Madeleine – cadaver dog senses

One of the advantages of owning our cadaver dog, Gonçalo, is the opportunity to evaluate his senses. Touch, taste, sight, sound, and smell. Here is a summary of my findings to date.

TOUCH

There are many situations in which touch is important to Gonçalo. He likes to sleep overnight with myself or my better half, in physical contact with whichever one he picks. Last night he picked me, after I had gone to sleep, so I awoke in the night to realise that the lump on my bed meant he had snuggled up against me.

He likes our family, when they come to visit us. That also means physical contact. He enjoys getting a cuddle with his paws on the person’s shoulders in face-to-face mode.

Despite this and other examples, I would rate touch as the least important (to him) of Gonçalo’s 5 senses.

SOUND

This is an odd one, because Cocker Spaniels were bred to be gun dogs. Gonçalo dislikes sharp bangs but ignores pretty much everything else. I know from the sound when someone goes out of the house in a vehicle, and that a similar sound means they are returning. Gonçalo shows no interest in such sounds.

He does like it when I say “walkies”, so much so that my partner and I have coded conversations about whether it is time for him to go out for another adventure. My better half also speaks to him as if he is a small child, and he enjoys the attention.

But in general, he pays little attention to the sounds of the neighbourhood, including the many barking dogs.

SIGHT

Gonçalo pays limited attention to this part of his universe. When we visited Olhão about a month ago, he did spend some of the journey time looking at the scenery, but not a lot. And there was an incident on the day we were to return home, when he was on his early morning walky. Gonçalo was approached by two neighbouring dogs. I saw them coming from a fair distance away. They saw Gonçalo around the same time, and decide to say hello. Gonçalo continued completely unaware of them until they were very close indeed.

TASTE

This seems to be slightly more important to our cadaver dog. When he first came to us, I read up on a book devoted to Cocker Spaniels, and although different breeders use different kinds, the majority of Cocker Spaniel breeders fed the dogs exclusively on kibble. Kibble is dog biscuit in the form of small pellets. I checked on the ingredient list, and it is far more nutritious than the phrase “dog biscuits” suggests.

So for a long time, Gonçalo was fed solely on kibble at meal times, with a few dog treats, plus the occasional small piece of what we humans were eating. After about 6 months of this high-kibble fare, Gonçalo started turning his nose up at it. He would only eat it when he got really hungry.

And so it was that I started developing Gonçalo’s Gourmet Guide, 101 Meals to Feed Your Cocker Spaniel. Gonçalo’s favourite at the moment is kibble with scrambled egg. However, he also likes his kibble with roast pork, steak, chicken or fish.

This begs a question. How does one train a cadaver dog if the dog has been fed nearly everything, (barring human meat)?

Taste seems to be the second most important sense for Gonçalo, out of the five.

SMELL

This is by far the most dominant of Gonçalo’s senses. Let me give you only two examples.

When I take him out for a walky in the campo, Gonçalo spends nearly all his time with his nose down, smelling whatever it is that he scents.

While in our home, we have a open plan kitchen – dining room, which means it is a major source of delicious smells. I cook all sorts of food for Gonçalo, to vary his diet. He gets eggs, fish, chicken, pork and beef. But his meals are always completely bland. I do not ad any salt, pepper, herbs or spices. Whereas when I cook for us, there is garlic, chillis and a whole host of other flavours and aromatics. Gonçalo happily eats his own food, but he then wants the super-smelly human version.

ANALYSIS

I need to be clear on this. I have checked on all of Gonçalo’s senses, and he has no defects in any.

I have also checked on the ability of dogs, in general, to smell. Despite popular belief, scientific research shows dogs do NOT have a superior ability to smell than me.

It is simply a case of whatever sense is given primacy. I pay more attention to visual and auditory stimuli. Gonçalo focusses on smell.

That explains the tale of the two dogs that approached us in Olhão. I could see them coming. Gonçalo was head-down, engrossed in sniffing the terrain.

It begs the question as to whether blind people put more faith in smells than I do.

