Portugal – forest fire at Pedrógão Grande

Portugal has announced 3 days of mourning for the 62 dead, so far, in the forest fire in the Pedrógão Grande region, which broke out on Saturday and continues to blaze at this time.

The photo below comes from the N2 atop the Barragem do Cabril dam, and this gives you an idea of the terrain and the woodland that the firefighters, the bombeiros, are facing.

This dam and river happen to be the junction of Leiria District and Castelo Branco District, why is why photos from the major news sources show bombeiros from both teams.

The grey structure in the background is the modern road, the IC8. Many of the main stream pictures come from the IC8.

The next photo is the Ponte Filipina. It was built around 1607-1610 in order to replace an old wooden Roman structure. It connects Pedrógão Grande to the north with Pedógão Pequeno to the south. It was intended for foot and horse traffic only, and the approach road was built in 1860. When the Cabril Dam and the N2 were built it became redundant and fell into disuse.

The enormous concrete structure behind is one of the supporting pillars of the IC8, as it crosses the valley.

In the next graphic, Pedrógão Grande is marked in red. The squiggle to the right is the river as it approaches the Cabril dam.

Above, to the west is Coimbra, the location of the INML laboratory that carries out forensic testing for the Polícia Judiciária.

Slightly south and to the west is Leiria. While slightly south and to the east is Castelo Branco. These are the two regions trying to fight the fire.

I have included Lisbon, for the simple reason that I know where to point to it on a Portuguese map. Close by, I know we have visited Évora, which I believe is a world heritage site. I think we have visited Estremoz and Elvas, but I would need to check.

The final location you might wish to note is Fátima, just south east of Leiria. Fátima is in an adjacent region of Portugal, called Santarém.

Within Santarém in another place that interests me. It is called Mação. Whether it has anything to do with the former Portuguese colony of Mação in China, I know not at this point.

Madeleine – DNA in Portugal

Portugal was allegedly the last country in Europe to establish a national DNA database.

The relevant law was number 5 of 2008, coming into effect on 12 Feb 2008.

That was the date at which it became legal to keep a DNA database, but it was not the date at which a DNA database was kept.

The INML was to be the keeper of the national database.

A news report dated Nov 2009 said the database was completely empty, without a single entry, while the INML had received just 23 requests to provide matches.

The law relating to who went on the database was criticised as being too restrictive.

A side issue was volunteers, who could go on but take themselves off as they pleased. Another was civil cases (paternity). These peripheral issues would come to form only a small proportion of the data registered.

The core was those on it with criminal convictions. This was restricted to those people getting a sentence of 3 years or more, hence most criminals could never appear. Such an entry was not automatic. It required a specific order from a judge to make it happen, and in the formative years this was very much the exception.

Further, unlike the UK, it is not once on, always on. Criminal records in Portugal get expunged after specific periods of time, and whenever a criminal record was expunged, it was mandatory to remove the related DNA entry from the INML database.

By mid-Feb 2012, the national database stood at precisely 395 entries in total (criminal in the main, but also volunteer and civil). This was the date at which a major Portuguese news source reported the first successful use of the database in a criminal case. An offender was tracked via DNA in a theft case.

This case was then used by the police and related authorities to ‘advertise’ to judges the benefits of ordering DNA samples in cases of convictions for 3 years or more.

By the end of March 2015, the database had grown to 5,393 entries.

Finally, the law states that arguidos can be compelled to give DNA, even if this requires force. I do not have any information as to whether this is routine procedure or not. Essentially, two more checks exist. The authorities cannot use this (arguido) DNA in another case, and the DNA evidence is removed when the arguido status is lifted.

I do not know whether or not the INML routinely checks new convictions against outstanding cases.

This information has clear and obvious implications in the Madeleine McCann case, both on the chances of success in the original PJ investigation, and in the current Scotland Yard operation.

Apartment 5A – INML lab results for 4 May 2007

On 19 June 2007, the lab in Lisbon sent the first DNA results back to the investigating team.

The report covered two areas of interest – what was found by the Lisbon team that did a detailed search of 5A on 4th May 2007 – and what was found in Robert Murat’s house and car.

The forensics very quickly get very confusing indeed, therefore I will split things out to make the pieces simpler.

Since 5A was the first place to be searched, and it was a crime scene, my focus turns first to the results at this date from 5A only.

The Lisbon men had collected 6 packets of hairs, and a sample of cloth returning a weak positive for semen.

Let’s start with the semen. The INML repeated the semen test, and once again got a weak positive. At this point in time the stain was still being referred to as semen. Further down the line, the INML tested the stain for saliva and that test returned a strong positive. The stain would thereafter be referred to as saliva.

That stain becomes a bit problematic because it has the same DNA profile as a number of hairs found in 5A.

It has been suggested that these came from an earlier occupant of 5A, a child. I have difficulty with this one. I have no issue with a bed-cover with a non-visible (to the naked eye) saliva stain. Sheets and pillows would be changed between visitors, but I doubt the bed-cover was changed as frequently.

It’s those matching hairs that perplex me. Apartment 5A was deep cleaned on the Saturday ready for the McCanns to arrive. It was routinely cleaned on the Monday, according to Kate’s book. Both Kate and the cleaner agree 5A was cleaned again on Wednesday 2nd May. So those hairs survived at least 3 cleans, even if the child was in 5A immediately prior to the McCanns.

