By Tony Bennett, Madeleine Foundation:
In a letter dated 5 February 2010, Carter-Ruck have asked us to 'immediately' remove the article on our website, by Barbara Nottage, titled "How did the alleged abductor snatch Madeleine in a time slot of no more than 3-4 Minutes?"
Their letter claims that this article "implies that our clients have lied and that their daughter was not abducted" and is therefore "highly defamatory, casting (as it does), very serious doubt on the sugsestion that Madeleine could indeed have been abducted".
We are considering our formal response urgently.
The letter is addressed to me personally and I have provisionally made these points in my reply to Carter-Ruck dated today [8 February]:
Firstly, the facts in it have been meticulously checked and we note that in your letter you do not raise any issue as to the factual basis for it.
Secondly, the article is based entirely on statements made either by your clients themselves or by their friends who were on holiday with them, such as Jane Tanner and Dr Matthew Oldfield. It is your client Dr. Gerald McCann who states that he was in Apartment 5A until around 9.10pm on 3 May 2009 and Jane Tanner who says that it was at 9..15pm that she saw a swarthy-looking man in a dark jacket and light trousers walking ‘purposefully away’ from the direction of Apartment 5A, an observation moreover confirmed by Dr Russell O’Brien’s handwritten notes about the timeline of that evening which he wrote down on the cover of Madeleine’s Activity Sticker Book - which had been torn off for the express purpose of writing down this timeline (and an amended one written later the same evening).
Thirdly, the final paragraph of Barbara Nottage’s article explicitly states the following: “I conclude by saying that I am not saying the abduction of Madeleine never happened. But I confess I do find it very difficult to understand, given all that has been said about it, how it could have happened”.
In the meantime, here is the article, which you are free to use, subject to the warning that Dr Gerald and Dr Kate McCann consider it 'highly defamatory'. Barbara Nottage would appreciate the credit if it is to be reproduced anywhere.
The Madeleine Foundation
How did the alleged abductor snatch Madeleine in a time slot of no more than 3-4 minutes?
by Barbara Nottage
One of the curious aspects of the alleged abduction of Madeleine McCann is the extraordinarily tight timetable in which the abduction is supposed to have taken place. Dr Gerald McCann says he went to check on the children at about 9.05pm on 3 May 2007. He also said elsewhere that he had been an unusually long time in the apartment toilet, and that he had been inside all four rooms of the apartment. In addition, he told the world that he had had time during his visit to gaze down on Madeleine, whom he was to describe as ‘lying in the recovery position’, and think how lucky he was to have such a beautiful daughter. By this reckoning, He could not have left the apartment until around 9.10pm or several minutes later.
Meanwhile Jane Tanner, a close friend of the McCanns, has given statements saying that she saw what she thought was a male abductor carrying Madeleine away in his arms from the apartment at around 9.15pm - although we might note here that in August 2009 at a press conference, the McCanns’ chief private investigator, former Detective Inspector Dave Edgar, said that Jane Tanner might have seen a woman, not a man.
The abduction scenario
So let’s examine this situation more closely.
The scenario put forward by the McCanns and their friends runs as follows:
· The abductor must have been watching the apartment for several days before snatching Madeleine on 3 May.
· The McCanns went down to the ‘Tapas bar’ at the Ocean Club at around 8.30pm that evening, with other members of the group arriving during the next half-an-hour or so.
· Dr Matthew Oldfield ‘checked the apartment from the outside’ at around 9.00pm to 9.03pm.
· Dr Gerry McCann returned to his apartment (5A) from the Tapas bar to check on his children at around 9.05pm. The walk to the apartment would have taken one to two minutes. So on his own timing, he would have arrived there around 9.07pm.
· Dr Gerry McCann was briefly in all four rooms of their holiday apartment, during which time he checked his children. He also says he spent an unusually long time in the toilet - maybe up to 5 minutes, though we have never been told why. He tells us that he paused briefly over Madeleine’s bed and thought to himself how very lucky he was to have such a beautiful child.
· Dr Gerry McCann says he noticed that the door to the children’s room was ‘wider open than before’. He says that at 8.30pm it had been open at an angle of about 45 degrees (half open). He remembers (he says) that when he went to check the children at 9.05pm, the door was now open at an angle of 60 degrees (two thirds open).
