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.

Madeleine – 30 Apr 2017 – Luz Tour #5

Let me tell you about a few of the things going on in Luz around this time, as the 10th anniversary approached.

Natasha Donn did a round up Portuguese press reporting on 30 Apr 2017. One of the things it showed was a picture perfect postcard of Gonçalo Amaral re-visiting Luz. Since I have been tracking the weather in Luz I am confident this was some days past.

The photo is pure blue skies. The weather in Luz has not had clear blue skies for several days. So this was something put in the can a fair time ago, according to Weather Station Luz. Here is the piccy.

The media in general has also been in town, also getting their clips and sound bites in for early production processing. On a morning trip to Baptista a few days ago, a number of media crews were buzzing around Apartment 5A. Who knows what will emerge.

Luz Tour #5 was quite simple, though very important. I met up with a Portuguese media team outside of Luz church, Nossa Senhora da Luz for Roman Catholics, St Vincent’s for Anglicans. We decided to go for a drink to have a chat.

The Portuguese team was from Lisbon. They pointed out the ice-cream factory. I explained to them this only does ice-cream. They pointed out the Fortaleza. I informed them that it is not a café, but a restaurant serving meals.

I suggested Fernando’s, so we all walked a bit under 100m to get to Fernando’s. The trouble was, it was shut for lunchtime. So we settled on Kelly’s instead.

The situation was quite amusing, in one sense. The Lisbon team came stacked up with a video recorder on a tripod, which was leant across the front wall of Kelly’s. It screamed media! I got my refreshment first, before the video/tripod/media bit was plain, so I feel confident I got my drink spit-free. The Lisbon trio might or might not.

Our waiter had clocked media and was doing his best impersonation of Mr Grumpy. I asked him a polite and civil question, and I got no reply. I asked exactly the same question, also in a gracious manner, but I got a vary terse and abrupt reply.

I had declined to appear on video or on photographs, so the Lisbon team decided to split up. I cannot blame them. They syndicate photos and videos around the world for a living. The journey down from Lisbon that day had taken 3 hours. They faced the same going back. I am no longer tough enough to stack 6 hours of travelling on top of a long working day. So the video recorder and the stills photographer decided to heave off elsewhere to get more material. All I knew about them, on that day, was they had tried to get an interview with the Mayor of Luz, but for whatever reason he declined, so they met the Treasurer of Luz instead.

I had no idea until that point that Luz had a Treasurer. It was news to me. But it makes sense. If we have a Mayor, we would obviously have a Treasurer.. I have no idea what finances this person keeps an eye on.

So we split up, with two of the three from Lisbon heading off to get their job done elsewhere, while I went on tour with one lady from the team.

Off we trotted, had a quick stop at the Smith sighting, then up Rua 25 de Abril, to have a look at Luz from the top of the mound, the one that Operation Grange dug up in June 2014. I explained the traffic, and the businesses around at that time. She was scribbling at 100mph in shorthand. I showed her why I take people up to the top of the mound. It is the one place I know of in Luz where you can see all 3 of the phone operators, Optimus, TMN, and Vodafone, at once, so you can work out what was going on.

We went back to the church and had a chat on the concrete seats outside. The lady wanted to get a few quotes from me for her script. She wanted short and sharp.

This was easy. I told her I am pro-Madeleine.

After she had jotted a few quotes down, we parted. She was intent on bagging a tourist or two. I had no interest in what the 2017 tourists think, so I went home.

Luz Tour #5 was over. The video-recorder will return, in Luz Tour #6. Kindly watch this spot.

I have no idea whether I was newsworthy enough to turn up anywhere. Since the team syndicates material across the globe, it would take a lot of checking, and I cannot be bothered.

Madeleine and the loquat trees

The trees in the photo bearing small yellow fruits are loquat trees. The location is on the short route between apartment 5A and Madeleine’s playgroup above the Ocean Club 24 hour reception. The photo was taken on 11/3/2017.

