Grégory Villemin via Anne Guedes

Anne Guedes dropped a link into my blog about the cold case story of Grégory Villemin. The programme was a French talk show discussion of the case. It happens to have a short section on the Madeleine McCann incident. I made the mistake of not doing some research on Grégory beforehand, so I was labouring under French that I learned over 40 years ago and have seldom used since. The case is also known as Little Grégory, the Grégory Affair, and the French equivalents thereof.

The Villemins had been getting unsigned letters and anonymous phone calls from a male threatening revenge against Grégory’s father, Jean-Marie Villemin. It appears that in France, the sender of such anonymous letters becomes The Crow – Le Corbeau.

On 16 Oct 1984, the Villemins received a phone call, saying the boy had been taken and thrown in a river. Grégory’s body was found in a river 7km away. His hands and feet had been bound with rope.

On 17th Oct 1984 the Villemins received another anonymous letter stating “I have taken revenge”.

Based on handwriting analysis, a cousin of the father came under suspicion. He was released without charges, but Jean-Marie publicly vowed to kill him. On 25 Mar 1985, Jean-Marie shot dead his cousin, Bernard Laroche, and served 5 years in prison for murder.

Also due to handwriting analysis, Grégory’s mother, Christine Villemin, came under suspicion, but was eventually cleared.

At various points in time, the case has been re-examined, due to advances in DNA testing.

In June 2017, based on new evidence, 3 people were arrested. One has since been cleared. The other two, a great-aunt and great-uncle have invoked their right to silence.

Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Gr%C3%A9gory_Villemin

The programme is at https://youtu.be/_r5nMrWcij8 The section on Madeleine McCann starts around 46.30.

I do not intend getting involved in Grégory’s case. I only do Madeleine’s case because Operation Grange conducted an expensive, farcical dig in Luz in June 2014. However, Grégory’s story is sufficiently interesting to do this single post.

My thanks to Anne for bringing this case and the programme link to my attention.

Luz – Early 20th century

I got my hands on 3 photos of Luz from the early 20th century, and at first I thought they were almost identical, but in reality you can see the skeleton of Luz developing around 120 years ago.

Here is the first photo, undated other than around 1900.

The one and only place in Luz this photo could have been taken is the top of the mound dug up by Operation Grange in June 2014. Nothing else fits.

There are 3 roads running through this that turn up 100 years later.

The first runs from mid-left to the centre of the photo. That is Rua Vente Cinco de Abril. Except it would not get called that until 1974. Since it was the main road from Burgau in the west, it was probably called Burgau Street. At this point there seems to be one large house and very little else.

Joining up at the central point and heading out to the upper left is current day Rua Direita, heading for Lagos. In this photo, there are no buildings, just trees. Bear in mind we are back in horse and cart days.

Coming from the centre point of the photo to bottom right is Rua Calhete, currently home to the Bull, Kelly’s, Look Steak, Fernando’s, and the Dolphin.

As far as I can tell, very few buildings, the church and the Fortaleza apart, are still standing today. There may actually be one or two, but I am not in the business of checking antique buildings in Luz.

This grainy photo must have been taken a few years later. The posh villa, which was standing on its own on 25 de Abril Street now has a lot of neighbours.

Things have moved on again. There is a new building on 25 de Abril Street. The main road layout of Luz is in place. This photo is clear enough that you can see the trig point on top of the hill.

But please look from the the view at the top of the mound, directly over the Fortaleza, past Rocha Negra to the land sticking out in the distance. That place will return in the 1940s. Just as it did in Panorama 2017.

Madeleine – Panorama special 3 May 2017

Reporter Richard Bilton, who has covered the Madeleine McCann case for 10 years, presented a BBC Panorama special on 3 May 2017 entitled ‘Madeleine McCann 10 Years On’.

Mr Bilton obtained an interview with Pedro do Carmo, Deputy Director, Polícia Judiciária. He said it is still a missing child case. Plus the PJ wanted to learn what to do if it is repeated.

The Lisbon court case of the McCanns v Gonçalo Amaral was covered briefly.

The programme added various scenes of Luz that are impossible to get from the ground. If you check the credits at the end, you will see the drone camera operator was Andy Webb.

