Madeleine – Sky special – 2 May 2017

On 2 May 2017, Sky showed ‘Searching for Madeleine’, a special to mark the10th anniversary of the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. The presenter was Martin Brunt, who has followed the case for the 10 years since it began. The studio guest was Colin Sutton, an ex-DCI from Scotland Yard with experience of conducting major investigations.

The fist 10 minutes covered the basics. The holiday, the Tapas zone, the initial response to the incident by Portuguese police.

Sky News on 4 May 2007 ran with the story that a 3 year old British girl was missing on the Algarve. Pedro do Carmo, Deputy Director, Judicial Police, described the initial work as a rescue operation, looking for a child that was missing.

Here Sky hit its first wobbly. It says the apartment was let out twice before it was sealed off for a full forensic examination. The reality is different. The PJ from Portimão tried to collect forensic evidence in the very early hours of 4 May 2007. Irene Trovão, also a local forensic officer, was videoed checking the shutter of the children’s bedroom for fingerprints. And while Gerry and Kate McCann were giving their first witness statements, a forensics duo from Lisbon conducted the major forensic examination on the afternoon of 4 May 2007. The forensics had been done. There was no way to foresee the apartment should be sealed off until Eddie and Keela were deployed.

The centrepiece of the Sky programme was a Home Office report written by Jim Gamble, then head of CEOP, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre.

This documented the many organisations that were involved close to the beginning, and the difficulties this caused. Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary at the time, questioned if Leicestershire Police had the wherewithal to handle this type of investigation. Mr Gamble was asked to consider if it was worth getting Scotland Yard involved. Mr Gamble suggested a scoping review to identify if opportunities had been missed, but officials appeared to be set against this.

Mr Gamble was shocked to find the parents had not been investigated first by the Portuguese police, in order to clear the ground for further enquiries. He went on to say the Portuguese response was inadequate, but he used a comparison in the UK that does not approximate to the situation in Luz in 2007. I will return to that in a future post.

Colin Sutton made the point that a snapshot of the incident area was not constructed, and more could have been done by UK police re interviewing British holidaymakers who had returned to the UK, and British workers in the ‘complex’.

My main criticism of the early effort is that apparently little was done to get door-to-door information in the immediate vicinity of apartment 5A.

Sky went on to cover leaks to the Portuguese press, concerning dog alerts and supposed DNA results. Mr Sutton pointed out that dog alerts are not evidence.

The events around the McCanns being made arguidos, flying home to the UK, and removal of arguido status upon archiving of the case was covered.

There appeared to be a 3-way split between the McCanns, the Portuguese police and the UK police. The CEOP report then makes an odd assertion. It alleges the McCanns had a significant amount of information from their private investigators, and this information had not been fully shared with either the Portuguese police or the UK police. I cannot see how Mr Gamble could reach such a conclusion. Perhaps it is explained in the CEOP report, but I haven’t read that document.

Mark Rowley, Assistant Commissioner, Metropolitan Police, explained there had been a discussion of the case in 2011 between the Prime Ministers of Portugal and the UK, and it was agreed that Scotland Yard would get involved.

The documentary then covered the remit. Colin Sutton explained that a fresh investigation should start right at the beginning. This echoes what was said by Jim Gamble. However, Operation Grange was to be restricted to abduction. AC Mark Rowley says parental involvement had been covered by the original Portuguese investigation. The recent Supreme Court decision made it clear this is not the case.

The Sky documentary moved on to the Jane Tanner sighting. Martin Brunt pointed out the obvious – namely if the man was coming from the Ocean Club night crèche, then he was going the wrong way. Jane Tanner’s rogatory statement pointed out this problem. If the night crèche closed at 11.30pm, It is actually more likely that at 9.15pm, the time of the Tanner sighting, he was heading towards the night crèche.

Scotland Yard presented two e-fits of a man carrying a child ‘towards the beach’. This of course was the Smith sighting at 10pm. Crimewatch 2013 did indeed state this man was heading towards the beach.

This suggests that Martin Brunt does not fully understand the Smith sighting. 12-year-old Aoife Smith’s statement does not fit with ‘towards the beach’. Should Mr Brunt ever return to Luz, I will be happy to show him why Aoife Smith’s statement strongly suggests ‘towards the beach’ is wrong. And why that man is likely to be Portuguese and innocent. Plus why that man is unlikely to come forward. And what needs to be done to get him to identify himself.

The documentary covered Operation Grange’s look at charity collectors. There is an easy test for this. The bogus ones do door-to-door, and disappear rapidly if they make some cash. The genuine ones go to the main thoroughfares and work there for hours on end.

Then Sky covered a burglary gone wrong. Whilst Operation Grange evaluated this as viable, Portuguese police did not think it likely.

The documentary moved to mobile phone data. The CEOP report says there was lots of it, but it was badly handled by Portuguese investigators. It had not been fully analysed, and the Portuguese should accept UK help. This sounds to me to be very over-simplistic, but I cannot be certain as I have not read the CEOP report.

Then the documentary moved to its weakest point, what can be extracted from that phone data. Nothing Colin Sutton said on this has much relevance to Luz on 3 May 2007.

As is normal, there were 3 cellphone operators in Luz – Optimus, TMN and Vodafone. Roughly speaking, each operator cuts Luz into a western half and an eastern half, and that is as much as you get. Was the cellphone active in Luz that night, and if so, was it in the west of Luz or the east.

Take for example Kate McCann. Her phone was active that night on Optimus antenna Luz 2. That antenna covers the east of Luz, and apartment 5A is indeed in the east of Luz. But the whole of the Ocean Club is in the eastern half of Luz, as is the majority of the commercial establishments e.g. the Mirage. I cannot tell from phone data if Kate was in or around 5A when her phone was active. The phone data is very rough.

Further, DCI Andy Redwood has said that a major obstacle to phone data analysis was PAYG phones.

4 people were made arguidos in July 2014, but have now been informed they are no longer persons of interest.

The new Portuguese investigation focussed on a series of sex attacks in the Algarve. It would appear most were on older children, but one was on a child aged 3. Euclides Monteiro, an ex-waiter at the Ocean Club, was identified by the Portuguese investigation as a suspect for the sex attacks. DNA tests ruled out Mr Monteiro. He had been killed in a tractor accident in 2009.

The Sky documentary examined the woke and wandered theory. Local ex-pat Mr John Ballinger provided some photos of the road works in Luz around that time. There was no examination as to why Kate McCann’s description of apartment 5A that night is a poor fit with woke and wandered.

Mr Brunt pointed out that there is no evidence to prove Madeleine came to any harm, so she may still be alive.

Have lessons been learned from the disappearance of Madeleine McCann? Jim Gamble and Alan Johnson think not.

The documentary covered some of the Internet abuse directed at Kate and Gerry. Two police investigations found no evidence of their involvement in Madeleine’s disappearance. The Sky investigation also found no such evidence.

It concluded that the mystery of what happened to Madeleine McCann remains just that. A mystery.

AC Mark Rowley said there is a significant line of enquiry that remains to be pursued, but would not divulge what it was.

On the armchair experts forum that I prefer, the general view was that little was learned from this Sky special. However, that is not the correct view to take, in my opinion. This programme was not aimed at a handful of amateur detectives. It was targeting the greater British public. And for those, I suspect the key point that was delivered was that roughly £12 million down the line, the investigation is fatally flawed because, despite what DCI Andy Redwood said, it did not start by going back to the very beginning.