Then there is the small issue of how they got the child’s DNA and where it was tested. There is nothing on file about this. It might or might not have been done, but the evidence file shows nothing regarding this.

It’s time to move on to the hairs found in 5A on 4th May 2007. In addition to the ‘semen’ stain, the INML extracted DNA from 130 human hairs at this time. The report does not list how many human hairs were found in total. It does not say at this time how many dog hairs were found. It does not say how many human hairs could not be used for DNA analysis. Basically, it says the INML now has 130 hairs with a DNA profile, and the lab is going to continue to try to get more out of the samples.

The report is at http://www.mccannpjfiles.co.uk/P7/07_VOLUME_VI1a_Page_1827.jpg

That is in Portuguese and it is highly repetitive. Please bear in mind that I have stripped out the results from Robert Murat’s home and car.

The two guys from Lisbon did a reasonable graphic, showing the 7 areas where they picked up hairs and ‘semen’. Here is what was found, using those 7 areas. The format is Portuguese reference, number of hairs, where from, and who it matched to.

5A Interior cropped

B, 3, entrada 7, unknown.

B1, 1, entrada 7, unknown.

C, 13, sala 6, Kate.

C, 15, entrada 7, Kate.

C, 13, bedroom yellow strip 1, Kate.

C, 4, floor beside window bed 4, Kate.

C, 1, Madeleine’s bed 3, Kate.

C, 7, floor beside Madeleine’s bed 2, Kate.

D1, 1, sala 6, unknown.

D2, 1, bedroom yellow strip 1, unknown.

D3, 1, floor beside window bed 4, unknown.

F, 1, sala 6, unknown.

F, 2, entrada 7, unknown

G, 1, sala 6, Matthew Oldfield

I, 1, entrada 7, David Payne.

J, 1, floor beside window bed 4, unknown.

J, 1, entrada 7, unknown

J, 1, floor beside Madeleine’s bed 2, unknown.

(K Not relevant – not 5A.)

L, 1, bed-cover ‘semen’ stain 5, unknown.

L, 1, bedroom yellow strip 1, unknown.

L, 2, entrada 7, unknown.

L, 4, floor beside window bed 4, unknown.

(M Not relevant – not 5A.)

N, 2, sala 6, Gerry.

N, 11, entrada 7, Gerry.

N, 6, bedroom yellow strip 1, Gerry.

N, 3, floor beside window bed 4, Gerry.

N, 3, floor beside Madeleine’s bed 2, Gerry.

O, 1, sala 6, Russell O’Brien.

O, 1, entrada 7, Russell O’Brien.

Q, 1, entrada 7, unknown.

Q, 1, sala 6, unknown.

There were 19 other profiles that had been extracted from 5A that do not match the profiles above.

Please don’t ask me why there is no A, E, H etc. in the files, and why there is a B and B1, a D1 and a D2 and a D3. I could only guess, and that won’t help.

Now comes the interesting bit, which is interpreting these findings.

I believe the INML had sample DNA swabs from the Tapas 9 and Robert Murat at this time, but not samples from police officers who responded, people who waltzed through 5A on 3rd May, people who had rented 5A before, the owner of 5A, and people who had been in 5A during the McCann stay, namely the cleaners and the repair men.

So we are missing much more than we have got, but what have we got?

The biggest find must be that Robert Murat’s DNA, which had been sampled, was not found in 5A. At least, not by this stage.

Kate’s pattern is a little bit odd. Hairs everywhere you would expect to find them, apart from in the bed beside the window. That’s the bed she slept in on the night of 2nd May, so how do I explain the lack of Kate’s hair? She’s shedding everywhere else that sounds reasonable, so is the lack of hairs on that bed significant or just another red herring?

There is a conspiracy theory that the McCanns were part of one huge group of swingers that involved most of the Ocean Club and most of Luz. If that turns out to be the case, apartment 5A is remarkably devoid of evidence supporting this.

The ‘contamination’ of 5A from the Tapas 7 is minor.

Later on the police respondents would be tested, and translator Silvia Batista would be added. However, child-carer Amy Tierney stated that she went through all of 5A that night, and it appears she was re-located to Greece without DNA tests. I wonder how many people went through 5A and did not have DNA tests at all.

The final puzzle is Madeleine and the twins. Kate had 53 hairs spread over the sample sites. Gerry had 25, also well spread. I would have expected large numbers of hairs from the children, spread throughout. And if Madeleine slept twice on that bed since the flat was last cleaned then surely she should have left hairs on it. Perhaps some of the hairs attributed to the parents will later get re-attributed to the children.

According to Kate’s book “Madeleine”, she sat with the twins on Madeleine’s bed for a final story before the twins were moved to their cots for the night. At this point in time, only a single hair had been identified from that bed, and it belonged to Kate.

Perhaps subsequent analyses will resolve some of these issues, but unfortunately, the lab tends to lump all samples together, including 5A, Murat’s house, every car that was searched and a flat that was searched in Burgau. Splitting them out again is not straight-forward.

Current newspaper reports of 432 human hairs relate to all of the sites and cars searched, not just 5A. The focus of media reports is 98 hairs that could not be analysed at the time, rather than the fairly large number of hairs for which DNA was extracted, but were not matched to anyone.