Madeleine – Panorama special 3 May 2017

Reporter Richard Bilton, who has covered the Madeleine McCann case for 10 years, presented a BBC Panorama special on 3 May 2017 entitled ‘Madeleine McCann 10 Years On’.

Mr Bilton obtained an interview with Pedro do Carmo, Deputy Director, Polícia Judiciária. He said it is still a missing child case. Plus the PJ wanted to learn what to do if it is repeated.

The Lisbon court case of the McCanns v Gonçalo Amaral was covered briefly.

The programme added various scenes of Luz that are impossible to get from the ground. If you check the credits at the end, you will see the drone camera operator was Andy Webb.

The documentary covered the basics of the case – 9 adults eating at the Tapas restaurant, 8 children in block 5, Kate alerting around 10pm that Madeleine was missing.

There was a previously unseen interview with Gonçalo Amaral from 2012, in which it was claimed there was nothing to support an abduction.

The programme said the Portuguese police found inconsistencies in the time-line, and thought the McCanns had acted oddly by bringing in the media.

The dog deployments were next, presumably to move on to an interview of Kate and Gerry McCann by Sandra Felgueiras. This was the one where Gerry said cadaver dogs are unreliable.

Had the Portuguese settled on their theory before final DNA results were available? Panorama did not pick up the order of things from Kate’s book ‘madeleine’. The McCanns let it be known they were soon leaving Portugal. The PJ chose to interview them before their announced leaving date. The incomplete results still required that the McCanns were made arguidos.

The Smith family gave statements that they saw a man carrying a child several hundred metres from the Ocean Club at around 10pm on 3 May. Gerry would be implicated in the sighting, but he had an alibi of being at the Tapas Restaurant at that time.

In 2008 the case was archived, and the McCanns were no longer arguidos.

Robert Murat gave his opinion on events of that time. Was his mother being followed by private investigators? Was Mr Bilton asked to spy on his colleagues with respect to Mr Murat?

The BBC documentary moved to the report by Jim Gamble, then head of CEOP. It recommended a review. The report appeared to languish until May 2011, when The Sun serialised Kate McCann’s book ‘madeleine’.

Operation Grange was started. The documentary moved to ‘the British story’.

There were burglaries in Luz, that allegedly the local operators kept quiet to protect trade. Heriberto Janosch González told of 3 recent burglaries in block 4 and block 5. In a video, he demonstrated how to raise the shutter an open the window from outside.

3 men were potentially involved in a burglary that night. José Carlos da Silva, a driver at the Ocean Cub. Ricardo Rodrigues, aged 16 in 2017. And Paulo Ribeiro. These were allegedly connected by phone messages and texts. These were 3 Portuguese people on a phone to each other in Luz, and the phone traffic was normal. José Carlos da Silva declined to be interviewed. Ricardo Rodrigues could not be contacted. Paulo Ribeiro was interviewed and he denied involvement in a burglary. He said he had been identified from a drawing or e-fit.

Presumably that was from Crimewatch Oct 2013. If so it is puzzling as to how Sr Ribeiro was identified, as that Crimewatch programme did not air on any Portuguese channel, though those e-fits were shown in Portuguese media.

Judging by the Panorama interview, Sr Ribeiro does not appear to be the kind of person who could keep a major secret for 10 years.

I think I may have had a very brief encounter with Sr Ribeiro about a year ago, though I had no idea at the time that it was him.

Scotland Yard announced these 3 men were no longer persons of interest in April 2017.

Panorama moved on to another man, Vitor dos Santos. He had given a fairly long statement in 2007. He confirmed he had been interviewed by British police, and that must have been in Dec 2014. He said the questions were much the same as in 2007 e.g. about the logistics of the holiday complex. Sr dos Santos had been laid off by the Ocean Club and now made a living taking tourists on boat trips near Lagos.

It seems Operation Grange has a further lead to pursue but Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley would not be drawn on what it was. That left the recent press speculation that it might be about a woman seen near apartment 5A acting suspiciously on 3 May 2007.

I was in contact with the Panorama team to explain some information. However, that was shortly before the programme aired, when the documentary must have been nearly fully completed. So I have no reason to believe anything was altered as a result of our exchange.