Madeleine v The Telegraph Ep. 2

The Telegraph story has evolved. It now asks if ‘the police’ are closer to knowing the truth when once it simply asked if ‘we’ are closer to knowing the truth.

Here is the full text of the Telegraph article as published in April 2016 and retrieved today, 21 Jan 2017.

Madeleine McCann latest: are police any closer to knowing the truth?

By Gordon Rayner, Chief Reporter

29 April 2016 • 9:41am

In the nine years since Madeleine McCann went missing from a holiday apartment in Portugal, myriad theories about what happened to her have taken root, but only one fact remains uncontested: that she was reported missing at 10.14pm on the evening of Thursday, May 3, 2007.

It was at that point, when police were called, that the clock started ticking on the biggest missing persons investigation for decades, a search which remains very much active to this day.

Facts, the hard currency of any police investigation, have proved almost uniquely elusive; every sighting, every timing and every witness statement has been disputed in the years that have elapsed since.

Madeleine’s parents Kate and Gerry McCann quickly came under suspicion by Portuguese police, a development that the couple are certain meant vital clues were missed in the first hours and days after Madeleine’s disappearance.

Every possible theory has been explored since then: that Madeleine was abducted by a paedophile; that she was killed during a bungled burglary and her body dumped; that she was abducted by traffickers and sold to a childless couple; that she wandered out of the apartment and died in a tragic accident, and many more besides.

To date, however, not one shred of proof of what happened to Madeleine has been unearthed. The question of what happened to Madeleine would become not only a personal tragedy for the McCann family, but a national obsession in the UK and in Portugal.

Madeleine, of Rothley, Leicestershire, was on the penultimate day of her family holiday on the day she vanished. She had spent part of the day playing by the swimming pool in the Ocean Club resort, where the last known picture of her was taken at 2.29pm.

Reports of when she was last seen alive by independent witnesses vary, but she was still alive at around 6pm, when she and her parents went into their apartment at 5A Rua Dr Agostinho da Silva, where Madeleine and her two-year-old twin brother and sister were readied for bed.

The McCanns told police they put the children to bed at around 7pm, and that all three were asleep by 8.30pm, when they went for dinner at a tapas bar 50 yards across the pool from their apartment. There they met seven friends with whom they were on holiday.

The McCanns say checks were made on their children every half-hour, sometimes by other members of the party, comprising Dr Russell O’Brien and Jane Tanner, from Exeter, Dr Matthew and Rachael Oldfield, from London, and David and Fiona Payne, from Leicester, together with Mrs Payne’s mother Dianne Webster. Mrs Webster, however, reportedly told police that each couple was responsible for checking their own children.

Gerry McCann went to the apartment at 9.05pm, when all the children were sleeping soundly and Madeleine was still in her bed, he says.

The police in Portugal, however, have never accepted the McCanns’ evidence as undisputed. They initially regarded the McCanns as suspects, and believed the McCanns could have killed Madeleine any time after the last independent sighting of her at 6pm.

A timeline of that evening shows that Dr Matthew Oldfield went into apartment 5A at 9.30pm, and noticed that Madeleine’s room seemed lighter than the others, as if the shutters had been partially opened. He could not be certain whether Madeleine was there.

Kate McCann was next to check on the children, at 10pm. She ran back to the restaurant moments later, saying Madeleine was missing. The McCanns and their friends made a quick search of the resort, but after finding no sign of Madeleine the police were called at 10.14pm.

The McCanns told police they had put Madeleine to bed with her pink comfort blanket and favourite soft toy, Cuddle Cat, and was wearing short-sleeved Marks & Spencer Eeyore pyjamas.

Crucially, however, the apartment was not initially treated as a crime scene, meaning around 20 people went in and out before it was sealed off, contaminating potential evidence. Roadblocks were not put in place until 10am the next day, border guards were not informed for hours and Interpol did not put out a global missing persons alert for five days.

It meant that the most crucial time of any missing persons investigation – the first 24 hours – was largely squandered, and police have been trying to catch up ever since. Yet potentially key sightings and artists’ impressions of suspects were kept from the public for years.

Mary and Martin Smith, from Ireland, told police they saw a man carrying a child matching Madeleine’s description at around 10pm on Rua da Escola Primaria, 500 yards from the McCanns’ apartment. He was heading towards the beach, did not look like a tourist and did not seem comfortable carrying the child, they said.

Their evidence was compelling, but it was only in October 2013 that two e-fit images of the man, compiled by police from descriptions given by Mr and Mrs Smith, were released by Scotland Yard to coincide with a BBC Crimewatch reconstruction of Madeleine’s disappearance. He remains a suspect.

There were also blind alleys. Jane Tanner, one of the tapas diners, told police that when she left the restaurant at 9.15pm to check on her own daughter, she saw a man carrying a small child, wearing pink pyjamas, in his arms.

For years afterwards, the mystery man would be a key suspect, if not the prime suspect, but in October 2013 the Metropolitan Police announced that a British holidaymaker who had been taking his daughter back to his apartment after picking her up from an evening crèche, had been identified as the man Miss Tanner had seen and ruled out of the inquiry.

The first person to become an “arguido”, or official suspect, was Robert Murat, a local property consultant, whose home was searched 12 days after the disappearance. He was formally cleared of suspicion in 2008 and won £600,000 in libel damages from 11 British newspapers.

The Portuguese Police, however, were suspicious of the McCanns from the beginning, partly due to a clash of cultures. They could not believe that parents would leave their children unattended, and did not approve of the McCanns’ use of the media to raise the profile of the case, in a country where secrecy is the hallmark of all police investigations.

The arrival of two British sniffer dogs in Portugal in July 2007 only hardened that belief. One dog was trained to sniff out traces of human blood, the other was trained to sniff out the scent of dead bodies. Both dogs were taken to several locations connected to the investigation, and gave alerts only in apartment 5A. Later, the cadaver dog gave an alert inside a Renault car, hired by the McCanns 24 days after Madeleine went missing.

DNA tests on samples taken from the car proved inconclusive, but the Portuguese police wrongly told journalists they were a “100 per cent match” for Madeleine.

The Portuguese police came up with the theory that Madeleine had been killed by her parents by accident, possibly by being given an overdose of a sedative to make her sleep, that they had hidden the body, faked her abduction and then used the hire car weeks later to move her body to a burial location.

In early September 2007, according to Kate McCann, she was told by the Portuguese police that if she admitted that Madeleine had died in the apartment and she had hidden her body she might only serve a two-year sentence and Gerry McCann would not be charged at all. On September 7 the couple were both made arguidos.

Goncalo Amaral, the chief inspector who had been in charge of the case, resigned in 2008 to write a book alleging that Madeleine had died in an accident in the apartment and the McCanns had faked the abduction. The McCanns sued him for libel, and won: Amaral was ordered to pay them £394,000 in damages, but in April 2016 that decision was overturned by an appeal court.

In July 2008 the Portuguese attorney general announced that the McCanns were no longer suspects and the investigation was closed. The McCanns hired private investigators to carry on the search, but it was not until May 2011 that Theresa May, the Home Secretary, announced that Scotland Yard would review the evidence in the case, which had until then been the responsibility of Leicestershire Police, working with the Portuguese authorities.