CADAVER DOG

The dog on the left is Muzzy. The dog on the right is Tito. These took part in the June 2014 Operation Grange dig of central Luz. They were part of South Wales police. I have not established what their precise purpose was i.e. why it was felt there was a need for two Springer Spaniels. However, it obviously took time, effort and money to get two dogs + handlers from South Wales to Luz to take part in the operation. I remember the female police officer, but I cannot say anything about the male policeman, because he did not register.

So there you have it. My cadaver dog, Gonçalo, spends most of his time outside, when we are alone, with his head close to the ground, sniffing at whatever scent intrigues him the most

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Gonk on holiday – birthday bash

Just after Christmas 2018, my wife and I went on our first holiday together for 7 years. Our puppy Gonçalo came with us, to celebrate his first birthday.

We had one week away in a villa that we have visited around 8 times in the last 15 years. It is on the Eastern side of the Algarve, miles beyond Faro, so it obviously has no connection to Madeleine McCann. Or does it?

I deliberately wanted a week away where I did nothing about Madeleine McCann. You are missing lots of photos that just might help you explain her disappearance, because I deliberately chose to NOT spend our holiday documenting such items of interest. It was to be Gonk’s birthday bash, and our first break in years.

But I cannot switch my brain off.

Gonçalo was good as gold. It took us 2 hours on the EN125 to get there. Then 2 hours to get back. No pees, no poos, Plus excellent behaviour. And Tthat gave me plenty of opportunity to look at the scenery on both sides of the EN125.

I found that I was espying every mobile phone mast along the route – singletons and clusters. And water towers, because where there is a water tower, there is a phone installation.

At the villa, which is just north of Olhão, I took Gonçalo out to explore his new domain. That meant 4 walkies a day, each lasting half an hour or more. Plenty of new smells for Gonçalo to savour, and the villa plot is enormous, so plenty of new territory for him to get familiarised with. He loved it.

Our main failure on the trip was that the restaurants in Olhão were crammed with customers both inside and out, so we couldn’t get somewhere quiet to bring Gonçalo with us. Our single meal out was in the drive-through of Olhão McDonalds! Fortunately, I enjoy cooking at home, and the little shops in our nearest village were well stocked. The meat from the village butcher was particularly superb!

All in all things fitted together well. My wife was busy on her phone and PC. I had deliberately left my PC behind to get a break, so I was happy concocting snacks and meals in the kitchen. While Gonçalo was pleased to go exploring and adventuring in the villa grounds.

As I’ve said, the villa plot is enormous, and it is on a hillside. There a large flattish interior portion, used as an Algarve garden. That means it is low maintenance, it is stuffed with exotic plants, and there is always something in bloom, even on New Year’s Day. Beyond this garden, there is a huge extended area, that is hilly, with gullies, dense trees, and tough scrub.

As Gonçalo dragged me around the terrain, I found I was wondering how many bodies I could hide there, and whether a police search of the type used for Madeleine McCann would find them. I reckon that the number I could hide is around 20 cadavers. That is on just one single plot.

At some point in the future, I need to go back to Luz to make an inventory of the ‘wastelands’ within the primary search zone for Madeleine, The term used out here is ‘land banking’. In other words, you buy anything from a smallish plot to a vast area, with no intention of developing it immediately. You simply squirrel it away, and let the others get on with building around it, thereby increasing the value of your plot. The mound searched by Operation Grange in central Luz in 2014 fits that description perfectly. Called ‘wasteland’, in reality it is an extremely valuable location that has been land banked.

But let us return to the subject of the villa near Olhão, and Gonçalo’s first birthday and first holiday. We went out onto one of many patios around the villa, in order to have tea/coffee and just a little something to eat, in the sunshine. This is Gonçalo saying “Are there any more snacks?”.

The early morning refreshments were over. Gonçalo likes a small sip of tea, but even that was gone. So Gonçalo looked at me and said. “The weather is wonderful. We’re refuelled. Come on you old bag of bones. There is exploring and adventuring to be done. It’s time for walkies!”

