ANNOUNCEMENT OF A DISAPPEARANCE: THE FIRST SEVENTY-TWO HOURS
On this evening, May 3rd 2007, I decide to dine at the Carvi Brasserie, in the centre of Portimão, before going home. I have been living for a year in this town, where I lead the Department of Criminal Investigation of the police judiciaire. In 1982, when I was 23 and I had just taken up this career, I had already gone there. There, I had made the acquaintance of someone who was to become my friend, Manuel João. Former local official and sporty, a charismatic person. He always lent a hand to members of the police judiciaire who went to the town for the purposes of an investigation. As an elected local official, he originated the creation of a police judiciaire department in Portimão. Thus, that evening, while savouring fruits de mer, we discuss the problems of Portuguese society.
It is midnight when I receive the news about the disappearance of a little four-year-old English girl. The police officer on call was informed about it by the National Guard of The Republic (GNR) At the time of her disappearance, the little girl was supposed to have been sleeping in an apartment while her parents were dining a hundred metres away. An inspector is sent to the scene immediately to establish the initial facts. A forensic expert assigned to security of the premises will join him. All precautions are taken to preserve possible clues and elements of evidence. I demand to be informed very regularly and, before going home, I call on the police on duty to check that all urgent measures are underway. The head of the Guard has already alerted the police authorities at Faro airport and the control post set up on the Guadiana* bridge.
(*The river on the frontier between Portugal and Spain.)
THE REPORTS LEAVE A LOT TO BE DESIRED
The examination of the premises by the investigator and the representative of the forensic police just after the announcement of the disappearance turns out to be quite unproductive. A concise report, where their observations are written up, is accompanied by numerous photographs taken inside and outside apartment 5A – which don’t give an account of, according to us, everything they could have observed. This error is explained by the absence of procedures in case of a child’s disappearance, notably concerning the actions to be taken when examining the scene.
Lots of people were already in place; however, nobody appeared in the photos. We don’t know, for example, how they were dressed. Such observations can turn out to be important later on. The report mentions that the twins were asleep in their bed, but there is no proof to confirm it; on the contrary, in the photographs, you can see empty cots, where only the mattresses remain – the sheets and blankets having been removed. Why have their beds been stripped? If the sheets had not been removed, traces of their presence could have been found there.
That evening, on arriving home, I see Inès, my younger daughter, who is sleeping close to my wife, Sofia. In silence, in the dim light of the bedroom, I sit on the edge of the bed. Outside, far from her mother’s warmth, a child of the same age is lost. Sofia wakes up and asks me what is happening. I tell her about Madeleine’s disappearance and instinctively, she holds our daughter tightly in her arms and makes room for me.
I make lots of phone calls and send a text message to the director of the Faro Department of Criminal Investigation (DIC): child, English, aged 4, disappeared from a Praia da Luz hotel. It’s sufficient. Reading the message, he will understand the gravity of the situation. Three years before, we had dealt with a similar case, a few kilometres from Praia da Luz. We had not been informed at the time of that disappearance, and we are convinced that if the investigation could have been started immediately we would have been able to discover some physical evidence. The police response is fundamental. The first 72 hours are essential.
FIRST INTERROGATIONS AND REQUESTS TO THE BRITISH POLICE FOR INFORMATION
Friday May 4th
This morning I am worried; something isn’t right in the account of the events: the little girl allegedly disappeared at 10pm while she was sleeping close to her brother and her sister. They were alone in the apartment because their parents were dining with friends. A system of checks had been put in place by the adults. Every 30 minutes according to some – every quarter of an hour according to others -, someone went to have a look at the children. It is Madeleine’s mother who realised she was gone and is immediately talking about abduction.
We need information about the parents and their friends, to know who they are, what they do, if they have problems in their country, if the children were victims of abuse, if the family, neighbours, friends could have noticed any suspicious behaviour, what are their jobs, if they work full-time, etc. Is any member of their family depressed or suffered from depression in the past? Do the couple maintain good relationships? Are they implicated in serious litigation? Do they have enemies? For what reason? So, I telephone Glen Powers, the English liaison officer in Portugal, inform him of events and request that he relay our requests for reports. We consider these to be of the greatest importance and await sensitive responses to guide our investigation.
While I am on the phone and my daughters are sleeping, Sofia makes breakfast for me. She is quiet and regards me with a questioning look, as if she suspects that from today, she won’t see much of me. It’s not the first time this has happened: she knew that I wouldn’t count my time in a case like this.
THE ORGANISATION OF THE INVESTIGATION
Since dawn, chief inspector Tavares de Almeida has been getting down to the job at the Department of Criminal Investigation in Portimão. He is following through with the first measures taken within the context of the investigation. At this time, he should have been going on holiday, but faced with the gravity of the case, he has decided to put it off until later. Neither the director of the Faro police judiciaire nor myself are going to have the time take our holidays anytime soon.
The disappearance of a child must be flagged up as widely as possible, on the national as well as on the international level. All Portguese police are already on alert, as well as Interpol. During the night, the National Guard, supported by the civilian population, has started to organise searches. They will be continued and widened tomorrow.