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 – paedophilia – CEOP

Please note this article is about the analytical capability of CEOP at the time Madeleine disappeared. There are quite separate posts on this blog about the technical glitch on the Wayback Machine that wrongly makes it look like CEOP knew of Madeleine’s disappearance some days prior to 3 May 2007.

CEOP was the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre. It was formed in April 2006, so it had only been running for about a year when Madeleine disappeared. However, there was a predecessor called the Paedophile Online Investigation Team, making an accurate evaluation of CEOP’s capability more difficult.

CEOP was a member of the Virtual Global Taskforce, also established in 2004. Members included the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Italy, Holland, Colombia and the Philippines. Portugal was not a member directly, though Interpol and Europol were. This has already been touched on in Operation Predator (the US version), aimed at the deportation of people living in the US indulging in paedophilia and US citizens travelling abroad considered to be high risk re child sex tourism.

Operation Avalanche was a major US programme which followed on from the arrest in 1999 of Thomas and Janice Reedy for facilitating access to child porn sites. Essentially, they has a multi-million dollar business which took payments by credit card then permitted access to porn sites based overseas, splitting the sign-up fee with the distributor site. The Reedy couple thought they were immune from prosecution in the US as the distribution sites were not on US territory. In 2000, Thomas Reedy was found guilty, and after an appeal over a very long sentence, it was reduced to 180 years (one hundred and eighty).

Following the arrest of the Reedy couple, the US authorities were sitting with a massive database of users from around the world who had, allegedly, been using their credit cards to access child porn. There were several flies in the ointment. Thomas Reedy had detected major credit card fraud, and had written a system designed to block it. This was not effective, and eventually his ability to act as a gateway was revoked, due to the cost of processing dud transactions.

The Reedy database was split up by country. The US authorities launched Operation Avalanche to deal with the US side, some 35,000 users, leading eventually to 100 arrests.

The UK was sent details for 7,272 names. In the UK this programme was called Operation Ore, and it came in for some heavy criticism. 3,744 people were investigated and 1,451 were convicted.

The UK had a rather odd law, that a person could be convicted of paedophilia if a person’s card details appeared in a database containing other people who had accessed child sex material, whether such card use was fraudulent or not, and whether the card itself was used to access child sex as opposed to any other legal material. If no child porn was found in a home search, the user could be charged with incitement i.e. inciting the Reedy couple to continue providing a gateway to child porn.

A further requirement of UK standard operating procedure was that police forces were required to act quickly, to separate vulnerable children from potential paedophiles, thereby not permitting time to evaluate the database properly.

CEOP and its Chief Executive, Jim Gamble, were accused of using vague terms which do not have a recognised meaning within either child protection or law enforcement when they defended the operation. Guardian, 17 May 2007,

If that is the background, what was CEOP getting up to in 2006, when it was formed, and in 2007, when Madeleine disappeared? Here the Wayback Machine proves to be helpful as it is possible to retrieve CEOP press releases from that period. The URL needed is the old CEOP one ,, and the press releases are at

24 Apr 2006 New CEOP Centre will be the most significant development in child protection to date

22 Jun 2006 Website snares its first online grooming offender. Lee Costi became the first person convicted in the UK after there was an accusation raised via CEOP/VGT

03 Jul 2006 Social Networking Sites Under The Spotlight. The growing use of social networks re paedophilia.

25 Jul 2016 Thousands of child sex abuse images taken offline as eastern European crime gang arrested in dawn raids. Dawn raids in five UK police regions have this morning seen the arrest of 13 men and women all suspected of being connected with pay-per-view websites offering images of child sex abuse. (Judging by full release, this was a gang of eastern Europeans operating in the UK rather than a joint international effort.)

17 Nov 2006 CEOP launches first national website to track child sex offenders. This was based on the success of Crimestoppers Most Wanted. The CEOP version would feature details of child sex offenders in breach of their notification requirements. None of these offenders was linked to the Algarve.

29 Dec 2006 Child sex offender details posted on Most Wanted website. CEOP Centre posts its sixth most wanted convicted offender after 4 of the first 5 offenders are located.

03 May 2007 Keep up to date with the nation’s ‘Most Wanted’. The public can now keep track of convicted child sex offenders who go missing thanks to a new facility launched by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre and independent charity Crimestoppers.

