27 Mar 2009
A poster called Tara on 3 As revealed to me the web address containing the message the McCanns are now putting out in Portuguese which I have translated via google so is not perfect. But I think we get the gist, particularly the one about did you contact the police before or do you know anyone that did, ring our friend Isabel and tell her all about it. What the McCanns are doing is leaving no stone unturned in their bid to find out exactly what the police know and exactly what the evidence against them is, so that they can instruct their lawyers accordingly on how to defend this evidence. This is perverting the course of justice on a pretty major style and I have just never heard of criminals going to these lengths before.
It is exactly the same behaviour we saw with the McCanns extremely expensive forays to the High Court, all paid for out of the Find Madeleine Fund. On about 15 or 16 May 2007 the GASPARS former doctor friends of Kate Gerry and the Paynes gave the police some incredibly damning evidence about Gerry and Payne apparently discussing the desired sexual abuse of Madeleine. On 4 May at around 10 am immediately after the so called abduction they met with a Senior British Social Worker, Yvonne Martin who was extremely concerned about the conduct of David Payne and said that Kate was initially crying profusely but then both she and Gerry became aggressive with her.
Gerry rushed home to instruct his lawyers it would seem because he went home around 20 May the same day that an application was filed in the High Court under the Child Abduction and Custody Act seeking an Order, which was granted, that the Police give all relevant information to the McCanns concerning the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine. In short they wanted to know exactly what the police knew. But the Chief Constable of Leicester Police and other British Agencies decided they were taking no notice of that Order and were refusing to give the McCanns details of the files they had built up during the investigation. Files of CEOP who investigate child sexual abuse, files of the Serious Organised Crime Agency and of course Leicester Police themselves. Larger British Agencies will often give specialist expertise to a local force on major and complex investigations that often cross international boundaries as in this case.
In desperation whilst still Arguidos and being investigated in Portugal as well as in UK during April 2008 the McCanns made an ill judged application to Mrs Justice Hogg in the High Court, Family Division seeking to get her to enforce the Order she had made against British Agencies to force them to disclose their files to them. This is completely alien to normal criminal procedure where of course suspects just get investigated by the police and whilst they may want to know what is in the police files, tough luck they are not going to be told. But of course Kate and Gerry McCann with a huge amount of money at their disposal thought they could flout the law and tell the Chief Constable of Leicester Police and others just the way it is, their way. Mrs Justice Hogg responded by immediately making Madeleine a Ward of the High Court on 17 April 2008. Clarence Mitchell told lies about this in the press and claimed that Kate and Gerry had done this the previous year to cover the obvious embarrassment to his esteemed clients. All of the British agencies including even our Attorney General opposed Kate and Gerry's application to get the files and due to the complexity and seriousness of this case Mrs Justice Hogg set it down for hearing in July 2008 so that all concerned parties could attend and raise their objections. Up against such incredible opposition the McCanns no doubt received appropriate legal advice that they should withdraw their application and accept they are not entitled to do the impossible no matter if they do employ an expensive QC, he cannot change the law for them! Mrs Justice Hogg of course had access to all manner of confidential information concerning the McCanns and the investigation and made Orders that given Kate and Gerry had agreed to withdraw she was making an Order that NOT BRITISH AGENCY WAS REQUIRED TO DISCLOSE ANY INFORMATION FROM THEIR FILES TO KATE AND GERRY MCCANN. A face saver was negotiated that the Chief Constable would hand back to them 81 pieces of information the McCanns own solicitors had handed to him about supposed sightings of Madeleine, but the 11,000 pieces of information the Chief Constable had would remain confidential to protect the integrity of the investigation in accordance with normal procedure and of course what all the other agencies had too.
As we know Stuart Prior the lead British investigator negotiated with the Portuguese authorities as to what information would be made public from their own investigation but this clearly did not include investigations into British sex offenders or the financial affairs of Kate and Gerry McCann. This is obviously still under wraps and one of the reasons cited is to preserve relationships with another country. It seems clear from what have been allowed to learn that such information was not handed over to Portugal from British authorities. I am sure they were concerned about all the leaks getting into the press which seemed to emanate from Portugal and were absolutely determined the McCanns were not going to find out what they were investigating. Entirely understandable when you consider that Mrs Justice Hogg said I appeal to that one person who knows where Madeleine may be found. I believe that was direct appeal to Gerry McCann who of course did not choose to attend the hearing where he had sought to demand details of the investigation against him but had to back down.
As we can see below, he has still not quite given up, but he might as well!
There is still time to save her!
Madeleine McCann disappeared in Praia da Luz, Algarve, on 3 May 2007. Missing a few days for his 4th birthday. Little is known about what has really happened, how or where it is now gone. But there is no evidence that something bad has happened. It is very possible that the missing piece of the puzzle is still a secret in Praia da Luz
* You see or hear anything unusual the night of the disappearance of Madeleine?
* Observed some suspicious behavior on the part of others?
* Remember some of which may be related to the disappearance?
* At the time, contacted the police and told what he knew?
* You know someone who knows some relevant information?
* Know someone who lived or worked in Praia da Luz at the time of disappearance?
* Think you might have seen the little Madeleine since then?
Has at its disposal several ways to contact, totally anonymous or confidential. Whether by email, by letter to the EC 4066 FREE SHIPMENT Penha Faro - 8006-601 Faro, free calling to 800 814 028 and speak with our friend Isabel or by phone or sms to 910 503 645, please tell us what you know.
We look to find Madeleine!
If you know of any information that could help me find it, please do not be silent!
Talk, anonymously and confidentially, with my friend Isabel:800 814 028
25 Mar 2009
Message from Gerry and Kate
March 23 2009
As the second anniversary of Madeleine's abduction approaches, there is much still to be done. We continue to remain focussed on our aim - to find Madeleine and bring her back home safely. As Madeleine's parents we cannot and will not ever stop doing all we can to find her.
The search for Madeleine continues with the same strength and determination, and thankfully, there are many people who are continuing to help in a variety of ways. The reduction in media reporting does not signify a lack of effort - far from it! If anything, the search for Madeleine goes on with renewed vigour and great experience. We have quietly and persistently been working very hard - exploring all possible avenues in order to get that key piece of information. Someone somewhere knows where Madeleine is.
It is impossible for us to ignore the day to day heartache of missing Madeleine but there is however, a very important and positive fact that remains.... In spite of all the investigative work done, there is still absolutely nothing to suggest harm to Madeleine and therefore, a very real likelihood that Madeleine is alive and well. You only have to recall the cases of Elizabeth Smart, Shawn Hornbeck and Natascha Kampusch to appreciate that children can seem to disappear 'off the radar' for very long periods of time. The return of these children to their families not only gives us great hope but also starkly emphasises that perseverance is essential, and surely what every such child deserves.
Since Madeleine's abduction, we have learned a lot about missing children and child exploitation. The scale of the problem is massive and worldwide. Although finding Madeleine will always remain our priority, we feel it is our duty to highlight these problems as well as areas where legislation can be improved, in order to make the world a little safer for all children. To achieve these aims we are working closely with the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the Centre for Child Exploitation and Online Protection and other non-governmental agencies throughout Europe ( Investigation page). The Find Madeleine Campaign launched a new YouTube channel for missing children in August 2007 called 'Don't You Forget About Me' in conjunction with ICMEC and Google.
It is vital that we never, ever give up on Madeleine.
Can you imagine a little girl or boy out there, hoping and waiting to be found but for people then to 'write them off', forget about them, just because there's been no 'news'? For that child never to be reunited with their family because everyone had given up on them? Just imagine............................
And so, we will never, ever give up.
We urge you to remember Madeleine as a real, living and findable little girl.
Our most sincere thanks go everyone who is helping us in our efforts. You know why we must keep going.
Please don't give up on Madeleine
AND WITH THEIR USUAL SENSE OF PERFECT TIMING..
Page last updated at 15:13 GMT, Tuesday, 24 March 2009
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McCann appeal returns to Portugal
An investigation by Portuguese police failed to find Madeleine McCann
Madeleine McCann's parents are to launch a high-intensity new appeal for information tightly focused on the area where she went missing.
Over the next two weeks 10,000 leaflets in Portuguese will be handed out and posted in letterboxes in Praia da Luz, Lagos and Burgau in southern Portugal.
The campaign will also advertise on billboards, three buses and a van.
Madeleine, of Rothley, Leicestershire, vanished from a holiday flat in Praia da Luz, in the Algarve, on 3 May 2007.
Despite an international publicity campaign and massive police search, she has never been found.
Kate and Gerry McCann's spokesman, Clarence Mitchell, said the hope was to find the vital clue that could lead to Madeleine, who was nearly four when she went missing, being found.
Experience shows that people almost always confide in someone else
Find Madeleine Fund
The official Find Madeleine Fund said in a statement: "At the time of Madeleine's disappearance the emphasis was placed more on international appeals, and it has been recognised that the local Portuguese residents of Praia da Luz and the surrounding areas have never been properly asked about information they may have to give.
"Someone in the area could almost certainly have the vital information that could help Madeleine's return to her family, or a combination of people all coming forward with a single piece of information could piece together vital clues which could solve the disappearance.
"Experience also shows that people almost always confide in someone else."