The search and examination of the scene were carried out in difficult conditions: when they arrived, the police were met with a large number of people coming and going – family, friends, resort employees, including dogs and members of the National Guard. The contamination of the premises risks bringing serious prejudice, as a consequence, to the investigation. We must ask ourselves if that contamination has been deliberate or not – it can make the search for clues particularly complicated. The Lisbon scenes of crime technicians come as reinforcements to start the examination of the residence, which is from now on empty.
On arrival at the Portimão Department of Criminal Investigation, I call in chief inspector Tavares de Almeida to take stock of the situation and take the measures that are necessary in the immediate future. After the searches undertaken in the surrounding area – dustbins, containers, sewers -, it is necessary to proceed with the interrogation of certain potential witnesses. The parents and their friends will be heard quickly. The first statements are of prime importance: memories are still vivid and crucial details could thus be obtained, which would risk being lost later. The witness statements of the restaurant employees, those from the day centre and the playgroup where Madeleine and the twins spent their day are also all important. The search for witnesses will be widened to all the tourists present, whose names must be submitted to the parents and friends. Perhaps they will recognise someone….The English police are involved: they are being asked to cross-check that list with their files in order to pick out individuals known to their services.
All of the video recordings from the tourist complex – hotels, banks, pharmacies, supermarkets and service stations -, including those from the CCTV cameras of two motorways – one leading to Lagos and one linking Lagos and Spain -, will be viewed. The Spanish customs service has been asked to increase vigilance at the two ports maintaining links with Morocco,Tarifa and Algeciras. The Algarvian coast, very popular with sailing enthusiasts, is bordered by a large number of marinas. Pleasure boats from every province berth here. Situated 120 nautical miles from the African continent, between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, it is the most accessible coast for entering the continent of Europe. It attracts many yachtsmen, who appreciate the beauty of its beaches and its inlets, but it also attracts all sorts of traffickers.
- Make contact with the marinas and the maritime police; we must have access to video recordings as well as the registers of boats entering and leaving in the last few days.
- I am going to contact them and make sure they have started the sea searches.
In anticipation of the volume of information we are going to have to deal with, we decide to fit out a room dedicated to the investigation, our crisis unit.
THE INFORMATION SOUGHT IS SOMETIMES UNOBTAINABLE
We need reliable information. Apart from all the searches already undertaken, we must also examine the photos and films taken by the McCann family and their friends. From amongst the onlookers, these images could help to identify a suspicious-looking individual or someone whose attitude might be suspicious. Trivialised since the general use of computers, photography is a source of information which the investigators know not to neglect: each holiday-maker takes, in general, hundreds of photos. The McCanns and their friends who were in Vila da Luz make all of theirs available to the investigators, but none of those dating from the evening of the disappearance help us to understand what happened.
NO SIGN OF A BREAK-IN
At this stage of the investigation, the hypotheses are numerous, and each one must be considered. It is necessary to locate and identify all the paedophiles who live in or who have passed through the Algarve, in order to check that they were not in the proximity of Vila da Luz on the days preceding the disappearance.
The idea of a robbery gone wrong is not to be ruled out either. During the holidays, burglaries are not rare, and the police are not always informed, because hotels avoid spreading this kind of information. Even if the examination of apartment 5A reveals no trace of a break-in – contrary to what the parents insist and that Sky announced – we have to take stock of the petty crimes committed in the seaside resort and at the tourist complex. We are counting on the management of the hotel so that no incident of this nature remains hidden. Even if we don’t have much belief in the scenario of a burglar who enters the apartment for a burglary and leaves it with the child, dead or alive, this hypothesis, as ridiculous as it may be, must not be neglected.
FIRST MORNING OF THE INVESTIGATION;
Still May 4th
When drawing up the report of the first observations, which must be forwarded to the district Judiciary Court of Lagos, we are undecided about the legal denomination of the events. Finally, we opt for “abduction??,” adding two question marks after the word to express our uncertainty. The decision was not taken lightly. That decision preserves the interests of the various opposing parties, those of the parents, those of the child, not to say those of the investigation itself.
The report by the team who conducted the analyses of the apartment records all observations carried out and statements gathered. It sets out the list of people present and potential witnesses. It also includes fingerprints taken as well as photographic documentation.
On reading this report, which was given to me on the morning of May 4th, I understand that there is no evidence sufficiently convincing to tip the investigation in one direction rather than another. There are many possible leads: voluntary disappearance – the child could have wakened and not seeing her parents, gone off to look for them; accidental death and concealing of a body; physical abuse causing death; murder by negligence or premeditated; an act of vengeance; taken hostage followed by a ransom demand; abducted by a paedophile; kidnap or murder committed by a burglar.
The hypothesis of abduction widens and complicates the investigations; it allows the mobilisation of means and resources that would have been difficult to obtain otherwise, such as the arrival of reinforcements, absolutely indispensable faced with the magnitude of the task, notably in the course of the first 72 hours. In a more calm climate, we could have got down to the search for evidence more effectively, allowing us to understand how that child disappeared, without worrying that suspicion might fall on the friends of the family.
