31 Jan 2008





Viv x


I saw Kate and Gerry McCanns’ despair and if they were acting they deserved an Oscar
The PR expert who advised Madeleine's parents in the first weeks of her disappearance offers a new insight into their state of mind
Dominic Kennedy
Gerry and Kate McCann’s on-screen composure in the days after their daughter disappeared was at odds with their turmoil and dread behind the scenes, a witness says today.
The couple swung between uncontrollable distress and a determination to do what was needed to help to find Madeleine. They gave no indication that they thought she had been snatched, let alone by a paedophile. Their early assumption was that she had wandered off and had an accident or been taken in by a well-meaning stranger.
Alex Woolfall, a public relations consultant for the holiday resort where the child disappeared, was with the McCanns regularly for that first fortnight and is convinced that they are innocent. “That they could be involved and in any way be guilty - to me they would have to win every Golden Globe and every Oscar ever awarded,” he told The Times.
Mr Woolfall has provided the first detailed account by an insider of what happened to the McCanns during the desperate days after Madeleine disappeared. He is an expert in crisis PR at the communications group Bell Pottinger and flew to Portugal as part of the Mark Warner holiday company’s emergency response team on Saturday, May 5. Madeleine vanished on the evening of May 3.


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He met the couple for the first time at their new apartment. “They were behaving exactly as I thought someone in that situation would be,” Mr Woolfall said. “They had not slept. They were trying to work out what to do that might help generate images of her. They were desperately keen to publicise her face.”
The McCanns had photographs of Madeleine on their digital camera, which Mr Woolfall began transferring to a laptop computer. “I said to Kate, ‘Let’s try to identify pictures where her face is visible’. Downloading the images was a very difficult process for them. It was upsetting.
“They were trying to do two things at once: one, emotionally deal with what was actually, really happening to them; two, operate in some sort of logical way to help get her back.”
Mr Woolfall transmitted the photographs to the Press Association in London, from where they were distributed to the media. The portfolio included the now famous image of Madeleine wearing a hat on a tennis court.
The McCanns wanted to do more. “They were exhausted and despairing but thinking, ‘Should we go outside and say something that might get her back?’ They said they wanted to head downstairs and talk to the media. They were very tired, but that was one thing they were determined to do.”
Mr Woolfall went out to alert journalists and returned to the McCanns. “They wrote down what they wanted to say and went out and gave a short statement. After that, they were completely spent. You could tell there was nothing left.”
Mr Woolfall was surprised by the reaction of British viewers to the couple’s demeanour. “I was struck at the perception of people who had watched Kate and Gerry: that they were very controlled and perhaps were not responding in a way people thought would be more natural. They were not at all controlled. When I was with them, they were between being completely distraught and trying to do what they felt was the right thing.” Armchair detectives have leapt to wild conclusions based on the few alleged details of the case to have emerged. One bone of contention has been whether Mrs McCann, when raising the alarm that Madeleine was missing, screamed: “They’ve taken her.” Some have questioned why a mother would leap to the conclusion that a child had been abducted.
Mr Woolfall says that he heard no suggestion in the early days that the girl had been snatched. “Certainly I did not hear any discussion that this could be a paedophile or an aggravated robbery. All the time I was around it was whether she could have wandered off and had an accident or somebody had actually taken her in, perhaps not with ill-intent.
“During the first 48 hours the word being used was ‘missing’ rather than ‘abducted’ or any link with a paedophile or any sort of crime. Towards the end of the second week I detected a shift towards there being a consciousness that she had probably been taken rather than wandered off, just on the assumption that anybody would have found her by now.”
Many theories have emerged from the claim that Madeleine’s twin sister and brother, aged 2, failed to wake or cry when she vanished. Mr Woolfall said he had not heard of the twins’ alleged silence until he read about it in a newspaper in Britain. The claim was attributed to the Portuguese police.