A year ago in March a visitor and I were exploring the short route as a small part of the first Luz Tour. As we passed the tree on the left of my photo, I was astonished when my visitor picked one of the loquats and ate it, and survived to tell the tale.

I only found out later that these are loquat trees, and that the fruit is poisonous when unripe. In the photo, what you can see is the west half of the trees, and the fruit looks fairly ripe. However on the east half of the trees, the fruit is entirely green, and obviously not ripe. There must be more sun on the west side.

Anyway, I tried one of yellowest ones, and it was clearly not ripe. It was acidic and quite bitter, so I ate perhaps one small bit. This apparently makes loquat trees safe to have around. When unripe, no one can eat enough loquats to come to harm.

On 3 May 2016 I was on another Luz Tour. I had found out the trees are loquat trees and the fruit is edible when ripe, so I wanted to try one. To my amazement, there wasn’t a single loquat fruit in sight. They had all gone.

I could not tell whether that is normal for loquats, or whether someone in the Ocean Club had harvested the fruit. Loquat is Chinese or Japanese plum, so possibly it disappeared into loquat pies, loquat jam or loquat wine.

If this disappearance occurs by April 28 each year, then Madeleine would have seen the loquat trees but not the exotic yellow plums.

Madeleine – Luz Tour v Dearly Departed Tours

In early October 2016, the Mirror handed me out some stick by writing the Luz Tour up as the Ghouls’ Tour. Something called Dearly Departed Tours (of Los Angeles) popped up on TV last night, so I was interested in doing a comparison of our approaches.

The Dearly Departed Tours website is at http://dearlydepartedtours.com/

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The blurb from the website goes –

Dearly Departed Tours’ founder Scott Michaels is the authority on the Dark Side of Hollywood. Our standard Dearly Departed Tour is a multimedia Hollywood bus tour like no other. Explore cases like Manson, Janis, Whitney and Michael, and lesser-known celebrities with even more spectacular exits. You’ll also see the final resting places of Marilyn, Natalie, Farrah and more. Peppered with crime scene photographs and audio clips (including 911 calls), the tour has earned its consistent 5-star ratings. We’ve been featured on the E! Show Hollywood Death Trip, Anthony Bourdain’s The Layover, Ghost Adventures and dozens more, and the FX’s American Horror Story even paid tribute to the tour. Scott Michaels’ one-of-a-kind collection of celebrity death memorabilia on display in the Gallery includes the pink suitcase Jayne Mansfield packed the night she died and Rock Hudson’s deathbed. Soon we’ll be displaying the Jayne Mansfield Death Car!”

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How does Dearly Departed Tours compare with the Luz Tour?

Luz has one famous missing child. Dearly Departed covers many a famous dead film star.

Luz Tours are on foot, and the going can be tough. Dearly Departed is by bus, rather essential in Los Angeles given the size of the city.

Luz Tours are for people with considerable expertise in the Madeleine McCann case. Dearly Departed is aimed at gawkers.

Dearly Departed is into memorabilia from those stars who have passed away. The nearest I have to memorabilia is a battered copy of Kate’s book ‘madeleine’.

Dearly Departed is a pay-for commercial service. Luz Tours are entirely free

Dearly Departed has a fairly posh web site, complete with natty graphics. I have this blog, adorned with a few original photos but mainly using material from the Internet.

I don’t think there is a way to commercialise Luz Tours and I wouldn’t want to even if it was possible. However, I find it ironic that I get keelhauled for trying to progress the Madeleine McCann case, for free, and Scott Michaels gets lauded for running a business based on dead celebrities.

Madeleine – Xmas day 7 – St Vincent’s

It is now New Year’s Eve in Portugal, so may I wish all the blog readers a Happy New Year.

We have a bottle of Cava chilling in the fridge to celebrate the arrival of 2017. The kids have gone to Almádena to Broadie’s to tuck into a three course meal, before the bar/restaurant customers there also bring in the New Year. Here’s Broadie’s.

