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 – Luz Tour #6

Luz Tour #6 took place on 1st May and 2nd May 2017, just before the 10th anniversary. It was with a UK press member, Michael Havis. I was somewhat apprehensive, given that I had already been flame-grilled by a UK tabloid that had never spoken to me in any way, shape, or form. Things went better this time round, and I consider I received a much more balanced evaluation.

We met up at a hotel in the west of Luz, had a chat for a few minutes, then headed into Luz on foot.

Our first stop was at Rua das Flores. I wanted to show why it made sense for the McCanns to haul rubbish out of their rental villa by car, hence the stinky boot story. The bins are at the entrance/exit to the urbanisation, not easy to get to on foot, but chuck a plastic bag full of rubbish in the boot and everything makes perfect sense. Including a stinky boot.

Off we headed down Rua 25 de Abril to look at the place where Operation Grange dug up the mound. Visitors seem surprised by the size of it. The key details pass them by. It is an integral part of the Luz one-way system. There were two nearby restaurants which opened in 2007, though whether they managed it by May 2007, I don’t know.

Critical point #1 is the statement of Kirsty Louise Maryan. She was up a hill in Luz with two other nannies in the early hours of 4 May 2007 when they encountered Barrington Godfrey Norton, who was sleeping rough in a Ford Escort van. The only place I know of in Luz up a hill where people park camper vans overnight is this mound. I don’t have confirmation from any of the 4 people involved in this encounter that it happened on the mound. It is simply the only place that fits.

We walked through much of central Luz and arrived at the Ocean Club. I was becoming very tired. I took Mr Havis part of the way along the short route between the Tapas reception area and the Ocean Club night crèche. Along the way we saw that the adults-only swimming pool had no water in it. The next day we would find that the indoor pool was also empty of water. Basically, the Ocean Club is dead.

Near the adults-only pool, the short route goes up half a dozen steps, then it goes down a large number on the other side, and I didn’t want to do that, so we parted and Mr Havis continued exploring on his own. It seems he ended up on the sea front for a meal.

He liked the café enough that we met up there at lunchtime the next day, and it was packed. The visitors included large Portuguese groups, presumably down from Lisbon, extending the Labour Day holiday.

On the sea-front promenade on the way to the café, I had been accosted by a charity collector. This brings my encounters with charity collectors in Luz to 6. 4 of these have been calls to my residence, and each of these I would consider suspect. The other 2 have been in busy public areas of Luz, and both of these I consider genuine. Mr Havis was relieved to hear I considered the promenade charity collector to be genuine, as he had made a donation on his journey to the café.

I explained the story about the alleged tunnels and O Pouço to Mr Havis, so he asked if we could have a look, and we did. Then it was back to the front for the renovated Paraíso, where the Tapas 7 went on 3 May 2007, the market stalls where Gerry bought sunglasses on the McCanns trip to the beach, and up Rua Praia da Luz.

This street has at least two components in the Madeleine story.

John Ballinger apparently lives on this street. I knew that previously, but what I didn’t know before was that he appeared on the Sky 10th anniversary special. He explained to roadworks that were open on the night of 3 May, and from his photos, he appears to be the source for a picture in the press. Mr Ballinger said he had reported the roadworks to the police, which implies at that time he was of the opinion it was a missing child who woke and wandered, rather than an abduction.

The other feature on Rua Praia da Luz is the Duke of Holland restaurant/bar. It was taken over and has since closed down, but in 2007 it was run by June and Paul Wright. When the news was made public on 3 May, one of the pair immediately joined the search for Madeleine, while the other closed the Duke later, then got involved in the search. After this they were checked re whether Robert Murat was around apartment 5A that evening, as they knew Mr Murat and could recognise him. Despite returning to the vicinity of 5A several times during searches, Mr Murat had not been seen.

At the top of the beach road we turned left on Rua Direita and headed SW. This also has a number of items of interest on it.

First, the roadworks in the files were being done on this street.