THE VISITS BY THE CONSUL AND THE AMBASSADOR; INFORMATION IS TAKING A LONG TIME TO COME FROM GREAT BRITAIN
At ten in the morning, twelve hours after the disappearance, the British Consul to Portimão goes to the Department of Criminal Investigation. We inform him of the actions taken up to then and the next stages being considered. He doesn’t seem satisfied. Someone hears him on the telephone saying that the police judiciaire are doing nothing. Now, that’s strange! Why that untruth? What objective does he have in mind? Giving another dimension to the case? Perhaps, I don’t know a thing about it, but this is not the time for conjecture; we have to concentrate on our work, of finding the little girl.
We’re not getting any response from Great Britain. We’ve had no reports on the subject of the couple, their children and their friends, which doesn’t help us to tighten up the investigation. We would like, for example, to know if Madeleine was adopted by the couple, which would allow us to eliminate the hypothesis of parental abduction. If the information is not reaching us, it’s obviously reaching the British Ambassador. We are astonished by this prompt mobilisation of the English authorities. So, who are the McCanns? Who are their friends? We don’t need diplomatic intervention: what we would like, is answers to the questions sent to the British police authorities by Glen Power.
THE SEARCHES CONTINUE; THE ASTONISHING INVASION BY THE PRESS
The searches on the ground continue, with the help of a helicopter from Disaster Management. Interviews of holiday-makers and the resort’s employees multiply. We’re worried, aware that it’s a race against the clock: tomorrow, many tourists will be leaving the resort. As for the McCanns and their friends, who should also be leaving on this date, we are totally unaware of their plans. For the needs of the investigation, it is imperative that they stay put, but we have no legal means of preventing their departure. During the morning, the deputy director of the Faro police judiciaire joins us. Until the end of September, his life will be split between Faro and Portimão, where he will travel to every day. He asks how the searches are going and decides to go to Vila da Luz to check for himself the operations that have been set up. I go with him. When we arrive, we find that the media, Portuguese as well as English, are present en masse. It seems that the McCanns’ friends have reported Maddie’s disappearance to the press before informing the police about it. Another point which we must clarify.
Inside the apartment, police forensic specialists proceed to lift finger and palmar prints, a job that is preferably carried out during daylight hours. Others look for traces of blood, samples of fibres and hair. We notice with dismay that one of the technicians, who is working on the outside of the McCann children’s bedroom window is not using the regulation suit, thus risking contaminating possible clues. These images of negligence start to circulate world-wide; this isn’t, however, the usual behaviour of police judiciaire technicians.
It’s obvious that no one has broken in and the lock has not been forced. No prints are lifted that are likely to belong to an unknown person, nor the slightest trace of gloves which could have been worn by a hypothetical abductor. In the middle of this desert of clues, two prints are perfectly easily found: the very distinct mark of a palm print on the balcony window at the rear of the apartment, and a clearly visible one of fingers on the window pane of Madeleine’s bedroom. The excellent quality of the palm print seemed suspicious to us. Later, analyses confirm our suspicions: it belonged to one of the officers who were present the previous night.
In Portugal, no protocol exists for coordinating the work of the different police services in the event of the worrying disappearance of a child, perhaps because until now this type of case has been rare. We have been fighting for several years for the creation of just such a resource. However, we don’t have to invent anything: it would be sufficient to adapt the protocols already existent in other countries more used to cases of this type – Great Britain, for example.
A SUSPECT WHO, VERY QUICKLY ISN’T; THE SEARCHES CONTINUE
While we continue to gather statements from resort employees, we are informed of the presence in the region of an individual suspected of abusing children. Of British nationality, he would frequent a pub situated 150 metres from Madeleine’s apartment. In 2005, sought by the police in his own country, he fled abroad and the English authorities had then lost track of him. But we discover that the pub in question doesn’t exist any more, and that the information that the man is in the area has no basis in fact. His step-father, contacted by the police, states that he is currently in Iraq, information later confirmed by the British police.
In the main street of Vila da Luz, there are open trenches because of improvement works. They leave the waste water mains exposed. On the night of May 3rd searches were conducted there, with the help of sniffer dogs from the National Guard of The Republic. (GNR) We’d like to proceed with another inspection, but the site foreman assures us that access to the mains is closed during the night and the workmen noticed nothing abnormal when starting work the next morning.
STATEMENTS FROM THE PARENTS AND FRIENDS; FIRST INCONSISTENCIES
Still May 4th
Madeleine’s parents and friends of the family go to the Department of Criminal Investigation to be interviewed. Their statements should help us to better understand the circumstances surrounding Madeleine’s disappearance. Each must be questioned at the same time, but separately, in order to avoid “contamination,” of the witness statements – which happens often when witnesses have the opportunity to exchange information. Sometimes an important detail is held in the memory, but can be lost after a conversation with another witness. This is the usual procedure. In this way, we can establish relevant cross checks, confirm or invalidate certain assertions. But that was not possible today, certain adults having stayed at the resort to look after the children.
We have to retrace their comings and goings very precisely as well as those of the children. What they did during the holiday, where they went…In possession of this information, we will attempt afterwards to collect photos and films taken by holiday-makers who were in the same places: we will succeed perhaps in pinpointing a detail that could be of significance. These same tourists might quite simply help us to better understand the way in which the group of friends was working.
The personality of the victim and of the parents has significance. We have to find out if they were threatened in the past, if they have enemies. We must consider the possibility of a mistake: the target may not have been Madeleine but another child of the group of friends. Therefore, they too must give answers to similar questions.
