Sunday

Georges Moréas, a former French Judiciary Police Inspector writes about Madeleine McCann


La mystérieuse disparition de Maddie

George Moréas is an acclaimed book author and former French Judiciary Police Inspector

"Madeleine McCann, called Maddie, was nearly four years old. On the evening of May 3rd 2007, she disappeared from her bedroom in a luxury tourist complex, the Ocean Club, in the south of Portugal, where she was supposed to have been sleeping.

No one knows what has become of her since. Recently, the press echoed a statement from the Portuguese prosecutor: case closed. This news is probably unfounded. How can a magistrate, a police officer, allow the closing of a case without thinking of the victim, a child, almost a baby. And if she were alive!...The confusion comes, no doubt, from the order that there were no grounds to prosecute the three suspects.

THE FACTS: The Ocean Club tourist complex is a collection of buildings comprising a residential block, two restaurants, the Tapas and the Millennium, tennis courts, beach, etc.

On this evening, the McCanns are dining with their friends at the Tapas restaurant. At around 10pm, Kate McCann gets up from the table to go and see her children, as she usually does, to reassure herself that everything is fine. Her two little ones, the twins, are sound asleep, in their cots, in the living room*. Her daughter's bedroom door is not closed, which surprises her. She goes in: the window is open, the shutters are raised, Maddie has disappeared. (*It does say, "salon, and appears to be saying that Madeleine is in a different room from the twins. I have translated as it stands. )

She rushes back to the restaurant to alert her husband. Together they go back to the apartment, accompanied by their friends, and they only arrive at the obvious. So, they set out to explore the surrounding area.

This is the situation discovered by the first police officers on the spot. Everything leads them to believe that the child has run off. She may not be far away. Searches are organised.

Shortly afterward, the PJ director for Lisbon, receives a call on his mobile phone from the British ambassador. His caller asks him if he is aware that a British child has disappeared.....He goes into action. You can imagine the torrent of phone calls that follows this intervention.

THE INITIAL FINDINGS: There is no disorder in the bedroom where the child was sleeping. The bed is not disturbed. There is no evidence of a break-in, neither on the window, nor on the shutters, nor on the door. A local enquiry turns up witnesses, Irish holiday-makers, who say that shortly after 10 o'clock, they saw a man carrying a child, whose description corresponds perfectly to Madeleine's: face, hair, clothes. Now there is hardly any doubt: this is an abduction. The alert is put out.

THE PJ'S INVESTIGATION: The PJ officers collect witness statements from hundreds of people, and as a priority, from the parents and their friends. Very quickly, they come across certain contradictions between them. For example, a woman states that she went past the apartment earlier in the evening and noticed that the bedroom shutters were closed. But, Kate McCann states the window was open and the shutters pushed up. And the investigators find no evidence of tampering.

Furthermore, the shutters can only be opened from the inside. Can you imagine an individual entering by the door, using a picklock, and going out through through the window, with his victim, after having opened the shutters? And also, the child's bed is not disturbed, as though no one has slept in it. Intrigued, the police officers examine the mobile phones of each of the McCanns: the call history has been erased. Astonishing to think of emptying the memory of your mobile phone when your child has just been kidnapped! But the PJ officers are struggling to do their job. The pressure quickly becomes unbearable.

Little Maddie disappeared on the Thursday evening. On the Friday, the British ambassador, John Buck, is on the spot, accompanied by big-shot police officers and lawyers. And on the Saturday, three British police officers arrive in their turn, in theory to assist their Portuguese colleagues. The contact is not good. The local police officers feel belittled. However, having been involved with the training of Portuguese police officers, I can guarantee that they have no reason to envy either the French or the British - except perhaps certain technical resources.

The working conditions are as follows: 150 Portuguese police officers, three British police officers, authorities, diplomats, and journalists...everywhere. Not the ideal for an investigation. On the Saturday, the PJ director from Faro, tells the press: "It is an abduction." At the same time the McCann couple launch their desperate appeal before the television cameras. It is even said that the police are holding a sketch of the kidnapper, but it will not be published to avoid putting the child's life at risk. A little late, no, to think of the young victim!

During this political, media-staged bustling, the head of the investigation, Commissioner Gonçalo Amaral begins to entertain another possibility. He thinks the McCanns' behaviour is not, "natural." Otherwise, why refuse to participate in a reconstruction of the evening? He finds that certain witness statements do not correspond and that it is becoming impossible to determine where anyone was at any time. Thus, an implausible detail emerges when the Irish witness indicates that after seeing Gerry McCann on television, he positively identified him: this was the man he saw with Maddie in his arms, on the Thursday, at around 10pm. Yes, but at that time, the child's father was in the restaurant with his friends...

Amaral is skeptical. He feels that there is a certain degree of connivance amongst this group of friends. Would they be lying? He goes back to the initial findings and he examines the places from a different angle - as he would do it for a crime scene. The little girl's death becomes the working hypothesis for the investigators.

EVIDENCE OR PRESUMPTIONS: A suspect is arrested. He is a British national living a hundred metres from the leisure centre. I will not give his name as he has taken action against newspapers which said, "certain things," about him, and the press barons backed down. It is said that he banked 750,000€.

Meanwhile, dogs trained to detect certain odours, notably those of blood or cadavers, are brought in. They detect traces inside the apartment, in the couple's bedroom and in the dining room; as well as outside the building. More disquieting, the dogs alert on the child's soft toy and on clothes belonging to her mother. The dogs are placed near a car rented by theMcCanns , and they sniff suspicious odours there too. But this vehicle was actually hired after the little girl's disappearance! On the other hand, the dogs detect nothing, either in the car of the British man under investigation, or at his home.

