The main media report on the Plough and Harrow following Madeleine’s disappearance seems to be an article in the Daily Mail on 27 Dec 2007. Everything else at the time looks like it lifts directly from the Daily Mail. Articles which surface after the recent ITV Exposure on Sir Clement Freud and The Sun article by Antonella Lazzeri also appear to use that Daily Mail article as their basis re the Plough and Harrow.
The Daily Mail report is fairly extensive. It is at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-504606/Madeleine-Private-detectives-hunt-British-barman-known-DJ-Shifty-accused-grooming-age-girl-sex.html
A summary of the story is as follows.
In 2005 Christian Ridout was discovered to be sending obscene texts to a 12-year-old girl. The girl’s mother found out, read the texts and phoned Ridout, threatening to kill him if he went near her girls again.
The Plough and Harrow, a pub/restaurant on Rua Direita in Luz, was run by Tony and Jill Ridout. Christian Ridout worked the bar in the evenings and acted as a DJ. The mother of the girl worked the bar during the day, and Ridout had met the girls at handover time.
The mother says that on the day she phoned Christian Ridout to threaten him, he emptied the Plough till of all its cash and fled to Spain. The day after, the mother went into the Plough and Harrow and resigned. Ridout’s car was later found at Valencia airport.
The mother reported the incident to the PJ in Portimão.
The Daily Mail story contains other elements that may be embellishments. For example, the mother is supposed to have checked with the PJ shortly before Madeleine disappeared to be told that the PJ had not located Christian Ridout. Another was that Luz locals were aware of the incident, and had informed the PJ at the time that Madeleine disappeared.
The Daily Mail article also seems to be the first to use the nickname “Plough and paedophile” for the Plough and Harrow, so this lurid moniker dates back to not later than Dec 2007.
The article ends with Christian’s mother Jill saying that she hadn’t seen her son for two years i.e. since he fled abroad.
When the PJ Files were put on public release, they were supposed to have been purged of all references to sex offenders, due to the rights of individuals in Portuguese Law. Some references escaped the censor and the entry pertinent to this tale is at http://www.mccannpjfiles.co.uk/PJ/SEX_OFFENDERS_INFORMATION.htm
“4 May 2007 Inspectors António Simão and Carlos Gomes
(Afterwards and) taking into account document 93/05.4 JAPTM relating to child abuse, Mr C Ridout an English man was investigated, who had fled from justice to an unknown destination and that his mother and stepfather own a bar called the Plow and Arrow (arco e seta) on the main road of Luz, some 150 metres from the site of the events and it was thought important to establish whether this individual had been present in the region on the date of the events.
The man’s stepfather said that his wife was in England and that her son C Ridout since the facts that had led to him being included in the document had not returned to Portugal and stated that he was working in Iraq as a photographer.”
This entry is interesting, in that it mentions document 93/05.4 JAPTM as relating to child abuse. This could be one drawn up that day if the public had reported the Ridout incident, or it could relate to the 2005 record the mother claims was made.
Another point to note is that however the PJ latched onto this information, they were quick to check it – 4 May 2007.
And the Inspectors refer to their contact as Ridout’s stepfather. Not father, but stepfather.
Here is a photo of the entrance to the Plough and Harrow. Note in Portuguese it is “O Arado & O Rastelo” which is The Plough and Ripple, but it may be a set phrase in Portuguese for plough and harrow.
Gonçalo Amaral covers this diligence by Inspectors Simão and Gomes in chapter 3 of “A Verdade da Mentira”. Chapter 3 is about the first 72 hours of the investigation, and the following is about an activity on 4 May 2007.
“A SUSPECT WHO, VERY QUICKLY ISN’T; THE SEARCHES CONTINUE
While we continue to gather statements from resort employees, we are informed of the presence in the region of an individual suspected of abusing children. Of British nationality, he would frequent a pub situated 150 metres from Madeleine’s apartment. In 2005, sought by the police in his own country, he fled abroad and the English authorities had then lost track of him. But we discover that the pub in question doesn’t exist any more, and that the information that the man is in the area has no basis in fact. His step-father, contacted by the police, states that he is currently in Iraq, information later confirmed by the British police.”
This nails the information to Christian Ridout. Again we have a diligence carried out on 4 May 2007, a stepfather, a location of Iraq, and a pub located 150m from Madeleine’s apartment.
Oddly, Amaral states the pub no longer exists, which the Plough and Harrow definitely did, and it is the obvious contact point for the PJ and Ridout’s step-father.
Customers describe the Plough and Harrow as follows. “A nice spacious ‘bit of England’ type restaurant. A pretty substantial terrace (complete with a small fish pond). A good varied, frequently changing, mainly English style menu. Very popular Sunday lunches (need to book early). Draught IPA ( properly stored in a cooled cellar). Karaoke Saturday nights.”
And this comment comes from TripAdvisor. “From the moment you enter the Plough & Harrow you can feel the friendly atmosphere and if you have a well behaved dog it’s even better. The place is run by Jill with terrific staff and the food is truly superb, especially Sunday lunch. We had shoulder of lamb (and they served a half shoulder each) with loads of vegetables and it was true home cooking.
The town is nearly all English so finding an English bar is easy if that’s what you want but this one stands out from the rest and the prices are reasonable too. If you visit Praia da Luz give this place a look.”
Here is a photo of the interior from 2006. Make your own mind up about whether it is the sort of place to attract Sir Clement Freud, perhaps for a draught IPA, or whether it looks like a meeting venue for paedophiles?
What happened to the Ridouts and to the Plough and Harrow?
The Plough and Harrow changed hands and in July 2011 re-opened as the Barroca.
I have not heard the story of why the previous proprietors, Jill and Tony Ridout, decided to call it a day at the Plough and Harrow. It was still getting good reviews up to the point it changed hands. Both would have been in their early 60s. And I have no idea what became of them. Possibly theose best placed to answer these questions would be the new people who replaced them.
Christian Ridout has multiple options for where he was located at the time Madeleine disappeared. I have seen Iraq, Spain, and, in a quote attributed to Ridout, London.
I have also seen more than one source suggesting Ridout moved to Los Angeles to earn a living as a photographer there. Perhaps the most reliable source that he is in the US is the website of Michael K Cernyar, at http://www.yourcriminaldefenselawyer.com/attorney_bios.php
Mr Cernyar runs his own attorney business, and claims “Mr. Cernyar is recognized as one of the nation’s prominent defense attorneys. His list of cases includes the defense of Robert Blake, Christian Rideout (in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann in Portugal), Operation Casablanca, and the Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Center.”
Assuming Mr Cernyar is accurate, there seems to be two options. First, UK police managed to locate and put questions to Christian Ridout before the case was archived in 2008. Alternatively, Operation Grange has tracked him down, and put questions to him more recently. Or both, of course.