Madeleine – Did the BBC bend the truth?

Around 3 Feb 2018, Village Magazine published an article by Gemma O’Doherty, entitled “Maddie: Did the BBC bend the truth?” https://villagemagazine.ie/index.php/2018/02/maddie-did-the-bbc-bend-the-truth/

Photographic copies of the article quickly surfaced on the Internet. These included the photos used to illustrate the article, plus all of the text (in non-searchable files).

The following is a transcript of the text (no photos), which makes it searchable. This is for research purposes only.

*

Maddie: Did the BBC bend the truth?

On the night Madeleine McCann disappeared, an Irish tourist saw a man with a child matching her description near the McCann apartment. His testimony could prove vital to the world’s most famous missing person case, especially since the man he saw that night has never come forward.

On a cold night in May 2007, Martin Smith and his family were walking home after an evening out in the Portuguese resort of Praia da Luz. A retired businessman from Drogheda, Co. Louth, he co-owned an apartment there and was a regular visitor to the Algarve town.

The crowds of summer had yet to arrive and the normally bustling streets of the old quarter lay quiet. It was approaching 10pm when some members of the family of nine were suddenly struck by the sight of a man walking quickly towards them holding a small child uncomfortably in his arms.

***

The BBC have told Village that they got it wrong about the Smith sighting but have failed to explain how they made such a fundamental error.

***

As he passed close by them on the narrow street, the child appeared to be in a deep sleep, her head placed over his shoulder and arms suspended down her body.

She was blonde, aged around four and wearing pyjamas. Despite the chill in the air, her feet were bare. Martin and his daughter Aoife noted that her skin was very white. The man carrying the girl was middle-aged and more formally dressed than the average tourist, in beige trousers and a dark blazer-like top.

A member of Martin’s family made a comment towards him that the child was sleeping, but he did not respond or make eye contact, keeping his head down as he hurriedly headed in the direction of the coast.

At the time, Martin did not recognise the sighting had the potential to change the course of the world’s most high-profile missing person case.

The following morning, he got a text from his daughter in Ireland to tell him the a three-year-old girl had gone missing in the resort. The approximate time frame and location he had witnessed the child appeared to match.

By now, the mystery of what happened to Madeleine McCann was beginning to grip the world. Martin brought his mind back to the evening before and wondered if the child he saw could have been her. The girl certainly matched Madeleine’s description and the sighting had taken place at Rua da Escola Primaria, just 500 yards from the McCanns’ apartment. In time, Martin would become convinced he was correct.

Over a decade has passed since Madeleine McCann went missing on May 3, 2007 yet the case of the British three-year-old remains mired in more questions than answers. The main-stream media, who have by and large backed Kate and Gerry’s version of events with the support of several A-list celebrities and politicians, appear to have lost interest in a story they once could not get enough of.

The very opposite is true on social media. The internet swirls with allegations and theories that the McCann story is littered with holes and does not stack up. Countless videos have been posted on YouTube by armchair detectives challenging the parents’ seemingly at times bizarre behaviour, in particular their reactions in certain interviews when the finger of blame shifts towards them.

Some are compelling to watch and have highlighted what appear to be discrepancies and confusion in certain accounts given by the McCanns and some of their friends about what happened in the period before and after Madeleine disappeared.

***

For some reason, the man the Smiths saw that night has yet to come forward and eliminate himself from the Inquiry and remains unidentified.

***

Gerry McCann, a consultant cardiologist from Scotland, and his Liverpool wife Kate, a GP and anaesthetist, said they had put their daughter and two-year-old twins Sean and Amelie to bed at around 7pm, had drinks together for almost an hour and then left the children alone to go to a tapas bar 50 yards from their apartment. There they met 7 friends with whom they were on holiday. They told police that they and their friends checked on the children every half-hour.

Gerry says that he went to the apartment at 9.05pm and all the children were sleeping soundly. He said Madeleine was lying on her left-hand side in exactly the same position she was in when they had left her.