Then there is the Luz Sporting Club. This is one of two places in Luz I suspect Sr Euclides Monteiro may well have been on that evening. His widow has said he was at home in Portelas (about 15 minutes drive from Luz) on 3 May 2007, composing a poem on his computer. I suspect he was in Luz, with friends, watching the big game. There were lots of places in Luz to watch the football that night, but only two where the predominant language was likely to be Portuguese and where the predominant culture was likely to be Portuguese. So Mr Havers took a photo of the club for his stock.

The we went to the Ocean Club reception. Things have changed somewhat with Madeleine’s kids club no longer there, and the indoor swimming pool in disuse.

I didn’t fancy the large flight of steps on the short route used by the McCanns, so we opted for a slightly longer route that is set up for wheelchair users, hence there are no stairs. This is probably the way the nannies moved the children from the kids club to the Tapas zone because it avoids a steep flight of stairs and it is ideally suited to Sammy Snake, the preferred way of getting the kids to walk together.

As it so happens, this goes between Fiji Palms block and Casa Liliana. Fiji Palms was the location of the Carpenter family. Casa Liliana was the home of Robert Murat and his mother Jenny. This is the approximate point at which Stephen Carpenter and Robert Murat met on the morning of 4 May, when Mr Murat learned what was going on, and he went to block 5 to offer his services as an interpreter.

We then headed to the Tapas reception, using the same semi-circular route taken by the Carpenters when they left the Tapas zone on 3 May.

Mr Havis was being pressed by his editor to file at least one story by his editor while he was still in Luz, so he wanted a photo to go with it. This is the one he picked.

After 2 days of Luz Tour #6, I was very tired physically. Mr Havis was going to head back to his hotel, apparently to converse with a colleague. I had just enough gas in the tank to walk home. We did not discuss what either of us would be doing on the 10th anniversary.

I have no idea how Mr Havis spent most of his day on 3 May 2017. I decided that I only had the capacity left for a stab at one trip into Luz, so I picked the 10th anniversary ceremony at St Vincent.

There I bumped into a contact from AFP from Luz Tour #5. He was back down after another 3 hour trip from Lisbon, so he has more stamina than I have.

As it happens, I took the extremely grainy photo of Mr Havis with Reverend Haynes Hubbard that appeared in the UK press.

And yes, I missed the chance to introduce myself to Mr Martin Brunt of Sky TV. He, and the Sky team, looked like they were working their socks off.

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.

telegraph-april-2016-e-fit-x-4

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 – Portelas 15 Jan 2017

Our purchase of a house in Portelas is grinding through at a snail’s pace. It is a year since we started. We went up to the village today, 15 Jan 2017 to look at several things inside the house, and several things outside. The photos are all around 1.15pm today.

It was a jolly hot day with perfect blue sky and no wind. I wanted to hack around the garden and that was quite tough in the sun.

Here is the first of 3 photos. What we have on the right is the neighbours granny annexe. There are 3 generations of neighbours packed into one plot next door, and this house will give you a good idea of the size of the bit of land we are buying.

In the bottom left is an orange tree. In the bottom right is a lemon tree. To the left-centre is an overgrown row of conifers. By the time we get to the bottom of the garden, you will find it tough to make anything out beyond the granny annexe. Also note the 3 palm trees at the bottom of the cultivated plot.

portelas-15-jan-2017-1

In the second photo I have trekked roughly half way down what will become our new ‘garden’. If you know what an orangery is, then I hope this will become our new new orangery. If you don’t know, the view is simply two orange trees beside some bulrushes. Another sight to store for later.

portelas-15-jan-2017-2

This is the3rd and final photo. I am at the bottom of the garden pointing towards the village. It is easy to see our neighbours granny annexe on the left, but after that it gets tougher. Our twin orange trees and bulrushes are centre right. The palm trees run along the centre. We have half a garden to go before we reach the house.

portelas-15-jan-2017-3

Our proposed home is the one with 4 windows smack dab in the centre of the photo. You cannot tell from the picture but the house is actually on 3 levels.

