Madeleine – the Farm Of The Poppy

As it was the 99th anniversary of the end of WW1 recently, I thought it would be interesting to show our home – The Farm Of The Poppy.

Portugal was neutral in WW2. It tried to be neutral in WW1, but it got sucked into the conflict. Madeira and the Azores were shelled by U-boats, and the Portuguese sent artillery units to fight on the Western Front. There is a war memorial to the Portuguese dead in one of the main squares of Lagos, and I visited that on Luz Tour #7.

By pure coincidence, our new home is called The Farm Of The Poppy. Note poppy is singular. The plot almost certainly was farm land once, but poppies were never a crop. It is simply a pleasant name to stick on the front of the house.

The connection, or non-connection, to Madeleine is simple. It takes about 25 minutes to get from here to Luz. Our US visitor has just made that journey, with the aim of watching an Algarve sunset. After a walk on the beach they ate at the Paraíso, the restaurant used by the Tapas 7 on the afternoon of May 2007.

I have not checked the search radius that was used for Madeleine, but I’m pretty confident we are outside of it. So think 25 minutes by car, and let me talk you through The Farm Of The Poppy.

The plot faces roughly south-east at the rear. Look near dead-centre and there are 3 larger trees and a shiny metallic object. Those are roughly 120m or so down the garden, and represent the half-way mark.

There are lots of plots in and around Luz that make our garden look tiny, so do your own arithmetic on how many men would be require to search just one house and one plot of the thousands within the search perimeter.

The Farm Of The Poppy is on 4 levels.

At the bottom are 3 ageing, decrepit outhouses. They were stuffed with the previous owner’s junk. Now they are stuffed with our family’s junk. I could hide more or less anything human-sized in there. There is also in there somewhere a commercial-sized chiller. And the outhouses have a working electricity supply. Though the chiller is not in use at the moment because it is under so much junk.

By the way, the thing in the outhouse that looks like a small car is a tiny BMW look-alike, bought for our 2-year-old’s birthday.

Just above the outbuildings, you can see the underbuild. That’s where us oldies live. Most of it is obscured by our lemon tree in the centre. We converted what was a large garage to be our lounge. Before that, it was filled with yet more of the previous owner’s junk.

Above that, with the 4 arches, is the main level, where the kids live. Although that looks high at the rear, it is actually at road level on the other side. That layer is 3-bed, lounge, kitchen-diner etc., and I suspect was once the only real living area in The Farm Of The Poppy.

Perched on the roof is the final level, another bedroom with two small windows on this side. It has larger windows on the other side, which is cooler in summer.

This is around 150m down the garden. The shiny, metallic object from the first photo turns out to be a light trailer. The brown heaps on either side are the remnants of a row of trees that have been trimmed. One could conceal a large object under that lot, and finding it would take a great deal of manpower.

This is the bottom of the garden, perhaps 250m from the house. Most of our land is unfarmed but flat, so concealing a body requires digging harder than Scotland Yard’s Operation Grange did in 2014. But if you look closely, you will see other challenges. Much of the east and south sides of our property are unfenced. We simply have a ditch and bulrushes. A searcher’s nightmare.

Our neighbour’s property poses different challenges. Three houses, building supplies, a chicken coop, and a goat pen. Our house did have a pig pen, but it had to be removed on order of the Câmara.

All photos were taken on he 99th anniversary of the end of WW1. I will commemorate the 100th anniversary with something a little more sombre and respectful. This was simply a test run to check out some of my planning.

One final thought. If we had lived here in June 2014, when Operation Grange was digging up central Luz, I would have had no reason to visit the dig. Consequently I would not have got interested at all in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. It would simply be an event that passed me by a fair distance away.

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Madeleine v Algarve soil

Here is the second of two attempts to dig a hole in the Algarve by purely human effort.

On this occasion, the requirement was to dig a small channel to fit a tiny pipe to repair our irrigation system. We’ve got water, we’ve got pipes, we’ve got a garden and we have fruit trees. But the odd pipe is broken and needs to be replaced.

Bear in mind the June 2014 dig by Operation Grange in central Luz. That was fantasy. This is reality. It is a miniscule trench that was dug into soil which was heavily watered beforehand to soften it up.

This is roughly what you can dig by hand on the Algarve, based on a lot of sweat, a lot of time, and a lot of noise. A channel to fit a small irrigation tube.

This ‘trench’ was dug by someone who is – as young as Smithman – physically fit – and who had plenty of peace and quiet to muscle through it. The result is a channel where you can bury a miniscule pipe.

I still have not worked out a valid reason why Operation Grange dug up the Mound in June 2014. Not one.

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.

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.