|C'est en forgeant...|
No, sorry - 24.01.2011
Yet they are the only witnesses to claim direct evidence of abduction via the state of their apartment etc on May 3. Their unsupported testimony is the foundation of the abduction case. But why should their statements about what they saw that night be any more truthful than what they have said on so many matters since? Well, why?
Or, conversely, if Kate and Gerry McCann had shown themselves to be pretty frank and open over the last few years, both with the police and with the public, then, whatever the claims of Goncalo Amaral and others of like mind, our attitude would be completely different. It all begins with lies.
The witness said that Kate and Gerry's report that they had been checking on their daughter every half an hour was inaccurate.
He claimed that although the parents had been checking on Madeleine, it was not as often as every 30 minutes.”
It continues untruthfully with a string of claims that were either in irreconcilable conflict with statements by others or contradicted by their own actions – “we are fully co-operating with the investigation” (see Anjos for refutation, see records for refusal to answer the arguido questions), “we will remain in Portugal,” (see flight) “we will return to Portugal when required”, (see retention of UK’s leading extradition defence lawyers). And it ends with evasion:
Nevertheless, said the same Mr Menezes in the famous archiving report prior to the shelving of the case, describing the attempts to get the parents and their friends to attend a reconstruction, despite national authorities undertaking all measures to render their trip to Portugal practical and endeavouring to answer the many doubts that they raised about the necessity and timing of their trip, they chose not to attend for reasons unknown, thus rendering the reconstruction unviable. [our translation]That’s the case – in skeletal form and leaving out a host of similar examples – against accepting the parents’ word about anything connected with the disappearance of their child. Ah, say our friends of a different persuasion, those examples may be true (maybe? maybe?) but that same prosecutor used his famous words at the end of the report to, ahem, “clear” them. It’s all over. But it clearly isn’t all over. And for the last words on the question of whether we should ignore the firm evidence of the McCanns’ words and actions since May 3 and gaily forget the whole case and leave these poor parents alone we have another – less frequently quoted – passage from the archiving despatch regarding the importance of the aborted reconstruction:
Amongst other things it (the reconstruction )was necessary “...in order to form as firm a conviction as possible about what was seen by Jane Tanner and the others involved and, eventually, to dismiss once and for all any doubts that may subsist concerning the innocence of the missing child’s parents.And that’s it, isn’t it? In the same despatch that “clears” the parents in the Portuguese judicial sense Mr Menezes, the gentleman who testifies to their lying about the most significant evidence of all – their movements on the night of May 3 between 8.30 and 10 PM – formally confirms what we all know in words that his Attorney-General allowed to stand: that they failed to dismiss the doubts about their innocence. Quite. And the doubts remain today.And will continue to do so until the parents and their seven friends collaborate with the Portuguese police to dismiss those doubts. Who knows, the effort might even help them find their daughter.
So now... 09.02.2011
Against this loss and destruction can be set those who have gained handsomely by the case, chiefly the media and the numerous beneficiaries, professional and otherwise, of the Madeleine Fund; overall, however, the picture is a sombre and unpleasant, even sordid, one. The internet reflects this reality. The Madeleine McCann affair was the first internet crime story, the sole source of information free from national media self-deception and the repository of gigantic amounts of relevant data unavailable elsewhere. Unfortunately its weaknesses have emerged almost equal to its strengths. The author's own first experience of the former was in joining, for a short time, a site called physics.org. I was taken aback to discover that once on the net all principles of scientific debate were abandoned in favour of the new web staple, contempt and screamed abuse. If academic scientists could fall out and hurl insults at each over basic equations, for Christ's sake, then the future for reasoned debate on the web was clearly dodgy. So it has proved.