From this position you get a fairly decent view of what the village looks like. However, the aim of my photo was to show you our new ‘garden’, which most people would call a meadow or a field.

When we tried to leave, we found we were stuck inside. The front door is warped and it took us 10 minutes to unlodge it. And Portelas was in full swing. It was perfect weather for sitting in the sun and the locals at the café were obviously in a very good mood. Positively boisterous.

Is there any connection to Madeleine McCann whatsoever? At the moment I can think of two.

Portelas was the home of Euclides Monteiro, aka Tractorman. Senhor Monteiro was widely suspected of involvement in the incident, despite an absence of anything to connect him to Madeleine McCann.

From memory, the radius of the search for Madeleine stopped before it reached Portelas.

If I have got that correct, and our move to Portelas goes through, we will have exceeded the search zone for Madeleine. Our back garden is not wasteland, rugged scrub-land, or whatsoever. It is simply a very large garden. It just happens to have a large amount of hiding places.

Madeleine – Xmas day 11 – Band on the Run

I am still progressing the Day 9 – Wasteland post, and while I was doing it, a thought entered my head. Why do I know so much about the nooks and crannies of Luz, the places that Google does not go?

The answer has two parts. The first is that I am a lifelong walker. When I visit somewhere, I like to make sense of it by exploring on foot. I prefer the parts that are away from car traffic and typically that means old historic centres or in the case of the Wasteland, the trails that few people have used.

I have walked from Luz to Burgau on many occasions, and the coastal pathway is much, much more pleasant and interesting than the M537 road between Burgau and Luz.

The second part of the reason is we have moved frequently in Luz. The shortest stay was one week, while the longest was nearly 2 years. We counted up our residences, and the total so far is 8 in 5 years. This excludes the properties rented by the kids’ family when we were living apart, though they are significant. They rented a house immediately east of the Wasteland, and that is how I know you can hop the wall to get onto the plot. I’ve been exploring on that land before, merely out of curiosity.

Bear in mind that I had very little interest in the Madeleine McCann case until the Operation Grange dig of June 2014, so most of my exploring had nothing whatsoever to do with Madeleine.

When we arrived in the area, the plan was to move to a villa we were renting just outside Luz. We had to stay in an apart-hotel in Luz for a week whilst waiting for our furniture to be moved from the UK to the villa. That week was actually very hard physical work. We had been promised that the villa would be cleared before we moved in, and we had paid for it to be cleaned. Being Portugal, the villa was neither cleared nor cleaned, so we spent large chunks of time gutting it and then cleaning it. When we had finished ripping out aged tat, there was well over a lorryload of the stuff. Fortunately, the local council picks that sort of rubbish up and disposes of it for free.

I woke up early one morning in our week the apart-hotel, and since I didn’t want to disturb the family, I decided it was time to explore. It was late February and the weather was glorious. I hunted down the beach, passing other early morning walkers and exchanging amiable chat with them of no particular significance. Then I arrived at the beach area, and I though the vista was jaw dropping. I had an exploration along the front, including the Roman ruins and the Fortaleza, then I returned to tell the family, excitedly, about what I had found.

It was decided we would all head to the beach area for breakfast. We chose the Paraíso because it was actually on the beach and had the best view. The weather was warm enough in February that we wanted breakfast al fresco, so we sat on the outside. There were 4 adults, 2 teenagers, and one baby. Due to the size of the group, we happened to sit on or near where the Tapas 7 took their children for tea on the afternoon of 3 May 2007. We probably appeared on the exactly the same CCTV, just years later on.

Bear in mind that none of us had the slightest inkling that Luz was connected to the disappearance of Madeleine, nor of the movements of the Tapas 7. We had simply picked a pleasant spot on a beach to have breakfast in the sun. There would be many more such coincidences as we became ‘The Band On The Run’, even if I only became aware of those quirks of fate much later.

