Madeleine – Sergey Malinka’s Audi A4

An Audi A4 for someone of Sergey Malinka’s age in March 2008 seems quite an expensive and impressive car, so I did a bit of digging.

Mr Malinka’s car got fire-bombed in March 2008, whilst parked on Rua 25 de Abril, quite near to the apartment occupied by his parents and himself. The word Fala – Talk – was spray-painted on the pavement beside the wreck. As far as I know, no one has ever been brought to justice for this act.

I am looking at cars appearing in the history of Luz. The McCanns’ Renault Scenic was first-up, then I turned my attention to Sergey’s Audi A4. Cars in Portugal are extremely expensive, due to a scandalously high import tax. So I wondered how Mr Malinka could afford an A4, which got me thinking about how old Mr Malinka’s car was (they run forever in Portugal).

Fortunately, Mr Malinka’s A4 is in the PJ Files, and even better it appears in the dog-search videos. Here is (was) 10 91 FP. Portuguese licence plates now have a strip down the right hand side with the year and month of registration. The Audi does not have this, so it must pre-date this requirement. That means I have to work via the logo on the boot and the tail-light clusters.

From Sergey’s Audi A4 in the dog search.

There is a fairly distinctive boot shape. The tail light clusters have white reversing lights at the bottom centre. Thanks to all the petrol-heads in the world, I can date this shape from 1992 through to 1997.

After that, the rear end got a makeover. Here is a 1998 model.

This means Mr Malinka’s car was between 11 to 16 years old when it got torched. This may seem venerable, but as I have explained import taxes in Portugal are prohibitive, and because of this cars retain a much higher proportion of their purchase price than they do in the UK.

So the intriguing question remains as to how Sergey Malinka was able to afford an Audi A4 at his age.

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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 – Xmas day 8 – Baptista

I meant to go down into Luz today to get a couple of shots of the café outside Baptista supermarket, as Baptista pops up in quite a few people’s revelations here and there. Robert Murat, Sergey Malinka, Barrington Godfrey Norton and Kate and Gerry McCann, oh and Jenny Murat. In 2007 it was the only supermarket in Luz though there were two or three convenience stores. And the Baptista café was a place to have a cup of coffee with a pastry or a bifana, and have a friendly chat or conduct a little business.

Unfortunately, after an extended spell of glorious weather in December 2016, it turned a bit overcast in Luz today and I could not have captured a photograph that approximated to early May 2007. It’s a fair trek to there and back to get something that shows an al fresco café with few customers, so I decided to give it a miss.

What I have got instead is some scans relating to the inside of Baptista. These were published in a magazine in Sep 2015 and they are paid-for advertising, so the Baptista you are going to see may well be quite different inside to that seen by the McCanns.

Ever since we heaved up in Luz there has been a little Baptista in the Commercial Centre. It sells fish, freshly baked bread and pastries and after-dinner sweets. Back in 2007, that location was where the video rental shop that features in the ‘Brazilian couple’ story was located. I don’t know whether there was a fresh fish counter in big Baptista in 2007.

The McCanns very quickly worked out that the walk from apartment 5A to the Millennium, complete with two twins aged 2 years and 3 months, and Madeleine aged nearly 4, minus a buggy for the twins, was too much like hard work. I have walked that walk. I can state that in the same circumstances, I would not have being using the Millennium, and there is a further statement in the PJ Files that supports this.

Thus, Baptista became the source of breakfast and lunch for the McCanns, with the Tapas zone providing high tea for the children and the Tapas Restaurant providing dinner for the Tapas 9. All of this, if you understand the layout of Luz, makes perfect sense. Baptista was perhaps 60m down Rua Martins from apartment 5A. Somewhat of a doddle.

To whet your appetite, here is the first scan I have of a magazine feature on Baptista. This is not unusual or special. Baptista commonly carries out this type of advertising.

baptista-1-sep-15

Baptista is posh or upmarket supermarket. The nearest thing I can think of in the UK is Waitrose. In Baptista, goods are normally more expensive than in most supermarkets, but in Luz, money is not in short supply. Both well-off Portuguese and ex-pats patronise it.

The supermarket has had the sense to stock a range of imported goods beloved of foreigners, and makes a healthy profit from them. A tin of Heinz baked beans is around €3.50, and you get British bread, British sausages and Kellogg’s Frosties. Home from home. The sort of place where the McCanns could get the type of food that the kids were comfortable with and would eat.

