Madeleine – Michael Havis on Smithman

The Daily Star article in question is at The article was penned by reporter Michael Havis.

The article is a photo essay about the view seen by the Smith family as they encountered a man carrying a child at around 10 pm on 3rd May 2007, in Primary School Street and 25th April Street, as they made their way home from Kelly’s bar to their apartment in the Estrela da Luz complex.

It is not meant to be a comprehensive examination of the Smith sighting. It is intended to give a flavour of the difficulties faced by the Smiths, and to evaluate the worth of the Smithman e-fits. Please bear in mind that Paulo Ribeiro, one of the four men made arguidos in July 2014, was given this status at least partly on the basis that he allegedly resembled one of these e-fits, so it is not a trivial matter.

Here is the photo of the encounter, taken from the PJ Files.

The person in the lead was Peter Smith. He describes a man seen face-on, not in side profile. To emulate this our ‘Smithman’ took 2 or 3 steps back from the crossing point, as did Mr Havis. The result is face-on.

‘Smithman’s’ face is probably too dark, but it illustrates the issue. There is a single light source some way distant, to the man’s rear and left, thus putting the man’s face in shadows.

The next person to pass Smithman was Martin Smith, beside LuzDoc. Martin’s view was face-on, not profile, so again the 2-3 paces technique was used to emulate this.

This is a more accurate depiction of what the human eyeball can see. However, it is plain that picking up accurate facial details is difficult.

The third person to pass Smithman was Aoife Smith. The third photo emulates what Aoife would have seen, if Smithman had turned to his left and headed along 25 April Street.

She would have seen Smithman in profile, or possibly even from behind. She would have been in no doubt that the man was heading along 25th April Street. But that is not what happened. Aoife looked to her left, and saw the man full-face, coming towards her on 25 April Street. She did not know if he continued in the same direction, or went down the Lane of Little Stairs, the one she had just come up.

Mr Havis then covered the difficulty of constructing e-fits many months after the event, even if the Smiths got a good view of something significant. In reality, they got a poor view of something that seemed quite insignificant at the time.

There is a 4th photo in the sequence, depicting what Aoife actually saw, as opposed to what Aoife did not see. Daily Star articles are not noted for being lengthy. Perhaps Mr Havis is keeping that for a second article on the Smithman sighting.

In the past, I have tried to emulate a what-the-Smiths-saw photo-set before, without much success. It requires that one can turn the flash off on one’s camera, a technique I mastered only a few moths ago. It also requires that one can rustle up a model to play the part of Smithman. You just don’t get the proper flavour otherwise. The Madeleine McCann story is pretty much toxic in Luz, so there is little chance of someone role-playing Smithman.

Mr Havis’ photos were taken at around 10.15 pm to 10.20 pm on 3 May 2017. Mr Havis finished his interview with Father Haynes Hubbard at the 10th anniversary vigil in Luz at around 10.10 pm outside St Vincent’s, then a quick scuttle was required to get to the Smithman site,

The photos are not perfect. Perfection would require a professional photographer, which Mr Havis is not. He is a reporter who takes his own photographs. I am not aware of any better photos to illustrate the lighting issues.

There is a quote in the article to the effect that a local source believes Smithman is Portuguese and innocent.

(but that is not how he is depicted). That local source is me. I am not going to explain why in this article, as it would divert from Mr Havis’ photo essay.


10 thoughts on “Madeleine – Michael Havis on Smithman

  1. I guessed you were the local source, who else ?, though I wondered how you could be so affirmative. In spite of referring to you, which could be a clever idea, Mr Havis’ opinion’s chances of success are extremely scare (for reasons other than Smithman being an innocent Portuguese father).

  2. Anne,

    You would need to visit the site to understand fully, but here is the text version.

    I think he may be Portuguese because – he wasn’t using the OC creche – he was coming from a typically Portuguese part of Luz and heading to a typically Portuguese part of Luz (rare) – he was au fait with the back streets of Luz (granted the Smiths were too).

    I think he is innocent because – due to the layout of Primary School Street and the Lane of Little Stairs, he could see all 9 of the Smiths long before he passed any – he had ample opportunity to go left or right without arousing suspicion – he chose to pass all 9 – he did not obscure his features – the pyjamas don’t seem to match Madeleine’s.

