Madeleine – Colin Sutton on the 10th anniversary

Colin Sutton is an ex-SIO with the Met, and is to appear in at least 3 forthcoming specials around Madeleine’s 10 anniversary, and he has popped up in Mail Online today.

This article explains his experience and capability.

Ex-Senior Investigating Officer for the Met Police Murder Squad who led the investigations to convict Levi Bellfield and Delroy Grant.

Colin Sutton spent the last nine years of his police career as Senior Investigating Officer for the Met Police’s Murder Squad. Among the dozens of investigations he led, the most notable was perhaps the operation which convicted the serial killer Levi Bellfield. He then took over and reinvigorated the ‘Night Stalker’ investigation in 2009, which quickly led to the arrest and conviction of Delroy Grant for a long series of rapes on the elderly. He was also responsible for the re-investigation of the Deepcut Barracks deaths.

Colin retired with 30 years service in the police and he now advises and provides commentary and insight around crime and criminal justice issues for both the written and broadcast media. In addition to his investigative work Colin has significant experience of managing volume crime, covert law enforcement techniques, informant handling and technical surveillance. Colin has a degree in law and studied Criminal Justice post-graduation. He maintains a great interest in, and has forthright opinions on the criminal justice system and policing, from the commission of offences right through to the sentencing of offenders and the prison system.

The Delroy Grant case was a long standing case – what methods did you use to solve this case in such a relatively short amount of time and what was the most significant breakthrough?

The focus was switched from trying to identify the offender by DNA – mass-swabbing of a huge number of potential suspects – to a proactive operation, using 75 officers and technical surveillance in an area identified by analysis of his ‘favourite’ target area. He then, after 17 days, committed a burglary in the area, was observed and arrested.

Levi Bellfield remains one of the UK’s most infamous serial killers – what clues ultimately led to his conviction?

Ultimately it was thorough and painstaking analysis of CCTV images and then mobile phone records. But even though that was what made us suspect Bellfield, the complete lack of scientific evidence meant that there followed more than 3 years of patient case-building, old-fashioned detective work unearthing small pieces of circumstantial evidence which, when added together, formed the compelling case which convicted him.

When you approach a case like Bellfield or Grant as an Investigating Officer what do you look for first?

Most cases of murder and serious crime are spontaneous, so that a quick and large-scale response will often bring quick results. But men like Bellfield and Grant are more cunning, they plan their crimes and try their best to avoid leaving forensic evidence. These are the hardest cases to solve. Ultimately both were caught because they continued to offend and gave me renewed opportunities to identify them. In such cases the SIO has to be patient, not to jump to conclusions or swift action but to consider all the possibilities. The more planning the criminal employs the more we must use against them.

How have advancements in forensics and psychology changed police investigations?

There is no doubt that DNA, and the ever-increasing sensitivity of tests for it, have made most serious crimes easier to solve. In many cases it will give irrefutable proof of presence, and therefore of guilt. But it has made some detectives over-reliant upon it, and this was very evident in Delroy Grant’s case. Psychology has helped interviewing officers, and an understanding of the criminal to a degree. However offender profiling is very rarely as successful or impactful in reality as it is portrayed in fiction.

Why do you think it is important for the public to understand what happens in these horrific crimes?

First it is necessary to enlist the public as our eyes and ears. The worse the crime the more likely the public are to come forward with information. Secondly it is necessary to reinforce the message for the public to take care, to try to minimise the risk to them of becoming victims. Thirdly, it is part of the entire criminal justice process – the public must know why society is incarcerating these criminals for so long, and also be reassured that the police and the system actually does work for them in making the community safer.

What makes killers like Grant and Bellfield get so much press attention compared to others?

Thankfully, it is because they are so rare, and therefore unusual. Their crimes are just so far beyond the comprehension of normal people that they are truly shocking, and as such there will always be a demand for their stories to be told. It is, I suppose, the same reason that they are given so much police attention too.

Are there any unsolved cases across the world that you would be interested in tackling?

Not now, I am too happy being retired! But had the Madeline McCann review come my way before retirement I would have stayed to complete that; it is the greatest mystery of our generation, and despite its obvious difficulty I would have been unable to resist the opportunity to try to help solve it.

Which case from history would you like to work on?

I think some of the great mysteries – Jack the Ripper, Lord Lucan, that sort of case – might be quite easily solved in the modern era, but at the time the detectives never had the scientific help we enjoy these days. What I really would have liked was to have been in charge of the Delroy Grant case much earlier – I think I might have saved a lot of elderly people a lot of pain.


