Madeleine McCann: The ‘New’ Evidence

The Dolphin's BrainStarred Page By The Dolphin's Brain, 16th Oct 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>News>Crime

Crimewatch, the BBC’s flagship programme aimed at contributing to the ‘fight against crime’, has re-ignited interest the Madeleine McCann story in a big way this week by dedicating over 25 minutes of air-time to a combination of a reconstruction of the relevant events, interviews with the McCanns and a re-examination of the case as a whole. Has anything new come of this?

You Are Guilty!

Whilst it is the case that I have always appreciated the central purpose of Crimewatch, I have never really been a fan of its style. There remains at its core an approach that is redolent of the ‘guilt-trip’, where it’s tone and message says, “We know you know something; will you be able to live with yourself if you say nothing?” Monday’s edition was a typical case in point.

The section on Madeleine in the programme included a recorded interview of the McCanns, the first portion of which was a nauseating discussion of how ‘instantly beautiful’ Madeleine was when born; how she had ‘come out almost perfectly formed’. These are views held by almost every parent in respect of every child ever born and are hardly revelatory. We were also treated to a brief discussion of how she was considered ‘special’ and was ‘instantly loved’ because she was the product of IVF. None of this was relevant to the investigation; its only purpose, presumably, was to seek to improve the image of the McCanns in the eyes of the public. The necessity of this approach speaks volumes about the public’s view of the parents. In addition, Kirsty Young’s demeanour throughout the whole Madeleine section of the programme was overly-righteous, even for this style of programme, repulsively overbearing and not a little condescending.

The main question, however, despite those stylistic criticisms, is whether the programme provided anything useful in relation to this ongoing mystery. Was anything truly new identified or was this merely the BBC indulging the ‘tabloid’ strand of its corporate persona for the sake of increasing its share of the Monday evening viewing figures?

** Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons: User - Waerfelu

The Metropolitan Police

The clear thrust of this programme was to seek to convince the viewer that ‘new’ information has become available as a result of the input of ‘elite’ British detectives leading to ‘significant’ progress in the case. At the same time, there was a clear attempt to remind the watching public that the original investigation by the Portuguese police had been subject to criticism.

One cannot help wondering whether the Metropolitan police had an overly large input to the writing of the programme’s script, perhaps in some sort of attempt to justify the sheer size of the investigative team and the associated expense. There was a real emphasis on the fact that the ‘UK’s top detectives’ had taken on the task of reviewing the ‘vast’ amount of evidence in the case which had resulted in 'new' information being discovered.

There is a somewhat rose-tinted quality to this positive characterisation of the same force that has made so many mistakes before. Policing is a difficult job, and the BBC has an investment in Crimewatch being seen as a positive contributor in the ‘fight against crime’. Nevertheless, it behoves us all to remember past failings of the Metropolitan Police. A simple internet search will reveal a catalogue of instances when the force has failed to live up to even basic standards. A few examples will suffice.

This link is to an online BBC article relating to the murder of Rachel Nickell. Colin Stagg was wrongly accused of her murder. Robert Napper subsequently admitted to the killing, a man who was known to the police as a danger to women for years prior to this murder. The IPCC investigation highlighted significant concerns in relation to Metropolitan Police failings in the case.

This article from the Telegraph also gives details of the Rachel Nickell case as well as highlighting errors made by the Met in dealing with the cases of Kirk Reid and ‘black cab rapist’ John Warboys, both of whom were not properly investigated as suspects early enough, leading to, in Warboys’ case, a significant number of preventable further rapes.

It’s not just serious cases where the Met has problems. It is known that it wrongfully breaks down approximately 1,000 doors a year, leading to hundreds of compensation claims by innocent homeowners costing taxpayers in the region of £400,000 last year alone.

One must hope, therefore, that the particular team responsible for Operation Grange, avoids making similar mistakes.

The New Information

The DCI in charge of the new investigation, Andy Redwood, waxed lyrical about having made significant and real progress in the case. However, to describe this alleged ‘progress’ in that way seems to bear all the hallmarks of desperation. What is being referred to here?