There has even been a suggestion that Mrs McCann carried her daughter’s Cuddle Cat soft toy because it would look good on TV. “For that to have in any way validity, it would cancel out the fact that these two people hadn’t got a clue about PR or the media,” Mr Woolfall said. “To suddenly be that sophisticated . . . I noticed Kate often had this toy with her. It was Madeleine’s favourite toy and she would go to bed with it. Kate had it with her when she went to church. She had it in the apartment.”
A lingering puzzle for many is why the couple left three children in the flat. “When I first got to Praia da Luz, I asked Mark Warner to put me in the chair at the tapas restaurant that they had sat in and show me where the apartment was,” Mr Woolfall said. “It never struck me that it would be a particularly odd thing to leave your children in that apartment, given that it was so close.
“It is incredibly sleepy and quiet in Praia da Luz. There is no traffic noise. One day when he was standing on a balcony, Gerry was saying how they felt when they first came to the resort. The pool was close, supermarket round the corner. They felt everything was a stone’s throw.”
The McCanns have sometimes irritated observers with the fervency of their do-it-yourself campaign. “When I came back there was criticism: why is this couple out there publicising this, doing interviews, going in front of cameras, going through photo opportunities? If you look at what would have happened in the UK, you would have had, probably within hours, a proactive intervention by British police, who would have said this is the process we now need to go through.
“Kate and Gerry have been largely left to get on with it, with no support in the initial stages, or guidance. They realised the media were a huge potential ally.”
Mr Woolfall recalled how the bewildered couple gradually began to recover their composure. “In the first week they were not thinking. They actually did not think. They were in shock.
“In the second week, Gerry behaved very much like a doctor would do. Doctors are analytical. He started to have much more strategic conversations with me about what they might do. They became more aware that getting Madeleine’s photograph widely distributed in Spain and possibly North Africa was sensible.
“Gerry said to me, ‘We don’t want the awareness that Madeleine has gone missing to disappear overnight, and that we are a family whose child went missing on holiday and that is the end of it. We want to try and find her.’ When I left Portugal, the beginnings of the idea of having a campaign were probably forming.
“They were actually quite hopeful - far more in that frame of mind than despondent and downbeat. They had gone 360 degrees several times through all the different emotional states, but they soon got some good control on things.”
Mr Woolfall left after a fortnight working from 5am to 1am, fending 200 calls a day from journalists as far away as Norway and South Africa. He warned the McCanns that they needed a press officer. “Gerry, I think, spoke to the Consulate and said ‘Can you help us? Because there is a lot of media interest and we cannot manage.’ As a result of that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office flew out Sheree Dodd [an experienced government spokeswoman].”
At first, journalists treated the McCanns with great respect, but there was a free-for-all when the couple took their first unscheduled walk along the beach. “Freelance snappers started to get quite close to them and one or two questions were thrown at them. That was probably the very early stages of the change,” Mr Woolfall said. “It reached a crescendo when the McCanns tried to take their kids to the crèche and were bombarded by snappers and freelancers.”
When the McCanns were made suspects, Mr Woolfall was bemused. “I thought it was ridiculous. I couldn’t believe it. Completely ludicrous.”
Did you suspect them? “My God, no, absolutely not in any way at any stage. I walked into that apartment and just saw two people who were frantic that their daughter had gone missing. Nobody could possibly, if they had anything to do with that, behave in that way for so long.
“It made me laugh rather than be exasperated. From Day One they could not move anywhere without 100 flash bulbs going off. The whole idea that they could have done any of thethings the police were suggesting was farcical.
“You could not pick another couple on the planet that would have had that many cameras trained on them.”
The McCanns’ helpers
Alex Woolfall Head of crisis management for the Bell Pottinger Group. Flew to Portugal on behalf of Mark Warner on May 5.
Sheree Dodd The former Daily Mirror journalist and long-serving senior government spokeswoman was deployed as a media liaison officer for the McCann family.
Clarence Mitchell The former BBC News reporter was sent in by the Cabinet Office in May to provide “consular support”. He became the McCanns’ full-time spokesman last month. His £75,000 salary is met by Brian Kennedy, a millionaire.
Justine McGuinness The Lib Dem activist was the McCanns’ first campaign manager. She is understood to have been exhausted by the 24-hour demands of the job and stood down in September.