So we went for another walky. There were so many potential cadaver sites to check out.

P.S. Please look at the sky in the photographs. We were sunbathing on Gonk’s holiday on New Year’s Day. The weather when Madeleine McCann disappeared is another topic that I am working on.

Gonçalo – scrubs up nicely

Gonçalo, our cadaver dog, has just had a week’s break at the other end of the Algarve, to celebrate his 1st birthday. More on that will follow soon.

However, as he loves exploring the scrubland and running through the long grass in the campo (meadow, field, countryside) his underbelly hairs get extremely knotted, so yesterday he went off for a wash and a trim, to get rid of burrs and suchlike.

Here he is after his wash, looking like a drowned rat.

His ‘salon’ is Top Dogs in Lagos, and here he is with the proprietor, Rebecca.

And this is Gonçalo, after a towel dry and a trim to sort out his problem fur-spots. Doesn’t he scrub up well?

My wife was not best pleased with me, because very soon after he returned from being groomed, I took him out for yet another tour around the campo. After all, he is an apprentice in training. But Gonçalo, the trainee cadaver dog, alerted on our way back home.

At this moment in time, I believe he has just found his first cadaver (not human). The cadaver experiment is on! Come back soon for an update!

Gonçalo – cadaver dog – Xmas 2018

Gonçalo, my ‘cadaver dog’, was born on 31 December 2017, so he is fast approaching his first birthday. We expect to be away on holiday for a week around that time. Normal blog service will be resumed in early January 2019. All I can say is that the backlog of tales has built up in the festive season, and the blog posts will be much more frequent again.

Here is a little taster for you. What is going to happen with your Christmas dinner leftovers? This is not a trivial point for the owner of a cadaver dog-in-training.

I predict there will be Christmas leftovers in our house, of many types, 3 days from now. A selection of choice meats with delicious gravy. There is a total of 3 dogs in the house, but that includes Gonçalo, my ‘cadaver dog’. Should the turkey, pork and duck go to waste? Should the two non-cadaver dogs tuck in, while poor Gonçalo is left to just sniff and smell? Should Gonçalo the cadaver dog’ tuck in to tasty meat leftovers?

His birthday dinner is easier, simply because I like cooking, and we will be on holiday! Making him a 3-course meal on 31 December will be a joy. He will get a very small starter, a tasty main, followed by a tiny, tiny portion of dessert. We will be away from Portelas, so I don’t need to worry about the other two household dogs.

In the meantime, he is continuing to train me. When we get up early, I will sometimes watch live football from Australia, the Hyundai A-League.

The photo below is from an early morning game. There was only 10 minutes left, and the score meant it was already dead, i.e. game over.

The brown leather chair on the right of the photo is Gonçalo’s chair. However, I had nipped out for 30 seconds for a call of nature. When I came back, the puppy had claimed my TV seat.

This TV-thingy is boring, old man” he said. “It’s a beautiful sunny morning. We should be out in the campo, cadaver-training!”

So I turned off the TV and we headed into the campo (countryside, meadow, field).

Boas Festas! (Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year).

Madeleine v Major Luís Sequeira

In May 2007, Major Luís Sequeira was the GNR officer responsible for controlling the ground search around Luz for Madeleine McCann. That initial search is relevant to ‘woke and wandered’, but it is also relevant to body discovery and decomposition. However, for the moment I want to focus on the Major himself.

The first thing to note is his surname is spelled ‘Sequeira’. Mark Harrison refers to it as ‘Seqeuira’ in the PJ Files, but there is no doubt his name is Luís Sequeira.

His GNR career started well before Madeleine disappeared, and continues in modern times, so what was/is the man like?

The GNR is military, and splits men into officers and other ranks. Presumably Major Luís Sequeira was deemed to be officer material right at the start of his career.

Along with a great many other GNR members, mainly non-officers, he was awarded a medal for completion of ten years service in June 2001, when he was a Captain. He turned up again, as the recently-promoted Major Sequeira, in Portimão GNR, in November 2003.

