There were two tales of panic in Luz, yesterday, Sunday 26 May 2007.
The first took place at St James. This is a complex immediately to the north of the June 2014 Scotland Yard dig.
The tale, as I have heard it, goes as follows.
A family were renting an apartment in St James, which is quite a large complex, the flats are probably 4-star, the build has one large swimming pool for adults, a second large pool for children, and its own on-site children’s playing area.
The family was in their flat enjoying the visit. After an extended period of time, the mother became aware that her 3 year old daughter had not been seen for a considerable while, so she started to search the flat for her, calling out as she went. This produced no results.
The parents went into a panic. They got photographs of the little girl and went out into the streets of Luz stopping cars, showing the photographs and asking if anyone had seen her. This also produced no results.
Quickly the matter was escalated to the GNR, and the GNR were quick to arrive on the scene.
Now here they decided to do what the Madeleine responders did. They went to the flat, and rather than sealing it off as a crime scene, the flat was searched again for the missing girl.
The girl was found, in her bed, with the bed covers over her head.
The precise sequence of events is far from clear. It may be that the girl thought her Mum was playing hide and seek when her name was called. It may be that she then wandered out of her bedroom and found the flat deserted as the parents scoured the streets of Luz for her, and then sought refuge under the covers of her bed.
Whatever happened in the interim, the panic started, then it subsided.
The second tale of panic in Luz happened later that same day. The weather was exceedingly hot and my grandson came up to visit us, to have a swim in the pool and a play in the garden. Then the child announced that he wanted an ‘adventure’, which is his way of saying he wanted to explore the country tracks with me around where I live. Forget trees or bushes, at this time of the year the weeds are perhaps 8 feet tall, going well above my head, but basically making the scrub a jungle for someone who is 4½ years old.
We were walking around the northern perimeter of Luz, and just across the way I could see the white-washed village of Espiche. So, I tried to get him to say ‘Espiche’, so he would learn a little. I asked him if he could say ‘Espiche’ and he replied that he could. I asked him to actually say ‘Espiche’, and he dug his heels in. He repeated that he could say ‘Espiche’, but no amount of coaxing was going to persuade him to actually say the word.
During this minor contretemps with the little one, a bit of panic set in on my part. Please scrutinise the following photo (taken 27 July 2015) to see why.
It is a photo of a pretty white-washed village in Portugal, as it happens, Espiche. But can you see that enormous pole thing with bits either side? That is a phone mast. It is just to the south of Espiche, and it is the first time I realised there was a phone mast to the south of Espiche. This was a potential game-changer with respect to breaking down the phone traffic in May 2007. Panic – a phone mast just to the south of Espiche!
The adventure I was having with my grandson continued for some time. He is 4½ and does not understand ‘we need to sprint home because there is something I need to check in the Madeleine McCann case’.
We got home, and talked briefly to the elders about the adventure. The poor horsey staked out in the blazing sun. The two sailboats in a pristine blue sea of the coast of Luz. The visitors to the Simple Minds villa who had waved to us as they headed out in a convoy of cars for their evening entertainment.
With the pleasantries over it was time to load up Google Earth and Google streetview and check out the Espiche phone mast. These show that the Espiche mast did not exist when Madeleine disappeared. It’s new.
The second panic of the day in Luz was over.