In July 2013 Operation Grange, the review of the available evidence, became a full-blown criminal inquiry, and Scotland Yard said it was concentrating on a “criminal act by a stranger”.

The Yard announced it was looking into possible links between Madeleine’s disappearance and bogus charity collectors who were knocking on doors in Praia da Luz at the time. Between 3.30pm and 5.30pm on the day in question there were four separate sightings of men who said they were collecting money for an orphanage. British detectives believe men whose photofits they released in 2013 may have been engaged in reconnaissance for a pre-planned abduction or for burglaries, in keeping with the theory that Madeleine may have been killed by a burglar she disturbed.


E-fits of men seen acting suspiciously near the apartment on the night Madeleine went missing

Scotland Yard also said in 2013 it was eager to trace a blond-haired man who had been seen loitering in the area on April 30 and May 2, looking at apartment 1A. He was described as “ugly” with a spotty complexion and a large nose. Two blond-haired men were seen on the balcony of the empty apartment 5C, two doors from 5A, at 2.30pm on the day of the disappearance. Blond men were seen again near 5A at 4pm and 6pm that day, and at 11pm that night. Following the appeal on Crimewatch, the Portuguese police re-opened their own investigation.

Scotland Yard officers travelled to Portugal in 2014 to interview four suspects and carried out searches of the area around the apartment using ground-penetrating radar. One of the men who was interviewed has since been eliminated from the inquiry, but the other three men remain arguidos.

The British officers questioned them on suspicion of being part of a burglary gang that panicked after killing Madeleine during a bungled break-in. They all protested their innocence and were released without charge.

Another suspect was Euclides Monteiro, a convicted burglar with a drug habit, who had been sacked from the Ocean Club in 2006. Mobile phone tracking showed he had been in the area on the night of the disappearance, and police believe he may have been burgling apartments there to fund his drug addiction. He died in a tractor accident in 2009.

In March 2014 Scotland Yard announced that a lone intruder sexually assaulted five girls aged between seven and 10 in the Algarve between 2004 and 2006. The man, who has never been caught, was said to have a “very, very unhealthy interest” in young white girls.

The four incidents, one of which involved two girls, were among 12 in which men had entered holiday accommodation in the area, including two incidents in Praia da Luz. The force also said it was looking at 38 “people of interest” and were researching the backgrounds of 530 known sex offenders, including 59 regarded as high interest.

In December 2014 Det Chief Insp Andy Redwood, the man who had led Operation Grange, retired and was replaced on Dec 22 by DCI Nicola Wall, who travelled to Portugal the same month to conduct further inquiries.

DCI Wall and her team interviewed seven suspects and four witnesses, but have not released any information about what they discovered, insisting they will not provide a “running commentary” on the case.

In September 2015 the Met announced that it was scaling back the Operation Grange investigation team from 29 officers to four. With the cost of the inquiry topping £10 million, the force said it was following “a small number of focused lines of inquiry”.

It added that the “vast majority” of the work of Operation Grange had been completed. In total officers had reviewed more than 40,000 documents, took 1,338 statements and collected 1,027 exhibits.

The Met said 60 “persons of interest” had been investigated, 650 sex offenders considered and 8,685 potential sightings investigated.

Then, in April 2016, came an announcement by the Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe that his officers had boiled down the evidence to “one final lead”.

Having failed to substantiate other theories, police are reportedly left with one of the original theories – that Madeleine was killed during a botched burglary.

The Met wants to re-interview three suspects who were placed at the scene through analysis of their mobile phones: Jose Carlos da Silva, 30, who used to drive guests to their apartments at the Ocean Club resort in Praia da Luz, Ricardo Rodrigues, 24, and Paulo Ribeiro, 53.

They have previously admitted petty theft from apartments at the complex but denied any involvement in Madeleine’s disappearance.

Kate and Gerry McCann remain convinced their daughter is alive and that they will one day be reunited. The hunt to find her continues.

Madeleine – Smithman e-fit technology

I thought I had written on the problems with the Smithman e-fits before, but I cannot find the relevant post. My apologies if this duplicates something earlier.

I wanted to see if the software used to construct the two Smithman e-fits could be identified, given that the quality of the two photos is quite dissimilar. I was hoping from that to get a bit more insight in the methods used by the private investigators to build these. As it turns out, I needn’t have bothered, as the real story lies elsewhere.

Here are the two Smithman e-fits.

Smithman e-fits

Note one is high quality while the other is rough. It is unlikely that both were constructed by the same operator using the same software, though not impossible, as one potential step is enhancing the e-fit using some sort of graphics package.

The e-fits were produced sometime during the employment of Oakley International, according to Henri Exton, who worked on the case at that time. This employment started in March 2008 and ended in September 2008, with the final report, including the e-fits being handed over in November 2008.

So what software was available at the time? In the UK, the packages used by the police were E-FIT and PRO-fit. In the US, they were FACES, Identikit 2000, ComPhotofit, CRIMES, Compusketch, CD-FIT, E-FIT, and Facekit. That is quite a lot of choice, The source that identified these mentioned that it had an example of the results of each of these, but unfortunately it did not. And on my travels I found the names of other packages in use at the time.

The academics were keen to know how effective these tools were and the best methods of deploying them, and it turns out it is far from easy. The following was all known in 2007.

First the operator has to be conversant with the software itself and alternatives it provides.

Second, the operator should know that trying to get a verbal description of facial features is a poor way to go about it. Apparently we process faces as a whole, not as individual parts. So a better method is to start off with a general face, then gradually evolve it until it looks sufficiently accurate.

Third, the operator should know that we tend to recognise faces more from the top half than the bottom half. Oddly, it seems hair style is the most important feature.

Fourth, the operator should know we process faces differently if they are familiar or unfamiliar. This could well be an issue after the blanket media coverage of Gerry McCann’s image.

Fifth, the operator should understand the interaction techniques known as Cognitive Interviews, Context Reinstatement and Conversational Management. Let’s skip these.

I am assuming that as the people in Oakley International were UK-based, one of the two systems used by UK police was deployed. The higher quality e-fit looks like the output from E-FIT, while the lower quality one looks like it came from an earlier version of the same software. Of course, Oakley International could have sub-contracted this work to someone who was familiar with one of the other packages.

Whether Oakley International or a sub-contractor had the relevant capability to produce the e-fits claimed by Henri Exton is a matter of conjecture, but it turns out not to matter.

In December 2007, an article appeared in the journal Ergonomics. The authors said the efficacy of e-fits had been widely studied in the UK, and they ran a study to compare package E-FIT (used in both the UK and the US) against other packages used in the US. The relevant finding is the concluding sentence of their abstract. “The results support previous findings that modern systems do not produce identifiable composites.”

This, in my opinion, is a fairly damning indictment of 2007 capability. Please note, UK universities have continually developed much better software since then, but that is of limited relevance to the Madeleine McCann case.

The other thing that came across re 2007/2008 studies was the methods used. To give but one example, a study was done as follows. Volunteers were given a photo of someone they had not seen before, an unfamiliar face. The photo was high quality and well lit. They were allowed to study it for one minute (60 seconds). Four hours later, they participated in attempting to construct an e-fit of the face in the photo. Typical success rates were 15 to 20%.

