Grâce à la liberté dans les communications, des groupes d’hommes de même nature pourront se réunir et fonder des communautés. Les nations seront dépassées.
Friedrich Nietzsche (Fragments posthumes XIII-883)

13 - Blacksmith Bureau 9

Larmes > cadeau. Argument non sequitur Cette gravure semble le démentir.


More fun ahead – 08.01.2013

Well now. By the last week in April 2013 Scotland Yard will need to have in place a complete news package in response to the annual media explosion surrounding the anniversary of Madeleine McCann's abduction – sorry, couldn't resist the prospect of making certain people foam – disappearance in 2007.

The Yard is going to be very busy, isn't it? The first confidential briefing notes, which will be landing on desks around now, will be highlighting certain areas which must be secured in PR terms for the period April 20 – May 5. These will include:

Heading off a tabloid-led and potentially horrific "After two years and 3.5 million quid NOTHING" campaign.

Keeping the government both happy and in the picture.

Answering the follow up questions to Hogan-Howe's comments about resources, the future of the investigation and "results by Christmas".

Dealing with Kate and Gerry McCann.

Refraining from any comments that could jeopardise Portuguese co-operation.

Preventing any attempts to wind-up Operation Grange via the media.

Quite a list for starters, don't you think? Those of us who have returned to the case at intervals for almost six years – you know, we fantasists/obsessive haters etc. – are familiar with its truly hair-raising propensity to besmirch or destroy the careers or even lives of those who've come into contact with it, from the parents downwards. Some – the nimble ones like Rebelo, Monteiro, Blair and Cameron – have ridden the wave untouched but the list of the others wouldn't even fit on this page and the damage has by no means ended. Grime the dog handler, to pluck a name from a cast of dozens, might have opted for a steady and un-dramatic increase in wealth and reputation rather than what the case has brought him. Even a monster like Hewitt might have wept as any possibility of repentance or coming to terms with fate disappeared in the black comedy invasion of his death-bed by private detectives and hacks.

We've become accustomed to watching the latest unsuspecting victim step onto the stage, brashly confident like a new England football manager, and watched again, enraptured, as the truth of the McCann Affair's power to destroy begins to dawn on them, usually just that bit too late. Watching Andy Redwood disintegrate last spring was a particular, if unfair, pleasure: gritty determination in the scripted and protective realms of Panorama was followed by a savaging at the hands of the media pack and his dread recognition – you could actually see it in the get-me-out-of here-cartoonish widening of those doleful eyes – that, Jesus Christ, he was in the middle of a minefield without a map. And there'll be plenty more yet. So make no mistake, the careers of every senior Yard officer involved, including Hogan-Howe himself, are potentially at risk unless the minefield is safely negotiated.

Common to most of the bullet point problems is the need to throw the media enough information-meat to distract them while they make their escape. But how do they do that without opening their flank to the McCanns and without breaching their remit? Every attempt to do so will give the normal enmities and rivalries of any organization a chance to surface with the smooth operators, no doubt, coming out on top. Hogan-Howe, with the well-tuned political instincts of all UK chief constables, began positioning himself for April 2013 last autumn by putting blue water between himself and Grange in such a way that he is covered whether the operation produces anything or not. If the answer is "not" then Cider Jack Redwood is dead in the scrumpy vat and he knows it so he's got to play the anniversary in a way that protects himself against his boss without giving the latter the chance to get him for disloyalty. Aren't organizations fun! While people talk oh-so-knowingly about whitewashes etc. in their Mission Impossible view of the case the real life dramas are taking place right now in these obscure internal battles.

Last year, of course, there were the cries of despair that the review was apparently in the pocket of the McCanns, whatever that may mean. The fulsome and no doubt well deserved tributes to the parents from the police, the stress from the latter that they were investigating a criminal abduction and a general sense that too much was going on behind the scenes lowered the spirits of those hoping for an independent (of everyone, including the parents and their influential contacts) review.

But we're coming round to the view that the Yard weren't quite as stupid as they appeared and the McCanns are by no means as in the loop as they've implied. After all:

"High profile reviews, such as this one, are highly emotive and the manner in which they are conducted are usually kept in strict secrecy so that the tactics and lines of enquiry that are followed do not become public knowledge thereby rendering them useless."(Scotland Yard commenting on the review in an FOI response, October 2011)

There is not a whit of evidence that the Yard has breached this, its own, rule. If you go back to the Panorama 2012 programme – not the confused follow up press conference – you will find that Redwood gave no clue as to the direction the review was going. 98% of it was an artful re-presentation of the publicly known remit document, including the "abduction" comment which caused so much controversy in some quarters: "as if the abduction occurred in the UK" are the remit's words. The "two hundred leads" gave nothing away. All that was new and definite was the Oporto liaison which, as Cider Jack very well knew, had already been made public by Goncalo Amaral and confirmed by the Portuguese authorities.

Since the McCanns have themselves made it clear that they accepted the right of the Portuguese investigation to include them in their inquiries, they can hardly object to the Yard doing the same, if it will help solve the mystery of their daughter's disappearance. But that is territory the couple avoid like a leper colony. Rightly or wrongly, they have given the impression that their own conduct has not been under examination in the inquiry and a small number of ill-judged PR statements have implied that they have been kept fully up-to-date on the progress of the review.

Here one pauses. Is that really possible? After all the remit, in early 2011, was quite clear:

"The focus of the review will be of the material held by three main stakeholders (and in the following order of primacy);

The Portuguese Law Enforcement agencies.

UK Law Enforcement agencies.

Other private investigative agencies/staff and organisations."

We know all about the focus of the Portuguese agencies and we know from the British Ambassador to Portugal that the second on the list, UK agencies, helped develop evidence against the parents. So two out of the three "stakeholders" feature documentary evidence under review in which the McCanns appear as suspects or potential suspects, while the third is of vanishingly small significance. In other words you can't move without bumping into material examining and questioning the role of the parents and it strikes us as unbelievable that all such material has been discounted rather than re-examined. As we said, though, that's not the impression one gains from the comments of the parents since spring 2011.

In the annual Xmas message to the troops Kate McCann writes.

"The Metropolitan Police Review of all the material in the inquiry has been underway for over eighteen months. We have been really impressed and greatly encouraged by the work which has been done and its findings to date which are revealing there are definitely many stones yet to turn. We continue to wait and hope that the Portuguese authorities will agree to reopen the case so that the many lines of enquiry can be investigated. As Madeleine’s parents, we won’t be able to rest until we know that all that can be feasibly done to find her, and the person who took her, has been done."

We bet that paragraph took some time to write. Of course it doesn't say that they have been apprised of any of the Yard's lines of inquiry, even in their role as parents of the missing child. But we can all see what is being implied, just like the other statements they've been releasing for eighteen months – that the review is working for and with them, that they know its progress and that they are briefed.

But what's the point of such stuff? Whose interests does it serve? The Yard have said they don't want to say anything to anybody – why not go along with that in the most natural and obvious manner and say nothing yourself? Yes, there'll be lunatics who believe that "sorry, no comment" actually means "I'm hiding something", as in the persecution of Robert Murat. But so what? Isn't that better than putting out statements that simply stink of spin and make the non-loonies among us ask yet again, why are they saying these things? What possible gain is there for them in claiming a closer relationship with the review than actually exists? But after nearly six years they just can't seem to help it.

And they add this:

"Since March 2012 independent 'physical' investigation of lines of enquiry by our team has been put on hold whilst the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) Review progresses. This has been to avoid duplication (and thereby unnecessary expenditure) and to prevent the risk of compromising any work, albeit unintentionally, carried out by the MPS. The private investigation team employed by the Fund continue to cooperate and work with the Metropolitan Police as and when necessary."

Well a bit of silence might be sensible there too, mightn't it? Rather than putting out something so obviously obfuscatory? Not only does it remind us of the existence of as big a bunch of nincompoop hustlers as ever walked the earth, Metodo ("she'll be home by Xmas"), Halligen ("results soon but it'll cost") and that huge and shadowy international security organization "I'm Edgar, I am" but it also prompts us to ask, why March 2012, for God's sake, a year or so after the review was set up? Why were their activities not halted when the review was established so that the files could be neither hidden, amended nor disposed of but passed on to the Yard? We don't know because Kate McCann doesn't want to tell us. But she can hardly think we're all so stupid as not to remember that March 2012 was the month the parents were in trouble due to their panicky and thoroughly dishonest attempts to spin the review's activities in the UK Mirror via their untruthful Portuguese lawyer. The Yard hadn't acted in 2011 when they'd tried the same thing, this time with Metodo, about the Barcelona visits, but in March 2012 they acted. Hence, no more investigators.

So, a lot of people round the Big Table, come April, and a lot of hands to be played. Should be fun.




Please question us! - 11.01.2013

Curiously enough an innocent Kate & Gerry McCann have more to gain from an extremely sharp and exhaustive Yard review scrutiny of their role and movements than almost anyone. As we posted here last year these two of the three arguidos were released from their status before the investigation into their activities was anything like complete, while, indeed, there were serious reservations about the veracity of the evidence provided by them and their friends. That was why Goncalo Amaral was correct in calling it the "interrupted investigation" and why we referred to a missing paragraph in the archiving summary, the one, that is, that would give the reasons behind such an unusual move.

We promised to look at it some more in the future. As we're always saying, though, life, if not the McCann case, is short. It's history now and the likelihood of a reconstruction providing any resolution after six years is remote. But that isn't to say that an attempted reconstruction is the only way of ascertaining the truth, nor even the best: not when you've got teams from both countries reviewing the evidence and able to question witnesses without going through the rigmarole of letters rogatory or finding them all beyond reach in another country. Because that was the problem, wasn't it? The Seven were needed to clarify what had happened to help find the child but getting them back to Portugal was like catching greasy piglets on market day. Who'd have believed that family friends of a child would hire lawyers to avoid returning to help? Even though the head of the investigation, Rebelo, a man untainted by any suspicion of anti-Nine bias, personally appealed to them for their assistance. It really sounds sick to this day. But the piggies stayed home – and brought the investigation to an end. For Rebelo was stuck. The prosecutors had made it clear that the investigation couldn't go on for much longer, if only on natural justice grounds to the three arguidos; but out of the thousands of sightings and possibilities in the files the only ones still open, unresolved and offering a clear and defined line of inquiry were those surrounding the nine British holidaymakers.

Of course we've had the endless claims since that "somewhere in the files" were leads that could have cracked the case if only people like Amaral hadn't focused on the innocent McCanns, claims originating chiefly from the people with a direct financial interest in the McCann family's freedom and well-being such as their "detectives" and numerous lawyers, civil and criminal. Now even Duarte and the rest of the gang have to acknowledge that after many years of well-funded examination by private detectives not a single one of the "missed opportunities" has led anywhere, even a short distance, before comprehensively failing. Instead, despite the boxes of leads donated to the case by Metodo3, despite Duarte's gift of "overlooked" inquiry lines and despite the efforts of an anxious-to-help world public, all has descended, literally, into fantasy – Bundlemen, Spottymen, M/S Millionaire Baby-Buyer, Gypsy gangs, lurking paedophiles, Moroccan tribes and the rest. These six years seem to confirm the PJ's belief that there really wasn't anywhere else to look. So what, exactly, do Abreu and Duarte – we'll leave aside their ignorant camp-followers – think the PJ should have done in late 2007? Suddenly announce that they were going to forget the reconstruction stuff and look instead at a Hewitt before the prosecutor's bar came down? No, the Nine were all they had and until Cider Jack earns his knighthood in May by proving us and six years experience wrong by naming the 196-strong gang who abducted Madeleine, the Nine is still all that any investigation possesses. It is likely that Rebelo knew the game was more or less up once his UK visit to discuss the forensic results was over. All the problem areas about the Nine and their evidence had been shovelled into a leads file loosely called "Reconstruction", waiting for the next step. But there wasn't a next step. Most of the Seven, as Rebelo could see, were loudly asserting their desire to return to Portugal to help the inquiry through their joint spokesman while simultaneously – and secretly – taking all necessary steps to ensure that they wouldn't do so. And there was nothing that he could do about it: the Seven weren't suspects to be forced back via prima facie evidence and a European Arrest Warrant. They could only be asked to assist voluntarily.



In theory, as the supporters of the parents have constantly pointed out, the McCanns had to return for a clarification of evidence if the Portuguese demanded they do so: not only did they not refuse to return with the others, the argument goes, but they couldn't refuse, so there. Pull the other one, chums. There was no machinery to enforce such a demand except their own consciences, which at that time were not in high-visibility mode. You don't engage the best extradition lawyers in the world if you're anxious for a PJ reunion. The only way they could be forced back was via an EAW (European Arrest Warrant) and that again legally required prima facie evidence which, with the death of the forensic results hopes, didn't exist. That left only the interviews under the letters rogatory process to probe the gaps in their evidence and that process itself had two fatal weaknesses. First, the questioning was tightly confined by the treaty process to clarification of events surrounding the disappearance; a "no fishing expedition" requirement, as the lawyers call it, meant that the police could not build on material as it emerged by developing new lines of questioning to test veracity. Hence, and most obviously, the failure to explore the evidence of Jane Tanner and the surveillance van episode. As the Bureau has repeatedly pointed out, to a certain amount of scepticism, Tanner neither confirmed nor denied identifying Robert Murat as the supposed abductor and under the terms of their remit the Leicester police, though perfectly aware of the evasion, were not allowed to press her with "Now look, I want a yes or no answer to this question: did you tell the officers with you that the person seen by you from the van resembled the person you saw at 9.13 on May 3?" That was probably the most important question in the case so far and it could have decided whether Jane Tanner was a credible and truthful witness or not, since Bundleman/Eggman and the rest bear no possible resemblance to Robert Murat and since Leicester police knew very well what her answer had been in the van through the UK liaison officer Bob Small. So the Seven only had to say what they wished to say without any fear of being trapped into logical contradictions.


The second weakness, of course, was how any revelations from the Seven could be used regarding Kate and Gerry McCann. Nothing that was said in Leicester, even if Jane Tanner was exposed, helped in getting the McCanns back. Tanner could claim in the future (tearfully as usual) that she'd been intimidated and now denied her answers but even if she didn't the McCanns, safely within their fortress of lawyers, couldn't be forced back for years, if ever. How did that square with the prosecutors' deadlines? Having watched from behind a screen as the questions were asked Rebelo knew the score and left early, missing the 3,500 or so "ums" and "ers" of David Payne's performance – the first record in history of a red-blooded male (we presume) forgetting what a blonde woman standing by a doorway and wrapped only in a towel had been wearing when he saw her. Who Dunnit? As usual the Bureau takes the conservative non-dramatic view of events, believing that, given these circumstances, Rebelo didn't have to be a clean-up man tasked with killing the investigation. It didn't need one. Whatever the speculation about cover-ups etc. the evidence above clearly suggests that the actual killers were the Tapas Nine, acting alone except for their lawyers. It only needed Rebelo's PJ to make the understandable, if slightly dodgy, claim in their report that the rogatory interviews "revealed nothing new" (they hadn't even been translated, let alone analysed in depth) rather than "they don't get us any nearer a charge and it's time to give up", and for Rebelo and Menezes to agree that further timescale extensions were not on, for the investigation to end. Unfortunately Menezes made a poor fist of his role. Naturally the "missing paragraph" required to explain a shelving despite a key area remaining unexplored couldn't have been written as frankly as we've given it above: that's not the way the world goes round and would likely have cost him and his colleague their jobs. His task, and challenge, though, was to justify the shelving while maintaining the integrity of the PJ and its investigation on the one hand, and avoiding leaving a black cloud of suspicion over two of the arguidos and their friends on the other. The latter would have caused uproar – claims of a smear job by the terrifying UK press and loud demands to lay hands on the McCanns by a dissatisfied Portuguese public, demands that, as we've seen, couldn't be met.