Apparently, much effort was expended previously in concentrating on the sighting of a man carrying a toddler of a similar age to Madeleine in the vicinity of the McCann’s holiday apartment in Praia da Luz at 9.15 p.m. on the evening of her disappearance. Her parents had left her asleep, along with her younger siblings, at approximately 8.30 p.m. and gone to dinner in the resort’s Tapas restaurant 50 metres away. Several couples were together at dinner and the programme’s reconstruction told of a number of visits back to the residential area by a number of those adults to check on their respective children. The 9.15 p.m. sighting resulted from one of those trips.

Seemingly, the Met investigation has been able to identify the man concerned and eliminate this sighting from being related to Madeleine’s disappearance. The DCI in charge describes this as a ‘revelation moment’. This is hyperbole, surely; nothing more than attempt to self-promote the Met’s involvement.

The focus has now moved to a later sighting at approximately 10.00 p.m. slightly further away from the apartments of a brown-haired man carrying a child of approximately 3-4 years of age in the direction of the beach. The police say the description of the child (3-4 years old with blonde hair and possibly wearing pyjamas) is ‘very close to that of Madeleine McCann’. It is also ‘very close’ to not being her but any number of other potential children who were no doubt present in a popular holiday resort. The police say this has enabled them to ‘extend’ the relevant time line for the potential abduction. It is this man whose ‘e-fit’ picture has been disseminated so widely in the last few days.

The programme also highlighted some peripheral aspects of the case. There were a number of sightings on the day in question, and previous days, of one or more blonde-haired men in the vicinity of the apartments. Seemingly, also, there had been a recent spate of burglaries in the apartment complex, some of which included forced entry through windows. Additionally, there was reference to some door-to-door ‘charity collections’ that had been taking place in the area.

As a result of this other information DCI Redwood said that ‘on one reading of the evidence’ Madeleine’s disappearance has ‘all the hallmarks of a pre-planned abduction'. On the other hand, Redwood also suggested a possible scenario in which Madeleine disturbed a burglary, presumably a continuation of the series of local burglaries previously mentioned.

More Questions Than Answers

The information as portrayed in this Crimewatch programme by the police seems, on the face of it, to have several problems.

The e-fit pictures issued are of a brown-haired man, whereas virtually all the other sightings of individuals that, seemingly, are of interest to the police are of blonde-haired men. Is there any sort of connection between these two men that has been established?

The sighting of the man at 10.00 p.m., from which the e-fit has been derived, will have been in the dark. Sunset on May 3rd 2007 was at approximately 8.30 p.m. We have no information as to the proximity to the man of the witnesses who made this sighting. In any event, to categorise the description of the child seen on this occasion as being ‘very close to that of Madeleine McCann’ seems a trifle weak, the straw-clutch of a desperate police officer.

The police seem confused as to whether this was a planned abduction, the result of a burglary gone wrong or a spur-of-the-moment act by some random ‘charity collector’. The Met, it would seem, have no means of determining which of these possibilities is the most likely.

The information itself is not new – the e-fit, for example, was done at the time of the original investigation it seems. It has formed part of the investigation papers for many years. The only novelty is that it has never been released before.

The claim that it is a ‘major development’ that the time-line for Madeleine’s disappearance has somehow been extended by this hitherto unpublicised 10.00 p.m. sighting is, with the best will in the world, a trifle overblown. I cannot believe that at any point the search, which has proved so fruitless to date, has been confined to trying to identify ‘the 9.15 p.m. man’ to the exclusion of all else.

If, as the programme claims, the previous investigation led to an overconcentration on the earlier sighting at 9.15 p.m. and this man has now been identified as one of the small number of parents who used the on-site night-crèche, how has it taken over six years to get to that conclusion, and a full two years since Scotland Yard became involved?

If the events of that evening are accurately portrayed in the reconstruction, why was the earlier 9.15 p.m. sighting given the central position it is said to have had, given that one of the adults checked on the McCann’s children at 9.30 p.m. at the same time as he checked on his own in the next door apartment?

** Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons: User - Lacobrigo

Other Issues Arising From The Reconstruction

The group of adults is said to have been fully into the routine of going for dinner in the tapas bar after settling in their respective children to bed. If that is so, then any reconnaissance done in preparation for a ‘planned abduction’ would have hit a problem immediately – that of there being a constant flow of concerned parents walking to and from the tapas bar to the apartments, at differing intervals, in order to check on the welfare of their children. Abducting a child in those circumstances would have been a very high-risk strategy indeed, with the possibility of being caught in the act a significant one.

