Madeleine – body in Rio Tinto near Porto

One of the distinctive features in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann is the difference in capability of visitors, such as Kate and Gerry McCann, to conceal or dispose of a corpse, and that of locals, be they Portuguese or ex-pats.

This story today in Correio da Manhã caught my eye. It is behind a pay-wall, so I only have the headlines.

A corpse has been found in a wall of a house in Rio Tinto. This is near or in Porto – see the map.

There is very little information outside of the pay-wall, but the house appears to be terraced.

I don’t know if the relevant wall is external or internal. I don’t know if the corpse is that of a child or an adult. The only other information is that parts or all of the body were wrapped in a newspaper dating to 1970. Unless someone had kept an old newspaper, it is likely that this death dates back to around 1970. That would give a cold case just short of 50 years.

One the most important dates in Portugal’s history is 1974, when the Salazar regime was overthrown.

Quite how one gets a body into a wall in a house in Portugal is baffling me. My experience of workmen is that they are seldom working alone or unsupervised, so this method of body concealment is quite puzzling.

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Madeleine – Did the BBC bend the truth?

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

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

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

*

Maddie: Did the BBC bend the truth?

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

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

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

***

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OPERATION GRANGE

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

Madeleine – Netflix #1 update

Bar Carib is a bar/restaurant located in the west of Luz. It is the only facility in a very large area of Luz. It has the advantage of ample car parking, which is useful as the area is hilly and many of the ex-pats are no longer spring chickens.

Bar Carib is the dot in green. It is fairly close to the circle in pink, which is 27 Rua das Flores, the villa used by Kate and Gerry McCann when they left the Ocean Club. The map layout is a little confusing at this scale, because it looks like there are several car exits from 27 Rua das Flores, but many of these are pedestrian-only. The reality is cars go via Rua dos Hibiscos.

If the McCanns went jogging from 27 Rua das Flores there is a good chance they ran up Rua dos Hibiscus, and if so, they would have passed the sign for the Bar Carib. For all I know, the McCanns may have used it as their local.

Other than this sheer speculation, I have not heard of any connection between the Bar Carib and the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. At least until now.

The yellow dot on the map is apartment 5A, close to Baptista supermarket (and the Tapas Restaurant). The blue dot is the Millennium, around a 650m walk from apartment 5A.

The orange dot beside the Millennium is the Mirage. It gets a couple of little mentions in the PJ Files, with possibly two more flying under the radar.

The owner of the Mirage is David Jones, co-creator of Fireman Sam. The Mirage has been closed since 2014, because it was losing money. Mr Jones was in the Carib recently, and the locals do enjoy a good gossip when they socialise.

Mr Jones said that he had indeed been in touch with Netflix. He told them that he had no significant knowledge regarding Madeleine’s disappearance. In my opinion, he is in error on that point, but I assume he does not know the slivers of gold he is sitting on, like many a person in this incident.

His interview with Netflix was restricted to whether Madeleine’s disappearance had an impact on his business. Since I was not at Bar Carib to hear his story first-hand, I will simply say he does indeed think there was a Madeleine effect, a very detrimental one.

If you look at the map again, the Mirage is not best placed for general business. There is car parking, though not a huge amount. The Mirage is adjacent to the Ocean Club, and it is an obvious connection that as the Ocean Club went into terminal decline, the Mirage would struggle badly. Picanhas Brazilian grill opened just a mile or so east of Luz, and that appears to have killed off the Mirage.

Since Mr David Jones is prominent in the Netflix gossip and will probably pop up again, here is a photo of him (on the right).

For more bio, go to https://www.thesun.co.uk/archives/news/415539/is-fireman-sam-your-pole-model/

Madeleine – septic tanks

My task one day had been finding out about the difference between a cesspit and a septic tank. The simplest answer seems to be that a cesspit is closed (it is just a big tank in the ground) but a septic tank is open (everything goes in, solids are trapped, liquids come out again). Both have to be drained.

Here is a photo of the land near our septic tank in Portelas.

Everything around it is the colour of straw, for the simple reason that it is straw. The house was empty for years and the grass grew to waist height. One of the local worthies got an industrial mower onto 3 neighbouring plots, including ours, and baled the crop as winter feed for GNR horses. The straw is what was left. It has not rained in many months so the grass is not re-growing.

The green circle of green grass in the photo is, I assume, where the fluid is allowed to drain from the tank. The grass looks healthy enough, despite the fact that the fluid contains liberal doses of bleach and clothes washing liquid. Maybe the large number of showers is diluting it enough to stop this from being a problem.

To empty the tank of solid waste, there should normally be a manhole cover, with vehicular access for a waste lorry. We appear to have neither of those. At the moment, it appears our tank was installed by a neighbour, but the work has not been completed. It requires a further €6,000 to install a pump. Presumably the pump is needed to pump solid waste from the tank to a mains sewage system, removing the need for a manhole cover and vehicular access.

But the norm would be a manhole cover, used for removal of solid waste.