At 9.25pm, his friend, Dr Matthew Oldfield told police he went to check on the McCann children. He said afterwards he could not be certain that he saw Madeleine on that check. Kate McCann said she went back to the apartment at around 10pm, entering through the patio doors that they had left unlocked. She said she noticed that the door of the children’s bedroom was “completely open” and that the window was also open and the shutters raised. She said she scoured the apartment, then left the twins asleep in their beds before running back to her friends in the tapas bar and claiming Madeleine had been taken. At 10.41pm, her disappearance from Apartment 5A of the Ocean Club resort was reported to police by hotel staff.

Overnight the story made headlines around the world. Several days after Madeleine disappeared, the Smith family flew back home, but the sighting remained in the back of Martin’s mind. He discussed it with his wife Mary, son Peter and daughter Aoife who were with him that night.

When they tallied the time and the location, and the fact that the man they had seen had come from the direction of the Ocean Club complex where the McCanns were staying, they were convinced it could have been Madeleine they had seen.

They decided to inform investigating police, and at the end of May 2007, Martin, Aoife and Peter flew back out to Portugal to make statements. They gave similar accounts of the man they had witnessed: average build, short brown hair, beige trousers; and the child: blonde, around four, and wearing pyjamas.

As the summer passed, the mystery of what happened to Madeleine McCann continued to perplex the world but life returned to normal for the Smiths. Then one Sunday evening in September, it came back to haunt Martin again. He was sitting at home watching TV when a report came on the ‘BBC News at Ten’ about the

*** Photo of Gerry walking down the airplane stairs, carrying Sean.

McCanns’ return to Britain. As he watched Gerry coming down the steps of the plane, carrying his two-year-old son in his arms, Martin was gripped by what he had just seen and described the experience as watching “an action replay” in his mind.

He was instantly brought back to the night of May 3 in Praia da Luz. Something about the way Gerry was holding the child in his arms and the way he put his head down seemed shockingly similar to the man he had seen in Portugal the night went missing. He said it hit him like a “bolt from the blue”. He watched the clip again in different news channels reinforcing is belief that he was not mistaken.

During this period, Martin had difficulty sleeping and felt sick with anxiety. He contacted the Garda and informed the of what had happened.

He told them he was 60-80% sure the man he saw carrying the child that night was Gerry McCann. His wife Mary felt the same way.

Irish officers found him credible. A local garda who interviewed him described him as a genuine, decent man who did not wish to court the press or seek publicity.

But while Martin’s evidence seemed compelling, independent and without motivation, much to his frustration, it was not given the attention it seemed to deserve.

Almost a year after he made his initial statement to the police, he was approached by private detectives working for the McCanns and asked to make e-fits (electronic facial identification images), of the man he had seen in the night Madeleine disappeared.

The McCanns say they gave these pictures to the police at the time but chose not to publicise them. Instead they remained focused on another sighting by their friend Jane Tanner, one of the so-called Tapas Seven group of friends who had been on holiday with the couple and who dined with them the evening Madeleine disappeared.

***

Former Scotland Yard murder detective Colin Sutton says: “Looking at the background to the whole case again, inconvenient suggestions like the Smith sightings have been dismissed on a number of occasions. When someone comes forward like that, it must be taken very seriously. It wasn’t just a throwaway phone call. It was something quite specific.”

***

She claimed to have seen a man carrying a child away from their apartment complex at around 9.20pm but in the opposite direction to the man allegedly seen by the Smiths.

However, more than six years later, in 2013, the Metropolitan police announced that a British tourist had come forward to say he could have been the man she had seen as he carried his daughter home from the Ocean Club late night creche.

The Tanner sighting was about to be dismissed. The Met would switch their attention to the man seen by the Smiths. The e-fit images were finally released and the then chief investigating officer Andy Redwood said the timeline leading up to Madeleine’s disappearance was being rewritten, especially the 90 minutes between 8.30pm, when the McCanns left their children to go to the restaurant and 10pm, when they discovered their daughter missing.