· The fact that the door - according to Dr Gerald McCann - was now (at 9.05pm) more open more than it was before (at 8.30pm), has been used by him to suggest the possibility that the abductor may have been already in the apartment when he checked on the children, although he says he only realised this possibility some months after the events of the day. Dr Gerry McCann has said that the abductor might have been hiding behind a door or in a wardrobe while he spent several minutes doing his ‘check’ on the children.
· Dr Gerry McCann must have left the room, on his own account, at between 9.10pm and 9.15pm. He then says he encountered a TV cameraman, Jeremy (‘Jes’) Wilkins, on the road back to the Tapas bar at the Ocean Club, and was talking to him for several minutes between 9.10pm and 9.25pm (Jeremy Wilkins confirms the meeting, but says it only lasted three minutes).
· Ms Jane Tanner (partner of Dr Russell O’Brien) says she left the Tapas bar at around 9.15pm and saw a man walking ‘purposefully’, with a child in his arms, along the top of the road running alongside the McCanns’ apartment. She has maintained throughout that she saw this man at almost exactly 9.15pm.
· The McCanns maintain that they left their apartment unlocked. This contrasts however with what they said during the might of 3 May/4 May. In telephone calls to relatives, Dr Gerald McCann told them that an abductor had forced entry into the apartment by jemmying open the shutters. They appear to have changed this story after both the Manager of Mark Warners, Mr john Hill, and the police, found no evidence whatsoever of the shutters having been forced open. The McCanns now say, therefore, that the abductor must have entered their apartment through the unlocked patio door. But they maintain that the windows and shutters that they say they found open on Dr Kate McCann checking the children at 10.00pm were because the abductor must have made his escape via that route. They say the abductor must have opened the window and the shutters (which the McCanns say they had had left closed) from the inside, climbed through the window, and taken Madeleine through that window.
· Dr Kate McCann says she returned to the apartment to check on the children at 10.00pm. She says she ‘knew instantly’ that Madeleine had been abducted - and then so did Dr Gerald McCann, minutes later, when he says he arrived at the apartment. Dr Kate McCann later told a TV interviewer that because of the requirement for secrecy about the police investigation, she could not explain why she ‘knew instantly’ that Madeleine had been abducted. She has never explained this, even 2½ years later.
The photographs of the apartment taken by the Portuguese police on the day after Madeleine was reported missing do not show anything which would clearly point to an abduction, certainly not damaged shutters. No forensic evidence whatsoever of the alleged abductor has been found. There were no forensic traces in the room, and no fingerprints on the window, window frame or shutters except for one of Dr Kate McCann’s fingerprints. The lichen on the windowsill was undisturbed.
Going by the above scenario, which the McCanns and their ‘Tapas 9’ friends have maintained, the abductor (if there was one) must have either entered the apartment before Dr Matthew Oldfield’s check at around 9.03pm and Dr Gerry McCann’s check which began at 9.05pm/9.07pm – a version put forward by the McCanns months after Madeleine was reported missing - McCanns now want us to believe - or after Dr Gerry McCann left at 9.10pm to 9.15pm and before he was (allegedly) seen by Jane Tanner at 9.15pm.
The problems with this abduction scenario
There are many problems associated with this specific abduction scenario above that the McCanns and their ‘Tapas 9’ friends have generated.
As we have seen just now, there is no forensic evidence that the alleged abductor was even in the McCanns’ apartment, still less that an abductor climbed in or out of the window.
Further, the window is high enough in the children’s room to make it physically very difficult for an abductor to climb through it. It was reported to be 91cm. above the floor - exactly three feet. The window itself is only around 60cm x 60cm (2ft x 2ft). The abductor would therefore have had to climb some three feet, with Madeleine with him, in his arms or over his shoulder. In addition, he would have to have managed this feat without leaving any forensic traces on the window-sill.
Madeleine must have weighed at least two stone (12kg). A task such as this would have meant balancing against the window frame itself, in which case traces of clothing fibres would surely have been found. Even then, it would have been almost impossible to climb through this window even if Madeleine had been asleep. It is surely even more unlikely that the abductor could have laid Madeleine down on the floor or a bed in the children’s bedroom, then climbed out of the window, and then reached back inside the bedroom to pick Madeleine out of the room - all of this without Madeleine or either of the twins waking up.
This whole abduction operation would clearly have been still more difficult either if Madeleine had woken up whilst being abducted, or one or both twins had done so. To maintain the abduction scenario, therefore, it is necessary to believe that Madeleine slept through the entire abduction operation. The description given by Jane Tanner of an alleged abductor carrying a child also describes the child as quiet and presumably asleep.