The documentary covered the basics of the case – 9 adults eating at the Tapas restaurant, 8 children in block 5, Kate alerting around 10pm that Madeleine was missing.

There was a previously unseen interview with Gonçalo Amaral from 2012, in which it was claimed there was nothing to support an abduction.

The programme said the Portuguese police found inconsistencies in the time-line, and thought the McCanns had acted oddly by bringing in the media.

The dog deployments were next, presumably to move on to an interview of Kate and Gerry McCann by Sandra Felgueiras. This was the one where Gerry said cadaver dogs are unreliable.

Had the Portuguese settled on their theory before final DNA results were available? Panorama did not pick up the order of things from Kate’s book ‘madeleine’. The McCanns let it be known they were soon leaving Portugal. The PJ chose to interview them before their announced leaving date. The incomplete results still required that the McCanns were made arguidos.

The Smith family gave statements that they saw a man carrying a child several hundred metres from the Ocean Club at around 10pm on 3 May. Gerry would be implicated in the sighting, but he had an alibi of being at the Tapas Restaurant at that time.

In 2008 the case was archived, and the McCanns were no longer arguidos.

Robert Murat gave his opinion on events of that time. Was his mother being followed by private investigators? Was Mr Bilton asked to spy on his colleagues with respect to Mr Murat?

The BBC documentary moved to the report by Jim Gamble, then head of CEOP. It recommended a review. The report appeared to languish until May 2011, when The Sun serialised Kate McCann’s book ‘madeleine’.

Operation Grange was started. The documentary moved to ‘the British story’.

There were burglaries in Luz, that allegedly the local operators kept quiet to protect trade. Heriberto Janosch González told of 3 recent burglaries in block 4 and block 5. In a video, he demonstrated how to raise the shutter an open the window from outside.

3 men were potentially involved in a burglary that night. José Carlos da Silva, a driver at the Ocean Cub. Ricardo Rodrigues, aged 16 in 2017. And Paulo Ribeiro. These were allegedly connected by phone messages and texts. These were 3 Portuguese people on a phone to each other in Luz, and the phone traffic was normal. José Carlos da Silva declined to be interviewed. Ricardo Rodrigues could not be contacted. Paulo Ribeiro was interviewed and he denied involvement in a burglary. He said he had been identified from a drawing or e-fit.

Presumably that was from Crimewatch Oct 2013. If so it is puzzling as to how Sr Ribeiro was identified, as that Crimewatch programme did not air on any Portuguese channel, though those e-fits were shown in Portuguese media.

Judging by the Panorama interview, Sr Ribeiro does not appear to be the kind of person who could keep a major secret for 10 years.

I think I may have had a very brief encounter with Sr Ribeiro about a year ago, though I had no idea at the time that it was him.

Scotland Yard announced these 3 men were no longer persons of interest in April 2017.

Panorama moved on to another man, Vitor dos Santos. He had given a fairly long statement in 2007. He confirmed he had been interviewed by British police, and that must have been in Dec 2014. He said the questions were much the same as in 2007 e.g. about the logistics of the holiday complex. Sr dos Santos had been laid off by the Ocean Club and now made a living taking tourists on boat trips near Lagos.

It seems Operation Grange has a further lead to pursue but Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley would not be drawn on what it was. That left the recent press speculation that it might be about a woman seen near apartment 5A acting suspiciously on 3 May 2007.

I was in contact with the Panorama team to explain some information. However, that was shortly before the programme aired, when the documentary must have been nearly fully completed. So I have no reason to believe anything was altered as a result of our exchange.

Madeleine – Sky special – 2 May 2017

On 2 May 2017, Sky showed ‘Searching for Madeleine’, a special to mark the10th anniversary of the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. The presenter was Martin Brunt, who has followed the case for the 10 years since it began. The studio guest was Colin Sutton, an ex-DCI from Scotland Yard with experience of conducting major investigations.

The fist 10 minutes covered the basics. The holiday, the Tapas zone, the initial response to the incident by Portuguese police.