If I have scanned this copy properly, you should be able to read Baptista’s description of Baptista. Here is the first page of the advert. As you can see, it is the wine aisle. I have no idea whether the New Zealand wine chosen by the McCanns is on sale regularly.

baptista-2

Here you see the next health challenge in Baptista’s – the charcutaria. This is stuffed with delicious treats, but is has two dangers. The first is that much of the meat here is processed, and I eat that only sparingly. The second is that it is stuffed with a wide variety of different cheeses, all tasty but very fattening.

baptista-3

My favourite counters are the Talho (butcher) and the fish counter in little Baptista. The butcher’s counter in Baptista sells high quality meat, though the range is a bit restricted. I am looking forward to Portelas, as it has a talho of high renown, and the range is more extensive, such as rabbit and goat. Perhaps I can even lay my hands on a haunch of venison.

I believe there was a dedicated talho active in Luz in 2007 in LuzTur, now closed. To the best of my knowledge, the person who now has the talho concession in Baptista’s also runs LookSteak, a restaurant beside Kelly’s. LookSteak did not exist in 2007.

I also like fish. This is something that dates back to when I was young, and a treat on a Friday night was cod and chips from the local chippie, complete of course with very fattening batter.

If the weather is not too bad later today, since it is now day 9, I hope to get out and show you some ‘waste ground’ and ‘anomalies’ in best Operation Grange style. It sounds boring, but it goes to the heart of Operation Grange.

Madeleine – Xmas day 6 – the Sun

The first photo was taken just a little further down the street from Galo’s, and obviously a tad closer to Baptista. The green shop is the one appearing in the Xmas Day 5 photo of Galo’s. There is nothing particularly special about this, and you can use Google StreetView to get the Aug 2009 version, but please note the pinkish shop at the end of the row.

day-6-1-the-shop-fronts

This is LuzTur. One of 4 men made arguidos in July 2014 lived here at the time Madeleine disappeared. As far as I am aware, there has been no news that his arguido status has been lifted. I am not aware of the process for lifting arguido status in an on-going case. There was news that Sergey Malinka, who was also made an arguido at that time, was informed that he was no longer a person of interest to Operation Grange, but I do not know if his arguido status was formally lifted.

day-6-2-luztur

Now we are at the pink shop at the end of the row. Clearly, it is decked out for Christmas. In summer it is stuffed with goods for the beach.

day-6-3-pink-shop

This is the end of the shop/accommodation block, and there is another alleyway. The silver car that featured earlier is still there, as is the green awning that adjoins the tent-shaped building inside the Tapas zone. The importance of this is that having these little short cuts is a major feature in Luz. Once you get to know them, you can get around on foot much quicker than if you take the main streets. I have no reason to believe the McCanns ever visited this row of shops, even though it is very close to the Tapas zone and just a few metres from the front of Baptista. I know the McCanns used Baptista to get food for breakfast and lunch, after finding the trek to the Millennium to be a struggle. Baptista has a rear entrance situated on Rua Martins, near apartment 5A, and that makes more sense re the McCanns.

day-6-4-pink-alley-to-tapas

Who knows, maybe Kate or Gerry used the café that is situated at the front of Baptista for a coffee and perhaps a pastry before Madeleine disappeared, at a time when all 3 children were in kids’ clubs and there was no tennis. I have sat outside outside that café on one of the Luz Tours for a long chat with a guest. It was early May 2016 and the sun was shining brightly in Luz. Throw in an interesting discussion and it really does not get much better.

Now here is my reason for dragging you along this row of shops. On 13 Oct 2013, the Crimewatch special on Madeleine McCann coincided with the release by Operation Grange of the two Smithman e-fits. I don’t know how much advance notice the media got of this or the Crimewatch programme contents. It is fairly standard practice when one wants a lot of publicity to put such material out early but say it is subject to a press embargo until a certain date and time. This means the media cannot publish the material before that date and time, but journalists and reporters can get their homework done.

The Sun either had such material in advance or its reporters moved very swiftly. From memory, the e-fits were made public on the morning of 13 Oct 2013, presumably with the aim of getting more viewers interested in watching the Crimewatch special on that evening.