Menezes attempted to square this circle by minimizing the significance of the Nine's behaviour and evidence while stressing how exhaustive the inquiry had been. The PJ report section on the needs of the reconstruction couldn't be omitted from the archiving summary since the PJ wouldn't permit it so Menezes attempted to counter its explosive implications by smothering them with love. Hence the embarrassing purple-prosed final paragraphs in which his rhetoric took wing with references to European literature, the art of the who-dunnit and the analytical power of the average man. All it lacked was a swooning reference to the "fragrance" of Kate McCann, such as a dribbling English judge had once made about a Mrs Archer during her well-known, and crooked, husband's libel case. So intent was Menezes on being "fair" to the two arguidos that he skimmed, misread or minimised the evidence against them. Thus his summary used the collusive and in places untruthful first batch (May 4) of statements by the group, not the later ones in which they had been forced to change their stories under questioning;
Certes "cherry picking", donc panachage, mais plus de recours aux dépositions du 10 mai qu'aux premières, celles du 4 mai, ayant statistiquement plus de chance d'être authentiques.
and he got them wrong too, the dolt, referring to Russell O'Brien leaving the Tapas restaurant with Mathew at 9 PM, for example. 
Une des erreurs, effectivement, qui ne cessera d'être répétée par tous les documentaires portugais qui s'essaieront à "reconstituer". Le rapport final de la PJ n'est pas exempt d'erreurs non plus.
A mistake like that in an official prosecutors' report! And with all the smothering the smoke was still escaping, as in his famous reference to the McCanns being "victims". What were they terrible victims of, Menny, a miscarriage of justice? Why, they were victims, he said, of their wilful refusal to co-operate with the investigation, thus losing the chance to "demonstrate their innocence", poor lambs. Such victimhood. So that was the archiving summary, their "exoneration". There's no need to waste any more words on this lamentable work. We repeat we can't see that Menezes, Rebelo or Monteiro had any choice but to wind up the affair as best they could, given the forensics, time-scale and their impotence in the face of the Nine. 

But what about the Nine who had thus got away with refusing to co-operate, what did they achieve for themselves? The only defence any of them have regarding the fact of their killing off the police search for the child is that they believed that the Portuguese police were out to get them, but once you force your way through the self-pity it isn't much of one, is it? As so many people have said, your own safety is normally put to one side, or not even considered, when there is a chance, however small, of helping to save your child. As for most of the other seven, just what risks terrified them so much that they wouldn't return? Portugal isn't Iran or Putin's Russia and they were never at risk of lengthy custody. Yet they opted for cowardice, by their own account of events, or something worse if their accounts are untrue, abandoning a four year old child to her fate. Brrr! Chilly. The McCanns: failed to demonstrate their innocence, according to the official summary report. The Seven: failed to assist for "unknown reasons" according to the official summary report. It seems incredible that nine adults should be content to have their reputations sullied for the rest of their lives by these official conclusions. That is the legacy of condemnation and suspicion they are going to leave their children. It follows, naturally, that a new investigational review offers all of them their only chance of removing this blemish. It can't happen passively, as it were – simply waiting while a review/investigation which doesn't include the close examination of their stories is concluded. Even if the child's body is discovered that won't lift the cloud over them since, after many years, the circumstances in which she died may be no more conclusive than the circumstances of her disappearance. Only their willing assistance can give them all the chance to demonstrate their innocence. That is why Kate and Gerry McCann should have been pleading with the Yard for the last eighteen months for the opportunity to answer any questions at all, no holds barred. And so should their cowardly friends.


(...)




Libel diary – Thursday morning – 17.01.2013

John Blacksmith writes: I've experienced plenty of shocking events in my time and survived encounters with a number of monsters but I'm willing to confess that I read Kate McCann's Madeleine with something approaching horror. The stormy and unpredictable violence of her personality, her inability to conceive of anyone's needs beyond her own, her failure ever to write about, or confront the memory of, her oldest child as a real human being, confining herself instead to recalling and describing photographs and images of her daughter in a pattern of clinical aberration, were troubling enough. Then there was the extraordinary risk she was taking in setting out a version of events that people close to her, particularly her Portuguese lawyer and his assistant, knew to be untrue. What, I wondered, was she thinking as she sat alone at her desktop, somehow constructing a narrative on several different levels at once, addressing simultaneously the police who she knew would be reading her book, her seven friends and her family who had seen a very different Kate McCann, the journalists who she had used to subvert the investigation so successfully and, finally, the "public" itself? Perhaps she'd convinced herself that the latter, whose support in the UK had carried her through so many dangerous passages, was the only one that mattered and would continue to keep her impregnable and wrote accordingly. Even creepier was the sense that one gets from certain Nabokov books, including Lolita – the feeling that at times you can hear a ghostly voice hidden somewhere behind the narrative, laughing at the challenge of deceiving the audience. For the book reveals that Kate McCann is quite mad. That was why I softened the end of the review I wrote for the McCann Files: the exposure of her madness was so raw and discomfiting that it made me pause at the impact my own writings might have on what passes publicly for her personality if she read them. 
Sympathy for a sick person might be in order then. Except for her ruthlessness in her own interests illustrated by the psychotic pursuit of Goncalo Amaral in which she used everything she had, the wealth her public fans had provided, the support and sympathy of people who believed in her, the dirty newspapers like the Mirror willing to collude in the plot and the unrelenting viciousness at her core, to destroy him. "Destroy", for once, means what it says. As does "Kafkaesque". The assault that she and her tight-mouthed accomplice sprang on Amaral, the nightmare in which they trapped him and the relentless way they upped the pursuit month by month could easily have driven a lesser man to suicide.

While Kate McCann was whining to the UK media at the unfair fate she had suffered, I was hearing how her campaign had claimed its first victim – Amaral's wife having a complete breakdown and telling her beleaguered husband that even if he was right she simply couldn't stand the terror of it any more: both the pain and the odds against them were too great, he had to seek out the McCanns and settle. She was an innocent victim in the way the whiner never was but that cut no ice with Kate McCann: she was just an object to be trodden on and squashed in her pursuit of her enemy. That pursuit has failed. The McCanns are going to settle on Amaral's terms and that means it's the beginning of the end of six years of lies and deception. No, I can't evoke even a touch of sympathy for them: they have acted wickedly and now they are going to pay.



Libel Diary – 17.01.2013
(...) The only information I ever get hold of is connected with the use of the term "we" in the Blacksmith Bureau. Everyone who is interested knows who I am since I posted my full name and location on the old 3As forum in 2008. Bureau contributions, however, don't derive from me or belong to me alone: the Bureau exists as a centre for messages and opinions about the case from a number of what we might call the "sane critics" of the parents, people who have done a great deal more investigation than I have and have dedicated much of their lives to the case in a way which puts me to shame. We know about the negotiations which, we repeat, are known to all UK national editors. Anyone who knows the McCanns' modus operandi, either through watching the Leveson hearings or studying Duarte's briefing note for the Portuguese media after the Wikileaks episode, should know how they prepare the way for their media spin initiatives by confidential contact with editors so that there will be a spurious unanimity of view. That is what is taking place now.

The purpose of pre-empting their spin plan is not to build ourselves up but to remind all our readers of the secret, and disgraceful, way in which the media have supped with a very short spoon with the McCanns for six years, a subject which we have taken up with them on occasion, most recently with the editor of the Daily Mail, although we got little change from him. One of the reasons that the story is dragging on and leaking is that it is not just the McCanns who stand to lose but all the newspapers and a number of individuals that defamed Amaral so grossly while helping the McCanns keep Amaral's claims away from the British public. In helping the McCanns now they are attempting to help themselves as well.

And we want them all to fail, the lying, dishonest, greedy bastards. That's the axe we have to grind. Listening Kier? Listening Clarence?

Goncalo Amaral statement on May 18 2009

I can say that we are going to sue the McCanns and others that, for the moment, I am not saying who they are, because we have a team of lawyers who are studying the case because we feel defamed and slandered, and we will move forward.

Goncalo Amaral interview with Algarve 123 December 8 2011

I have my anger well-guarded. No feelings for revenge. Like I say, they will pay for what they have done to me and my family – but through the courts. Even after everything that has happened, I still have faith in the Portuguese justice system.

(...)

Libel Diary – 19.01.2013
So there we are: readers will no doubt have seen the Portuguese announcement that the trial is suspended (for a maximum of six months) for the negotiations to take place. The Bureau sits here placidly waiting for the first comments from Kate & Gerry McCann or people speaking on their behalf. Listen to them carefully and you'll be able to judge for yourselves who is asking whom for a settlement. Of course if they don't say anything over the next week or so – we'll just have to nag them again. Come on Clarence – you're up to the task, aren't you?


Oh Dear – 21.01.2013

(...) Turning now to the libel case itself. The simply crazed suggestion that GA has asked for terms, and the even crazier idea that Kate McCann would take her fingernails out of GA's eyeballs unless she was dragged off by male nurses, implies that he sees no possible hope of winning the case. Dear oh dear, oh dear. No hope? The libel writ has only been released to the two papers with most to lose from Amaral's vengeance who've been in the pockets of the parents since 2007, never to the millions of suckers who believe in the pair and contributed to the fund – the Mirror and the People. From what they have published there were three main grounds in the writ. That Amaral's claims were false. That, in addition, the claims had caused enormous psychological and behavioural damage to the couple which deserved financial compensation. And that the "search for Madeleine" had been, and was continuing to be, damaged by the inference from GA's "thesis" that the child was dead. Forget the propaganda war and forget the spin. Just going on judicial processes and Kate McCann's own words they no longer have a claim under any of these three heads. A complete defence to Claim One is that "the defendant had good reason to believe his allegations were true and were made in good faith." The Lisbon injunction hearing in 2010 heard evidence from officers in the case that, based on their investigation, they were all of the same opinion as Amaral that the McCanns had presented "a fairy tale" of abduction. The archiving summary "on the reconstruction" detailed the evidence against the nine which still existed at the time of archiving. Clearly he had, and has, good reason. The final appeal hearing put on judicial record that the Amaral interpretation of the case up to its archiving was of the same level of validity and good faith as the interpretation which the prosecutor had made in authorising shelving on the grounds of innocence of the arguidos. Therefore there was no evidence of "bad faith". As the Bureau pointed out last year the judgement in the Amaral v Marcos Aragão Correia libel case found for the latter on exactly those grounds.

Psychological and behavioural damage to the couple. Whatever Duarte claimed in 2009, Kate McCann's words in Madeleine, as well as the couple's actions since, demonstrate the falsity of this claim. In the final chapter of the book Kate McCann describes the various severe difficulties she and Gerry McCann have suffered since 2007. None of these are attributed to the statements or actions of Amaral or match the list of symptoms given by their lawyer in the writ. The only conclusive effect that Kate McCann claims Amaral had on her was to make her psychopathically furious with him: if everyone who makes Kate McCann insanely angry was sued for libel the justice system would grind to a halt.Either she is lying now or she was lying in the statement of claim.

In that same chapter she refers to events which demonstrate that she was undamaged by Amaral in the way she claimed. She refers to going onto the Oprah Winfrey show, in which her state can be seen in recordings, to dancing and going to social functions. Photographic evidence confirms this. The claims have not a shred of evidence so far to support them and appear to be contradicted in detail by her book.
Damaging or preventing the search. This was always going to be near-impossible to prove given that the onus in Portugal lies on the claimant, not the defendant. In 2013 the situation for the claimants is much worse. The only "evidence" that Kate McCann has revealed publicly is either hearsay or her "belief". The matter is so subjective that there would have to be very convincing quantitative, not qualitative, evidence to make a judge even consider the claim. There is none that we know of.
Secondly the "search" to which the claimants were referring no longer exists, having been stopped in March 2012. The McCann website states that it was stopped because the Scotland Yard review is now doing the "searching". No claim that Amaral's thesis could affect the Yard search has been made by the McCanns nor, obviously, could it be made bearing in mind the statements of Redwood on behalf of the inquiry. So the claim is not just wrong but a non-sequitur argument. No evidence for the claim. Written evidence to the contrary. Does anyone seriously believe that Amaral or his lawyer would be pleading with the McCanns to drop their case given these facts? We'd love to know the evidence that anyone can produce on the net to refute the three statements we've made above. Sooner or later the parents are going to have to face the reality of the situation. The longer they pretend the more crushing the defeat.




They just don't get it – 25.01.2013

The poor boobies in the McCann camp think this is some temporary blip that they'll weather if they keep their heads down. They can't get to grips with what's going on. So let's spell out why the libel trial suspension is no ordinary news item. Since 2008 and the publication of Goncalo Amaral's book the strategy of the parents and their team has been simple, as all the best deceptions are : Deliberately highlighting the tabloid rubbish of autumn 2007 against them so that everyone, from the house of Commons to Oprah Winfrey to the on-line audience for the Leveson inquiry, knows the mad accusations by heart, while muffling and blanketing the truly dangerous, accurate, stuff from beginning to end. Capitaliser sur les excréments de la presse-caniveau.
That's it folks, it's that simple: no need for hidden allies, protection or political help. That is the plan that they have consistently followed and it's worked a treat. But only by keeping the lid on Amaral and the hard core of truth about the PJ investigation. Bit by bit the contents have dribbled out and the pair have struggled to screw the lid down even tighter. The steam started to rise in Lisbon in 2010 and spouted out with Kate McCann's ill-conceived Madeleine. Now, after five years, the pot has finally burst in their faces. Their proven lies about the course of the PJ investigation go back not to May 2007, where so much is still uncertain or a matter of opinion, but to the beginning of August of that year. That is when the proof of Kate and Gerry McCann's attempt to prevent the UK public finding out about the details of the investigation at any cost becomes visible. And that's why the end of the case against Goncalo Amaral – for it will not be resumed in six months – is so crucial. That's why the Bureau splashed it. Leaving aside the couple's role earlier in the investigation, at all the subsequent crucial junctures of the affair the parents have either lied or deliberately misrepresented or muffled events to deceive the British public about the interrupted investigation.

• On August 2 2007, they began the calculated lying about the police activities against them which form the core of Amaral's claims.

• In summer 2008, they deliberately misrepresented the Portuguese archiving summary which had confirmed the Seven's refusal to co-operate with the inquiry and the McCanns' failure to "demonstrate their innocence".

• In January 2009, they secretly commenced the silencing and libel actions against Amaral while lying on the greatest possible scale that they were in Portugal for different reasons.

• In 2010, the Portuguese courts demolished their human rights claim against Amaral and one of the three legs of their libel claim. There was no media statement from the McCanns.

• In January 2013, the McCanns accepted defeat in their libel claim but refused to make any statement or answer any questions about the matter.

On August 2 2007 a police squad turned the McCanns over. The house was searched, possessions were seized and they were left, according to Kate McCann, with "just the clothes they were wearing." Later their car was seized for forensic examination. The lies which both the McCanns told on that date and afterwards – outright porkies – to prevent the UK public discovering anything of the truth about the investigation are listed in these Bureau archives below. Kate McCann's attempted excuse in Madeleine (page 206) that they "had no choice" but to lie demonstrates how lying is their preferred or instinctive mode of operation when in a tight spot. The lying about the investigation and Amaral has never stopped since then.

This is the Team's précis of the summary which they fed to the UK press on publication and which, in the usual way of the great days of Team McCann spin, was written up in the same words in numerous papers. This one comes from the Standard. The dishonesty and the motive are quite manifest.

The Portuguese police inquiry into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann was condemned in the strongest terms by the country's public prosecutors, new documents revealed today. [a deliberate lie; it was not.]

Detectives were criticised for establishing "no element of proof" about what happened to Madeleine or even whether she was alive or dead. [a deliberate lie; they were not]

A source close to the McCanns' legal team said action against the Portuguese police was now increasingly likely. He said: "Given this blatant misrepresentation of evidence, legal action against the Portuguese police is very much on the agenda. [another deliberate lie; there was no "misrepresentation of evidence". We still await the legal action against the PJ].