On CMoMM, Mr Sutton has made it clear that he is not in-depth expert on the Madeleine McCann case. However, that is not where his expertise is being deployed.

Here is today’s interview in the Mail Online

Did Madeleine McCann wander off and have an accident? Was she stolen to order? Or was it a burglary gone wrong? Detective lays out theories about her disappearance.

By Katie French

PUBLISHED: 22 April 2017

A former Scotland Yard detective believes he has come up with the five most plausible theories to explain the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.

Murder detective Colin Sutton said a trafficking gang could have snatched her to replace a dead child or she could have been snatched by a paedophile. But he theorised the ‘most likely and credible scenario’ for Maddie’s disappearance was a targeted kidnap.

Speaking to The Mirror, he questioned why traffickers didn’t take one of Maddie’s twin baby siblings instead – who would have no memory of their previous life and less physical identity. As the 10th anniversary of Maddie’s disappearance approaches next month, the investigator has analysed multiple theories for a new book. Madeleine was just three went missing from Praia da Luz in Portugal in May 2007, almost a decade ago. He said those closest to Maddie, including her parents, would have been the first line of inquiry for police. But he added he believed Portuguese police appeared make this their only line of investigation early on in the probe.

He said: ‘By concentrating just on that scenario they may have missed tips or other lines that meant going down a completely different investigation route.’

He said: ‘A trafficking ring is more likely than a lone paedophile or paedophile ring.’But unless the order was specifically for a young blonde girl, why her and not one of the twins?

‘Has a young blonde girl died and their parents want to replace her? Or is there another reason for stealing to order?’

While cops initially believed Maddie could have wandered off and been killed, Sutton believes the tot would surely have taken her beloved toy ‘Cuddle Cat’ if she had walked out of the apartment.

He said: ‘Incidents of children wandering off are much more common than a targeted or non-targeted abduction.

‘However Cuddle Cat is a compelling fly in the ointment with this theory.’

He said it was highly unlikely that an opportunist had snatched her, saying that most predatory paedophiles are ‘not interested in pre-school age children’.

He said: ‘The chances of a predatory paedophile just happening across Madeleine and being able to abduct her without being detected are just so remote.

‘I don’t know of any other opportunistic abduction of a girl so young.’

And he also believes it is extremely unlikely that she was killed as part of a burglary gone wrong, as most burglars are drug addicts looking for something small they can easily sell.

He said: ‘Junkies don’t take three-year-old girls.’

Madeleine – Australian TV Sunday 23 April 2017

There is to be a special re Madeleine McCann on Australian Channel 7 on Sun 23 April 2017 at 8.30pm local time.

A trailer is at

Having watched the trailer, I doubt very much that anything new that is significant will emerge.

The programme is supposedly geo-blocked and I haven’t a clue as to whether our workaround re geo-blocking works for any Australian channel.

Would it be possible for anyone in Australia to perform an act of kindness?

As I said, I doubt the programme will make any breakthrough. But I am curious as to two questions. First, is the broadcast high on fact or high on speculation? And secondly, is it neutral, firmly anti-McCann or firmly supportive?

I know my blog has readers in Australia. I simply hope to get an Australian take on the Madeleine McCann affair as the people of Australia see it, as we approach the 10th anniversary.

It could be this programme, or anything else in Australian media.

Your co-operation would be most welcome.

Please be nice to me. For some reason I have not yet fathomed, we get Australian surfers in our neck of the woods, and I am looking forward to having some fun with them when we move to Portelas.

Madeleine – weather station Luz

I am in the process of conducting a practical experiment in the run-up to the 10th anniversary of Madeleine’s disappearance. It is weather station Luz.

I started this at the beginning of Nov 2016, with a simple aim. I wanted to check how well the weather in Luz correlates with the weather as logged at Faro to the east and Sagres to the west. If there is a high degree of correlation, it means the historical weather logs can be used as an accurate description of weather in Luz around 3 May 2007. And if not, it becomes clear that positing a connection on these records does not stand up to scrutiny.

In the beginning, I was collecting data at 12.37pm. This was the time of day when the sun was at its highest over Luz, giving me an accurate indication of due south.

Portuguese time is identical to UK time in winter and in summer, and the clocks go forward and back at precisely the same time. To all intents and purposes, weather station Luz is on UK time.