Now, what justification was there for me or anyone else continuing to write about the case, particularly the parents' place in it, after it was archived? The answer lies in the way it was shelved. Far from concluding the affair it laid the grounds for unending dissension. According to the Portuguese prosecutors' report, which terminated the active investigation and released the three arguidos from their suspect status in July 2008, the Madeleine McCann case began thus:
On May 3 2007 at around 10PM Kate Healy headed for apartment G5A in the Praia da Luz Ocean Club to check on her three children who had been left asleep while she, her husband Gerald and friends dined at the nearby Tapas restaurant. The whole group had been following a similar checking routine although the frequency of the checks has not been rigorously established.Or, if you like the commonly used but rather incoherent translation to be found on the McCann Files website:
On the 3rd of May 2007, at around 10 p.m., at the Ocean Club, in Praia da Luz, Kate Healy – like her, her husband Gerald and their friends, while dining at the Tapas, did with a periodicity that has not been rigorously established – headed for apartment G5A, in order to check on her three children, who had been left there, asleep.The report concluded by releasing the McCanns, along with Robert Murat, from their "arguido", or uncharged suspect, status on the grounds that there was no evidence of any crime by them under the relevant sections of the penal code. The parents and their lawyers took this is, and its amplification for the media by the Attorney-General's office, as an official exoneration from any suspicion of personal involvement in the disappearance of their child, one to put all doubts about them finally to rest. It couldn't be done, either in the legal sense or in the field of public debate. As to the former the UK media immediately accepted the report as an insuperable obstacle to a defence to libel claims and any doubts about the parents' role ceased to be expressed. In Portugal, on the other hand, its legal status remains undetermined, though damaged, while the various cases involving the parents and the ex-police officer Goncalo Amaral make their slow progress through the courts. The problem preventing any "closure" of public debate about the case lies in the ambiguous, not to say schizophrenic, nature of the prosecutors' report. Why?
Because the prosecutors' conclusions at the end of the report do not flow directly from the evidence summarised there – as by Portuguese law they are meant to do - but are partially superimposed upon it: hence the schizophrenia. In the summary of the case material provided to them by the PJ it is made clear that the investigation is incomplete. Not incomplete in the sense that there is no trail to the whereabouts of the child to be followed, but in the sense that there are witnesses who have still not fully deposed, who have not fully co-operated and whose information cannot be taken as reliable in its incomplete state. And these witnesses, the parents and their seven friends, are not peripheral, or anything like it: they include, in particular, the five people who were in or around the crime scene on the evening of May 3, one of whom was the last person known to have seen Madeleine McCann alive. Such information as exists about the last hours of the child in Praia da Luz comes from them and yet those witnesses, having left Portugal, all refused to return to assist the investigation in clarifying their evidence about events that night. Further, their testimony was not just incomplete: parts of it, the critical parts involving the last hours and the checks on the the children, the heart of the whole case, were untrue.
So we return to the words of the prosecutors at the head of this article: "with a periodicity that has not been rigorously established." That seems to mean that after seventeen volumes of investigative material and fourteen months of enquiry the authorities hadn't even been able to fix the movements of the key witnesses that evening, and that the two arguidos whom they were preparing to release from suspect status had lied to the investigation. If that was so then clearly shelving was premature or inappropriate: releasing the two arguidos from suspicion while the grounds for suspicion remained was Alice in Wonderland justice, apparently rewarding the pair for having fled Portugal. So is that what "periodicity that has not been rigorously established" means? That the parents were lying? Yes. Buried in the rest of the report is the confirmation:
