Madeleine – Did the BBC bend the truth?

Around 3 Feb 2018, Village Magazine published an article by Gemma O’Doherty, entitled “Maddie: Did the BBC bend the truth?” https://villagemagazine.ie/index.php/2018/02/maddie-did-the-bbc-bend-the-truth/

Photographic copies of the article quickly surfaced on the Internet. These included the photos used to illustrate the article, plus all of the text (in non-searchable files).

The following is a transcript of the text (no photos), which makes it searchable. This is for research purposes only.

*

Maddie: Did the BBC bend the truth?

On the night Madeleine McCann disappeared, an Irish tourist saw a man with a child matching her description near the McCann apartment. His testimony could prove vital to the world’s most famous missing person case, especially since the man he saw that night has never come forward.

On a cold night in May 2007, Martin Smith and his family were walking home after an evening out in the Portuguese resort of Praia da Luz. A retired businessman from Drogheda, Co. Louth, he co-owned an apartment there and was a regular visitor to the Algarve town.

The crowds of summer had yet to arrive and the normally bustling streets of the old quarter lay quiet. It was approaching 10pm when some members of the family of nine were suddenly struck by the sight of a man walking quickly towards them holding a small child uncomfortably in his arms.

***

The BBC have told Village that they got it wrong about the Smith sighting but have failed to explain how they made such a fundamental error.

***

As he passed close by them on the narrow street, the child appeared to be in a deep sleep, her head placed over his shoulder and arms suspended down her body.

She was blonde, aged around four and wearing pyjamas. Despite the chill in the air, her feet were bare. Martin and his daughter Aoife noted that her skin was very white. The man carrying the girl was middle-aged and more formally dressed than the average tourist, in beige trousers and a dark blazer-like top.

A member of Martin’s family made a comment towards him that the child was sleeping, but he did not respond or make eye contact, keeping his head down as he hurriedly headed in the direction of the coast.

At the time, Martin did not recognise the sighting had the potential to change the course of the world’s most high-profile missing person case.

The following morning, he got a text from his daughter in Ireland to tell him the a three-year-old girl had gone missing in the resort. The approximate time frame and location he had witnessed the child appeared to match.

By now, the mystery of what happened to Madeleine McCann was beginning to grip the world. Martin brought his mind back to the evening before and wondered if the child he saw could have been her. The girl certainly matched Madeleine’s description and the sighting had taken place at Rua da Escola Primaria, just 500 yards from the McCanns’ apartment. In time, Martin would become convinced he was correct.

Over a decade has passed since Madeleine McCann went missing on May 3, 2007 yet the case of the British three-year-old remains mired in more questions than answers. The main-stream media, who have by and large backed Kate and Gerry’s version of events with the support of several A-list celebrities and politicians, appear to have lost interest in a story they once could not get enough of.

The very opposite is true on social media. The internet swirls with allegations and theories that the McCann story is littered with holes and does not stack up. Countless videos have been posted on YouTube by armchair detectives challenging the parents’ seemingly at times bizarre behaviour, in particular their reactions in certain interviews when the finger of blame shifts towards them.

Some are compelling to watch and have highlighted what appear to be discrepancies and confusion in certain accounts given by the McCanns and some of their friends about what happened in the period before and after Madeleine disappeared.

***

For some reason, the man the Smiths saw that night has yet to come forward and eliminate himself from the Inquiry and remains unidentified.

***

Gerry McCann, a consultant cardiologist from Scotland, and his Liverpool wife Kate, a GP and anaesthetist, said they had put their daughter and two-year-old twins Sean and Amelie to bed at around 7pm, had drinks together for almost an hour and then left the children alone to go to a tapas bar 50 yards from their apartment. There they met 7 friends with whom they were on holiday. They told police that they and their friends checked on the children every half-hour.

Gerry says that he went to the apartment at 9.05pm and all the children were sleeping soundly. He said Madeleine was lying on her left-hand side in exactly the same position she was in when they had left her.

