Crime Scene Forensics #3 – the Lisbon team

On 4th May 2007 at 3:30pm, a forensics team from the Police Science Laboratory, experts João Paulo Cardoso and Fernando Viegas, investigated the apartment in greater detail. Both Gonçalo Amaral in “A Verdade Da Mentira” and Kate McCann in “Madeleine” make this the Lisbon team. Both make the mistake of putting Irene Trovão in this, when she been at the apartment on the morning of 4th May.

The report of the third forensic investigation is at and it is excellent reading.

In the map of the locality and the identification of the McCann apartment 5A, north is at the bottom and south is at the top. This seems to be a convention.

Next, the diagram of the apartment layout is much better, though some errors remain.

Check the photos and you see the twin’s cots are 90° out. It is clear that they are offset to make space for the wicker chair, while the right hand side of the window rests against a wall, where the wicker chair had once been. This is as per the crime scene #2 photos.

What did Cardoso and Viegas find?.

Footprints. The scene had been trampled to the extent that retrieving footprints was not feasible. There were also dog paw-prints.

Contamination. The apartment was contaminated with dog hairs and with fingerprint dust, making it hard to retrieve trace evidence. The children’s bedroom and the area inside the living room patio doors were worst affected.

Hairs. The search for these was restricted to the entrance hall from the front door, the route from the living room patio doors to the door of the children’s bedroom, and the entirety of the children’s bedroom. 6 samples were found (not 6 hairs, but 6 samples covering 6 areas). The remainder of the apartment was not searched for hairs.

Fibres. There is no mention of a specific check for fibres. Whether this is covered by a check for hairs is something I don’t know.

Semen. A variable-wave light source was used to look for semen traces. A number of potential areas showed up and these were tested chemically. Only one returned a positive test. That was on the bedspread of the bed by the window in the children’s bedroom.

Sedation chemicals. The area around the pillow on Madeleine’s bed was checked for the smell of substances like chloroform and ether. Nothing was detected. I do not know how long this smell lingers, and the third search started 15½ hours after Kate raised the alarm.

Blood. Two sweeps of the entire apartment were made for blood traces. The first used a variable-wave light source and turned up some potential locations, but none of these passed a chemical test. The second was a visual check, with a number of potential areas being found, but again, none passed a chemical test. There is no mention as to whether areas behind furniture was checked or not.

Forced entry. The doors and windows of 5A were inspected for this, and no sign of forced entry was found.

Exterior. The exterior of 5A was examined and nothing of forensic value was found – no footprints, no cigarette stubs.

The evidence recovered was passed to the INML (National Institute of Legal Medicine) in Lisbon.

The cleaner for apartment 5A, Maria da Silva, stated she cleaned the flat on Saturday 28th April, before the McCanns arrived in Luz. She says she last cleaned 5A on Wednesday 2nd May, the day before Madeleine disappeared. In her book, Kate confirms the Wednesday clean, and adds that the apartment was also cleaned on Monday 30th April.


2 thoughts on “Crime Scene Forensics #3 – the Lisbon team

  1. Interesting- seems the inside of the shutters were indeed examined. Was the sample thought to be semen not ruled out as not being such and traced? No idea how they could tell if chloroform had been used that long after. Had an abductor used such a substance? Had the parents used Calpol to ensure a good night’s sleep after previous evenings’ problems with kids crying? So many questions.

    The McCann lawyers said the children had taken a test which resulted negative for sedatives… does that mean neither of the above? Was it documented? The twins slept through a massive commotion, according to the parents. Also, going by various statements, they were moved out and continued to sleep all the while. Screaming and shouting. Lights on. Loads of movement. One even suggests they were absent shortly after the alarm was raised, but present much later when the GNR (?) arrived. Bit far fetched that… but wherever they were, they were sound asleep.

    • The files are tortuous so I’m still hacking through to find out what happened to the hairs and the semen.

      When Calpol became ‘implicated’ is another question. It appears in Amaral’s book as a possibility, or a probability. I don’t know if the media was already on about this. Calpol was a banned product in 2007 in Portugal because of potential side effects. It remains so. It appears to have had mild sedative powers in the 2007 formulation, as in, you would need to have fed the kids pints to keep them asleep. Its role in Amaral’s book is simple. Madeleine died in an accident whilst falling off the sofa as she was sedated.

      The children’s tests, AFAIK, took place so long after the incident that it would not detect sedatives used in May 2007. Please note my AFAIK.

      I am currently working on a ‘scandalous rumour’ that the Tapas 9 were getting drunk one night so far away from the children that the idea of half-hour checks or baby monitors was simply not possible. This is a popular idea in Luz even today.

      All I have to do is to cross-check through those tortuous files. The story should be up soon, but please do not hold your breath.

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