Contrast this process with the reality of the Smith sighting. The Smiths did not get 60 seconds to study anyone’s face. The lighting was not of a quality to enable e-fit construction. They did not compile the e-fit 4 hours later but some 11 to 17 months later.

The Smiths are not to blame for taking part in an e-fit construction. They were hardly to know that all the science said it was a total waste of time, and the results would be useful only if lady luck shone on the process.

Henri Exton and Oakley International should have known a bit more about a tool they were using. Perhaps they were relying on the expertise of those who produced the software, the training, and the knowledge that e-fits were in common use in the UK and US.

The situation with Operation Grange and DCI Andy Redwood is a little more puzzling. Surely by October 2013 they would have known about some of the issues surrounding those two e-fits? One assumes they had the full Oakley International file, can date the construction of the e-fits, know what software was used to produce them and have some idea of the process used.

I believe DCI Andy Redwood visited Martin Smith a couple of time before Crimewatch 2013, and I wonder if e-fit construction was part of the agenda.

I have just chunked my way through a 26 page thread on the UK Justice Forum, where a key question was when did Operation Grange get the e-fits, and why did Operation Grange wait 2 years until October 2013 before releasing them for Crimewatch? Part of the answer may be they were hoping something more promising would turn up, but by Crimewatch even a very low-grade source was considered to be worth a roll of the dice.

Madeleine v the Mirror

The article in the Mirror dated 01 Oct 16, written by Alan Selby and Phil Cardy, neatly sums up what is going on in the Madeleine McCann case in UK media, and what is going wrong.

The headline screams it all. “Ghoulish Madeleine McCann tour takes tourists where missing tot stayed and cops dug for body”

From this headline, you can be safe in assuming that there is so little going on in the case that the media are scraping the bottom of the barrel for Madeleine-related stories.

Shall we now have a look at the article itself to see what is going wrong?

Tourists are being offered a ghoulish sightseeing tour of the town where Madeleine McCann was kidnapped.

The sick trips take visitors to the apartment where the missing three-year-old was last seen alive and the tapas restaurant where her parents were dining when she vanished.

The twisted organiser also takes his clients to nearby wasteland which police dug up in searches in Praia da Luz in Portugal’s Algarve.

The ghouls are then invited to speculate on the involvement of Madeleine’s doctor parents Kate and Gerry.”

The article has only just started, and already the errors are creeping in.

I have never been inside the Tapas area, so obviously I have never taken a visitor to the restaurant.

The ‘wasteland’ so beloved of the UK press is actually undeveloped land complete, I understand, with planning permission and so is extremely valuable. My first visitor went to this plot and found out why Operation Grange got it so wrong in digging it up. Selby and Cardy are obviously as ignorant now of the reasons for this as Operation Grange was at the time. It goes further than this as the Mirror duo clearly don’t know the true importance of the mound to the case.

Visitors can choose to discuss the involvement of Kate and Gerry, or not, as they wish. Just as they can choose to discuss, or not, the many other people involved in the case. That, by the way, includes the UK media, and how journalists like Selby and Cardy make money out of filling up column inches with another story about Madeleine McCann.

Back to the article. “Last night the couple were said to be distressed by the latest outrageous twist in the story.”

Notice the key phrase “were said to be” i.e. we are expected to take Selby and Cardy’s word for it. The crucial element here is simple. I have attempted to contact the McCanns on several occasions, with the aim of demonstrating to them just how much valuable information they are sitting on, presumably unaware that they have much of value that would advance the search for Madeleine McCann. This happens to include the Smith sighting, where I believe the McCanns are ideally placed to obtain information that I cannot. To date, I have not had a response from the McCanns or from a McCann representative, so if Selby and Cardy really did manage to get my blog onto the McCann radar, it is a step forward.

To the McCanns, or any of their representatives, I repeat an offer I have made previously. If you choose to engage in an information exchange with me, there is much significant progress to be made. This progress will NOT be made by Operation Grange (who lack an understanding of Luz), nor will it be made by a further team of private investigators, nor will it be made by UK or Portuguese media. I am happy to DEMONSTRATE examples of this to show what is being missed. I am further happy to give primacy to the McCanns in deciding how and when such newly discovered information should be deployed.

Once more, back to the article. “And the tours, dubbed the “Luz Challenge”, have triggered disgust among other Brits in Praia.

Yesterday one astonished expat who lives in the area said: “This is in appalling taste. I couldn’t believe it when I saw it.”

This roughly says it all. Selby and Cardy now claim to have a source in Luz, but said fellow has never heard of me or heard of tours which have been running since March. That tells you how good Selby and Cardy’s sources aren’t. By the way, if Selby or Cardy is still reading my blog, kindly stop calling the place Praia. Two journalists should know that praia simply means beach. The place is not called Praia, it is called Luz, Lagos. The Lagos tacked on the end is to locate this Luz in the district of Lagos, as opposed to Luz, Tavira, which is in the eastern end of the Algarve, in the region of Tavira. If you are going to be sloppy, at least make the same mistake that most journalists make and call it Praia da Luz (which is wrong, but generally accepted).

The gruesome tours are being offered on the internet by a British grandfather in his 60s who has become obsessed with the case since emigrating to Praia da Luz.

He says he lives in “Maddieville” and is offering his version of “Mission Impossible” to work out what happened to Madeleine.”

We did not emigrate to Praia da Luz. An early part of my blog makes it clear that within the family no-one had any interest in Madeleine McCann as none of us followed the story in 2007. Oddly, not a single one of us twigged the connection to Madeleine McCann, otherwise we would have probably gone elsewhere.

As to calling Luz “Maddieville”, when Operation Grange decided to fly over Luz in a helicopter in June 2014, followed by sealing off the centre and establishing a circus to entertain the media, then Maddieville became an appropriate term. Mr Selby and Mr Cardy, you are making money off the back of Madeleine McCann each time you write another sensationalist article about her. Do you consider yourselves to be serious investigative journalists? Or is it just that you don’t care?

The Mirror article continues “Our source said: “The guide is obsessed with Maddie. He’s written thousands of words about the case and pored over maps, photographs and police transcripts.

We don’t know why he is so hung up on it.””

If your source knows so much about me, why has your source only just become aware of the tours? Does your source exist? Why have we not met each other in Luz before now?

The tour takes in this block of flats, where Maddie was last seen”. This, Selby and Cardy, is a mistake I have seen before, so quite possibly this is a stock item used by the Mirror. The last time I saw this mistake I simply shrugged it off, so I cannot name and shame the two journalists responsible for that article. But I can name and shame Alan Selby and Phil Cardy for this one. It illustrates perfectly the lack of research you have put in and the fodder you have churned out. Madeleine was in block 5, in apartment 5A, as everyone knows. You have chosen to show a photo of block 6, describing it as “where Maddie was last seen.” As far as I know, Madeleine was never inside block 6.

If this IS simply an ongoing Mirror error, you two need to get off your backsides and get this part pulled, before some other duo repeats the mistake.

As a matter of interest, does either of you know what is significant about block 6 in relation to the disappearance of Madeleine McCann?

Then, in an offensive comment, the sicko says: “You have to come up with a way in which the McCanns, for whatever reason, disposed of Madeleine’s body, and the body was not found in searches.”

In a reference to the officer in charge of the original search, the tour guide says: “Gonçalo Amaral struggled, and in my opinion failed, to come up with an explanation.”