09 May 2007 Disappearance of Madeleine McCann. Web Appeal for Information. Portuguese Police have extended a web based plea for information following the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.

The latest appeal has been issued by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre and the Virtual Global Taskforce (VGT) at the request of the Portuguese authorities.

The appeal is sited at and It appears in English, Portuguese and Spanish and urges people to come forward with any information that could help police find the missing youngster.

Both sites receive extensive daily hits from browsers in more than 130 different countries. It is hoped the move will help extend the reach of the appeal to as many people as possible, including holiday goers who may have recently returned from Portugal, or be intending to visit.

Any information should be passed to directly to the Portuguese police on 00 351 282 405 400.

Two forensic behavioural analysts from the CEOP Centre have been assisting with this inquiry. They have been made available to the authorities to ensure they have the full range of expertise available for every possible avenue of investigation.”

(This is the one and only press release I can find on CEOP about Madeleine McCann.)

18 Jun 2007 Global Online Child Abuse Network Smashed – CEOP lead international operation into UK based paedophile ring

An online trading ground for indecent images of children and live exchanges of abuse has collapsed following an international operation led by the CEOP Centre.

The last 10 months of this complex investigation has resulted in the co-ordination of law enforcement agencies from 35 different countries and their subsequent, ongoing investigations – intelligence from which indicates that there were more than 700 suspects worldwide. The UK branch of the investigation centres around 200 suspects, the majority of which are currently subject to active police enquiries at this time. Further information can not be released until these enquiries have concluded.

To date, the international operation has led to 31 children being rescued from abuse or positions of harm.

Kids the Light of Our Lives’ was an Internet chat room dedicated to the sexual exploitation of children. Hundreds of members worldwide used it to trade a range of material, including photographs and videos of children being subjected to sexual abuse and serious sexual assault.

The man behind the network has been convicted at Ipswich Crown Court and now awaits sentence.

27 year old Timothy David Martyn Cox hosted the website from his home address in Buxhall, masquerading behind the online identity ‘Son_of_god.’ When trading, he used the name ‘I_do_it’.

Cox was identified after intelligence linking the chat room to the UK was passed to the CEOP Centre by Canadian partners within the Virtual Global Taskforce last August.

On receiving this information, specialist officers immediately began enquiries to trace the host, using a range of techniques and undercover online activity. Cox was located and subsequently arrested by officers from Suffolk Constabulary on September 28 2006. This allowed uncover officers from the CEOP Centre to infiltrate the room and gather valuable evidence.

Over a period of ten days, officers from the CEOP Centre and Toronto Police conducted online surveillance. They were able to identify further suspects and secure vital information regarding potential victims, before closing down the site.

When Suffolk forensic teams examined Cox’s computer they found 75,960 indecent and explicit images in addition to evidence that he had supplied 11,491 images to other site users.

Cox was subsequently charged with 9 offences, relating to the Possession and Distribution of Indecent Images of Children.

In September last year, Gordon Mackintosh from Hertfordshire also became a key subject in the UK inquiry. The 33 year old attempted to resurrect ‘Kids the Light of our Lives’ following the Cox’s disappearance as host. Officers from the CEOP Centre carried out extensive work to identify and locate the individual behind the usernames ‘silentblackheart and ‘lust4skoolgurls’. Alongside Hertfordshire Police, they arrested Mackintosh on January 9th 2007.

CEOP officers, alongside VGT partners from the Australian Federal Police, ICE (US Department of Homeland Security) and Toronto Police undertook 24 hour online surveillance to infiltrate the room for a second time and collate details of all the offenders attempting to trade material.

McIntosh’s computer was found to contain 5,167 indecent and explicit images of children, in addition to 392 indecent movie files. He pleaded guilty to 27 charges of making, possessing and distributing indecent images and movies. He awaits sentence.”

30 Oct 2007 British man arrested in Thailand on child sexual abuse offences

A 39 year old British man has been arrested in Thailand today following a joint operation by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre and the Royal Thai Police (RTP).

The man was arrested for offences including transmission of obscene material and malicious internet use.

The arrest forms part of an ongoing investigation initiated when in 2003 the man breached his notification requirements under the sex offenders register. Intelligence reports received in August 2007 indicated that the man had fled to Thailand and may be a risk to children.