Information can be provided to the McCanns' private investigation team anonymously by telephone, email, text message or free post, and will be treated in confidence.
21 Mar 2009
The McCanns curious behaviour, as witnessed by Inspector Ricardo Paiva,
The McCanns curious behaviour as witnessed by Inspector Ricardo Paiva PJ Police Files
To: Coordinator of Criminal Investigation, Lic. Gonçalo Amaral
From: Ricardo Paiva, Inspector
Subject: Disappearance of Madeleine McCann
- As the intermediary between Kate and Gerry McCann and the Police, Inspector Ricardo Paiva made several personal contacts with them.
- In that context he witnessed several "strange" behaviours of the couple that, according to his report, grew increasingly more negative in their reactions towards the activities of the police investigation, in particular after the use of British cadaver dogs.
- On several occasions the McCann couple said that the attention of the Police should remain focused on the hypothesis of abduction, that in their opinion that was the only scenario that had occurred. Also the Police shouldn't forget to keep investigating the suspect Robert Murat.
- Ricardo Paiva considered very strange that, on several occasions, more than 3 months after the disappearance of Madeleine, Kate McCann requested that the Police performed analysis to the blood, hair and nails of the twin siblings of Madeleine. According to her, she had remembered that on the day of the disappearance of Madeleine, despite all the noise and confusion made by the authorities and other persons that were looking for Madeleine in the
- "Today" (03/09/07), when Ricardo Paiva went to their residence to notify them to be present at the police headquarters to make a deposition, accompanied by their lawyer, if they wished, Kate McCann immediately reacted negatively, making comments like "what will my parents think" and "what will the press say when they find out" and that the "Portuguese police are suffering pressure from the Government to end the investigation immediately".
- Gerald McCann on the other hand, insisted constantly on delivering to Ricardo Paiva, letters and e-mails that he received and selected, most of them from psychics and mediums, and that in general held no credible information about the whereabouts of Madeleine and of her alleged abductor.
- More recently, even before Kate McCann was questioned, in a phone contact between Gerry Mccann and Ricardo Paiva, when referring to the investigation, Gerry stated that he was certain that the Police didn't have any proof that might incriminate them on the death of Madeleine McCann, and added that the police were wasting their time directing the investigation toward the parents.
Note: The speed of hair growth is roughly 1.25 centimeters or 0.5 inches per month, being about 15 centimetres or 6 inches per year. With age, the speed of hair growth might slow down to as little as 0.25 cm or 0.1 inch a month. People lose about 100 hairs per day, hair grows faster in the summer than it does in the winter. It also grows faster for kids than it does for adults. (source: hairfinder.com)
Gerry records the following in his blog, of
15 Mar 2009
8 YEARS OF SEXUAL ABUSE FOR BEING SARCY TO A "HOBBY BOBBY" EVIL CHILD ABUSE IN JERSEY AND UTTER COMPLACENCE
Home to something evil
What really happened at Haut de la Garenne, the children's home at the centre of the Jersey care scandal last year? Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy report on a building that still houses some very dark secrets
How Jersey's tourism bosses must have lamented the marketing slogan they chose last year: "Small enough to really get to know, yet still big enough to surprise."
It was supposed to mark a campaign to rejuvenate the holiday business.
Instead, it served to highlight a child abuse scandal that erupted on the island.
The story had first trickled out in November 2007, gaining almost no press attention. Following a covert police inquiry into allegations of mistreatment in the island's care homes, police and the NSPCC in London had appealed to former residents to come forward. By January 2008, hundreds were said to have made contact, reporting physical and sexual abuse, mostly at Haut de la Garenne, a grim, Victorian industrial school that had, until the mid-80s, served as Jersey's main children's home. Soon, Jersey was in the grip of one of the largest police child abuse inquiries seen anywhere in Britain.
How would the tiny island and its 88,000 residents hold up? They pride themselves on their traditionalism (the pound note survives here) and an independent spirit that locals refer to as the Jersey Way. The mantra, reflecting a closed community that knows how to look after itself, is credited with transforming the place from a bourgeois bucket-and-spade resort in the 50s into the oyster-shucking tax haven it is today. So potent is the lure of the island's low-tax, non-intrusive regime that the level of wealth required of prospective settlers has risen to stratospheric levels: only those who can pay a residency fee of about £1m and show assets in excess of £20m need apply. The lucky few include racing driver Nigel Mansell, golfer Ian Woosnam, broadcaster Alan Whicker and writer Jack Higgins, as well as hundreds of reclusive tycoons, who have made the island the third richest compact community in the world, after Bermuda and Luxembourg.
And then February 2008 arrived like a fist in the face. All anyone on the outside looking in could talk about was paedophiles. Then Jersey police announced they were investigating murder as well as complaints of physical and sexual abuse: witnesses said they recalled seeing the corpses of children at Haut de la Garenne; others claimed to have found bones buried beneath the foundations.
What made it worse for those on the inside was that the crisis had been started by an outsider, a Northern Irish copper called Lenny Harper, second-in-command of the island's police force, and the antithesis of the Jersey Way. Instead of managing bad news, Harper had teams of forensics specialists excavating for it. Every day, sitting on a granite wall outside the home, Harper regaled the world's press with stories that "something evil" had happened there - Haut de la Garenne had been a virtual charnel house. The first find was a sliver of human skull on 23 February. As the investigation progressed, the supposed tally rose to "six or more" bodies buried beneath the home.
By August last year, Harper had retired, to be replaced by a new policeman from the British mainland. More experienced than Harper, detective superintendent Mick Gradwell was a veteran whose cases included the deaths of 23 Chinese cockle-pickers at Morecambe Bay in 2004.
At his first press conference, on 12 November, Gladwell stunned reporters with his findings: "There were no bodies, no dead children, no credible allegations of murder and no suspects for murder." Only three bone fragments could be definitely said to be human, he said - and they dated from the 14th to 17th centuries. Newspapers ran gleeful headlines: "Lenny Harper lost the plot." By the time we arrived on Jersey in February 2009, a year after the digging had begun, it was as if Harper and his inquiry had never existed.
The Jersey establishment was triumphant. One of the island's most senior social workers expressed a view we were to hear many times: "I'm not saying all the former children's home residents are liars but some have misremembered," he said. "Some have embellished and a small number have been telling porkies to get money." Nothing was wrong with the island. Jersey was off the hook. It was all a cock-up.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Among the thousands of statements that still line the shelves of Harper's old incident room, and in the testimony of former residents and workers at Haut de la Garenne and other institutions across Jersey, many of whom we tracked down and interviewed, harrowing stories are buried.
Over a period of three decades, residents of the care homes made repeated complaints that they were being sexually and physically abused. A series of damning reports was produced, following confidential inquiries into these institutions, most of which went unheeded. Few prosecutions ensued.
It is true to say there were no corpses. However, the testimony provides compelling evidence of a catastrophic failure within Jersey's children's services that ran a regime so punitive, they preferred to lock up problem children en masse than deal with them in their own homes: four times more children, proportionately, are imprisoned in Jersey than in its nearest neighbour, France. And what happened to them once in care was something that Harper's team, had they not been distracted by murder plots, came close to exposing.
Harper clashed with the Jersey Way as soon as he was appointed head of police operations in 2002. A career officer, he had been office-bound for a few years and on Jersey he wanted to get back to real policing. Summing him up, one former Jersey colleague told us that Harper "was a bit of a pit bull" who found himself on a small island where discretion and subtlety were valued above all else. Early attempts at making his mark, including a clear-out of illegally held weapons and a curtailment of the often cosy relationship between local police and businessmen, made him instant enemies. Harper, who now lives in Ayrshire, told us: "I started getting death threats. But I'd been on the streets of Northern Ireland."
His most significant problem was recognising the limits of his power. Jerseymen trace their ancestry back to the medieval Dukedom of Normandy and a feudal culture survives. The island is divided into 12 parishes, each governed by a connétable or head constable, who between them raise a private volunteer police force, the Honorary Constabulary. It might sound like a toytown operation, but these so-called "hobby bobbies" form a network of neighbours, friends and relatives licensed to arrest and charge fellow islanders through powers vested in them by the 500-year-old States Assembly.
The assembly - made up of the connétables, their deputies and 12 elected senators, many of them multimillionaires - is supervised by the bailiff, Jersey's highest officer, who is appointed by the Queen, while the task of upholding the law and keeping the hobby bobbies in check falls to the attorney general. These two key posts are currently held by brothers, Sir Philip and William Bailhache, members of one of the oldest and most powerful families on Jersey. At the bottom of the heap are the 240 officers of the States of Jersey Police, imposed on the island in the 50s but even today requiring attorney general Bailhache's approval to charge anyone with anything more serious than a traffic citation.
It was a system that frustrated newcomer Lenny Harper, until he found an ally inside the attorney general's office. This was a mainlander who similarly mistrusted the Jersey Way and told Harper of a "web of child abusers" who he claimed all knew each other. He also alleged the attorney general's office appeared reluctant to prosecute. When we put this to William Bailhache, he replied that Harper had repeatedly suggested his office was "soft" on child abuse - this is untrue, he says, and so is the suggestion that he was reluctant to prosecute. "I have signed many indictments for people charged with child abuse offences, some of them historic. Several cases have resulted in substantial sentences of imprisonment."
