Madeleine McCann: Have her parents been ‘cleared’ of any involvement in her disappearance’?
by Felicity Hathaway - August 2013
The purpose of this short article, intended mainly to those who are maybe ‘newcomers’ to the details surrounding Madeleine McCann’s reported disappearance, is to answer the question: Have Gerry & Kate McCann been ‘cleared’ - formally or otherwise - of any involvement in the disappearance, from the Portuguese holiday resort of Praia da Luz, of their daughter?
If, for example, you consult Wikipedia’s article on Madeleine McCann, it states this: “In July 2008, the McCanns were cleared by the Portuguese Attorney-General”. Is this really true?
On Thursday 3 May 2007, Kate McCann reported Madeleine as missing. She was quite clear from the outset that she ‘knew’ Madeleine had been abducted. Thus began the world’s biggest-ever search for a child claimed to be missing. Hundreds of Portuguese police searched for Madeleine and then formally investigated her disappearance. There were thousands of reported ‘sightings’ of Madeleine in dozens of countries; all false.
Things changed in August 2007. Some of Britain’s top police officers, based at the National Police Intelligence Agency, including Britain’s top criminal profiler, Lee Rainbow, advised Portuguese detectives that they should investigate the possible involvement of the McCanns in Madeleine’s disappearance. The Portuguese police called in internationally-renowned British police dog handler Martin Grime to examine locations in Praia da Luz, including the McCanns’ apartment and their hired car.
His two dogs - a cadaver dog and a bloodhound - found the smell of a human corpse in nine separate locations connected to the McCanns, but nowhere else. These included three locations in their apartment, two in their hired car, and two on Kate McCann’s clothes. Blood and body fluids which could have been from Madeleine McCann were found in some of the same locations (see below).
On 7 September 2007, the investigation co-ordinator, Dr Gonçalo Amaral, pulled the McCanns in for questioning, and made them arguidos, that is, formal suspects - on suspicion of hiding Madeleine’s body. While Gerry McCann answered police questions, Kate refused to answer any, replying ‘no comment’. She had every legal right to do so, but it was strange behaviour for someone allegedly looking for her missing daughter.
The McCanns described the suspicions against them as ‘ludicrous’ and ‘unhelpful’. Gerry McCann later went on to claim that police sniffer dogs were ‘notoriously unreliable’ - despite their increasing use by police forces across the world, and their increasing reliability and precision in detecting odours of a variety of materials, from bodies to drugs, explosives and even certain medical conditions.
On 2 October 2007, Dr Amaral was removed from the investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance. The Portuguese judicial authorities then appointed a new investigation co-ordinator. He reported to the District Attorney (not the Attorney-General as stated on Wikipedia) for that region of Portugal, Jose de Magalhaes e Menezes. He issued a report on the investigation, signed off by Deputy Attorney-General Joao Melchior Gomes, which was made public in July 2008. The McCanns rely on this report for their claim that they were ‘cleared’. So let’s now examine in more detail the contents of his ruling.
The District Attorney’s ruling of July 2008 in the Madeleine McCann case
The quotation that the McCanns rely on is this, found on page 4,649 of the file of police documents in the case released to the public later that year:
“I order…the filing of the papers concerning the suspects Gerald Patrick McCann and Kate Marie Healy [the surname then used by Dr Kate McCann], as there is no evidence that they committed any crime defined by Article 277.1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure”.
But let us now look at some of the other statements in the Attorney-General’s report.
The contents of the District Attorney’s report
The District Attorney nowhere says the McCanns have been ‘cleared’.
In fact, on page 4648, he declares: “…it must be clearly understood that this is not equivalent to final and irreversible closure of the enquiry”.
On page 4647 of the same report, we also read these words:
“No evidence was obtained which would enable the average person…to arrive at a clear and honest conclusion as to how the child was taken from the apartment (dead or alive, and if dead whether by negligent or wilful manslaughter)”. On the same page, the District Attorney adds: “We do not have any grounds whatsoever for saying, with the necessary degree of certainty, exactly what crime(s) may have been committed against Madeleine McCann”.
The District Attorney, earlier in his report (page 4605), summarises the lack of evidence that Madeleine was abducted as follows: The possibility of abduction was exhaustively investigated. No ransom was ever requested, nor were there any sufficiently consistent clues found to support this theory”.