CEOP’s Overseas Tracker Team picked up the case and a joint operation was launched alongside the Royal Thai Police – one of a number of collaborative programmes currently running in partnership with the RTP to deter and prevent British nationals travelling to South East Asia to abuse children.”

05 Nov 2007 46 Arrests in UK as international child sex offender network smashed

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre has coordinated the UK response in smashing a global child sex offender network.

So far, 46 suspects have been arrested in the UK in operations involving 22 police forces around the country with more arrests expected in the near future.

Operation Koala was initiated in 2006 and involved the sexual abuse of children from a modelling website based in Italy. ‘Customers’ from all over the world were able to order tailor-made videos depicting the abuse.

The investigation began when a child abuse video – made in Belgium – was discovered in Australia. A Belgian perpetrator and two victims were identified. Consequently, the sole producer of the material, a 42 year old Italian national, was arrested. He was running a website on which he sold over 150 self-made, sexually explicit videos of young girls. The business had been running for eighteen months and generated considerable profits from around 2,500 customers worldwide.

The abusive material was mainly produced in the man’s private studio. Some material was filmed in Belgium and the Netherlands. One of the video’s sold by the Italian suspect shows a father sexually abusing his daughters of 9 and 11 years of age. ‘Customers’ of this website were able to order tailor made videos and some even travelled to the studio in order to watch and record the abuse, making their own private videos.

Shortly after the Italian child sex offender was arrested in Bologna, the Italian authorities forwarded all digitalised material, including ‘customer’ details to Europol and Eurojust. From here, the material was disseminated to the countries in which customers were identified.

In June 2007, the material was passed to CEOP which holds UK responsibility for receiving intelligence and information from overseas on child sexual abuse crimes.

CEOP’s Intelligence Faculty analysed and developed the material and passed details of individual suspects to their local police forces who in turn initiated their own investigations. Operational activity in relation to these investigations is ongoing and likely to continue for some time.”

05 Mar 2008 Eight UK children identified in images seized from international paedophile ring

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre has identified and safeguarded eight British children from sexual abuse as a result of thousands of indecent images seized in an international police operation led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States.

This two-year joint investigation between the FBI and the Queensland Police in Australia focused in on a highly-sophisticated newsgroup hosted on the internet where individuals from around the world traded child sexual abuse images.

As a result of this operation, 400,000 images were seized and where possible identified to a particular country. They were then passed to the appropriate police agencies around the world to investigate further.

In the UK, this work is undertaken by the CEOP Centre and specifically by a specialist team of investigators who use facial recognition software and thorough detective work, examining the images and painstakingly looking for clues to locate the victim or the offender.

The Victim Identification Team at CEOP is headed up by Paul Griffiths:

“Whilst it can be difficult at times, this work is vital to identifying and locating children who are being subjected to horrendous abuse. In this case, eight children aged between six and 14 have since been protected from further abusive situations and six men are currently serving jail terms for their role in sexually abusing these children”.

In every image there is a child. These images are crime scene photos where children are being subjected to sexual abuse. This is not ‘child pornography’.

It’s important to remember too, though that these children were not missing. They were located in the place where they were supposed to be safe – their own home – where their abuse was recorded and made available over the internet to satisfy sickening sexual desires of a deviant group of individuals.”

So far, two British men and 20 other individuals from the USA, Canada, Australia and Germany have been arrested in connection to their role in this newsgroup paedophile network.”

21 Apr 2008 Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre publishes 2nd year results and lays out the challenge ahead

131 Children safeguarded from sexual abuse

297 Suspected child sex offenders arrested – a three fold increase

6 Organised paedophile rings dismantled

1.7 Million UK children receiving “safety first” education

2nd year results from the CEOP Centre – the UK’s dedicated organisation for tackling the sexual abuse of children – show the battle against child sex offenders continues to gather pace.

The CEOP Centre was set up in 2006 to deliver a national policing focus that would track some of the UK’s highest risk sex offenders, provide services across the wider child protection community and deliver a holistic and inclusive response that would get to the heart of the crime.

That focus has led to the safeguarding of 131 children and the arrest of 297 suspected offenders during the last twelve months, with the arrest figures alone being a three-fold increase on the organisation’s first year results.

During the last year the organisation has processed almost 1 million images of child sex abuse – using each unique image to help either build up intelligence, track and bring offenders to account, or as vital parts of an investigative jigsaw leading to 18 young victims being identified from this area of work alone.

