The telephone records from Optimus, TMN and Vodaphone seem to have some bugs in them. Trying to understand the records helps to debug the data and get a better understanding of what was really happening in the phone network.
I have been looking at phone information for Fiona Payne. It appears that Fiona did not take her mobile with her on her first visit to Portugal, covering Madeleine’s disappearance on 3 May 2007. She seems to have been using her husband David’s phone, and one of the two untraced mobiles donated on 4 May 2007.
Eventually, the Paynes left Portugal and went home to England.
Fiona and David Payne returned to Portugal on 29 Jun 2007, and flew out again a few days later.
Fiona’s phone records show 3 entries for 29 Jun 2007 in Luz de Tavira, then 2 in Vila Nova de Cacela, all in quick fire succession, timed around 8:41 AM. These are of the order of 3 seconds apart. Therefore it looks like Fiona had her phone switched off, and when she turned it on again, she got 5 SMS messages on the trot.
Luz, Lagos (where Madeleine disappeared) is far to the west of Faro. Luz de Tavira is to the east of Faro. Vila Nova de Cacela is even further east. Was Fiona on some strange trip towards the Spanish border?
Luz de Tavira and Vila Nova de Cacela are about 20km apart, and the signal flipped from the former to the latter in 5 seconds. Given that our engineer estimates the range of a mast at about 8km, then 2x8km leaves us about 4km short.
Fiona was on Optimus, and one would expect another Optimus mast somewhere in between these two.
To be honest, I was thinking about asking Heriberto if he has a location for an Optimus mast between these two points, then I decided to check the other files first.
David Payne’s first record for 29 Jul 2007 is in Luz (Lagos) at 12:32 (on Optimus).
Gerry McCann’s first record for 29 Jul 2007 is at 8:46 AM in Faro airport. Quite clearly, he is waiting for Fiona and David Payne to emerge. Fiona’s 5 SMS messages at 8:41 now appear to be Fiona turning her phone on in Faro airport while going through the usual airport arrival procedures.
Gerry’s last call in Faro airport is at 9:23 AM. His next is in Montenegro at 9:34. That indicates that Gerry had picked up the Payne’s, the journey to Luz had started, the phone connection was no longer to Faro airport but to another mast around 0.8 miles to the north in Montenegro. The rest of Gerry’s phone contacts are consistent with the party heading back along the A22 to Luz in the western Algarve.
So what is the explanation for the odd Optimus data for Fiona Payne?
Optimus definitely reported a few situations that were impossible in reality. Perhaps these 5 SMS messages were just another Optimus bug.
Perhaps Optimus reported certain events in a rather strange way. Fiona had flown from England to Portugal on the 29th, turned on her phone, and a network or networks was trying to send her SMS messages via Optimus. It is possible that when a cell phone had been switched off and moved, Optimus reported an intermediate mast, rather than the final connection.
In this instance, sufficient records exist for Gerry’s phone to make sense of Fiona’s data.
There may be occasions when a quirk like this happens and it is not possible to resolve it.