Crime Scene Forensics #2 – Irene Trovão

On 4th May 2007 at 11:30, a second technician turned up at apartment 5A to complete the initial inspection in daylight hours.

News cameras had already arrived on site and earlier that morning captured images of Gerry McCann and 4 others from the Tapas group (Kate, David, Jane, Matthew) as they were ferried by police to Portimão to give their initial statements. The remaining 4 members (Dianne, Fiona, Rachael, Russell) stayed behind to look after the children, and would go to Portimão later that evening, when the first batch of interviewees returned to Luz.

The technician at 5A was assistant specialist Maria Irene Trovão Ferro, referred to in the case files by her full name, but also by Irene Trovão and Irene Ferro.

The news cameras had a major story when Irene Trovão dusted the outside of the shutter of the children’s bedroom, as she was not wearing gloves and her hair was blowing in the breeze.

Despite having access to all the PJ files and having paid for a professional translation, Kate attributes this inspection to a forensic team from Lisbon (“Madeleine”, chapter 6). It wasn’t. The Lisbon team was made up of two males and they would turn up in the afternoon. Kate uses this sincident to depict the Portuguese police as lacking in expertise and application.

In chapter 3 of A Verdade Da Mentira (The Truth Of The Lie), Gonçalo Amaral makes the same mistake. He has the Lisbon team turning up and conducting a search for blood, hairs and fibres at the same time as the shutter to the children’s bedroom was being dusted for fingerprints. These were two separate inspections.

I believe that Amaral’s book came out very soon after the PJ files were released, so this may possibly be a memory issue. However, the author must have had sufficient access to the police files to get detailed drawings of the crime scene made up, and to write his chapter describing these photos.

Amaral writes a number of critical comments of the on-scene force – that the site was not secured early enough – that the first photographs were insufficient – and to this he now adds the criticism that the technician collecting prints should have been wearing a regulation suit.

The Madeleine McCann case is dogged by finger-pointing and criticising others for not being diligent enough, so it is now time to see how bad or good Irene Trovão really was. has the fingerprint evidence from the first forensic officer and from Irene Trovão.

Please note from the photographs, by this time the twins’ cot nearer to the door had been pushed up towards Madeleine’s bed, to make space for the wicker chair. The entire right hand side of the window had been removed and stacked against a wall where the wicker chair had previously been. The crime scene was evolving.

Irene found 13 prints, but classed 12 of these to be inadequate for identification. 3 unsuitable prints were found on the outside of the shutter of the bedroom used by the children.

9 prints, all unsuitable, were found on the outside of the living room patio doors, an entrance/exit point to 5A.

The one single usable print was found on the side (i.e. the frame) of the living room patio door.

After putting this fingerprint through Portuguese databases, this and other fingerprints were sent to Interpol for identification. The file shows that several countries responded, saying some of the prints they had received were not usable, while there were no hits on the good prints.

After some days, the officers responding to the scene were fingerprinted. The single good print on the frame of the patio door was a match to one of these police officers, and Interpol was informed that further checks were not required.

In summary, one responding police officer’s fingerprint was found on the living room patio door, while 5 fingerprints from Kate McCann had been found on the children’s bedroom window in CSI #1.

A question which has to be asked is simple. Did Irene Travão contaminate the scene, as suggested by both Kate McCann and Gonçalo Amaral, plus the media?

Technically, she is guilty as charged. Peeking ahead, a team from Lisbon arrived later on the 4th to look at blood, hairs and fibres. The number of hairs found was large. Irene Travão was guilty of contributing exactly one of those hairs.

In comparison, in chapter 5 “Missing” of “Madeleine”, Gerry lowers the shutter on the children’s bedroom, then rushes outside and makes the sickening discovery that the shutter can be raised from the outside.

Dianne Webster tells a different story. In her second statement on 11th May 2007, she testifies that when she went to the apartment and heard Kate´s description, she too went outside and tried to raise the shutter. She found it could not be raised. A second person interfering with the original evidence.

Please note. I have found a video that I am working on. At this moment in time, it looks like it is the shutter on the children’s window in 5A, and it looks like an outsider could raise it to about 80% up before it jams, then, when released, comes straight back down again.

For the moment, please disregard whether the shutter opens from the outside or not.

For now, the question is who had their hands on the shutter? Dianne Webster testified that she did. Kate recounts that Gerry did.

Perhaps the 3 duff prints on the shutters came from Dianne. Perhaps they came from Gerry. Perhaps they came from someone else.

This entire scenario s somewhat like a horse race with a small number of entrants. The contestants are Kate McCann, Gonçalo Amaral, Gerry McCann, Irene Trovão, and Dianne Webster.

I am not someone who bets, but based on the evidence I have so far, I would plump for Irene Travão. Not a perfect performance, but I reckon she would win by somewhere between a head and a neck.


8 thoughts on “Crime Scene Forensics #2 – Irene Trovão

  1. Good work. Really just the one rather simple question- well, two, actually. What did you mean about that horse race? And does a hand in a glove leave an inviable print or no print at all? Or must an inviable print mean skin-surface contact, but smudged beyond usefulness? 3 questions in all!

    • Various people/bodies have pointed the finger at others in order to deflect criticism from themselves and that is making the underlying evidence much harder to establish.

      Kate and Gonçalo both have a pop at Irene, whereas someone with access to the file should have established (just as I did) that she left behind a single, solitary hair.

      Kate makes much of Gerry ‘guarding’ the children’s bedroom as a crime scene. The forensic evidence and the statements show otherwise.

      So Irene Travão became an easy target. What she did could have been better. But the truth is, it had negligible impact on the crime scene.

