann case are again disturbingly close.

Like the McCanns, Joana's mother Leonor mounted a campaign for her daughter's return. And like them, she and her brother Joao became arguidos. As with the McCann investigation from May until October last year, the man in charge of the hunt for Joana was Chief Inspector Amaral.

According to the Portuguese Press, one factor that influenced his desire to make the McCanns arguidos was Kate's supposedly "cold" demeanour in dealing with police and on television.
In fact, as the photo published on Section 2's Page 1 today makes clear, the first known image taken of Kate on the morning after Madeleine's disappearance, she was distraught.

With Leonor and Joao Cipriano, a similar cod psychology was evident. "Amaral said he made them suspects because when Leonor was on television, she was wearing black, and speaking of her daughter in the past tense," said Sara Rosado, Joao's lawyer.

"But the camera only showed the top part of her body. In fact, she was wearing red trousers.
"The reason why she was speaking of Joana in the past tense was that she was being asked questions in the past tense.
For example, the interviewer asked, 'How did your daughter do at school?' And Leonor answered, 'She was bright, she was doing very well.'"

There was a further parallel with the McCann case - leaks, apparently from police sources, to the media. One of the most damaging, Rosado said, was the suggestion that human blood, probably Joana's, had been found in the Ciprianos' fridge.

It was only when Leonor and Joao went on trial for murder that it emerged that this had never been DNA-matched to Joana and might even have come from some meat.

The Cipriano case, which ended in 2005 with Joao and Leonor being sentenced to 21 years, made Portuguese legal history: it was the first murder trial where, as with Madeleine, no body was found.

According to Rosado, the direct evidence was weak - "all they had against Joao was a witness who said he saw him going up the street carrying a plastic bag . . . the prosecution said that inside was part of Joana's dismembered body."
However, Joao and Leonor both made confessions, which they later tried to retract.

The Mail on Sunday has obtained a copy of the formal indictment against Amaral, and his subordinates, the PJ inspectors Paulo Pereira Cristovao, Leonel Marques, Paulo Marques Bom and Antonio Cardoso.
On March 26, all five men were committed to jury trial by Joaquim da Cruz, an investigating judge. It is expected later this year

The indictment, the result of an investigation triggered by a complaint filed by Leonor's lawyer in 2004, alleges that having been questioned for 48 hours, she confessed only as the result of a brutal assault.

The indictment states: "They threw her to the ground, kicked her and hit her with a cardboard tube. They put a plastic bag over her head, made her kneel on glass ashtrays . .. The accused believed that by causing her intense suffering, they would force her to tell them how she killed her child and where she put the body". This she finally did.

The police, it says, later took her to a clinic where her injuries were recorded. But the PJ officers claimed she had sustained them by throwing herself down the stairs, in an apparent suicide attempt.

Amaral faces charges of negligence and falso testimunho - perjury --under Article 360 of the Portuguese penal code, a crime punishable by up to three years in prison.

Cardoso is accused of fabricating a document. Marques, Bom and Cristovao are charged with torture, for which the maximum penalty is five years.

In Britain, it seems unlikely that officers facing charges of this kind would still be on duty, but last week Amaral was at work in the PJ office in Faro. Through his lawyer, Antonio Cabrita, he refused to discuss either the Joana or Madeleine cases.

As for Cristovao, he left the PJ after the Joana case to become a writer. Last year, as a columnist for Diario de Noticias, he became a prolific commentator on the Madeleine inquiry, writing a series of articles apparently derived in part from conversations with his former colleagues.

Last month, with the publication of his book The Star Of Madeleine, currently the Algarve's No3 bestseller, he has mounted a robust defence of the PJ in general and Amaral in particular.
"In the PJ's opinion, everything written about Amaral in the British Press had one purpose - to get him taken off the case," Cristovao's book says.
"He was a piece of meat on the barbecue of the British media, which accused him of drinking too much, dressing badly, having a prominent belly and spending too much time at lunch.
"He was too much the normal Portuguese policeman ... when what the British wanted was the British way of doing things."

The book, much of it composed of a fictional dialogue between two fictional PJ officers, Francisco and Joao, recycles some of the cruelest smears against the McCanns, such as the claim that Gerry did not get sufficiently involved in the children's routines. Such information, it claims, gave the police "an idea how the family functioned".
It also contains details that can have come only from inside the investigation: as a view of PJ thinking, it may well be as authentic an account as has yet been given.

If so, its conclusions are shocking, among them the view that Madeleine is dead and that if her parents did not kill her physically, they did so by their public campaign to find her.