And offenders have been targeted not only individually, but also where they have formed intricate paedophile networks with 6 such groups infiltrated and dismantled throughout the year – all with international footprints.

Reports from both the child protection community within the widest sense and members of the public – through the CEOP Centre’s unique report abuse virtual environment – continue on an upward trend with a total of 5,812 reports received and activated during the past year – a 76% increase on the monthly average from 2006/07.”

08 Aug 2008. UK police uncover global online paedophile network

Police today revealed that an international paedophile network has been infiltrated by law enforcement officers and dozens of suspects arrested.

The operation was run jointly by the CEOP Centre, Cleveland Police and the Metropolitan Police Service.

The investigation involved the largest ever coordinated deployment of undercover officers in the UK within a child protection investigation.

The announcement came as a 27 year old Teesside man was sentenced to an indeterminate public protection sentence for his part in the network, which has so far identified over 360 suspects worldwide. More than 130 of these suspects are in the UK, resulting in over 50 arrests to date.

15 children have been safeguarded in the UK as a result of this ongoing investigation.

Philip Anthony Thompson, unemployed and from the Stockton-on-Tees area of Cleveland, was charged with 27 counts in total including causing or inciting a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity, taking indecent photographs of a child and making and distributing child abuse images. Approximately a quarter of a million child abuse images, still and moving and ranging from levels 1-5, were discovered in Thompson’s possession.

The investigation began in May 2007 when the Metropolitan Police Paedophile Unit initiated an undercover operation into an internet forum. Users of the forum would post disturbing, ‘borderline-legal’ images of children and pass comments on the images. This tactic, of posting indicative images instead of more explicit child sex abuse images, was an attempt to keep the site ‘below the radar’ of law enforcement and prevent it being shut down. Having made contact through the forum, its users would meet other like-minded individuals and exchange images in different online environments.

Thompson was identified as a senior administrator within the site and found to be living in Teesside.

CEOP, which holds national responsibility for coordinating the deployment of covert investigators on the internet in child sexual abuse investigations, undertook responsibility for developing the operation on a national and international level.

Cleveland Police joined forces with CEOP and affected Thompson’s arrest and, once a copy of the server had been seized, officers were able to identify those accessing the site and undertake risk assessments, supported by the deployment of undercover internet investigators.

The Australian Federal Police, the Department for Homeland Security in the US and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police took the lead within their jurisdictions as partners in the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies working together to prevent and deter online child abuse. Suspect details were circulated internationally via Interpol, also a VGT partner.“

To save you reading through all this sewage again, here is a summary of what I think are the points of interest.

  • There is no message relating to Madeleine McCann other than the press release of 9 May 2007, which is to the effect that Madeleine is missing.
  • There is scant evidence that CEOP had any advanced facility for the detection of paedophile rings. All of the leads seem to have arisen from a victim coming forth, or originated from abroad.
  • There is only one reference to the ability to scan photographs and check them against a database. It is not clear whether this is a database of offenders or of victims. In the McCann case, a CEOP request for holiday photographs suggests the centre was trying to match against known paedophiles.
  • There is zero evidence in the CEOP files that the Algarve was a haven for British (and other) paedophiles. This does not prove that the Algarve was not a haven for British paedophiles. It simply means that CEOP was unaware of such. The track record of CEOP in this respect does not fill me with hope. CEOP was publishing details of a small number of UK paedophiles who were breaching supervision orders. I would be astonished if the number of UK paedophiles breaching supervision orders is anything like as small as the numbers posted.

Madeleine v Luz phone traffic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Call timeline’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Matthew Wall Technology reporter, BBC News

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

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

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

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

This is where the BBC report ends.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Madeleine v Roderick Robinson (or McDonald or Macdonald)

In mid-October 2014, the breaking news story on Madeleine McCann was that convicted paedophile Roderick McDonald or Robinson had been apprehended in Malta. According to the reports, he was in the Algarve when Madeleine went missing, and he was wanted by Scotland Yard in connection with paedophile rings operating in the Algarve at the time. This particular version of events was trumpeted by penny dreadfuls and better quality alike.

Almost immediately problems surfaced with this tale of events, therefore the tale was forced to evolve to overcome these challenges.