By January 2007, Major Sequeira was the senior officer when a mixed bag of ordinary GNR soldiers and officers assembled to play an 11-a-side friendly football match against illustrious opponents. The GNR did play 5-a-side games at the time, but this adventure was to be a first for them.

The Hotel Montechoro was the base for Lokomotiv Moscow as the Russian professional team packed in winter games on the Algarve against Silves and Portimão, but with a gap in their training schedule, they challenged the GNR.

On the day of the contest, the GNR team was managed by Sergeants Sapateiro and Rodrigues, with all other ranks doing as they were ordered by the sergeants. Major Sequeira featured as a central defender. Lokomotiv went on to win 8-0, but the GNR squad was happy to have played against a top Russian team.

Just a few months later, in May 2007, Major Sequeira was managing the ground search for Madeleine McCann, following her disappearance.

That physical search is important. It determines whether Madeleine could have wandered and succumbed by natural means. A much more likely scenario is the local predator idea. Thus far, there has been considerable emphasis placed on Madeleine turning up within a short radius of Luz. Obviously this has not happened, but the physical location of Luz still dominates the psyche.

By 2011, Luís Sequeira had been promoted again, to Lt. Colonel. He then appeared at seminars on drug use and domestic violence.

In January 2016, Lt. Colonel Luís Sequeira was awarded the First Class Public Safety Merit. This is a medal given mainly to the military, in recognition of exemplary service.

While I have Colonel Sequeira’s full name, his GNR number, and his career profile, I cannot find a single photograph of him.

Madeleine – body decomposition and discovery

If Madeleine was killed and her body was deposited on the surface of the ground in the Algarve, what is the likelihood that her corpse would be found? As she has not been found, that leads on to consideration of body decomposition in the Algarve. This is purely hypothetical re Madeleine’s possible demise, but reality permits a reasoned analysis.

I know of two relevant named cases – Michael Price, who disappeared and was found on the surface of the ground in England, and Luís Miguel Grilo, who disappeared and was found on the surface of the ground in Avis, to the east of Lisbon.

This article focuses instead on two unnamed males found after suicide by hanging, in Italy. I have included one photo of human body decomposition that is relevant to this analysis. If you are easily upset by such graphics, please stop reading this post now.

The norm for studying human body decomposition in scholarly circles appears to be to use pigs as a substitute. These are thought to decompose in a manner similar to human cadavers. In this Italian report however, the dead bodies were both young male suicides, with death by hanging.

The full article is in English in the journal Forensic Sciences Research, at https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/20961790.2017.1418622

Both bodies were found 34 days after death (PostMortem Interval – PMI). Both were in isolated wooded areas. But the decomposition had proceeded in quite different ways.

In the first case, the body had remained suspended, about 1m above the ground. This reduced the number of insect maggots able to access the body – they dropped off onto the ground. The upper torso was unclothed, and that in turn had led to drying out (dessication by sun and wind) and mummification.

I see no reason to suspect Madeleine McCann was suspended, so this first case is of limited interest, merely highlighting the differences that occur compared with a body lying on the surface of the ground, at a different ambient temperature.

In the second instance, the head had come clean off the torso, so both head and body were lying on the ground. This separation was attributed to insect activity, which starts with the soft parts of the eyes, ears, nose and mouth, and proceeds down the throat.

In this case the body was fully clothed, but insects had had complete access to to the corpse at higher ambient temperatures, and the remains were nearly skeletal.

The decomposition process depends on ambient temperature, and a nearby weather station recorded an average of 25.1C, a high of 36.0C and a low of 12.0C for the 34 days in question. The key measure used is accumulated degree days (ADD), and for this case where putrefaction was the driver, the ADD score was significantly higher than that for the mummified one (dessication). In plain English, it was warmer over the 34 days after death.