"The publicity given to her face was her death warrant - that's if she really left that apartment still alive," he writes.

Cristovao refused to meet me, saying that too many British journalists were "racist".

But I managed to ask him whether he was not worried that the McCanns might sue him for libel, pointing out that they had been awarded £550,000 against four newspapers last month. "I'm expecting that," he replied. "I've no fear. It will be a big joy."

Visitor numbers on the Algarve are down this year, especially from Britain: since November, said Elderico Viegas, president of the region's tourist board, the fall has been about 12 per cent - not because of Madeleine, but because of the pound's fall in value against the euro.
"I don't think Maddie has anything to do with it," he said. "And that's my view as someone who has worked in tourism for the past 40 years."

At the same time, Viegas admits that the case has done little for Portugal's image.
"I do think it has been mishandled, especially in terms of the way the police and other authorities dealt with the media. Everyone here would like this problem solved, for there to be an answer."

Meanwhile, in Leicestershire, Cristovao's claims notwithstanding, Kate and Gerry McCann get through their days with their hope and belief that in the absence of any evidence of her death, Madeleine is still alive.

"Gerry copes by being active," Clarence Mitchell said, "throwing himself into his work and the campaign."

Kate, he said, was more vulnerable. "She takes the twins to nursery, and much of her time is then taken up with campaigning, too - dealing with emails; meetings with children's groups and supporters.

"But she does have her ups and downs. It might be a particular media report, or some new claim by the PJ that gets to her, and it can take some time to pick herself up."

The twins, Mitchell added, knew what had happened, and sometimes they "called" Madeleine on their toy telephones. "Nothing is hidden from them, and the house is full of pictures of Madeleine."

John McCann said he usually found himself thinking about Madeleine on first waking up. "You do your best to live a normal life, but in the end, you can't. And I'm her uncle. One can only imagine what it's like for Gerry and Kate."

I asked him how Kate and Gerry dealt with the error for which they have paid so heavily.
"Of course they can't help but go over last May in their minds. But in the end, you can't change what happened. What you can do, and what they have been trying to do ever since, is to change the future: literally to keep turning over stones until Madeleine is found.

"Kate and Gerry don't talk about their emotions much. Maybe it's their Scots-Irish and Liverpudlian backgrounds: stoicism is part of our upbringing.
"I don't mean the stoicism where you're ready to accept any old s*** but the stoicism where you try to deal with a problem and get on with it - that dogged determination.

"That's what Kate and Gerry have, and their ability to stay focused and try to help other families who may face a similar plight in future is inspiring."

The Daily Mailvv

  • Who do you think was the source for this leak?

  • If the culprit/s are found, what should be done about them?

  • What do you think? Do you think there should be an international inquiry held into the appalling blunders and the absolutely disgraceful way lies, smears and innuendos have been leaked throughout this investigation?

  • The McCann’s and Clarence Mitchell may be correct, it may not be about blame, but I am not so charitable as they. I want to see the PJ blamed for this shambles, this fiasco and I want them punished and the lessons learned, because if they are not punished, how will they learn?

  • If God forbid another child is abducted from her bed in Portugal while on holiday, how will the PJ cope?

  • Despite all what has happened this past year, they appear to have learned absolutely nothing and appear to worry more about their egos, their tourist industry , do you think the PJ are just plain incompetent and have inadequate training or could they be protecting and covering something else? Who knows?

  • Do you think the PJ have learned any lessons?

  • Apparently according to this report, another child went missing and the Portuguese police acted in much the same way as in Madeleine case.
    How can we be assure that Portugal has a proper police force equipped for the £2.8 billion tourist industry, when it has show a remarkable and unjust attitude to such a serious crime as a child abduction?

  • Looking at the case of Leonor Cipriano and another case of Micahel Cook, it concerns me greatly that Portugal seem to be blind not only to the mistakes of their Polcia judiciaria (PJ), but they seem oblivious as to what needs to be done to correct such a barbaric and archaic system, what do you think should be done about the PJ and Portugal’s archaic Laws?

  • Look at the similarities of the torture claims between Leonor Cipriano and Michael Cook. Look at the similairties and the polorization between the Michael Cook case, The Leonor Cipriano case and the Madeleine McCann case and then try to think about the Casa Pia childrens home case that rocked Portugal and is now being heard in SECRET in Portugal.
  • Ask if you agree with Kate and Gerry McCann, that there should be an International Inquiry held into the alleged mishandling of the abduction of Madeleine McCann, from her bed in Praia da Luz, Portugal on the night of May 3rd 2007.
  • Maybe you could write a letter or send off an email to your MP, your MEP, the Prime Minister, The Foreign Secretary David Miliband, The Minister for Justic Jack Straw and the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith and ask that pressure be brought to bear in the European Parliament for an International Inquiry held by Scotland Yard, the FBI and Europol?