This is pathetically cheap journalism. Throw in the word “offensive” throw in the word “sicko” and what you have is sensationalist claptrap.

Are you aware of public opinion in Portugal? Because I am. I have therefore phrased this issue in a manner which makes it clear that a highly experienced police officer has failed to come up with a reasonable explanation. Therefore anyone who is anti-McCann, and based on my contacts within Portugal, that appears to be just about everyone, is asked not “do they think the McCanns did it” but rather “if they maintain the McCanns did it, precisely how did the McCanns do it.”

That is, of course, completely in contradiction to your implication that the tour aim is to work out how the McCanns did it.

Just as a point of clarification, I remember sitting in the Paraíso for lunch one day. It happened to be roughly where the Tapas 7 congregated following their beach outing on 3 May 2007. A table two down from us was occupied by two couples, obviously British tourists. One of the men said in a loud voice “well, all you have to do is look around to see how easy it would be to hide a body in this type of rough land”. It is a common misconception.

On with the words of Selby and Cardy. “The guide lists several places that his clients will be taken to. They start at Apartment 5A at the Ocean Club Hotel where the tot vanished.”

Oh dear. I don’t have clients, as no-one is paying a single cent for any tour. There isn’t an Ocean Club Hotel. The Ocean Club is a collection of apartments and villas, not a hotel. Do tours start at Apartment 5A? No, they start wherever my visitor wants them to start.

Tour 1 started at a hotel in the north of Luz. Have you Mirror chaps any idea of the relevance of City Sol or Quinta dos Figos? I doubt it very much.

Tour 2 started at a hotel much beloved of the media when they choose to descend on us en-mass. As it so happened, they were choosing to leave us alone that time, so the main activity was to sample some dinner selected from the hotel’s menu.

Tour 3 started at a large but decrepit villa on the eastern outskirts of Burgau. I wonder if you are aware the relevance of Burgau in the Madeleine case?

Tour 4 will start from a smallish, well kept Portuguese home in the centre of Burgau. It is possible there may a visit to one of the local hostelries.

From there they go a few hundred yards to the tapas restaurant where her parents were eating with friends – although the guide says a meal will not be possible as the place has closed. Then they visit the spot near the apartment where the McCanns’ friend Jane Tanner saw a mystery man carrying a child, though police later ruled out the sighting.”

The distance from the garden gate of 5A to the entrance of the Tapas area is important, because it factors into how long each parental check took. It is 20.5 metres, or about 23 yards, nothing like your few hundred yards.

You are aware that the man spotted by Tanner was walking across the junction of Rua Agostinho da Silva and Rua Martins? And that the junction is in front of apartment 5A? And that those using the car park of block 5 to do their parental checks passed this junction on the way there and on the way back? Why would a visitor to 5A not simply do the Tanner sighting as they went round this junction, on their way to the Tapas zone?

Unless you have kept up to date with the case, you will probably not be aware that a Freedom of Information request was answered by Scotland Yard in December 2015. Part of the response stated that Tannerman was still a person of interest to Operation Grange, so he had not been ruled out at that date.

Back to Selby and Cardy. “They will also take in the scene of the sighting by Martin Smith, a retired businessman, who said he saw a man carrying a child in the direction of the beach.” The tour does take in the Smith sighting, if the visitor wishes to do so. It happens to be an important sighting and much can be gained from examining the location in which it took place. You two, however, are showing your ignorance again. Martin Smith did not say the man headed to the beach. His statement says that he does not know where the man went after they passed. And if you check Aoife Smith’s statement, she never mentions the beach either. Judging by DCI Andy Redwood in the Crimewatch episode of Oct 2013, he was also labouring under this “to the beach” misapprehension.

Other places in the tour are the areas where police carried out searches two years ago.

The first is scrubland to the south-west of the McCann apartment, around the size of three football pitches and surrounded by villas and apartments. The two other sites are on the other side of Praia da Luz on either side of the road out of town.”

I repeat, all tours are customised to what the visitor wants the see. The area of land in the centre of Luz has been visited once, to point out some salient facts that Operation Grange missed, and it looks as if you are ignorant of these points. As to the two areas to the east of Luz, I have never visited those in my life, and no-one has requested these areas to be included in any tour.

Another ghoulish spot on the tour is the Our Lady of the Light church in the centre of Luz.” How many errors can you stuff into a single report? No one has ever requested to see Nossa Senhora da Luz, and I have never been inside the church in my life. I am, however, respectful of both the Catholic and the Anglican communities that share the the church, while it would appear that Selby and Cardy are willing to spread malicious gossip about this place of worship.

Police searched there and a nearby cemetery with rumours circulating that Madeleine was put into someone else’s coffin to be cremated.” Unless you have a cite from the PJ Files or another reputable source, this again is cheap sensationalism. I have never heard of a police search of Nossa Senhora da Luz. It certainly was NOT searched by Operation Grange. I have never heard of a search of Luz cemetery. But the question is, do you two ever read back what you write before you publish it? Why would anyone search a cemetery looking for a body that had been cremated? Do you understand the difference between burial and cremation?

From there the guide said he would start looking at all the red herrings and conspiracy theories which had sprung up around the case.

These include the rumour Madeleine could have been been hidden on the nearby beach or under rocks.”

I couldn’t possibly tackle all the idiotic theories or idiotic groups that surround the Madeleine McCann case. The beach one certainly dates back to June 2014, when the UK media announced that Operation Grange was to dig the beach. That dig never occurred.

He is clearly unaware or not bothered by the disgust his warped pastime is causing.

Several street signs have been sprayed with the message “Stop McCann Circus” in response to all the negative publicity the picturesque Algarve town receives.

Critics said the sightseeing tour is in appalling taste.”

The manner is which this is written implies I had something to do with graffiti that appeared in Luz. I had nothing whatsoever to do with it, so I resent the implication.

By the way, Luz isn’t picturesque, a word you would never use to describe the place if you had actually visited. And that point is pertinent, because the construction date and manner of the Ocean Club reflect upon the security systems in the complex and in apartment 5A, so please try to get it right.

Having got that out of the way, let’s tackle the disgust my “warped pastime” is causing. In your article, you have not identified a single person who has come forward to make such a comment, merely unnamed sources. Turning to the idea of warped concepts, who raised the notion that Madeleine went into someone else’s coffin and was cremated? That would be Alan Selby and Phil Cardy writing for the Mirror. Who is getting paid for writing this appalling tripe? That would be Alan Selby and Phil Cardy from the Mirror.

If you were serious journalists you would investigate the case properly, but instead you choose to regurgitate sensationalist material.

““I prefer to remain anonymous, in the background, a non-character in the case.

That means my musings are more likely to be judged on merit alone.

Hopefully, that in turn maximises the chance of working out what happened to Madeleine McCann.”

Anyone can read my blog and make up their own mind as to whether I am putting myself before Madeleine or whether Madeleine is the priority. Those who know me well will also know that I publish on one of the more popular forums devoted to finding out what happened to her. Between my blog and that forum, a considerable amount of progress has been made. That progress would increase if these findings were read by the McCanns, serious UK media reporters, and Operation Grange.

Explaining the twisted thinking that produced the tour, the man says: “My first thought was simple.