A reward of £20,000 was offered to anyone who could assist with the investigation. But the the story of the Smith sighting took another bizarre twist as allegations emerged in the media that the family had retracted their statements. The public were being told that this potentially critical development was just another red herring.

The BBC even went as far as to make this claim. In a ‘Panorama’ programme broadcast in May 2017 to mark the tenth anniversary of Madeleine’s disappearance, presenter Richard Bilton told viewers that the Smiths had changed their mind about seeing Gerry McCann and now believed they had seen someone else.

In recent weeks, I have spoken to Martin Smith at his home in Drogheda. He told me he continues to stand by everything he said to the police in 2007. At no point did he withdraw his statement or change his mind about the sighting.

He is frustrated by media claims that he now says he was mistaken; and remains “60-80%” convinced that the man he saw that night was Gerry McCann.

After the BBC programme was broadcast, Martin contacted ‘Panorama’ and informed them of their inaccuracy. But the broadcaster failed to correct the public record despite its public-service remit. Last month, I asked the BBC why they had wrongly suggested the Smith sighting had been withdrawn and if they were willing to correct their error at this late stage.

I received a reply acknowledging they had indeed broadcast an inaccuracy. They agreed to update the ‘Panorama’ programme on their iPlayer to reflect the correction. They say the mistake was made in good faith but they have failed to explain how they came to make such a fundamental mistake and why they did not check if their story about the Smiths was correct before they aired the programme.

Former Scotland Yard murder detective Colin Sutton is one of a number of experienced officers who believe the Smith sighting is one of the most important pieces of evidence available to the investigation.

According to media reports, Sutton had been tipped to head up the new probe by British police in 2010. He claims he received a call shortly after these reports from a high-ranking friend in the Met who warned him not to take on the job as he would not be happy being told what he could and could not look at.

Several aspects of the new investigation perplex him including the apparent decision by Operation Grange not to question Gerry and Kate McCann or their friends again.

Looking at the background to the whole case again, inconvenient suggestions like the Smith sightings, have been dismissed on a number of occasions”, he says:

When someone comes forward like that, it must be taken very seriously. It wasn’t just a throwaway phone call. It was something quite specific. The fact that Mr Smith’s memory was triggered by Gerry McCann carrying the child down the steps of the plane is quite relevant because I think that is how the mind works. It is a trigger I would take quite seriously.

I can see no reason why Martin Smith would make up these claims. He has nothing to gain from doing so.”

OPERATION GRANGE

To date, Operation Grange, which now consists of four detectives from a peak of 31, has cost the British public more than £11m making it one of the most expensive police investigations in history.

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Madeleine – Michael Havis on Smithman

The Daily Star article in question is at http://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/latest-news/640497/madeleine-mccann-news-missing-found-parents-smith-sighting-2007 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.

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 – 10th – #9 – is this the finale?

This is nearly the finale.

It was now getting late and I was getting fidgety. I had wanted to get to the Smith sighting by 10pm and the time had come and gone.

However reporter Michael Havis had now bagged Reverend Haynes Hubbard, so I took a few more photos. Please bear in mind that circumstances were far from perfect. I still had not figured out how to switch the flash on my camera off, so I must have being annoying many a person. It is also not the best camera mode for a night shot, which explains why this photo is so fuzzy.

However, this low quality photo made it into the UK media reports and the question is why. The photo shows what Reverend Hubbard was wearing on his feet – sandals and no socks. He obviously does not stand on ceremony.

But the photo part that interests me is what this gentleman has around his right wrist. It is a yellow band. Reverend Hubbard is Canadian, and these wrist bands have a meaning in North America. They signify hope that a missing child will one day return.

This is a marginally less fuzzy photo of Reverend Hubbard being interviewed by Michael Havis. You can see the lady in black from CMTV striding off at a rate of knots. Lisbon is 3 hours from Luz. London via Faro is more like 6 hours. The media did their interviews and headed off into the distance.

