Madeleine by Helena Machado & Filipe Santos

Helena Machado is (or was) an associate professor in the sociology department of the University of Minho in the north of Portugal.

She has co-authored numerous scientific articles on the status of DNA within the legal system in Portugal. Given that she is both Portuguese and has clearly studied this subject in considerable depth, I have to bow to her expertise.

I have been trying to work out how there could be 3 arguidos in the Madeleine McCann case at this point in time, then combine it with ‘an arguido can be compelled to provide DNA’, and figure out how this case has not been progressed. On my reckoning, one or more of the 3 arguidos should have been matched and charged, or there is no DNA match and the arguido status should have been lifted.

The problem part is that ‘an arguido can be compelled to provide DNA’. Helena Machado has given a better explanation, which is that an arguido can be compelled to provide DNA, if a judge signs an order to this effect.

It is not up to SY or the PJ, it is up to a judge.

As a sociology professor, Helena Machado’s field of expertise is about how Portugal should, ethically, embrace DNA technology.

As a brand, spanking new technology in Portugal it clearly has the potential to solve crimes that previously have escaped punishment. Equally, Professor Machado has written about the concerns that DNA evidence could be ‘planted’ in cases in order to secure convictions where evidence does not otherwise exist.

Helena Machado has also co-authored articles that deal specifically with Madeleine McCann, and that is easy to check on-line.

The following was published in 2009 with co-author Filipe Santos. “Two cases of missing children in Portugal (Joana and Maddie) have recently highlighted the dilemmas and contingencies associated with the technology of “genetic fingerprinting” for forensic purposes in the context of criminal investigations. The purpose of this article is to analyze the popular press’s discourses and representations around forensic genetics in the context of those two highly mediatized criminal investigation cases.”

This appears to be a paper on the difference between popular media’s take on what should happen (more recently replayed in the story of 444 hairs, 432 human, 98 with no result), and the reality of Portuguese technology in 2009 (no national DNA database).

Another article also co-authored in 2009 with Filipe Santos, of Coimbra University, looked at how the Portuguese press had responded to the Madeleine McCann disappearance.

Our analysis is limited to a sample of representative Portuguese newspapers. We found a basic distinction between ‘quality’ and ‘popular’ press which may be related to inherent differences of their market and implicit audiences. A distanced, neutral and reflexive style of the quality press contrasts with the construction of a sensationalistic narrative by the popular press. The latter provided the audience with a daily dose of vicarious participation in a criminal drama which developed into a trial by media, sustained by a rhetoric that encourages the audience to ‘take sides’.”

Does this sound familiar in the Madeleine McCann case?

The key factor for me is that Helena Machado has clarified a central point. SY cannot wade in, state they want someone made an arguido, then force them to provide DNA. It is up to a judge to decide whether DNA can be collected from an arguido or not.

From a current search, it appears that Helena Machado has now taken up a post as a professor in the sociology department of Coimbra University.

Here is Helena and Filipe.

Helena MachadoFilipe Santos University of Coimbra

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7 thoughts on “Madeleine by Helena Machado & Filipe Santos

  1. The Three Arguidos… sounds like a terrible epic novel. Thing is… are they working on those three alone? What about the former non-familial arguidos? Are they certain the culprit is among the Three?

    If you could potentially force DNA sampling from an arguido, and, for argument’s sake, you’re not sure… would you not just arguido the shite out of every suspect? Broad brush the situation… Why not?

    I know how much DNA analysis has improved, but I am still not certain whether anything from G5A has shown itself likely to be from an abductor. Actually, I doubt it. If it had, you’d think the above tactic would apply.

    • Personally, I would broad brush the sh*te, but that is just me. There would be hundreds of arguidos, just for their DNA.

      If I were Nicola Wall, who I am not, the task is simple. How do you, Nicola Wall, resolve this problem?

      From DNA capability in Portugal 2007, or where it is now, I think I would be picking something better.

      A thought for you, as you clearly think through these things.

      Who was in 5A who’s DNA would be innocuous? Who was in 5A who’s DNA would be suspicious?

      • Hi again… that’s a huge question. Damn.

        What you’ve got is a massively compromised scene of the crime. The number of people who traipsed in and out of there that night alone would be massive. But then, just how well were the apartments cleaned?… you could also likely have DNA from previous occupants and friends thereof. So unidentified DNA could be unrelated.

        Innocuous would be the family, the T7, MW employees that had reason to be there (cleaners, those who brought in cots, etc., and those who checked on the night. All the various kinds of police and forensic teams, dog handlers… it’s endless.

        I’ll tell you what I find interesting, though… without mentioning names, and from considering other cases with similar situations… there are cases of people saying they went into G5A, and later saying they didn’t quite go in… that’s maybe due to the disaster of the scene and not wanting to take the credit for that, whether true or not… but perhaps more important is the opposite- when someone who would have had no call to be anywhere near that scene goes in and strolls around to ‘help out’. That’s a handy out if said person’s DNA were to show up.

        That does not prove the guilt of said individual, but it is incredibly suspect, and is actually a classic move by the guilty party in an unsecured scene of the crime.

      • That’s a very decent summary.

        Bucket-loads of folks who had the right to be in 5A but not tested. I’m going to predict that the two maintenance men who fixed the shutter in 5A and showed Kate how to work the washing machine were not tested, just as one example.

        Didn’t Amy Tierney rush in, or am I remembering wrong? Was she tested?

        I am trying to work this from a slightly different angle at the moment. Starting with last years 4 arguidos, then one getting dropped while the other 3 seem to be still under the cosh. Very odd stuff.

  2. Do you have a quotation of Helena Machado about the planting by the PJ of cells for the sake of DNA evidence ?
    Is it a rumour or was there a complaint, an investigation and an arrest ?

  3. Technically, I have no comment, since I do not have evidence either way.

    However, the law in Portugal regarding what one is permitted to say about professionals, (which includes the police, judges, politicians, doctors, lawyers, teachers and quite a few others) is quite strict. It is a no-go area.

    On that basis alone, I would be surprised if Helena Machado said the PJ planted DNA. She was not in the evidence chain as she was not in Coimbra at the time. So I can’t see why she would go out on a limb and antagonise the PJ.

    But as I said, I do not have evidence either way.

  4. Since you wrote “Equally, Professor Machado has written about the concerns that DNA evidence could be ‘planted’ in cases in order to secure convictions where evidence does not otherwise exist.”, I was curious of the facts that led HM to be concerned by that topic.

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