Sky News on 4 May 2007 ran with the story that a 3 year old British girl was missing on the Algarve. Pedro do Carmo, Deputy Director, Judicial Police, described the initial work as a rescue operation, looking for a child that was missing.

Here Sky hit its first wobbly. It says the apartment was let out twice before it was sealed off for a full forensic examination. The reality is different. The PJ from Portimão tried to collect forensic evidence in the very early hours of 4 May 2007. Irene Trovão, also a local forensic officer, was videoed checking the shutter of the children’s bedroom for fingerprints. And while Gerry and Kate McCann were giving their first witness statements, a forensics duo from Lisbon conducted the major forensic examination on the afternoon of 4 May 2007. The forensics had been done. There was no way to foresee the apartment should be sealed off until Eddie and Keela were deployed.

The centrepiece of the Sky programme was a Home Office report written by Jim Gamble, then head of CEOP, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre.

This documented the many organisations that were involved close to the beginning, and the difficulties this caused. Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary at the time, questioned if Leicestershire Police had the wherewithal to handle this type of investigation. Mr Gamble was asked to consider if it was worth getting Scotland Yard involved. Mr Gamble suggested a scoping review to identify if opportunities had been missed, but officials appeared to be set against this.

Mr Gamble was shocked to find the parents had not been investigated first by the Portuguese police, in order to clear the ground for further enquiries. He went on to say the Portuguese response was inadequate, but he used a comparison in the UK that does not approximate to the situation in Luz in 2007. I will return to that in a future post.

Colin Sutton made the point that a snapshot of the incident area was not constructed, and more could have been done by UK police re interviewing British holidaymakers who had returned to the UK, and British workers in the ‘complex’.

My main criticism of the early effort is that apparently little was done to get door-to-door information in the immediate vicinity of apartment 5A.

Sky went on to cover leaks to the Portuguese press, concerning dog alerts and supposed DNA results. Mr Sutton pointed out that dog alerts are not evidence.

The events around the McCanns being made arguidos, flying home to the UK, and removal of arguido status upon archiving of the case was covered.

There appeared to be a 3-way split between the McCanns, the Portuguese police and the UK police. The CEOP report then makes an odd assertion. It alleges the McCanns had a significant amount of information from their private investigators, and this information had not been fully shared with either the Portuguese police or the UK police. I cannot see how Mr Gamble could reach such a conclusion. Perhaps it is explained in the CEOP report, but I haven’t read that document.

Mark Rowley, Assistant Commissioner, Metropolitan Police, explained there had been a discussion of the case in 2011 between the Prime Ministers of Portugal and the UK, and it was agreed that Scotland Yard would get involved.

The documentary then covered the remit. Colin Sutton explained that a fresh investigation should start right at the beginning. This echoes what was said by Jim Gamble. However, Operation Grange was to be restricted to abduction. AC Mark Rowley says parental involvement had been covered by the original Portuguese investigation. The recent Supreme Court decision made it clear this is not the case.

The Sky documentary moved on to the Jane Tanner sighting. Martin Brunt pointed out the obvious – namely if the man was coming from the Ocean Club night crèche, then he was going the wrong way. Jane Tanner’s rogatory statement pointed out this problem. If the night crèche closed at 11.30pm, It is actually more likely that at 9.15pm, the time of the Tanner sighting, he was heading towards the night crèche.

Scotland Yard presented two e-fits of a man carrying a child ‘towards the beach’. This of course was the Smith sighting at 10pm. Crimewatch 2013 did indeed state this man was heading towards the beach.

This suggests that Martin Brunt does not fully understand the Smith sighting. 12-year-old Aoife Smith’s statement does not fit with ‘towards the beach’. Should Mr Brunt ever return to Luz, I will be happy to show him why Aoife Smith’s statement strongly suggests ‘towards the beach’ is wrong. And why that man is likely to be Portuguese and innocent. Plus why that man is unlikely to come forward. And what needs to be done to get him to identify himself.

The documentary covered Operation Grange’s look at charity collectors. There is an easy test for this. The bogus ones do door-to-door, and disappear rapidly if they make some cash. The genuine ones go to the main thoroughfares and work there for hours on end.

Then Sky covered a burglary gone wrong. Whilst Operation Grange evaluated this as viable, Portuguese police did not think it likely.