The lawyers are considering very seriously whether action needs to be taken against individual officers when evidence was clearly misrepresented in such obvious ways at such crucial times. [see above].

As we know from Madeleine Gerry McCann went to Portugal on January 13 2009 specifically to plot the libel claim and gagging order with Duarte. In perhaps the most prolonged and widespread example of his gratuitous lying he gave interview after interview stating that he was there for other reasons.

Not only was Amaral vindicated but the judges, as Kate McCann's Madeleine let slip, knocked away the third leg of the libel claim, damage to the so-called search. She writes: 
"The latest verdict was that Amaral’s poisonous allegations did not damage our investigation in any way." That's one of the three libel claims dead. She and Gerry McCann had known since 2009 that proving Amaral's interpretation of events in the apartment, the subject of the main claim of the three would be very difficult. When announcing the dropping of the libel case against Tal y Qual then Mitchell had said: "The libel action against Tal & Qual has been dropped for a number of reasons. Firstly, the newspaper went bust some time ago. Secondly Tal & Qual could probably have mounted a defence, as they were reporting what a certain police officer believed at the time." Which is the same 100% defence –"genuine belief that something is true" – which worked for Mad Marcos and would work for Amaral in court. So much for Clarence's version. The Telegraph, to whom he had given the story, was rather more blunt: "This week the couple withdrew their defamation action after being advised that the newspaper had a strong defence under Portuguese law. It could argue the story was published in good faith because senior police officers did at the time believe the McCanns may have been implicated in the case." That's two of the three claims dead – but they had to keep the lid on, didn't they?

And on the parallel track the McCanns, despite the statement of one of their lawyers on BBC television in 2007 that the aim was to "expunge" from the public memory the wild claims against them made in the press:

• In March 2009 recirculated all the invented tabloid claims against them to the public House of Commons media committee.

• In 2012 recirculated all the same claims in even greater detail to the public and on-line audience for the Leveson inquiry.

Highlight the one. Keep the lid on the other. The lid's off. They are toast.




Sitting pretty – 26.02.2013

The current disagreement on twitter and elsewhere regarding who blinked first in the McCanns v Amaral case is, on the face of it, simply silly. Soon enough the court and the two sides will release information about events and at some point there will be a judgement. So we have to wait, like it or not. Yet something of significance is nevertheless happening. On the Net supporters of both parties, some of them authorised, fight it out and in doing so enable us to peer through the smoke and haze of deliberate disinformation and self-deception to gain some sort of picture – for everything in this world leaves a trace – of what the principals are actually up to. What is new is that, accidentally or otherwise, the proxies and commentators on both sides are finally opening themselves up in a way that will allow their credibility and their judgement to be tested. The parents' supporters, with the tacit co-operation of the McCanns themselves, have been in the happy position of maintaining that the pair were officially cleared in 2008 and that any questions about their conduct are simply flat-earth expressions of loony Net hatred. The virtual silence of the UK overground media, broken only by occasional bursts of sympathy for the couple, or pit-bull attacks on Amaral, is taken as confirmation that no questions remain for intelligent adults to pose. That is why we’ve always said that the supporters of Kate and Gerry McCann are stuck in 2008. But now they've decided, finally, to come up-to-date and start making their own factual claims, rather than parroting those of Menezes. It is an obvious and established fact, they say, that Amaral, originator of the whole case against the parents and the chief hope of the haters, is not just a crook but a loser who for years has been trying to wriggle his way out of the libel case that the McCanns so justifiably brought against him. He knows for certain, they say, that he cannot win the case. They then give legal reasons why he can't win, how "everybody" in the loop is aware he has no chance. And, they say, he has finally accepted reality by getting his lawyers to ask for the case to be suspended so that he can offer the parents vindication without being utterly ruined. Vindication will mean, obviously, the withdrawal of all the charges he has made against the pair. Well, there's nothing weasel-worded or ambiguous about that, is there? No hiding behind others' views or saying that this is merely their opinion. These are matters of established fact that the poor Net loonies will soon have to accept.


Which actually means that the debate about who blinked first isn't trivial at all. The fact of Amaral's withdrawal and the parents' victory, if true, as they say, really is a huge development. It will finish the job that the archiving summary began and it will demonstrate that the parents' critics have not only lost the focus of their hopes but have been shown up as both wrong and, worse, as either naive or as fibbers who are still trying to pretend that this hasn't happened. Joana Morais and her crowd and the drug-taking fantasist Blacksmith and his crew of losers will have been caught out in their deceptions and are going to have to fall silent. It's big, big stuff. You know what? We agree with them. It isn't just a matter of a futile guessing game. It's a key moment for credibility. If Goncalo Amaral is found to have pleaded for terms and withdraws all his claims against the McCanns then yes, whatever Joana might do, we'll accept the reality, accept that our information and judgement hasn't been good enough, accept that maybe we've been used, apologise and close the Bureau down. Now what about the other side of the coin? Let us suppose that any settlement, in or out of court, clearly shows that Amaral wasn't wriggling, hadn't pleaded for terms, doesn't withdraw his interpretation, doesn't settle on the parents terms and demonstrates that if anyone has won it isn't Kate and Gerry McCann. First, what will it say about the truthfulness of these supporters? The claims they've explicitly made that we've listed above. That one's easy: they will either be shown to be truthful or outright f****** liars, no ifs and buts. And their information about the case? Well that one will be easily answered too, won't it? Either invented or they've been deliberately misled. Of course that in turn might bring up the question who has been doing the misleading? And why. Lastly, what will it say about the balance of reliability and judgement of the two sides over the last five years, about whether the active supporters of the parents, including those who have had direct access to the couple, have had the right end of the stick all along? And about the reliability and truthfulness of the McCanns' own site, which came out with its own authorised statement on the rumours? But that's just speculation. The uncomfortable fact is that the active McCann supporters have got us right where they wanted us: they know the truth and they can sit back and laugh that the truth, when finally acknowledged, is also going to close the little Bureau down. It's a very big moment. Another one gone. What more could they want?



Still sitting comfortably? - 27.02.2013

Who to believe? Then let's get back to yesterday's subject, the question of credibility. Since 10pm on May 3 2007 credibility has been at the heart of the case; in fact, in the absence of tangible evidence, forensic or otherwise, it is the case. At 10pm the babble of voices began, appropriately, with a loud, public scream, followed by apparent panic and hysteria not just from Kate and Gerry McCann but from their middle-aged doctor friends, all experienced in handling emergencies, who say they "ran around in circles shouting and bumping into each other" rather than trying to assess what might have happened to a missing child. Since then the raised voices have never stopped. That problem, for those who are simply interested in the truth of what happened that night, remains exactly as it did on May 3 and the succeeding weeks. Who is telling the truth and who's trying to con us? We can say at once that the parents are practised, self-admitted and incorrigible liars as the evidence quoted section by section in the Blacksmith Bureau proves beyond any doubt. That, and not a belief that the McCanns are guilty of anything involving their daughter, is the reason for the Bureau's involvement in the case. That's why we have as many enemies among the anti-McCann groups, especially those on the losers' forums, as we do among the activist supporters. The former, firm in their beliefs that the McCanns dunnit but rather weaker when it comes to evidence justifying their view (they haven't got any) squeal loudly about the little Bureau's inability to demonstrate "what side it's on". The vocal supporters hate us for a different reason, apart, that is, from their general propensity for hatred. They can't stand our habit of pointing things out with supporting evidence – proof – from primary sources, not newspaper junk, that they are unable to challenge let alone refute, and it pisses them off no end. We'll add a bolt-on to the Bureau soon so that the posts become searchable and readers can ignore our opinion pieces, which aren't worth much anyway, and retrieve those sections where the proofs are laid out. Among many examples we've listed the lies in the 2007 "blogs", Gerry's attempt to fool the British public about the progress of the investigation. There has been no rebuttal. We highlighted Kate McCann's own description of how she had lied to and deceived the media in August 2007 together with her equally dishonest "justification" for doing so, and Gerry McCann's public lie that he was "ill" on August 2 rather than being turned over by the police and left with only the clothes he was wearing. Any rebuttal? Not a word. Any acknowledgement, then, from the same quarters that any of this had even happened? Nope.

We've published the evidence showing that six of the seven friends gave public commitment after commitment of their willingness, their keen desire, to return to Portugal to assist the investigators if requested – and then, when they were requested, they refused to do so, the nasty little liars, this time hoping that nobody would find out
Ils ne pouvaient vraiment pas savoir que les PJFiles seraient publiées sur DVD ! Même leurs enfants, d'ici à quelques années, pourront lire leurs interviews "rogatoires".
Any rebuttal? You know the answer. We've published the transcript where prosecutor Menezes states under oath that the nine "did not tell the truth" in their statements about their movements on May 3, something he somehow forgot to mention in his archiving summary. Refutation? Discussion of the implications? Acknowledgement? Nothing. Il parle de "non-vérités".

The list goes on and on, demonstrating that whatever happens, whatever one's views, it is impossible to accept the unsupported word of the McCanns about anything. And "anything" obviously includes not only Kate McCanns' claim that the PJ "offered her a deal" (they didn't) but more importantly her description of the empty apartment on May 3, shutters, window, storm-force wind and all. That's why we've taken the view that only a re-examination of eight of the nine by the Portuguese police can demonstrate whether, on this occasion, the parents did, most unusually, tell the truth and that's what we go on campaigning for. Simples. No hate. No theories. No disciples. Just recognition of the proof of verbal dishonesty which makes the couple, backed up by their friends, completely unreliable, literally incredible, witnesses. So we can't accept their unsupported claims of an abductor. That's our position. If either the parents or a single one of their supporters had the guts to confront these facts and stand up and say, honestly, "look, we accept there is a problem, it looks bad but..." we might feel differently. Instead we see an unarguable pattern of lies from the parents since 2007, and an absolute silence about the porkies they have been been caught out in – and we find exactly the same pattern in their active supporters. Whether it's the cudgel bearers on Twitter, the laughably lightweight countering-the-myths forum and website "think" pieces, the "analyses" of that Pooter of the Willesden streets debunker or the demented violence of the McCanns' various butch enforcers whose posts bulge like their biceps – you know them, I'm sure – the one thing you never get is an acknowledgement of the questions the parents' extraordinary behaviour poses. None of them will touch the subject.



The Portuguese libel case is one of the very few opportunities that the judiciary has had to examine, weigh and assess the credibility of Kate and Gerry McCann and their claims. At the first such opportunity, the Portuguese human rights hearings in 2010, their defeat was total. What about this time? The verdict or settlement will have a decisive impact on the reputation of both parties. The McCanns' credibility, given the above facts, can never be repaired by any court but their position with the public will certainly be improved if they win their case. If Amaral is vindicated, on the other hand, his credibility and "interpretations" naturally gain added weight and, since those interpretations include his observation that things have gone "badly for the McCanns" in Oporto, the implications could be very far reaching indeed. It is a key event in this five year long drama. We've already said that if Goncalo Amaral withdraws his claims we'll accept all the implications because it's the truth we're interested in, not buttressing any position of our own: we'll be off double quick, which naturally means we won't be around to attempt to spin the settlement or verdict. Do you think a single one of the supporters is capable of making any similar commitment respecting the truth? Just watch. Next, the evolution of lying: what is a Kate McCann "rumour"?



Not beginning to fidget yet? - 28.02.2013

(...) Have others on that side of the fence ever really tackled the issue of suggestibility in this case? To paid spin? For instance, do activists think that the affable lawyer Smethurst was just being windy in 2007 when he said that it was "incumbent upon us to portray the truth to the media and in particular to try and expunge any ill-founded theories about Gerry and Kate's involvement so that the media attention can focus back onto the abduction and therefore onto the fact that we have a missing little girl out there."

In 2007 Smethurst, along with everyone else at that time, couldn't have known what "the truth" was, could he? Yet he was confident that, given the money, given the people and the time, he could get the British public to believe a certain version of "the truth". And he was speaking on a BBC flagship programme. Do the activists think that they aren't part of that public? That he was only swaying others? What about that Hanover Communications claim, that people like to tweet

…by giving journalists positive stories to report, coverage turned from hostility to the McCanns to sympathy about their ordeal. This campaign won the crisis communication category at the 2008 CIPR awards.

(...) How "credible, reliable and concerned with the truth" do you think the supporters of the parents will be when the verdict/settlement arrives? Clue: not one of their sites has yet attracted attention to the Lisbon Appeal Court human rights judgement back in 2010 by devoting a thread to an accurate appraisal of it. They've got the Bennett slaughter judgement up in full after only two weeks but not Lisbon's after two years. In denial yet again – is that because there's no Hanover Communications to guide them on handling it?

But don't listen to us: get your own answer by watching the tweets and reading the posts.

Kate McCann and when is a rumour a rumour? Sorry, that will have to wait for tomorrow.



Then I'll begin – 01.03.2013

John Blacksmith (Antony Sharples) writes: Now that the McCann Affair has reached such a crucial stage it's increasingly likely that the public won't need people trying, however poorly, to be guides to it anymore. If Goncalo Amaral resiles and asks for mercy then my assessment of him, the one I've passed on to readers for several years, will be seen to be wrong and I'll take the consequences. If, however, he is on the verge of victory then, frankly, I'm going to feel sorry for Kate and Gerry McCann and I don't want to stick around to comment on what threatens to be a very painful process for them. So – and only for those who are interested in reading some minor personal details about the affair – I can speak a little more freely now that I have no future position, or sources, to protect. When I got the email from a journalist on one of the UK nationals a few weeks ago asking me if I knew anything about a McCann rumour that had hit the desks, I had to reply that I couldn't help because I didn't know anything. A few hours later I received another email, this time from Portugal, telling me briefly that the pair had given up and asked for terms. I sat there for a while staring at the screen and turning it over in my mind. I found it almost impossible to believe, so critical were the implications for the couple. If the story was true it was the beginning of the end of the affair, of that I had no doubt, for I felt that nothing except desperation in the face of impossible odds, not necessarily confined to the libel trial, could have prompted such a move. So before even trying to think it through I needed to get some confirmation – but how? In April last year Goncalo Amaral recorded his measured and surprisingly unruffled piece for Panorama before firing a warning shot across the bows of a certain Andy Redwood, reminding that gentleman of the limits beyond which the officer's contribution to the programme would not be allowed to go. In a short but explosive interview he revealed the existence both of the Oporto squad and the hitherto unknown Anglo-Portuguese liaison team, as well as adding his now famous assessment of its progress: things there "were not going well for the McCanns". The creaking and secretive wheels of the Portuguese justice system now whizzed round with unprecedented speed and transparency: within days the authorities were forced to concede the truth of his revelations about the structure of the review: those warning shots had not been aimed at Redwood alone.


With that Amaral went into seclusion. He refused to enlarge on his comments or discuss the details of his own case, as far as I could tell, with anyone outside his legal team for the rest of the year. People I'd known who were close to his thinking found that their relations with him remained affable but uninformative and were able to tell me nothing. 
Cette équipe a pour principe de base de se méfier de tout. Le public qui a pitié du sort de GA contribue financièrement, mais ne bénéficie d'aucun éclaircissement ni ne peut faire savoir ce qu'il pense. Comme si on attendait du public "payez et fermez-la".
What was clear was that he and his new legal team were now giving the McCanns zero to use or spin; on the contrary the parents and their lawyers, who had known nothing about the Oporto and liaison teams, were reduced to a panicky attempt at damage limitation themselves by using, yet again, the one UK newspaper still fully committed to their support – the Mirror. The price of this restraint by Amaral and his team, of course, was that he had to accept without response the continuing mud and filth that was calculatedly thrown at him, part of a renewed (and increasingly desperate) campaign of defamation which those who organized it may well come to regret. So when I tried to find confirmation of the parents' request for terms I found, just as the press had found for the previous few days, that nobody could give it. There was no trace of a source and Amaral's team said nothing, not "no comment" but literally nothing. Amaral himself remained in seclusion. Readers of this blog may never know just how murky the waters surrounding this affair really are. Trying to sort the real from the fictional in an environment where people are constantly providing misinformation, sometimes amateurishly, sometimes with disturbing professionalism, is a nightmare and even when you've satisfied yourself about a source you can't quote it without damaging the information supply or the people providing it. As with all leaks the questions were the old ones – what's the reason for leaking, who stands to gain? And who has suddenly gone silent and why? In this case everybody was bloody silent and trying to get your head round the possible gainers led you into a long chain of dizzying "what ifs". But I had one little advantage. I had been so shocked by the incredible winner-take-all malice of the McCanns towards the officer who had worked on the case that for a brief period in late 2009 I decided that commenting alone wasn't enough: I would take that pair on at their own game of spin to try and do something, anything, to counter what I saw as a piece of wickedness on the part of the parents. For me it wasn't the Madeleine McCann Affair anymore but the McCann Affair in which the pair attempted to inflict pain on another person as great as any pain that they had suffered in 2007. 
Une façon comme une autre de mettre quelqu'un du côté de ceux qui souffrent, leur côté.