    Now if you mean the e-fits, research shows there is seldom a reliable match if constructed just 3 days after a brief encounter. The best estimate I have for these is Sep 2008, or 16 months after. The interesting question is why OG would use them.

  3. I agree on this : why would OG use the e-fits after so many years ? The fact they’re 2 turns them unproductive. Would you be able to describe someone you had no reason to remember ? I wouldn’t, even the day after ! But in fact you brain catches things that remain unconscious, likely because they have no utility. I trust Martin Smith and his wife (why would they lie ?) when the TV spot sort of extracted memory. Now that means not that GMC was Smithman, but that the carrier’s figure was similar to GMC’s one.
    He turned his head when spoken to. It seems that it is the main reason why they remembered the scene, as it is so unexpected.
    How do you know from where was Smithman coming ? And where he was going ?
    Can you find a plausible motive for a local Portuguese father not stepping forward to say “don’t lose time with me !” You should now be aware of how much the Portuguese worship kids. You should also be aware that Portuguese are always wrapping their kids in half a dozen blankets.
    How do you know that the pyjamas didn’t match Madeleine’s ? We don’t know as a fact what MMC had on.
    How do you explain Smithman’s zigzags ?
    Last but not least : don’t you think that if a child matching so much Madeleine in age, colour of hair and skin, lived in PDL in a Portuguese family nobody would have noticed ?

    Have you experimented with 3 groups of people separated by a couple of meters from each other ?
    I’ve no doubt that he heard them, but he couldn’t see all nor guess how they were walking.

    • Anne,

      I had a meeting recently with a person I consider to be of importance in the case. We were talking together for just under an hour. I could give a decent physical description, plus style of talking and personal details. But I doubt that I could construct an e-fit after a gap of less than 2 days.

      Is Smithman’s build similar to Gerry’s? That is an interesting thought. I will need to revisit the statements to check. This point has been discussed recently on MoJ, including whether the build of Smithman was capable of being determined in that sighting.

      When spoken to … AFAIK none of ‘Mary spoke to him’, ‘he turned his head’, or ‘he zig-zagged’ come from the PJ-FIles. In the PJ-Files, the man’s conduct was 100% normal. I assume ‘Mary spoke’, ‘zig-zagged’, ‘turned head’ came from media reports. If so, the PJ-Files are at odds with the media. I prefer to run with the PJ-Files.

      Where was Smithman coming from? I don’t know the precise location, otherwise this sighting would be solved. All I can say is that when spotted by the Smiths, his recent path was from a Portuguese part of Luz.

      Ditto where Smithman appears to have been going. He could have walked through that to a typically non-Portuguese part. But my opinion is shaped by the information we have, not what we don’t have.

      A Portuguese father not stepping forward … I do not know when Smithman emerged in Portuguese media nor how he was described. I know that on 13 Oct 2013 he was described in Portuguese media as Scotland Yard’s NEW CHIEF SUSPECT, along with the dodgy e-fits.

      Our LHD car got arrested months back, because it had been in Portugal for too long without officially being imported. One of the options we were given was that it had to be taken out of Portugal. So we sold the car (cheaply) and it was taken to Spain. Then the new owner had all the documentation changed into his name. Then for some reason, he took the new documentation to Faro PJ, where they promptly confiscated the documentation. Faro PJ is insisting that they will not release the documentation until my partner goes to the PJ station in Faro to do …… what?

      I don’t see anyone, Portuguese or otherwise, voluntarily sticking his head into the NEW CHIEF SUSPECT noose.

      Blankets … I have not seen any child carried around at 10 pm, which does not help. I guess I need to check again whether Smithman was wrapped up.

      Pyjamas … The Eeyore pyjamas are as factual as we get. The Smith descriptions may be more wobbly.

      Portuguese Madeleine … I have no reason to believe Smithman lived in Luz. In the first week in May, Luz gets a lot of visitors from Lisbon and Porto, re the 1st May Bank Holiday.