Whereas I grabbed Mr Havis, dragged him to the Smith sighting, and there we emulated exactly what could have been seen by Peter Smith, Martin Smith and Aoife Smith.

This is the last of my personal photos. Questions remain. Where were the McCanns? What did Sky’s special on 2 May 2017 reveal? What did the Panorama special on the 10th anniversary reveal?

Madeleine – 10th – the congregation emerges

The times on my camera are about 8 minutes ahead of the church clock. This the scene around 9.40pm, with the media now waiting for the congregation to emerge from St Vincent.

There are still late night passers-by heading south, perhaps to one of the restaurants or perhaps just going for a stroll on a pleasant evening.

I got intercepted by one gentleman from Sweden who was curious about the activity. And a German couple who said they were in Luz on the night Madeleine disappeared. Because I don’t look like media, people are generally happy to chat to me for a few minutes. The flavour was along the lines of why so much was being done for one child when there are many other missing children.

If you look at the lighting, you can see more sources than there are at the Jane Tanner sighting. However, Jane’s man-carrying-child was very close to a (sodium) street light. The street lights here are sodium, backed by fluorescent light from two shop fronts, the media cameras and a near-full moon. On 3 May 2007, the near-full moon had not risen, but on 3 May 2017 it was well up in a clear sky.

Make your own judgement about which colours can be picked out and which colours can’t.

The shop in the background with a green stripe over the window and a large plus sign on its front wall is a chemist. Back in 2007, it was an Ali Super convenience store. There is footage of that store in the background as the McCanns arrived at the church to attend an evening mass. The store remained open until 10.30pm.

If the Crimewatch special of Oct 2013 is to be believed, the man seen by the Smiths around 10pm headed in this direction i.e. roughly in the direction of the church.

If the Panorama special of May 2017 is to be believed, the dig in central Luz by Operation Grange in June 2014 relates to 3 men considered as possible burglars. These 3 men were 3 of the 4 made arguidos in July 2014, but all 4 have been informed they are no longer persons of interest.

Neither Crimewatch nor Panorama seems to have twigged the importance of Aoife Smith’s testimony.

It would be an interesting Freedom Of Information request to find out precisely how much the Operation Grange digs in Luz cost.

The church clock is showing 9.40pm, and the congregation has started to emerge, complete with candles inside little glass bowls. I was a little bit bemused as to why there was little attention being paid to these people. The best photo I have seen of them was taken by reporter Michael Havis, inside St Vincent. He told me the congregation numbered about 20 and they went near to east end altar, while the media, also around 20 in number, sat at the west end, near the door you see.

It dawned on me why the media was paying limited attention to the candle-light procession. They were queuing up for an interview with the Anglican minister, Reverend Haynes Hubbard. Presumably these had been agreed in advance i.e. that the minister would come out at the end of the service and talk to the media.

Madeleine – Luz Tour 4 results

Luz Tour #4 has now been completed, with very mixed results, due to the variable weather.

On the first day, my guest wanted to spend the time with a friend, at a market in a town several miles north of Luz. This was a wise choice as the weather turned out to be particularly good that day.

The following day the weather forecast was 92% chance of rain, and I pulled out of a Luz Tour on the basis that when it rains here, it is not gentle rain as per the UK. The norm is as close to a monsoon as Europe gets. As it turned out, the weather forecast was basically wrong, and it was a fine, bright day, only turning to rain after dusk.

On the next day, the forecast was again strongly predicting rain, but after the good weather of the day gone by, I decided to risk it. And of course, that was a mistake. It started to monsoon it down, and on a very short walk from my car to my guest’s accommodation in Burgau, I got completely drenched. I tried towelling some of the water off, but basically my clothes were still wet through.

As the storm was continuing, we decided to call off our planned trip to Lagos, and instead headed across the road in Burgau to the nearest café for a coffee and a pastel de nata (custard tart). And there we sat outside but sheltered, as the rain slowly lightened up.