In winter, the sun is due south of Greenwich at 12 mid-day. Luz is roughly 8° west of Greenwich. The Earth rotates at 15° per hour. So the sun is due south of Luz at 8/15ths of an hour after mid-day.

Inserting accurate figures, the sun marks due south at 12.37pm in Luz in winter. When we move to Portelas, we are heading somewhat east, at the sun will be due south at 12.35pm.

In summer, these times become 1.37pm in Luz and 1.35pm at our new home.

The data I am collecting is temperature in the shade, wind direction, wind speed (including whether it is subject to gusts) and cloud or haze cover.

When the clocks moved forward, I realised I could improve my experiment by collecting data at 10pm, to see how well evening weather in Luz matches up with the Faro and Sagres weather stations.

A number of significant things have emerged from this experiment.

The weather at 1.37pm is not the best predictor of weather at 10pm on the same day. It can be raining at lunchtime and dry in the evening, or more often vice-versa. The most significant pattern change is that the wind has dropped on nearly every evening. Even when there is a medium wind with gusts at lunchtime, a typical evening pattern is very gentle breeze with very few gusts.

Yesterday, we had a bit of an oddity at lunchtime. Over the land, the sky was 100% clear. Over the sea, the sky was completely cloudy. I logged the 1.37pm temperature as 27°C in the shade, much higher than it has been since my records began. I suspect most of the moisture in the earth of the Algarve has already been burned off, explaining the lack of clouds over the land, whereas the high temperature was evaporating water from the sea to form clouds.

There is one factor in this experiment that I have not emulated. Luz is much like an inverted half-cone, with the sea at the bottom replacing the missing half. My weather station Luz is at the top of the cone i.e. at the top of a hill network that nearly surrounds Luz. Apartment 5A is much closer to the bottom than the top, and that is going to lead to a difference in weather re wind speed. I need to take some measurements close to block 5 around 10pm, as 3 May 2017 approaches.

I have not yet cross-checked my measurements against those of Faro and Sagres. I don’t want to introduce potential bias by tweaking my measuring routine and method. I do not expect to understand the value of weather station Luz until the time we move from Luz to Portelas. At the moment, this looks very much like being after 3 May 2017, as the builders have not yet started on our slice of the house.

Once we have moved, I intend to repeat this experiment in Portelas. This is mere curiosity and has nothing to do with the Madeleine McCann story. Portelas is a fair way inland compared to Luz, and I would like to know how well weather station Portelas correlates with the official stations at Faro and Sagres.

Algarve – GNR sweep April 2017

Our car got arrested by the GNR last week.

We found out our fate on Friday. A trip to Portimão on the orders of the Algarve GNR sealed the future of our aged VW Touran. Here are the facts and figures.

Because we have had the car in Portugal for more than 6 months, we got fined €375.

We have had the car valued locally, and the best offer was €1,000. The car is worth more, but we cannot get more than a grand for it.

We were told that as we had semi-Portuguesed it by getting it taxed here, MOTd here and having Portuguese residencia, we were getting fined at the same rate as Portuguese nationals. If we had not done these things, the fine would have been €8,000 (eight thousand).

On top of the fine, we got 3 options as to what we can do with the car. Option 1 is to drive it out of Portugal and keep it out of Portugal. It boils down to keeping the car for 6 months here per year and 6 months in another country. This option was dramatic. We would have to inform them when we were driving the car out, which border crossing we were using, get a form stating all this, and get the form stamped at the border to confirm the car’s deportation.

Option 2 is to pay the import tax to bring the car into the country. This appears to be calculated on the value of the car at new, not what it is worth as a 12 year-old. To import it, the tax would be €10,000 (ten thousand). On a car that cost us €6,000 and has a resale value of €1,000, that does not make sense.

Option 3 is to hand the car over to Portugal. The government can put Portuguese plates on it for free. We were told the car would then be offered to a school, to a bombeiros station, or to a GNR station, to see if one of these units could use it for service provision. However, it appears the requirements on CO2 emissions are to be tightened up around Portugal, and a 12-year old diesel is unlikely to survive the cull.

We are going to hand the car over as neither option 1 nor option 2 make sense. The car is LHD, so it must have been built for the continent, but someone had re-badged it for the UK. As to whether it gets scrapped or not, time will tell. I would rate it as having a value of 6,000 to 10,000 euros with Portuguese plates, so I think it will simply disappear into the Portuguese system.