The villa we moved into is in Urbanisation Melody. We moved out again soon after because the villa was damp and essential features such as showers and the oven were decrepit, and we had too many people to hack that. The owner assured us the main oven was new, but shortly before we moved out the oven fan fell out because it was rusted through completely. We later learned that our ‘contract’ with the owner was not a legal contract in Portugal, because none of us had the correct documentation to enter into a legal contract. It appears money was being hidden both from the tax man and the owner’s family, who had a right to a share of our rent.

Once more, I did not hear about the scandalous rumour connecting Gerry to Urbanisation Melody until much later. The urbanisation was added to Google in Jan 2015, so you can now peek around for yourself if you want. We were in the villa that has a skinny black dog by the gates.

I did my usual walking, exploring and mapping. I walked to the camp site to the west, which happens to have a tiny role in the Madeleine McCann tale. There I discovered a Brazilian restaurant that did buffet lunches, so we decided to try it out one day. The range was good and the price was relatively inexpensive, but I am not a fan of buffets, so we never went back. That restaurant later relocated to Valverde, where the GNR car was on 3 May 2007 when it got the ‘hurry up’ call. The Brazilian has a good reputation in Luz, so perhaps I am picky about my food. Again by sheer coincidence, my family was in that restaurant for lunch one day when Operation Grange heaved up for their mid-day break from the Luz dig.

Going back to the topic of Urbanisation Melody, the scandalous rumour was that Gerry had buried Madeleine’s body in the garden of one of the plots, and the gardener failed to notice this. This is a scarcely disguised variant of the scandalous rumour that Gerry had buried Madeleine in the villa the McCanns rented at 27 Rua das Flores and the gardener failed to notice this.

I had criss-crossed Urbanisation Melody and the surrounding area in my time there, and trust me, there are dozens and dozens of places to conceal a body that are much better than digging up someone’s garden. This should not be interpreted as meaning Gerry found some better place in the area. Unless he was scouring the countryside like a madman, he would not have been able to find this urbanisation until Google put it on-line in Jan 2015, so it is a complete non-starter.

Of the 8 places we have lived, I can only think of a couple that are not coincidentally connected to the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. That is simply due to the size of Luz and the amount of coverage of the disappearance of Madeleine in the media.

Our proposed move to Portelas has crawled forward at a snail’s pace. The house has now been valued by the bank and the valuation is sufficient to cover the mortgage we want. The council has conducted its inspection to check that the work it requires has been done to the standard it requires. We have good reason to believe it has. All we are waiting for now is the paperwork. Mind you, we have been trying to buy the villa for about a year now, and this is Portugal, so we are not holding our breath.

Does Portelas have some sort of coincidental connection to the disappearance of Madeleine McCann? Of course it does. First, in the Luz rubbish disposal tale, it features as a transit station before the garbage is moved on to its final destination in Barlavento. Second, it was the residence of Euclides Monteiro, aka Tractorman, a person I think Operation Grange was checking out in 2014.

Today’s Day of Christmas tale is nearly done, except for a graphic of the 8 locations we have lived in while we were the Band On The Run. It looks a little bit like someone has taped the base graphic over a dartboard and then thrown a dart or eight, without much accuracy. Or is it a blunderbuss spray shot pattern?

madeleine-xmas-day-11-band-on-the-run

Madeleine – we’re leaving Luz

Because the basic character of Luz is English, not Portuguese, and because renting two properties here is very expensive, it looks like we are all moving inland to a tiny hamlet near Portelas.

We have had a look at a property which has 7 bedrooms, and which is nearly split into two, with 4 beds upstairs, and almost separate, 3 beds downstairs. That means the fossils (us) can have the lower level, while the next generation, 2 adults and 4 kids have sufficient space upstairs.

The place is a bank repossession that has been standing empty for some time, so it needs a fair bit of sprucing up both inside and out. However, as it is a repossession, we can afford to buy it for a price much below market value and leave the expensive rents behind.