None of the adults possessing a vehicle, they never go very far and in general stay within the confines of the resort. Their knowledge of the surrounding area is limited and we assume that they limit themselves to the roads linking the beach and their apartments.
During the morning, only Madeleine’s father, Matthew Oldfield and Jane Tanner are interviewed. However, already contradictions and improbabilities are appearing from one to another of the statements, notably concerning access to the apartment.
An example: during the course of the evening, Jane encountered Gerald McCann and Jeremiah busy chatting in the street. At that time, Gerald was coming back from his apartment, where he had gone to make sure the children were sound asleep – which he confirmed in his statement. Jane asserts that she noticed a suspicious individual carrying a child in his arms – probably Madeleine, according to her – immediately after having passed the two men. Gerald and Jeremiah should also have seen her, but that was not the case.
The mother of the missing little girl, Kate Healy, and all the other members of the group, David Payne and his wife Fiona, Rachael Mampilly, Russell O’Brien and Diane Webster, are heard later. They might already be aware of the questions put to their friends and of their responses. In that case, there won’t be the element of surprise. The presence of an interpreter doesn’t make the interviews any easier either. The witnesses benefit from the translation time to prepare their responses.
Madeleine’s parents are insisting on the theory of abduction. They want to convince us of it at all costs. Gerald stresses that the front door was locked; Kate states that she entered the apartment through the rear sliding doors, which weren’t locked, and that the window was wide open with the shutters raised.
This theory does not hold water, which will be observed during other interviews. The only witness statement corroborating that assertion is Jane Tanner’s.
From now on it’s important to shed light on the contradictions raised in these first witness statements.
Here is the chronological sequence of visits to the apartment:
- 21.05: Gerald McCann (the children are fine);
- 21.10/21.15: Jane Tanner (states having observed the alleged abductor with a child in his arms);
- 21.30: Matthew Oldfield: (goes into the apartment, but doesn’t go into the bedroom. He only sees the twins);
- 22.00: Kate Healy (goes into the apartment, and finds that Madeleine has disappeared).
If, as Kate states, the window was open when she went into the apartment, how come Matthew didn’t notice? At the time when the latter went in, Jane had already seen the alleged abductor with the child. So, logically, if the crime had already been committed, the window should have been open.
Matthew says that the bedroom door was half open, Kate that it was wide open. It can be concluded that Madeleine was already no longer in the room – which Matthew should have noticed, if the other witness statements are to be believed.
Another inconsistency – unexpected – appears. When Kate refers to the individual who allegedly abducted her child, she has no information other than that given to her by Jane, since she, herself, did not see him. But, the description she gives of him differs from that of Jane Tanner. The latter – extremely sure of herself, and who will be interviewed on several occasions – portrays a man dressed in light-coloured trousers, with hair down to his collar. Kate refers to long hair and jeans.
Gerald tells the police that Jane described to him – after midnight, during the night of May 3rd to May 4th – this stranger she allegedly saw going up the road; his hair was brown, he was between 30 and 40 years old and he was wearing light-coloured trousers. The first police officers to arrive on the premises are convinced that the parents put forward the hypothesis of abduction because Jane had talked about this man with the child. In their report, Jane’s description is as follows: it was an individual dressed in light-coloured trousers and a dark shirt, he was 1.78m tall and was carrying a child, probably in pyjamas. She does not describe the pyjamas and doesn’t mention any other detail.
Later, during the course of the morning of May 4th, the father gives the same brief description and refers back to Jane for additional details. The latter appears at the offices of the police judiciaire in Portimão at 11.30am. This time, the description is very precise: the individual, aged between 35 and 40, was thin and 1.70m tall; his hair was dark brown, falling over his collar; he was wearing cream or beige trousers, probably linen, a sort of anorak – but not very thick – and black shoes, classic in style. He was walking hurriedly, with a child in his arms. He was warmly dressed, the reason she thought he was not a tourist. The child appeared to be asleep – she only saw the legs -, had bare feet and was dressed in pyjamas, which were obviously cotton, light-coloured, probably white or pale pink, with a pattern – flowers maybe, but she isn’t certain. Concerning the man, she states that she would recognise him from the back by his particular way of walking. The importance of this statement will be seen later.
Hardly fourteen hours have gone by since the child’s disappearance and already Jane’s version is known by many people. The father even referred to it during his statement, as can be seen above. Jane insists that she spoke solely to Gerald about this individual and then without going into details. It is only later that she related it all to the police.
Again, we notice an inconsistency. She was not aware, she says, of how Madeleine was dressed, which seems unlikely: on the night of the disappearance, Kate immediately gave a precise description of the clothes the little girl was wearing when she was put to bed.
Everybody knew they were looking for a little girl of nearly four, bare feet, dressed in light-coloured pyjamas on which there was a pink animal design. This description was relayed to all those who mobilised to find the child. How come Jane Tanner took no notice, she who, at that time, was the main witness in the case?
FIRST EYE WITNESS STATEMENTS; KATE HEALY’S SURPRISING REACTION
Madeleine’s parents are already back in Vila da Luz when we receive photos taken on an area of the motorway: you can make out the figure of a little girl, who looks like Madeleine, accompanied by a couple. These images come from a CCTV camera on the motorway linking Lagos to the Spanish border. The McCanns are asked to come to Portimão in order to proceed to an identification. It’s the end of the day. Kate Healy seems annoyed at coming back and made uncomfortable by the speed of the police car taking her. We are somewhat astonished by her reaction, as if she was not expecting to get her daughter back. The identification turns out negative.