Moreover, to escape via the window, as the McCanns claim, the abductor would have had to open the shutters. Mark Warners, however, explained that it was only possible to open the shutters from the inside. They are operated by pulling a cord, or strap, on the inside. It is a highly relevant fact (again confirmed by Mark Warners) that when these heavy metal shutters were opened, the whole process is extremely noisy.
But no-one heard the shutters being opened. Moreover, the children’s room was directly overlooked by a tall block of apartments on the other side of the street. Had the abductor really climbed out of that window, he would have been in the view of dozens of windows overlooking Apartment 5A. We now know that the shutters to Apartment 5A were actually closed when the police and Mark Warners’ staff arrived to check them. The McCanns’ initial explanation for this fact were that the shutters ‘must have been closed by the abductor as well as opened by him’. We have seen that the shutters could not be opened from the outside. This claim by the McCanns that the abductor ‘must have tried to close the shutters behind him’ prompts two related and very obvious questions:
1) having gained entry through an open patio door, what would possess an abductor to leave via a three-foot high, two-foot square closed window, with the shutters also closed? The McCanns’ abduction scenario would require him to have opened the windows and shutters, then tried to close the shutters behind him, when he could have simply walked through the already-open patio doors.
2) why and how, having allegedly scooped up Madeleine in his arms and opened the window and the shutters, would he have had the time and the physical ability to then close the shutters, all without making any sound or leaving any trace, without being seen by anyone, and without waking either Madeleine or the twins?
Moreover, all this would have had to have been accomplished in the dark - unless the alleged abductor switched the lights on when he entered the apartment and then remembered to switch them off again as he was making his exit. No-one saw any lights on in the apartment. The McCanns have admitted that they left the children in the darkness, with the shutters and curtains closed, when they went out for their evening’s entertainment.
Therefore, to sum up - according to the McCanns’ scenario, the abductor would have to have:
* First - either picked an opportunity to enter the apartment after the McCanns had left for the Tapas bar at between 8.30pm and 9.00pm - or entered the apartment immediately after he had seen first Dr Matthew Oldfield and then Gerry McCann enter and leave the apartment at around 9.05pm to 9.15pm;
[NOTE: if the former of these two alternatives, then the abductor must have been in the apartment with Dr Gerry McCann during the five to ten minutes or so he was checking on the children - as Dr McCann indeed claimed last year]
* Second - walked through the open patio door without being seen;
* Third - found Madeleine in the dark;
* Fourth - picked her up, without waking her or the twins, and without leaving any forensic trace on the bed;
* Fifth - opened the window - without leaving any fingerprints;
* Sixth - opened the shutters from the inside (with nobody hearing him doing so, and once again without leaving any fingerprints);
* Seventh - climbed through the window, somehow carrying Madeleine with him - again without being seen by anyone, and again without leaving any fingerprints;
* Eighth - he would then have had to close the very noisy shutters, using controls operated from the inside - while still having Madeleine in his arms, or having laid her down on the patio, and
* Ninth - he made his escape without being seen by anyone except for afew fleeting seconds by Jane Tanner at around 9.15pm.
The operation of climbing through the window would have been physically very difficult, if not impossible, to do without (a) even brushing away even a tiny piece of the years-old lichen growing on the window-sill or (b) leaving any clothing fibres or other forensic evidence.
He must in addition have accomplished this whole operation in near total darkness and without being seen or heard by anyone except Jane Tanner. At the very moment that Jane Tanner says she saw the alleged abductor, Dr Gerald McCann was chatting away to holiday friend Jeremy (‘Jez’) Wilkins. Neither man saw or heard the alleged abductor despite being so close.
If the abductor had Madeleine in his arms as he climbed out of the window, and bearing in mind he was in near darkness, he would have been unable to see anything below her or much to either side as he fumbled through the window and shutters and tried to escape from the apartment precincts. Why he would do this when there was an open patio door to walk back through is incomprehensible. The McCanns only came up with the scenario of the abductor entering the unlocked patio door and then escaping via the window after learning that there was no evidence that the shutters had been tampered with, as they had told their relatives the night Madeleine disappeared.