It is extracted from the files that the McCanns and their friends checked to verify if all was well with their children, as can be concluded from what the members of this group declared, and also derives from the testimony of Jerónimo Tomás Rodrigues Salceda, a waiter at the Tapas, who stated that he "noticed, because it was evident, that some of the group's members sometimes went outside of the restaurant to do something, which by and by he realised was to "check" on the children. Nevertheless, he was always convinced that those children were in a space that belonged to the Luz Ocean Club… Nevertheless, it can also be concluded from the files that this surveillance with the periodicity that was mentioned above was not the one that is alleged in the files, which leaves unexplained why, on that night, the procedures were altered in the sense of reducing the checking intervals.And, in one of the very few genuine developments in the case since July 2008 one of the prosecutors, José de Magalhães e Menezes, giving evidence in the Lisbon court case, removed any doubt: the group, he said, had not been telling the truth about the frequency of their checks – they had checked, he said, but not at the intervals they claimed. Mr Menezes, as we shall call him, is an easy figure to mock so it might be unfair to point out that if the group were the only people testifying to the checking on May 3 and it is established that they were not truthful in their statements, then his acceptance that checking did take place that night is based purely on the statement of one waiter, the above-mentioned Jerónimo Tomás Rodrigues Salceda. But Salceda, by his own admission, knew nothing first hand of any checking, only ("some of the group's members sometimes went outside of the restaurant to do something") that some members of the group left the restaurant at intervals, destination unknown. In the judicial context the judges hearing Amaral's appeal recognised this schizophrenic disjunction between the prosecutors' conclusions and the evidence from which those conclusions were supposedly derived. Had the McCanns' defence team been successful in their attempt to exclude the DVD containing the evidence from the case the judges' examination of the report would have been delayed, perhaps excluded. As it was the judges were able to consult the DVD case papers for themselves and compare the raw material of the case, including the wildly divergent statements that the group made about the frequency of the checks, with the Menezes selection.
Pamela Fenn, who resides on the residential block's first floor, above the apartment that was occupied by the McCann family, clarified that on the 1st of May 2007, two days before her disappearance, at around 10.30 p.m., she heard a child crying, which from the sound would be Madeleine and that she cried for an hour and fifteen minutes, until her parents arrived, at around 11.57 p.m. This shows that the parents were not persistently worried about their children [and] that they didn't check on them like they afterwards declared they did, rather neglecting their duty to guard those same children, although not in a reckless or gross, manner.
Having looked at the evidence the appeal judges determined that the archiving report's conclusion could not be taken as a definitive expression of the case evidence; it was, they said, "an interpretation", not a finding of fact, thus re-opening the entire can of worms going back to May 3. So much for the legal context and the overturning of the doomed attempt to maintain the report's "last word" status. And in the extra-judicial public arena this lamentable report has had equally little acceptance as drawing a line and stilling the "doubts". The UK media is indeed silent but the parents remain in a limbo between public acceptance and public suspicion, an unstable state based on indifference and boredom with the case liable to ignition into active hostility should new facts emerge. People will always ask questions about unsolved mysteries. As long as Kate and Gerry McCann and their seven friends refuse to answer the charges of untruthfulness and unwillingness to co-operate with the investigation then the parents, their friends and their children will never have peace and there will be those who believe they deliberately helped it to fail.
Something odd around the timeline creation - 10.03.2011
"Think," you could almost hear one of them shouting, bringing his fist down on the table, “come on let's think, did any of us see anyone suspicious around the crèche today? Was Madeleine frightened at all? Was there anyone dodgy in the Tapas bar? What could we have missed? Come on, think!” No, it wasn't like that. Not at all. The child doesn't even feature in her own book. Everyone else does, though, in the cryptic shorthand entries concerned calmly and almost exclusively with their own activities and the supposed "checking". It reads as coldly as a mortician's notebook and as briefly as a railway timetable. The child is mentioned, like a tiny and unfinished footnote, just once, right at the end: “9.55 - Kate realised Madeleine -”
No attempt to put clues around what might have happened or who could have done it or her own activities or behavior or demeanor earlier in the day but only this: we checked.
I find this in itself to be incredibly interesting.
In fact the timescale, the “window of opportunity” for the abductor, was impossibly tight as the legal consultations must have made clear. So now, on the 20/21 September, the team launched a press blitz in five different newspapers and Sky news with a completely new story: Gerry McCann was now convinced, indeed “certain” that an intruder had been in the apartment during his only visit. This shortened the time required for the abduction nicely.
