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 – Michael Havis on Smithman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Madeleine – Nighthawk 1 Jun 2017

After the issues with my camera-work on the 10th anniversary, I wanted to go out and test a setting where my little camera should not fire the flash every time, in order to get closer to what the human eye sees. This is low-light mode, no flash. See what you think.

All photos are 1 June 2017, from around 10.10pm on.

This is roughly what Peter Smith saw as he passed Smithman on 3 May 2007. The most important thing is that all the lighting was coming from behind Smithman.

And this one is roughly what Smithman saw as he headed down Primary School Street that night. Please note again the lighting. There are 2 key sources. The street lamps are behind me. And another street lamp lighting up the junction with 25th April Street. The darkness is due to the building on the left blocking this light, then quite a lot of light at the bottom.

Now cast your beady eyes on that figure on the Lane of Little Steps. Right in the middle, that fuzzy figure is a gentleman heading downwards. The point is Smithman could see the Smith troupe coming from a long way off. He had every chance to avoid the Smith 9. He chose not to.

The next photo is from 25th of April Street down the Lane of Little Steps. You can still see the couple who were heading for their night out. The blue blob at the bottom is the Dolphin restaurant, where the Smiths had a South African meal before heading to Kelly’s for a nightcap.

Moving quickly on, because I was running late, this is the spot on 25th April Street where Sergey Malinka’s Audi was torched, with the word fala (speak) spray-painted in red on the pavement.

And here is my shot of St Vincent’s. This is what I wanted to check out. The truth is it is no better than the photos I got on 3 May 2017, but that tells me something.

Across the road the Ice Cream Factory was shutting up shop. Who wants ice cream at 10.20pm?

At the other end of the promenade, here is the refurbished Paraíso. It wasn’t the restaurant that caught my attention. It was the kids squealing with pleasure on the boardwalk on the beach.

This is what the good folks of Luz get up to on a night out. The sign says A Fábrica was opened in 2010, so don’t factor it into the Madeleine McCann story.

This place may well be quite important in the story of Madeleine’s disappearance, and I’ve got to say I am quite chuffed about this photo. The location is the junction of the beach road and the high street, Rua Direita. This is Clube Reacritivo Cultural e Desportivo Luzense. The recreational, cultural and sporting club of the people of Luz. It is one of just two particularly Portuguese places in Luz where Senhor Euclides Monteiro might have spent the evening of 3 May 2007.

It’s now 22.30pm. This is the Ocean Club 24hr reception. Except it is closed.

Above is Madeleine’s play-group area and the night crèche. Except it is closed.

The Ocean Club is dead.

Madeleine – 10th – #9 – is this the finale?

This is nearly the finale.

It was now getting late and I was getting fidgety. I had wanted to get to the Smith sighting by 10pm and the time had come and gone.

However reporter Michael Havis had now bagged Reverend Haynes Hubbard, so I took a few more photos. Please bear in mind that circumstances were far from perfect. I still had not figured out how to switch the flash on my camera off, so I must have being annoying many a person. It is also not the best camera mode for a night shot, which explains why this photo is so fuzzy.

However, this low quality photo made it into the UK media reports and the question is why. The photo shows what Reverend Hubbard was wearing on his feet – sandals and no socks. He obviously does not stand on ceremony.

But the photo part that interests me is what this gentleman has around his right wrist. It is a yellow band. Reverend Hubbard is Canadian, and these wrist bands have a meaning in North America. They signify hope that a missing child will one day return.

This is a marginally less fuzzy photo of Reverend Hubbard being interviewed by Michael Havis. You can see the lady in black from CMTV striding off at a rate of knots. Lisbon is 3 hours from Luz. London via Faro is more like 6 hours. The media did their interviews and headed off into the distance.

Whereas I grabbed Mr Havis, dragged him to the Smith sighting, and there we emulated exactly what could have been seen by Peter Smith, Martin Smith and Aoife Smith.

This is the last of my personal photos. Questions remain. Where were the McCanns? What did Sky’s special on 2 May 2017 reveal? What did the Panorama special on the 10th anniversary reveal?

Madeleine – timeline #1

The important time for me on Thursday 3rd May 2007 is 9:15pm, therefore I am constructing my timeline around this.

I have stood outside apartment 5A at that time on an anniversary of that date to try to work out what could be seen and what could not.

9:15pm was the time at which my eyesight was changing from colour to black and white. Whatever makes your eyeballs see in colour, rods or cones or who cares, those were fading out and whatever gives you just light and dark was taking over.

A couple of complexities need to be layered on top of this.

First, despite all the comments to the contrary, the streets around apartment 5A are, and were, well lit. Despite all the comments about poor lighting and how difficult it was to see Tannerman or Smithman, a lack of light is not the issue.

Tannerman was around 3 metres away from a street light when he was seen.

Smithman is a tad more difficult. When seen by Peter Smith, Smithman was a fair way in front of a street lamp, and only illuminated from behind. When seen by Martin Smith, Smithman was close enough to a light to be fairly well seen. When seen by Aoife, Smithman was definitely well lit up.

The difficulty with the Tannerman sighting and the Smithman sighting is that both occurred under street lights. That is bog standard sodium, which casts a yellow glow and does not match white light by any stretch of the imagination.

The second complexity is eyeball capability. I would hope that Aoife’s colour capability is better than mine, given the age difference, otherwise she is in trouble. But Aoife’s sighting took place near to 10pm, when it was definitely dark (apart from the street lights). She was viewing in black and white plus sodium yellow.

The Tannerman sighting is more crunchy. My eyeballs were leaving colour behind for black and white at 9:15pm. Perhaps Jane Tanner’s eyeballs are better. Perhaps her eyeballs are worse. Without a test we will never know so who cares.

I am picking 9:15 as a key time for a reason.

Up until that point, entering 5A illegally, carrying out a crime, magically concealing a body, all of these things become incredibly difficult, given that they occur in daylight.

Let me say at this stage that there are people in Luz who put the shutter down over the window before it is dark. Thus, many a person would have settled down for that night before 9:15pm.

The issue is the ones who didn’t.

Whatever your solution to this incident is, whether it be the McCanns, or a burglary-gone-wrong, or a paedophile, or a planned abduction, did it occur in daylight hours (roughly up to 9:15) or did it occur under cover of darkness?