      AFAIK, gloves would not have left prints and there is nothing to prove or disprove the use of gloves.

      Non-viable means smudged or partial insufficient to be used. It looks like more than the good prints were sent to Interpol. It looks like some of the non-viable prints may actually have been good enough to run through certain databases. However, the requesting letter and the responses are so mismatched that the only thing that is certain is that the units of Interpol that responded failed to get a match.

  2. I hear you on various finger-pointing, but disagree on one aspect. You see, you’re suggesting Kate has Gerry guarding the scene, and that was clearly not the case, and Kate using Trovao as an indication of poor practice. I’d put it to you, though, that neither parent had any responsibility to protect or investigate the scene. All responsibility in a professional capacity lay with the Portuguese police forces and investigation teams, and also specifically with Trovao and later with Amaral. The latter has spent years trying to protect his own neck and defend an abysmal investigation, and the former was grossly negligent in her practice. Amaral has a pop at Trovao as a) her actions were beyond his control, so he’s not to blame and b) duff scene of crime leads to a difficult investigation, which led to him being unable to prove his own hypothesis.

    If a forensic investigator shows up with no suit, gloves or hat, she clearly deserves all the criticism she got. That’s her job!

    In the Knox-Sollecito case the investigators stored crucial forensic evidence in a paper bag that had contained a sandwich. You know how that ended up. Gross negligence of the kind is unforgiveable in the age of DNA, as it sees the guilty walk free.

    That Trovao left one hair doesn’t make it a small deal- and any of the inviable prints could, as you say, also potentially be hers. Not good enough.

    • Since Kate raised the alarm by indicating there was a crime scene, and since Kate, Gerry and others were intelligent people well-trained in dealing with critical emergencies, I have some dismay that they allowed the scene to become quite so trashed. In the overall scheme of things, I think this is relatively unimportant.

      What irritates me is saying one stranger is to blame, for one hair, a fact that Kate must have known when she wrote her book, when the third crime scene investigation will turn up hairs from the Tapas 9 (not many) and something like 40+ dog hairs through the flat, including the children’s bedroom.

      Whether the police were poor, the idea that the scene was protected simply does not match the evidence.

      The bottom line is the crime scene was very messy indeed.

      I am 100% ignorant of the Knox-Sollecito case, therefore I have nothing to say on it.

  3. Another quick query- you’re much more informed about this topic than me, so please let me know if this is correct. Barreiras did the original dusting, but only did the inside of the children’s window. He finds five prints that are Kate’s, and no non-viables. Trovao then dusts the outside of the shutters and the outside of the French doors, finding the 13 prints you discuss above, 12 of which are of the useless variety. (I wonder why there’s such a difference in batting averages between the two?)

    Now, I read elsewhere that at no point was the outside of the children’s window dusted, nor the inside of the shutters. Also, there is no mention of a forensic investigation of the mechanism within the room for hiring or lowering the shutters, be that a tape-pulley or a crank-handle. Is that the case?

    • I can find nothing in the files that are categorical about which surfaces were dusted and which surfaces were not. Since I am trying hard to avoid media reports as I find them chock full of speculation unsupported by evidence, I can’t comment on this beyond what is actually in the files. I can’t see how someone would know the inside had been dusted and the outside not (window) or vice-versa (shutter) unless it was in the PJ files and it’s not.

      From another photo I have ascertained that the mechanism for raising the shutter is a pulley located just to the RHS of the window. I would not use the word ‘tape’ though. It is a woven textile belt that does not make a good surface for finding fingerprints, so a forensic examination would yield (I think) nothing. In any event, the files have no mention of an examination of this belt.

      • Hi… just a quick word on the pulley- I’m familiar with the material- I was suggesting seeking DNA evidence if it were textile, rather than fingerprints. Should have made that clear… but didn’t know which kind of mechanism it was. In my mind, at least, the shutter pulley would seem ideal to find skin, hairs or fibres.

        That said, have a look at this… sorry, it’s a poor paper, but the info is striking:

        So they have mystery DNA in the apartment that was never identified? First I’ve read of that. From the article it’s impossible to tell if they’re on about fingerprints, DNA, genetics, hairs, fibres, etc. Really poorly written. Do you know anything about this?

      • Without yet reading the article you have flagged up … desculpe.

        Sometime soon I will write up what the 3rd CSI team, this one from Lisbon, did and found.

        In brief, hundreds of hairs, many not considered usable at the time. I have just finished watching a Joana Morais posting re Gonçalo Amaral which says that DNA techniques have advanced and that hairs which do not have a root can now have DNA analysed. Of that I am dubious, but I need to check.

        The ‘battle’ underway today in Portugal is whether a re-analysis is by England or Portugal. Turf war?

        Since you are obviously quite interested in what happened to Madeleine, I would seriously suggest you Google Joana Morais. She happens to be anti-McCann but what she excels at is getting the latest news in Portuguese media and translating it into very decent English. Papers, TV, the lot.

        AFAIK. It’s not about fingerprints. It’s not about fibres. It’s not about footprints, or dog-prints. I don’t think it is about DNA, though there was saliva found on Madeleine’s bed (which I think belonged to Madeleine), semen found on the bed by the window (unidentified), a lack of other stuff like cigarette butts, and a cornucopia of evidence extracted after Martin Grimes’ dogs went in.

        I think they are looking at hair. Please note the word ‘think’. Also I am having trouble with how one gets a sample of DNA out of an arguido for comparison. Without this, it should be down to a straight shoot-out between what the Portuguese have on their criminal files and the hairs found in 5A.

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