Since this was only nine days after his last statement to the Portuguese police, in which there is no mention of any suspicions about an intruder, the question arose as to what had happened to cause his “certainty.” McCann could hardly say that it was a direct result of the team going over the gaps and weaknesses in the Tapas 9’s story; instead we got some typical mangled bluff from Mitchell. Apparently it was all to do with Gerry’s memory. Had he been hypnotized perhaps? Given the truth drug scopolamine? No, apparently not.
“Yesterday,” said the Mail group, "a friend of the family [this is Mitchell] claimed that having thought back over the events of May 3, Mr McCann recalls noticing that Madeleine's bedroom door was open when he went to check on her.”
Similar stories appeared in all the other papers under suitably dramatic headlines. It was complete nonsense, of course, since McCann had been mentioning the open door to the police ever since May 10 – though not in his first statement six days before. But it served its purpose. The new story was launched.
The reaction in Portugal was immediate. The police, perhaps unwisely, jeered at the new Total Recall and said that if Gerry McCann had sensed an intruder in the apartment but then calmly left his daughter to her possible fate by returning to his food and wine, he was an even worse father and human being than they had suspected.
Oh dear! But Mitchell could sort such wicked accusations out. Why, he said, "Mr McCann's realisation that he had been in the same room as the abductor only came to him later and the comments had been "totally misunderstood" by Mr Anjos [the police officer].”
“Realization.” Not theory, not assumption but a realization that “came to him later.”
Mitchell added: “This was said in the original witness statement.There is nothing that has come out recently that should be of surprise to the officers.”
The original witness statement on the only visit reads:
“Thus, at 9.05pm, Gerry entered the apartment using his key, the door being locked, and went to the children's room and noted that the twins and Madeleine were OK. He then took several minutes going to the toilet. He left the apartment and bumped into someone with whom he had played tennis and had a brief conversation. He then returned to the Tapas.”
So what on earth was Mitchell referring to as being in the original witness statement? Your guess is as good as ours. And the “realization” – which had never once been mentioned to the police, not even on September 9 - that, apparently, shouldn't have surprised them.
Mr Mitchell had arrived. The newsfeed was a blueprint for the Mitchell approach: dishonest, successful in the short term, a headline grabber. A week later, with the new version nicely established in the public mind, Mitchell confessed to the Telegraph that it wasn’t a “realization” or even a memory, after all. It was, he said, just “an assumption” of Gerry McCann's.
But a week is a long time in the spin and lie game.
We can see all this modification and creation when we come to the BBC Panorama programme made during this period and shown in late November 2007. This, remember, was no ordinary documentary. It formed a highly important, perhaps the most important, part of the “twin tracks”, with modified, and previously unknown, material, including the bolting together of the Tapas 7 statements, being deliberately offered to the producers by the defence team.
Ed Smethurst himself, the strategist, participated in the programme and the script was vetted and approved by the McCanns. Even the elusive Jane Tanner, the vital witness, was roped in to make her first public appearance discussing her sighting. It was the real deal, the proper Authorized Version, laid out to influence the minds of the public, as Smethurst admitted on the programme, and through them the mind of the Home Secretary, about which Ed was silent.
It was a smooth piece of work, using the gravitas and reputation of the BBC to give a stamp of authority to the piece. Watching it afterwards the defence team and the McCanns must surely have been pretty pleased.
Narrator: “Gerry McCann says he went at just after 9 to check on his children. He says that their bedroom door was more open than usual so he goes in. Gerry McCann has told Panorama he remembers looking down at Madeleine. He spent a moment thinking how beautiful she looked and how lucky he was. He says this was the last time he saw his daughter. He closes the bedroom door and leaves through these unlocked patio doors. A stair gate since removed is shut, this gate is on the latch not locked. Returning to the tapas bar he meets Jeremy Wilkins who he'd played tennis with that afternoon. He crosses the road to talk to him.”