What does this have to do with Madeleine McCann? As far as I can see, it reduces the likelihood of body disposal via a septic tank or cesspit. I know there was at least one case in the UK in which the body of a murdered woman was put into a cesspit. The police failed to find anything during a search of the property, until a neighbour told them there was a cesspit under the garage. The corpse had not dissolved, and presumably, the cesspit had not been drained since her death.

Whilst the cesspit/septic tank route would be available to a local with knowledge of such and the ability to lift up a manhole cover, it is not a viable body disposal or body concealment option for the McCanns or other members of the Tapas 9.

Madeleine – Steve Gibson on YouTube

A Mr. Steve Gibson has uploaded a YouTube video that seemingly follows on from one of the men identified in the Panorama 10 year special.

It is at https://youtu.be/XBmxYzo6vyo and was uploaded on 9 July 2017. Before you spend over 51mins of your life on this, let me explain the provenance.

Mr Gibson uploaded a shorter video to YouTube on the Madeleine McCann case, about one year earlier than his current opus. That video was rambling, full of swearing, and Mr Gibson made clear he was new to the case at that time. It is self evident from that video that Mr Gibson was fairly ignorant of the case basics.

Reading up for a year is unlikely to have transformed Mr Gibson’s expertise, but at least in his July 2017 effort he desists from swearing.

His basic train of thought is as follows.

  • Kate and Gerry McCann can be ruled out, largely on the response of the dogs.
  • The Tapas 7 can be ruled out, largely on the basis that they had no need to get involved in a cover-up.
  • Random individuals mentioned in the PJ Files, e.g. bogus charity collectors or alleged surveillance people, can be ruled out, largely on the basis that there was insufficient evidence of monitoring of apartment 5A.
  • This leaves an inside job, conducted by a staff member at the Ocean Club, with access to keys.
  • Cleaners can be ruled out, largely because Mr Gibson thinks they can.
  • Maintenance workers can be ruled out, largely because Mr Gibson thinks they can.
  • Staff such as restaurant workers, gardeners and drivers are ruled out, because Mr Gibson thinks it was done with a key to 5A.
  • That leaves those in administration (Ocean Club 24 hour reception). Of which Mr Gibson thinks they number around a dozen.
  • And for some reason, Mr Gibson then homes in on one of the Panorama people, Vitor dos Santos.

Perhaps it was the Panorama programme, perhaps not, but Mr Gibson has lifted both video and stills from that special to support his analysis. He has alleged that in the Panorama interview conducted by Richard Bilton, Sr dos Santos’ behaviour was strange, in that he mentioned several times that he had lost his job over the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, and that he expressed no emotional tie to Madeleine, or support for her parents.

He went further by overlaying on the Panorama footage the darker-skinned Smithman e-fit, thereby implying a likeness.

Mr Gibson went to considerable length to state he could not prove this theory, which is probably a wise decision.

I am not a fan of behavioural analysis. In Sr dos Santos’ position it strikes me as impossible to predict what ‘correct’ behaviour would be. And as for the Smithman e-fits, I am of the opinion these are junk quality, and tell us very little indeed.

There are things about Sr dos Santos as a suspect that are a poor fit. His statement shows that he was casado i.e. married, so exactly what he was going to do with a 3-year old girl is difficult to imagine. His economic situation seems to have deteriorated with his change of occupation. And 10 years on from Madeleine’s disappearance, he appears to be living and working close to Luz, in plain and common view.

Madeleine – Sergey Malinka’s Audi A4

An Audi A4 for someone of Sergey Malinka’s age in March 2008 seems quite an expensive and impressive car, so I did a bit of digging.

Mr Malinka’s car got fire-bombed in March 2008, whilst parked on Rua 25 de Abril, quite near to the apartment occupied by his parents and himself. The word Fala – Talk – was spray-painted on the pavement beside the wreck. As far as I know, no one has ever been brought to justice for this act.

I am looking at cars appearing in the history of Luz. The McCanns’ Renault Scenic was first-up, then I turned my attention to Sergey’s Audi A4. Cars in Portugal are extremely expensive, due to a scandalously high import tax. So I wondered how Mr Malinka could afford an A4, which got me thinking about how old Mr Malinka’s car was (they run forever in Portugal).

Fortunately, Mr Malinka’s A4 is in the PJ Files, and even better it appears in the dog-search videos. Here is (was) 10 91 FP. Portuguese licence plates now have a strip down the right hand side with the year and month of registration. The Audi does not have this, so it must pre-date this requirement. That means I have to work via the logo on the boot and the tail-light clusters.

From Sergey’s Audi A4 in the dog search.

There is a fairly distinctive boot shape. The tail light clusters have white reversing lights at the bottom centre. Thanks to all the petrol-heads in the world, I can date this shape from 1992 through to 1997.

After that, the rear end got a makeover. Here is a 1998 model.

This means Mr Malinka’s car was between 11 to 16 years old when it got torched. This may seem venerable, but as I have explained import taxes in Portugal are prohibitive, and because of this cars retain a much higher proportion of their purchase price than they do in the UK.

So the intriguing question remains as to how Sergey Malinka was able to afford an Audi A4 at his age.