Wednesday

Notes on a Meeting about Madeleine McCann, 1 August 2009


By Tony Bennett, Secretary of The Madeleine Foundation

A draft programme for the meeting was circulated in advance. The programme varied slightly on the day; this was how it turned out.

Chairs were arranged in a large circle around a table.

25 attended

1.35pm Assemble and welcome, notices

At the end of this, Vera Steinke was introduced. In charge of producing sales brochures for the U.S. company Johnson and based in Düsseldorf, she brought with her the first bound copy of ‘60 Reasons’ in German; to give it its full German title: “Was is wirklich passiert mit Madeleine McCann: 60 Gründe, die dafür sprechen, dass sie nicht entführt worden ist”. She had personally translated the whole booklet in her spare time over the first few months of this year. For this she rightly received a warm and sustained round of applause. PHOTO TO FOLLOW

1.40pm Introductions round the table - each person was given an opportunity to say who they were, why they had come, what first triggered their interest in the Madeleine McCann case, what their main interest in the case was, and (if they wished) what their ideas were about what we should be doing next. Some spoke only briefly, others for up to 5-6 minutes.

Many interesting observations were made about what first made people suspect the McCanns were not telling the truth, these included:
· why, on the first time they talked to the press, Dr Kate McCann appeared to be reading from notes and not speaking from her heart
· the regular changes of earrings during the first few weeks
· leaving the twins alone when she ran down for help when Madeleine was first reported missing
· leaving the twins in the crèche the very next day
· jogging within days and recording their times
· visiting the Pope
· discrepancies revealed in the first few days in how often they were said to be leaving the children: 1 hour, 30 minutes, 15 minutes
· clear body language signs that they were lying
· the setting up of the Fund - why would getting in lots of money help to find Madeleine?
· a huge amount of reward money was put up but never claimed by anyone
· (from someone who visits Praia da Luz regularly) it’s a quiet, child- friendly place and the last place
· the McCanns claiming it was ‘like dining in our back garden’ 50-yard place
· lack of physically searching by the McCanns
· (from someone at the meeting who was in Praia da Luz the very week Madeleine ‘disappeared’) there were reports that week that someone referred ‘Madeleine’s uncle’ had made a quick exit from PdL and all the staff were suspicions about it
· the washing of Cuddle Cat - something that would never be done by someone genuinely grieving at loss of their chid
· planning events months ahead marking Madeleine’s ‘disappearance’…therefore they knew that Madeleine would never be found.

2.40pm Coffee break

3.00pm Presentations followed by discussion


Sharon Bradford: the body language of the McCanns, a talk on non-verbal communications based on the work of Ekman and others and illustrated by Sharon showing a video of parts of an interview done by the McCanns as part of ‘Madeleine: One year On’, including the clips of the McCanns claiming to tell the truth about what Madeleine said on the morning of 3rd May. This is a work-in-progress and Sharon hopes to produce a further report in the autumn. In the meantime she has some written notes on her work so far which can be obtained via me: ajsbennett@btinternet.com

Sharon Lawrence and her friend Alison da Cruz: They travelled from Rhondda Cynon Taff for the meeting, a journey of 150 miles, to share their outstanding work in delivering the ‘10 Reasons’ leaflet. Whilst Sharon has shared much of this on 3As already, I doubt if anyone present would disagree with me when I say that these two energetic Welsh ladies captivated a spellbound audience as they explained how they had progressed within a few weeks from leaving leaflets anonymously in public places to getting piles of leaflets displayed in chip shops, newsagents and on other shop counters, with the full agreement of the shop owners. There were entertaining accounts of people at bus stops seen picking up leaflets, reading them right through, then folding them and putting them in their pockets, presumably to show others. Many people had asked for more leaflets. Leaflets had been put through letter-boxes in town centre shopping areas at night, with good effect.

Another idea of Sharon’s was to send round ‘chain e-mails’ summarising ‘60 Reasons’ or ‘10 Reasons’ in the hope that many more people could be informed about the facts of the case that way.

This was followed by ‘rubytwoshoes’ giving a similar account, explaining how she openly handed the ‘10 Reasons’ leaflet to her contacts. Both Sharon and ‘rubytwoshoes’ explained that negative responses were extremely rare and generally the responses ranged from ‘positive’ to: “Give me some more so that I can hand them out to my friends and relatives”’.

A box of 1,000 ‘10 Reasons’ leaflets was taken to the meeting and all were taken away by the end of the day.

[name withheld] came down from the Manchester area and spoke from her knowledge about Brian Kennedy’s involvement in the ‘disappearance’ of Madeleine McCann

[name withheld] gave an interesting presentation designed to explain why on the ’bus to the aeroplane, Dr Gerald McCann said (in response to the challenge: “Cheer up; we’re on holiday”): “We’re not here to enjoy ourselves”. He described what he said was: “A holistic cover-up controlled by Clarence Mitchell and other very powerful persons”, and asked why it was that someone as powerful as the Head of the government’s Media Monitoring Unit should have been put on the McCann case more or less from the outset. His thinking led him to suggest at least five possibilities (amongst others), namely:

a) Dr Gerald McCann’s importance to government. The fact that he had received a government grant of £100,000 for cardiology research shortly before the McCanns’ Praia da Luz holiday and was in line for promotion within the health service might point that way
b) some others amongst the ‘Tapas 9’ had government connections
c) a pharmaceutical event of some kind, perhaps linked to the trialling of new drugs e.g. stronger sedatives for children. Was it possible that such a drug killed Madeleine? Alternatively they might have been discussing how to revive their PFI bid for Leicestershire hospitals
d) that this was a ‘Common Purpose’ gathering, perhaps with many of the visitors to the Ocean Club that week having ‘Common Purpose’ connections
e) that one or more of the group in Praia da Luz that week was a paedophile - or knew about the paedophile interest of others.