The documentary moved to mobile phone data. The CEOP report says there was lots of it, but it was badly handled by Portuguese investigators. It had not been fully analysed, and the Portuguese should accept UK help. This sounds to me to be very over-simplistic, but I cannot be certain as I have not read the CEOP report.

Then the documentary moved to its weakest point, what can be extracted from that phone data. Nothing Colin Sutton said on this has much relevance to Luz on 3 May 2007.

As is normal, there were 3 cellphone operators in Luz – Optimus, TMN and Vodafone. Roughly speaking, each operator cuts Luz into a western half and an eastern half, and that is as much as you get. Was the cellphone active in Luz that night, and if so, was it in the west of Luz or the east.

Take for example Kate McCann. Her phone was active that night on Optimus antenna Luz 2. That antenna covers the east of Luz, and apartment 5A is indeed in the east of Luz. But the whole of the Ocean Club is in the eastern half of Luz, as is the majority of the commercial establishments e.g. the Mirage. I cannot tell from phone data if Kate was in or around 5A when her phone was active. The phone data is very rough.

Further, DCI Andy Redwood has said that a major obstacle to phone data analysis was PAYG phones.

4 people were made arguidos in July 2014, but have now been informed they are no longer persons of interest.

The new Portuguese investigation focussed on a series of sex attacks in the Algarve. It would appear most were on older children, but one was on a child aged 3. Euclides Monteiro, an ex-waiter at the Ocean Club, was identified by the Portuguese investigation as a suspect for the sex attacks. DNA tests ruled out Mr Monteiro. He had been killed in a tractor accident in 2009.

The Sky documentary examined the woke and wandered theory. Local ex-pat Mr John Ballinger provided some photos of the road works in Luz around that time. There was no examination as to why Kate McCann’s description of apartment 5A that night is a poor fit with woke and wandered.

Mr Brunt pointed out that there is no evidence to prove Madeleine came to any harm, so she may still be alive.

Have lessons been learned from the disappearance of Madeleine McCann? Jim Gamble and Alan Johnson think not.

The documentary covered some of the Internet abuse directed at Kate and Gerry. Two police investigations found no evidence of their involvement in Madeleine’s disappearance. The Sky investigation also found no such evidence.

It concluded that the mystery of what happened to Madeleine McCann remains just that. A mystery.

AC Mark Rowley said there is a significant line of enquiry that remains to be pursued, but would not divulge what it was.

On the armchair experts forum that I prefer, the general view was that little was learned from this Sky special. However, that is not the correct view to take, in my opinion. This programme was not aimed at a handful of amateur detectives. It was targeting the greater British public. And for those, I suspect the key point that was delivered was that roughly £12 million down the line, the investigation is fatally flawed because, despite what DCI Andy Redwood said, it did not start by going back to the very beginning.

Madeleine – 10th – the congregation emerges

The times on my camera are about 8 minutes ahead of the church clock. This the scene around 9.40pm, with the media now waiting for the congregation to emerge from St Vincent.

There are still late night passers-by heading south, perhaps to one of the restaurants or perhaps just going for a stroll on a pleasant evening.

I got intercepted by one gentleman from Sweden who was curious about the activity. And a German couple who said they were in Luz on the night Madeleine disappeared. Because I don’t look like media, people are generally happy to chat to me for a few minutes. The flavour was along the lines of why so much was being done for one child when there are many other missing children.

If you look at the lighting, you can see more sources than there are at the Jane Tanner sighting. However, Jane’s man-carrying-child was very close to a (sodium) street light. The street lights here are sodium, backed by fluorescent light from two shop fronts, the media cameras and a near-full moon. On 3 May 2007, the near-full moon had not risen, but on 3 May 2017 it was well up in a clear sky.

Make your own judgement about which colours can be picked out and which colours can’t.

The shop in the background with a green stripe over the window and a large plus sign on its front wall is a chemist. Back in 2007, it was an Ali Super convenience store. There is footage of that store in the background as the McCanns arrived at the church to attend an evening mass. The store remained open until 10.30pm.