A team from the Central Crime Fighting Directorate (DCCB) arrives from Lisbon, accompanied by their director. I wasn’t informed of this decision, but I agree with it. The reinforcements are welcomed, because we must get on very quickly. The experience of these police officers in the field of abductions and the taking of hostages is a plus for the investigation and the ways they operate are largely superior to ours. In addition, their experts are the most qualified of the police judiciaire. From now on, two deputy national directors, assisted by the coordinator of the Portimão Department of Criminal Investigation, will direct the investigations. A few months later, chief inspector Tavares de Almeida was to share one of his convictions with me: if we had remained solely responsible for the investigation, we would have advanced more quickly.
In reality, I don’t know. I don’t think we can rewrite history with “if.” At that time the directorate of the police judiciaire had decided on it, and we had favourably welcomed the arrival of that team. It was about doing our best with these new participants and taking advantage of their ways of working. The motivations behind that decision, whatever they are don’t interest us in the slightest.
MISSING PERSONS POSTER IS ISSUED
In the afternoon, we ask the Public Minister for authorisation to issue a missing persons poster to the press. It is published on May 5th, accompanied by a photo of the child and telephone numbers. We, thus, hope to obtain new information. We are going to be inundated with witness statements of every kind: people who are persuaded that they can help us thanks to their psychic powers; others who have dreamed about Madeleine and believe they know where she is, and yet others who think they have seen her here or there…A great number of reports come to us, that we have to analyse and check out: none must be neglected, even if most of them, on the face of it, seem absurd. In the hypothesis of an abduction, we might imagine that the abductor has tried to modify the child’s appearance to more easily pass unnoticed. So, we create portraits of the little girl, modifying the colour and style of her hair.
THE WEAKNESSES IN JANE’S WITNESS STATEMENT
Friday May 4th, at 8pm, we criss-cross Praia da Luz to take note of the activity in the village at dinner time and to check the street lighting. We stay there until 10pm while the forensic team from the police laboratory get on with their investigation.
Certainly, today there are people who wouldn’t normally have been here: police officers and journalists. But, even so, it is noticeable that there is very little movement. The place where the abductor happened to be is dimly lit: how did Jane manage to describe him so accurately? Witnesses confirm that the streets were also deserted yesterday.
Why did the potential abductor choose to walk around like that, in the open, running the risk – in spite of the darkness – of being recognised by a passer-by? If he had planned the abduction, he would have taken the time to study, not only the habits of the family, but also the topography of the place. If he wasn’t from the village, he would probably have come by car, and he would have sought to conceal it in a dark corner. But the darkest area is situated in exactly the opposite direction to that indicated by Jane Tanner. Did she actually see that man going towards the east? Wouldn’t he rather be going towards the west? Leaving by car, he would inevitably have had to go towards the centre of the village, in which case, he would have to go either past the entrance to the restaurant where Madeleine’s parents were dining, or by the main road that leads to EN125*
(*The road running west out of the village towards Sagres and east towards Lagos.)
We walk around Vila da Luz, covering all the roads, trying to imagine the options that presented themselves to the abductor. Without a car, and not knowing the place, the safest approach to the village is the beach. In the few bars, restaurants and cafés open at this time of year, no one noticed anything at all strange during the evening of May 3rd, no suspicious behaviour, nothing out of the ordinary. Most of the establishments had closed at around 9pm.
DISCUSSION IN THE CRISIS ROOM
The crisis unit has been operating for several hours now, on the top floor of the building. Basing ourselves on the details gathered in the course of this first day, we are trying to understand the sequence of events. The original hypotheses are still valid: voluntary disappearance, abduction or death. Divergent opinions and heated discussions fire with enthusiasm. But we always finish by returning to an objective analysis of the facts to refocus the discussions.
We are opening the window to let the fresh air expel the smoke from countless cigarettes smoked during the meeting when, suddenly, someone poses a question that shouts out to all of us:
- Tell me then, what is this story about the raised shutters in the bedroom where Madeleine was sleeping – or not sleeping?
We have in mind the statements from Gerald McCann and Kate Healy.
When Gerald saw his daughter for the last time, at around 9.05pm, she was sleeping in the bedroom with the twins. He entered his apartment by the front door, using his key. No windows were open, but he cannot say if they were locked. On the other hand – everybody is in agreement in saying -, the patio door at the rear wasn’t locked.
Then, at 10pm, Madeleine’s mother goes in her turn into the bedroom, she sees the open window, the raised shutters and the curtains waving in the breeze. This scenario is highly improbable, since the shutters cannot be operated from the outside. Normally, that window is never opened, she says, but she can’t say either if it was locked. This vagueness perhaps serves the interests of the witnesses, but arouses the suspicions of the investigators.
Finally, we were able to conclude with certainty that the only opening that wasn’t locked was the patio door at the rear of the building, opening onto the area with the swimming pools and the Tapas restaurant, where the parents were dining.