The trip to Portimão was revealing. At every other roundabout on the N125 there were 4 or 5 GNR cars, with queues of 2 to 6 cars with foreign plates. It is difficult to get straight information about what is going on. One story we were told is that the crack down is because the UK has triggered BREXIT, but frankly, that sounds weak. All cars with foreign plates are being stopped, not just UK ones. Then there is the emissions angle, which makes slightly more sense. However, it looks like the GNR are being used as tax collectors. If our car was new, we would have little choice but to stump up an import tax. No doubt a lot of those trapped on the N125 yesterday will have to pour a lot of shekels in Portugal’s coffers.

The impact on us is not financial. The car was getting old, and a replacement was under very active consideration. It’s the timing which is unfortunate. We have moved our largest items to Portelas already. We were building our VW into the move because it could swallow 98% of what we have left. Now we have lost that load-carrying capacity we have a problem. But don’t worry, we have a plan B. In fact, we have two plan Bs.

We are moving to Portelas.

Latest breaking news. It seems we can flog it for 1,000€, and the buyer regularly transports arrested cars out of Portugal in a totally legal manner through a legal shipper. We are now awaiting news of when the vehicle carrier will be in Portugal for its next shipment.

Madeleine – go straight to jail

It was a bit of a roller-coaster day today.

Yesterday, our gas went out, so no showers and no cooking on our hob. We had a tank of gas delivered, and things seemed better. The hob was working but the water boiler was not. Early this morning I fiddled around with this a that, and oh joy, our hot water boiler was restored to life. Hot water.

Then it was time for an appointment in Lagos. But our car was ambushed by the GNR at the pineapple roundabout in Luz. The message was that the GNR have been instructed to crack down on cars with foreign number plates that have not been through the import process in Portugal. In a nutshell, if you run a foreign car for 6 months plus in Portugal it is subject to import tax. That tax appears to be based on not the value of the car when you imported it, but the value it had when new.

So, we have a cheap and cheerful old workhorse, but we are going to get stuck with a bill based on its value when it was pristine 10 or 12 years ago. Oh, goodie.

In our move to Portelas, a lot of what we did when the kids moved in was based on having our work-beast around until we moved. You can take out the rear seats and then there is a cavernous space for large objects. That carrying capacity has just vanished.

Our car has been arrested. It was not permitted to pass go. It had to go straight to jail. We could not pick up £200. OK, the car is confined to our drive and we cannot take it anywhere.

There is of course a plan B. If one did not have a plan B in Portugal, one would not survive. A small antique runaround is now sitting on our drive. We own a trailer, so the larger items that remain will go across to Portelas on that.

As to the import charges, we will find out tomorrow what they will be before we decide what happens to our faithful steed. We have already been offered cash for it. There is an option to make it ‘disappear’ in Portugal. We can also simply drive it out of the country to relatives across the border. One rather odd ‘opportunity’ to avoid paying the import tax is that we can hand it over to the authorities. Then, without paying import tax, the authorities will give it to a school, to the bombeiros or to a GNR officer.

Guess what is going to happen?

Portelas – the joys of country life

The kids managed to move all their goods and chattel to our new residence in Portelas on Friday, 31 Mar 2017, aided by 3 helpers. There was the usual fun and games. When they tried using the taps down stairs, water leaked out of pipes in the garage, where most of their stuff is stored. Luckily, with builders working on-site the leak was quickly stopped.

The house has been sitting empty for a long time, and apart from a total clean inside, there was a major issue with the patio outside the downstairs kitchen. The overhanging roof was a perfect place for birds to nest, which meant the patio itself was covered in guano. Our daughter spent a couple of hours making sure all of this was cleaned up, as she has two young children and that patio is, for the moment, their safe outdoor play area.

Then on Saturday our son-in-law´s mother flew from the UK to the Algarve, bringing a friend. The mother visits several times a year, and rents a well-appointed flat in Estrela da Luz. It’s very handy because it is close to all of the amenities in Luz.

The weather in this end of the Algarve has now turned very pleasant indeed, so a barbecue was scheduled for Sunday 2 Apr 07. What we think of ‘our’ ‘small’ cleaned-up patio was to be the location. A total of 9 adults (family plus helpers in the move), 2 young children, the dog and the barbecue.

I got an invitation to the barbecue but I declined. I was still feeling rough with a cold, and I was coughing and sneezing, so It was better not to spread the infection about.

Apart from transporting 4 adults to attend this do, we sent over some old unwanted CDS, some string, and scissors. Two of the ladies put the men to shame by clambering up step-ladders to hang 8 or 9 CDs from the beams above the roof. Birds don’t like the movement or the reflection, so it keeps them off. I am told that after dark, the kitchen lights were reflecting off the twirling CDs, so we should have little further problem with bird guano on this patio.