By 14 Oct 2013, the next day, the Sun had a fairly large report on the Crimewatch special, including stills from the programme, leading me to think they might have had an advance view of the programme.

They also had a reporter/photographer team in Luz to get an exclusive angle. They had printed off posters of the Smithman e-fits, one with text in Portuguese and another with text in English, and had a bash at putting them put up in Luz.

The following is a photo of shop assistant Elane Harvey, putting the two Sun posters up outside the shop where she worked. I don’t know Elane personally and apart from this Sun report, I have never heard her name mentioned, so I am going purely by what the photo shows.

day-6-5-the-sun-suspect-e-fit-near-baptista

First up, we have the shop at the end of the row, nearest to Baptista. I know it sells beach goods during the season, but other things clearly fit as well.

Second, my photos are mainly pink, with a hint of orange, while the Sun photograph is orange with a hint of pink. What can I say? I am an amateur using a 60€ camera. I would hope the Sun photographer was a professional using a camera that costs over ten times as much.

Third, you have two photos to compare. The Sun photo was published on 14 Oct 2013. Mine was taken on 27 Dec 2016. In both you have bags of bright sunlight. In mid-October, Elane was wearing a thin top with short sleeves. The shop was still trying to flog beach goods. Although neither photo was taken in May, it shows why you get bougainvillea blooming in May. There is a lot of sun shining in Luz.

Fourth, clap your beady eyes on the beach goods under the posters but inside the shop. These are called sunglasses. Now sunglasses feature in The Last Photograph, and here we have a source of the same. As I have made clear, I cannot think of anything that places Kate or Gerry McCann in this area. In Kate’s book ‘madeleine’, she relates a story of the beach trip at lunchtime on Wednesday 2 May 2007, when Gerry bought sunglasses from a stall on the beach front. The sunglasses tale is something I would like to stack up for another time, because I’ve got some research to do on that one.

Madeleine – Sergey Malinka FALA

On 20 Mar 2008 the good citizens of Luz awoke to find that Sergey Malinka’s Audi A4 had been fire-bombed. The word FALA had been sprayed on the pavement beside the car. This graffiti appears to have been done with a can of spray paint, and done freehand by someone who was not a graffiti artist. Indeed this daubing is so bad that I have seen the suggestion that a big blob at the top of the F in FALA is obscuring the Portuguese word ‘não’.

FALA is a command, to talk. não FALA is a command. Don’t talk!

Here is the standard image of the burned out Audi, complete with the word FALA.

burned-out-audi-with-fala

The newspaper reports put this incident about 30m from Sergey’s apartment, which is actually the apartment his parents were renting. His parents are core to working out what went on when, so they should not be airbrushed out of history.

I could not tell from the standard image, or the story that went with it, precisely where this incident occurred. Fortunately there is a small image in circulation that shows the street level view. There is sufficient information in this photo to nail the fire bombing to one exact point. Notice the unusual window pattern, the overhead railings, the flight of steps and the wall colourings – right side brown and left side stone.

burned-out-audi-mar-2008-ar-95

The following photo is from Google Streetview. It happens to be dated February 2015, but for anyone who cares to check, previous StreetView captures show the building is unchanged, though the STOP sign had been graffitied by Feb 2015. I picked the Feb 2015 version because it gives the clearest view of the building. Compare the features with the photo above and you can verify for yourself this is the correct location. In fact, the small red car is in the exact parking bay where Sergey’s car got torched. Google gives it as 3 Vinte Cinco de Abril.

3-rua-vinte-cinco-de-abril-feb-2015

The only point out of this tale that I wish to try to pick up on in this post is very simple. People living near to the Audi reported an explosion in the early hours of 20 Mar 2008. Sergey Malinka slept through it. However, he woke up to a large number of texts and missed phone calls.

Q1. How could Sergey possibly sleep through this explosion?

malinkas-flat-v-audi-site

This graphic shows 3 locations. The vivid pink spot is where Martin Smith placed Smithman around 10pm on 3 May 2007. The junction of primary school street and 25 of April street.

The vivid yellow dot is where the Audi got torched. You can verify this for yourself by going into StreetView on 3 Rua Vinte Cinco de Maio and looking to the opposite side of the road, which pegs the site definitively.