I just could not make a ghouls tour of Luz fly. Then the idea began to intrigue me.

How does one make a ghouls’ tour of Luz actually work?

The solution is cheap and cheerful. It comes out of the best penny dreadfuls in Victorian era. You do not bother about the truth. Or the facts. You simply go for the thrill value.”

He continues: “I suppose, at a push, with all the red herrings around, I could develop a ghouls’ tour with at least 20 points on the map.

There must be at least ten more red herrings in the Madeleine story, surely.

The difficulty is my brain is not into red herring stories and my heart is not into this line of action.

And you, Alan Selby and Phil Cardy, have produced the modern day equivalent of the Victorian penny dreadful by not bothering about the facts but simply going for sensationalist thrill value. Whereas the line I have bolded quite clearly shows that while a ghouls tour is possible, I do not do ghouls tours. For example, a ghouls tour would definitely incorporate a visit to Nossa Senhora da Luz to retell the Mirror nonsense about the cremated body, whereas the church has never featured in any tour and I have never been inside it.

While this deluded man amuses himself with his outrageous “game” the British investigation into the disappearance codenamed Operation Grange has cost at least £12million.”

This the the standard end to a Madeleine McCann story. Throw in the cost of Operation Grange. As it so happens, I have sent Operation Grange several pieces of intelligence regarding the case. I have no idea whether these were found useful or not.

In Portugal, Correio da Manha has run with an equivalent story to the Mirror’s, but in Portuguese. I shall be looking at that to see if it gives me an entry point to the Portuguese media.

In the UK media, Alan Selby and Phil Cardy have squandered an opportunity to advance the understanding of the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, and instead have taken Mirror money to write a lurid story based on Madeleine’s disappearance. Congratulations guys, you are number two and number three on my list of journalists I wouldn’t touch with a barge pole.

Madeleine v missingmadeleine on body disposal

Madeleine v missingmadeleine re body disposal

Administrators have forbidden any new members.”

I noticed from my blog that a recent source of hits was aka Missing Madeleine Every Child Counts.

Fred, a platinum poster with 4,698 posts wrote @

Body disposal

Post fred on Mon 23 Nov – 15:23

Any thoughts? I’m still with Huelva but many disagree.”

OK, what have I got so far? I now know that fred reads my blog, is referring to my recent post on rubbish transfer stations in the Algarve, and seems to think that Madeleine was disposed of in Huelva. So far, so good.


I tried to set up a username on missingmadeleine so that I could reply.

And what I got was … “Administrators have forbidden any new members.” Weird, but true. It looks like only members who joined before a certain date can post there.

Sooooo….. I am going to have to respond here, and hope that fred checks in to my blog again. If you do fred, feel free to copy and paste me to the forum. Itlooks a tad quiet over there and this might spice things up a little.

Sooooo….. on to body disposal in Huelva. Date 3 Aug 2007 for the trip.

Body disposal in Huelva has the odd thing or two going against it.

It requires that the McCanns were successful in concealing a body in a locality they were not familiar with. It requires that an extensive search over the next 7 days failed to find that place. It requires that body concealment worked at least until they rented the Scenic. Actually, it requires that body concealment worked until they moved into 27 Rua das Flores, assuming you believe in the dogs. That was 2 months down the line from Madeleine’s disappearance.

It requires that the McCanns retrieved the corpse during what was then the biggest news story in the world. It requires that in the trip to Spain there was a body in the rear luggage space of the Scenic, and that video director Jon Corner did not try to stow some gear in the rear. I could be wrong, but wasn’t there also a cameraman, in which case I need room for him and his gear?

It requires that the McCanns go AWOL in Huelva. This may have happened. More importantly, it requires that the McCanns knew how to dispose of a body in Huelva. Personally, I have no idea of how one would going about disposing of a body in Huelva.

Then there’s the border. It requires that the McCanns thought that they could transport a dead body from Portugal to Spain in 2007, across the border.

With the benefit of hindsight, I believe this could have been done in 2007. I just don’t see how the McCanns could have predicted it at the time of the trip.

Sooooo….. No, I can’t see a case for the McCanns disposing of a body on the trip to Huelva.

Administrators have forbidden any new members.” I am happy to debate under your forum rules, under your moderators, but if this has been blocked, my blog remains open for business.

Sooooo….. Let’s look at the comments since the thread was originally posted.

From AnnaEsse, Administrator. “I tend to keep thinking about how two doctors might dispose of a small body.”

From me (ShiningInLuz). Given enough time, I have no doubt whatsoever that two doctors could dispose of a body in Luz. The constraint is time. Without a fair deal of time, visitors to Luz would find it extremely difficult to dispose of a body here. Locals would have much more chance of making this succeed.

From fuzeta, platinum poster. “Well there were enough trips to the rubbish tips with ‘ rotten pork’ and ‘ dirty nappies’, also a fridge. So it makes you think.

Fred, I am interested in your thoughts on Huelva and wondering if they are they same as mine. If you cannot say please send me a pm xx”.

From me (ShiningInLuz). Unknown to both locals and visitors alike, all the rubbish goes to a single tip, where it was extensively sorted through for several reasons, the most important being to extract toxic waste that was not permitted in landfill. Since fridges contain toxic waste (refrigerant) plus recyclable material (metal), the tale that Madeleine disappeared in a fridge is a myth. Portugal uses a standard system whereby when you get a new white good delivered, you pay a small charge for disposal of the old one. There’s no evidence of fridge disposal or fridge purchase.

From AnnaEsse. “This is what I’m thinking fuzeta. I’m quite sure that a chopped up small body could look like cuts of meat. Distributed around on various tips and there is the chance that the body is gone forever. I reckon Maddie will be found if one day a dog runs off a tip with a bone that proves to be human.”

From me (ShiningInLuz). All the rubbish in the Western Algarve went to a single site at Porto de Lagos. In the unlikely event that Madeleine made it into the landfill there, the remains are now under tons of rubbish that went on top. Apartment 5A showed no signs of a body being butchered. Locals in the area have much less risky methods of disposing of a body.

From fuzeta “Yes Anna and there are many farms around.”

From me (ShiningInLuz). There are, split into those that are farmed, with farmer and farm dog, and those that aren’t. The constraint on the McCanns is time and knowledge. Personally, despite living here, I could not take you on a tour of abandoned farms because, strangely enough, it has never been of interest to me. So, someone with a knowledge of abandoned farms strikes me as someone who had a pre-existing reason to be interested in abandoned farms, such as people sleeping rough and criminals.

From AnnaEsse “I hadn’t thought about the farms, fuzeta, but of course! I think that when the McCanns said they were transporting rotting meat, they were telling the truth, but what kind of meat?”.

Let me see.

Someone with 25 years in the PJ in the Algarve had not a clue about how to dispose of a body in the Algarve. The folks who have succeeded him don’t know either – Rebelo, Redwood, Wall. Did 2 doctors beat this lot?

Huelva, sorry fred, please keep reading my blog. Feel free to post your ideas on here because I welcome different ideas and opinions. But I am struggling with Huelva on practical aka logistical reasons. I just cannot make it fit.

After that we get rubbish tips. Sorry, no, the rubbish did not work that way.

Chopped up small body. Sorry, no, who chopped, how was the chopping concealed?

Farms? If we know about these – and do we – who knew about these then?