At 9.25pm, his friend, Dr Matthew Oldfield told police he went to check on the McCann children. He said afterwards he could not be certain that he saw Madeleine on that check. Kate McCann said she went back to the apartment at around 10pm, entering through the patio doors that they had left unlocked. She said she noticed that the door of the children’s bedroom was “completely open” and that the window was also open and the shutters raised. She said she scoured the apartment, then left the twins asleep in their beds before running back to her friends in the tapas bar and claiming Madeleine had been taken. At 10.41pm, her disappearance from Apartment 5A of the Ocean Club resort was reported to police by hotel staff.

Overnight the story made headlines around the world. Several days after Madeleine disappeared, the Smith family flew back home, but the sighting remained in the back of Martin’s mind. He discussed it with his wife Mary, son Peter and daughter Aoife who were with him that night.

When they tallied the time and the location, and the fact that the man they had seen had come from the direction of the Ocean Club complex where the McCanns were staying, they were convinced it could have been Madeleine they had seen.

They decided to inform investigating police, and at the end of May 2007, Martin, Aoife and Peter flew back out to Portugal to make statements. They gave similar accounts of the man they had witnessed: average build, short brown hair, beige trousers; and the child: blonde, around four, and wearing pyjamas.

As the summer passed, the mystery of what happened to Madeleine McCann continued to perplex the world but life returned to normal for the Smiths. Then one Sunday evening in September, it came back to haunt Martin again. He was sitting at home watching TV when a report came on the ‘BBC News at Ten’ about the

*** Photo of Gerry walking down the airplane stairs, carrying Sean.

McCanns’ return to Britain. As he watched Gerry coming down the steps of the plane, carrying his two-year-old son in his arms, Martin was gripped by what he had just seen and described the experience as watching “an action replay” in his mind.

He was instantly brought back to the night of May 3 in Praia da Luz. Something about the way Gerry was holding the child in his arms and the way he put his head down seemed shockingly similar to the man he had seen in Portugal the night went missing. He said it hit him like a “bolt from the blue”. He watched the clip again in different news channels reinforcing is belief that he was not mistaken.

During this period, Martin had difficulty sleeping and felt sick with anxiety. He contacted the Garda and informed the of what had happened.

He told them he was 60-80% sure the man he saw carrying the child that night was Gerry McCann. His wife Mary felt the same way.

Irish officers found him credible. A local garda who interviewed him described him as a genuine, decent man who did not wish to court the press or seek publicity.

But while Martin’s evidence seemed compelling, independent and without motivation, much to his frustration, it was not given the attention it seemed to deserve.

Almost a year after he made his initial statement to the police, he was approached by private detectives working for the McCanns and asked to make e-fits (electronic facial identification images), of the man he had seen in the night Madeleine disappeared.

The McCanns say they gave these pictures to the police at the time but chose not to publicise them. Instead they remained focused on another sighting by their friend Jane Tanner, one of the so-called Tapas Seven group of friends who had been on holiday with the couple and who dined with them the evening Madeleine disappeared.

***

Former Scotland Yard murder detective Colin Sutton says: “Looking at the background to the whole case again, inconvenient suggestions like the Smith sightings have been dismissed on a number of occasions. When someone comes forward like that, it must be taken very seriously. It wasn’t just a throwaway phone call. It was something quite specific.”

***

She claimed to have seen a man carrying a child away from their apartment complex at around 9.20pm but in the opposite direction to the man allegedly seen by the Smiths.

However, more than six years later, in 2013, the Metropolitan police announced that a British tourist had come forward to say he could have been the man she had seen as he carried his daughter home from the Ocean Club late night creche.

The Tanner sighting was about to be dismissed. The Met would switch their attention to the man seen by the Smiths. The e-fit images were finally released and the then chief investigating officer Andy Redwood said the timeline leading up to Madeleine’s disappearance was being rewritten, especially the 90 minutes between 8.30pm, when the McCanns left their children to go to the restaurant and 10pm, when they discovered their daughter missing.

A reward of £20,000 was offered to anyone who could assist with the investigation. But the the story of the Smith sighting took another bizarre twist as allegations emerged in the media that the family had retracted their statements. The public were being told that this potentially critical development was just another red herring.