Harper recalls: "I was cautious at first. The allegations reached into many worthy organisations, including the Sea Cadets and the St John Ambulance, and there were whispers about establishment men. One name that kept cropping up was Paul Every, a commanding officer in the island's Sea Cadets." Every had also served as a senior civil servant.
Harper dug around, discovering that Every's name had surfaced in connection with child porn offences during Operation Ore in 1999. In late 2004, Harper applied for a warrant to search the Sea Cadets' HQ. He was refused. Harper then contacted the Jersey Sea Cadets directly: "They completely ignored me and refused to sack Every." When the States Assembly, too, declined to act, and Harper received a message from the attorney general's office that it was reluctant to prosecute, Harper began to suspect a cover-up. He says, "What made things more fraught was that some of my own officers were in the Sea Cadets." (On this case, the attorney general comments: "It is absolutely not the case that I decided not to prosecute Every. It is true that one of my officials wrongly gave Mr Harper that impression.")
Harper pressed on, and in January 2005 had Every arrested and his home computer seized. On it, police recovered a cache of child porn and evidence that Every had scoured the internet for "naked sea cadets". Still unable to persuade the local Sea Cadets to act, Harper wrote in August 2005 to the youth organisation's national HQ in London, and finally Every was removed from his position. The following month, Harper arrested Roger James Picton, another Sea Cadet volunteer; Picton was found guilty of indecent assault on a schoolgirl in February 2006 and Every was convicted of child porn offences that December.
In early 2007, convinced there was a broad network of abusers operating on the island and mindful of Jersey's steadfast refusal to introduce a sex offenders' register, Harper began reviewing statements made by Sea Cadets who had alleged abuse. He discovered that many had been in care, especially in Haut de la Garenne. Calling up their care files, Harper found that a member of Jersey police's family protection team, Brian Carter, had been there before him. Carter was no longer in the force, but finding him on the island was easy. It turned out that in 2004 Carter had noticed an unusually high incidence of suicide among men who had passed through Haut de la Garenne. Reviewing the records of 950 former residents, he discovered that a significant number had complained of sexual and physical abuse, describing similar acts and perpetrators, going back to the 50s. Shockingly, even though supervisors at the homes had dutifully noted the complaints, none had been properly investigated.
Carter had sought out victims and taken statements detailing how they were allegedly beaten and raped by older children and staff, and also by Sea Cadet officers, St John Ambulance volunteers and at least one senator in the States Assembly. In April 2006, Carter handed the dossier to Jersey CID. Nothing happened.
Suspecting that allegations of crimes against hundreds of children were being brushed under the carpet, Carter quit the force in late 2006. Now, Harper alerted Graham Power, head of Jersey's police, to the dossier. Appalled, Power contacted the Association of Chief Police Officers which launched an independent inquiry, currently being handled by South Yorkshire. In September 2007, Power gave Harper the go-ahead to launch a full-scale child abuse investigation, with Carter re-employed as a civilian investigator. Together they set up an incident room at Jersey police headquarters in Rouge Bouillon, St Helier. Detective inspector Alison Fossey, another outsider, originally from Strathclyde, was called in to help sift through the first of 4,000 children's files.
Abuse claims were rife. Haut de la Garenne was at the centre; other child facilities on the island were also implicated, including a secure unit called Les Chenes and a "group home", Blanche Pierre. Harper ordered his men to find and interview as many victims as they could - something that proved difficult because several former care home residents had already spoken to Carter and were disillusioned when nothing came of it.
Fearful that his inquiry would collapse, it was then that Harper went public, making an appeal for witnesses to come forward, with the backing of the NSPCC. "I was summoned to the chief minister's office and given a rollicking," Harper claims. "CM Frank Walker told me, 'Stop calling these people victims. It's not proven yet. You can't say that. Do you realise what you are doing here can bring the government down?' " We tried to contact Walker, but he declined to respond.
A firestorm now swirled across the island. Harper recalls: "The NSPCC opened a helpline and the phones went haywire." Former Haut residents talked of being slammed into walls, punched and slapped. One victim from Les Chenes claimed to have been knocked out by a staff member and told police, "The supervisor put a foot on my chest and stood on me, screaming, 'This is what we do to scum like you!' " Former care home children also detailed sadistic sexual abuse, with residents raping their dorm mates and supervisors doing the same.
Dozens of potential protagonists were thrown up by the new inquiry, the same names having also been identified by victims in the Carter report. One of them, a former Jersey senator, Wilfred Krichefski, who died in 1974, was known as the "Fat Man" among Haut residents who accused him of multiple rapes. Other Haut victims claimed to have been "lent out" to men who took them sailing into international waters before forcing them to have sex - crimes thus committed outside Jersey's jurisdiction. Colin Tilbrook, a former headmaster at Haut de la Garenne in the 60s, was repeatedly named as having roamed the corridors at night with a pillow tucked under his arm with which to stifle the screams of the children he raped. Jersey social services had never investigated Tilbrook, who went on to secure a job in the early 70s on the British mainland. When news of the Jersey investigation became public, Tilbrook's foster daughter, by then in her 30s, came forward to reveal that he had repeatedly raped her when she was a child.
Like Krichefski, Tilbrook was dead, as were others accused, including Jim Thomson, the superintendent of Haut de la Garenne in 1979, who was repeatedly accused of abuse. It was the living that presented Harper's team with the knottiest problems. The list of those who had worked at the homes included the serving education director, Tom McKeon, and his deputy, Mario Lundy. Both were interviewed by police earlier this year; both vigorously deny any wrongdoing.
The inquiry was delivered a blow when, in January 2008, Harper's deputy, DI Alison Fossey, went to the mainland on a strategic command course. Fossey had a law degree and had worked in child protection for most of her career. She was a details person, while Harper had a more scattergun approach. In her absence, the investigation was transformed by lurid claims of bodies and murder. One police report from this time states, "Among the [Haut] victims were a few who said that children had been dragged from their beds at night screaming and had then disappeared." A local builder who had done renovations there in 2003 said he had found what he thought were children's bones and shoes. These items had been disposed of by the Jersey pathologist. Harper remained suspicious. On 5 February 2008, he flew to Oxford to take advice from LGC Forensics, a crime scene service used by forces across the UK.
Two weeks later, an LGC team encamped at Haut de la Garenne. A squad of technicians in white suits pored over the site. Central to it all were two sniffer dogs, Eddie and Keela, which Harper took to describing as his "canine assets". They were veterans deployed in the search for missing Madeleine McCann in Portugal, although the controversy caused there should have served as a warning to Harper. In Portugal, the dogs had crawled over a car used by Gerry and Kate McCann, and sounded the alarm. The Portuguese police then claimed that the McCanns had killed their daughter, when what the dogs had actually picked up on was both parents' legitimate proximity to death, working in hospitals.
At Haut de la Garenne, the dogs made straight for the place where in 2003 the builder said he had found bones. A senior police officer recalled, "They did cartwheels on the spot. And Harper went through the roof." As in Portugal, the dogs had smelled something but could not differentiate between ancient remains and a contemporary murder. But at 2pm on 23 February, caution cast aside, Harper called a press conference, telling reporters police believed that the partial remains of a child were buried there.
Over the following months, £7.5m would be spent sifting 100 tonnes of earth. By the time DI Fossey returned, there were 65 milk teeth, 165 bone fragments and two lime-lined pits dominating the inquiry.
Meanwhile the child abuse investigation, which had already identified 160 alleged victims, was, Harper claimed, taking flak. Harper was called to the attorney general's office after his team charged a former Haut warder with indecently assaulting underage girls at the home from 1969 to 1973. William Bailhache demanded that a lawyer appointed by his office be inserted into the inquiry to assess the evidence before any arrest or charges could be preferred - common practice on the mainland, he says.
The police sent the lawyer details of a further five suspects, including a former police officer and two couples. Hearing nothing for two months, Harper went ahead and arrested the 50-year-old former police officer on 12 June last year. The attorney general's lawyer had the man released the next day, citing a lack of evidence. Likewise he vetoed charges being laid against one of the two couples. That left only Jane and Alan Maguire, a couple now living in France, and their case, too, went nowhere.
Bailhache told us: "It would no doubt have been much easier for me personally if I had simply waved prosecutions through. However, had I done so I would have been failing in my duty... Actions on my part which Mr Harper no doubt interpreted as frustrating a prosecution were rather directed at ensuring that any prosecution which was properly brought had the best chance of succeeding."
In the end, Harper charged only two other individuals, both peripheral, one of whom, in a terrible irony, also claims to have been a child victim of abuse at Haut de la Garenne in the 70s.
Once Lenny Harper retired in August 2008, and the murder inquiry was discredited, some island officials were concerned that the investigation into the abuse allegations might collapse, too.
The alarm had been raised in 1979, following the death of a two-year-old at the hands of a foster parent. Two years later, visiting social workers David Lambert and Elizabeth Wilkinson, concerned that none of the proposed improvements had been put in place, launched a full-blown inspection. Their confidential report, taking a broader look at Jersey society, concluded that while the island was reinventing itself as a haunt for jetsetters, there was a neglected group afflicted by a "high incidence of marital breakdown, heavy drinking, alcoholism and psychiatric illness". These problems were exacerbated by a small island mentality that demanded everyone "conform to acceptable public standards".