For locals, there are easier and safer ways of disposing of a body. For visitors, body disposal was neither safe nor easy.

Madeleine v Luz phone traffic

The PJ obtained files of phone traffic for Luz from all 3 operators (Optimus, TMN, Vodaphone) for the dates 2 May 2007 to 4 May 2007. This amounts to over 74,000 calls/texts in total, according to the PJ Files.

On 4 Dec 2013, Danny Shaw wrote an article for the BBC covering the status of Operation Grange, and headlined it “Madeleine McCann: Phone records may hold key, UK police say”.

The article includes lines of enquiry other than the Luz phone traffic, so here is what was said purely about that phone data.

Mobile phone records may hold the key to solving the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, detectives believe.

Scotland Yard officers are analysing data from phones belonging to people in the village at the time – 41 people of interest have been identified.

Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood, who is leading the inquiry, said officers were examining a “substantial amount of data” from thousands of mobile phones thought to belong to people who were in the resort of Praia da Luz in the days just before, during and after Madeleine’s disappearance.

Police are trying to identify the owner of each phone to build up a picture of exactly who was in the area. More than 3,000 people live in Praia da Luz, while holidaymakers and seasonal workers visit from countries across the world.

“This is not just a general trawl,” said Det Ch Insp Redwood.

“It’s a targeted attack on that data to see if it assists us to find out what happened to Madeleine McCann at that time.”

‘Call timeline’

Det Ch Insp Redwood said officers had so far been unable to attribute a “large number” of mobile numbers and admitted that it was difficult to do so with phones bought six years ago on a pay-as-you-go basis.

The records also contain information on which phone numbers were dialled and when calls were made. It is thought some phone numbers might appear on police intelligence systems or be linked to criminals.

“We can see what the phone is doing, but we can’t see the text messages,” said the detective. “It shows a timeline of the call data.”

According to Scotland Yard, the phone records had been “looked at” during the initial Portuguese police investigation but not in detail.

Asked by reporters if the information held the key to the investigation, Det Ch Insp Redwood replied “It could do.”

Speaking to the BBC’s Today programme, Peter Sommer, an expert on cyber security, said the “multi-jurisdictional nature” of the case, which would involve mobile phone companies in different countries – and the gap in time – could make it harder to track people down.

But he said “cell site data” was routinely used in most criminal court cases in the UK.

Mr Gamble said the EU data retention directive, which compels telephone companies to retain call and internet records for a period of time, was at an “immature stage” in 2007.

But he said it appeared the data “wasn’t properly or appropriately interrogated,” at the time.

In UK investigations, he would expect the data to have been examined almost immediately, he said, but the “complex nature and geography” had made it more difficult.

There is a sidebar on how this data can be interpreted. What can phone data tell us?

By Matthew Wall Technology reporter, BBC News

As mobile phones constantly send and receive data from mobile phone masts, a user’s location can be identified to within a few hundred metres using triangulation techniques. Modern smartphones with GPS built in can be located far more accurately.

Mobile phone records include the numbers of the call sender and receiver, the call duration and time. Couple this with location information and you can establish where and when callers made or received a call. This information is often used to verify or knock down alibis in criminal cases.

The difficulty for investigators is establishing the identity of the user if the phone is pay-as-you-go (PAYG) rather than on a pay-monthly contract linked to a bank account. PAYG phones, SIM cards and top-up cards can be bought in-store for cash, leaving no identifying trail for investigators to follow.

And because such phones can be lent or sold to other people, establishing exactly who made a telephone call is made even more difficult.

This is where the BBC report ends.

Let me deal with the part by Matthew Wall first. I assume he is not familiar with the PJ files, otherwise he would be aware of the analyses of data carried out with respect to the Tapas 9. None of these had information that could be used to triangulate. The closest to triangulation was when a signal passed from one mast to a second, and a reasonable assumption could be made in some instances about the location of the phone.

This triangulation idea was touted back in December 2007, when it was learned that a vast volume of phone data had been collected by the PJ team. Hailed by the media then as a breakthrough, a casual reader should deduce that it was no such thing then, and that Operation Grange has encountered difficulties in processing the data since.

The PJ files have data that appears to cover – call sender number, call receiver number, date and time, mast used, call duration, and which antenna of the mast was activated.

The antenna that was activated gives a very rough direction relating the mast to the mobile phone. A knowledge of other masts in the region allows this to be narrowed to an area, but that area is normally large. Two masts for the same operator can cover a distance of 5km (built-up) to 8km (rural), so the swathe covered by the active mast antenna is not small.

I am not aware of the procedures used in various countries at the time re PAYG phones, but the major countries involved are Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany and Holland. Then there is a host of minor countries to consider.

Let me turn now to checks re phone numbers of known criminals. If that angle has produced interesting lines of enquiry then it has taken a long time for Operation Grange to act on these.

Mr Gamble’s comments seem irrelevant. The three operators, Optimus, TMN and Vodaphone, provided all that one would expect to get in such a situation. Then applying a theoretical UK approach to a multi-country problem in Portugal involving this number of phone messages, when a comparable situation does not appear to have ever happened in the UK, does not enlighten the reader.

The problem is that Operation Grange is trying to tackle 74,000 calls and texts in an out of Luz over the 3 days of 2 May 2007 to 4 May 2007.

The bulk of data before the Madeleine story was widely aired in the media can reasonably be assumed to be driven in the main by things that do NOT relate to Madeleine’s disappearance. If there IS traffic relating to her disappearance before the news broke, it will be masked by what was going on in Luz in the period of 2 and 3 May.

Here is where Operation Grange hits a major problem. To make sense of this, to get the ability to strip off the normal traffic and identify the abnormal traffic, the OG analyst has to understand the normal workings of Luz.

Let me illustrate this with a trivial example. When we get a take-away from the Luz Chinese restaurant, we phone the order through, ask how long it will take, and pick it up at the appropriate time.

This is not a major breakthrough. It would cover a small number of phone calls made for take-aways and a few more for restaurant reservations.

It simply illustrates the point that to understand the traffic, one has to understand Luz.

Apart from a visit to dig up central Luz in mid-2014, Operation Grange does not have that experience of understanding.

Then a second obstacle is encountered, namely, that European legislation prevents the distribution of this type of phone traffic information to private individuals.

This means that people with a knowledge of Luz, such as myself, will never be allowed to see the data. Since Portuguese law prevents private individuals from investigating crimes in Portugal, my potential input is severely limited.

If Operation Grange is shelved, and the McCanns appoint more private investigators, they will be in a position to investigate from outside Portugal i.e. one of the blocks is removed. However, the other blocks are not. The McCanns and their private investigators will not be allowed access to this phone traffic data, and the private investigators will lack knowledge of the workings of Luz. That would mean the people with the legal ability to progress this angle, Scotland Yard, are at the stage of not doing so, whilst those who are active on the case are denied access to valuable information.

A bit of lateral thinking suggests the following. If Operation Grange won’t come to Luz, then Luz must go to Operation Grange.

PS On 20 Dec 07, the Mail Online reported that PJ officers were checking hundreds of residents in Luz re calls made on 3 May 2007, from 9:30pm onwards. This is the report with the triangulation story, which is erroneous. The geographical scope of masts covered also looks suspect. The PJ would be able, one presumes, to locate those people on a phone contract registered in Portugal. As to the rest…

Madeleine – Operation Grange downsized

On 28 Oct 2015, Scotland Yard announced that Operation Grange was downsizing from 29 to four permanent officers. How are we to interpret this?