      Recreating the sighting accurately … If you and 8 friends wish to visit Luz, please let me know and we can do a reconstruction. I will be Smithman. As interesting as this might be, it isn’t required. All one has to do is go to the ‘top’ of Rua da Escola Primária, under similar conditions and check it. I have done that, and I could see everyone who entered Travessa das Escadinhas, as soon as they got onto it at the bottom.

      Unless Smithman was nearly blind, he could see all 9 of the Smiths heading towards him, long before they passed.


      • Sil, I was in Escola Primaria and couldn’t see the bottom of the Escadinhas, and, no, I’m not blind (yet).
        Never mind, between the sighting by one person of the bottom of Eeyore pyjamas and the sighting by 9 persons of a 3 years old girl, medium blond, hair on shoulders, white skin, I wouldn’t hesitate about the most plausible one.
        No Portuguese child would have been carried without at least a blanket. Even Crecheman, not a Portuguese, had his child wrapped in a blanket (that was exhibited by Redwood).
        I’ve heard of the Smith family in June 2007, likely on TV. I was surprised that no consequences were drawn from this news, which explains that the Portuguese forgot about it.
        I can’t figure out that a gentleman like MS would deliberately introduce doubts without a good reason to do it. Smithman had something in common with GMC and as they didn’t see his face, it has to be his figure (he’s described as a fit person).
        Can you be more specific about the “Portuguese part of Luz”. Is there a German one, a Dutch one ? I had no idea that Luz’ parts were so well discriminated.
        It is true that it’s not in the PJ Files that Mary S said “Is she sleeping ?” without getting any answer. It hasn’t been refuted by MS though, much later, in September, and it is very plausible. I for the moment walk a dog in a public garden, not very much illuminated, when strolling I can see the figures, recognize the dogs, but I don’t see the faces. Nobody, absolutely nobody crosses my way without saying at least “hi”. It is common practice, also in France, at night in a silent place. Of course Mary could see that the child was sleeping, her question was purely rhetorical !

        If you knew why the new owner of your car took the new document to Faro PJ, perhaps you would understand what happened.

  4. Anne,

    Your comment has indented to a level that the system does not permit me to reply directly, but this is about Smithman.

    I have conducted multiple experiments re the Smithman sighting, but here are the two that are most relevant to your comment.

    1. At night, under lighting conditions replicating the Smith sighting, I stood in the middle of Rua da Escola Primária at the precise point where Smithman passed Peter Smith. And then I waited for someone to come up or go down Travessa das Escadinhas. At that time of evening, it was pedestrians coming up TdE. I saw more than one group – an adult couple and a family with young children.

    These emerged at the corner of Fernando’s café and TdE and I could see them as soon as they turned the corner.

    I was particularly interested in whether I could see them all the way up, which I could, and whether I could see children of around 4 or 6 all the way up, which I could.

    I could not be sure whether the tree foliage at the time emulated the Smith sighting, because I am a mere mortal.

    2. In daylight, I checked the view from the bottom to where Smithman passed Peter. Due to a building at the junction of 25 de Abril and RdEP, I would not have been able to see Peter on the RHS, but I could see the centre and LHS of RdEP. This check is not as important as 1, because the Smiths were simply strolling home after a night out, not checking on pedestrians.

    Moving on, I had very little interest in the case until OG dug up central Luz, so your knowledge of what developed in 2007 far exceeds mine. If the Smith sighting emerged in June 2007, it is difficult to know what could be made of it. There was an arguido, there were no e-fits. I can’t see anyone volunteering that he was Smithman, even if he knew about the event.

    As to MS, there are a number of instances of memory becoming muddled some time after the event. MS seems to think that in Sep 2007, Gerry carried Sean down aircraft landing stairs in an awkward manner. I think Gerry carried Sean off that airplane in a 100% normal manner.

    Neil Berry, in his UK statement, thinks that he was in apartment 4G, when he was actually in 606. Fortunately, his statement does not match 4G but does match 606. So why think 4G? Saturation media coverage that the McCanns were in 4G in May and June. This is how false memories are built.

    Turning to the nature of Luz, it is 95% UK and Ireland. There are no German or Dutch enclaves, because there are not enough Germans or Dutch in Luz.