A potential fly in the ointment is timing. At the moment, the schedule is that we will become owners in the last week of February, though I have to say I have never seen anything as complex as a house purchase go through in that sort of time scale.

When it does go through, we intend to continue to rent here in Luz for a further month. That month will cover the sprucing up that needs to be done before we move, plus moving two households here into one up north.

Now, my first visitor is booked for early March, so if completion goes through in late February, there is a bit of a logistical clash, as I should be focussing on the move. As I said, I would be astonished to find that it does. But if it does it simply means I will have to do a bit of juggling on two fronts.

Portelas is on the N120, which basically runs from Lagos to Bensafrim and Aljezur.

You may be thinking that Portelas, Bensafrim and Aljezur sound familiar.

Aljezur is on the west coast of Portugal, and it seems to be a favourite for David Cameron for summer holidays. The only potential connection to the Madeleine McCann case is that a young boy disappeared some years previously, whilst walking on the beach with his parents.

Bensafrim appears in the Madeleine case on account of telephone signals that activated a mast or masts near Bensafrim. It should be remembered that the A22, the most direct route from Luz to Portimão and beyond, takes you close to Bensafrim.

That leaves Portelas. Portelas was the home of Euclides Monteiro aka Tractorman. The best fit I can get for the short digs on the final day of the Operation Grange exercise in Luz in June 2014 is Euclides Monteiro. If phone traffic suggests he was in Luz in the evening of 3rd May, then his route from Luz to Portelas would take him past the water treatment plant to the east of Luz. That plant is very close to the final digs, and Monteiro is supposed to have worked in water treatment after his stint in the Ocean Club.

It looks like I need to do an article on Euclides Monteiro to gather the facts in one place.

The potential house move does mean that I need to re-jig some of the priorities I covered in an earlier post, as I won’t be doing a lot of Foot Luz work after the relocation.

Textusa, Martin Grime, and the dogs

Slowly grinding my way through the PJ files on telephone records is more than a tad boring. I thought a change was as good as a rest, so I decided that looking at what Textusa has been offering recently would be a little light entertainment.

I don’t need to explain Textusa’s central theorem re Madeleine McCann, therefore I wont. I will simply focus on Textusa with respect to Martin Grime and the dogs.

First let me summarise my own viewpoint, which will give you an idea of my approach to this topic.

I have never been impressed by the dogs as evidence. If the dog-handler, Martin Grime, states that only the forensics count, then I go by the forensics. If the forensics are non-supportive, then I am not going to find guilt merely by interpreting what the dogs were doing.

On this basis, I have never spent much time digging into the track record of dogs in general, of Eddie and Keela in particular, and of Martin Grime in particular. As Textusa builds on two of these, I am straying out of my zone of expertise. I am playing away from home, in a battleground of someone else’s choosing.

This is generally not a smart thing to do, but as I explained at the start, I am bored with the trail I am currently pursuing, and this is simply a fun diversion.

The relevant entries on Textusa’s blog are “Cadaverine” (29 May 2015) and “Cadaver compound” (5 Jun 2015).

There are probably older entries relating to the dogs and Martin Grime, but I have no intention of trying to index Textusa’s blog, so I will stick with those two posts.

The second explains that Textusa used the term ‘cadaverine’ in the first post merely as a simplification in a post containing a lot of information. The second also explains that the term ‘cadaver compound’ may be a more accurate description, as we are not certain what chemical cocktail Eddie or Keela reacts to.

I understand why Textusa took this step. If we don’t know the chemical formula or formulas of the mix that sets Eddie off, there is going to be fertile ground for those who choose to haggle over what it should be called.

I do not have a term for this cocktail that is accurate but devoid of connotation, therefore I am not in a position to criticise. However, cadaver compound clearly has a connotation that a cadaver, a dead body, is the original source. Martin Grime is specific that dead blood will make Eddie alert, without there being a cadaver. This explains checks in the PJ files on previous occupants of apartment 5A to see if they had bled there. Textusa attempts to persuade us that Eddie does not alert to blood, only to cadaverine (or rather, cadaver compound odour), but the simple fact is that his handler, Martin Grime, is clear that Eddie reacts to blood that is dead.