The BBC even went as far as to make this claim. In a ‘Panorama’ programme broadcast in May 2017 to mark the tenth anniversary of Madeleine’s disappearance, presenter Richard Bilton told viewers that the Smiths had changed their mind about seeing Gerry McCann and now believed they had seen someone else.

In recent weeks, I have spoken to Martin Smith at his home in Drogheda. He told me he continues to stand by everything he said to the police in 2007. At no point did he withdraw his statement or change his mind about the sighting.

He is frustrated by media claims that he now says he was mistaken; and remains “60-80%” convinced that the man he saw that night was Gerry McCann.

After the BBC programme was broadcast, Martin contacted ‘Panorama’ and informed them of their inaccuracy. But the broadcaster failed to correct the public record despite its public-service remit. Last month, I asked the BBC why they had wrongly suggested the Smith sighting had been withdrawn and if they were willing to correct their error at this late stage.

I received a reply acknowledging they had indeed broadcast an inaccuracy. They agreed to update the ‘Panorama’ programme on their iPlayer to reflect the correction. They say the mistake was made in good faith but they have failed to explain how they came to make such a fundamental mistake and why they did not check if their story about the Smiths was correct before they aired the programme.

Former Scotland Yard murder detective Colin Sutton is one of a number of experienced officers who believe the Smith sighting is one of the most important pieces of evidence available to the investigation.

According to media reports, Sutton had been tipped to head up the new probe by British police in 2010. He claims he received a call shortly after these reports from a high-ranking friend in the Met who warned him not to take on the job as he would not be happy being told what he could and could not look at.

Several aspects of the new investigation perplex him including the apparent decision by Operation Grange not to question Gerry and Kate McCann or their friends again.

Looking at the background to the whole case again, inconvenient suggestions like the Smith sightings, have been dismissed on a number of occasions”, he says:

When someone comes forward like that, it must be taken very seriously. It wasn’t just a throwaway phone call. It was something quite specific. The fact that Mr Smith’s memory was triggered by Gerry McCann carrying the child down the steps of the plane is quite relevant because I think that is how the mind works. It is a trigger I would take quite seriously.

I can see no reason why Martin Smith would make up these claims. He has nothing to gain from doing so.”

OPERATION GRANGE

To date, Operation Grange, which now consists of four detectives from a peak of 31, has cost the British public more than £11m making it one of the most expensive police investigations in history.

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Madeleine – the magnificent six – Heri

Heriberto Janosch González is next on my list of six people I consider to have more expertise than most in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.

I have met Heri, and I consider him to be an affable man, easy to spend time in his company. This does not mean I agree with his views on the case. But where his views differed from mine, we were able to get on amicably, and explore alternative theories. I learned quite a lot about the disappearance in a very short time from Heri, so I am grateful.

Heri has recently told me that he has given up on the Madeleine McCann case. He has reduced his blog to just a summary page, at http://espacioexterior.blogspot.pt/ This is a shame, because his blog contained a vast amount of useful information.

It would appear that within a few months my Magnificent Six has dropped to just 4 active members. Though I have been on the case since only mid-2014, I have already seen a number of stalwarts fall by the wayside. Often, information disappears with such a departure, and unless you have a site copy, you are somewhat stuffed.

I am nowhere near to giving up on Madeleine’s disappearance, but if I reach that stage, this blog will be left intact to float off into the mists of time.

Heri’s blog still contains both a phone number and an email address. I will not copy those in case Heri chooses to remove them from his page in future.

When we met, Heri was living in Madrid. He spoke in English that was not fluent, but it was a lot better than my night school Spanish, so we conversed in 95% English and 5% Spanish.

One final point on Heri. I outlined just one potential theory to him, quite different to Heri’s. By that time, I had given up on sending information to Operation Grange, due to the persistent lack of response. Heri urged me to send this quite different theory to Operation Grange. Eventually I did. As usual, I got no response. But in the run-up to the 10th anniversary, I got a communication from Heri that Panorama wanted to talk to me. That talk took place, and one chunk of the Panorama 10th anniversary special appears to be based around my theory. I presume the conduit was Heri, as he was interviewed on that programme.