If the Crimewatch special of Oct 2013 is to be believed, the man seen by the Smiths around 10pm headed in this direction i.e. roughly in the direction of the church.

If the Panorama special of May 2017 is to be believed, the dig in central Luz by Operation Grange in June 2014 relates to 3 men considered as possible burglars. These 3 men were 3 of the 4 made arguidos in July 2014, but all 4 have been informed they are no longer persons of interest.

Neither Crimewatch nor Panorama seems to have twigged the importance of Aoife Smith’s testimony.

It would be an interesting Freedom Of Information request to find out precisely how much the Operation Grange digs in Luz cost.

The church clock is showing 9.40pm, and the congregation has started to emerge, complete with candles inside little glass bowls. I was a little bit bemused as to why there was little attention being paid to these people. The best photo I have seen of them was taken by reporter Michael Havis, inside St Vincent. He told me the congregation numbered about 20 and they went near to east end altar, while the media, also around 20 in number, sat at the west end, near the door you see.

It dawned on me why the media was paying limited attention to the candle-light procession. They were queuing up for an interview with the Anglican minister, Reverend Haynes Hubbard. Presumably these had been agreed in advance i.e. that the minister would come out at the end of the service and talk to the media.

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 v The Telegraph Ep. 2

The Telegraph story has evolved. It now asks if ‘the police’ are closer to knowing the truth when once it simply asked if ‘we’ are closer to knowing the truth.

Here is the full text of the Telegraph article as published in April 2016 and retrieved today, 21 Jan 2017.

Madeleine McCann latest: are police any closer to knowing the truth?

By Gordon Rayner, Chief Reporter

29 April 2016 • 9:41am

In the nine years since Madeleine McCann went missing from a holiday apartment in Portugal, myriad theories about what happened to her have taken root, but only one fact remains uncontested: that she was reported missing at 10.14pm on the evening of Thursday, May 3, 2007.

It was at that point, when police were called, that the clock started ticking on the biggest missing persons investigation for decades, a search which remains very much active to this day.

Facts, the hard currency of any police investigation, have proved almost uniquely elusive; every sighting, every timing and every witness statement has been disputed in the years that have elapsed since.

Madeleine’s parents Kate and Gerry McCann quickly came under suspicion by Portuguese police, a development that the couple are certain meant vital clues were missed in the first hours and days after Madeleine’s disappearance.

Every possible theory has been explored since then: that Madeleine was abducted by a paedophile; that she was killed during a bungled burglary and her body dumped; that she was abducted by traffickers and sold to a childless couple; that she wandered out of the apartment and died in a tragic accident, and many more besides.

To date, however, not one shred of proof of what happened to Madeleine has been unearthed. The question of what happened to Madeleine would become not only a personal tragedy for the McCann family, but a national obsession in the UK and in Portugal.

Madeleine, of Rothley, Leicestershire, was on the penultimate day of her family holiday on the day she vanished. She had spent part of the day playing by the swimming pool in the Ocean Club resort, where the last known picture of her was taken at 2.29pm.

Reports of when she was last seen alive by independent witnesses vary, but she was still alive at around 6pm, when she and her parents went into their apartment at 5A Rua Dr Agostinho da Silva, where Madeleine and her two-year-old twin brother and sister were readied for bed.

The McCanns told police they put the children to bed at around 7pm, and that all three were asleep by 8.30pm, when they went for dinner at a tapas bar 50 yards across the pool from their apartment. There they met seven friends with whom they were on holiday.

The McCanns say checks were made on their children every half-hour, sometimes by other members of the party, comprising Dr Russell O’Brien and Jane Tanner, from Exeter, Dr Matthew and Rachael Oldfield, from London, and David and Fiona Payne, from Leicester, together with Mrs Payne’s mother Dianne Webster. Mrs Webster, however, reportedly told police that each couple was responsible for checking their own children.

Gerry McCann went to the apartment at 9.05pm, when all the children were sleeping soundly and Madeleine was still in her bed, he says.

The police in Portugal, however, have never accepted the McCanns’ evidence as undisputed. They initially regarded the McCanns as suspects, and believed the McCanns could have killed Madeleine any time after the last independent sighting of her at 6pm.

