Matthew Oldfield – phone data #1

I have no interest in using the Tapas 9 phone data to analyse their movements. The PJ files have that analysis at

What I am using the Tapas 9 phone data for is to gain an understanding of how the network functioned in the environs of Luz, and from there to determine if Scotland Yard has the ability to move the investigation forward using the phone traffic that is allegedly in their hands.

Heriberto is actively pursuing network masts located within Luz. I do not see the point of tackling the same problem, as I am confident Heriberto is capable of producing excellent results, so why duplicate the effort?

Keep tabs on what Heriberto is up to at (If this link does not work for you, change the last 2 letters to the code for your country, or try ‘es’ for España.)

Matthew Oldfield’s phone data is one of the simplest sets possible, but even that illustrates a challenge.

Matthew Oldfield was on TNM only, which makes understanding it easier. Or does it? Heriberto is of the opinion that each mobile operator (Optimus, TMN, Vodaphone) connected to only its own customers. This makes sense. However, Heriberto then states that Kate’s phone company had an agreement that her phone could connect to Optimus and TMN, presumably as both turn up in her records.

Let me summarise. The analyst in the JP files says Matthew connected to TMN only. He should be correct, given that his sources were Optimus, TMN and Vodaphone.

However, in the entry that interests me, the TMN record says Matthew’s phone was in contact with Luz 3. Optimus has a 3-lobe mast on the Luz water tower. TMN has a 2 lobe mast on 2 Primeiro de Maio. From this, I conclude that although the data came from TMN, it recorded that Matthew connected through the Optimus mast on the water tower.

Hopefully, Scotland Yard has details from the phone companies to clarify this potential source of misinformation.

On 7 May 2007, Matthew connected with Luz 3 (12:04:35), then very rapidly connected with Budens (12:06:07), then very rapidly reconnected with Luz 3 (12:06:55).

The graphic below connects the Optimus mast on the water tower in Luz to a mast near Budens. If you take Heriberto’s data on the TMN phone mast on top of 2 Primeiro de Maio, you get a remarkably similar picture, despite the fact that the TMN mast has only 2 lobes.

2007 Matthew Oldfield

Here is my first assumption. The mast I have located in Budens is the TMN (or Optimus) mast called Budens. This is logical, given that the range of masts is rated as 5km to 8km when in countryside, and given that the two masts are 8km apart. Mapping a 5km radius around both does not lead to any significant black holes (out of range), so this assumption is a reasonable assumption, but it is still an assumption.

Here is my second assumption. Heriberto has published azimuth data for the Optimus tower in Luz. I have assumed that adjacent lobes split the territory evenly between them. This is a rather simplistic assumption. It is more likely that adjacent lobes have a fair degree of overlap with neighbours. It is also a rather major assumption as I don’t know if each lobe has the same power or covers the same range. For the moment, this is a work in progress.

Based on this, the green lines are the boundaries for Luz lobe 3, the one in Matthew’s record.

My third assumption is very risky indeed. On the yellow line from the mast in Luz to the mast in Budens, I have added a yellow dot half way between. I do not have azimuth information for the Budens mast, therefore I do not know if is 2-lobe or 3-lobe, or which way any lobe points. Nor do I have information for the relative ranges of the 2 masts i.e. whether one reaches farther than the other. Half way is a very crude assumption indeed.

Even on that basis, Matthew’s record yields some useful information.

The red dots on the map are the phone masts I have located near Almádena and in Burgau.

There are almost certainly masts missing in or near this map. Salema is mentioned in the phone records, and that is just to the left edge of the map. To the north, Barão São João is large enough that I would expect at least one mast to be nearby.

So, Matthew pings off Luz 3, then Budens, then back to Luz 3 within 2 minutes 20 seconds. How can this be explained?

The reality is that there are several explanations The main scenario that is truly unlikely is that Matthew’s phone was actually in Luz or in Budens at the time. That would require a glitch in the phone records, and these very definitely did happen, but it is the least likely cause.

Next, we have the dead spot explanation. This goes that Matthew had entered a dead spot for TMN, presumably in Luz, and Budens took over for a brief while. I suspect that Luz did have a problem spot, mainly because the largest building in Luz, LuzTur, does not have a mast, and it should be a bit of an obstacle. However, with a TMN mast just south of this, and the water tower to the north-west, any LuzTur dead zone should get filled in without Budens coming into play.

By far the simplest explanation is that Matthew was somewhere between Luz and Budens, quite probably about half-way.

4km from Luz is around 2.5 miles, so it raises the question as to how, on the 7th May 2007, Matthew achieved this. Taxi? Out for a jog? Lift from a friend? By this time, Luz was truly awash with helpers.

There are 2 things that really interest me about this little nugget of information.

I have seen Burgau appear on the phone records for the Tapas 9 frequently. Almádena also turns up a few times. It certainly turns up on Gerry (Optimus and Vodaphone) and Kate’s (Optimus and TMN) records. Given the length of time the McCanns were in the Algarve and the number of trips they made to the west of Luz, it would be strange if Almádena did not turn up.

However, the key point is Burgau and Almádena did not turn up in Matthew’s record (TMN, or possibly Optimus and TMN). Matthew’s records show Luz, Portimão (where the PJ interviews took place) and Budens.

For me, a more critical point is the coverage of the telephone traffic in the possession of Scotland Yard.

The media report suggest Burgau to Lagos. If so, analysing movement to the west of Luz is going to prove incredibly tough. You need out to Budens and Salema to have a decent chance of picking up anything moving to the west.

The other nugget is how much traffic actually passed through Optimus, and through its mast on the Luz water tower. That mast tells you who was in the (very) general vicinity of block 5 (lobe 2), plus whether they then headed north (lobe 1), or went west (lobe 3).

Nearly 8 years ago, the media was telling you that the PJ had all the phone data required to make sense of 3 May 2007, implying that an arrest was an arm’s length away. If you have read all of this post, you should have a fair idea of why Scotland Yard is still struggling on the phone analysis front.


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