Sunday

Donal MacIntyre : "The unspoken fear will remain that Praia da Luz is a sunny place for shady people"

By Donal MacIntyre (please tell me this is a spoof!)

MADELEINE McCann was abducted by at least two kidnappers who must have carried out several dry runs in the days leading up to her disappearance.

After spending a week on the ground investigating the case and the methods used by the kidnappers, I can only conclude that they must have entered the apartment to carry out a rehearsal, because they were working to an incred­ibly tight schedule.

The three-minute time frame they allowed themselves left no margin for error.

But even though they did their homework with meticulous care, they still came within seconds of capture.

I believe the focus of the investigation for the private investigators hired by Madeleine’s parents should be on a breakdown of who was in and around the Mark Warner Ocean Club in Praia da Luz throughout their holiday.

It is more than probable key witnesses would have seen the kidnappers in the days and nights leading up to the abduction on May 3, 2007.


SOFT TARGET: MacIntyre believes Madeleiene was passed through this apartment window - leaving only Kate McCanns fingerprints on the shutter.

Such was the narrow window of opportunity, only agile, sharp-witted people well-practised in breaking and entering properties could have pulled this off.

Over the past week I have conducted a cold case review of most of the available evidence relating to the abduction and had lengthy discussions with numerous Portuguese sources who cannot be identified.

Crucial to unravelling the whole case is establishing what precisely took place from 8pm to 10.15pm on the night Madeleine vanished.

In my view too little attention has been paid to what I believe was a key sighting.

A dark-haired woman was observed standing near a street light at a road junction that overlooks apartment 5A. What was she doing in the eerily quiet area, which is not near a bus stop, taxi rank, cafes or shops?

She was seen looking at the apartment as the late evening gloom descended.

Was she also watching to see the movements of Kate and Gerry McCann and their holiday friends, the so-called Tapas Seven? I think so.

The same witness who saw the mystery woman also saw a gold or brown Nissan car driving erratically past the woman.

Despite appeals neither the woman nor the driver of the car has come forward.

Was this Nissan the getaway car and was its driver conducting a dry run at this very time? Again, I think so.

Although we do not, sadly, have a minute-by-minute breakdown of the events that took place, this is the scenario that I believe unfolded.

Having settled Madeleine, then three, and their two-year- old twins, Sean and Amelie, Gerry and Kate, from Rothley, Leicestershire, have a glass of wine before heading off to the tapas bar, a minute’s walk away, to join their friends Jane Tanner and her partner Russell O’Brien, Rachel and Mathew Oldfield, David and Fiona Payne and Diane Webster.

At about 9pm Gerry leaves the table and walks over to the apartment to check on the twins and Madeleine.

He enters the apartment and then goes to the toilet. He checks on his children and savours a proud father’s moment as he stands by the doorway looking into the back bedroom where they are all soundly asleep.


the Praia da Luz resort

The twins are in cots and Madeleine in bed, holding her favourite toy, Cuddle Cat. Gerry spends up to 10 minutes in the five-room apartment and will only later reflect that he felt there was someone else there at the same time.

For the kidnap to have taken place I believe Gerry’s gut instinct was sound.

So we must assume that a few minutes before Gerry arrived, the abductor walked along the public road beside the apartment, opened the gate, walked up 10 steps to the patio and entered through the open patio doors.

At this stage he or she is a heartbeat away from being caught. But where could the abductor have hidden? Gerry walked through the front room, used the bathroom and looked in on the children – but did he check anywhere else?

My view is that the abductor was probably in the children’s bedroom, possibly behind the door or crouching behind furniture.

As Gerry strolls out of the patio doors, closing but not locking them, he leaves through the same small gate facing the road where the abductor has entered minutes before.

Just outside, he meets television producer Jes Wilkins on the way back to the tapas bar. There is not another soul on the street.

Back inside the apartment the abductor must be breathing a sigh of relief as Gerry leaves, then realises his exit route is blocked and plan B has to be put into operation.

For this, help is essential. The abductor inside the apartment passes Madeleine – probably put to sleep with chloroform – through the open window into the accomplice’s arms.

In the distance, the voices of Gerry McCann and Jes Wilkins waft through the air.

What trauma would Madeleine suffer if, terrified and forcibly kept silent, she hears Dad’s voice as she is being bundled into the hands of dangerous strangers? At the same time – about 9.10pm – and unnoticed by Wilkins and
Gerry, Jane Tanner observes them chatting.

The kidnapper holding Madeleine retreats to the adjacent car park before heading on to the same footpath where, a short distance downhill, Gerry and Wilkins are talking.

The accomplice makes his way out of the window and into the darkness.

The kidnappers think they have got away with it, but they are on the brink of being caught.