Having offered my services unconditionally and for free to Amaral's team – I have never met Gonçalo himself – I set about adding to the documents and information I'd already accumulated on the case. When the Lisbon hearing (janvier 2010) was about to begin I made an appeal to SkyNews to provide at least one correspondent to provide a daily round up of the case. We all knew that the case was set to be heard in closed court, in other words in secret, and so Team McCann, in the absence of a balancing force, would be the only source of information to the UK public. Provide a correspondent, I said to Sky, and I'll provide bilingual people with access to the hearings to give a brief view independently of the McCann spin machine. At least that would supply fairness. I got no guarantees but then something happened that changed events entirely. Most of you will know the gist of what Amaral's colleagues and other defence witnesses said in court and the impact their words had. How much do you know about what the original McCann witnesses in this case had said when the injunctions were first sought? Almost nothing? Right, because those witnesses were heard in secret so that not even Amaral knew what they'd said. And the McCanns, like the rest of us, were certain that Amaral's witnesses would also be heard in secret in January – until, at the last minute, somebody in the dark recesses of the Portuguese legal system, and I still don't know who, put the case into open court.
C'est le juge qui décide. En septembre 2013, c'est Amaral and Co qui a demandé que l'audience se déroule à huis clos. La juge a refusé.


The McCanns were totally unprepared for this and never caught up, indeed they hadn't even briefed Mitchell to provide the summaries I expected, so convinced were they that there'd be a repeat blackout. It was the shock that the UK public was hearing all these horrible details through the Sky twitter commentary that eventually produced Gerry McCann's memorable meltdown outside court. Once the court had been opened Sky moved very quickly, much more quickly than the couple, and put Jon de Paolo in, so for the very first time since 10pm on May 3 2007 the UK public had access to unspun information about the affair. People have their concerns, or hatreds, about Murdoch and his editors, particularly the adventuress Rebekah Brooks, as well as reservations about the somewhat equivocal Martin Brunt; as I've said before, however, we owe an immense debt of gratitude to Murdoch-controlled Sky for what they did in Lisbon in the interests of truth. If only others had done as much! At the same time I began the same game that the couple had been playing incessantly for years, feeding information first via the blog and then direct to the UK nationals. And that was the little advantage I had in February this year. Being briefly at the centre of a news triangle involving Gonçalo and the couple I knew exactly what the press were reporting before and during the case because I'd given it to them. I was the only one who knew about the additional material I gave the press over and above what I put on the blog so I was able to compare the facts I'd given with the attempted responses from the Team and with the versions that the "activist supporters" of the couple were posting up. There wasn't a lot of it but what there was made some headlines as well as some sizeable waves at Scotland Yard and Leicester police headquarters. As far as the underprepared Team McCann was concerned I discovered that they were attempting to respond daily to the stuff on the blog and making a hash of it. Mitchell, in particular, was in many ways an amateur when confronted with new stories, very slow to think on his feet, despite the relentless self-publicity that had enabled him to convince people of his hidden power. 

I found, to my great surprise, that I was able to predict the way the team would respond day by day and put in a counter story before they'd even got their feed published. It was a very strange, indeed weird, feeling to be involved in this way and for the first time I understood the secretive sense of power that behind-the-scenes briefing gives to people like Mitchell. Of rather less importance, but still significant for February 2013, was what I found out about the activist supporters and their methods. Anyone who dismisses my description of them as decent but suggestible, unable to see the McCanns in the round and therefore susceptible to having their strings pulled, as mere insult needs to think again. I made the charge based on some years' insights into their activities but most of all on that January 2010 experience, because time and again that month they were exposed making stuff up to cover their own ignorance and the psychological fixation with the couple that had made them incapable of independent judgement. I had the grim and slightly disturbing pleasure of reading their numerous withering posts about my blog "lies", which they repeatedly compared with the alternative truthful versions of the "real journalists" covering the same stories on the nationals. But both versions came, every time, directly from me! We all know that Amaral lost that round and for the time being there was little more I could do to help, so my brief period manufacturing the news came to an end. But I'd learned my lessons and I'd learned enough about the methods of Team McCann to feel pretty sure that I'd be able to analyse whether the 2013 rumour was true or not before deciding whether to put it out. Always accepting, of course, that I might end up being wrong.



...and conclude – 05.03.2013

So when it came to evaluating the story that the parents were suing for terms the predictability of the McCanns and their activist victims made the task easier.

The-who-blinked-first-yah-boo stuff was just a trivialization. There was no dispute that both sides had agreed to discuss terms. What mattered was that one of the two sides was acknowledging by its actions that it was facing comprehensive defeat. That also meant the dreaded cycle of appeals and counter-appeals was now unlikely: you don't ask for terms because your position is hopeless and then spend money on appeals. So which side? I went for a walk under bitterly cold January skies to help me think and follow the logic through. The journalist had contacted us for confirmation of the rumour that it was the McCanns who were giving up. But all the UK national journalists possessed the contact number of ever-co-operative Mitchell. So why would they turn to the little Bureau, a place with no reputation for confirming anything? It could only be, I reasoned, because Mitchell had been contacted. The journalists were scratching around elsewhere, obviously, because they'd hit a blank wall: he'd refused to comment. Mitchell never refused an off-the-record answer unless he'd been taken by surprise or was unable to work out a spin curve with the pair. Never. It stood to reason that any Portuguese agreement to pause couldn't have come suddenly: it would have been preceded by weeks of consideration, if not informal negotiation. If the question came as a surprise to Mitchell then the parents hadn't yet informed him of events, which told its own story. If he did know but the three of them hadn't yet worked out a curve, or even a temporary holding statement, then the news, again, couldn't be positive. Could the silence possibly be for legal reasons? No. Everyone knew the McCanns never stayed silent for legal reasons, whatever they claimed. To me it was beginning to look open and shut. Still, I went over it again, from the other angle. What if it was Amaral who faced defeat? There'd been none of the usual gloating at the "lying cop's" problems from the Team or the Mirror but leave that aside for a moment.What would a losing Amaral have to gain by a false story claiming that he was on the verge of triumph? Clearly nothing at all: it would be a hopeless lie with no purpose, one bound to drive supporters away when the facts were finally established. So silence from the McCanns on the question and silence from Amaral meant two very different things, but both of them fatal to the couple.

I went on following it through from every angle I could think of, including, crazily, the idea that a highly respected McCann expert had put forward that it might be misinformation to trap and discredit the unimportant little Bureau. Possible, just, but vanishingly unlikely and, anyway, who cared? No, after all the thinking, whichever way I looked at it the analysis came out the same: the story had to be true, the parents were facing defeat and were temporarily incapable of response. Over the next few days there was only one thing left to decide: how should the Bureau respond – stay quiet until the facts somehow reached the public or publish the story? The risk of betraying readers by claiming an unsourced story was true was real enough, so the safest course was to say nothing until neutral information or some other disaster beyond the libel courts, perhaps connected to "things not going well for the McCanns", produced certainty. And how long would that take? There would be nothing of value from the media, that was for sure. The belief that if pressure was kept up for long enough the media would do the famous "turn", pull out their hidden dossiers and destroy the McCanns was, I was sorry to say, as unjustified as the belief in hidden protection. Whatever finally appeared in the media would only do so when the facts had been established elsewhere. Broadcasters were now reduced to disingenuous timidity about the McCanns, the memories of their disastrous performance throughout 2007 still fresh in their minds, as their continuing failure to report the Lisbon appeal court findings showed so clearly. Only in spring 2012 had the BBC finally started to move away from its 2007 written commitment "to report the case exclusively from the parents' point of view" and begun to tip-toe into slightly more neutral waters in the Panorama programme. As for the press, it was now irrelevant. (...) (At Leveson) the McCanns and their lawyers stood quite apart from the other witnesses: there was a vengefulness and, more important, a studied calculation in their performance (in which Kate McCann, notably, wore no make-up) which placed them on a different level from the others, whether these were cross (Grant) or comical (Murdoch), skittish (Rebekah) or farcical (Morgan). The McCanns were deadly serious with only one, unstated, aim: immunity. (...)

And the McCanns? Well those "real, professional" journalists hadn't been able to get the couple to break their frozen silence and confirm or deny the story, and nor could I. But the Net, now growing stronger than the overground media, most certainly could. Once the Twitter and Facebook amplifier was turned up to full volume I thought the uneasy silence would be impossible to maintain and the pair would be forced to say something. And why did I feel that if the McCanns were finally forced into a response by the Net uproar then it would be the fib, the false denial, that would come? Let Kate herself tell us by turning for the last time to page 205 of Madeleine:

We'd never lied about anything – not to the police, not to the media, not to anyone else. But now we found ourselves in one of those tricky situations where we just didn't seem to have a choice.

So, we're sure she'll tell the truth about a matter of this importance.Very recently I received this message from one of that select group of people in Portugal who have dedicated themselves to something worth struggling for and besides whom I feel very insignificant indeed. And it sums up better than I can the costs, as well as the final rewards, of fighting for an honourable cause. Its tone is justifiably emotional but intelligent and dignified, in sharp contrast to the coarse and gruesome sentimentality – that certain sign of inner dishonesty – that has always hung like an oily shroud over the defence of Kate and Gerry McCann. "With the libel case, I almost went mad when the injunction was upheld. I was there, throughout the hearings (though of course we hadn't had the privilege of hearing the McCanns' witnesses, as they had been heard in secrecy). I thought that I had heard the same stuff that the judge had heard for I really had gone into it with an open mind. I actually thought that Isabel Duarte had put on a hell of a show - but I thought that it was obvious that it was a show, that she was trying too hard, that she didn't have enough arguments and needed to play the emotional, almost insane role - emulating the insanity that must befall parents who lose their children... That ruling from the Appeals Court restored my sanity. I remember when Gonçalo received it, he called me and we met at a restaurant in Portimão, and I started to read it and he said nothing, absolutely nothing, as tears were falling down my face, because I rarely cry, and most often I cry out of joy, not sorrow."




Meanwhile – 09.03.2013

Meanwhile, as the out-of-the-loop activists fight over the bones of yesterday's battles, there is the next question they haven't even begun to face because things are moving too fast for them: is there a link between the Scotland Yard/PJ review and the McCanns/Amaral libel case? Of course there is! Don't take our word for it: you can work it out from public information for yourselves. In early 2012, as we know, Goncalo Amaral received hitherto secret information about the Anglo-Portuguese review. He then made three public claims before just as abruptly falling silent. Two of those claims, the existence of close liaison between UK and Portugal and the existence of the Oporto squad, were immediately confirmed by the Attorney-General's department as 100% accurate. On the third, "things are not going well for the McCanns", they were silent, for obvious reasons. Note that the Attorney-General's department made no criticism of Amaral for speaking publicly. We know that the original position of the McCanns and their lawyers was that Amaral was a "lone voice", a "rogue cop" who did not reflect the views of his fellow investigators. That position was destroyed in court in January 2010 by the evidence of fellow officers, the demolition confirmed by the appeal court later in the year. Duarte then critically altered her case, as she revealed in her long press release following the Wikileaks stuff: everything before October 2007 was just "old news", no longer relevant since the PJ had altered the direction of its investigation. Since early 2012 and the Amaral revelations, Duarte has had to wrestle with the possibility that Amaral's informant, or informants, on current, not old, PJ thinking might be called at the libel trial. Note that Amaral's complete silence on the matter has given her no clue. Whether the informant's name is now on the current Amaral witness list, visible to both parties, we don't know. But does anyone seriously believe that Amaral made public everything about "things" and how they were going? And that his lawyers are not going to bring this information to court?



Still living in the past – 12.03.2013

Got a minute? Here's a little task for people with ten minutes to spare: look up "Gonçalo Amaral" on Google, varying it, if you like, by adding typical UK media insult terms like "liar" and "shamed". You'll find that the UK press stopped abusing Amaral completely in spring last year. The final story was a questionable, but by previous standards harmless, piece on April 28 (long after everyone else had stopped) when Martin Fricker of the Mirror squeezed out "the bungling cop who led the botched Madeleine McCann investigation last night backed calls for the case to be reopened." Only two months before, in February 2012, the Mirror had still been writing about him in their traditional terms: "thrown off the case in disgrace...made a fortune spouting lies...peddling his outrageous claims...booted off the investigation...I don't know how he sleeps at night, knowing he's cashing in on the tragic story". Does this mean that the famous "turn" in opinion against the McCanns has taken place? Nope. It's purely to do with the lawyers. And the facts. The board of TrinityMirror, in particular, as a PLC (programmable logic controller) is open to a challenge of putting shareholders' funds at risk if its long-term defamation of Gonçalo Amaral can be characterised as "clearly reckless": Tweeters may wish to ask the company press office whether the board has considered this risk. Their pursuit would be clearly reckless if they continued it while knowing they had no prospective defence in truth or public interest for a repeatedly defamatory campaign against him. The words quoted from the February 12 story above are, unlike the words of April 28 but like nearly all their previous stories on Amaral, quite clearly indefensible – key in "Martin Fricker McCanns" for juicy examples. But then the press, with its consistent ignorance of Portugal and Portuguese law, assumed that Amaral was yesterday's goods and would lose his libel case there: being sued by him in the UK was unlikely (he'd be too skint if he lost, apart from anything else).


All that is, as the poets say, changed terribly. The last act began with Goncalo Amaral's well aimed broadsides immediately before he went into libel trial seclusion. In those interviews he strengthened and augmented all his original claims against the McCanns (not the actions of a man looking for a way out), dismissed their chances of succeeding ("the McCanns [legal] action is inept"), mocked them for their ignorance of Portuguese law and the legal process ("I am beginning to doubt the McCanns are aware of the decisions of the Portuguese courts"), hinted that Isabel Duarte was letting the pair go nose-down kamikaze to keep the fees coming in as long as possible, despatched the then half-forgotten Metodo3 with contempt ("creating bogus sightings"), thus presaging their downfall this year, and pointed out the increasingly defeatist tone of the pair's libel lawyer ("...some panic in the opposing side"). The journalists could ignore these strong warning signs if they chose: the lawyers could not, so in common with all the other UK nationals, the Mirror has withdrawn from the Amaral defamation game. Under UK law libel complaints have to be made within a year of the appearance of the offending article so all of them are, just, covered, as long as they continue to be good boys – which they most certainly will, both before and after the McCanns' defeat in the libel case is announced. As always those poor boobies, the activist McCann supporters, are out of the loop and living in 2008. Key "Goncalo Amaral liar" into Google and you will note the usual forum/blogger suspects all foaming madly against Goncalo – but doing so alone. The media have left the losers behind and moved on without a word. Isabel Duarte said they were confident of victory, adding: "We reasonably expect compensation for the dreadful damages this book has brought the family." Any payout will be spent entirely on the continuing global search for Maddie, the couple said. Mr Amaral led the bungled investigation but was sacked for criticising British police. Kate wrote in her 2011 book Madeleine: "That man has caused us so much upset and anger."