Children rebelled in small ways: dropping litter, swearing, facing down the police, having parties on the beach. On Jersey, all of these "offences" were, according to Lambert and Wilkinson, often sufficient to get a child into serious trouble. And once children had come to the attention of the police, it was almost inevitable that they would enter Jersey's care home system. Without any provision for children to be bailed, most were incarcerated on remand, placed alongside children taken from their families, often for such reasons as "giving the mother a break". In this rural backwater, one in 10 children had been in care, a ratio far higher than on the mainland.
Once in care, the real problems began, with predatory residents, some with criminal records, bunked with the vulnerable. Cases were almost never reviewed; Lambert and Wilkinson found in one group of 65 children, 36 had remained invisible inside the system for more than 10 years. This was the more likely if parents made little fuss, or even, in some cases, left the island. One of the invisible told us how he had been incarcerated at Haut de la Garenne for being repeatedly sarcastic to the hobby bobbies; he stayed in care for eight years, he says, without ever seeing a trained social worker, during which time he claimed to have been raped by adults and fellow inmates alike.
At the time of Lambert and Wilkinson's visit, Haut was run by superintendent Jim Thomson. Like many then working in the Jersey care system, he had no professional qualifications. Thomson, who would be accused of sexual and physical abuse in Harper's 2008 inquiry, was found by Lambert and Wilkinson to have created a "highly unsatisfactory" environment that focused on corporal punishment for "boys aged 10 to 15", some of them locked in remand cells for days at a time. It was an institution ripe for abusers, especially at night when only one staff member was on duty for 45 children sleeping in four distant wings. Haut was "not suitable for any of the tasks in which it is currently engaged".
Nick (not his real name) was resident at the time. He told us he had been taken, aged 11, to Haut de la Garenne in "a large white van with bars on its windows" after his mother abandoned him in 1975. He said: "The dorm was at the end of a rabbit warren of corridors and consisted of eight hospital-style beds lined up against opposite walls. Most of the boys were in their teens and had been in the home for years." No sooner had he arrived than he was beaten up and his possessions stolen. "At night they would never come to check up on you. The younger boys would be tied down on their beds and raped by the older lads." He survived only because he was a boxer and he was allowed to stay with foster parents at weekends, a time when adults were said to come and prey on the children left behind.
According to the 1981 report, other homes caused concern, too, for their punitive regimes; chief among them was Blanche Pierre with its new house parents, Jane and "Big Al" Maguire. But the extent of the allegations against the Maguires would not be properly investigated for another 18 years. One of their former charges was Dannie Jarman, now 28, who moved into Blanche Pierre when her mother was diagnosed with cancer in 1985, ending up in a hospice. "I wasn't allowed to visit her," Dannie told us. "Two weeks after her funeral, I was told she was dead. I was repeatedly told that our mum hadn't brought us up right and had never wanted me." Other children later levelled accusations about the extremely harsh conditions.
No one would have known about it had Dannie Jarman not got drunk one night in 1998 and thrown a brick through the Maguires' bedroom window. When the Maguires called the police, former residents, including Dannie, were brought in for questioning. After they repeated their allegations of abuse, the police turned around their inquiry and charged the Maguires instead.
The then attorney general, Michael Birt, today the island's deputy bailiff, sought advice from counsel who suggested that while this home "might possibly have been one that was run on a somewhat Dickensian basis, the strict regime applied by the Maguires would have not been regarded as unusual in pre-politically correct times. Indeed it is quite likely members of the jury would have some sympathy for people who in order to instil a sense of discipline in their charges threaten to wash a child's mouth out with soap and water." The counsel suggested: "The evidence is extremely weak." Birt, who declined to comment when we approached him, dropped the charges. Following an internal inquiry, Jane Maguire was subsequently sacked by Jersey social services.
Another inquiry focused on Jersey's elite Victoria College after the head of maths was jailed for four years in April 1999 for indecently assaulting a pupil. In his report, Stephen Sharp, a former chief education officer for Buckinghamshire, criticised senior staff and school governors, who included bailiff Sir Philip Bailhache, for failing to act speedily or adequately. It had taken 15 years for the teacher to be caught and Sharp concluded: "The handling of the complaint was more consistent with protecting a member of staff and the college's reputation than safeguarding the best interests of pupils."
Haut de la Garenne eventually closed in 1986, Blanche Pierre in 2001, but when Kathie Bull, a British child behaviour expert, was called in the following year to inspect the island's children's services, she found the situation had worsened. So many children were now being locked up that the island's institutions operated a "hot-bedding" system to cater for them, which in the case of Les Chenes included children sleeping on a pool table. Discipline was meted out in The Pits, a punishment block consisting of four bare concrete cells. The island's youth justice system was backwards and brutal, Bull concluded, and she made 50 recommendations, including the establishment of a Children's Executive.
Four years later, when Simon Bellwood, a British social worker, was employed to close Les Chenes and move the secure unit to a new, purpose-built site, he was startled to find the old regime still in force: "I met children who spent months at a time, near naked, in bare, concrete punishment blocks." When he made public his concerns in 2007 - following a long-running dispute with some of the old regime who were still in positions of authority - he was sacked; the then health minister, senator Stuart Syvret, who had vocally championed those who alleged they had been abused, was voted out of office for his "intemperate and ill-considered statements in the assembly".
Two years on, Mick Gradwell's team is trying to pick up the pieces of the abuse inquiry. The attorney general has been handed evidential files against key suspects by the police, and says he expects to make his decisions in the next few weeks. Bellwood, Syvret and others are keeping up the pressure on Jersey's States Assembly, and lobbying UK justice minister Jack Straw to call a full, independent inquiry (the subject of a court hearing to be held in London next Tuesday). But, many of the victims of the care homes of Jersey are convinced that nothing can outflank an island establishment that often saw little wrong in what had gone before and is reluctant to embrace the future prescribed by the social work experts.
The guardians of the Jersey Way continue to thrive, such as the sprightly Iris Le Feuvre, elected to the States Assembly for almost 20 years, who as president of the education committee oversaw Haut de la Garenne, Les Chenes and Blanche Pierre during some of their most troubled times. Now retired, the 80-year-old, whose husband Eric was for years a hobby bobby, lives in St Lawrence parish. "Granny's coming," she shouts as an over-excitable Tibetan spaniel barks at the gate, and ushers us into her front room. Le Feuvre, who collected an MBE from Buckingham Palace in 2002, says of Haut de la Garenne: "It's been a terrible business. But mostly I feel for William and Sir Philip Bailhache. They've been through so much."
But what of the victims? She smiles: "Oh, such a fuss has been made. My father always used a belt on me. It did me the world of good."
12 Mar 2009
30 Apr 2008
1 Mar 2008
29 Feb 2008
13 Mar 2009
13 March 2009
Gerry's complaints leave a bitter taste
How strange it was to see pale, pugnacious Gerry McCann back in the news this week. It serves as a reminder that while the world has moved on for the rest of us, time stands still for him.
For the McCann family, the clocks stopped nearly two years ago, on that terrible night in the Algarve when their three-year-old daughter slipped from public view and has not been seen since.
In their quest to find Madeleine, the desperate McCanns invited the world's Press into their lives. It was a relationship that was doomed to sour.
Grievance: Gerry McCann has complained about the Press
For months, the McCanns' efforts to keep their daughter's plight high on the news agenda were intense. Far from shrinking from the oxygen of publicity, what they feared most was the muffle of public apathy. In the process, they became experts at manipulating the media to their own advantage.
At one point, Mr McCann even returned to the family home in Leicestershire to tie his own yellow ribbon to the teddystocked Madeleine shrine that had been hastily erected in the centre of the village.
Then and now, watching Gerry McCann walking the red carpet of his grief, as knowing as a Cannes film star, can be an uncomfortable experience.
This week, Mr McCann took the opportunity to air his grievances about the Press and its treatment of his family in front of the House of Commons Culture Select Committee.
For what possible purpose? Certainly, some bad judgment decisions were made by the more excitable newspapers, who have been punished with hefty libel payments and widespread approbation for their troubles. Surely that is an end to the matter?
No. Mr McCann is not finished complaining. Yet the more and more he complains about what happened in the aftermath of his daughter's disappearance, the more I feel he is attempting to assuage his own guilt for failing to be there when she needed him most.
Still, it's not his fault that these useless Select Committees, stuffed with the third rate and the Parliamentary walking wounded, give an indulgent platform for anyone with a grievance.