The third dot is the fuzzy-edged vivid green dot. This is the building in which Sergey and parents were living at the time. I have never entered the building, so I can’t say exactly where Sergey was sleeping, which is why I have used a fuzzy dot. But does it matter?

The graphic shows that one or two blocks were shielding Sergey from the Audi commotion. Plus of course the noise had to penetrate the block in which he was sleeping. Should he have heard it? I don’t know about you, but personally I don’t know what it takes to torch an Audi, and I don’t know how much noise a torched Audi makes as it goes up.

There are more questions than answers here, but I shall not be trialling an Audi fire bomb experiment to close off some of these options.

Madeleine – a new record

I am interested in looking at the reasons people view this blog. I can understand why the 9th anniversary could have generated a lot of interest but…

Normally the blog gets 50 to 60 views per day. On the 3rd, the blog got a spike of 377 views.

Such spikes are normally caused by someone on social media, such as Facebook or Twitter, alerting their followers. I’m not on Facebook or Twitter, so I can’t find out who or what seems to be so interesting.

The blog has gone bananas over the last couple of days, so I’m trying to work out why. On 9th May, there were 629 views, about 10 times more than normal.

The previous record viewing total was something like 934 views in one day. On 10 May 2016, that record was broken, with 1,084 views.

The top searches I have explained already – scandal at Chaplins – Sergey Malinka.

However, the clear leader in terms of posts viewed is what the Berry party and the Balu party could see on 3 May 2007, currently standing at 1,225 hits.

I find this perplexing. For me, it was a very small point. I simply wanted to get a handle on whether the good folks on the balcony of apartment 606 could possibly see anything of relevance that evening. For me, the answer is no. Quite why it took off like wildfire is still beyond me.

If the weather improves a bit, I intend to get out more and grab some more photos where Google does not go. I have a couple of such places lined up that are pertinent to the events that evening.

And if you have an idea for others, please get your request in ASAP. I’m beginning to get clogged up with our house move to just north of Lagos. It is only about 15mins away by car from Luz, and my ‘Luz tours’ offer will remain open to visitors. But it is simply easier to nip into Luz from here and get on with some photos than to do it from Portelas.

Madeleine – undying myths

WordPress gives me basic information about how people are finding this blog. It used to tell me which sources were referring search queries to me, but that information has now been removed.

Yesterday, there was a large spike in views of this blog. Rather than the usual 60, the total was over 600. And at half past 7, the total is sitting at 400 this morning.

This type of spike normally means social media has been active, but sadly, I can no longer be certain of that..

The two top queries were Sergey Malinka and the McCanns at Chaplins, so let me give you an update on both.

Mr Malinka has been a peripheral figure in our lives recently. He is working from a base near Lagos, with his girlfriend, in a upmarket estate agency that he owns. The average property he deals in is perhaps €3 million, and Mr Malinka appears to be doing well. The property market seems to be recovering here in general. The government has an incentive scheme in place for anyone spending €500,000 plus. So the top end of the market is doing particularly well again.

We happened to be in touch with a group of foreign investors who want enough land to build an entire urbanisation, and Mr Malinka was able to come up with a suitable large plot of land instantly. These type of deals seldom go through straightforwardly. The investors have the whole world to pick from, so whether they choose Portugal is anyone’s guess.

In brief, Mr Malinka appears to be well-established in a well-paid line of work, and is getting on with his life without concerning himself with Madeleine.

Now to the McCanns at Chaplins. I do not have anything fresh to offer on this, because nothing fresh has emerged. The myth is that the McCanns went to Chaplins on Tuesday 1 May 2007. That would be after a quiz conducted in the Tapas restaurant, which the Tapas 9 won. And supposedly, some or all of the Tapas 9 quiz participants then dashed to Chaplin’s, where it was quiz night. And that was the night Kate McCann was busy on her phone.

I have an idea as to how this myth started, but the law of libel prevents me from publishing it.

So, Mr Malinka appears to be an honest character with no connection to the Madeleine McCann case beyond being in Luz at the time of the incident.

And the McCanns never went to Chaplins. It is a scurrilous myth that refuses to die.

The third post that has been particularly active was the photos I posted yesterday about trying to work out what the Berry/Balu party could see from their balcony. It was just a small point that interested me, but it seems to have taken off with a very large number of views.

Do you chaps realise that I’m happy to take photo requests for the bits of Luz that Google doesn’t cover well?