Now we're talking... - 15.06.2013

"Under the plan, Yard detectives will seek the assistance of the Portuguese to carry out some inquiries on their behalf. British police do not have jurisdiction in Portugal but they have the right to investigate and prosecute any British suspects who might be linked to Madeleine’s disappearance." As Gonçalo Amaral has said repeatedly, the original investigation was "incomplete" and the Attorney-General's department in the archiving summary detailed the exact ways in which it was incomplete - the common factor was that British persons of interest were beyond reach. If the review, which we remind readers is a joint review, had led to the re-opening of the case in Portugal then the authorities there would be faced with exactly the same problem that they had then: no way of forcing those people back, insufficient evidence to seek European arrest warrants and another crisis in Anglo-Portuguese relations as the paid shysters stall, wriggle and spin on behalf of their British clients. That cannot happen now that the Yard are taking over the inquiry. The only British "persons of interest" to the investigation are the holiday group: the others are now dead. Forget the forthcoming rumours that the Portuguese will be upset by the decision – that is a Scotland Yard steer and untrue. The fact is that the two countries have finally found a way to cut the Gordian knot. Everyone who wants the truth to come out, such as the parents of the child and their supporters, will naturally welcome the news. Hooray!




Agony-Aunt Bureau – your question answered – 21.06.2013

The London CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) covers the Metropolitan police (Scotland Yard) area.
As the principal prosecuting authority in England and Wales the CPS is responsible for criminal cases beyond the police investigatory stage. The CPS will advise the police on cases for possible prosecution, review cases submitted by the police, determine any charges in all but minor cases, prepare cases for court and present cases at court. Primarily, the CPS will review the evidence gathered by the police and provide guidance. [Bureau italics] During pre-charge procedures and throughout the investigative and prosecuting process the CPS may assist the police by explaining what additional work or evidence could raise the case to a viable charging standard thereby rectifying any evidential deficiencies. Once the evidence is gathered the CPS will then decide, on the basis of this evidence, whether a case should be pursued or dropped.

"London's chief crown prosecutor Alison Saunders and her deputy Jenny Hopkins flew to Portugal in April to meet counterparts to discuss leads identified in the Met's review." Evening Standard, June 21 2013. (...) what can the CPS Metropolitan police area heads have been doing there? Well, they are prosecutors, so even in this crooked old world it's fair to infer that they went to discuss possible prosecution in accordance with their role quoted above.The answer can only be either people who were neither arguidos nor persons of interest in the original Portuguese investigation or those who were. The former, in theory, could be, literally, anybody: ink-blots from the troubled but vivid imagination of Gerry McCann such as paid toddler-thieves and international paedophile rings; others who have hitherto escaped any study at all and may be living anywhere from New Zealand to Brazil; still others who might have been highlighted by the Yard team in their "opportunity" investigations and, lastly and most fatuously, the unfortunates like Hewitt whose names were bandied about by the paid liar Clarence Mitchell, the sheep-strangler Edgar (seen above demonstrating the tools of his trade) and their paymasters. The one thing we know for absolutely certain about this disparate group is that the same Portuguese Attorney-General's department which highlighted the absence of any evidence of wrong-doing by the McCanns and archived the case has repeatedly stated that "no new evidence" of significance has been provided to it during the period of the Scotland Yard review. Unless the Attorney-General's department is publicly lying on the record, which we consider absolutely out of the question, then no material has been provided to that department to justify even investigation of any new names, let alone possible prosecution. So the answer to the question who could have been the subject of Anglo-Portuguese discussions regarding prosecution is self-evident and incontrovertible: persons against whom the evidence for prosecution has already been gathered (remember "no new evidence") in the original Amaral/Rebelo investigation.




Forgiveness is all – 01.07.2013

Be your own expert. "British detectives have expressed dismay over flaws in the Portuguese police investigation in which dozens of people were allowed to trample over the crime scene." Such is the song we've heard for many years until, like so much in the case, it is accepted as obvious fact. Much of the local "trample" colour was provided originally by an extremely dodgy press leak by two policemen who spoke, surprise, surprise, on condition of anonymity. Note the date the stuff appeared – November 2007: "counter-attack month" for Team McCann. The articles are worthless except as signs of the Team's successful efforts to sap the Portuguese case against Kate & Gerry McCann by anonymous disparagement. As local journalist Brendan de Beer pointed out, (himself used by the Team then hung out to dry, as he ruefully admitted to us years ago) certain journalists were going around offering fat fees for anonymous interviews with policemen. But starting a debate on supposed police shortcomings served its purpose: diverting attention from the question of what the nine holidaymakers were doing between ten and midnight and just what they permitted to happen. Any writer on the case with a gram of honesty could have pointed out that "crime scene" for apartment 5A should be used with care. "Crime scene" conjures up images of a dead victim with a knife in the back, or a puddle of blood on the pavement. "Contaminating the crime scene", in that naff TV watcher's pseudo-expertise first brought to us by Gerry McCann (Helicopters, I tell you!) and David Payne (Seal the borders men!) suggests thicko coppers slipping on the blood as they blunder. Like those bunglers who opened cupboards in 5A to look for the child instead of calling a national emergency. What they should have done was march the McCanns out to a police car, lock the apartment doors and say, in peasant Portuguese, "right, it's a crime scene. Nothing can be done until forensics arrive in a couple of hours. We can't even look for her under the bed." As always, trying to help the McCanns led to ridicule and contempt.


In normal parlance a crime scene is a specific location where a crime is known to have taken place. There was not then, and there still is not now, any evidence that 5A was the scene of a crime between 9.15pm and 10pm on May 3 2007 demanding immediate forensic precautions. None. Ever. Perhaps the Yard will tell us.Kate McCann: "It's inexplicable, of course, that we should ever have been left in what was now a crime scene." Her statement, made in 2011 in Madeleine, has precisely the same value as her claim that she "knew" it was a crime scene at 10pm. She has never provided evidence to justify either of her assertions.

People had been in and out of the apartment for the last three hours, [i.e from 10pm] and until one of the PJ officers "stuck a piece of police tape" [note the intentionally contemptuous language about the people who were simple enough to try and help her] across the doorway of the children's room, it was Gerry who tried to make sure everyone kept clear of it.

So there it is. Unlike anyone else, unlike any of the police at the time, the couple were both certain that it was a crime scene. And Gerry explicitly accepted responsibility for protecting it from contamination: "...it was Gerry who tried to make sure everyone kept clear of it. " How did he try? Did he sit on a chair in front of the bedroom door? Did he ask someone to deputize for him if he was called elsewhere? Like Matthew Oldfield, say, or O'Brien. Gerry could have ripped out a page from a child's colouring book and made a sign for the door – no entry! Come to think of it they could have taken the table the three were using to create their timelines and placed it in front of the door while they went on "working". It's a wonderful word, "try", isn't it? Was he trying while he was rolling on the floor screaming like a wounded buffalo about paedophiles? Did he make his numerous phone calls while supervising the door? Do any of the recipients of those calls describe him saying, "can't talk any longer, there's someone by the bedroom door." As always with that pair, everything is somebody else's fault, from Mrs Fenn, with her "plummy voice" and casual attitude to the doltish "tweedledum and tweedledee" coppers, who drove too fast and didn't keep their police station as clean and tidy as a Rothley redbrick loo. Unless it's one of the "friends". That's different. No, says Kate, doesn't worry me at all that Jane Tanner, who had only to shout and the bogeyman would have left the child and legged it, did nothing and kept her trap shut. No, no, we forgive nice Robby O'Brien who was supposed to do our 9.30 check but betrayed us by caring only for his own kid. And Matthew? Well, she's not terribly warm towards Matthew but has no criticism for his criminal negligence, which like Tanner's behaviour eighteen minutes before, prevented the alarm being raised to save the child's life. She really is all heart, isn't she? It's just a pity that the media people, so full of questions for the Portuguese bunglers, could never bring themselves to ask Kate McCann, "What exactly did you mean, Kate? How did he try?"

Avant d''essayer" de préserver, on sait qu'il expérimenta l'ouverture du volet roulant de l'extérieur. Pour ce faire, il dit avoir fermé la fenêtre et descendu le volet roulant. Une fois dehors, il tenta manuellement de soulever le volet et... réussit à, déclara-t-il, sa plus grande stupéfaction. Il oublia de raconter ce qu'il advint du volet ainsi levé, mais non enroulé... On n'aurait pu polluer davantage la scène de crime.




More on Munchin' Mitchell – 31.10.2013

A beach

What exactly is the status of Clarence "Maggot" Mitchell?

That question begins to loom as the bright new investigation gathers momentum. Should it "vindicate" the McCanns, then their position as proven and practised pathological liars and intriguers will be left unchanged. But what if something more serious occurs? Where exactly does he stand then?

Mr Mitchell is most commonly described, of course, as a "spokesman" but that's clearly an inadequate description of his role. But even as a mere spokesman his role is significant: a spokesman has to know a great deal about the activities and behaviour of his employers to be able to field questions and voice opinions on their behalf: he has to be familiar with the way they think.

As he says, he's a Very Important Person

But he isn't just a spokesman, is he? Ever since the autumn of 2007 Mr Mitchell has been something much more, a self-taught reputation manager for the parents, a trusted strategist and, particularly in 2007/8, a vital member of the defence team which so successfully turned the tables on the Portuguese prosecution authorities. It was Mr Mitchell, remember, who toured the offices of all the UK national newspaper editors with defence lawyers and gave a confidential and categorical assurance to each of them that the McCanns were completely innocent and that continuing to print accusatory stories would result in legal action.

Unlike his fellow travellers, however, Mr Mitchell is not a lawyer. As someone who left school early without any qualifications, indeed, he isn’t a member of any profession. Does that matter or are we being snobbish?

Oh, it matters all right; it matters a great deal and with every day that goes by it matters a great deal more.

Thinking the Unthinkable, Mr Mitchell

Professional advisers such as chartered accountants or lawyers have immunity regarding their clients' actions. However repulsive their behaviour – and the McCanns have collected just about the most repulsive crew of lawyers to be seen since the OJ Simpson trial – they don’t go down with their clients if things go wrong.

The Maggot has no such protection if the unthinkable occurs. As a spokesman he is a paid and trusted servant of Gerry and Kate McCann with intimate knowledge of their affairs. As a spin doctor, that is a paid liar by definition, he is self-taught and, importantly, he did not have a PR agency of his own to give him even a fig-leaf of quasi-professional protection or distance from the pair: he did it, as he himself has stated, for personal reasons. And as a member of the 2007/8 defence effort he had a crucial role in protecting them from the possible legal consequences of their actions.

In law, therefore, rather than in his own very high estimation, Mr Mitchell is both an employee and, more important, a voluntary "member of a joint enterprise".

The question of exactly what that joint enterprise set out to achieve, and how, is being closely investigated by the police of two countries right now*, who are very anxious indeed to repeat that the McCanns are not suspects, definitely not, absolutely not, no question, Christ no, not, as Kate McCann used to love saying, not in a million years.

* For those interested, the "tractor driver" farce has unravelled quicker than one of Mr Mitchell's sightings: the widow has freaked out and is already suing the people who made the claim and the doors in the AG department are banging loudly as people rush to distance themselves from it.




The vulnerabilities of Mr Mitchell – continued – 01.11.2013

Kate and Gerry McCann with Clarence Mitchell

Three people – one enterprise

We now know, nearly seven years on, that the harm done to the original investigation by the McCanns is much greater than we supposed.

In May 2007 the one and only physical "search for Madeleine" that has ever taken place, the scouring of PDL and other areas for traces of the child by the PJ, was placed under critical strain by the unauthorised ("no media!") and illegal ("please observe judicial secrecy") interference of Kate and Gerry McCann. Helped by some of their friends.

Culpability

Their media activities led directly to a mass of irrelevant, and in many cases half-crazed, "sightings" of the child worldwide. The resources of the PJ were stretched to the limit by these reports, each of which had to be investigated.

Whether the child was murdered by a panicking abductor as a direct result of the parents actions, as the PJ feared would happen unless the parents saw sense, we may never know.

That alone is a crushing burden of potential culpability, one which the parents have never acknowledged. But it gets worse. The activities of the couple and their friends over the weekend of May 5/6 when they constructed a narrative of events built around an "abductor" seen by Jane Tanner led to yet further diversion of effort and resources. Every man-hour spent on tracking the JT suspect foisted on them by the group was time stolen from the real PJ search. Without the loss, again, we cannot know if it might have been successful and the child traced.

But with the recent revelation that Tanner never saw any "abductor" the culpability of the parents and their friends grows even greater, if that is humanly possible. The search, the one real search, was hamstrung and corrupted by a complete fantasy, the sole responsibility of the parents and their friends.

In search of a sense of shame

It is a quite shocking episode, one which, you might think, would have led to shamed silence for the rest of their lives by the people responsible. But no. Instead of well-merited silence and shame at their culpability, unwitting or otherwise, they have led an insane, megaphone attack on the very people who tried to warn, to plead and to prevent their fatal interference, the PJ.

You'd think it can't get any more rotten or shameful, wouldn't you? It can.

Not content with their 2007 wrecking ball the parents engaged an accomplice, a paid liar, to help breathe life and credibility into the abductor who never was. This project of invention and untruth was largely entrusted, in a truly Faustian way, to hungry Clarence Mitchell.




Sports News – 19.11.2013

Are we all relaxed?

The smooth and untroubled progress towards a denouement of the Affair following the carefully planned Bladerunner vaporization of Tannerman, the shadowy Praia da Luz replicant on whom the entire abduction-by-aliens depended, gives us, the increasingly smug critics, the luxury of breathing space to enjoy the successful re-opening of the case.

The parents, though, have been uncharacteristically restrained with their celebrations about the re-opening – the culmination after all, of their hopes for the last four years – and their triumphant appearance on Crimewatch lacked, shall we say, a certain joie de vivre. Still, they must, like us, be bubbling within at the prospect of vindication. Mustn't they?

The lack of obvious celebration probably has other reasons. Perhaps they are, ssshhh, operational, a big word for an Important Couple Who Move Unobserved Near The Levers of Power.

Or could they still be following that famous advice they received about not showing emotion in case it turned an abductor on at long range? The mind boggles.

Most likely it's that typical Scouse decorum which Kate exhibits on those frequent occasions when her dreams come true, as for example, her memorable response to Phil "Barrow Boy" Green's offer of a private jet for the couple's personal use — "but what would people say? That we were hobnobbing with celebrities and swanning around in the lap of luxury while our daughter was suffering?"

Strange. Perhaps we'll find out one day.

On a Lighter Note

Meanwhile to more cheerful subjects and the reflections of the Bureau's sports correspondent the delightful Henry Brooke-Percy, who has returned to us with the renewal of hope in the McCann case, the abrupt ending of his civil partnership and his release from a short stint in Leyhill open prison over a misunderstanding involving some credit cards and a young male friend.

'Henry Brooke-Percy' [Ernest William Swanton, CBE]

Henry in better days

Underneath his bluff old Etonian veneer Henry is a perceptive observer. The other day we were sitting around in the Bureau's office spending an extremely pleasant afternoon sipping champagne and laughing at the latest tweets from the Lisbon libel trial while Henry was talking about the American writer and journalist Norman Mailer, an oddball with a thing about violence and a lifelong love of boxing. Mailer, the subject of a massive forthcoming biography, once wrote, said Henry, that you can usually identify who is winning a big bout, even on television, because they seem to swell, literally and physically, while their opponent, in contrast, begins to shrink.

"Just have a look, old boy," he said, sipping someone else's drink, "watch a bout on TV and you'll see it happen. Really does. Cheers."

"Always?" someone asked.

"The big fights," said Henry, "oh yes, the ones that really matter."

