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.

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Madeleine – Michael Havis on Smithman

The Daily Star article in question is at http://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/latest-news/640497/madeleine-mccann-news-missing-found-parents-smith-sighting-2007 The article was penned by reporter Michael Havis.

The article is a photo essay about the view seen by the Smith family as they encountered a man carrying a child at around 10 pm on 3rd May 2007, in Primary School Street and 25th April Street, as they made their way home from Kelly’s bar to their apartment in the Estrela da Luz complex.

It is not meant to be a comprehensive examination of the Smith sighting. It is intended to give a flavour of the difficulties faced by the Smiths, and to evaluate the worth of the Smithman e-fits. Please bear in mind that Paulo Ribeiro, one of the four men made arguidos in July 2014, was given this status at least partly on the basis that he allegedly resembled one of these e-fits, so it is not a trivial matter.

Here is the photo of the encounter, taken from the PJ Files.

The person in the lead was Peter Smith. He describes a man seen face-on, not in side profile. To emulate this our ‘Smithman’ took 2 or 3 steps back from the crossing point, as did Mr Havis. The result is face-on.

‘Smithman’s’ face is probably too dark, but it illustrates the issue. There is a single light source some way distant, to the man’s rear and left, thus putting the man’s face in shadows.

The next person to pass Smithman was Martin Smith, beside LuzDoc. Martin’s view was face-on, not profile, so again the 2-3 paces technique was used to emulate this.

This is a more accurate depiction of what the human eyeball can see. However, it is plain that picking up accurate facial details is difficult.

The third person to pass Smithman was Aoife Smith. The third photo emulates what Aoife would have seen, if Smithman had turned to his left and headed along 25 April Street.

She would have seen Smithman in profile, or possibly even from behind. She would have been in no doubt that the man was heading along 25th April Street. But that is not what happened. Aoife looked to her left, and saw the man full-face, coming towards her on 25 April Street. She did not know if he continued in the same direction, or went down the Lane of Little Stairs, the one she had just come up.

Mr Havis then covered the difficulty of constructing e-fits many months after the event, even if the Smiths got a good view of something significant. In reality, they got a poor view of something that seemed quite insignificant at the time.

There is a 4th photo in the sequence, depicting what Aoife actually saw, as opposed to what Aoife did not see. Daily Star articles are not noted for being lengthy. Perhaps Mr Havis is keeping that for a second article on the Smithman sighting.

In the past, I have tried to emulate a what-the-Smiths-saw photo-set before, without much success. It requires that one can turn the flash off on one’s camera, a technique I mastered only a few moths ago. It also requires that one can rustle up a model to play the part of Smithman. You just don’t get the proper flavour otherwise. The Madeleine McCann story is pretty much toxic in Luz, so there is little chance of someone role-playing Smithman.

Mr Havis’ photos were taken at around 10.15 pm to 10.20 pm on 3 May 2017. Mr Havis finished his interview with Father Haynes Hubbard at the 10th anniversary vigil in Luz at around 10.10 pm outside St Vincent’s, then a quick scuttle was required to get to the Smithman site,

The photos are not perfect. Perfection would require a professional photographer, which Mr Havis is not. He is a reporter who takes his own photographs. I am not aware of any better photos to illustrate the lighting issues.

There is a quote in the article to the effect that a local source believes Smithman is Portuguese and innocent.

(but that is not how he is depicted). That local source is me. I am not going to explain why in this article, as it would divert from Mr Havis’ photo essay.

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.

Portelas – the hay wain

If things seem a little quiet at the moment, that is because I am moving into Portelas. By that, I mean the dozens upon dozens of boxes are all here, and what I am doing is unpacking them and stacking the goods away. My bedroom is sorted. The rest of the house looks like a disaster zone.

My beloved is under the weather in England after a gallstone operation. This may be a blessing in disguise as it has saved us from arguing like cats and dogs over what goes where, and what gets chucked away. I simply decide, and that is the end of it.

Life here in the village is at the opposite extreme to life in Luz. Luz is 99% English. Portelas is 99% Portuguese.