Despite hearing the voices of Madeleine’s father a short distance away, the kidnapper holding the girl plans to cross the road junction just above them.

As he hits the footpath, he sees both men chatting and Jane Tanner heading his way – three potential witnesses to the abduction, including the father of the child.

Why choose such a potentially disastrous course? My belief is that he had to make a rendezvous with the getaway driver.

The seven seconds he took to cross the road were either well-planned, foolhardy or a sign of breathtaking confidence. In any case, the kidnapper never faltered and was never seen again.

Jane Tanner says he was carrying a child. She believes it was Madeleine and her theory is supported by the McCann investigators.

The timing of the statements from the key witnesses suggests that there was a maximum of three to five minutes for the abduction to be executed.

In such circumstances only good planning and co-ordination could make this possible. It would be an extraordinary effort, needing an astonishing degree of luck, if this had been done on an opportunistic basis.

The clean execution of the kidnap, without a hint of a DNA trace or any useable evidence, means it was highly professional and planned with precision.

Such precision is the hallmark of fixated, obsessive sexual predators. There were 20 known paedophiles living on the Algarve at the time including one with a flat near the McCanns’ apartment but all have been eliminated as possible perpetrators.

However, the area must be a magnet for sex offenders. It has a creche, school and nursery. Add a transient population of young holidaymakers and you have a lot of attractions for sexual predators.

With its road access the McCann apartment was the most vulnerable in the complex and it is easy to see why a paedophile would make it a target.

The McCanns’ decision, formed by the semi-secure nature of the holiday complex, to use a check-in system for their children rather than have babysitters allowed the abductors to strike. In hindsight, that unfortunate decision left their children vulnerable to an abductor.

Last week I walked unchallenged on to the property in the company of another journalist. We were both unsuitably dressed and surrounded by children and parents. We had a drink and left. Two hours later I returned and again was not challenged.

Today there is more lighting around the complex but little else has changed.

Until the kidnappers are caught, the unspoken fear will remain that Praia da Luz is a sunny place for shady people.

All that remains visible of the Madeleine McCann campaign there is a touching shrine in the beautiful church on the sea front.

Pray For Me, the heart-shaped poster pleads. Below it, 10 electric candles flicker in her memory. Many more will be lit before this mystery is solved.

Lawyers representing Kate and Gerry McCann have demanded that a website claiming their daughter was not abducted should be taken down.

The Madeleine Foundation claims Madeleine is dead and her parents bear some responsibility for her death.
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Barrister Michael Shrimpton also believes Madeleiene is dead - murdered by lethal injection, he reckons, in December 2008.


The McCanns’ spokesman Clarence Mitchell said: “Kate and Gerry have made it clear they will not dignify the actions of the so-called Madeleine Foundation with any comment.”

Kate and Gerry's comment regarding the Madeleine Foundation can be read here
Donal's connection to Gerry's key alibi Jes Wilkins
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Comment on the Missing Madeleine forum:

It's beautiful though. Most of the sore points are identified now, and obviously at the McCanns prompting. Notice - no time for the arrival of the McCanns at Tapas, but Gerry leaves to check at 9pm.

Also they were drinking in the apartment before they left for the tapas bar. Interesting.

The Jez/Gerry/Jane/kidnapper explanation is hilarious, utterly the best laugh I've had in this whole affair. Complete cobblers. How do people NOT see Jane, but Jane sees them. How does an abductor see Jane and Gerry and Jez and they don't see him? Even McIntyre sees it's an absurdity for the abductor to double back - but he has him doubling back nonetheless.

he's right in this though. In this one thing.

IF there was an abductor, this is how it must have been.

So Edgar's mistaken in pursuing the lone paedo theory. Sack him now!

And it is quite patently obvious, there was no abductor. Not one. Not two.

The central absurdity remains. And it is this:

A planned abduction, a 'watched and snatched', always contradicted the fiasco of the actual evening and the scenario an abduction would describe. McIntyre opts for 'watched and snatched' and STILL cannot explain plausibly how a 'scientific' and planned abduction ended up like a Whitehall farce with Brian Rix hiding behind the sofa while Gerry's having a pish.

And McIntyre even adds another layer of loony cake. A rehearsal.

A rehearsal! And STILL it ends up like an episode of 'There Go My Trousers'.

Conceding that it was impossible for one person to abduct the child, McIntyre NEEDS two abductors to get the child out of the apartment - hence it must have been planned. It's a conspiracy.
But ONLY an opportunistic lone action would explain the actual messy delivery of the kidnap.

Literally, anything planned on this basis would have been aborted on the first check.

But there was no check.
There was no watcher.
There was no rehearsal.
There was no abduction.

But there was, it seems, even more wine necked than anyone thought before.