He Could Be Right

And yes, remembering past brawls at the TV ringside, Mailer seems to have been largely right with this – let's face it weird – generalization. In When we Were Kings, the movie about Muhammad Ali's "rumble in the jungle" in which Mailer himself made a typically ungracious appearance, opponent George Foreman looked like a giant rather than a man yet late in the fight it was as though he was leaking air while Ali began to bounce and grow.

George Foreman... beginning to shrink

...beginning to shrink

Another, more conventional and much more widely accepted observation in the fight game, is that one of the boxers, usually the champion, will "have the centre of the ring", according to Henry's phrase, that is, occupy the middle area of the canvas while his opponent is forced to dance in circles around him as he attempts to land his blows.

After Henry had left with the tenner he'd borrowed the rest of us returned to the pleasures of the trial. Still, this writer at least couldn't help thinking again about Henry's words. Did winners really swell and losers shrink? And did they "lose the centre of the ring"?





Trauma Time – Again? Part I – 28.11.2013

That Was Then

Back in 2011 or so the Bureau came out with a piece on the Yard review, basically saying that the public would have no idea which way the tide was running until pretty near the end, since the Yard was never going to leak about its true knowledge and intentions and the words of the parents, then as now, are too provenly dishonest to be trusted about anything.

So how did we suggest that, despite these problems, we might get late clues to the eventual result? Regular readers won't be surprised to know that a discovery of a living child, or a dying hunch-backed paedophile's confession, didn't feature as one of our markers, but we'll leave that aside. No, we suggested that the McCanns were going to maintain near-silence or claim they were "pleased" with the review, whether through gritted teeth or not; if they stuck with this line until completion was imminent then we could infer that their future would be looking bright. If, however, the information they were gaining suggested looming trouble then – and only then – they would start leaking. And give the game away.

We won't give you a full account of that post for the same reason we won't give you a link: blogs – with the important exception of The Cracked Mirror, http://madeleinemccannaffair.blogspot.co.uk/ which isn't really a blog and was built to last – are, like the opinions of the people who write them, pretty worthless after a week or two and so we regularly delete them.

But not only did we delete the thing but we also forgot our own warnings in it that the Yard's words would never give us a clue about what they were actually up to, just as Leicester Police's words, after nearly seven years, never have. Once the CPS was involved we reckoned the End Game was approaching and were suitably contradicted, and chastened, by the Yard itself, with their explicit "not suspects" statement. Whoops!

How Does it Work?

Why, though, would it be such a significant marker if the leaking/spinning started? Because, as the Bureau has hammered home since 2007 the McCanns' statements, however concealed by cut-outs like the Maggot or others, are an integral part of the case against them.

Without their consistent pattern of proven lying and evasion and without their colossal appetite for the pleasures of the media game which they attempt to conceal and dignify with talk of the, ahem, "search", few would agree with ex-head of the Yard John Stalker's claim that the couple hold "a big secret"; there wouldn't really be a case of any sort against them and not much appetite for pursuing one either, whether for neglect or more serious matters, such as those suggested in the Lisbon libel trial evidence.

Quite the reverse: dignified silence and humility [one sighs at the sheer absurdity of the prospect] from the couple since May 2007 would have done more than anything to guarantee increasing sympathy for them and an untroubled future for their surviving children. It was, after all, a Portuguese policeman who, in answering the charge that they could have been more sceptical of the couple in 2007, recently said that cops, too, have a heart and are exceptionally reluctant to press home accusations against relatives of a missing child.

Kate McCann's Normality

Policemen can be stupid as well as sympathetic but they know their Standard Operating Procedures well enough to keep an eye on – and sometimes deliberately provoke – comment and reaction by relatives of a missing person, "suspects" or no. So, for instance, Kate McCann's admission of successful deception in Madeleine page 206 would hardly be ignored by any cop not actually senseless from too much scrumpy, since it immediately destroyed the "nobody could have behaved normally in the Tapas restaurant knowing her own child had suffered..." argument, best expressed in the Archiving Summary:

"...their behaviour until the moment of the disappearance was perfectly normal, not manifesting any kind of preoccupation or any other similar feeling, contrary to what happened after that moment when panic was manifest".

For Kate McCann avoided "manifesting any kind of preoccupation or any other similar feeling" to journalists as she acted out her role on August 2 2007, even though she bore the burden of knowledge as she lied that the police were coming to "do some forensic work" regarding the investigation, news that she believed would be absolute dynamite if it got out.

The Balance of Risks

So why damage herself with those dangerous words in the book four years later? Well, she writes on the same page about the decision to deceive that they "just didn't seem to have a choice", an interesting cop-out and an interesting insight into the lying mind. The truth was that she was choosing between risky, or dangerous, alternatives and the same words can be used about her decision to write about the event four years later in Madeleine. Stripped of the deception and self-deception on both occasions she had only a choice of risks: ignore the lie in the book and wait for the PJ to read it and betray her by giving the world and the Yard the real reason for the "upset stomach"; or kill that certain result by admitting the lie and accepting the accompanying risk to her "normality".

And, such is the nature of the path they have chosen, exactly the same has applied ever since: with the Review/ Reinvestigation the choice of risks is between speaking to try and influence, somehow, the direction of the inquiry or maintaining silence and an impression of guiltless, unflappable confidence in the result, difficult though that is these days when one wears the uneasy, hunted look of a bird watching out for the guns. The risk of the former is that even the most doltish cop is capable of asking "just why are they worried?" and of the latter that silence leaves them unable to try and influence their fate.

Kate McCann on Crimewatch, 14 October 2013

Living with Paranoia

The parents, of course, have no more knowledge of whether the police of either country are speaking the truth about the case than the rest of us and, accordingly, no knowledge of how their risk calculations have worked out. How could they know? There are no sources of such certainty for us or them, just as the honeyed words and first-name greetings of Leicester police's Stuart Prior to all the Nine back in 2008 meant nothing compared with that force's tigerish response to the pair's attempts to find out what their files held. The difference is that for the rest of us the question of police sincerity in this case is largely academic whereas for the couple it is shatteringly important, hence, perhaps, their present appearance – a stark contrast to all those photographs showing them well-fed, comfortable and often laughing once they had adjusted to the disappearance of their daughter some years ago or, as "psychologist" Alan Pike put it in Lisbon, once they "had recovered from their initial trauma."

So is it Trauma Time again? Might the parents fear that yet another police attempt to stitch them up lies behind nice Mr Redwood's comforting burr? Are we near the point forecast, rightly or wrongly, by the little Bureau two years back? Let's have a look and see whether Mr Mitchell's words give us a hint. In Part II, later today.


Trauma Time – Again? Part II – 29.11.2013

...this is Now

And so to the Mirror article here – In Keir Simmons Land

It's something of a period piece: just as the parents, like all celebrities, are insulated from the real world by fandom and don't know how absurdly they come across on the box these days, so Mitchell seems to have no idea of how old-fashioned his "news management" on behalf of the couple looks in 2013. And note particularly how the off-the-record sourcing – as dated as a Monty Python sketch – makes a mockery of ancient Keir Simmons-land claims that, unlike the wicked and anonymous Net, the mainstream puts a name to its reports thus guaranteeing the reliability of its stories. Dream on!

So the piece is a two-headed "pal and spokesman" Mitchell feed – somewhat vitiated by the fact that the McCanns can't afford a spokesman anymore and never had a pal – using the now-debased mainstream press to help the McCanns achieve something. The risks to themselves that we highlighted yesterday, magnified in this instance since it is their first public intervention in the Review/Investigation process, exclude the possibility of simple media meddling, so the question is what are they trying to achieve? Or put it another way –

Who Gains?

Do the Portuguese and the PJ?

"Not pulling their weight …frustration…PJ are back to their old game..." Obviously not; far from helping them the piece is a straight attack on the Portuguese police, end of story.

So does it help the Yard?

It suggest it's trying to, doesn't it? All that concern [coughs] from the caring parents and their pal [retches violently] to get help for Hulk Hogan in his lonely attempt to "find Madeleine" [dons airline sickbag to continue] without obstruction from the dagoes who, try as they might, just don't understand modern grown-up teamwork.

But linking Hogan to this little bit of poison in the McCanns' only remaining house journal, the Mirror, is hardly going to increase co-operation is it? On the contrary it's pretty much guaranteed to scratch at the tender sores of Portuguese resentment at any attempt by the Yard to "nudge" or manoeuvre them from long range. No, the article is clearly not helping the Yard either. In fact it could hardly be more inflammatory if it was deliberately designed to put the two organizations against each other, what with its alarmist talk of "mounting tension".

And that's our answer, the only one that makes sense: it's a deliberate, poorly disguised and poorly executed attempt to increase friction between the two forces and weaken the likelihood of a JIT by three people whose time is gone. Only the McCanns, and perhaps the unblinking Mr Redwood, know why they fear co-operation so much that they risked it.

Too late. And too desperate.




When Drama Turns to Farce – 04.12.2013

When do we know that public perceptions of people have changed and support is bleeding away? When the evidence is known? When someone is obviously a monster? When they are tracked down by dedicated investigators?

No, no and no. When, mysteriously, they and belief in them start to become ridiculous.

The Mainstream Media gave it...

The evidence, for example, that Robert Maxwell, a favourite of these pages, was a thief had been on record twenty years before he got hold of the Mirror and its pensioners' savings. You look at that bloated toad's interviews now – the hypnotically grotesque waist and crutchline, acres of it, so appropriate for someone who simply wanted to roll over and squash anyone he couldn't buy off, the lizard eyes and the Broadmoor smile –– how come people didn't, no couldn't, see it then? How come they didn't laugh at such an absurd, pantomime villain but fell for him, starry-eyed, like supposedly hard-bitten Alastair Campbell, a pretty typical mainstream journalist, who sobbed at the news of his hero's last swim?

For obvious monsters we need look no further than the BBC, not for Jimmy Savile but someone who made that typical showbiz operator look like a model of sexual restraint: the sculptor Eric Gill, whose paedophilia was so extreme that it not only regularly encompassed his infant daughter's birthday party friends but the infant daughter herself, a habit which his arty middle-class friends – and mums – observed but accepted without much comment. Eccentric, you know. What on earth did the church-going governors of the BBC have to say when little Eric turned up in his "easy-access for the young" skirt every day to create, on the front of Broadcasting House, the largest tribute to child abuse ever sculpted and one which still, ahem, stands? What can you do but laugh grimly?

Eric Gill Expressing BBC Values

But enough: the examples of those who mysteriously manage to get taken at their own valuation long after the facts are screaming for Christ's sake get real are countless and, we guess, always will be.

What do people say, long after they've bought Waterloo Bridge for £250 from a couple in frayed suits with charming smiles? "I don't know what came over me." Because in the end, granted when it's often too late, the spell is broken and people look back in wonder at their own credulity.

… and You Tube Takes It Away

Kate and Gerry McCann are right there, right now. The mainstream media, as always these days, lags behind while the public finds the truth for itself elsewhere, in this instance often on You Tube. The Mirror, with its unfathomable death-wish, prefers, publicly at least, to wait a little longer for the arches and piers to arrive from Waterloo; the BBC simply keeps its head very much down about the couple these days, just as its directors do every morning as they hurry under Gill's mocking erection into Broadcasting House's welcoming embrace. But the spell is broken and eventually they, and all the others in Keir-Simmons land who gave the pair a stage, will have to acknowledge it.

Not that the couple are thieves on the Maxwell scale, of course, no, not at all, just as they definitely aren't suspects in the relocation of their daughter, as the police have told us so often, no not at all. But their behaviour, no longer seen through the sharp prism of shock and sympathy of six years ago, now looks quite different: their interviews, every one of them, look like crushingly poor performances.

Readers will surely have noted the significant comments by those on Twitter and elsewhere whose curiosity about the couple was stimulated by Crimewatch and who turned to You Tube to find out more, only to be struck by the extraordinary, even absurd, nature of this long-running double act. Many of these converts had watched the interviews in the past, perhaps with only half an eye, without noting anything odd about the couple. And in a sense that's quite natural and a tribute to the decency, rather than credulity, of ordinary people – if they see a person lying unconscious in the middle of a road they don't ask themselves is this person worth helping? They just help.

The McCanns, in one way, are like that unconscious victim in the road: the overwhelming "prism of shock and sympathy", that gave them their chance no longer exists to protect or empower them and without it their performances look cheap and shoddy, above all quite unbelievable. "I don't know what came over me," says the bridge buyer, whose own prism was constructed of normal human greed rather than sympathy, "I just don't know why I believed such a ridiculous story but I did."

Once people start saying that there's no way back.



Soul Food Issue – 06.12.2013

Read the f****** small print, suckers

Along with many others we've noticed that for the first time in nearly seven years the begging bowl has a lid on it. The McCanns missing a chance to add to their personal fortune – never! That's the Find Madeleine Fund remember, the great gravy train, the fund started with money poured in by shocked well-wishers who wanted to express their help and support somehow – and ended up paying for countless fat arses on flights to the sunny Algarve and pampered nights in the Dom Pedro Hotel Portugal for a "searching" Gerry McCann.

"Of course," Clarence "Maggot" Mitchell, of whom more below, might say, "of course it's all right to spend Fund money that way. Kate and Gerry have been assured that what they have done is well within the bounds of good Funding."

"Of course," say the supporters dismissively, "of course it's legit for the family to do anything they like with the money. People knew exactly what they were donating to, didn't they? Why look at the small print, the legal papers setting up the fund, for goodness sake. It's all there for everyone to see." Asked if the small print was available to donors in May 2007 the supporters use the now-famous Lisbon Courtroom Response: speechlessness.

A Financial Whizz Speaks

"Everybody beyond this circle of moral cripples," says Henry Brook-Percy, the Bureau's financial ("Got a tenner old boy?") correspondent and general good egg, "everybody knows the impulse behind death and disaster donations – they're a cry, look, I just want to help in some way, to ease a terrible episode, it's all I can do, I feel helpless but I want to do something at this terrible time. Right?"

Right, Henry. But no, not with the McCanns. With them, it's always read the f****** small print, isn't it? Imagine if that gang had held up huge placards at Everton Football Club's ground with a bit of large print:

Do you think they'd have copped their millions then?

So the gravy train has rolled on, a bit like a Wonga loan. Skint people – and some of the people who sent in pathetically small donations in May 2007 were skint – suddenly faced with 5000% Wonga interest they hadn't bargained for? Read the small print, you suckers!

Now it's don't give us the ackers!

But now the pink site has an updating notice and a "check back soon" message so that you can't hurl money at the pair anymore or buy their revolting tat. "Soon" has a special meaning in McCannland, remember, as in "Metodo will have the child home soon", so the notice has been up for quite a while. Can you imagine all those poor luxury hotel managers trying to work out their winter budgets and finding the same dismal message greeting them every morning? How very unfair.

After 6+ years we all take it for granted that just as nobody, public or private, expects an answer if they ask for details of Buckingham Palace seating arrangements, so the idea that someone might ask servants of the McCann Dynasty what's up with the donations and tat on your crappy pink site? is, well, ludicrous. It's just not done.

In the meantime we are free to speculate as to the problem's cause. Could it be a software glitch – overflow on stack 33 ##4 – that nobody, not even another McCann relative showered with another thirty grand website fee from the Fund, can crack? Or a result of recent flooding in the Tatroom?

Want a Clue?

Check out the "Purchase Our Book" button on the site and you'll find, lo and behold, that it's working perfectly. Hmm. So why is it possible to buy a piece of printed tat but not a rubber glove wristband? We can't see any difference ourselves, except that getting royalties on a book you've written is legally unchallengeable – the money is watertight, yours, even if you're serving thirty years in the nick.

Whereas public "donations", even to a private fund, are altogether more tricky. If young Madeleine McCann had actually been found at the beginning of this month, for example, but we plebs hadn't yet been told, it might be dodgy, even illegal, to go on asking for search money or selling schmutter to help locate a child if it could be proved that beneficiaries knew the money was no longer needed.