A timeline of that evening shows that Dr Matthew Oldfield went into apartment 5A at 9.30pm, and noticed that Madeleine’s room seemed lighter than the others, as if the shutters had been partially opened. He could not be certain whether Madeleine was there.

Kate McCann was next to check on the children, at 10pm. She ran back to the restaurant moments later, saying Madeleine was missing. The McCanns and their friends made a quick search of the resort, but after finding no sign of Madeleine the police were called at 10.14pm.

The McCanns told police they had put Madeleine to bed with her pink comfort blanket and favourite soft toy, Cuddle Cat, and was wearing short-sleeved Marks & Spencer Eeyore pyjamas.

Crucially, however, the apartment was not initially treated as a crime scene, meaning around 20 people went in and out before it was sealed off, contaminating potential evidence. Roadblocks were not put in place until 10am the next day, border guards were not informed for hours and Interpol did not put out a global missing persons alert for five days.

It meant that the most crucial time of any missing persons investigation – the first 24 hours – was largely squandered, and police have been trying to catch up ever since. Yet potentially key sightings and artists’ impressions of suspects were kept from the public for years.

Mary and Martin Smith, from Ireland, told police they saw a man carrying a child matching Madeleine’s description at around 10pm on Rua da Escola Primaria, 500 yards from the McCanns’ apartment. He was heading towards the beach, did not look like a tourist and did not seem comfortable carrying the child, they said.

Their evidence was compelling, but it was only in October 2013 that two e-fit images of the man, compiled by police from descriptions given by Mr and Mrs Smith, were released by Scotland Yard to coincide with a BBC Crimewatch reconstruction of Madeleine’s disappearance. He remains a suspect.

There were also blind alleys. Jane Tanner, one of the tapas diners, told police that when she left the restaurant at 9.15pm to check on her own daughter, she saw a man carrying a small child, wearing pink pyjamas, in his arms.

For years afterwards, the mystery man would be a key suspect, if not the prime suspect, but in October 2013 the Metropolitan Police announced that a British holidaymaker who had been taking his daughter back to his apartment after picking her up from an evening crèche, had been identified as the man Miss Tanner had seen and ruled out of the inquiry.

The first person to become an “arguido”, or official suspect, was Robert Murat, a local property consultant, whose home was searched 12 days after the disappearance. He was formally cleared of suspicion in 2008 and won £600,000 in libel damages from 11 British newspapers.

The Portuguese Police, however, were suspicious of the McCanns from the beginning, partly due to a clash of cultures. They could not believe that parents would leave their children unattended, and did not approve of the McCanns’ use of the media to raise the profile of the case, in a country where secrecy is the hallmark of all police investigations.

The arrival of two British sniffer dogs in Portugal in July 2007 only hardened that belief. One dog was trained to sniff out traces of human blood, the other was trained to sniff out the scent of dead bodies. Both dogs were taken to several locations connected to the investigation, and gave alerts only in apartment 5A. Later, the cadaver dog gave an alert inside a Renault car, hired by the McCanns 24 days after Madeleine went missing.

DNA tests on samples taken from the car proved inconclusive, but the Portuguese police wrongly told journalists they were a “100 per cent match” for Madeleine.

The Portuguese police came up with the theory that Madeleine had been killed by her parents by accident, possibly by being given an overdose of a sedative to make her sleep, that they had hidden the body, faked her abduction and then used the hire car weeks later to move her body to a burial location.

In early September 2007, according to Kate McCann, she was told by the Portuguese police that if she admitted that Madeleine had died in the apartment and she had hidden her body she might only serve a two-year sentence and Gerry McCann would not be charged at all. On September 7 the couple were both made arguidos.

Goncalo Amaral, the chief inspector who had been in charge of the case, resigned in 2008 to write a book alleging that Madeleine had died in an accident in the apartment and the McCanns had faked the abduction. The McCanns sued him for libel, and won: Amaral was ordered to pay them £394,000 in damages, but in April 2016 that decision was overturned by an appeal court.