This explains the overarching need for forensics. This explains why Eddie alerted to the Renault Scenic key, and the FSS found the material belonged to Gerry McCann, a live person.

As soon as one realises that Eddie alerts to dead blood, whether the person who shed it is alive or not, you hit lots of problems with the dogs’ evidence. It would appear no-one bled in any of the 10 vehicles screened by Eddie in the car park, other than in the McCanns vehicle. It would appear no-one bled in any of the apartments occupied by the Tapas 9, with the exception of 5A. No-one bled in 4G, occupied by the McCanns for 2 months from 4 May 2007 to 2 or 3 July 2007. No one bled in Casa Liliana. Despite Eddie alerting to articles from 27 Rua das Flores, which again could be explained by blood from a live person in 27 Rua das Flores, Eddie did not alert to a specific location that could be the source for the scent, only to the articles removed.

When I say no one bled, I am not restricting this to the Tapas 9, Robert Murat and his circle. No one bled covers all of the previous occupants of all of the locations searched, whether that occupancy was before Madeleine McCann disappeared, or after 3rd May May up to the date that Eddie searched.

In the two posts I have noted, Textusa limits discussion to apartment 5A, Casa Liliana and a potential third location. That possible third location was not searched by Eddie. I have little knowledge of what Textusa says about later alerts, so it is time for me to get back ‘on topic’, and focus on apartment 5A and Casa Liliana.

Textusa goes for 3 alerts by Eddie – behind the couch in the lounge, beside the wardrobe in the parent’s bedroom, and in the garden close to the passageway (running behind block 5) and adjacent to the garden of 5B.

I make it 4 alerts. I agree on the location of the first two. However, I have seen Eddie alert on the veranda outside the patio doors of the parents’ bedroom. And I would position the final alert in the garden basically directly below the veranda alert i.e. as close to 5A as one can get in the garden. I disagree with Textusa that vertical means to the south. I interpret vertical as in horizontal and vertical. Such is life.

The alert on the veranda and the alert in the garden appear to relate to the same source, which would condense the 4 down into 3. And the location in the garden is not core to Textusa’s theorem, so I see no point in haggling.

In “Cadaverine”, Textusa explains the post is to demonstrate that Madeleine’s body could have been on Murat’s property even though Eddie did not alert there.

Textusa solves this conundrum by placing a vehicle not belonging to the Murats on the Murat property, with said vehicle probably sourced by the Ocean Club. The latter would explain why Murat’s vehicles could be searched and nothing found.

Thus Casa Liliana, its grounds and the Murat vehicles could all be clean, despite the body being on the property. Textusa makes it clear that the post is not to prove that the body was on the property, merely that the evidence does not rule this out.

Mrs Jenny Murat’s statement makes it clear she was in the property that night, and that she saw and heard nothing unusual. Unless she is part of a conspiracy, there was no ‘strange’ vehicle on her property, coming and then going through her gates at odd times of the night.

Such a vehicle might have been parked near to but outside her property, and then there is no reason to believe Mrs Murat noticed anything and no reason to make her a conspiracy suspect.

Of course, if such a vehicle was on public property, it was exposed to the risk of being peered into during the Ocean Club structured search. Note I have limited myself to saying ‘at risk of’ and nothing more.

Let’s go back to apartment 5A and see what Textusa explains about the scene. The theory can be summarised as saying Gerry is the culprit of the scene, and that on his longish visit to 5A around 9.05, he took the body from behind the couch to an unknown location (location X) within 5A, cleaned the body to the extent it was not leaving material trace of cadaver compound, moved it to the cupboard and shortly thereafter moved it to the garden. This latter leg was because he heard someone coming towards 5A. He then exited the gate to talk to Jeremy Wilkins, to establish a parental checking routine on the children.