8 Mar 2009
What does it take to wipe the omnipresent smile from the lips of Gerry McCann following the disappearance of his daughter, little Maddie, just one thing, THE POLICE
Following on from a very interesting thread last night on 3 As which I took part in where the poster Stevo, raised the issue, did Gerry McCann kill Madeleine and then try to blame Kate I thought I would have a look and see if there is any real evidence that she has not been so willing to take part in his press campaigns. It did not take me very long to do that, with this sprawling 6 page interview where he alone, just goes on and on. He alone recently travelled back to Portugal, he alone is appearing before the Commons Select Committe on Libel litigants, Lawyer's conduct and fees and the conduct of the Press on Tuesday. It does increasingly look like a situation that Kate does not want to be a part of, but still this man endlessly goes on, like a blunderbuss, WILL HE STILL BE FIRING SHOTS WHEN HE BECOMES AN ANTIQUE OR WILL THE POLICE HAVE ARRESTED HIM BEFORE IT GETS TO THAT STAGE. Let us hope so. Do I agree he killed Madeleine? Well no, not necessarily, I think he was responsible for her disappearance though and I think his friends David Payne and Russell O'Brien were too. Do I think Kate was a principal offender who deserves a lengthy custodial sentence? No I most certainly do not. I think what I have always thought she is an ill and oppressed woman who has suffered enormously and she lost her will to prevent some terrible events. She needs help far more than she needs punishment IMO. But of course the law does require that women protect their children. To what extent was she able to do that?This thread demonstrated that many people hold the same sort of views as Stevo and I do and yet there is this mighty force that prevents people from being able to discuss this, when that force is overborne proper discussion takes place, just for once, that does not focus on endless boring arguments about what PC Grime says, the dogs was it blood or was it cadaver odour, let us take the law into our own hands, let us march on Downing Street, let us prepare a "dossier", it was the British government fault, or the minutiae of which camera someone used, it looks at the real issues and I would urge anyone to have a read, just ignore the time wasters, you will quickly spot them
GUESS WHAT GERRY MCCANN? WE DO NOT BELIEVE YOU SUFFERED ONE LITTLE BIT AND WE DO NOT WANT TO HEAR YOU TELL US THAT, WE MOST CERTAINLY DID NOT WANT YOU TO MAKE £10m MAKING BOOKS AND FILMS TO TELL US THAT EITHER AND ARE SO PLEASED YOUR NARCISSTIC DREAMS GOT FRUSTRATED.
JUSTICE FOR MADDIEXX
After three-year-old Madeleine McCann disappeared on a family vacation in Portugal, her parents pursued a high-stakes strategy: media saturation. It succeeded beyond their wildest imaginings—winning the aid of everyone from J. K. Rowling to the Pope—and failed miserably. Getting the first in-depth interview with Gerry McCann since he and his wife, Kate, were declared suspects, the author re-traces their footsteps to their daughter’s empty bed.
by Judy Bachrach WEB EXCLUSIVE January 10, 2008
On a hot day last September, four months after their daughter, Madeleine, almost four, vanished from a sleepy resort town in Portugal during a family vacation, Kate and Gerry McCann, both British doctors, opened their villa door to a local policeman.
The policeman’s name was Ricardo, and he had been, relatively speaking, on friendly terms with the couple. He knew their circumstances. Their lives, heavy with grief since their daughter’s disappearance, had undergone a few small improvements. Kate had grown shockingly thin, but at least she was eating regular meals.
This time, however, the bearing of the detective from the Policia Judiciária was different. And the McCanns were not entirely surprised. “Because for months they used to have regular weekly meetings with the Portuguese police, and then they stopped,” recalls Gerry’s older sister Trish Cameron, who was in the villa at the time. Also, without the McCanns’ knowledge or consent, the police had photocopied Kate’s diary, examined her borrowed Bible, and removed Gerry’s laptop.
“Do you have something to tell us?” Ricardo asked, dramatically.
“No,” Kate replied. “Do you have something to tell us?”
He nodded. “Yes. You are being made arguidos.” He was using the Portuguese word for “formal suspects.”
It was at that point, Trish says, that her sister-in-law became incandescent with rage, screaming, “Do you honestly believe that I would murder my own child?”
“No,” said the policeman.
The Portuguese police, as they informed the world through calculated leaks to their own media, simply believed that Gerry, a Scottish cardiologist, and Kate, a general practitioner, both 39, were lying when they said their daughter had been abducted from their resort villa the night of May 3. Authorities now suspected the McCanns were somehow responsible for their daughter’s death and the disposal of her body, though in what manner no one seems to know. Local incinerators have been scoured, to no avail. The $4 million reward for information leading to Madeleine’s recovery; the televised pleas by the McCanns; the hiring of Control Risks Groups, a security firm whose directors included former S.A.S. commander Sir Michael Rose; the Find Madeleine Web site visited by more than 80 million people in three months after the disappearance—these, the police believed, were all red herrings.
And for a long time the global media were of the same opinion. “Could Kate and Gerry McCann have had a hand in their own child’s disappearance?” People magazine asked in September. By October, Britain’s Daily Mail had an answer: new dna tests “put the mccanns back under suspicion.” Body fluids found in a car rented by the McCanns 25 days after Madeleine disappeared, it was subsequently reported, matched 88 percent of the child’s genetic profile. (A problem with this information, British DNA specialist Nigel Hodge informs me, is that most genetic profiles are based on 20 DNA components. “And 88 is not divisible by 20,” he says flatly. Moreover: “If there are DNA components that do not match, the DNA could not come from that person.”)
Undaunted, the tabloids summoned up yet another genetic fantasy: maddie: who’s her daddy? asked the Daily Star in October, implying that Gerry is not Madeleine’s biological father. (The girl was conceived through in-vitro fertilization.) As the news industry trumpeted All Madeleine All the Time, and Barbara Walters and Oprah clamored for interviews, Kate’s elegant face grew more gaunt in each tabloid photo. Meanwhile, a British poll revealed that 48 percent of all respondents believed the couple could have been responsible for their daughter’s death. Only 20 percent considered them completely innocent.
“Yes, yes, I know,” Gerry says bitterly. “Kate killed her in a frenzy, Madeleine was sedated by us, she fell down the stairs—in which case you would have thought they’d have found her body. I’ve heard all that! There have been a huge number of theories in the media. But what I want to know is—who told them all that?”
In fact, much of what is aired or printed about the vanished girl and her parents is mendacious, mistaken, or just plain conflicting: according to the press, to various detectives, and to top Portuguese authorities, the child is alternatively alive in Morocco (or maybe Portugal or Bosnia) or dead, killed one moment by kidnappers and in other instances by family. In all these hypotheses the supporting facts are invented, from the reason for Kate’s lack of public emotion to the first acts of the Portuguese police (dubbed “the Keystone Cops” and “Butt Heads” by reporters). Thus, the media has managed to rob the McCanns of their daughter a second time. And to complicate matters, it was Gerry McCann himself who, two days after Madeleine’s disappearance, ignited the media conflagration that is now consuming the couple.
It is Gerry who is behind what he tells me is “the marketing … a high public awareness” of Madeleine. At his side while we talk is Clarence Mitchell, a voluble former government media analyst and BBC reporter, handpicked by Gerry to be the latest in a line of spokesmen. On October 17, Mitchell spoke at Coventry University. His topic: “Missing Madeleine McCann: The Perfect PR Campaign.” Except that it has been anything but perfect.
It has in fact been so counterproductive that, as winter approached, Portuguese attorney general Fernando Pinto Monteiro suggested that one way or another the McCanns were responsible for their child’s death. Specifically he said that if indeed Madeleine had been kidnapped, it was the carefully contrived publicity engineered by her parents that likely sealed her fate. “With the whole world having Madeleine’s photo,” he observed, any abductor would have been pushed to such a degree that “there’s a greater probability of the little girl being dead than alive.”
And with this last devastating conclusion—namely that Madeleine will likely never reappear—Madeleine’s own father haltingly agrees.
Gerry McCann has vivid blue eyes set in an impassive face, and a jaw that has grown more angular and prominent as the tragedy has unfolded and almost seven pounds have melted from his frame. There are those, including a onetime close associate, who find him difficult and controlling, feeling he has the trademark arrogance and self-regard of many surgeons. And his judgment is certainly questionable. In the fall, for instance, it emerged that the McCanns had made two mortgage payments from the $2.4 million fund set up to find Madeleine. But months of anguish have taken their toll, and now there is mainly resignation.
When the policeman came to their door with the bad news that they were now suspects, Gerry simply asked him to leave. “Why shoot the messenger? I felt that saying anything more was not going to change what happened,” he says.
Kate, however, cannot help replaying the circumstances that led to the child’s disappearance—the work, she is certain, of a mysterious abductor. “I will tell you what I haven’t told anyone,” says Jon Corner, a family friend. “In August, I was with Kate in Portugal. She told me, ‘I wish I could roll back time and go back to the day before Madeleine was abducted. I would slow down time. I would get a really good look around and have a really good think. And I’d think: Where are you? Who are you? Who is secretly watching my family? Because someone was watching my family very, very carefully. And taking notes.’ ”
“That’s a logical conclusion for anyone who knows anything about what happened to us,” Gerry says briskly. This is his first detailed and candid interview since being declared a suspect, and so great is his loathing of most journalists that it takes place in utter secrecy near his home, in Leicestershire. In a country inn lined with portraits of ladies in powdered wigs, a polite manager points the way to the back exit, in the event other reporters drop by.
While front-page stories about the McCanns sell newspapers—up to 30,000 extra copies a day—perhaps because they happen to be a handsome, prosperous couple wrecked by tragedy (“Let’s face it: if Kate were fat and spotty and aging, they wouldn’t be selling all these papers,” says Trish), the British media believe that sales don’t really soar unless the couple is accused of villainy. “The last equivalent story was probably the Second World War,” observed a columnist for The Guardian. When, in November, Panorama, a BBC newsmagazine show, bought the same five-month-old footage of the McCanns (shot by a family friend) as ABC’s 48 Hours and repackaged it, viewership rose by 2 million, to 5.3 million.
