Madeleine – magnificent six – SIL

Please allow me to introduce myself.

The bit about me that seems to intrigue people the most is whether I am male or female. Personally, I cannot see why this makes one iota of difference. I have now met, in person, 5 journalists and a further two of the magnificent 6, and all of them can recognise me, name me, and tell you my gender. These are non-important points, because they don’t change anything.

My blog name, Elça Craig, has already been identified as a joke based on the island of Ailsa Craig, in the Firth of Clyde. The island is close to Turnberry golf course, and it is famous as the world’s best source of curling stones. It happens to be ‘close’ to where I grew up, and I love the sea.

What are the important points about me?

I happen to have two degrees from two top quality UK universities. All that means is I have got a brain and I can use it.

I happen to have retired, so I have time to spare on my interests. If you have read my blog, you should have worked out that in December 2017, I was constructing a boule pitch for my beloved, in our back garden. And I was digging a vegetable patch for our 7-year-old grandson, because I wanted him to have a memorable Christmas for his first year in Portelas.

After family, I very much like cooking, then Formula 1, then football. Everton v Manchester United is coming up soon. After that lot has been squeezed in, there is time for the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.

And by pure fluke we washed up in Luz. Before we did, I had no interest in the Madeleine McCann tale. After we did, I had no choice, because 49 stories out of 50 about Luz revolve around Madeleine.

A soupçon of brain, a splash of spare time, living in Maddieville. It’s a simple recipe.

You should have worked out by now that if I have dug the boule pitch, dug the vegetable patch, enjoy F1 and football, that I am male.

Does it make a difference? I have started today on my 2018 herb garden, because I like cooking good food. I have been working for some time on the 2018 F1 calendar, because for each race I want to lay in a representative local drink (typically beer), together with some local hand food – no plates, knives or forks permitted. I enjoy cooking. A drink, a snack, and F1. My idea of a good recipe.

In 2018, our family has a succession of significant birthdays. A ‘when I get older, losing my hair’. A 70th, two quick-fire 40ths, and a late season 21st. Then there is 11 Nov 2018, and we live on the farm of the poppy. Plus little things like the football and the F1.

Much to do. Much to do.

By the way, I was asked by an Algarve reporter, roughly 3 months ago, if I still do Luz Tours. I do. The person I was with was on one at the time. It had nothing to do with the reporter.

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Madeleine – Luz Tour #7

Luz Tour #7 is over and my visitor has returned safely to home, many miles distant.

Today was a pleasant sunny afternoon in Portelas, and my family prepared for an Autumn barbecue with a friend who has decided, after 25 years in Portugal, to sell up and head back for the cold and rain of England.

Luz Tour #7 was very short. It consisted of a morning in Lagos, where we failed to make contact with two people of interest, so while it was a pleasant exploration, it was a bit of a washout.

Then there was a short evening stroll in Luz, to have a look at a couple of places that were unearthed on the 10th anniversary of Madeleine’s disappearance. Again, apart from looking at much that you can see on Google Streetview, what I picked up was very little.

As it so happened, we were headed to a meeting, from which I gained a fair amount. But that meeting was not part of Luz Tour #7, so I won’t gossip about what I learned on this occasion.

Madeleine – Picanhas Grill

Yesterday, Wednesday 19 Sep 2017, I was doing a bit of Luz Tour #7 with a visitor. Though the actual ‘tour’ part was in Lagos, I ended up in Luz on Rua 25 de Abril. My driver the took me through the centre of Luz and out on the road east towards Lagos.

Shortly after we exited Luz we came to Picanhas Brazilian Grill, and we were both hungry, so we decided to pop in for the buffet. I am not normally a fan of buffets, but this place has a good reputation, and I thoroughly enjoyed my meal.

Back in 2007 this was the Restaurante Valverde. The GNR police officers who first responded (Nelson da Costa and José Roque) said they were in Valverde when the hurry up call came through to them from GNR Lagos. Valverde is used for the whole of the area from where the M537 exits Luz until it hits the N125, so the GNR car could have been anywhere on that stretch, rather than near the restaurant. That makes a time-of-arrival calculation more complex.