You ask yourself why Gerald went into his apartment through the front door while the one at the back is closer to the restaurant and doesn’t need a key. The parents insist that it was visible from the restaurant and that no one could have walked in without being noticed.
But that’s false, as we were easily able to verify. At night, with the surrounding vegetation and the opaque plastic tarpaulin that protects the dining room of the restaurant, visibility is nil: anybody could have got into theMcCanns’ apartment without being noticed, particularly as most of the guests had their back to the apartment.
We understand their insistence. The parents need to affirm that the children were sleeping in complete safety, and they were looking out for their well-being. But, whatever the arguments, one thing is indisputable: Madeleine was not safe.
- Strange, all the same, this burglar who enters by the door and goes out through the window with a four-year-old child in his arms. It would have been easier to go back out by the same door.
- In fact, something isn’t right.
- Someone is hiding something…
- You could say they were sharing a secret.
Little by little, clearly because of tiredness, everyone starts speaking at once, words are confused. But, gradually, calm is restored, and the information gathered so far allows us to put forward several hypotheses.
- It’s hard to understand how a potential abductor would have had the audacity to enter an apartment and abduct the child, knowing that the parents could burst in at any moment.
- Either or: either the man was informed about the habits of the family, and in that case we would have to also suspect employees of the restaurant, or else he hung around in the vicinity for a while to study the lie of the land.
- Only, if he had studied the lie of the land, he would have taken one and the same door for entering and leaving.
- The parents say that the bedroom window was open and the front door was closed at the time they became aware of the disappearance.
- And if they are not telling the truth?
- Put yourself in their place: you are on holiday in a strange place which you don’t know; you leave three children under 4 to sleep alone; one of them disappears while you and your wife are quietly dining at the restaurant. You would take on the blame? You wouldn’t be afraid of the reaction from the local authorities?
- OK, but if, in one way or another, the parents had something to do with the disappearance? They would inevitably have to invent a story, so logically, lie.
- That’s not right, is it? Don’t forget you are dealing with well-educated people, nearly all doctors, the child’s father is a surgeon. What a ridiculous idea!
- Right, if I understand you properly, you mean that family dramas are the reserve of the simple-minded and the underprivileged…
- We must not put aside any hypothesis, even if it doesn’t really grab us, cuts in one of our colleagues, who was listening to our exchanges.
- OK, but for the moment, we must not raise suspicions. They are totally unfounded in the current state of the investigation.
- Apparently, it’s the examination of the window that might provide us with an answer. And the fingerprints?
- In the process of being identified.
- Are there copies of the front door key?
- Yes, of course, they are used by employees responsible for cleaning and maintenance and kept in a safe.
- Everybody has to be interviewed.
- Yes. And have the English responded to our requests for reports? We have more and more need of them.
- No, not yet, they are efficiently waiting to collect all the details before sending us a complete file.
- Well, I hope they won’t leave us waiting much longer, Every hour counts.
Obviously, we don’t end up with any conclusion that night, ….Dawn is breaking already when we finish: the next stages have been decided upon and teams set up. Thus ends the first day of the investigation. Journalists are lurking around the offices of the police judiciaire and in the streets of Vila da Luz. News of the disappearance has spread like wildfire. The eyes of the world are riveted on the Algarve. Little by little the pressure mounts and we have the feeling that our lives will never be the same.
Saturday May 5th
The accommodation we are occupying in the town centre rapidly becomes overcrowded: we need more sheets and blankets. Beds are allocated; some investigators have to sleep on sofas, others on the floor. Astonishingly, in this place, however jam-packed, total silence reigns. We all need to rest. Our dreams are disturbed, our worries are multiplying. Thirty-four hours after Madeleine’s disappearance, we tackle our second day of the investigation. In this apartment of temporary refuge, it’s the morning bustle; we mustn’t lie around. In spite of the lack of sleep, no one shows any sign of fatigue: on the contrary, we are all in a hurry to getting back to work and impatiently wait our turn outside the bathroom.
Before going out, we check that there are no journalists in the area. In spite of their pugnacity, they were never able to find our hiding place. A stop for breakfast, and the day begins. Destination DIC (Department of Criminal Investigation.)
POLISH LEAD IN SAGRES
Hundreds of statements continue to be gathered in Vila da Luz. All the people of the area are interviewed: resort employees, tourists, play leaders from the crèches, residents. Most of them will be of no use to us, but none must be neglected.
From information from Sagres, we learn that an individual has been surprised on Mareta beach taking photos of several children and in particular of a little girl aged 4, blonde with blue eyes, who looks like Madeleine. It was the little girl’s father who noticed him. This 40 year-old man, wearing glasses, tells the investigators that the photographer tried to kidnap his daughter in the afternoon of April 26th in Sagres.
He allegedly then fled in a hired car with a woman in the passenger seat. The stranger did not look like a tourist; brown hair down to his collar, wearing cream-coloured trousers and jacket and shoes of a classic style. This report reminds us of the individual encountered by Jane Tanner in the streets of Vila da Luz on the evening of Madeleine’s disappearance.