I am no expert on insects, so I cannot say whether insect types in Italy are similar to those in the Algarve. However, the report rattles off several insect types as if these are fairly standard in human cadaver decomposition. So I am working with that assumption for now, at least until further reading confirms or changes this.

The four relevant examples I am aware of (the two here, plus Grilo and Price) are all lacking in detail regarding body discovery. The only scrap of knowledge I can garner is that discovery was not the result of large-scale predator activity. At the risk of sounding flippant, there were no buzzards circling in the air, hovering over a corpse. Until I can ascertain the precise reasons for discovery, it also seems unlikely that this was associated with insect activity.

In the case of the two Italian suicides, it appears that remoteness was a key factor in selecting the sites, which may explain why the bodies went undiscovered for 34 days after death.

One other point in the report that strikes me as significant is the difference between scientific test conditions, where temperature is controlled and steady, and real life, where the temperature fluctuates significantly over the course of 24 hours.

My Portelas Body Farm is open to the elements, so I will have a real-life 24 hour fluctuating cycle, but that means I have no actual control over the average temperature, the high, the low, or the accumulated degree days measure.

It’s very early days on this particular analysis, but so far, it suggests that the search conducted by the GNR for a body in the week following Madeleine’s disappearance was unlikely to find a corpse simply deposited on the ground in a remote location.

What I need to check next is on the insect populations in the Algarve in general, and in the Portelas Body Farm (aka my back yard) in particular.

Madeleine – the house on the hilltop

Mark Harrison, National Search Adviser, produced a search proposal for Guillhermino Encamação, the Algarve Regional Director of the Portuguese Judicial Police. This proposal was dated 23 July 2007.

The emphasis in the search had changed, to one where concealment or disposal of a corpse was the consideration.

That search proposal contains an odd statement. “An inhibiting factor is that since the disappearance of the child [Madeleine] an old empty house adjacent to the Trig Point on the Rocha Negra has been demolished and all rubble removed. If she was concealed within this property the search would be unlikely to detect her now.”

I was under the impression that this would be a scenario where Martin Grime’s dogs, Eddie and Keela, would be deployed, but I am not the National Search Adviser, and Mark Harrison was.

I have visited the trig point and not seen anything that might equate to a demolished house, so where was this house on the hilltop? It turns out that there are two locations to consider.

Google Earth gives clear views of the area on 22 June 2007 and 5 Oct 2013. The 22 June 2007 date is important, because it is a month before Mark Harrison’s report. The 2013 date simply helps to make sense of the 2007 images.

Here is one house on the hilltop in 2013.

This is on the Boavista complex, but judging by its gate it is not open to members of the golf club. It is a private, high-end luxury villa, possibly belonging to one of the owners of Boavista.

Here is the same property in 2007, one month before Mark Harrison’s report.

This has extensive foundations laid, plus structures that may be for underfloor heating. Madeleine McCann disappeared on 3 May 2007. The photo was taken 6 weeks after she vanished. An earlier photo does make it look as if there was an older property on-site. However, 6 weeks is simply not enough time to demolish the old structure, dispose of the rubble, dig new foundations and build to the level seen in the June 2007 photo. This is not Mark Harrison’s house on the hilltop, so it is time to look at the other contender.

This is a clubhouse that was built in 2007, here shown as it looked in 2013. It appears to be at the final hole of the golf course. It is on a prime location that overlooks the valley down to Luz. And here it is in relation to the private villa, also in 2013.

The key photo is from 22 June 2007, shortly before Mark Harrison’s report.

At that point in time, the foundations of a previous building were being removed. The photo suggests that there was a basement area, which would have formed a good hiding place for a body, at least until the construction work started.

The photo also suggests that the previous structure was quite large. I don’t have any information about this previous property, so I need to do a bit of digging. The building seems to have been extensive, and it was located on a prime spot overlooking the valley. I am intrigued as to its story, and why it fell into such disrepair.

The following screen shot is a little earlier, from October 2006. Despite being extremely fuzzy, it reinforces the idea that the previous structure was indeed large and substantial.

Where is the Time Team when you need it most?