Madeleine v Luz graffiti 1

On 7 May 2009, Channel 4 aired a documentary entitled ‘Madeleine was here’. It is at in 5 parts.

I wanted to do a trio of stories about graffiti in Luz relating to the case, and this documentary showed Gerry entering Luz and passing a Madeleine billboard that had been defaced with white paint.

Here is a photo from the Scottish Sun, from mid-April 2009.


I wondered if this was the advertising hoarding immediately to the east of Luz, so I did a quick check in Google Streetview. It wasn’t. The details don’t match. I was looking for a billboard with four double legs and a telephone pole beside it, plus a wire mesh fence and an odd wooden part on the right hand side.

I thought that would be easy to find but I simply could not nail it. There are several billboards on the Luz to Lagos old road, just none that match. So I tried hunting along to entrance to Luz from the north near Espiche. That drew another blank. I tried the Luz to Burgau route, and came up with nothing.

I pondered if the fact that I was using the current StreetView, dated July 2014, was the issue. According to the Portugal Resident, Gerry McCann had visited Luz on 4 Apr 2009, to be joined by Jane Tanner and Matthew Oldfield. Kate McCann could not face the trip. The trio from the Tapas 9 were there to give advice to actors about the reconstruction of the evening., for the documentary.

So I decided to crank StreetView back its earliest setting of Aug 2009. As that was just 5 months after Gerry’s visit, I was now confident I would locate the billboard, but once more I came up empty handed. I could not see how this could be possible.

I remembered seeing it in the documentary as Gerry was driven past it, so I re-watched ‘Madeleine was here’. The billboard was definitely located on the Lagos-Luz old road, east of Luz. The scene is in part 3 of the YouTube link.

I simply could not fathom what was going wrong, so I decided to try to locate it a different way. I noted some of the distinctive features showing up shortly before Gerry was driven past, and finally, I found the location.

Here is a photo of what the billboard site looked like in Aug 2009.


The mystery was solved. Everything appearing in the documentary matches the Aug 2009 photo, but the billboard is gone. It is an ex-billboard.

The following photo is from July 14, and it had not reappeared.


The site is just under 1,500 metres ( nearly a mile) from the Ocean Club 24 hour reception, nearly at the Valverde camp site. I doubt anybody walked that distance from Luz with a can of paint in order to deface the poster, so another solution is required.

I would characterise the vandalism as high on anger, low on intelligence, and low on an understanding of how the media works.

The defaced billboard was always going to get column inches in the UK press, and Clarence Mitchell added his comments about poor taste. “Where is the humanity in daubing the posters with paint?” Luz was always going to be on the end of a beating.

I have seen it suggested that it might have been done by the youth of Luz. I don’t actually know who did it, but I would be surprised if that was the answer. Like graffiti artists everywhere, the youths of Luz take a bit of pride in their art, and probably seem themselves as the next Banksy.

The person carrying out this piece of vandalism is probably not Portuguese. The number on the poster is 800 814 028. It is still up on the Portuguese part of the Find Madeleine website. I happens to a freephone number. 800 is the prefix for freephone numbers in Portugal. If the vandal was trying to prevent calls to the Find Madeleine effort, the part of the phone number to obscure would have been some or all of the last 6 digits. It suggests the miscreant was not au fait with the Portuguese telephone system.

According to a Telegraph report dated 26 Mar 2009 “Around 10,000 leaflets are being handed out and posted through letterboxes in Praia da Luz and the nearby towns of Lagos and Burgau. The Algarve campaign is being backed by billboards, posters and advertising on local buses.” And “Several posters featuring the youngster’s face have been torn down in Praia da Luz.”

Precisely what this campaign was intended to achieve, other than anger the locals, is a bit of a mystery. I would class it as being low on PR nous. The leaflets seem to be small versions of the large billboard that was defaced.

Is there any particular reason why the locals might be angry? The Scottish Sun had this information in April 2009. “Emotions are especially high at the Ocean Club complex from where she disappeared, where 21 employees have been sacked due to a downturn in trade.

The first line in the letters of dismissal blamed negative publicity caused by Maddie vanishing. Some workers heckled dad Gerry McCann, 40, during his recent surprise visit to film a reconstruction of events. Others are said to be considering legal action against the family for loss of income.

A middle-aged barmaid at the development’s empty tapas bar — which should be bustling with British tourists during the Easter holidays — revealed she is among those being let go on May 9.”

9 May 2009, two days after ‘Madeleine was here’ would air on TV. I wonder how popular it was with those who would soon lose their jobs?

The Scottish Sun continued “Even Ocean Club staff who avoided redundancy fear their jobs will go at the end of the summer. The management company has allegedly warned it may be forced to pull out of the resort if business does not improve.”

Things were very definitely not Shining In Luz.

I’d like to finish off with a final photo. It is the interior of O Atlantico, a Portuguese restaurant to the south of the church.


If you look at the front window you can see an example of what the locals were doing to promote the search for Madeleine. Mind you, that was in June 2007, before the tide had turned.


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