Ironside said...

Amazing , and yet we know gerry rang his mother in law saying , there had been a disaster. How important it was that she accepted this was an a
bduction...His best friend just after ten that maddie had been abducted...His sister Trish, telling her of jemmied shutters and doors hanging from their hinges....

Kate ringing her mother saying " she's gone mum , she's gone"..

There was also a reporter in PDL that week from the Daily Mirror..
First reports in the press of missing child...12.01...

It was very important that gerry got the abduction theory out there in the arena as soon as possible...what better way than through the family,you would have thought by that morning aunt phil and trish had been witness to the whole scene...they had their stories as told by gerry and they were off and running.....

Ironside said...

Time 6.30 am

felicity said...

Hiya Ironside

Maybe Kate and Gerry were pulling in opposite directions right from the off - she was telling Mr Woolfall she was sure Maddie had just wandered off and in the interview she was saying what he had told her to say...or else and he was the one telling all his relatives..Kate saying she is gone is ambiguous in meaning - it could mean dead - and she wanted a priest!

Viv x Time 8.29 am

felicity said...

Ironside - I know many people think it was Kate - but I really dont! Poor lady...

Viv x

Ironside said...

NO they did not regularly check on the children
- YES Russel O´Brien was missing almost the whole dinner
- YES they dismissed a paid childminder only a couple of hours before dinner
- YES they drank 14 bottles of wine
- YES they left the children alone every night
- YES the previous night they had dined at Chaplin´s which is at 5-6 minutes walking distance

According to the investigation of the highly reputed journalists involved, there are 3 hours which have not been accounted for properly by any of the Tapas 9, a pact of silence and lots of contradictions. The police has suspected of the McCanns from day one, and their behaviour is NOT what you would expect from parents in their circumnstances.”

I have taken this from 3A's this was a report I also saw on 23rd Dec...
I am not convinced of a sighting for madeleine on the 3rd.....

This was a report from Antena 3 who interviewed the waiters...

Ironside said...

Time 8.45...

felicity said...

Thanks Ironside - it is a terrible indictment upon them as parents - truly shocking that a bunch of doctors could put their children at such terrible risk whilst they get blind drunk every night.

According to Woolfall he helped them download their film on to the computer - surely we only have their word this so called last pic was taken that day - Gerry could have easily re-set the times on the camera - wasnt there supposed to be an admitted mistake over the time on it - he did not quite get it right. The thing is on the tennis balls pic the day before her arm looks really burned and yet the next day it looks fine - not really possible I dont think.

We have those reports from Mrs Fenn - when they came back from Chaplins Kate was loud and out of control - well she would be if Gerry was doing something terrible to her and Maddie. More and more it is starting to look like this is when it happened. He is drunk, he is furious with Maddie for getting them into trouble...

Also cancelling the babysitter looks really bad..How can these McCann worshippers have the audacity to say they did not harm her. They just lie, manipulate and twist to try and make them look innocent - it is really dreadful that Gerry McCann even arranges his relatives etc to act in this way. How can they live with themselves? I just do not know. Never once do they ever demonstrate any concern for Maddie or for Kate - they even try to deny the obvious signs of injury to them. They all seem to be Gerry supporters if you ask me - a lot of them even admit their address as Glasgow and they are so nasty and abusive - Jakirla only ever comes on to denigrate and abuse others.

What horrible people, they sicken me.

Viv x


felicity said...

THAT CLOCK IS SO WRONG IT IS 9.21 AM ! I keep trying to get this webpage right but am not a skilled practitioner - this is a first for me - I see they even criticised me for that on the Daily Express - do not leave any stone unturned when you are looking to injure and malign - the McCanns!

lmcg said...

Hi Viv/Ironside, I am a bit confused this morning (it doesn't take much!). The McCann's cancelled the babysitter on the evening of 3rd May, yet it has been stated that they systematically left the children alone while they went out to dinner? Did they have babysitters for the other nights? It seems a bit odd that they would arrange a babysitter just for one of the nights and then cancel her. Why bother that particular night if they hadn't before?