In this search for villainy, the British tabloids are aided by the most unlikely ally: the Portuguese police, who are often the sources for some of the more outrageous allegations, unquestioningly swallowed by the Portuguese media.
“No, the leak about [Madeleine’s] DNA not being compatible with Gerry’s is not malicious, not at all,” a Portuguese journalist tells me sarcastically, referring to the who’s her daddy? headline, before turning deadly earnest. “It is revenge, pure and simple. Because the British attack our police as stupid. And backward. And incompetent. Because they say we are a primitive country and our laws are primitive!”
The Portuguese police “don’t want to be portrayed as a leather-jacketed, swearing bunch of fat, greasy villains who beat people up with rubber hoses,” one of the most active in the McCann camp tells me, and yet this is exactly how they have been portrayed.
Thus the Madeleine frenzy, which began as a story about bad judgment and irretrievable loss, has spun out of control, each day bringing fresh allegations, outrage, celebrity alliances—the Pope! J. K. Rowling! David Beckham!—and sensational links to power. At the E.U. summit in mid-October, for instance, British prime minister Gordon Brown, who had regularly been in touch with the McCanns, raised the Madeleine issue with Portuguese prime minister José Sócrates, urging “proper cooperation between the British and Portuguese police.” Gerry’s allies were jubilant.
And yet this high-powered strategy has also backfired. There appears to be massive resentment among the Portuguese. Although Madeleine’s photo is posted at Heathrow, it is nowhere to be found at Faro, the airport nearest the seaside village from which she disappeared.
Shortly after the McCanns hired a team of Spanish private investigators, in early October, word leaked out that the Portuguese police had stopped their search for Madeleine (at least temporarily). Nothing the parents have done has worked out right.
“The McCanns have completely changed the way we now look for missing children—it used to be you go to the police; now it means you go to the media, to celebrities,” says a disapproving Scotland Yard specialist in abused children.
“There are many cases in the world of children who have disappeared,” Portuguese national police chief Alípio Ribeiro recently complained. “But none have this external component, this massive public exposure, that gives it a fantastic, almost surreal dimension.”
The McCanns are both reviled and pitied, occasionally in the same breath. Madeleine’s face has appeared on movie screens, on cell phones, in e-mails, in airports, in health centers, and on British Airways planes. “So the strategy we used,” says Gerry, “well—somehow something caught the public’s imagination.” But it has not caught their daughter’s abductor.
The McCanns are also fairly sure their phones are monitored not only by the British police, who are waiting to see if a kidnapper calls, but also by Portuguese authorities. “It’s quite possible,” acknowledges Gerry’s older brother, John McCann, a pharmaceutical salesman who lives in Glasgow. “Because there’s information that’s been appearing in the press that you’d have to think, How did that get into the public domain? Because it wasn’t us releasing it. Every now and again, amidst all the speculation and rumor and outright lies, there’s been a grain of truth.”
“What happened in the last two months has clearly polarized people,” Gerry says slowly. “People can support you in your darkest hours, and in our case the darkest hour was of course when Madeleine went missing.”
And now, I wonder, with all the polarization?
“And now it is just”—he swallows hard—“bleak.”
Praia da Luz (population 1,000) is regularly described, with reason, as “a little Britain.” The same could be said of the entire Algarve, the southern Portuguese province in which the village is situated, which was partially ransacked in the late 16th century by the Earl of Essex. That tradition is now carried on by more than 50,000 British property owners in the area. Signs are in English, and every other commercial establishment proclaims itself an “Irish pub,” which means Carling beer and, on Sundays, shoulder of lamb and “Yorkie pud.” At 10 o’clock one very warm morning, four beet-red Englishmen sampling lagers in an outdoor café steps away from the turquoise sea are being scolded by their desperate guide: “You are always drunk before noon!”
New security guards, in burgundy berets and black military pants, now ring portions of the Ocean Club resort, where the McCanns were staying until mid-September. The village is quite desolate. The heart went out of it last May.
For almost a week last spring, the McCanns’ holiday routine was unvarying. After high tea, at 5:30 p.m., Madeleine and her two-year-old twin siblings, Sean and Amelie, would be retrieved by their parents from the kids’ club. Two hours later the children were put to bed back in their own room in an unprepossessing corner villa, its two entrances bordered by terra-cotta tile and a small white wall covered with pink bougainvillea. The back door, reached by a gate and a flight of steps, was left unlocked.
Then the McCanns would join seven friends at the resort’s tapas bar, close by the swimming pool, an area described by Gerry as “like being at the bottom of your garden.… You could see our apartment from where we were.” You can indeed glimpse the very top part. However, in order to see anyone entering through the back, one would have to dine standing up. The other entrance to the villa is not visible at all.
At intervals, members of the group (since dubbed “the Tapas Nine”) checked on one another’s children, although this method was imperfect. The night of May 3, Gerry checked on Madeleine, fast asleep in her pink-and-white Winnie the Pooh pajamas, and the twins, at 9:05, but the friend who next checked on the McCann children said afterward that he did not actually see Madeleine.
Thus the most important clue to the mystery of Madeleine’s disappearance was initially ignored. At around 9:15, another friend, Jane Tanner, emerged from her own villa to see a white man in beige trousers—five feet six, brown hair (longer in the back), and perhaps 35, she later told the police. In his arms he cradled a child wearing pink-and-white pajamas.
It wasn’t until Kate walked into the villa at 10 and felt a sickening breeze—the front window had been jimmied open—that she realized something terrible had happened. “The scene was stark,” Gerry tells me. On one bed the twins lay sleeping. In the next lay only the plush cat toy Madeleine was never without. That was when Kate came out screaming, “Madeleine has gone!”
In subsequent moments, she seems to have added, “They’ve taken her! We have let her down!” This was the version Sheena Rawcliffe, the managing director of The Resident, a local English-language newspaper, quickly learned, albeit secondhand, and the phrasing puzzled her. What was meant by “They”? It was the first element to ignite suspicion in the Portuguese press, but not the only one. What kind of parents would go out to eat and leave their small children alone in the room, especially in a country where restaurants welcome children, the local press wondered. Why didn’t they hire one of the resort’s babysitters? What child can actually fall asleep at 7:30 p.m.? In Portugal, as in many Latin countries, bedtime for even small kids might be as late as 10.
Moreover, Rawcliffe says, “If my child were missing, I wouldn’t think right away he was abducted. I would think, Where has the little bugger gone?”
But the McCanns were certain of their suspicions. “Wee Madeleine knows better than to wander away,” another of Gerry’s sisters, Philomena McCann, recalls him saying. And besides, the child was too small to open the window and crawl out. Gerry spent the night scouring the village for his daughter, and talking on his cell phone to relatives.
“Well, never in my life had I heard my wee brother so devastated,” says Philomena, who lives in Ullapool, in northern Scotland. “He was absolutely wailing on the phone. He was incomprehensible at times.”
“It’s all my fault, because Kate and I went out to dinner,” he wept to Philomena, who was stunned. She adds, “My wee brother is not a person who panics—he and Kate are very measured people, usually. That’s when I knew how bad things were.”
At 4:30 in the morning, when the search was temporarily called off, the McCanns found a policeman by their door, smoking, seemingly unworried. “Help me, please help me!” a frantic Kate sobbed into her cell phone to a childhood friend. The police had done nothing overnight, she added; the couple were all alone with no one to turn to.
That same morning, Gerry’s sister Trish phoned the BBC in Glasgow and sent photos of the beautiful little girl who had vanished from the resort. “The day after Madeleine was abducted, as Kate and I left the police station, there were 150 journalists in front of it,” Gerry recalls. “Alex Woolfall [the McCanns’ first spokesperson] explained to me that either I interact with the media or we would be hounded by the press.”
Actually, reporters noticed, Gerry seemed to interact avidly. Within a week, the media ranks in the tiny village swelled to 200: Dutch, German, Spanish, and Portuguese nudging their British and American counterparts. Until very recently, Sky News covered the story in such depth that the top three offerings on its Web site were “UK News,” “Madeleine,” and “World News.” The Portuguese police had never seen anything like it.
In the months following the child’s disappearance, the supposed incompetence of the Portuguese police was the subject of many devastating articles in the press, with an attitude wryly summed up by the Scotland Yard detective as “Johnny Dago is not good enough to do it.” This was at the precise time that, as Gerry explains, “we were relying on the Portuguese to find Madeleine, and it was not helpful at all.” However, since the media were, without a doubt, fed in part by the McCann camp, it is hard to know whom to blame.
It wasn’t true, for instance, that there were no fingertip searches performed at the villa, as reported by one British tabloid, or that the shutters were contaminated in the investigation, as reported by another; two on-the-scene reporters claim that personnel in Portuguese C.S.I. uniforms were seen taking fingerprints from those shutters early on, and then dispatched them to the Instituto Nacional de Medicina Legal in Porto and Coimbra. Nor did police treat Madeleine’s disappearance lightly.
