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 – Smithman challenge 3

Here are the key points so far.

There are two official campsites just outside Luz. To use these for an overnight stay, there is a charge.

There are two sites within Luz that motor homes use free of charge. The first is on the flat, baked earth road running from the west end of Rua da Calhete in the direction of Burgau, though it is a quiet, no-through road. The second is the mound, aka the snail, aka the small hill, which lies in the large parcel of undeveloped land searched by Operation Grange in the June 2014 Luz dig.

Here is the information we now have to put into the mix – the statement of Kirsty Louise Maryan.

She worked in childcare in the Ocean Club. She had worked there in July to October 2006, and had returned to work in the Ocean Club on 21 March 2007.

This adds up to around 4 months knowledge of Luz, perhaps a little less or a little more. Basically, Luz was not her home turf.

On 3rd May at around 22.30 she was with two colleagues, Leanne (Wagstaff) and Sarah (Williamson), when they were informed by Amy Tierney that a search for the missing Madeleine McCann was underway, and the trio joined in the effort.

According to Kirsty –

An individual of the male sex, in Praia da Luz, next to a café whose name she does not know, was playing a guitar until the day of the facts, now under investigation. On the night Maddie disappeared and while she was involved with a group searching, mentioned prior, they encountered a vehicle, whose make and model she does not know, of white colour, commercial, parked on top of a hill, where, she cannot identify. At this point, some of the group elements banged on the window of the vehicle and the back doors and saw the person who habitually played the guitar on the beach. He was covered with blankets, reading a book and drinking a beer, with the help of a flashlight. Questioned, they were not able to observe in detail the interior of the vehicle. She add that the individual was asked whether he had seen a minor of about four years of age and the same responded, jocularly, that on that night, no one knocked on the doors of his vehicle.”

Neither Leanne Wagstaff nor Sarah Williamson mentions this encounter. Although all 3 relate they were going out together that evening for a drink when they bumped into Amy Tierney, perhaps the ‘group elements’ does not include them.

This boils down to the busker from the beach was parked overnight in a white van on the top of a hill that Kirsty cannot identify. Add two places in Luz where motor owners sleep overnight, one of them flat on the seafront, the other on the mound, and you have …

There is the issue of why Kirsty was unaware of the location of this hill, given that it is close to the centre of Luz.

Kirsty’s experience of Luz was about 4 months in total. The whole of the Ocean Club is to the east of the mound, with no reason to visit the hill. Nearly all of the bars and the restaurants are also east of the mound. The only realistic reason for Kirsty to have visited the mound would be if she was in a place like Kelly’s or the Bull, was driven home, and the driver knew enough about the Luz 1-way system to use the road beside the mound to get to 2-way roads. Kirsty had very little chance of knowing where the hill was.

Of course, final confirmation that this encounter occurred on the top of the mound would have to be given by one of the 3 searchers – Kirsty, Leanne and Sarah – or by the man they encountered – Barrington Godfrey Norton.

Mr Norton was interviewed by the PJ, his van (a white Ford Escort) was searched and he was eliminated from enquiries.

The final issue to consider is why Operation Grange failed to make this connection. Just as Kirsty had insufficient local knowledge to identify the hill, so Operation Grange lacked sufficient local intelligence to identify Kirsty’s hill as the mound. And so the costly, long, hard slog of the June 2014 Luz dig ensued.

Perhaps the interesting thing is that the GNR had insufficient knowledge of Luz and the case to realise why the dig was doomed to failure. Ditto the PJ. Ditto any PIs past or future appointed by the McCanns.

The bit that intrigues me is what went into the ILOR requesting the dig. And why did anyone in Portugal approve this? Of course, that person probably know little about the case, next to nothing about Luz, and would not have been able to tie Kirsty’s hill to the mound. But what was the request by Operation Grange and why was it deemed sound enough to throw vast resources at it in a joint police effort?

Are the McCann’s on Andy’s list of suspects?

The ground search started on 2nd June 2014 and it wasn’t in any of the 3 areas touted by the media.

Instead, it was west of the McCann apartment, roughly 2 minutes away at walking pace.  This is very odd indeed as it doesn’t match any likely scenario.

Someone kidnapping Madeleine, using a car, could be over 10 miles away in the first 15 minutes.

Someone kidnapping Madeleine, on foot, could be a mile away in the first 15 minutes.  On foot, the area of deserted land within an hour’s walk is phenomenal.

So why try at 2 minutes away?

Could Madeleine have opened the curtains, opened the shutter, opened the windows, wandered off to the west, died and then buried herself?

Please note, the BBC has turned up one “expert” who says that this ground was not searched at the time.  Testimony in the files suggests that the structured Ocean Club search did cover this territory on the night Madeleine disappeared, and that the GNR was on the territory a short time afterwards.  And another person insists that the ground was searched by the locals in a period of 3 to 4 days after the incident.

Plus the plot is prime dog-walking territory, and it happens to be where lots of people like to go to get one of the best views over Luz.

So, Madeleine did it herself is out.  The score for that one is zero out of 10.

So what about a kidnapper?  The radius makes no sense.  A kidnapper could walk the body way beyond this plot in minutes.  A kidnapper with a car is a worse fit.

Plus the plot is not soft soil.  It is baked-hard, near concrete.  It takes one heck of an effort to dig.

If a kidnapper is ruled out, that leaves the McCann’s.

Madeleine was last seen by a third party (David Payne) around 6:45 on the evening of the 3rd. Another witness puts the McCann’s in the Tapas restaurant at 8:30.  That would give an hour and three quarters to bury a body in the plot.  Pruned by time of death.  And there’s that rock-hard soil to dig up.  On a busy road with busy restaurants and all before dark.  Does that sound likely?

Of course, there is the check to the apartment made by Gerry around 9.05 pm.  That took a lot longer than expected, and the light was beginning to fade, though it was still daylight rather than dark.  A quick round-trip to the search scene was definitely do-able.

Are the McCann’s on Andy’s list of suspects?

Problems – the ground at the search scene is still rock hard, so digging a grave would take time, require a digging tool, and create one hell of a din beside this busy thoroughfare.

And there is still the problem of those pesky dog-walkers and those pesky folks sight-seeing from the top of the hill.

Whatever Andy thinks, on a scale of 0 to 10, this sight scores a zero as a grave sight for Madeleine McCann.

The BBC put out a graphic to accompany its (multiple) reports on this search.  The graphic is stuffed with errors.

Most importantly, the search area is NOT circular.  And it does NOT encompass the up-to-date home complete with visible perimeter and obvious swimming pool.

An amended graphic is attached.Image

The search area is close to triangular, about the double the area shown by the BBC, and of course, does not include a home.

It is the area inside the red dots.  All of it rock-hard sun-baked earth, or tarmac, with one exception.

There is an “allotment” on the plot.  Tilled soil.  The gardener swaps water from the Amici restaurant nearby (water to keep the crops alive) for a portion of the  vegetables grown there.  I have eaten potatoes that were grown in this allotment, and served up by the Amici restaurant.  The food, an Italian fish dish, was excellent.

That’s one site down, but the circus continues, as there are supposed to be two more sites to go.

Shame about Godfrey Barrington Norton and Kirsty Louise Maryan.