Thanks to the father’s composure, he managed to take a photograph of the vehicle. It’s not very clear and does not allow us to make out the number plate, but we succeed, nonetheless, in finding the car. The car hire firm provides us with the identity of the driver. He is a forty-year-old Polish man, who is traveling with his wife. They arrived in Portugal on April 28th, from Berlin. At Faro airport, they hired a car and put up in an apartment in Budens, near Praia da Luz. Unfortunately, on May 5th, at 7am, they had already left, taking with them their camera and all the photos from their holiday. We ask the German police, through Interpol, to monitor them as soon as they arrive in Berlin. All the passengers are questioned, but no one has seen a child looking like Madeleine. In Berlin, the couple take the train to return to Poland. Thus, the Polish trail comes to an end. We would like to have seen their photos…but that proved impossible.
A lead is only valuable in as far as it is followed to the end, which was not the case with this one. We will realise that we shouldn’t have ruled it out so quickly, and that it is still a topic of interest.
MORE LEADS, STILL NO RESULTS
Other individuals were seen lurking around the apartment, acting suspiciously, shortly before the events. On May 2nd or 3rd, according to an English tourist, an individual in shabby clothing was staring fixedly in the direction of the apartment. He went off in a white van. Other witness statements go in the same direction. For each, we set in motion the research procedures which sometimes include the development of an Identikit picture.
On the outskirts of Lagos, in the direction of Aljezur, there is a Gypsy encampment. Of course, traveling people are no longer thought of as child-stealers. Nevertheless, it is important to make sure they have nothing to do with the case before they hit the road again. As soon as they are informed of our searches, they collaborate voluntarily and let the agents do their work and conduct a search of their tents and their cars. No one has seen little Madeleine in the area.
Throughout the day, numerous apartments are visited in the resort and neighbouring areas: the investigators search more than 400, without result.
QUALMS ABOUT INVESTIGATING THE McCANNS; THE THEORY OF ABDUCTION GAINS GROUND.
Someone puts forward the hypothesis according to which Madeleine would have died in her apartment, and that a member of the group would have removed her. It’s a possibility, but nothing so far, no evidence, happens to support that theory.
The McCanns are put up with David Payne. We want to search the accommodation of the family friends to try to pick up Madeleine’s clothes, especially those she was wearing on May 3rd at 5.35pm when she returned from the day centre with her mother and the twins. Evidently, this initiative is not widely supported. The British ambassador meets with the team directing the investigation. The political and the diplomatic seem to want to prevent us from freely doing our work.
- I’m sure this check is necessary.
- The clothes? Are you mad? if I understand you properly, you want to go into the apartment to take clothes to have them analysed?
- Yes. What’s the problem? It’s a perfectly normal procedure in cases like this.
- Of course, but with this media hype…I don’t think I have ever in my life seen so many journalists….And I didn’t come down in the last shower.
THE PJ’S DIFFICULTIES IN COMMUNICATING WITH THE MEDIA; THE PRO McCANN PRESS OFFICE.
From the start of the investigation, we ask for the presence of a press attaché to accompany us and take on communicating with the media. The Justice Minister fulfills this request. Very quickly, however, this decision is contested. The reaction of the press itself is feared and public opinion, which might interpret that presence with direct intervention in the investigation by the minister….Finally, the person retained is an investigator, who is not working on the case, speaks English and has some experience in this field. With hindsight, it can be said that it wasn’t a good decision. In fact, after the reading of our first press release and the parents’ press conferences, the press let fly.
We were convinced that the people directly involved in the investigation should remain distanced from the media whirlwind. We needed help: the police judiciaire would have to engage staff to dissect published articles, focusing on the analysis of press statements from the parents and their friends.But that didn’t happen. The media circus was in full swing: all the time, new articles, live TV, a growing number of journalists running around the streets of Vila da Luz.
It didn’t seem normal to us either that a couple whose child has just disappeared engages press attachés to deal with their relations with the media. It is not a question here of minimising the role of the means of communication and ignoring that a subject like this stirs up a lot of curiosity, but that constant preoccupation with the management of their communication by the parents, appeared to us, to say the least, astonishing.
TELEPHONE CALLS ON THE NIGHT OF THE DISAPPEARANCE.
The tracking of Portuguese and foreign paedophiles – the majority English – residing in the region or simply on holiday, continues to be checked. In spite of the kilometres covered, the interviews and the searches carried out, there is nothing concrete that leads us to suspect any of them.
The investigators continue to deal with the information collected. They look into all the statements, in particular those of the Ocean Club employees, and go through the lists of telephone calls that have been made available to them.
We must also check all communication via mobile phones during the night of May 3rd. It is possible that the abductor had used a mobile. We locate the relay antennae of various operators covering the sector in order to obtain the summary of calls and messages made or received that transited their antennae. Finally, the only suspicious communications are those involving Robert Murat, a person who is central to this case, who will later be placed under investigation.
The walls of the crisis unit are little by little covered in analytical charts, time-series charts, sketches, plans, task lists, photos and other important elements with, at the centre, the photo of Madeleine, to always remind us of the object of our mission.
LOG OF CALLS ON GERRY McCANN’S MOBILE PHONE DELETED
Between 11pm and 3 in the morning, all members of the investigation team meet in the crisis unit; in the same smoke filled atmosphere, we take stock of the situation. Some don’t agree with the police judiciaire’s press release and think that the information should not have been disclosed, even by way of official press releases. Others think it’s possible to interpret the visit by the British ambassador as a form of British government intervention, which may not be impartial. Is it usual for them to get involved with cases of this kind or is it specific to this case, and why? Only they hold the answer.