Something Needs To Be Done and Remember, Nothing Worthwhile Was Ever Easy! Just giev up an hour of yout time to do this for Madeleine McCann and all other innocent missing children. Because if we work together, something good can come out of this tragic situation.

Dear Kate and Gerry and the entire family,

if you by chance read this, please remember that there are a great many people that believe in you and support you in your efforts for Madeleine to be returned home to her loving family. Please do not, NOT EVER, pat any attention to the sick and twisted minds of some people who have issues of their own to deal with, they are mentally ill and need psychiatric help.

It may be some comfort to you to know, that I have never, not once met anyone in person that believes that you harmed Madeleine is any way and I know that this applies to most of the people that contribute to this blog.

Keep strong Kate end Gerry and you nans, granddads, aunts and uncles, one day soon Madeleine will be home with you, we pray for Madeleine and for you and send you our love and positive thoughts. xxx

Saturday, 19 April 2008

After the storm - a scarred town tries to forget

Twelve months after the disappearance of the three-year-old few have emerged unscathed
Esther Addley in Praia da Luz
The Guardian,
Saturday April 19 2008

They still pray for Madeleine McCann in the little whitewashed church in Praia da Luz, a small but faithful clutch of 15 or so locals and ex-pats who stumble down the little cobbled hill to the church every Friday evening for a "service for missing children". "We pray for those who have acted in evil or practised acts of kidnapping," they mutter quietly, week after week. "We pray that they may repent and see your light. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer."

Aside from this tiny band of faithful and the much faded photograph of Madeleine's face on the church noticeboard, now so bleached by the sun that her black pupils stare out from a face that is a sickly blue and green, there is little to suggest that this idyllic spot could have been the scene of such an act of evil.

The birds sing all day long here, and although the summertime crowds are yet to arrive there are always a few cheerful children shouting in the distance. But the overwhelming impression of Praia da Luz, aside from the dazzling light that gave it its name, is the quiet. It is almost possible to believe that one of the most overwhelming news storms of modern times happened somewhere else.

And yet all is not quite as calm as it seems in Praia da Luz. Just a few metres from the church of Our Lady of Light is the home of Sergey Malinka. One of the incidental players caught up in the maelstrom surrounding the three-year-old's disappearance last May, Malinka is a Russian web designer and business associate of Robert Murat, the first official suspect in the Madeleine case. He briefly came to public attention two weeks after she disappeared, when his computers were seized by police.

No evidence has emerged to suggest he is anything other than completely innocent. And yet as you walk up Rua 25 de Abril the tarmac changes colour abruptly outside Malinka's apartment. This is the spot on which, last month, his car was set alight as he slept, the Portuguese word "fala" ("speak") scrawled crudely in red paint on the pavement alongside.

In exactly two weeks, Kate and Gerry McCann will mark a year since their eldest child disappeared, a year that has transformed them from an anonymous couple into devastated parents, canny PR operators, mistrusted suspects and maligned media victims, sometimes all at once.

It has also soured the lives of almost everyone caught up in the story. The McCanns last month won £550,000 in an out of court settlement from Express Newspapers for "numerous grotesque and grossly defamatory allegations" published without evidence.

Their relationship with the Portuguese Polícia Judiciária, which they have been careful to pretend remained cordial even after it named them suspects, at last collapsed into open insults this week when Clarence Mitchell, their spokesman, accused the PJ of leaking extracts of the couple's witness statements to a Spanish TV station.

The leak, he said, was timed to distract from their campaigning visit to Brussels; the PJ, almost uniquely, were angered into rebutting the claim in a statement.

The seven friends with whom the couple were holidaying continued to be interviewed this week by officers from Leicestershire police, observed by Portuguese officers, the purpose of these further interviews unclear.

Robert Murat, meanwhile, the local man named the first official suspect in the case (though, again, no evidence against him has emerged) this week launched what may be Britain's biggest libel claim against 11 media organisations, after he also attracted lurid and apparently entirely unfounded allegations. His girlfriend, Michaela Walczuk, similarly traduced and similarly, now, represented by Max Clifford, may well be next.