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For my Madeleine McCann connection, I would like to cover some stories relating to the church in Luz. I happen to be an atheist, an agnostic, and a scientist. Scientific literature shows that those who believe in God live longer, recover from setbacks better, and generally are happier. Therefore, as a scientist, I believe it would be cruel to impugn the religious beliefs of moderate people who follow a faith.

For that very reason, I have never entered the church in Luz. I feel it would be akin to intruding on the special place of others.

The church serves two congregations. The first is as Nossa Senhora Da Luz, Our Lady Of The Light. This is Roman Catholic and the concept is ubiquitous in Catholic religion. This is what lead to my current location being called Luz. In modern parlance, it is ‘Luz, Lagos’, in order to distinguish it from ‘Luz, Tavira’, which is along the other side of the Algarve. I have not checked but I can be reasonably sure that ‘Luz, Tavira’ also has a Roman Catholic church called Nossa Senhora Da Luz.

I don’t have any brilliant photos of our local Nossa Senhora Da Luz to regale you with, but it doesn’t matter. If you are interested in the case of Madeleine McCann, you will have seen many a photo of Nossa Senhora Da Luz, as Kate and Gerry McCann attended the Roman Catholic services.

The church is (time-)shared with the Anglican community, when it is referred to as St Vincent’s. I do have some interesting photographs of the interior of St Vincent’s. Let me stress again, I have never been inside the church. These are photos deliberately published by others on the Internet. There are lots of people in them, but I have no reason to believe any of them is connected to the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. The photos are all much more recent than 2007.

The first is a graphic showing what St Vincent’s had planned for the festive season of 2016. I note that the ‘Said Eucharist’ is scheduled for 8am tomorrow morning. Perhaps that is for the early risers, while the ‘Choral Eucharist’ at 11am is for those who stayed up to see in the New Year.

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The next photo, which is of the interior of St Vincent’s, comes from a site that organises weddings. Let me stress again, there is no reason whatsoever to believe that anyone in the picture has anything to do with the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. I am simply trying to give an idea of the interior layout of the church.

The viewpoint of the photo taker is elevated. Each pew holds about 4 people on average, with 2 pews per row. Have a look at the light sources, because there are not a lot of windows in view. From this angle, it is man-made lights in the main. There is an altar in the background, in the east end of the church. The music facilities are small-scale. There is a guitar on the left hand side and on the right hand side sits the organist. There is a door on the right hand side, the south. Perhaps that is how one gets into the bell tower.

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The final photo looks west towards the doors into the church. The people are unimportant, apart from giving some idea of what the ex-pat Anglican community looks like. It seems the capacity is roughly 100. The main source of light appears to be the wide open front doors. And now you can see how the previous photo could be taken from an elevated position. There is what is called a ‘minstrels balcony’ if it was in a house. I don’t know if it has another name within a church.

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And there you have it. The best I can give you of a Luz Tour of a place I have never entered.

Now you have to make up your mind, based on the evidence you have seen, about the lurid tales surrounding the church re Madeleine McCann.

The most gruesome is probably the story alleging Madeleine was concealed after dark in a coffin already destined for cremation. I have no idea where a coffin is placed in a service of such a type. But run this idea past what you now know about the church layout and the lighting and decide for yourself as to the feasibility of sneaking into the church at night to stuff a body into someone else’s coffin.

Then there is the story that a tunnel runs under the church to the sea. Clearly, the photos above do not show 100% of the interior, so there could be a crypt or tunnel entrance in a nook or cranny. Quite why one would worry about a tunnel that runs from the church 30 or 40m to a large rocky area near the sea is beyond me.

Happy New Year!

Madeleine – Xmas day 6 – the Sun

The first photo was taken just a little further down the street from Galo’s, and obviously a tad closer to Baptista. The green shop is the one appearing in the Xmas Day 5 photo of Galo’s. There is nothing particularly special about this, and you can use Google StreetView to get the Aug 2009 version, but please note the pinkish shop at the end of the row.