As Woolfall explains, when he arrived a day and a half after Madeleine had vanished: “There were lots of police, I have to say. There is a big emphasis placed on children and family in Portugal. There was no doubt there was a massive effort trying to find her. And you had Portuguese policemen canceling leave and working over weekends.”
On the other hand, the moment police investigate a crime in Portugal, the country’s judicial-secrecy laws basically shroud everything—facts, names, suspects, witnesses—in a blanket of silence. Police press conferences are almost nonexistent; information is usually obtained only through leaks. (In Madeleine’s case, the police appointed a spokesperson, but after being kept clueless by his colleagues, he ultimately resigned.) There are other drawbacks—for example, Portugal has no DNA data banks or national missing-child alerts.
Moreover, Praia da Luz is not the ideal venue for a topflight criminal investigation. Gonçalo Amaral, who for five months was the senior detective in the case, is himself involved in another legal battle. He is accused of covering up a beating by his subordinates of a Portuguese woman who was ultimately convicted of killing her own child. Locally there are no cadaver dogs trained in tracking human blood or remains; after Madeleine vanished, local residents actually used household pets under the guidance of police with drug-sniffing dogs. “Let me tell you, I know a lot about detective dogs, and I don’t know why the police would want anyone bringing their pets to assist,” says Robert Tucker, who runs a New York security firm.
“One of the things the McCanns very much wanted was a forensic sketch of the man the witness saw carrying the girl wearing pink-and-white pajamas,” recalls Justine McGuinness, an early spokesperson for the McCanns. In the vital first months, their pleas went unanswered. In addition, newspapers claimed the sheets on Madeleine’s bed were never sent for analysis.
Besides, by May 15 the police (with the help of a suspicious British journalist from the Sunday Mirror) believed they had found their man: Robert Murat, a mild, slightly plump Englishman of 33 with a detached retina who lives with his mother in a large villa with a lush garden three minutes from the resort. He was declared an arguido—a status he holds to this day, along with the McCanns—and brought in to the police station for 19 hours of interrogation, say his relatives, with no food or sleep.
There, I learn on good authority, three of the Tapas Nine were put into a room with Murat, and each of them identified him as a man they’d seen hanging about the resort in the hours after Madeleine vanished. One of the witnesses, Fiona Payne, told police she’d actually seen him behind the McCanns’ villa that night, and recalled his “dodgy eye.” Another, Russell O’Brien, claimed Murat had said he spoke Portuguese as well as English, which is in fact the case. The McCann friends were not alone in their suspicions. By late December it emerged that three other witnesses claimed to have seen Murat near the McCanns’ villa apartment the night of the abduction.
It is part of the odd dynamic of this story that when I phone Sally Eveleigh, Murat’s cousin, who also lives in Praia da Luz, her first remark is that she cannot utter a syllable about Murat without the O.K. of her British press agent, the famously rambunctious Max Clifford. And when his blessing is secured, her second is: “Wonderful, darling, see you shortly. Robert can’t talk to you, because he’s an arguido. But we’ll have a bit of a party, won’t we?”
When I arrive at her massive house, lined with rosy tile and Moroccan rugs, Sally greets me in floor-length blue voile trimmed with pretty stones. And the party includes Murat: five feet 10 inches, dark-haired, wearing beige trousers, serving us tea, wine, and cigarettes.
“All I can say,” says Murat, “is that I am innocent. There is no way I was at the resort that night. Full stop. I was in my mother’s kitchen until one a.m. Yes, we are a kitchen kind of family. I spent the night at the house.” As an arguido he cannot reveal more. But he does drive me around and point out the major landmarks of the case. “That’s the apartment from which Madeleine vanished,” he says. “That’s my mother’s villa.” The police ransacked the place four months ago and came up with nothing.
‘I wish I hadn’t gone to the tapas bar. I wish I’d stayed in the apartment that night. I wish I’d stayed in the room when I checked on her five minutes longer,” Gerry recalls thinking in the days that followed his child’s disappearance. The world, he says, was “all black, with maybe tiny points of light.” The company that owns the resort sent Alan Pike, a trauma counselor, over from Britain, and he spoke to the couple every day for two weeks. Initially, the counselor tells me, he found the couple “catatonic.” They were certain Madeleine was dead.
But pessimism, the counselor knew, inhibits action. Moreover, he adds, “they still needed to be a mother and father to two other children.”
“Remind yourself of the evidence: there is nothing yet to demonstrate that Madeleine has died,” Pike told the McCanns. It’s time, he added, to take control of the things you can.
Gerry felt re-invigorated by such advice. “We can’t cry our eyes out every day, because that’s not helping,” he says. “So after three days I picked myself up—quicker than Kate could.”
Indeed, Woolfall recalls Gerry’s saying shortly after he arrived, “My biggest fear is that this could be a weekend story: british girl taken from portuguese resort—a terrible story! And then that’s it.” The fickleness of the media, Woolfall adds, had Gerry worried. They might so easily “move on to something else,” Gerry told him. Gradually a strategy was devised: stories, pictures, and exotic destinations were woven together, permanently enrapturing the press and luring it into a long, sleepless vigil.
By the end of May, an audience with the Pope had been arranged through the Westminster office of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor. The couple and a pool of reporters flew direct from Praia da Luz to the Pontiff in a Learjet belonging to the British billionaire Sir Philip Green.
Other celebrities were just as carefully selected and eagerly appealed to: J. K. Rowling, in part, Gerry explains, because the Harry Potter author had lived in Portugal for a time. Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo, because he is Portuguese, and Gerry used to play soccer himself. David Beckham—another Gerry idea—who was living in Spain at the time of Madeleine’s disappearance. Experts in child abduction had informed the McCanns that Madeleine was very likely still somewhere on the Iberian Peninsula.
The media were constantly sought out. Reporters followed the McCanns on trips to Washington (where then U.S. attorney general Alberto Gonzales met with the couple); to Morocco—just in case Madeleine had been taken there—where they met with Charki Draiss, director-general of national security; and to Amsterdam, where the McCanns had once lived. If the networks needed fresh footage, they would be told the exact time the McCanns might be walking to church in Praia da Luz.
So, as it turned out, this was not a weekend story. As time went by, Gerry explains that although “grief washes over you—it’s like a big wave, mostly I was able to beat it back.” The industry he poured into the search jolted him out of depression.
But Kate wasn’t buoyed. From time to time, she would turn to friends and offer a wistful half-plea—“I hope whoever has Madeleine is giving her blankets … is feeding her properly … is keeping her warm.” Not really absorbing at first, her confidant explains, “what kind of person this was.”
Eventually, though, the probable nature of the abductor was brought home to her in the most explicit and horrifying way. Never talk about Madeleine’s preferences to the press, British police warned the McCanns, because whatever Madeleine most loves—a favorite cartoon, say—could be used as a tool for manipulation by her kidnapper.
Madeleine’s mother was also warned not to weep in public. “That was one of the things they were told right from the beginning,” McGuinness reveals. “Don’t show any emotion, because whoever took the child could get off on that, and take it out on the child. Or the abductor might find tears stimulating in some way. Appalling when you’re being told not to show any emotion in public and your daughter is abducted!”
Appalling and, as it turned out, dangerous for the couple. The P.R. campaign was actually backfiring, regarded by many as slick and, given the gravity of the McCanns’ loss, at times downright strange. “I always wanted to meet the pope,” a British reader e-mailed The Resident newspaper, “and now I know how.” Portuguese police made note of Kate’s seeming stoicism in front of the press—the tearless face. They also marveled at the powerful allies the McCanns had accumulated.
“Why are these people able to put together the biggest media campaign ever, from the Pope to the White House?” asks Paulo Reis, a Portuguese freelance journalist who writes a blog about Madeleine, and with considerable authority: he seems to have excellent contacts in law enforcement. “Why are they all coming out strongly defending the McCanns? Who are the McCanns?” he wonders.
Kate and Gerry McCann are both Roman Catholic, the children of carpenters, and products of Scottish medical training, but there the resemblance ends. Gerry, the youngest of five children, is by far the more ambitious and confident of the couple, secure always in the knowledge, as his sister Philomena explains, “that he was absolutely the pet of the family.” As a result, his brother, John, tells me, he grew up “very sociable, always involved in clubs—football clubs, athletic clubs. He likes mixing with people. And like most of us in the family, quite competitive.”
Kate Healy, a deeply religious only child from Liverpool, once confided to her sister-in-law, “There were too many times when I’ve been alone,” and that solitude evidently left its mark. On meeting her in 1992 the boisterous McCanns found her, John recalls, “reserved.” (Although this reserve was apparently not impenetrable. At the University of Dundee, as the Mail on Sunday recently discovered, Kate’s nickname was “Hot Lips Healy,” and she was renowned, according to her yearbook, for leading friends astray during “alcoholic binges.” When asked about this recently by a friend, Kate groaned and said, “My God! I hope they don’t get the rest of that part of my life.”)
At first, she was not deeply impressed by Gerry, refusing even to go out with him. In 1996, she moved to New Zealand to work as an anesthesiologist in a hospital, and it was only when an impassioned Gerry followed her that the family realized the relationship was serious. They married in 1998 and settled initially in Glasgow.