While Madeleine's disappearance is without question a tragedy of unfathomable proportions for her family, rarely can there have been a major crime or news event which has so roundly damaged everyone associated with it. It is a sorry way to mark a terribly sad anniversary.
Despite its tranquil appearance, it is clear that Luz, too, has been corrupted by the mystery of the little blonde girl. Most obviously loathed in the town are the journalists who came in their scores from France and Germany and Scandinavia and the United States, as well as Portugal and the UK, and who stayed, in some cases, for months at a time.

"It was bloody awful when they were here. They wanted a receipt to go to the toilet," says Nancy Thompson, landlady of the Bull, an ersatz English boozer just opposite the church. "It was just a horrible feeling in our little place. You couldn't get across the square. The vans and things. It wasn't nice."

"She was hounded for months and months, and for the first few months she couldn't park her car and could barely leave the house," says Ian Fenn when asked about his mother, Pamela, who is in her 80s and lives in the apartment above the one from which Madeleine was taken. "She doesn't know anything, and she won't tell you anything, and I ask you, please, not to knock on her door."

"It was really nasty," says Haynes Hubbard, the thoughtful Anglican parish priest who often met the McCanns while they were in Luz, and whose church became the focus, in the early days, of the media's most glaring attention.

"Hard, hard, hard. We would watch the news and see the helicopters fluttering around, and turn the news off and you still hear the helicopters fluttering around. It was a very strange period when the news was ... we were the news. It wasn't edifying. It was important and necessary, but it wasn't right."

Hubbard, who is Canadian, arrived in the town to take up his post two days after Madeleine disappeared. It must have been like walking into a hurricane, I say. "I saw Heather Mills McCartney, or whatever her name is, standing on the steps of the high court the other day with all those cameras and I thought: ha! That's nothing! I've seen worse."

The missing person posters came down almost overnight, says Thompson, when the couple were named official suspects in early September. Though the continuing value of a picture of the child a year on is perhaps debatable, it is striking to see so few visible reminders of Madeleine in a village that was once overwhelmed by her image.

Manuel Silva, owner of an electrical store in the area, says he will keep his posters up until she is found - "I have grandchildren who live here" - but he is almost alone. Why does he think the other businesses removed theirs? "I don't know. That is their concern."

What do people in the town now think about what happened that night? "Nobody talks about this. Nobody talks about it now." What changed? "I'm not inclined to say."

Only as an afterthought, almost, do people talk about the impact of the crime itself. Fatima Sousa, presiding over her beachside sun hat stall, says it badly affected business last summer. "At least until the end of the summer, things felt very different here. We had many fewer tourists. The beach was almost empty.

"Normally we have lots of children who come in here on their own to buy things, but after it happened the parents were afraid. You saw mothers taking lots more care with their children, they wouldn't let them play alone. Now it's changed a lot, of course. They've forgotten."
Hubbard, newly arrived into a crime scene with his three young children, recalls the terrible anxiety felt by his wife. "It was really awful. I mean, I didn't feel it, but she did, she would go to bed every night crying, locking the doors, double locking the windows. Just really frightening.
"But people carry on, life carries on. That intensity, you can't hold on to it. It's too hard. And she will now let our children run around, whereas eight months ago she wouldn't let them out of her sight. Your fear abates. Thank goodness. Because nobody could live in that intensity."

Not everything has abated, however. While the Portuguese and ex-pat English congregations of the small church have been brought together by the tragedy, says Hubbard, the same is not necessarily true of the town itself. Exactly what was behind the attack on Malinka's car is unclear, but he is not the only victim of whispering and suspicion.

"The English say disparaging things about the Portuguese," he says, "and the Portuguese say disparaging things about the English. This is a gross generalisation, but that is the impression one has. The Portuguese think, how could those awful parents do this? The English think, the Portuguese didn't do anything right."

"I do think the PJ will find the truth of this," says Thompson. "In the old days, before the revolution, when you had to have a licence for a lighter, the PJ was everywhere and people were always: 'don't say that'. That was Portugal. That was their regime. It's only 1974. And they are still a bit afraid and secretive."

She says she cannot understand how anyone could get away with abduction. "They are so nosy, people in Portugal, and especially in this village. You can't go for a piss in this town without somebody watching. That night I was back and forwards between my two bars all night. You notice these things, we have nothing else to do in this place, and I never saw a man carrying a child in a blanket."

But Luz is also a holiday town, with a rapidly shifting population, and life goes on. Spend an evening in one of the resort's bars and ask about Madeleine, and you are as likely to be told a sick joke about the toddler as you are to meet someone who was genuinely affected by her apparent kidnap. Praia da Luz will probably always be associated with Madeleine McCann, but for many it has already become no more than a subject of idle curiosity.