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This is LuzTur. One of 4 men made arguidos in July 2014 lived here at the time Madeleine disappeared. As far as I am aware, there has been no news that his arguido status has been lifted. I am not aware of the process for lifting arguido status in an on-going case. There was news that Sergey Malinka, who was also made an arguido at that time, was informed that he was no longer a person of interest to Operation Grange, but I do not know if his arguido status was formally lifted.

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Now we are at the pink shop at the end of the row. Clearly, it is decked out for Christmas. In summer it is stuffed with goods for the beach.

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This is the end of the shop/accommodation block, and there is another alleyway. The silver car that featured earlier is still there, as is the green awning that adjoins the tent-shaped building inside the Tapas zone. The importance of this is that having these little short cuts is a major feature in Luz. Once you get to know them, you can get around on foot much quicker than if you take the main streets. I have no reason to believe the McCanns ever visited this row of shops, even though it is very close to the Tapas zone and just a few metres from the front of Baptista. I know the McCanns used Baptista to get food for breakfast and lunch, after finding the trek to the Millennium to be a struggle. Baptista has a rear entrance situated on Rua Martins, near apartment 5A, and that makes more sense re the McCanns.

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Who knows, maybe Kate or Gerry used the café that is situated at the front of Baptista for a coffee and perhaps a pastry before Madeleine disappeared, at a time when all 3 children were in kids’ clubs and there was no tennis. I have sat outside outside that café on one of the Luz Tours for a long chat with a guest. It was early May 2016 and the sun was shining brightly in Luz. Throw in an interesting discussion and it really does not get much better.

Now here is my reason for dragging you along this row of shops. On 13 Oct 2013, the Crimewatch special on Madeleine McCann coincided with the release by Operation Grange of the two Smithman e-fits. I don’t know how much advance notice the media got of this or the Crimewatch programme contents. It is fairly standard practice when one wants a lot of publicity to put such material out early but say it is subject to a press embargo until a certain date and time. This means the media cannot publish the material before that date and time, but journalists and reporters can get their homework done.

The Sun either had such material in advance or its reporters moved very swiftly. From memory, the e-fits were made public on the morning of 13 Oct 2013, presumably with the aim of getting more viewers interested in watching the Crimewatch special on that evening.

By 14 Oct 2013, the next day, the Sun had a fairly large report on the Crimewatch special, including stills from the programme, leading me to think they might have had an advance view of the programme.

They also had a reporter/photographer team in Luz to get an exclusive angle. They had printed off posters of the Smithman e-fits, one with text in Portuguese and another with text in English, and had a bash at putting them put up in Luz.

The following is a photo of shop assistant Elane Harvey, putting the two Sun posters up outside the shop where she worked. I don’t know Elane personally and apart from this Sun report, I have never heard her name mentioned, so I am going purely by what the photo shows.

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First up, we have the shop at the end of the row, nearest to Baptista. I know it sells beach goods during the season, but other things clearly fit as well.

Second, my photos are mainly pink, with a hint of orange, while the Sun photograph is orange with a hint of pink. What can I say? I am an amateur using a 60€ camera. I would hope the Sun photographer was a professional using a camera that costs over ten times as much.

Third, you have two photos to compare. The Sun photo was published on 14 Oct 2013. Mine was taken on 27 Dec 2016. In both you have bags of bright sunlight. In mid-October, Elane was wearing a thin top with short sleeves. The shop was still trying to flog beach goods. Although neither photo was taken in May, it shows why you get bougainvillea blooming in May. There is a lot of sun shining in Luz.

Fourth, clap your beady eyes on the beach goods under the posters but inside the shop. These are called sunglasses. Now sunglasses feature in The Last Photograph, and here we have a source of the same. As I have made clear, I cannot think of anything that places Kate or Gerry McCann in this area. In Kate’s book ‘madeleine’, she relates a story of the beach trip at lunchtime on Wednesday 2 May 2007, when Gerry bought sunglasses from a stall on the beach front. The sunglasses tale is something I would like to stack up for another time, because I’ve got some research to do on that one.