Finally let us look for a moment at another aspect of the McCanns’ scenario. They have claimed on many occasions that an abductor must have been ‘casing the joint’ for several days beforehand - and then pounced and abducted Madeleine when he had the chance. The McCanns claim that he would have been closely watching them, including observing what the McCanns claim as their routine of half-hourly checking.
The McCanns have gone further and have suggested - in a lengthy TV interview for the BBC’s Panorama programme - that the abductor must have been making notes on their movements, allegedly carefully observing the times of their departures from the apartment. But this does not seem plausible given that neither the McCanns, nor their ‘Tapas 9’ friends, have given any details of how often (if at all) they were checking on their children whilst out wining and dining – apart from on the night Madeleine was reported missing.
Another problem about the McCanns’ abduction scenario is that there is nowhere that the abductor could have been observing the McCanns’ apartment without being seen - unless, that is, he was living or operating from one of the flats opposite the McCanns’ apartment, some of which overlooked it. It is understood that the occupants of these flats have all been investigated and their statements corroborated. None of them had anyone in their flat who was watching the McCanns’ apartment, nor was anyone seen acting suspiciously or hanging around in that area during the week the McCanns and their friends were there, except for one man who has been identified and eliminated from police enquiries.
The other obvious problem about the claim of an abductor ‘casing the joint’ is this:- Suppose an abductor had been watching the McCanns’ apartment day in and day out. On the McCanns’ own timeline, he would have seen the McCanns leave for the Tapas bar at 8.30pm. If, therefore, as claimed, an abductor had been watching the premises, he would presumably have chosen a moment as soon as possible after 8.30pm to abduct Madeleine - i.e., immediately after Drs Gerry and Kate McCann had left for the Tapas bar (on their own account) at around 8.30pm.
Yet, if he had entered the flat just after the McCanns left at 8.30pm, how come he was not long gone 35-40 minutes later when Dr Gerald McCann did his check? After all, Dr McCann now believes that the abductor may have even been present for the entire five to ten minutes or so that he was doing his check i.e. between 9.05pm and 9.10pm/9.15pm.
Yet a further difficulty for this improbable scenario is that Dr Matthew Oldfield claims that he did two checks - one at around 9.00pm, (various times have been given for this alleged check) and the other around 9.30pm. Dr Oldfield claims that during his 9.00pm visit he ‘checked’ from the outside but saw and heard nothing. He also said that the shutters were ‘tight shut’. If indeed the abductor really had entered before both Dr Matthew Oldfield’s alleged check (around 9.00pm) and Dr McCann’s check (around 9.05pm), then he was exceptionally lucky, to put it mildly, not to have been detected by either man.
There are equal if not even greater problems with the suggestion that the abductor entered the apartment and removed Madeleine only after Drs Oldfield and McCann had done their checks. Would any abductor really have dashed into the apartment after first seeing Dr Oldfield checking the outside of the apartment at around 9.00pm - and then seen Gerry spending five to ten minutes checking between 9.05pm and 9.15pm? It would surely have been far too risky.
And if he entered the apartment after Dr Gerry McCann left at say 9.10pm at the earliest, he would scarcely have had time to enter the flat, remove Madeleine, open the window and shutters, close them behind him etc. and then be seen by Jane Tanner at 9.15pm.
Sadly, no British newspaper or magazine has offered an analysis, like the one above, of the unlikelihood of the abduction having occurred in the way the McCanns and their ‘Tapas 9’ friends claim it ‘must have’ happened.
I conclude by saying that I am not saying the abduction of Madeleine never happened. But I confess I do find it very difficult to understand, given all that has been said about it, how it could have happened.
What did Donal MacIntyre say about the abduction theory which was published in the Sunday Express?
1) Highly organised.
2) There were at least 2 perpetrators.
3) The kidnappers had prior access to the layout of the flat here in 5a before the kidnap.
4) These were men who were well versed in the art of house breaking and these men also had an ability to clean a crime scene.
Critical to this investigation is the timing. There was 3-5 minutes for the kidnappers to perpetrate this crime. Consider the pressure the kidnappers were under.
They had to stay hidden in the apartment in the company of Gerry McCann for up to 10 minutes.
2) They had to subdue Madeleine McCann, a notorious bad sleeper and bring her out of the apartment.
3) They had to bring her out of a small window for which they required at least 2 perpetrators.
4) They had to escape the vicinity of the complex and the entire area without suspicion.
In addition, highly likely they cleaned the crime scene and this required great planning and precision and could not have been the work of an opportunist drifter.