We were talking for close on 3 hours, with less than an hour on the Madeleine McCann case and the rest on other topics. As per usual with interesting conversation, I lost track of what was happening to me until I reached the stage I was so cold I could not stop my teeth chattering. When I got home I put on dry clothes and a warm winter fleece, but it took over an hour and a hot meal before I reached something close to normal temperature.

The following day the weather improved, but my guest wanted to spend some time with a friend during the day, then meet up with acquaintances in Lagos in the evening.

That left the final day before my guest departed and we decided if it was to be a Luz Tour, then we would tour Luz.

We started off at the top end (the NW end) of Rua Vinte Cinco de Abril to check out a couple of reasons why the June 2014 Operation Grange dig of the mound made little sense. Then we strolled closer to the centre of Luz, to pass some of the STOP signs that had been graffitied in July 2014 to read STOP mccann circus. All of the signs we saw have now had the graffiti painted over, to simply read STOP.

My guest had not eaten breakfast and was feeling peckish. Luz has a wide choice of cafés and restaurants, but most are intended for tourists and charge tourist prices. I had a bit of a think as to where we could get something more typically Portuguese, and we headed to LuzTur, where the choice was Dom Doce at the entrance or Polly’s a little farther in. Polly’s was a little less exposed so we sat outside that and had a chat about the Madeleine McCann incident in pleasant sunshine.

LuzTur features in the case as it was where one of the 4 people made arguidos in July 2014 was living at the time of Madeleine’s disappearance in 2007. I have visited LuzTur on a previous tour, to see if it could be used as a control point in a planned exercise against apartment 5A. You can get a good view of the Tapas zone, the sole entrance to the zone, and the rear of block 5. However, the Tapas restaurant has a solid south wall which would block all observation of the Tapas 9 at their dinner table. You would only see parents checking once they had exited the Tapas restaurant, giving little time for communication and action. It is only my opinion, but there were much better places to observe the Tapas 9 and control any planned raid on apartment 5A, so I doubt LuzTur was used.

My guest and I headed out towards Baptista past the probable site of the missing manhole cover, then up to the Ocean Club to check out a couple of points to do with the statement of Neil Berry.

We headed back to the centre of Luz, which is when we saw the tuk tuk on its tour of Luz, near the church and the ice cream factory. As I said, I did not have a camera with me, but my guest got several photos of the tourist ensemble.

Time was now running out and my guest wanted to check on an idea suggested by a friend. So we headed past the Bull, Kelly’s and Fernando’s to get to just south of the Smith sighting. Assuming Smithman did not head to the beach but instead went down the steps Aoife Smith had just come up, we checked out the route west along Rua das Salgadeiras, then south down Travessa das Fontainhas to get to the rocks beside the sea where the fishermen keep their small boats.

On a bench in the small square on the front a young Portuguese woman was enjoying the pleasant weather and the tranquillity. Beside her, she had a double buggy with very young twin babies, who were taking advantage of the warmth and quiet to have a nap.

My guest and I headed to the boats. Most were keel up to keep out the rain. A couple had not bothered with this, and contained many gallons of water from the two rainy days earlier that week.

However, the thing that really surprised me was a security aspect. I had assumed the boats were secured by the simple device of removing the oars, and in most cases this was true. But at least two had the oars inside the boat, meaning anyone could use them.

Mark Harrison concluded that if Madeleine was dead, one method of body disposal was via the sea. I had never thought much of this, given the incoming tide that night and the need to get far out to sea, but now a viable transport mechanism was in front of us.

To use this method, a person would need to know the boats were kept there, have access to oars, and have the time to row out a considerable distance before returning.

The evidence of the Tapas 9 about what happened that night rules Gerry out as Smithman. Whilst this method might have been used by Smithman for body disposal, the operational characteristics further rule out Gerry.

It was now time to return to my guest’s base in Burgau, leaving ample time to prepare for the long, arduous journey home.

Luz Tour 4 was over.

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.