Lmcg x

felicity said...

Hiya Lmcg

I do not know how accurate this information is but the perceived wisdom seems to be, as you probably know, they dined at Chaplins on 2 May. It has certainly been clearly reported that Mrs Fenn heard Maddie crying Daddy Daddy for best part of two hours until they got called back from Chaplins by Mark Warner staff. Therefore I would imagine they agreed to use the proper babysitting service for their remaining few nights. However it would seem that Maddie died either late on 2 May when they came back from Chaplins or sometime during the afternoon /early evening of 3 May - there is another report that was in the Daily Express Mrs Fenn also heard Maddie cry out that evening and so this may have been when she died. We are not certain exactly when of course.

Hope that explains - as best we know.

Luv Viv 10.22 aM

Ironside12.00 said...

I still think the photo has something to do wih the clothes maddie was wearing...What ever happened I feel happened when she was dressed....Maybe they showed this as the last photograph to give police the outfit she was wearing that day...as maddie would still be in her "abduction" clothes....

lmcg said...

Thanks for that Viv, it seems a bit odd, suspicious, even that they would use the babysitting sittng service and then suddenly stop for the 2nd and 3rd doesn't it? I really do hate to us the premeditated word, but if this is the case it does make you wonder.

Lmcg x

LittleGreyCell said...

How is it that some people think just because the McCanns were tired, upset and in a state of shock, that's proof of Madeleine having been abducted?

Surely, if Madeleine HAD come to harm by their hands, Kate and Gerry would not be sleeping, be very upset and in a state of shock?

I have read nothing about their behaviour that could not be put down to all the emotions they were feeling in coming to terms with their daughter's absence in WHATEVER circumstances it occured.

And actually, I've read quite a lot of stuff about how they DIDN'T react as one would expect, which convinces me they were not dealing with an abduction.

Funny how people pull the wool over their own eyes for their own reasons, isn't it?


LittleGreyCell said...

Arggghhhh!!!! 12.30!

Anonymous said...

Viv, was you asking who the man on the rocks was?

He is Michael Wright...married to Kates cousin Anne Marie....they live in Skipton and the Macs spent Christmas with them.
Anne Maries mother is called Sheila Cowell, and her son, the brother of Anne Marie is Simon Cowell who lives on the Isle of Man.The Macs came home fromPDL to attend the baptism of the Wright children.

Anonymous said...

oops forgot to sign merc.

Dylan said...

Bugger! My grandfather was a cowell. My cousen is simon cowell but not THAT simon cowell or the cowell that is related to sheila.

According to ancestry, the name is either Manx (Isle of Mann) or a sept of the McDonald clan of Scotland.

I really, really hope i am not a relative...lololololol!

Anonymous said...

There is supposed to be another aunt on the Isle of Man by the name of Rose Howard, who teaches at St Marys School....wonder if she posts as rosiepops.


Dylan said...

Arggh! Another one!

I have family crawling out of the woodwork now! Do you think i should send her a "hello, welcome to the familly" card, complete with skull and cross-bones?
Here a pictures of my children, please, stay away. or should i have a restraining order drwan up?

Anonymous said...

Soon have you related to rosie and hippy dylan...........run quick.


Dylan said...

Running very fast.
Do you have any scottish porrige oats to keep my energy stocks up and passport photo of a man with his trousers pulled up around his neck?....

felicity said...

Merc - how weird you ask if Rosie could be Aunt Rose the school teacher. I already posted on the other thread she used to come across as the vicious school maam -"now go back and read what I just said".

I certainly do think she sounds like an oldish aunt - hence I have previously suggested the one from Rothley or Canada! I also think at times she sounds like pure Gerry - apparently he is very busy on his computer when not at work...

Viv x

felicity said...

Hiya LGC

Mr Woolfall is no psychologist is he! If Kate knew Maddie was dead at the hands of her husband she would quite obviously be in the most dreadful state.

Luv Viv x