The vice tightens on the McCanns.

In the places marked by the dogs, minute organic fragments are gathered for DNA comparison with Madeleine's (from samples of saliva on her bed covers). The analyses are done in Great Britain. When the results come out, there is no longer any doubt: There are 15 identical markers in the two DNAs. It is the little girl.

At the beginning of September, the McCann couple are placed under investigation, but left at liberty. The press reports that they are suspected of having concealed their daughter's body after an accidental death - there is talk of the administration of a sedative that was too powerful (the parents are both doctors) - and that they would have got rid of it afterward by transporting it in a vehicle rented for that purpose.

Meanwhile, this case has taken on an international dimension. The McCanns have called the English Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the investigation is followed more closely by the governments of both countries. The press is unleashed. The parents set themselves up as the victims of a bigoted, even backward, police force. The British newspapers really lay into the investigators, who are looking at the parents instead of searching for the missing child. The English police officers, who are involved with the investigation (and who, in theory, have no power to intervene) do nothing to put things right. The public is gripped by this mysterious story - charged with emotion. A support fund is set up. Brian Kennedy, an American Millionaire offers his services.

He takes on the costs of the lawyers and the private investigators. It's even said that he goes to meet some of the witnesses. Does that have anything to do with the fact that afterward most of them refused to go back and participate in a reconstruction? The atypical Virgin boss also puts his hand in his pocket. It is interesting to note that all this energy, all this money, is essentially used to defend the suspects.

New DNA research is carried out by the forensic laboratories in Birmingham, taking the opposite view to the first evaluation. It is said that the samples harvested (by the Portuguese police) were allegedly mixed...

Commissioner Gonçalo Amaral requests another other evaluation. Impossible, the English tell him, the samples have been destroyed, or lost, we don't exactly know, by the laboratory.Amaral can't take any more. All this hooha , this persistent pressure from the bosses, political authorities, the media, is preventing him from working properly. He is taken to task, criticised, watched closely...Even his British colleagues are causing trouble for him. Exasperated, he lets go in the press. It is a mistake, because his bosses jump at the chance. He is transferred.
Gonçalo Amaral has written a book, "The Truth of the Lie," which is out now in Portugal. Bet there will be some interesting details in it. At least if it is translated into French. Will the press, already scalded by this case, pick up on it? Not certain! The McCanns have clearly implied that their lawyers were ready to take action.

To go back to the DNA, in France, unless I am mistaken, 13 identical markers between two DNA profiles, is sufficient in law. So, if the events had taken place here, first of all the evaluation would not have been done in Great Britain, but in a French laboratory, and then the McCanns would have been placed under investigation and most certainly placed in preventive detention - and only the judge would have been able to decided on a second evaluation.

Which goes to show that scientific evidence, even the most sophisticated, doesn't depend on a mathematical formula, but on human judgment.

THE BEHAVIOUR OF THE PARENTS: I must say that the behaviour of the McCanns compared to that of other parents placed in such a painful situation is....different. From the start, they looked down on the Portugiese police officers. They lied on certain points and right away, they looked for support from their country's authorities. As if they felt threatened! Were they caught up in the media machine? The support fund which they set up (and which can be found on Google's business pages) collected around 1.5 million euros. However, one of the first expenses incurred by that fund was to make two monthly payments concerning the purchase of their house. It is said that 600,000 euros was paid out to settle the fees of private detectives, who turned out to be crooks. One of them even stated that he had infiltrated a Belgian paedophile network... In their defence, they have guaranteed that they have not used that money to pay the fees of the lawyers who are covering their defence.

These folks have mobilised around themselves so many people, so many of the smart set we might say, from politics and business.....that we can only wonder. Are they part of a network? Of a lodge? Of a sect? Of a clan?....

THE STATE OF THE INVESTIGATION: The McCann couple not having requested the continuation of the investigation, it is officially over. As things stand, there is a 4 year-old kid, probably dead; and three suspects who have been let off. One, the neighbour, suspected because of his past, but against whom there seems to be no evidence; and the parents...

There is evidence that they lied in their first statements to the police, notably about how they spent their time, apparently in connivance with their friends. They couldn't explain the presence of traces of blood or cadaver odour, particularly in the vehicle they had hired, three weeks after the events. Even if in law the second DNA evaluation negates the first, it is not entirely convincing. The experts are happy to conclude that they cannot use the gathered samples they were sent, because they were contaminated. And even if we consider that the two evaluations were contradictory, which one should we believe? The destruction of the samples makes any confirmation impossible.

And after this hullabaloo, Maddie joins the long list of missing children.

CONCLUSION: Everyone can think what they like, but Portuguese law considers that there is no charge against anyone, not any proof, not any evidence. They have, "archived," the case, as they say there.

It is astonishing. But I believe it's a good way to start over in a more calm way. In fact, nothing is stopping the investigators from, "discreetly," continuing their investigations. Portuguese procedure allows the reopening of the case at any moment, if someone brings a new element to it.

What is striking in this case, is that there is a lot of talk about money and very little about the young victim. Finally, one of the suspects pocketed 750,000 € handed over by certain newspapers to avoid action for defamation, and the other two, the parents, have collected 1.5 million euros to a support fund. Not to mention the money spent by wealthy patrons. As for the Portuguese police officers, they were ridiculed.

It must stick in their throats....I'll bet they're not ready to forget it."

Link to George Moréas blog here

Discussion at The 3 Arguido's here