The standard approach on opportunity is to construct a timeline of checks for Thursday 3rd May 2007 and to go from there to whichever solution is preferred.
I want to tackle this in a somewhat different manner, looking instead at who knew about the timeline, the vulnerability of apartment 5A, and that there were children inside.
This part is highly problematic for a lone wolf abductor scenario where the abductor is not intimately connected with Luz and the area around block 5.
For example, despite the fact that I live in Luz, I have no method of determining whether there are tourists in the town, who have children, and who are leaving them in a vulnerable situation on a regular basis. I would expect that no-one is doing this nowadays, but how did someone twig that this was happening in May 2007?
Quite a number of people knew well in advance that there would be tourist children in Luz at that time. The T9 obviously did. The booking forms have the number of people and ages of children on them, so once the holiday was booked, this was another potential source.
The T9 stated that they carried out a listening check, with the exception of the Paynes, who decided that a baby monitor was a better solution, without recommending this to others.
Advance knowledge of, or prior agreement on, a listening check is problematic. The Tapas restaurant is the only venue close enough to block 5 for this to work.
The other restaurant the T9 were entitled to a ‘free’ evening meal and drink was the Millennium, which is about 460m away as the crow flies and around 600m on foot. That is out of baby monitor range and around 6 minutes away on foot at normal walking pace. So the baby monitor and listening checks explanation stacks up only when they block-booked the Tapas restaurant.
The nearest non-Ocean Club restaurant is 165m as the crow flies but over 250m on foot. There is no reason to suppose they knew of that in advance. There is no reason to suppose that as they were booked for half-board, they would forego their paid-for dining and drink, and pay again for an alternative.
The T9 had no way of knowing in advance where they would be located within the Ocean Club. Some parts of the Ocean Club are considerably farther away from the Tapas restaurant and the Millennium than block 5, so they had no reason to assume that a baby monitor would have sufficient range, or that a listening check was feasible.
These solutions work only after the group is allocated to block 5 and then only when a block booking of the Tapas restaurant is put in place.
Whoever allocated the T9 to apartments block 5 enters the frame at one of two times. The second is when the actual allocation took place. The first appears to be whenever a person responsible for allocating guests to apartments decided to put the T9 in block 5, with that person almost certainly having access to keys. However, with booking through Mark Warner, it appears that Ocean Club staff did not know that children were involved until they first turned up at 24-hour reception, so the first and second times appear to boil down to one time only – first arrival.
It appears that Mark Warner staff in Luz had a head-start on this. They got keys on Friday, to enable them to deliver cots before the guests arrived on Friday. So they knew who was turning up, which apartments had been allocated to whom, and had easy access to keys.
The next person who enters the frame is the driver on duty when the T9 turned up at 24-hour reception. After signing-in and getting keys, the T9 and luggage would be driven to block 5, and it is normal practice for the driver to help with the luggage. Whether this help happened or not, the driver would have known that three of the ground floor apartments had children in.
With the possible exception of the T9, so far none of the people alerted to children on the ground floor of block 5 would have known that these children would be left alone and vulnerable.
On 3rd May 2007, Stephen Carpenter and wife would take their two children with them to the Tapas restaurant. Rajinder Balu and Neil Berry left children in 606 being supervised by wives while they went to the Tapas restaurant to get a take-awy. People in Portugal found the concept of leaving young children alone on a regular basis unusual. There were 11 children from 8 families using the night crèche that evening. With the exception of the T9, there’s no evidence that people in the Ocean Club were used to children being left alone at dinner time.
Some of the Tapas restaurant booking forms are in the PJ files. The forms name the persons involved, whether they are Mark Warner guests, the apartments they are staying in, the total number of people in the group, and the table number.
Gonçalo Amaral says in ‘A Verdade Da Mentira’ “During the parents’ dinner, the children again sleep alone. A restaurant employee notes on the reception register that certain members of the group get up in turn to go and make sure they are OK.”
Kate McCann says in ‘Madeleine’ “It wasn’t until a year later, when I was combing through the Portuguese police files, that I discovered that the note requesting our block booking was written in a staff message book, which sat on a desk at the pool reception for most of the day. This book was by definition accessible to all staff and, albeit unintentionally, probably to guests and visitors, too. To my horror, I saw that, no doubt in all innocence and simply to explain why she was bending the rules a bit, the receptionist had added the reason for our request: we wanted to eat close to our apartments as we were leaving our young children alone there and checking on them intermittently.”
This note in not in the PJ files that are in the public domain. Either Kate has a different copy of the PJ files or it looks like her source is actually Amaral’s book.
This note, if it exists, is extremely important. It provides an early connection between the T9, their location in block 5, and unattended children.
Whether accessible by guests or not, it brings three further actors onto the scene. The first is the person who accepted the block booking, and understood the reason. Ditto anyone in Tapas reception who read the message book.
The second is the evening shift in the Tapas restaurant, whose hours were normally 16:00 to 24:00, according to the booking forms. This means they started before the children’s high tea occurred every day. At this point there is now a perfect recipe linking the children who attended high tea (the McCanns) with parents who left them unattended (the McCanns) with apartment 5A.
Apart from the note, the evening shift was treated to two sets of T9 parents testing out baby monitors on Sunday 29th April.
The third group the note brings to the scene is the day shift at the Tapas restaurant. In general, they worked 09:30 to 18:00, so they were also present when high tea was being served. Whilst they could have seen Madeleine each day, there is no particular reason to believe they were aware of unattended children nearby, unless the note existed and they had seen it. A single person from the day shift rotated to the evening shift twice a week, once on Tuesday 1st and again on Friday 4th.
A final possible group with opportunity is anyone who could monitor the rear of block 5 over a period of time long enough to work out that the McCann children were being left unattended, and presumably that the McCanns were using the patio door in the evening, meaning that 5A was particularly vulnerable.
There are several ways to track Madeleine back to apartment 5A. Anyone who worked in 24 hour reception fits the bill. Possibly the link was made by the records for the Mini Club, putting Madeleine in 5A. Possibly it was a stage harder, having to go to the Tapas area and wait for Madeleine to exit high tea before trailing her. In these scenarios, the elements to show a regular booking at the Tapas restaurant plus the McCanns using the patio door are missing. That is, someone trailing Madeleine would have to observe both elements in a pattern.
Madeleine could be trailed in other ways, but these are less likely. Follow her from the beach to the 24-hour reception, wait and trail her to high tea in the Tapas restaurant, trail her to apartment 5A, then watch long enough to note regular evening meals in the Tapas restaurant plus the McCanns using the patio doors.
A simpler, therefore more plausible, scenario, is that someone to the east of apartment 5A saw a person entering the flat in the evening via the patio doors, and recognised an opportunity for crime. The west end of block 6 appears to fit this bill, as does the housing to the south of block 6.
Assuming this analysis of opportunity is reasonably accurate, then a scenario of a planned abduction by a lone wolf who is not part of the groups identified above has just hit the buffers. At the minimum, such an external agent would need to have insider information to pull off the feat, with a very short time devise a plan.