Madeleine v the GNR on 3 May 2007

There was an awful lot happening on 3 May 2007 in Portugal that appears to have little relevance to Madeleine’s disappearance, though the reality is otherwise. This post examines a single one of them – the ability of the GNR to put boots on ground in Luz that evening. More accurately, how many patrol cars could the GNR deploy from Lagos at the time Madeleine went missing?

The PJ Files show that at the time the Ocean Club called the GNR in Lagos, 10.41pm, a GNR response unit was in Odiáxere, covering a reported theft, presumably a break-in. This seemingly delayed the patrol unit from hot-footing it to Luz while they handled the Odiáxere incident. I have no information to offer on the wording of the call from the Ocean Club to the GNR station in Lagos, nor the wording of the radio call from the GNR station in Lagos to the patrol car in Odiáxere. So I cannot evaluate the seriousness or even precise timing of that radio call. I certainly don’t know whether the message was ‘missing child’ or ‘abducted child’.

One of the key things that happened in Portugal on 3 May 2007, and I believe it to be pure coincidence, was that it was the 96th anniversary of the founding of the GNR. In Portugal, the PSP are the first responders to an incident in a town (such as Lagos) or a city. The more rural areas, such as Luz, are covered by the GNR, even though the local GNR station was in the town of Lagos.

Odiáxere is considered rural, so the incident there was responded to by the GNR of Lagos. Luz is considered rural, so Madeleine’s disappearance was first responded to by a unit of the GNR from Lagos.

However on this day of 3 May 2007 the GNR had been out in force to commemorate the 96th anniversary of their founding. Here is a photo from the procession in Lisbon. The GNR do not police Lisbon, and you can see from the dress uniform this was not a normal day at work.


While the march-past is impressive, I much prefer this second photo, because there is a relevant tale behind it. The dog honoured that day was Margarida. She was about 10 years old and on 3 May 2007 she was awarded a special medal for its efforts in the police dog unit of Queluz. Margarida was a Labrador, the breed used by the GNR to search for drugs and missing people, while Alsations were normally used as patrol dogs. She was too old to work and had developed cataracts in her eyes.


Dogs from the Queluz unit would be deployed on the Madeleine case on 4 May 2007.

I have no reason whatsoever to presume the Lisbon celebration involved GNR officers from the Algarve. It almost certainly involved the GNR dog unit from Queluz in Lisbon.

This Dec 2007 report (in Portuguese) covers the use of dogs in particular, and the set-up of the GNR’s Escola Prática, where GNR training is carried out.


Three handlers and 4 dogs from Queluz arrived in Luz around 8am on 4 May and immediately began searching for Madeleine. These search and rescue dogs were considered to be more appropriate for the task than dogs already deployed from Portimão, which were considered to be patrol dogs.

As 3 May 2007 was the 9th anniversary of the GNR, it was also celebrated on the Algarve. Eloise Walton of the Portugal Resident reported on the GNR event in Albufeira at The event lasted from 9.30am to 6pm. This appears to have been the first time the anniversary was celebrated on the Algarve, and it seemed to feature mainly GNR officers stationed in Albufeira. I have no information that officers from the GNR in Lagos participated. However, the Portugal Resident report says two dog teams, one from Albufeira and one from Portimão, delighted the crowds.

The only photo I can find of the Albufeira GNR event is the extremely poor quality one in the Portugal Resident link.

It seems that a single GNR car was responding on the evening of 3 May 2007. I cannot tell if this was normal practice. I cannot tell if the message transmitted to the GNR at Lagos was sufficiently urgent about Madeleine’s disappearance. And I cannot tell if the 96th anniversary of the GNR affected the subsequent response.


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