On 22 Oct 2015, Anthony Bennett started an on-line petition

Enquiries by British (and Portuguese) police forces have cost around £15 million in 8 years. The public is now entitled to a full report on how that has been spent. The report should cover the role of the government, the security services & UK police forces.

Madeleine was reported missing over 8 years ago. The Portuguese, Leicestershire, the Met & other police forces have spent huge amounts of time & money on the case, but there seems no prospect of further progress. Given the huge interest in the case, the public needs the fullest possible explanations and answers.”

Given the start date, plus the fact that by 30 Oct 2015 this had reached 802 signatures, as opposed to the 10,000 signatures required before the government is required to respond to it, it is clear that the petition is not associated with the decision to downsize Operation Grange.

On 16 Sep 2015, the news was quite different. The Evening Standard, at reported that

More than £10 million has been spent on the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, it was revealed tonight.

The figure was disclosed in an answer to a written parliamentary question in the House of Lords.

Lord Bates said: “The total cost of the investigation in to the disappearance of Madeleine McCann (Operation Grange), up until end of June 2015, is £10.1m. The Home Office has budgeted £2m for the investigation in 2015/16.”

This suggests that the year used by Operation Grange is July to June. The planning and budgeting would have been carried out in the quarter year running up to June 2015, so at that time it appears this downsizing was not being built into budget assumptions.

The official announcement regarding the downsizing is at

My first impression was that this is very much along the lines of the statement released after the June 2014 dig in Luz. That spoke of investigating 41 anomalies on the ground and gaining an understanding of the use and working of terrain in the area. It painted a picture of fevered effort without revealing anything significant whatsoever.

The latest news also appears to be stuffed with an activity report, and statistics abound.

This work included reviewing all the material relating to the case which were brought together for the first time and amounted to collating over 40,000 documents from United Kingdom and foreign law enforcement agencies, as well as various private investigation companies.”

Once this work had been completed the review became a full investigation in July 2012.” Note this states the collation/cross-referencing had been completed before the full investigation phase started in July 2012.

The investigation team has taken 1,338 statements and collected 1,027 exhibits. Having reviewed all of the documents, 7,154 actions were raised and 560 lines of enquiry identified, and over thirty international request(s) to countries across the world asking for work to be undertaken on behalf of the Met.

Officers have investigated more than 60 persons of interest. A total of 650 sex offenders have also been considered as well as reports of 8,685 potential sightings of Madeleine around the world.”

This tells us there was a lot of activity, but is opaque as to precise details. It quotes summarised figures, but leaves unclear what might constitute an exhibit, an action, a line of enquiry, a person of interest, what consideration means in the case of sex offenders. For example, does sex offender equate to paedophile, or is it literally any form of sex offender?

A team of four officers will continue to work solely on the Grange investigation, funded by the Home Office. The enquiry has not reached a conclusion, there are still focused lines of investigation to be pursued.”

The word focused has been used before, when the actual activity was anything but focused. Perhaps as time goes on we will find out if this phase really is focused or not.

The officers will continue to be overseen by Detective Chief Inspector Nicola Wall, the current senior investigating officer, and sit within an existing major investigation team on the Homicide and Major Crime Command. This will give them access to officers within that team should they be required to support further operational activity.”

According to Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley “”This work has enabled us to better understand events in Praia da Luz the night Madeleine McCann went missing and ensure every possible measure is being taken to find out what happened to her.”

This is political speak. It is either “focused lines of investigation” or it is “every possible measure” but it can’t be both.

He went on to say “”We still have very definite lines to pursue which is why we are keeping a dedicated team of officers working on the case. We have given this assurance to Madeleine’s parents, Kate and Gerry McCann.”

So it is now “definite lines”. The second sentence is also political speak. It implies that the McCanns were informed of the downsizing before the public was, but there is no reason to believe the McCanns actually knew more than is contained in this statement beyond downsizing.

Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley went on “”The Portuguese police remain the lead investigators and our team will continue to support their inquiry. They have extended every courtesy to Operation Grange and we maintain a close working relationship. I know they remain fully committed to investigating Madeleine’s disappearance with support from the Metropolitan Police.”

This is another slab of political speak. The Portuguese investigation appears to be heading its own way, distinct from Operation Grange. This is simply a way of saying thank you to the Portuguese authorities, and acknowledging that Scotland Yard has to abide by Portuguese law for activities carried out in Portugal.

The McCanns are quoted extensively in the news release, confirming that they knew of it some time in advance of the general publication.

Three thoughts struck me about this news.

First, what is DCI Nicola Wall going to be doing? The statement says the four officers dedicated to Operation Grange will continue to report to DCI Wall, so it looks like she is going back to a more normal investigating structure, where she is the senior officer in charge of multiple investigations running at the same time.

I don’t know the precise date of her retirement, but is it somewhere around 2½ years from now.

She has experience of cold case reviews, with Operation Grange being one example. When I compared the track records of DCI Andy Redwood and DCI Nicola Wall, I used the case of Margaret Muller as as example. This was a woman stabbed to death while jogging in a park in London in Feb 2003. In Feb 2011, DCI Wall was in charge of a cold case review of this murder.

Her limited time left at Scotland Yard combined with her cold case expertise favours deploying her on other cold case reviews. The officers freed up at this point also have extensive cold case experience, and the Operation Grange statement makes it clear that the team will sit inside a larger unit, from which it can draw manpower if needed.

Is Nicola Wall now heading a team reviewing cold cases, including Operation Grange? The Sun is already reporting that 25 officers are clearing out their desks in Belgravia. Time will tell which version is correct.

The second thought is the 1,338 statements taken and 1,027 exhibits collected by Operation Grange.

The exhibits could be anything that is not a statement – photographs taken at the time, records recovered from the Ocean Club, such as the crèche records.

The statements angle piqued my interest. At the moment I can think of two major potential sources. One is the Crimewatch and equivalents shown in 2013, that generated responses in 3 countries. The other is the major gap in the PJ Files – all the tourists who stayed in Luz that week, but left before they could be interviewed. Each of those would be of interest, even if iy was nothing more than to see if they can illuminate the understanding of the phone traffic. Even today, I would expect people who were in Luz that night to remember a fair bit about what they were doing, simply because of the dramatic news the next morning.

My third thought was about precisely when the McCanns became aware that Operation Grange was to undergo a significant downsize. Clearly, the McCanns had to be made aware that this change was coming, given that the news release has extensive comments by the McCanns on the change.

On 2 Sep 2015, the Madeleine story was that the McCanns accepted that the police investigation could not go on forever. Clarence Mitchell is reported as stating that the couple had moved money from the Find Maddie to a special account that would be used to continue the search for Madeleine. At the time, this set off a flurry of debate as to why a special account was required, other than the Find Maddie account. News of the latest funding round was also being erroneously reported as giving Operation Grange 6 months before it was halted, when the parliamentary reply stated no such thing.

Debate also linked this news re McCann funds to the trial v Gonçalo Amaral.

The timing of the news re a potential end to Operation Grange, and the decision to ring-fence money, suggests the McCanns were aware by early September that plans were in place to scale down the investigation in the next month or so.