As one of the McCann’s friends looked in on the children at 9.30 p.m. and Kate McCann says she thought the changed position of the children’s bedroom door might have been as a result of his check, presumably access to the apartment was straightforward and did not require the use of the children’s bedroom window. Why would any abductor not simply use the same route? The front door to the apartment led onto the car park, the same as the bedroom window did. Why did an abductor not simply leave through the front door, a much more unobtrusive course of action than going in and then out again via the window?

On the morning of her abduction, Madeleine is reported to have asked her parents where they had been the previous evening when she had been crying. Gerry McCann said this prompted them to ensure that the children were checked on that night as they did not want them waking up and wondering about the whereabouts of their parents. Does this mean they had not been checking on them on the previous evenings? If the McCann’s had not been checking their children, had they simply not done the same as the other parents or had the whole group only begun the routine of checking on the children that specific night of the abduction?

If the reconstruction tells the whole time line accurately, Jane Tanner checked her children at 9’15 but was back at the table by 9.20, her partner left 10 minutes later to check again and never returned because his daughter was unwell and Jane Tanner went back to the apartment at 9.40 p.m. All three of those journeys went right past the McCann’s apartment. In addition, the family friend was in the McCann’s apartment at around 9.30 p.m. That’s an awful lot of traffic over that short period of time.

The reconstruction gives no details of the ages of the other children in the group but clearly, none of them was of an age to be out eating with their parents in the evening. It seems from the dramatization of the incidents that the apartments were easily accessible to other members of the group (as we know the checking was partly shared) and the general public. In such circumstances, were the apartments not securely locked? If not, why not? If not lockable, why were any of these young children left on their own?

Both Gerry and Kate McCann make great play of the fact that the children’s bedroom door was considerably more ajar upon their returns at 9.00 p.m. and 10.00 p.m., respectively, than it originally was. Gerry McCann’s reference to this serves no apparent purpose as, according to his account, he went into the bedroom, found the children fast asleep and left, restoring the door to the original position it had been left in when the McCann’s had originally gone down to dinner.

Just Say No

I raise these issues not because I want to apportion blame with respect to Madeleine’s disappearance but because I am concerned by the contradictions that arise within the reconstruction, the seeming intent to overplay the progress being made by the Met officers and a nagging doubt as to why that might be the case.

A large number of influential people have invested time, reputation and, indeed, money from the nation’s coffers on this ongoing investigation. I readily understand the anguish of a lost child, a mystery disappearance and no end in sight, positive or otherwise, but I know of no other missing child who has had so much of the state’s resources given over to such an investigation.

I'd be among the first to admit to being wrong if Madeleine turns up at some point in the future. Anyone with compassion can only hope that Madeleine is alive and well, somewhere. This constant focus on trying to find her must be a considerable strain on the family. Madeleine's younger twin siblings, in particular, must be impacted greatly. Surely, there comes a point when somebody in charge has to say that enough is enough?

© The Dolphin’s Brain 2013


Abduction, Cameron, Child Abduction, Colin Stagg, Crimewatch, David Cameron, Dci Andy Redwood, Gerry Mccann, John Warboys, Kate Mccann, Kirk Reid, Kirsty Young, Madeleine Mccann, Mccanns, Metropolitan Police, Negligence, Operation Grange, Portugal, Praia Da Luz, Rachel Nickell, Reconstruction, Robert Napper

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author avatar The Dolphin's Brain
I am a mixed bag of lawyer, vegan, environmentalist and sports nut and my writing is likely to be passionate, of-the-moment articles on a wide variety of topics. I also write the occasional poem!

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author avatar Mariah
17th Oct 2013 (#)

I strongly to agree with you on the point that EVERY missing child should be entitled to the same manpower, publicity, resources and relentless searching for.
This became a high profile case from the outset, and has overshadowed that of any other missing child, whose parents have gone through and still are going through that shame anguish.
The McCann's, like the parents of many other child abduction victims, need closure, but not celebrity status.

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