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.

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.

Madeleine – Steve Gibson on YouTube

A Mr. Steve Gibson has uploaded a YouTube video that seemingly follows on from one of the men identified in the Panorama 10 year special.

It is at https://youtu.be/XBmxYzo6vyo and was uploaded on 9 July 2017. Before you spend over 51mins of your life on this, let me explain the provenance.

Mr Gibson uploaded a shorter video to YouTube on the Madeleine McCann case, about one year earlier than his current opus. That video was rambling, full of swearing, and Mr Gibson made clear he was new to the case at that time. It is self evident from that video that Mr Gibson was fairly ignorant of the case basics.

Reading up for a year is unlikely to have transformed Mr Gibson’s expertise, but at least in his July 2017 effort he desists from swearing.

His basic train of thought is as follows.

  • Kate and Gerry McCann can be ruled out, largely on the response of the dogs.
  • The Tapas 7 can be ruled out, largely on the basis that they had no need to get involved in a cover-up.
  • Random individuals mentioned in the PJ Files, e.g. bogus charity collectors or alleged surveillance people, can be ruled out, largely on the basis that there was insufficient evidence of monitoring of apartment 5A.
  • This leaves an inside job, conducted by a staff member at the Ocean Club, with access to keys.
  • Cleaners can be ruled out, largely because Mr Gibson thinks they can.
  • Maintenance workers can be ruled out, largely because Mr Gibson thinks they can.
  • Staff such as restaurant workers, gardeners and drivers are ruled out, because Mr Gibson thinks it was done with a key to 5A.
  • That leaves those in administration (Ocean Club 24 hour reception). Of which Mr Gibson thinks they number around a dozen.
  • And for some reason, Mr Gibson then homes in on one of the Panorama people, Vitor dos Santos.

Perhaps it was the Panorama programme, perhaps not, but Mr Gibson has lifted both video and stills from that special to support his analysis. He has alleged that in the Panorama interview conducted by Richard Bilton, Sr dos Santos’ behaviour was strange, in that he mentioned several times that he had lost his job over the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, and that he expressed no emotional tie to Madeleine, or support for her parents.

He went further by overlaying on the Panorama footage the darker-skinned Smithman e-fit, thereby implying a likeness.

Mr Gibson went to considerable length to state he could not prove this theory, which is probably a wise decision.

I am not a fan of behavioural analysis. In Sr dos Santos’ position it strikes me as impossible to predict what ‘correct’ behaviour would be. And as for the Smithman e-fits, I am of the opinion these are junk quality, and tell us very little indeed.

There are things about Sr dos Santos as a suspect that are a poor fit. His statement shows that he was casado i.e. married, so exactly what he was going to do with a 3-year old girl is difficult to imagine. His economic situation seems to have deteriorated with his change of occupation. And 10 years on from Madeleine’s disappearance, he appears to be living and working close to Luz, in plain and common view.

Luz – Panorama 3 May 2017

The BBC did a 10th anniversary special Panorama on 3 May 2017, regarding the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. In it, towards the end, they featured an interview with Senhor Vitor dos Santos. He had a senior job at the Ocean Club in 2007, had been working there for some 18 years, and the following year, he was made redundant, with a letter claiming this was due to the Madeleine fallout.

Senhor dos Santos then became a small-boat captain, taking tourists for a trip around a natural sea-wonder a few kilometres south of Lagos.

The stash of photos I found recently contains dozens and dozens of old Lagos. I find them interesting to flip though, because I can match many of them up to the modern day Lagos that I know. However, I don’t wish to get into documenting the history of Lagos.

So the following photo is only presented because it matches up with the Panorama interview of the intrepid boat-captain. This photo is simply dated as the 1940s.

Make up your own mind about what is going on here.

Personally, I am not seeing a tourist trip, with a boat captain making a living from this. I am seeing a family day out, a working group having a bit of fun time.

From the shadows, it looks like the sun is at its peak in midsummer.

The lens flare through the centre of the photo is entirely original. And I have no idea how this photo was posed.

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.