I have met and spoken to one of my many new neighbours. On the plot next to ours they have built 4 separate houses for 4 separate generations, so just that lot will take quite a lot of getting used to.

The gentleman I talked to speaks little English, so my Portuguese is going to get a good work-out. This neighbour keeps a very small herd of goats. This seems to be mainly for goat’s cheese. But we discussed whether we might get a piece of goat around Christmas time. I am not a fan of roast chicken and Brussels sprouts, so I’m thinking of more like a Jamaican goat curry. Something quite different from the leftovers.

As well as the neighbours, the landscape is also totally different to Luz. I might as well be on a different planet. The view we have from the ‘front’ of our house is away from the main entrance. The kids upstairs face west, onto the ‘main’ road. We face east, onto sunrise and sunset.

Between us and the low hills in the distance, there are no streets, so there are no street lights. What this means is we get a stunning sunrise, particularly before dawn, when the sun backlights the hills to the east in fiery morning red. While in the evening the sun sets, and the sky goes through every shade of blue and purple that you can imagine.

I would love to take some photos just to show you a little bit of local life, because it is completely different to anything I have experienced in my life so far. Here’s where we hit a snag. I know that my pocket camera went into the packing. But I haven’t got a clue where it is now. I am sure it is here in our apartment, but I just don’t know whereabouts.

This post is titled Portelas – the Hay Wain. Wain simply means a waggon or cart. Today, the people who recently mowed our ‘meadow’ and baled the hay, turned up to collect the bales. This being Portugal, there was no phone call or appointment. The guys just drove onto our land with a truck, via a neighbour’s property. What they did was they scooped up all the bales of hay. Those bales came from our property, our neighbour to the right, who did not ask them to mow his meadow but was happy that they did, and our neighbour to the left. I don’t have his views so I can’t comment.

Our hay wain lorry was stacked to the sky with bales of hay. Have a look at the painting. Constable’s hay wain has no hay whatsoever. And the wain is in the middle of the river, going nowhere.

Now if you thought this was a gentle tale without a Madeleine McCann twist, you would be wrong. The man who mowed our meadow, baled the hay, and took it away looks after horses for a living. There is no real surprise here – horses plus horse food. But part of his livelihood is transporting GNR horses around the Algarve. So some of our hay will be fed to some of the GNR horses this winter.

We are doing our bit to support the Algarve GNR.

Madeleine – broadcasting live from Portelas

I am now broadcasting live from Portelas. All of our goods and chattel have been moved in, so we no longer live in Luz. The last main task remaining in Luz is that the cleaners come to our empty villa there. It has already had a level 1 clean, but this will be a deep clean.

When I say ‘we’, what I really mean is ‘I’. My better half is currently marooned in the UK for a gallstone operation. This is scheduled for 1 Sep 2017, and then there a 2-week recuperation period until a flight back to Faro is permitted (re threat of DVT). I trust you will understand that Madeleine is not one of my priorities at the moment.

What does the change mean in Madeleine terms?

The biggest difference is that I cannot wander down into Luz and hope to perchance upon anyone involved in the case or to snap piccies. Luz is 15 minutes away by car if you choose the short route. Today, my chauffeur took the back roads route. It was much slower but much more scenic.

There are smaller changes. Our new home does not have a land-line. And I detest mobiles. That means communication by phone is a no go. So it is just well our Internet in Portelas is fully functional. I spent a fair bit of time talking to a Panorama 10-year special researcher in the run-up to the programme. It looks like I am going to have to install something like Skype.

The news with similarity to the Madeleine incident is, of course, occurring in France at the moment. I simply do not have the time or energy to say something worthwhile on that topic at this point in time. I need to move in.

Barlavento news – grenade on Porto de Mós beach

An old but active hand-grenade was found by a couple of strollers on the beach at Porto de Mós. This is just the other side of Rocha Negra from Luz.

Just so you know what a 50 year old Portuguese hand grenade looks like, here is a photo of the object.

There isn’t any information about the couple of walkers in the news report, but they definitely know more about Portuguese munitions than I do.