    That leaves Portuguese, of which there are 3 kinds in Luz. First, people who have inherited property that was built in Luz many decades ago. Typically these have a front door that opens directly on to the road with no pavement at all. And they fly Portuguese flags, which adds some colour and character. Second, those who prefer to use apartment blocks where there is no garden to pay for. Third, those who live and work here all year round, typically doing jobs that are not particularly well-paid. And looking for accommodation that fits with what they earn. There is a villa on Rua do Cemitério beside Estrela that I thought was abandoned, but it’s not. One of the people who works in the talho in Baptista lives there with his girlfriend and her parents. Typical Portuguese.

    Moving on again, if you have any male friends or contacts who were in Portugal on the evening of 3 May 2007, I would be interested to find out what they were doing that evening. It is an unturned stone. It matters not a jot if they were in Lisbon, Porto, the Azores or whatever, just that they were in Portugal, and what they were doing.

    Finally, my last visitor is considering coming out again in November. You might consider a visit for a few days. We can haggle over Smithman. And if you want, I can give you a tour of the Portuguese parts of Luz, which are really quite interesting.

    We now have a guest bedroom in Portelas, and I would offer you that, but we do not yet have a guest bed. Ouch! That is way down on our list of priorities.

    Best wishes from the sunny south!

  5. SIL,
    I’m curious, why should it be a “male” friend who was in Portugal on May 3rd ? I can think of a lot of friends or acquaintances who were somewhere in Portugal then, but I’m sure none of them can remember what s/he was doing and precisely where s/he stood when hearing the news of MMC missing. I learned of it through my kids who watched TV, something I very rarely did. The unique point that interested them was that their ignored little country suddenly was in the news. As soon as I learned that the flat’s door was open, I was convinced that the child had gone out in search of her parents (perhaps what I would have done, as a little girl), was crushed by a car and deeply buried by somebody who just couldn’t face reality. Then I stopped thinking of that case until the breaking news of a whole family crossing the abductor on the way to the beach. I found that extraordinary, you don’t expect abductors to abduct without a car ! By then my kids stopped being interested in reckoning that Portugal could have a media existence and my news’ source vanished… Until I went to Paris in September and friends were saying that the parents had concealed the child’s death and body. I vaguely protested, but back to Portugal started to investigate by myself.
    I think that the street lighting has changed since 2007. I didn’t have the experience that you describe.
    About the zigzaging, Smithman was getting down Escola Primaria on his left side of the street. Peter S and his wife were getting up on their right side of the street, but not on the pavement. Smithman would have been expected to pass them on his right/their right, instead of that he went to the middle of the street and passed them on their left/his left. This move could have meant that he intended to turn right in 25 de Abril, but, no, after passing MS and his wife at the corner, he turned left. That’s what I called a “zigzag”.
    I agree with you and actually everybody that GMC was carrying his son in the usual way. But you should recall that it was in May that MS noted the clumsy way of carrying (the little girl). He doesn’t expressly said it in September, but I understand that this clumsy way aroused then a certain feeling that because of some stimulus came back to his mind when he saw GMC getting out of the plane.
    I had a long talk with a first aid helper, I asked how they carried children harmed in a disaster, or in a coma or dead. He told me it was quite difficult to carry a dead child in the normal way, because there’s no muscular tension any more and gravity plainly rules, whereas the muscles of a child in a coma are still a bit tense. Hence my hypothesis that the uncomfortable way observed by MS was in fact not due to the carrier’s lack of carrying experience.
    Many thanks for offering your guest room even without a bed ! I’m stuck with my daughter’s whippet until mid-December.
    Regards from the sunny north !

  6. Anne,

    If the lighting in RdEP or TdE has changed then all bets are off.

    To me, the lighting looks original, but since I heaved up in Luz in 2012 I simply cannot be sure.

    Please note, daughter’s whippets are welcome here. We have a friendly English Staff, a friendly English pug, a resident dog-walker, and perhaps an acre of land.

    The specification of male is because the likely ‘activities’ on 1, 2, and 3 May are typically male. I know about the British end, but I have not cracked the Portuguese end, and that gap is important.

    Best wishes from the sunny south!

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