And who's to say that nice Mr Redwood hasn't already found Madeleine and she's at this very moment being counselled by trauma experts, lollipops in hand, in a Rothley safe house? After all, the parents keep telling us how well the Yard are doing so her return, or at least some dramatic news about her, could well be in hand. couldn't it? So we think that all those lawyers credited in Madeleine's introduction are making sure everything is absolutely dead straight and above board, as they always have, and have jammed the lid on the bowl. Better safe than sorry, you know.

Is Mitchell OK?

Clarence "Maggot" Mitchell after he was dug up by volunteers from the No Regrets Club*

Rubber gloves, search poles and body bags can be purchased from the Tat Fund for £2000 each will be available soon

Our medical correspondent writes: Ever since Mitchell was found lying under the detritus, dried students' vomit, empty bottles and manifestly used condoms on Brighton beach after swimming away from the shipwreck of his dreams, there have been concerns about his health. Mr Alan Pikey, well known expert on abducted Travellers believes he is suffering from the late stages of Trauma Nihilismus, or to give it its vulgar name, Extreme Nonentity Disease.

He knows y' know

Speaking from a deserted Travellers Site filled with empty caravans, Mr Pikey said confidently and in a funny voice, that the "progression" of TN is always the same and, even though he somehow missed making an examination of the sufferer, he could diagnose it without difficulty due to his "great expertise about these matters and diploma in Pikeology".

TN, which is closely related to Munchausen's Disease By Proxy (do check it on Google, here for instance) and sometimes associated with the barely known Fundgal infection Scammer's Syndrome, begins with severe psychological feelings of inadequacy, social and sexual, compensated by an irrational belief that the sufferer is "meant for better things".

A pattern of complex fantasizing and constant and uncontrollable lying ("doing it" ) takes hold, at first hardly noticeable but soon nakedly pathological, with an itchy and compulsive desire to "do it" in public and to the widest possible audience, with a complete absence of normal feelings of shame. Sufferers are also overcome with an embarrassing need to "do it for money", sometimes with imaginary sexual partners to whom they give lovingly affectionate names, such as "Pal" and "Friend".

The unfortunate victim, says Pikey, tinkering obsessively with a piece of scrap-iron as he talks, typically sleeps badly and experiences terrible fear of being returned to "paltry insignificance" and a small house, manifested by recurrent nightmares of being forced into Hendon Central by uniformed men demanding to see his GCSE grades. He dreads the future. There is no cure although a period of confinement is sometimes indicated.

There is an Alternative

Others are unconvinced, particularly believers in organic remedies. "It could be a dietary problem," says attractive Internet Health Monitor Michaela Rong, occasional Guardian writer, part-time windmill mechanic and close friend of child-loving directorial genius Emma Roach, speaking in the cocktail bar of Lisbon's Dom Pedro Hotel.

A self-described "volunteer for Maddie" she takes an interest in Mr Mitchell's health via the internet, since she feels it's "preferable" to being in the same room as him. "The poor man might have swallowed a lot of seawater as he swam for his life," she trills, "he looks puffy and bloated and with the beginnings of Alopecia Roseus. Or else he's on steroids".

M/S Rong, a green vegan who eats alone in the fabulous Searcher’s Suite penthouse above, adds, "I think there is a mystery component which natural treatments and possibly Tantric yoga could ameliorate. Plus super-sized hourly enemas! The jumbo tube!" She stops and pushes back her hair. "God, that would be great, wouldn't it...sorry, where were we? Yes, I'm sure lots of people who've met Clarence would recommend those. But he absolutely has to get a grip on his munching. When did he start binge eating?" She squints at his picture on her iPad for a moment, "hmm, looks like about six or seven years ago".

Mitchell being taken by H&H Health Centre Security Man to discuss payment day

Note the hair, the weight, the "smile" and the dead eyes running on autopilot

Aren't Doctors Wonderful?

For New Age Michaela the problem is something to do with trouble in the "soul", whatever that might be. But others, more realistic, more worldly, put his chronic malady down to a group of doctors he met in 2007, when in his own words he was "searching for something". Mr Mitchell himself admits that one of these people, the controversial Dr Faustus of the Hendon & Hades Heal Yourself Health Centre, whose fees are described as "scary, even though you're given a lifetime to pay", approached him that year with a "tempting" special offer that he was "strangely unable" to refuse.

The initial results of his treatment were "brilliant", he says, giving him a wonderful feeling that the suddenly watching world revered him. His earning power "vastly increased" after each consultation, he says, his hair, a lifelong disappointment, improved dramatically and new friend Helen, a sophisticated blonde from the glittering Mediterranean shores of southern Turkey, introduced to him by Dr Faustus, brought a thrilling, if disruptive, element into his personal life.

But despite being the man who has almost everything Mitchell still suffers with his mystery ailment and dead eyes. Now, to make things worse, Faustus, who has left Hendon & Hades and gives no interviews, is rumoured to be talking about his fees being due "soon".

All of us who care for him will wish him the best.

*Named after comedian Peter Cook who, when asked in an interview what his greatest regret was, answered "saving David Frost from drowning".




Oscar Nominations in Lisbon – 12.12.2013

Enter PR Genius

A special correspondent writes: watching the Lisbon libel trial was akin to having a curtain jerked open. To take just one example out of dozens, the evidence has given us something of an answer to an abiding, if trivial, puzzle dating from the first weeks of the affair. In a famous Times piece describing his work with the McCanns in May 2007, here Alex Woolfall, the PR man despatched to Portugal to protect Mark Warner's reputation (their turnover has been in unbroken fall ever since), mystified some readers by writing "They gave no indication that they thought she had been snatched, let alone by a paedophile."

Woolfall based his comments on his own powers of observation and appraisal. As you will note if you bother with the article – which now reads like a comic period piece – Mr Woolfall is very pleased indeed to be Mr A Woolfall, whom he rates very highly. He has no doubts that his view on what the couple thought and felt didn't derive from what they told him. or what they said for his benefit, oh dear no, but from his own astute judgement. "All the time I was around," he said, "it was whether she could have wandered off and had an accident or somebody had actually taken her in, perhaps not with ill-intent."

All the time I was around. It assuredly never occurred to Mr Woolfall, whose professional speciality is protective spin, i.e. manipulation of the truth for financial gain, that a couple might have used the tools of his own lying trade against him – no, no, no, that only happens to the "little people" whose strings he's been attempting to pull for most of his life. The article is headed "I saw Kate and Gerry McCanns' despair and if they were acting they deserved an Oscar." Really Mr Woolfall?

And now the Professionals

This lethal combination of inflated self-belief and fallible judgement was, by no accident at all, much in evidence in Lisbon. Most of the claimants' witnesses came out with the now well-known description of the long ordeal of Kate and Gerry McCann, that touching narrative of gradual "recovery" from initial agony, as though they were the victims rather than the child they mislaid, with the skies suddenly darkening again in Wizard of Oz mad Technicolor as the wicked Amaral blew into view. With his equally wicked lies he stirred the world up against them and their "Search" until their despair finally overcame their well-known tolerance and reluctance to take legal action. They sued.

What was quite extraordinary about this once again essentially soap opera tale was not its repetition by different witnesses but the way they told the same story from quite different angles, all of them believing, just like sharp Mr Woolfall, that they hadn't been fed this junk but had worked it out for themselves after observing the couple's behaviour. That is much more interesting and valuable than the stories we'll no doubt be hearing from the worldly-wise that claimants and witnesses planned and scripted the whole performance. If only life were that simple.

Kith 'n' Kin, Pikopathology, the media pronounces, Trickey blames the future on Amaral

Thus Mr Wright was sure he'd had unique access to the couple's real personalities and unguarded behaviour through his intimate family connection with them, deducing from his own observations, not hearsay, that the only explanation for their plunge into misery in 2008 was Amaral's vile campaign against the "search"; little Mr Pike, on the other hand, a comic character straight out of Dickens in his mingling of pomposity ("I have a diploma in psychology") and wrong-headedness, believed his professional skills gave him unique access to, you've guessed it, the real personalities and unguarded behaviour of the pair. Amaral, he decided – for himself, of course, and without hearsay. of course – was the root cause of their collapse. He'd never actually examined them – the couple don't do examinations – but he'd observed all the symptoms.

The ineffable Emma Loach, on the other hand, was certain that her "expertise" about the case, gained through friendship with the McCanns and her qualifications as a media queen and occasional Guardian contributor, gave her a unique insight into the unguarded couple that only, well, important broadcasters and documentary makers like her can possess, enabling her to see for herself the progressive torture of the pair by ignorant media comment provoked by a certain Portuguese detective. Hearsay from the McCanns never came into it.

Trickey, the child psychology expert, didn't have much to say about the couple's disintegration at Amaral's hands because that wasn't his brief, but his "study" of the surviving children via zero examinations, one informal meeting and much parental phone hearsay information gave him unique access to make judgements about them. Amaral hadn't actually caused them any harm yet, partly due to the parents' brilliant work on their behalf, but he might in the future.

Spellbound?

And so on.

There are some major issues here that will have to wait.There is the huge question of Emma Loach as a representative of the British media-mind-set and the strong evidence she provides that the media never needed gagging since, contrary to common belief, their bullshit detectors have rotted away due to their divorced-from-the-people hothouse environment. Then there is the extraordinary repetition of the "jemmied-shutter - phone call phenomenon" in which information which could only have derived from one source, complete with tell-tale errors and untruths, is blithely repeated as fact.

There is the quite stunning, chameleon-like talent of the couple for showing different aspects of themselves to different people, and an even more mysterious ability to "touch" people and bind them into a voluntary but uncompromising, and to the outsider troubling, loyalty. Here,though, we are moving away from the law into deeper realms of psychological interdependence: as the court gradually exposed the witnesses' dependence on the McCanns for information about the case I found myself thinking why are they so resolute in their refusal to look at the case evidence? Can it be that they're deep-down scared that reading it will somehow be a betrayal of the parents? Or all parents? But enough Watson: that way madness lies.

Trickey. Suddenly wished he was somewhere else

But even the judge appeared to be taken aback as, one after another, they revealed their ignorance of the investigation coupled with those dread words "Gerry and Kate told me". Both Pike and Trickey were clearly discomfited by this exposure of their own ignorance. Trickey, more honest and less self-deceived than most of these witnesses, looked slightly shocked at the situation he found himself in while Pike, who runs on narrow rails, took refuge in grumpy silence or wandering beyond his area of supposed "expertise" to make bitchy and ineffectual personal attacks on Amaral.

Michael Wright, who like Ed Balls will never win a popularity contest, attempted to justify his failure to look at the Archiving Summary with an ill-judged assault on the Portuguese justice system itself, straight out of Alice in Wonderland. There was no need to read the Summary, he insisted, suddenly red-faced, his voice rising, what use would it have been? He knew without reading it that it wasn't the truth!

Don't Scare the Horses!

Emma Loach hiding from the limelight

Smithman is probably on the left, holding the camera

Emma Loach didn't shout but instead took refuge in girlie upset at a bad school report, even though her teenage years are long behind her. She had reason to be troubled since she'd begun with a performance quite beyond satire, breezily telling the court that she was an "expert" on the case and quoting audience statistics that proved how influential Amaral had been in corrupting the public. Ah the public! Modestly she told us how lucky she was to be able to understand complicated things so much better than they, a public that she consistently referred to in terms that an average eventer would use about her horse. Within ten minutes one was almost feeling sorry for her, so plentiful were the hostages she gave to fortune. Amid this rubbish, psychology once more raised its head: just like her fellow Guardianista, Bridget O'Donnell, Emma Loach seemed simply star-truck by the pair.

But that didn't help her when the questioning began and Emma dissolved slowly into her chair like a messily melting ice-cream. Her "expertise" was based on a few case files that the McCanns had thoughtfully chosen for her. The Archiving Summary or PJ report? No, she'd never read either. The source of her audience statistics? Ah, now that she was asked well, hmm, she thought that she'd read them somewhere but, oh dear, no, perhaps she hadn't. Amaral's book, which she had read – no wait a minute, no she hadn't actually but she'd read, well, something on the Internet somewhere – anyway it was so influential because, you know, it was "so easy to read" that even the public (given an apple and a nosebag to go with it?) could understand it, unlike those Case Files which were far too complicated for the poor darlings. How did she know they were complicated if she hadn't read them? She didn't say. With each answer the lip trembled a bit more. Enough of this intrusion into private grief! – let's pull the curtain back again before the judge starts on her.

The only one of the claimants' British witnesses who brought a trace of dignity to these proceedings was M/S Cameron. For a short time the self-importance and vapidity of this procession of wilfully deluded "professionals" was interrupted and M/S Cameron, measured, sincere, dogged in her belief in family unity and action as a balm in a situation beyond understanding, spoke quietly of the support that the pair have received over the past six years and the pleasures of her relationship with the surviving children. It was a brief, very human, respite from this fascinating but horrible McCann affair.

Now, Mr Woolfall hasn't talked about the McCanns lately, has he? Do they get that Oscar now or later?




Xmas Appeal – 13.12.2013

Oh dear – that pesky donate button on the Find Madeleine site still isn't working. Strange, isn't it? Especially just before Xmas, when as our social affairs editor Antonia so memorably said anyone can get rich, even bloody pit-bull charities. She suggests overcoming the frozen bank account problem by packing the High Streets with Polish chuggers in Father Xmas beards (to disguise their native melancholy, she says) rattling plastic buckets from Poundland.

Lady Antonia

Family motto: do you take cash?

Has anyone asked Kate via Facebook if she knows exactly what's happened? Back in the spring when there were some unhelpful rumours going round, Kate told us everything we needed to know via that site. People were suggesting then that it was too dangerous for her to answer the question about the rumours, though we never understood why. But that couldn't be the case now, surely?


Bang!, - 16.12.2013

At the beginning of September 2013 Gerry and Kate McCann's position, as expressed by their support team and lawyers, rested on two pillars. The first was that their daughter had been abducted on May 3 2007, a claim corroborated by the so-called Jane Tanner sighting of a stranger hurrying away from their apartment with an inert child in his arms. And, secondly, that their claim was vindicated after a year long investigation when the Portuguese authorities explicitly exonerated them from suspicion in the disappearance.

How rapidly old certainties change.

For since then, as we all know, the first pillar has been demolished by a carefully placed charge of Redwoodite. There are no arguments, no ifs or buts, the sighting was fully investigated and produced the first result of the Yard/ PJ review: Jane Tanner had never seen a stranger hurrying from the apartment, and nor had anyone else. The sighting has been blown away, a conclusion which Jane Tanner herself has not challenged.

The implications are still sinking in even now, even if they haven't yet reached the official "Find Madeleine" website where a picture of the child-snatcher is still prominently displayed. But then in those irresistible You Tube videos of demolished tower blocks there is a rather wonderful pause just after the Redwoodite charges have detonated when one side of the structure, for an instant, defies gravity.

Demolition of flats

Way Back When

By far the most important of those consequences is that we are back in "jemmied shutter" territory, that brief period when it was only the words of Kate and Gerry McCann suggesting abduction, nothing else. Without M/S Tanner's vision the claims of a hysterical couple are just that – claims without support, which ultimately have to be assessed against the likely truthfulness of the claimants.

Even before the Big Bang that was a tall order since the question of the McCanns' "likely truthfulness" had already been answered in 2011, in the pages of Madeleine. In her description of the episode in August 2007 when the PJ had evidence that the couple deceived journalists about the investigation to maintain their credibility in the UK, M/S McCann admits that she and her husband lied when they felt they had no alternative.

It is self-evident that people who are proved to lie when they feel "they have no choice" face serious problems in asserting that – this time – they are telling the truth. For any desperate situation can leave people feeling that their choices are non-existent or highly limited. But not everyone chooses to lie.