In July 2008 the Portuguese attorney general announced that the McCanns were no longer suspects and the investigation was closed. The McCanns hired private investigators to carry on the search, but it was not until May 2011 that Theresa May, the Home Secretary, announced that Scotland Yard would review the evidence in the case, which had until then been the responsibility of Leicestershire Police, working with the Portuguese authorities.

In July 2013 Operation Grange, the review of the available evidence, became a full-blown criminal inquiry, and Scotland Yard said it was concentrating on a “criminal act by a stranger”.

The Yard announced it was looking into possible links between Madeleine’s disappearance and bogus charity collectors who were knocking on doors in Praia da Luz at the time. Between 3.30pm and 5.30pm on the day in question there were four separate sightings of men who said they were collecting money for an orphanage. British detectives believe men whose photofits they released in 2013 may have been engaged in reconnaissance for a pre-planned abduction or for burglaries, in keeping with the theory that Madeleine may have been killed by a burglar she disturbed.

telegraph-april-2016-e-fit-x-4

E-fits of men seen acting suspiciously near the apartment on the night Madeleine went missing

Scotland Yard also said in 2013 it was eager to trace a blond-haired man who had been seen loitering in the area on April 30 and May 2, looking at apartment 1A. He was described as “ugly” with a spotty complexion and a large nose. Two blond-haired men were seen on the balcony of the empty apartment 5C, two doors from 5A, at 2.30pm on the day of the disappearance. Blond men were seen again near 5A at 4pm and 6pm that day, and at 11pm that night. Following the appeal on Crimewatch, the Portuguese police re-opened their own investigation.

Scotland Yard officers travelled to Portugal in 2014 to interview four suspects and carried out searches of the area around the apartment using ground-penetrating radar. One of the men who was interviewed has since been eliminated from the inquiry, but the other three men remain arguidos.

The British officers questioned them on suspicion of being part of a burglary gang that panicked after killing Madeleine during a bungled break-in. They all protested their innocence and were released without charge.

Another suspect was Euclides Monteiro, a convicted burglar with a drug habit, who had been sacked from the Ocean Club in 2006. Mobile phone tracking showed he had been in the area on the night of the disappearance, and police believe he may have been burgling apartments there to fund his drug addiction. He died in a tractor accident in 2009.

In March 2014 Scotland Yard announced that a lone intruder sexually assaulted five girls aged between seven and 10 in the Algarve between 2004 and 2006. The man, who has never been caught, was said to have a “very, very unhealthy interest” in young white girls.

The four incidents, one of which involved two girls, were among 12 in which men had entered holiday accommodation in the area, including two incidents in Praia da Luz. The force also said it was looking at 38 “people of interest” and were researching the backgrounds of 530 known sex offenders, including 59 regarded as high interest.

In December 2014 Det Chief Insp Andy Redwood, the man who had led Operation Grange, retired and was replaced on Dec 22 by DCI Nicola Wall, who travelled to Portugal the same month to conduct further inquiries.

DCI Wall and her team interviewed seven suspects and four witnesses, but have not released any information about what they discovered, insisting they will not provide a “running commentary” on the case.

In September 2015 the Met announced that it was scaling back the Operation Grange investigation team from 29 officers to four. With the cost of the inquiry topping £10 million, the force said it was following “a small number of focused lines of inquiry”.

It added that the “vast majority” of the work of Operation Grange had been completed. In total officers had reviewed more than 40,000 documents, took 1,338 statements and collected 1,027 exhibits.

The Met said 60 “persons of interest” had been investigated, 650 sex offenders considered and 8,685 potential sightings investigated.

Then, in April 2016, came an announcement by the Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe that his officers had boiled down the evidence to “one final lead”.

Having failed to substantiate other theories, police are reportedly left with one of the original theories – that Madeleine was killed during a botched burglary.

The Met wants to re-interview three suspects who were placed at the scene through analysis of their mobile phones: Jose Carlos da Silva, 30, who used to drive guests to their apartments at the Ocean Club resort in Praia da Luz, Ricardo Rodrigues, 24, and Paulo Ribeiro, 53.

They have previously admitted petty theft from apartments at the complex but denied any involvement in Madeleine’s disappearance.

Kate and Gerry McCann remain convinced their daughter is alive and that they will one day be reunited. The hunt to find her continues.