Claire Hughes's sister-in-law lives in Luz; she has visited several times from her home in Bournemouth since Madeleine disappeared. "Obviously I was curious to see the [Ocean Club] resort when we first came here. I was interested to see where she'd been taken from, so we went for a drive around. And we always have a look whenever we are here."

In fact, according to Antonio Pino of the Algarve tourist board, after a few cancellations immediately after the abduction, tourism has risen in this part of the coast.

"You see the tour buses driving past the house, the tour guides are now using it as a tourist attraction," says Hubbard, drily. "I don't think Praia da Luz has suffered a grievous blow because of an evil that was perpetrated in our midst."

"A little old couple came in the other day," says Thompson, "Portuguese. I said: 'Where are you from' and they said: 'Setubal' - that's near Lisbon. They said: 'We're on a day trip to see the church where Madeleine disappeared.'

"And we get that quite a lot now. English as well. 'We're just going over to the church to light a candle, say a prayer,' or whatever. It's, like, famous, isn't it?"

Where are they now?

The parents Kate and Gerry McCann have been campaigning on two fronts since being named suspects on September 7: to find Madeleine, and to clear their names of suspicion. Last month they won a sizeable out of court settlement from four British newspapers for defamation; they recently visited Brussels to campaign for a Europe-wide alert system for missing children. Their own privately funded investigators continue to hunt for the missing toddler alongside the police investigation.

The other suspect The record-breaking libel claim by Robert Murat against 11 British media outlets follows similar action against a number of Portuguese newspapers and broadcasters. His seized computer equipment was recently returned to him, but his expectation that he would formally be cleared shortly afterwards has so far failed to materialise.

The police investigators Goncalo Amaral, the first officer in charge, was removed from the case and demoted on October 2; he is facing trial on charges of concealing evidence relating to the torture of the mother of another missing child. Olegario Sousa, who initially acted as spokesman for the police, dramatically quit the role in September in protest at continued leaks. Paulo Rebelo, one of Portugal's most senior detectives, now has personal charge; under his regime almost no information about the state of the inquiry has been forthcoming.

The spokespeople At one point during the summer the couple's then spokesperson, Justine McGuinness, found herself being contacted at a rate of two phone calls a minute. After stepping down in September she ran Nick Clegg's Lib Dem leadership campaign, and she will shortly contest the European elections for the party. Clarence Mitchell continues as the McCanns' official spokesman, having been enticed away from the Foreign Office after McGuinness's departure.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Portuguese police accuse McCanns' spokesman Clarence Mitchell of 'lying through his teeth'


Detectives investigating the disappearance of Madeleine McCann have branded her parents' spokesman "a manipulative liar".

The head of the Portuguese police federation, Carlos Anjos, accused Clarence Mitchell of engineering a fight with officers to sabotage a reconstruction of the disappearance.

Police statements made by Kate and Gerry McCann were leaked to the media last week as they travelled to Brussels to promote a campaign for a child alert system.

The statements revealed Maddie was left crying the night before she vanished on May 3.
At the time, Mr Mitchell accused police of masterminding the leak to overshadow the visit.
But Mr Anjos told the respected Portuguese newspaper Jornal de Noticias: 'He is a liar and a Machiavellian.

"Mr Mitchell wants to discredit the Policia Judiciaria and invent excuses so the McCanns do not come to Portugal to participate in the reconstruction of the night she disappeared.

"He lies with as many teeth as he has in his mouth. Finally we know what side truth is on."

A second Portuguese newspaper, Diario de Noticias, claimed police believed Mr Mitchell had leaked the police statements to Spanish television journalist Nacho Abad.

Mr Mitchell said yesterday: "It is categorically untrue and utterly ridiculous to suggest that I in any way leaked documents to embarrass Kate and Gerry.

"Why on earth would I? I will not stoop to answer Mr Anjos's wild allegations. All we have ever wanted is for someone to find Madeleine, without this kind of distraction."

He said the McCanns, from Rothley, Leicestershire, were considering the request to take part in a police reconstruction.

Tensions between the police and the McCann family have grown since Kate and Gerry became formal suspects in the case

It is not the first time that Mr Anjos has caused controversy in the 11-month investigation.
He said that police have "bigger problems" than finding Madeleine, accused her parents of using "diversionary tactics" and hindering the investigation, and said Mr McCann, 39, was "indescribably negligent".

Meanwhile the journalist, Mr Abad, said the statements did not come from Mr Mitchell or the McCanns. He refused to reveal his source, however.

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