The day went well. The company was good. The weather was delightful. The littlies enjoyed racing toy cars on the patio. And then the tales emerged.

It seems that our neighbours on our east side did a bit of pig-butchering that Sunday morning. The squeals were reported as lasting for 8 or 9 minutes. This episode caused our grand-daughter to declare that if this happened once a week, she was becoming a vegetarian. A friend pointed out that a pig being butchered does not last 8 or 9 minutes, and the norm here is to slaughter 4 or 5 at one session, share them around the family, and stuff the ‘spare’ carcasses in a freezer.

Then came the second bit of the tale. It turns out the person who runs our local hostelry considers his first profession to be not hosting a café/bar, but being a butcher. Yikes, we know the local butcher!

We have gone from the artificial ex-pat bubble that is Luz to a fairly wealthy part of Portelas, but one which appears to be typically Portuguese. We are going to have to get used to bird guano and local slaughtering of pigs. These are the joys of country life!

Madeleine – M-Day 1 – restricted service

We are entering a couple of months when my normal focus on interesting-things-Madeleine is going to have to be restricted.

There are little annoying things buzzing around. Agora, estamos constipados. In Brazilian Portuguese, this would mean what it looks like, but being that we are in Portugal, it means that at the moment both of us have a cold, which is slowing us down a bit.

Today, Friday 31 Mar 2017 is M-Day 1. The kids (4 adults, 2 children, plus 1 dog) have to move out of Luz to Portelas. That means hiring a large van (not cheap!) and getting some friends to provide a lot of muscle power. We need to relocate most of their goods and chattel, and we need to move a heck of a lot of large items from our home to Portelas, to avoid another day of van hire and muscle power. Our ‘smaller’ items will then fit into our people carrier and our car trailer, and we can shift them bit by bit, as and when.

The builders are beavering away in Portelas, working on the middle and top layer, where the kids will reside. That is going to take another 2-3 weeks, so when they move today, their family is going to reside in the bottom layer temporarily, before the builders work on that part, and finally us oldies move into it. So the kids have another relocation, M-Day 2, from bottom layer to the top two in the offing. Oh joy!

The bottom layer is more than a bit cramped for 4 adults and two young children, plus a dog. So we have agreed to squeeze in our eldest grandchild to where we live in Luz now, until the builders are finished in the top two layers.

Now this grandson is a vegetarian. And since he is the only vegetarian in our family, he has had to learn to cook his own meals, and seemingly has become quite proficient at doing so. I have already challenged him to come up with a 3-course vegetarian meal consisting of his signature stater, main, and dessert, I intend to reciprocate while he is here, so I need to think about my 3-course signature veggie meal. It’s going to come in handy later, when all 8 of us are in the same house, because I would like to invite him to join us for the occasional meal together, and our new kitchen is ‘bijou’, so those particular dining occasions will be veggie only.

The other family event on the horizon is our ‘farewell’ party. At the moment, to allow the builders to change our lower level, we need to remain in our current location until end-May. That will be M-day 3. Apart from the cost of more rent, it means we can move across to Portelas at a more leisurely rate. More importantly, we have a swimming pool and a ‘posh’ garden here, whereas when we move we can’t have a pool and we will have a giant meadow, not a garden. So our farewell bash looks like being a pool and BBQ do in the garden.

The other non-Madeleine event I want to have a look at, given I will still be in Luz, is the 4th annual Luz triathlon, which should be around 25th April. I have been to the last two and for some reason my amateur photographs of this event attract (modest) world-wide attention. Whatever, I have an enjoyable day whilst topping up my vitamin D.

On the Madeleine front, two occasions spring to mind. In April, Martin Grime is scheduled to talk at an international conference on the use of dogs in specialised police work. This is to take place in a part of Spain that I happen to be fond of, and were it not for the fact that our family has to relocate in this period, I would cough up the money to have a holiday there and attend the conference.

And the other one is obviously the 10th anniversary of Madeleine’s disappearance. The schedule of building refurb in Portelas means that I will be in Luz on 3 May 2017. I am simply not sure how much time I will be able to devote to this anniversary. I don’t think this is important, because I treckon the media coverage will tell its own tale.

Due to the other priorities in our family life, the amount of time I can spend Madeleine-ing is likely to get severely restricted over April and May. Normal service should resume sometime in June 2017.