[name withheld who works broadly in the field of public relations] spoke about the role of Clarence Mitchell in the media coverage of Madeleine’s ‘disappearance’ and explained that he had succeeded because he was a master of the best public relations techniques. In particular, he had used the strategy of the systematic smearing of the Portuguese police and Goncalo Amaral in particular to very great effect. It would be hard work to reverse his successes in influencing public opinion on the case. He suggested that more should be done to influence establishment figures, and with the prospect of a Conservative government, perhaps pressure should be exerted on the top echelons of the Conservative Party, including perhaps some lobbying of the forthcoming annual Conservative Party conference.

[name withheld] spoke briefly on the possible content of future meetings, including a suggestion that a government spokesman (perhaps from the Home Office or the Foreign Office) should be invited to attend the next conference, to provide us with an opportunity to find out what is going on about the Madeleine McCann case in government and with the Leicestershire police. A discussion followed which is confidential to those who attended.

Grenville Green spoke briefly from his experiences as a widowed father of three boys on stark contrasts between how the authorities react to alleged working-class and middle-class child neglect

[name withheld] Amaral’s whole book should be reliably translated into English, with his permission of course, and put into a downloadable pdf. file. It was absolutely vital that the British (and Irish) people could read his factual account of his investigation. (being translated here)

4.50pm I introduced a discussion titled: “Where do we go from here?”

I spoke on two aspects: (1) the possible re-opening of the investigation and of charges being laid against the McCanns and others and (2) the need to inform and educate the public about the true facts of this case.

On point (1) I reflected what was clearly the consensus in the meeting, namely that now that the Portuguese authorities had said they would only re-open the case if there was ‘credible, new evidence’, there was little immediate prospect of the case being re-opened. I mentioned the possibility of compiling a dossier of evidence relating to Madeleine having died in her parents’ apartment based e.g. on the excellent research going on within many of the research threads on 3As. That dossier could be presented to the Policiara Judiciara and also published so that the wider world could see a summary of powerful evidence that the McCanns had at the very least been guilty of the offence known to British law of ‘causing or allowing the death of a child’.

We also discussed ways of sustaining pressure on the establishment to re-open this investigation; this included more letters to MPs, editors, journalists and other influential people. They might not directly lead to the case being re-opened, but this kind of activity would certainly let the powers-that-be know that there was a significant body of people around who are just not going to let a 3-year-old British girl who disappeared in mysterious circumstances be forgotten.

On point (2) we discussed the continued promotion of the ‘60 Reasons’ booklet, which had nearly sold out of its first print run with a second edition in preparation, and the ‘10 Reasons’ booklet. It was also suggested that The Madeleine Foundation website should publish ‘bite-sized’ chunks of research and ideas about the case, enabling the wider public to see what the case was all about, without having to digest thousands of postings on hundreds of threads on a variety of forums.

5.30pm The meeting closed, but the venue allowed us to continue using the room, so discussions carried on till 7.30pm and beyond.

NEXT MEETING:

It was agreed to hold a similar, but hopefully larger, meeting on Saturday 27 February 2010 and possibly on the Sunday as well. Ideas about the content of that meeting and the venue were discussed but these are confidential to those who attended. We'll confirm an approximate venue as soon as we agree it.

I would add the following personal impressions.

There was relief among many (myself included) at being able to share information and opinions face to face about Madeleine’s ‘disappearance’ in a friendly atmosphere. That gives one a renewed belief and confidence that you are right about what happened to Madeleine and that therefore it is 100% right to keep on campaigning for the proper authorities to find out and tell us what did happen.

I noted the word ‘angry’ was used by at least three people and that was usually coupled with people saying words along the lines: “We must not let them get away with it, we must not let them escape justice”. The fact that the ‘No Stone Unturned’ fund may have been a scam from the outset was seen as only adding a massive insult to the injury already done to Madeleine.

Notes prepared by Tony Bennett 3 August 2009

RESPONSES TO OTHERS:

jasper and others mentioned the possibility of recording the meetings. The meeting was successful because people felt they were among friends and therefore able to voice their views in safety. I believe that a recording device would inhibit free and frank discussion. If we can attract speakers to our next meeting, we might ask them for the text of their speech, or notes, so that these could be circulated. Notes were taken at the meeting and the gist of the content of the meeting is recorded above.

To those who were asking if alternative theories about the time of Madeleine's death were discussed, no they were not. If the Portuguese police are ever to charge anyone with Madeleine's death, they will need to know who was responsible and in what way. If there is credible evidence of Madeleine dying before 3rd May - which there may well be - it should be presented to the Portuguese police along with other convincing evidence of the fact that she died in Praia da Luz and the manner in which she died, if that can be deduced. I'm as interested as anyone in roughly when she died, but the issue wasn't brought up by any of the 25 at the meeting.