That is the reality of their situation now. They would, for example, have been in serious difficulty from defence lawyers clutching their copies of Madeleine if they had testified in the libel trial, rather than giving the mere "verbal statement" which cannot be cross-examined by the lawyers, that they are supposedly considering.

Look out!

And as if this wasn't enough, the secondary leg of their position, their "formal exoneration" by the Portuguese legal system, a fiction which has existed ever since August 5 2008 when the McCanns produced their version of the Archiving Summary and released it via Mr M. Mitchell to a media which had no translated copy of its own. http://www.mccannfiles.com/id143.html or Here

Over the past five years the parents and their libel lawyers have used the bewilderingly labyrinthine Portuguese legal system, in which interpretation can play a startling role, to give the Summary a status as a legal finding and confirmation of the parents' innocence. By the time the media had seen the translated document for themselves they'd given up on coverage of the investigation, fingers-burnt, opting instead for the more cuddly – and safer – "McCanns' Agony" tale. As a result the various legal hearings at which the meaning of the Summary was explored were ignored in the UK media and were clearly not brought to the attention of Judge Tugendhat in the High Court.

Irrespective of the verdict, the transcript and judgement of the 2013 libel trial, when published, will bring things nicely up-to-date for the judge and others. Briefly, the views of investigators, including Mr Amaral, in 2007 have not been invalidated by the Attorney-General's department and have not been overtaken by further investigation or new facts. The theory that Madeleine McCann died in the apartment on May 3 and that the parents disposed of her body remains un-refuted. More parochially, for what it's worth, the claim by some of the parents' less intelligent supporters that Leicester police's own formal statement on the status of the pair has lost its applicability since the shelving of the case, a particularly noxious piece of special pleading on their part, is an invention.

Thus ends, after some five years, the attempt of Kate and Gerry McCann to prevent any public mention in the United Kingdom of the investigating officers' hypothesis that they took the dead body of their own daughter from the apartment, disposed of it and simulated an abduction. For a time they were supremely successful: the first occasion since 2008 that we remember the hypothesis being mentioned neutrally and without elaborate verbal arse-covering by the mainstream media was on Panorama in 2012. And is anyone harmed by this gift which the Portuguese justice system has now granted to the British mainstream media, helped by the new U.K Libel Act which privileges the reporting of court proceedings from that country?

Everyone who wanted to could find out the facts of the investigation through the Internet and, particularly, the case files which were deliberately made available so that all, but particularly those involved, could see the evidence for themselves. This was an act of faith in democracy and one that looks a good deal less eccentric than it did in 2008 with respect to privacy now that, it seems, there is nothing which a broad mass of the people are ashamed of publicly presenting about themselves. In this regard it is the words "those involved" that are particularly relevant. It has always been the Bureau's contention that Kate and Gerry McCann involved every U.K adult in the crime by making their appeals and asking people to "get involved" with the case, a conclusion shared by the Portuguese courts when they judged that the parents had "sacrificed the right to privacy" by their media actions, a statement the court made factually, not critically. It was desperately ignorant, and more than ignorant, to suppose you could call a whole population to your aid and then control and suppress the facts once the money was in and people had served their purpose.

Who gained by keeping the lid on the facts of the investigation's course with repeated threats of legal action? It was a crazy idea, no doubt encouraged by lawyers who, like so many other professionals, stood to gain from the vast Madeleine money-pot, to think that such a strategy could work, just as it's crazy to suppose, as David Trickey does, that the surviving children can somehow be "protected" from those facts in the future, Amaral or no Amaral.

Judging by what kids are already exchanging via smartphones and the web, for God's sake, blocking what Amaral and his colleagues said or did will be the least of the pair's problems. To know the content of the investigation isn't to accuse the parents of anything and certainly doesn't make us, for instance, any more likely to believe in the death in the apartment claim.

And if evidence never turns up to exonerate, so what? Over-ambitious world-wide injunctions from the UK protecting the identities of "innocents", a misbegotten idea anyway, are failing in the face of modern communications but the universe doesn't collapse. There's a very successful British journalist with, so far as one can judge, a pretty down-to-earth and balanced view on life, "Expert" Mr Trickey notwithstanding, writing at the moment. His by-line name indicates to anyone with a knowledge of history that his father or grandfather was probably the killer in a murder case that was once almost as notorious as the McCann affair, but frankly nobody much cares and we doubt if they ever did. No doubt there are quite a few other such examples (although please cesspit sites, don't start a f*****g thread on who they might be): life goes on.

Which way the tower will fall with the twin supports now gone we don't know, nor what will eventually replace it. It is unlikely but not impossible that now that the McCanns are finally unable to continue their lid-tightening efforts their reputation could actually improve since nothing could look more suspicious than their threats and evasions of the last six years. Either way, the building's down and their attempts have failed, whether they fully recognize it yet or not.

Louis McNeice had it nicely summed up:

It’s no go my honey love, it’s no go my poppet;

Work your hands from day to day, the winds will blow the profit.

The glass is falling hour by hour, the glass will fall for ever,

But if you break the bloody glass you won’t hold up the weather.




Xmas Blog – 21.12.2013

Friday

Kate and I have decided to have a quiet Xmas in Rothley. Like others our thoughts turn to the things that matter at this time of year and we have always felt that simplicity brings us closer to the important things in life. Staying in Rothley brings us closer to Madeleine.

As you may know we have had some problems on our Find Madeleine site which are proving difficult to solve. Our software team was assisted by the directors of the fund who are experts in these things and the local police sent a few people along to help as well! Our local solicitor, who once set up his own website, dropped in to see if he could help with his expertise. Unfortunately the meeting went on very late. A long day and the problem is still not sorted out but the police were kind enough to take us home.

Saturday

Kate brought the twins over and they wanted their presents today! We had to explain to them that you sometimes just have to wait. Father Thomas Campanella had called in to say hello and he re-affirmed that there is more to Xmas than just presents and how very pleased he was that we were staying in Rothley this Xmas. Father Thomas convinced the twins to wait a few more days!

A meeting with one of the Scotland Yard officers today confirmed that they are in agreement with us on the lines of inquiry we need to take. Kate has done a photo shoot with the rugby club Sale Sharks in their dressing room. She is very impressed with their attitude to Madeleine and is very grateful to one of the players called Donny Capriati for who nothing is too much trouble. I am an Everton man myself!! Donny has apparently arranged for all the Sale players to wear an image of Madeleine under their shirts with the message "Close to us all!"

Sunday

Met with the GBNSR yesterday where I am chairman, hopefully a good one! They do brilliant work. Kate and the twins are off to Sale again for a pre-Xmas break where she will discuss new initiatives with Donny. In the afternoon we had to leave our home for a while because one of the emergency services needed to do some checks on the building. We had intended to drive to Cannock Chase to visit the dump but our car had to be taken away since it wouldn't start. It will need some tests done apparently.

Monday

A peaceful morning. The Portuguese police came over to wish us a happy Xmas though they were disappointed that Kate wasn't here. We expect them to award us something called "Assistiente" status soon, which is a kind of reward that the Portuguese offer to those like us who have been helpful. It would have been rude to refuse such an offer. Hopefully it will speed things up over there. We can't give more information even though we'd like to in case we prejudice future proceedings against the people who took Madeleine. Donny rang and said that he and Kate spent an afternoon touring sports shops to raise awareness.

Tuesday

Today Kate and I had an early start since we had agreed to be guests at a Scotland Yard meeting to discuss missing children. Kate came down from Sale on the overnight train and we went on to SY at 4.30 in the morning, getting a lift from a helpful police van driver. We had a very constructive meeting. By chance eight of our solicitors were meeting for the same event! These co-incidences are very strange. The meeting ended at 2.55 AM as there was much to discuss. Andy Redwood just happened to be around and came to thank us for supporting them in this way. Apparently they have some people in their sights.

Wednesday

Our car was returned to us so we were able to drive up to Cheshire. The garage apparently had to remove all the seats and carpets and interior lining, boot lining, spare wheel cage etc. to find out why it wouldn't start. Strange. We stayed for lunch with some relatives and old friends Jane and John who have just come back from holiday in Venezuela and made us envious with the weather rather poor here. In the afternoon we walked on the sands near Fleetwood. It was very cold! Just before it got dark one of our relatives had us all in fits as he buried the twins up to their necks in the sand and videoed them pretending to scream for help!

Thursday

A very unhelpful news story today suggesting that Mr Amaral may come to England in 2014. Kate and I think this would be a mistake and we have asked for an interview with the Home Secretary to discuss a banning order. It cannot be right that this man should abuse our hospitality after what he has done.

This afternoon we had a surprise Xmas reunion with seven of our closest friends. Unfortunately, as the local press showed, we had a team of engineers in white coats arrive to dismantle some of the brickwork under the house to cure a structural issue and excavate the garden. I am only a doctor so I don't know what is wrong with houses! So we had to find somewhere else to meet and all the hotels were full I think. Believe it or not the only space for a reunion of old friends in Rothley was a spare function room at Leicester police headquarters!

We were surprised to see Andy Redwood and the head of the DPP there as well as fourteen of our barristers who were probably there to buy Leicester's famous red cheese! It was a very constructive meeting and when we left at 4.40 AM the stars were shining brightly. It was very cold though since for some reason we forgot some of our clothes at the police station and Kate has now developed a worrying cough.

Friday

We came down to see Mr Redwood at Scotland Yard early this morning to give him his Xmas presents to show our gratitude for his efforts. Unfortunately he said the rules prevented him from accepting them which was yet another blow in this sad year. While we were there nine of our lawyers dropped in for some reason so there wasn't much space! We left at midnight and walked along by the river but Kate's cough got worse and I fear she may need a change of climate.

When we got back to our very cheap and small hotel we had a welcome surprise when we found some well-wishers from the PJ waiting in our suite with a Xmas card for us and some paper work to complete I think confirming the obvious fact that we are not persons of interest in the investigation. We are both very pleased at these signs of co-operation although I would like to apologise to the people in the next room who thought that there was some sort of argument and raised voices going on all night. It was just a celebration!

Saturday

Kate's chest is much much worse today so we think we might have to avoid Rothley for Xmas because of the well-known bad climate in the midlands. Fortunately we just happened to hear about a place in the warm in Venezuela from some friends called Fred and Frieda and Donny has offered to come with us to help with the twins and introduce us to the mysteries of Venezuela rugby. Father Campanella assured us this was the best thing to do and stressed how Catholic Venezuela is, so that we can think of all the things that really matter at this time of year in a way we can't in busy Rothley.

Apparently the police have been keen to meet us so that they can assure us at this time of family values that we are not suspects of any sort which I find incredibly moving. Unfortunately our flight leaves in an hour from a private airport but we’ll leave them a message. A happy Xmas to you all.


Choice and Necessity – 24.12.2013

"…those tricky situations in which we didn't seem to have a choice." K. McCann, "Madeleine".

In the treacherous waters, or perhaps sands, of the committed Internet nothing much remains the same for long: friendships and alliances suddenly blossom, new leaders are found, PMs fly back and forth, new enemies are demonized — until next week or next month, say, when disillusion sets in or flaws emerge. A bit like real life but speeded up.

Still, 2013 was a pretty good year in the McCann Affair, except for the mainstream press which continued to bleed in a most satisfactory manner. Of course the child wasn't found but Goncalo Amaral finally got his day in court and for the first time we were able to see and hear his enemies telling their stories to a judge under their own names, rather than via the parents or the Net or the journalists or the backs of their hands. And the investigation showed signs of leading to the end of a chapter, if not the end of the affair. The Bureau has never had or claimed to have the answers to what happened on May 3, nor what will happen in the future, only that the parents chose to take the wrong path that night by drawing us in as witnesses in their support and then failing to be frank with us, something we have described over the years with various degrees of noise and colour.

Comment is Free

On both sides psychological forces rather than hidden allies are increasingly visible as the real drivers of the Affair. The claims of secret UK government support for the parents, the D notice stuff, Murdoch, the whitewash and all the rest of it, have dwindled markedly in the last year, as they were bound to. They will never go away completely, though, as long as there are people who want [choose] to believe that they are insignificant pawns in someone else's game rather than free and equal human beings, as a glance at the comment pages of the Guardian on any subject reminds us. The startling psychological powers of the parents to inspire loyalty and active support without appearing to be trying to do so were finally revealed, rather than surmised, in the Lisbon courtroom; unfortunately the flip-side of unquestioning loyalty is a potential well of something approaching real hatred for the other side, in this case the McCann sceptics, as the comments of Keir Simmons or David James Smith and others demonstrate.

So the bottomless well of belief, loyalty and hatred, much more powerful but less easily managed than the hidden hands of the secret and rich, drives the Affair along on both sides. For every tacit incitement to the drones who populate Facebook support sites there is a corresponding attempt to enlist and manipulate the sceptics by some guru or deceiver. It was always thus but the Net makes it easier now for Pied Pipers, whether mad, misguided or simply vicious. We on the Bureau claim, unconvincingly, to be somewhat outside the game of selling solutions and gaining disciples, not because we're clever or above it all but because we're not much good at it and aren't cuddly enough, being equally detested by a majority of both sides: so no leadership for us. Sigh. Or, or course, we might be kidding ourselves.

Good Old Ed

Whatever, the emotional "well" has its limitations. For a time, properly channelled, it can achieve amazing things, as it did in late 2007 when the UK population's intense emotional involvement with the couple was manipulated into becoming a moat against extradition. Remember the famous words of Ed Smethurst on Panorama that year demonstrating that the Bureau's belief in the reality, indeed the primacy, of the psychological battle is not some crank theory of ours but a fact:

"Part of the reason why we're here disclosing evidence to you today as opposed to keeping our powder dry is a recognition that there were two strands to this case, part of it is the criminal case, but part of it is the media speculation and the media perception, and we see it as incumbent upon us to portray the truth to the media and in particular to try and expunge any ill-founded theories about Gerry and Kate's involvement so that the media attention can focus back onto the abduction and therefore onto the fact that we have a missing little girl out there."

One of the finest defence teams ever assembled in the UK had a purely psychological aim alongside its legal one: use money to change ("expunge") people's opinions and you can change the future. Of course neither Smethurst, whose company is famous for altering people's opinions and modifying their [choices] about the beauty or otherwise of expensive plastic double-glazed windows, nor Mitchell, whose profession we all know, would put it like that intentionally but their actions and their occasional unguarded words betray them.

But while "expunging", with its unintentional sci-fi resonances, is pretty f*****g weird and creepy when you think about it, almost as weird and creepy as Madeleine, it's not magic. At some point emotional manipulation has to conform to the facts and at some point it has to be refreshed, since people's emotional commitment eventually wanders off to other attractions. But nothing has occurred to provide refreshment or nutrition, as we know: no suspects, no physical evidence, no discovery of the child, nothing – with the result that probably a majority of people have now come to believe that something, somewhere is not quite right with the McCanns.

Special Offer – Free Will

Have they come to [chosen] that tentative conclusion realistically and independently or, in the absence of nutrition and the mystifying unwillingness of people to discover things for themselves but depend on dodgy guidance from above, has Mr Smethurst and his team simply been supplanted by other manipulative groups, temporarily in the ascendant because of the shortage of evidence?

Answers to that question depend on how free and independent we believe people are, or are capable of becoming. The "whitewash" and "hidden forces" people obviously believe we're neither free nor independent since they say we're helpless zeros unable to prevent the powerful deceiving and ruling us, a belief which, far from demonstrating their realistic judgement, paradoxically makes them easy meat for anyone clever enough to pretend to share their views. The Bureau retains an uneasy belief – faith? – that people are not zeros but are capable of choosing to rise above the deceivers who surround us on every side to determine true from false, and, accordingly, their own real interests as well. The abiding fascination of the McCann Affair is that these central questions regarding belief, truth, free will and choice lie constantly in the background of the Affair, like real life but speeded up.

On which philosophical note we wish you a Happy Christmas and thank readers for their time over the past year.