There Kate shifted career course, abandoning anesthesiology for the regular hours and relatively modest pay of a general practitioner. “To be honest, I don’t think Kate is ambitious,” Philomena says. “The career wasn’t as important to her as having a family.”
That family, however, took years to materialize. There were two rounds of in-vitro fertilization, culminating in Madeleine: “As close to a perfect child as you can get,” says Gerry. Less than two years later another round resulted in the twins—born after a very difficult pregnancy, during which, Philomena says, Kate was confined to her bed for months and almost lost them.
“To be perfectly honest, Kate continued to work as a doctor simply for the economics of it,” says Philomena. “Even though she ended up working only one and a half days a week, that money made a big difference to them. Gerry could have managed to support them all, but it would have been difficult, a stretch for him.”
The press has regularly portrayed the couple as far wealthier. Huge emphasis has been put on the large, $1.2 million neo-Georgian-style house in Rothley, Leicestershire, into which the couple moved in 2006.
“People may think, Ooh, these rich middle-class McCanns,” John says bitterly. “Well, these rich middle-class McCanns have studied for donkey’s years, made loads of sacrifices, and put themselves through a lot of inconvenience to get where they are just now. For Catholics, we’ve got a strong Protestant work ethic!” He shakes his head when asked about how things used to be for the couple.
“Everything going for them, perfect family. And as we all know from great bits of literature, sometimes the fates intervene to ruin perfection,” he says. But philosophy fails him when he thinks of Madeleine. “This is our wee girl. My niece! Their darling daughter, for Christ’s sake!”
“So beautiful, astonishingly bright, and I’d have to say very charismatic. She would shine out of a crowd,” family friend Jon Corner says of the child. “So—God forgive me—maybe that’s part of the problem. That special quality. Some bastard picked up on that.”
As months went by, the McCanns turned desperate. There they were, still in Praia da Luz, with nothing to show for it. “We had been trying to persuade Kate to come home,” recalls Gerry’s sister Trish. “But they lived in dread that if Madeleine turned up in Portugal and they weren’t there, it would be horrible.”
Although initially reluctant, the McCanns finally informed the media of Madeleine’s unique right eye—a risky revelation. Whoever had taken the child now held a universally recognizable little girl.
Gerry understood that. But, he says, the iris “is Madeleine’s only true distinctive feature. Certainly we thought it was possible that this could potentially hurt her or”—he grimaces—“her abductor might do something to her eye.… But in terms of marketing, it was a good ploy.”
On the 100th day of her disappearance, however, the marketing of Madeleine came to a halt. On August 11, the police spokesman, Olegário de Sousa, gave an interview to the BBC in which he said clues had been found “that could point to the possible death of the little child.”
The McCanns were livid. They had entertained this idea, but their fears had been partially allayed during their July trip to see the U.S. attorney general. “We learned in Washington that there are plenty of cases where peoples’ children were discovered after two years!” says McGuinness. “And some cases where people’s children were discovered after four years.” That, she adds, is what “kept Kate going.”
But the police felt they had good reason to suspect the child was dead. They had borrowed a pair of springer spaniels trained by South Yorkshire police to smell particles of blood so minute they are invisible to humans. The animals seemed to have picked up the scent of a corpse on Kate’s trousers and on the key fob of the couple’s rental car. (The McCann camp claimed that as a doctor Kate had been near corpses, but since she is a general practitioner the press scoffed at the explanation.)
More than any other evidence, it was the surprising reaction of the dogs from Britain that led Portuguese police to declare the couple official suspects. The investigators thought they had other clues: there was DNA possibly belonging to Madeleine in the McCann car, rented 25 days after the child vanished, but as that car had at various times contained the missing girl’s hairbrushes and sandals, and the soiled diapers of her siblings, the evidence is not wholly conclusive. Moreover, forensic DNA specialist Nigel Hodge, who has investigated more than 1,000 criminal cases, tells me that, in very rare instances, “it is possible for sisters to have the same DNA profile.”
In mid-September, Kate and Gerry were brought in separately to a dingy four-story police station for questioning—Kate first, for 11 hours, and on the next day 7 more. The questioning was interminable, says Trish, who was at the station, in part because “there was no interpreter. At one point there were six people in front of Kate—cops and a lawyer—and they were all just speaking Portuguese!”
Finally, she adds, Kate was given a long list of interpreters, many of whom lived 200 miles away in Lisbon, and told to choose. “Kate was furious at that as well,” Trish recalls.
Over and over again, I am told by a McCann family member, Kate was shown footage of the dogs. It was the animals’ reaction to the scent inside the McCanns’ rental car that particularly interested the authorities.
But the police had more on their minds, as they informed Kate. From what they’d read of her diary, she was clearly a stressed-out mother. Her children were difficult to put to sleep, weren’t they? They needed sedatives to sleep, perhaps? Maybe that’s how Madeleine died? Will you confess, they asked.
Then the police went over a passage from the borrowed Bible found in Kate’s villa: verses in the second Book of Samuel, Chapter 12. The page containing the passage was crumpled. The verses in question deal with the illness and death of King David’s child, a tragedy that occurs after David “scorned the Lord.” Obviously such a page had meaning for her, the police said.
To compound matters, one of Kate’s lawyers, Carlos Pinto de Abreu, relayed to her that if she confessed to having inadvertently killed her daughter and disposing of the corpse, things might go easier. Her jail term might even be as little as two years.
“I’m not going to fucking lie!” Kate barked. The next day she stopped answering a fair number of police questions. “She had already answered some of them,” says Trish. “And her lawyer told her she didn’t have to answer questions.”
“As I suppose you know,” Pike, the trauma counselor, tells me, “the police told her during the interviews that her other two children might be taken away.”
It was time to go home, Gerry decided by September 9. But not alone.
“When Gerry and Kate were about to go home to Britain, Gerry phoned Sky News and said, ‘We’re going home on EasyJet, be on it!’ ” recalls Esther Addley, who has written incisively about the McCanns for The Guardian.
On the couple’s return, there was further pain to contend with. More than 17,000 people had signed a petition suggesting that Leicestershire social services investigate them for leaving their three small children completely alone in the villa.
‘At the time we did it, it was not irresponsible!” Gerry snaps. It is the one subject on which he is quite defensive, arguing first one way, then conceding the opposite: “Of course we feel guilty about not having been there, and that is just something we have to deal with for the rest of our lives. You are not asking anything we don’t think about on a daily basis. We live this 24 hours a day.” His lips twist as he struggles for composure. “But I can’t talk to you about the details of what happened. I live under threat from the Portuguese—if I do talk—of two years’ imprisonment.” He smiles grimly. “It seems to be the same sentence as disposing of a child’s body.”
The mayor of tiny Praia da Luz, Manuel Domingues Borba, announced just a few weeks ago that he for one “would never leave my children sleeping alone and go to dinner in a foreign country.” The McCanns, in his opinion, are “guilty of negligence at the very least.” The Portuguese police, under chief Alípio Ribeiro, are reviewing the case. Some of their detectives, I am told, will likely be flying to Britain soon to re-interview the McCanns, although no official request has yet been made. Should the McCanns actually be charged and tried, their legal strategy will be to focus, in part, on what they claim is the unreliability of evidence turned up by the dogs and to try to move the trial to Britain from Portugal. The McCanns live in perpetual limbo. There is no exit.
By early January there was more bad news: Correio da Manhã, a Portuguese newspaper, claimed that the Policia Judiciária were about to deliver an interim report suggesting the McCanns were “prime suspects” after all, who could have accidentally killed Madeleine and then disposed of her body. Or, the report added, perhaps the child was in fact abducted. In other words, eight months after the little girl vanished, the police still know nothing.
Lately, word has leaked out that the McCanns feel abandoned even by Gordon Brown, once their close ally. Their spokesman doesn’t quite deny this. “That was one of our backers who said it. We would never be that impolitic,” he says. “But it is true that we have requested a meeting with the prime minister to show him the strength of our case, to explain Kate and Gerry’s innocence—and yet all we’ve been offered is a medium-level-consular meeting, which we rejected.”
Occasionally their $1,200-an-hour lawyer Angus McBride, whose salary is defrayed by Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson, Scottish businessman Stephen Winyard, and Brian Kennedy, a multi-millionaire rugby-team owner, drops in on the British tabloids to protest headlines such as portuguese paper smear: “kate killed madeleine as gerry played tennis.”
For Kate, this is all too much. At nights, as her mother recently informed one newspaper, she awakes and thinks Madeleine has come home. While her husband and I talk, she ducks into the local Catholic church, unable, despite her earlier resolve, to face a single question.
Kate is fragile, I say to Gerry.
“That is undoubtedly true,” he concedes. “It’s very difficult to describe this situation. One month, three months, five months, five and a half months. And I know now that, probably, the chances of getting Madeleine back are slim. You know, it’s difficult. Very difficult.” He swallows hard. “You might never see her again. But still you have the hope. Still.”
On Sunday he will join his despairing wife in church, even though, as Gerry puts it, “I am not the most religious person in the world.” The whole McCann family is going to church more often, for that matter, even his skeptical older brother.
“What would you do when you’re desperate?” says John. “You start to ask the big questions again: Why does this happen?”
“And,” he says wearily, “I think there’s probably still no God.”