A call to the authorities produced a quick response. “It was an explosive device about 50 years old,” said Captain Conceição Duarte, of the Port Authority of Lagos. The marines did not evacuate the beach as it was far away from the popular area. They set up an exclusion zone of about 300m around the device, and carried out a controlled explosion.

This is roughly the area in which the device was found, close to Rocha Negra.

Porto de Mós does have a bearing on the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, but this story raises a different aspect. For those who tinker with the body-buried-on-beach idea, here is the reality.

This story is about a 50 year old hand grenade, a small object. It might have been buried in the sand and became exposed. It might have washed up from the sea. The truth is, I don’t know.

What I do know is that in this quiet cul-de-sac of Portugal, a very small device was found by a couple out walking. Porto de Mós beach is frequented by walkers, just like the beach at Luz. There is no hiding anything anywhere here, at least until you have a lot of knowledge where not to hide it.

Madeleine – my vacation from MoJ

I am taking a voluntary break from the Miscarriage of Justice Forum for a month, so I will not be covering any developments in the Madeleine McCann case that might be discussed on MoJ during my absence.

How did this situation arise?

I got warning points for NOT disclosing personal information about another user. Let me repeat that. I did NOT disclose personal information about this user, but I got warning points as if I had.

To clarify this confusion, the user in question was Erngath. The sequence went as follows. User Sadie published two pieces of personal information about Erngath on MoJ. Since these remained on the forum, I would assume these have been divulged by Erngath in the past, though I don’t actually know where Sadie got them from.

Then I posted a news story about a car crash on the Algarve, in the MoJ thread for news from the Algarve. Erngath objected to this. There was a bit of a to and fro on whether my post was appropriate.

Shortly afterwards, Erngath self-published as a ‘supporter’ of the McCanns. I politely requested permission from Erngath that I might therefore in future use the term supporter to describe him/her. Erngath agreed to this.

Another ‘supporter’ queried why I was requesting permission. I explained that I consider ‘supporter’ and ‘sceptic’ to be connotative terms, not to be used lightly, just as I would not use any other personal information about Erngath. Please note, to date I had not disclosed any personal information whatsoever. I simply had an agreement that I was now OK to classify Erngath as a supporter.

It was at this point that Erngath complained formally to the MoJ that I had gleaned further personal information. That further personal information was/is posted by Sadie in open forum on MoJ, and I have NEVER repeated it.

So I have been punished for Sadie’s sins. But the story gets even better.

Having decided to make a formal complaint about my post, Erngath decided to dump into open forum a large slab of personal details, and AFAIK that pen-portrait is still there, should anyone care to know about Erngath.

I don’t suffer fools gladly. Moaning about NON-publication of personal details, then posting up a string of personal interests is one thing and one thing only. It is blatant cheating. It is akin to a football player who tries to con the referee with a dive in the penalty area.

Just add a final twist to the tale, Erngath had been moaning about deletion of posts. The thread is in an open forum in the admin section, so anyone can check it. What you will find is how I weighed in on behalf of the mods. It was literally as I hit send on that post that the forum told me I had been awarded warning points.

Shades of Diego Maradona and the hand of mods!

Please note that to date, the only personal detail I have published re Erngath is that for which I was given explicit permission by Erngath.

What difference does my month off from the MoJ make? Very little, in reality.

There is very little of interest happening re Madeleine McCann in the MSM. The date for an appeal to the ECHR is approaching, but I assume it will simply come and go. The date for a further tranche of funding is approaching, and I dare say we will learn what Operation Grange has got for the next slog.

MoJ will get less on the thread for news from the Algarve. There is another news story from the Algarve today, but who cares? People who can read Portuguese will find it. Those who can’t wont. It happens to have no relevance to the McCann case, and I have no intention of acting as a substitute for an MoJ thread.

That leaves local activity. There are 3 people I would like to meet in and around Luz in the next month or so. Perhaps I will get to speak to them. Perhaps I won’t. But anything I do get will be published on this blog rather than MoJ, which is exactly what would have happened if I was not having a break from MoJ.