Later in his report he notes: (page 4643, also pages 4597-8) “Whilst it is an undeniable fact that Madeleine disappeared from Apartment 5A in the Ocean Club, the manner and circumstances in which it happened are unclear, despite the huge number of investigations, and the potential range of crimes suggested. The potential range of crimes suggested throughout the enquiry - including abduction for sexual purposes or other uses and accidental death and hiding of the body - still stands”.
The District Attorney’s report is clearly unhappy with the many contradictions as between the different witness statements of the McCanns and their friends. On page 4597 of his report, for example he says:
“All members of the group including the McCanns were questioned exhaustively several times in order to compile as many facts as possible to help get at the truth. The witnesses’ statements revealed important details which were not entirely understood and coherent”. Later (page 4636), he emphasised this point again: “There were certain points in the statements and witnesses which, apparently at least, were contradictory or lacked physical support”. He went on to list five important contradictions, which can be summarised as follows:
- Relating to the claim by the McCanns’ friend Jane Tanner that she had walked up a lane between the Ocean Club and the apartment at around 9.15pm on the night Madeleine was reported missing
- Relating to how the shutters and window of the children’s bedroom were found open with no sign of a break-in
- Relating to doubts about how many times the McCanns and their friends checked on their children that night
- Relating to multiple contradictions between the evidence of Kate McCann and the McCanns’ friend David Payne about an alleged meeting between them at around 6,30pm on the evening Madeleine was reported missing
- Relating to the claims by Jane Tanner that she really saw someone walking with a child near the McCanns;’ apartment at around 9.15pm that evening.
The refusal of the McCanns and all their friends to take part in a reconstruction of the events of 3 May 2007
In order to get at the truth about what really happened on the day Madeleine was reported missing, the Portuguese police wanted to bring the McCanns and their friends back to Portugal for a reconstruction. They all refused to attend. The District Attorney says (page 4597):
“Despite every effort by the Judiciary Police and the Public Prosecutor’s Office, this was not possible”.
Almost in despair, towards the end of his report, he writes (page 4638):
“Although the Portuguese authorities did everything to facilitate their journey to Portugal, for reasons unknown, and after clarifying the many questions they raised about the need for the journey, they decided not to attend. The people most prejudiced were the McCanns themselves, who lost the opportunity to prove what they had always protested, their innocence. It also hindered the investigation because the above facts remained unexplained”.
The evidence of two British cadaver dogs
Several pages of the District Attorney’s report deal with the findings of an internationally renowned British police dog handler, Martin Grime. He was called in on the advice of the top ‘criminal profiler’ in the National Police Intelligence Agency, Lee Rainbow, and another senior British police officer, Mark Harrison. He took with him to Portugal two so-called ‘cadaver dogs’, one, Eddie, trained to alert only to the scent of a human corpse, and Keela, trained to alert to blood. On pages 4628-9 of his report, the District Attorney states that:
“The results of the search with these dogs, filmed and on file, were as follows:
Eddie ‘marked’ the following areas where he detected the odour of a human corpse:
- Area near wardrobe in McCanns’ bedroom in their holiday apartment
- Area near window of the lounge of the McCanns’ apartment
- An area in the garden below the veranda
- In a wardrobe containing the pink soft toy ‘Cuddle Cat’ at the villa rented by the McCanns after they left their apartment
- An item of clothing belonging to Kate McCann
- Another item of clothing belonging to Kate McCann
- A T-shirt of one of the children
- An area below the driver’s door of the Renault Scenic hired by the McCanns
- The key of the vehicle (which police had hidden in a firefighting sandbox)
Additionally, Keela, the ‘blood’ dog, alerted to human blood in all these places which were also ‘marked’ by Eddie:
- In the same place in the lounge in the apartment
- Below the tiles in the lounge, after the tiles had been taken up
- The bottom of the left curtain below the window in the lounge
- The bottom right-hand side of the boot of the Renault Scenic
- The storage pocket in the driver’s door, which contained the driver’s key
- The driver’s key (again, when it was hidden in a firefighting sandbox)”
The District Attorney added these three significant comments:
a) “The work of these dogs can be appreciated much better on film” (page 4629)
b) “These [particular] dogs have been used successfully many times by Scotland Yard and the FBI” (page 4630), and
c) “Scientist Dr John Lowe, from the British Forensic Science Service, Birmingham, says that the [police] normally accept the word of the handler” (page 4630).