Until now, the results have hardly been conclusive. New means – in all other investigations, they would already have been put in place – must be deployed.
- Why not monitor and tap the phones of the parents and friends? Their statements are far from convincing. The story about the window is unsound, and Jane’s witness statement is not convincing either.
- In that way new details could be obtained.
- We have already discussed it. That would be ideal…Only, we have to get the judge to give us authorisation with the scant details we have at our disposal. And if the parents get wind of it, we risk having the sky fall on our heads.
- In a kidnapping case with a ransom demand, that procedure would be normal, at least for the monitoring of the parents’ phone calls.
- That’s for certain, but in our case, that comes back to practically accusing them. Further, we don’t even know if there’s been a crime.
- Yes, I am well aware, but I insist. This would allow them to be ruled out.
The questions raised are relevant. Telephone taps would also allow unfounded suspicions to be destroyed. In our legal system, that procedure is only used with the sole purpose of gathering evidence. At this stage of the investigation, it’s very tricky for us to express our doubts as to the sincerity of the parents and their friends.
On May 4th, the parents authorise us to check the phone calls logged on their mobile.
- Here’s a copy of the summary of calls.
- I only have that of the couple. We have yet to receive the summary from BTS (*)
- OK, what have we got?
- Do you see what I see?
- Yes, I think so: between April 27th and May 4th, Kate did not make any calls. Hum…
- None either, between 11.22am and 11.17pm on the night of the disappearance.
- Kate mustn’t like making telephone calls…
- For Gerald, there’s nothing before May 4th at exactly 12.15am
- What does that mean? They never made phone calls then?
- Wait, there’s something here. Look at the number at the top of the list.
- Yes, so?
- On her telephone, her husbands’ number is logged: she called him on May 3rd at 11.17pm, but on Gerald’s, nothing, no trace of that call!
- How can that be explained?
- It’s simple as anything: the list of calls has been deleted.
- Always the same old question: why?
Summing up: the first phone calls were exchanged one hour after the disappearance. It could be imagined that in that lapse of time, they were busy looking for their daughter. Nevertheless, it’s astonishing that they didn’t need to speak to each other at such a difficult time.
Later I learn that the English secret service had already placed the couple under telephone surveillance. If that’s true, the Portuguese police were never informed.
(* Base Transceiver Station of mobile phone operators)
THE POLISH TRAIL LEADS TO AN IMPASSE
Sunday May 6th
Meeting room. Seventy-two hours have gone by since the disappearance. We are going through a difficult time: in spite of the searches carried out on the ground and the considerable means deployed, we haven’t found Madeleine. The day gets off to a difficult start with bad news from Poland. From all accounts, the police badly interpreted our request for collaboration; all they did was approach the couple and verify that Madeleine was not with them, but didn’t seize either their photographic equipment or the photos taken during their holiday. Another lead that remains pending. Perhaps it would have led to the discovery of a paedophile ring.
We are seeking to piece together the couple’s itinerary, to find out if anyone noticed them in the vicinity of Praia da Luz, to establish any relationship between them and Maddie’s disappearance. We circulate a photo – which we obtained thanks to a surveillance camera in a Lisbon shopping mall – amongst holiday-makers, clients and employees of Praia da Luz restaurants. Fruitlessly. Nobody saw them.
On the other hand, employees of the restaurant they usually went to, in the Burgau-Budens area, remember them: the woman was usually in a bad mood, and both wore clothes totally inappropriate to the place and the time of year. The forensic police won’t be able to investigate their hire vehicle, which we managed to locate, because it has already been rented out again. All that’s left to us is to find the bin in which the cleaning team dumped the rubbish left in the vehicle. Analyses of the rubbish reveals nothing. Fortunately, no one else has yet occupied the apartment the couple stayed in – it’s low season. We go ahead with a thorough search, looking for evidence of a child’s presence: shoe prints, fingerprints or footprints. Nothing. We then gather various hair samples – doubtless coming from adults – and notice drops of blood on a kitchen unit. Nothing conclusive. It’s probably from an everyday domestic accident.
In the course of a meeting, I ask the director what follow-up to bring to this case, now that the person who took the photos knows he is being sought. The director gives a common sense response.
- It’s unfortunate, of course. However, they were never seen in Praia da Luz, much less close to the apartment….The father of the little girl in Sagres was wearing spectacles and we aren’t 100% sure of the accuracy of his description.
- Yes, but he took photos of the car. Yet again, it could quite well belong to someone else, but…
- If, in the course of the investigation, there are update details on this lead, we will request a rogatory letter and we will go to Poland to interview them and conduct a search of their apartment.
We doubt that a rogatory letter would be of any use to us. The way this lead was handled makes us think not, but we can’t hold it against the Polish police, who collaborated as well as they could.
We refocus our efforts on other leads. Information on more individuals behaving suspiciously continues to flood in.
IN THE REAL WORLD
“The child, [..........] shall, wherever possible, grow up in the care and under the responsibility of his parents, and, in any case, in an atmosphere of affection and of moral and material security;”
United Nations Declaration of The Rights of The Child, 1959