Jane Tanner walked past Gerry and Jez and saw Smithman.

After parting with Jez, Gerry headed towards the Tapas area long enough for Jeremy to walk out of sight. At that point Gerry doubled back, entered the garden, retrieved the body and headed off into the night with it.

It seems this was to the mystery OC vehicle on Murat’s property. That would give another set of gate opening/closing at Casa Liliana, again risking comment from Mrs Murat.

Anyway, Gerry managed to get back to the Tapas restaurant before Jane Tanner returned. Unless of course the Tapas 9 are all up to their neck in conspiracy.

One movement of the body is explained as the need to clean up the area behind the sofa in 5A. If Madeleine’s body was left there from before the McCanns went out to dinner, (which Textusa asserts on the basis the protagonists were still thinking about calling the authorities), to Gerry’s visit at 9.10 or so, then Gerry was very busy indeed. This adds cleaning the area behind the sofa onto Gerry’s list of tasks.

If as part of Gerry’s alleged clean of Madeleine, the body was wrapped in a suitable container, I can understand why a prompt deployment of Eddie might find the relevant odour in the parent’s wardrobe without locating a specific location of cadaver contamination.

What I am not getting is why location 2, the wardrobe, escapes such contamination, but location 3, the garden of 5A becomes contaminated.

The idea that the body was not in the wardrobe long enough to infuse it with cross-contamination is fine. The idea that Madeleine’s body went into the cupboard and did not touch a surface due to protective material that was then removed is not fine.

And why does Textusa worry about contamination on Gerry’s hand being transferred to the garden gate? Textusa does not worry about contamination on the patio doors or contamination on the baby gate. The patio doors are better protected from the elements, and contamination on them, inside or out, should last longer than on the exposed baby gate and garden gate.

While if Gerry cleaned Madeleine’s body, why did he not get contaminated at that time? This leads to an obvious answer of wearing household gloves at the time. With Madeleine parcelled up, there is no need to worry about contamination on Gerry’s hands. Or on the patio doors, or on the baby gate or on the garden gate. Just dump the household gloves in the rubbish long before Eddie turned up on the scene.

Eddie’s specific alert in the garden (where the FSS found nothing) is problematic, but I think there is a simple solution, whilst adhering to Textusa’s theorem.

Assume Madeleine’s body was never in the parents’ bedroom. This has the clear advantage that it explains why there was no cadaver compound source. If correct, it explains away the issue with the garden alert. Madeleine goes from clean up position X to the garden, without a detour. A side benefit of this is that Gerry requires less time to make this shorter trip.

There is a problem of course. Why did Eddie alert in the parents’ bedroom if Madeleine’s corpse was never in it. To complicate matters, the alert took place around 4 months after Madeleine disappeared, which is by no means ‘prompt‘.

How about Martin Grime’s explanation that the source can be elsewhere, but the scent can concentrate in a location that the source is not?

We know that there was a source behind the couch. Eddie alerted to it. Keela alerted to it. It is the sole spot in which the FSS was clear that Madeleine was involved, even if the amount found was so minute that the type of source found could not be identified in the lab. If Keela was correct, we are probably talking about blood.

We know that Eddie thought 5A was so reeking of the smell of death that he was off like a shot as soon as the front door opened. Thus we have a source, and an apartment in which the odour had reached the front door.

Why should the same scent not reach the parents’ bedroom? Why is it that the source is a minor contact some 4 months earlier, rather than simply emanating from the sofa location, where a current, physical source was found? Why go for complex when simple does the trick?

This post has become much, much longer than anticipated, and I have yet to cover Textusa’s second post on the topic, so I think it is time to have a break here.

PS to Textusa. Amend the 4AM trip from Casa Liliana to the water treatment plant. Why go the long way anti-clockwise past 5A, past the tail end of the structured Ocean Club search? Try the shorter, clockwise route that avoids both of these issues