[ NOTE: There are many YouTube videos of the cadaver dogs alerting to the odours of a human corpse and blood in the McCanns’ holiday apartment, on some of their clothes, and in their hired car. Here are some links:
Towards the end of his report, the District Attorney refers again to the alerts of the two dogs, and to the other evidence in the case, and writes this (page 4635):
“The fact that the parents were the last people known to have been with Madeleine, alive and in a known place, particularly with the possibility of a body having been in the apartment and in the vehicle used by the parents…meant they had to be placed under suspicion. The parents had no plausible explanation for these facts. Faced with the evidence produced by the dogs and the laboratories, they had to be named as suspects…”
It should be clear from these many quotations from the District Attorney’s report - the very report that the McCanns rely on to claim that they have been ‘cleared’ - that the report does not clear them. On the contrary, as can be seen, even in this District Attorney’s final report, there remain many grounds for suspecting the McCanns of active involvement in the disappearance of their daughter. The original investigation co-ordinator, Dr Amaral, commented: "This is not a declaration of innocence".
An article in the Portuguese newspaper in July 2008 pointed out that: “The case will remain classed by the appointed prosecutor, Magalhães e Menezes, as one of possible homicide and hiding a body. Although the McCanns will no longer be formal ‘suspects’, archiving the case does not remove the Police’s suspicions against the couple”.
What other indications are there that we should not treat the McCanns as ‘cleared’?
In this short article, we don’t have the space to deal with the actual evidence that suggests that the McCanns were involved in their daughter’s disappearance. All we will do is simply point to the simplest ways for people to explore this issue further. Here are a few suggestions for you to consider:
- Read the book on the case, ‘The Truth of the Lie’, by the original co-ordinator of the investigation to Madeleine’s disappearance, Dr Goncalo Amaral. Published in Portuguese in 2008, it gives a first-hand account of his investigation and the evidence he found. Translated and published in nine European languages already, an English translation may be read online here:
- Watch the documentary for Portuguese TV made by Dr Amaral about the Madeleine McCann case. Seen by millions already, it summarises the evidence in his book. Watch it on YouTube, complete with English subtitles, here:
It’s in 6 parts of 10 minutes each.
- Read the hard-hitting interim report of Inspector Tavares de Almeida, filed on 10 September 2007, three days after the McCanns were made suspects. It explains in clear terms all the evidence that led to them being pulled in for questioning and made formal suspects. You can read it online (and print off a copy) here:
- Research the case using the main internet ‘library’ and archive on the case, at:
- Discuss the case online at the world’s main internet information and chat forum on the case: ‘The Complete Mystery of Madeleine McCann’, at:
There’s also a useful library of research articles there.
There’s lots more on the internet. The above are just ‘tasters’ to get you started.
What others have said on whether or not the McCanns have been ‘cleared’
Many current and former police officers, other experts and writers continue to cast serious doubt on the McCanns’ version of events. Here are just a few quotations from them:
Moite Flores, former police inspector and now political commentator in Portugal: “The only thing proven was that there was no abduction. I have no doubt that the child died”
Lee Rainbow, Britain’s top criminal profiler: “Madeleine's father was the last one to see her alive. The family is a lead that should be followed. Contradictions in Gerald McCann's statements might lead us to suspect a homicide”.
Assistant Chief Constable of Leicestershire Police (2007): “While both or one of [the McCanns] may be innocent, there is no clear evidence that eliminates them from involvement in Madeleine's disappearance”.
Former top British detective, John Stalker: “My gut instinct is that some big secret is probably being covered up”.
Ricardo Paiva, one of the chief detectives on the original investigation, told a Lisbon court in January 2010: “I share Gonçalo Amaral’s statement in the book. Maddie died, probably in a tragic accident, and all indications point towards the parents hiding the body”.
Director of the Portuguese National Counter-Terrorism Unit, Luís Neves: “Hiding a body and accidental death are possibilities”.
by Felicity Hathaway, August 2013