The restaurant has a more recent involvement in the Madeleine McCann case. When Operation Grange was digging up the Mound in central Luz, there was a day when the British officers took their lunch break at Picanhas.

I was not in Picanhas that day, but other members of my family were. The estimate was around 30 officers trooping in all in one batch while my family were getting ready to leave the restaurant.

This shows where Operation Grange officers sat. They used the two rows nearest the camera, and had all the tables pushed together to form continuous rows.

I have no idea whether DCI Andy Redwood was with them. My family is totally disinterested in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann so there was little point in asking them.

The photo shows just a small part of the interior of Picanhas. The place is cavernous and there is a dance floor which gets used every Saturday evening.

I dare say when I was taking photos of the interior, some of the guests and staff must have been puzzled by my antics. But I had a jolly time around the marina in the sun in Lagos in the morning, followed by a tasty Brazilian buffet for lunch, with a couple of photos thrown in for good measure.

Luz Tour #7 – the trailer

Luz Tour #7 is in planning, but the logistics are not going to be easy. This visitor is coming from the Low Countries. I will spare you the details, but it is a marathon trek to get from start to finish. I happen to rank this person as one of the top 6 Madeleine McCann experts in the world, and on a personal basis, easy to get along with. As far as I am aware, the visit is mainly for some sunshine and a change of scenery, but there may be a window of opportunity to spend just a little time on Madeleine’s disappearance.

I am still unpacking in our new home in Portelas, and I’m nearly done with my stuff.

In the UK, the family priority is recuperation from surgery. There was a flight back here scheduled this coming Tuesday, but the recovery is not going well. It looks like a delay of at least a week, and then there will be more unpacking.

So the timing is tough, but one has to make hay while the sun shines. The weather here typically changes to rain around mid-October or November, so we also need to get our ‘meadow’ under control, before the rain transforms it to meadow-grass again.

My visitor is travelling in on Friday 15th September to Faro and flying out on Friday 22nd. As yet, I have no idea how much time we will get to spend together and we have already touched most of the important bases in Luz itself. However, the BBC Panorama programme turned up a few people-leads that remain to be checked out, in Luz and Lagos, so we might pursue that angle.

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 – 10th – #7 – media prize

The photo I am about to show you is particularly low quality, but it shows some of the backstage antics and I want to give you a flavour of reality. This is not the polished approach of professionals. This is amateur, It is raw and it is authentic.

The candle bearers were proceeding by, largely ignored. Under the tripod in the foreground is a red tablet. It has featured in this set of photos before. However, I cracked on with other things before I got round to watching Martin Brunt in the Sky special for the 10th. It wasn’t until I saw the Sky special that I twigged it follows Mr Brunt around wherever he goes. Consequently, I have no idea what information is held on that tablet.

The gentleman in the top is checking light levels, I think. He is wearing an orange t-shirt and shorts. No, you cannot see his t-shirt is orange in this photo, but he will appear again later.

The man to the left of centre is Martin Brunt, I believe. He was only one of two men wearing a suit. Mr Brunt appears to be catching up on his mobile.

In the next photo, you can see who the media were awaiting to interview. The time by the church clock is 9.46pm. It looks like Martin Brunt has nabbed first dibs on Reverend Haynes Hubbard. Our orange-shirted man has come across to join in, and it looks like a planning meeting. Reverend Hubbard is very casual in a white shirt, trousers and sandals.

My contact from Lisbon is Jerome pin, the man on the right with the dark blue shirt and light blue jeans. I have no certainty about who was on the phone, but I would guess it was work, aka AFP. Just to the left of the church door was CMTV tucking away some video. I didn’t know at the time the lady in black was from CMTV, but she will pop up again in a clearer photo.

The other person in the photo that I can identify is my contact from the UK, Michael Havis, in black, bent over his mobile. We had done Luz Tour 6 on 1st and 2nd May. I have yet to write that up due to priorities. He will appear again later in this photoset.

At this point I was getting a bit nervous, because I wanted to get to the Smith sighting for 10pm. Bear in mind that though the clock church said 9.46pm, I made it 9.52pm.

The trouble was, the media wanted to interview Reverend Hubbard.