I am not interested in doing a biography of Roderick McDonald/Robinson . If you want infinite detail on him, please visit This UK Justice Forum thread is currently at 22 pages, and I give my thanks for their input.

The key questions are as follows. Was Robinson in the Algarve on 3 May 2007? Was he in a position, whether directly or otherwise, to be involved in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann? Should Scotland Yard be interested in him?

Was he in the Algarve at the time, i.e. 3 May 2007? I am not getting any evidence that proves he was and I am not getting any evidence that proves he was not. CEOP suggests, but does not prove, that he was elsewhere. Link This CEOP report comes after the release of the PJ files, and Jim Gamble, the chief executive of CEOP was involved in the Madeleine McCann case.

You can search for 2 mentions of Madeleine, and a paragraph on CEOP v Roderick Robinson, and the report does not tie these two cases together.

In 2009, he was charged with offences in New Zealand and was obliged to hand his passport over. He managed to flee New Zealand in November 2009 by allegedly stealing a friend’s passport, in a story that is decidedly suspicious.

In August 2009 he was issued with a new passport in the name Roderick Robinson.

Therefore, until he was charged in New Zealand in 2009, he had his own passport.

In March 2010, he was tracked to the Algarve and in June 2010 deported to Australia to face outstanding charges dating back to 2001, over two assaults that had taken place in 1998 and 1999.

While the international arrest warrant issued by Australia was almost certainly running from 2001, Robinson was not detected in this manner.

The CEOP review of the case found details of a camper van bought and used by Robinson in the UK and tracked him abroad via that. How they or the Portuguese police located him to a camp site near Olhão is something of a mystery, and possibly relevant. Was it the camper van, the passport, or is there further intelligence that has not been made public?

In summary, while the CEOP report covers some of his movements, it does not claim to be a 100% record.

In one sense this is fortunate as it makes redundant the question of whether Robinson had access to a yacht, as was widely told, or was his ‘captain’ story fictitious. He had his own passport and the CEOP report does not rule him in or out of the Algarve in May 2007.

So was he involved, directly or otherwise, in Madeleine’s disappearance?

Indirect involvement cannot be ruled out, no matter where he was in the world at the time. So the only question is about direct involvement.

The pattern of crime is offences in Australia in 1998 and 1999, followed by a potential gap to around 2009, followed by offences in multiple countries until he was picked up in Malta.

This person’s profile is a serial offender, so the gap in crimes between 2001 and 2009 is worrying. However, on the offences where details have been made public, his MO is grooming. He befriends the victims and possibly the parents, then abuses the children.

This is a poor fit with break-ins, abuse on someone else’s turf, and abduction. Apartment 5A has no signs of a break-in and no signs of a struggle. There would have to be more evidence than this to implicate Robinson of direct involvement.

So, should Scotland Yard be interested in talking to Robinson?

The main element expunged from the PJ file made public is the list of paedophiles potentially in the Algarve at that time. The PJ line was that these had been investigated and cleared, therefore this material was excluded from public records.

One assumes that Operation Grange has access to the expunged parts, and in a systematic review, the Yard should be re-examining this angle. Presumably CEOP is examining where Robinson was in 2001-2009 and what he was up to.

In the end, it does not matter whether Robinson can be placed in the Algarve or not. He was not extradited from Malta as he had 4 images of child porn on his computer, and was given an 18-month sentence, despite pleading guilty and co-operating with the police.

Google is not great when it links to PDFs. Google Roderick Macdonald and “court of magistrates” and you should get the judgement at the top of the pile. All the court info on Roderick. Please note this is personal information subject to the recent Human Rights judgement that Google has to forget this after a reasonable period.

It is his continued preference for very young females that marks him out. Four images only, a track record of serial abuse, probably nowhere near the Algarve in May 2007, but potentially plugged into paedos exchanging images.

Roderick Robinson should definitely be on Operation Grange’s high-priority list. As for extracting information from him, and as for getting the truth, that is an altogether different problem.

Finally, a last word on direct involvement. Robinson was convicted of sex offences in Brighton. He was placed on the Sex Offenders Register. That means his DNA was taken. Unless Scotland yard is keeping it super-quiet, he has no direct involvement in Madeleine’s case. His DNA does not match.