Perfect. Even Jeremy Wilkins was now being met while Gerry was “returning to the Tapas bar”, rather than at the bottom of the stairs.
And there was no doubt that the abductor must have been in the apartment because when Mathew Oldfield did his check the door was very much not in the position that Gerry had left it. Good old Panorama gave it the required emphasis.
Narrator: According to the McCann timeline, at about 9.30 Matt Oldfield is the next to check on the children. Remember Gerry McCann says he had closed the bedroom door, but Matt Oldfield says he finds it open." Perfect again.
Can you imagine the conversation between Gerry and the significant members of the Team after the programme went out that night?
Voice: Gerry, we watched the programme.
Gerry: Yes. Great, wasn’t it?
Voice: Gerry. You left the door closed. You said you left that fucking bedroom door closed.
Gerry: Sure, I know.
Voice: You can’t do it. You can’t say that.
Gerry: I’ve said it! And Mathew saw it open – that’s the whole point!
Voice: Gerry, you and your wife said you never, ever, shut the door. You always left it ajar.
Gerry: So –
Voice: That’s how Kate knew there’d been an intrusion, Gerry. Remember?
Gerry: [chewing] It’s done now.
Voice: It has to be undone, Gerry. You cannot leave it like that.
Clever Eddie, Media McBride and “Catch Me” Caplan hadn’t been so terribly clever after all.
Still, the public’s memory is short and perhaps the police might not have been watching Panorama. Gerry could hardly unremember the closed door too quickly so there was silence on the matter until a month had elapsed – and until the Rothley meeting, the final opportunity to discuss these matters, had been and gone. On December 16 the Times published a long and authoritative article by one of the McCanns' favourite journalists, produced with their active assistance. It was another chapter, naturally, in the twin-track strategy. Beyond the Smears it was called and it gave the latest, and expanded, Authorized Version. It was much the same as the Panorama programme, with just one major change.
“When he entered the apartment, Gerry immediately saw that the children’s bedroom door, which they always left just ajar, was now open to 45 degrees. He thought that was odd, and glanced in his own bedroom to see if Madeleine had gone into her parents’ bed. But no, she and the twins were all still fast asleep. Gerry paused over Madeleine, who – a typical doctor’s observation, this – was lying almost in “the recovery position” with Cuddle Cat, the toy her godfather, John Corner, had bought her, and her comfort blanket up near her head, and Gerry thought how gorgeous, how lovely-looking she was and how lucky he was. Putting the door back to five degrees, he went to the loo and left to return to the restaurant. That, of course, was the last time he would see his daughter.”
Good, eh? Or, at least, good enough for the British public, if not for the police.
Meanwhile another timescale problem had to be dealt with, using Coffin Clarence and the media. It concerned Kate McCann and David Payne and, if the parents wanted to avoid being put on the plane to police headquarters, there was a lot of work to be done.
Madeleine” by Kate McCann 1 - 14.06.2011
Her descriptions of student life and the early years of her relationship with Gerry McCann are less spontaneous, singing more of the celebrity literary agents' demand for background colour than any strong desire to share her memories. Life in New Zealand and the Netherlands floats by with almost no comment on the culture or population of the two countries, in contrast to her tale of attempts to have children which, as an erstwhile obstetrician, she recounts in considerable detail. About medicine as a vocation she has nothing to say and none of her patients are ever portrayed, anonymously or otherwise. She writes that she had no particular interest in a medical career — it was more a matter of deciding between the various opportunities that her undoubted academic ability and determination (and she is modest about these) offered her. With the birth of her children the conventional narrative of early ambitions achieved and human happiness attained is complete. Despite the unoriginality of the tale — which is the fault of the industry, not M/S McCann — this is an adult speaking, not a celebrity creation, comfortable with her judgements and decisions and, up to a certain point, confident in her identity.
Thus the curtain is raised on the drama the reader is most interested in: between May and October 2007 M/S McCann suffered the loss of her daughter, became a world-wide "misery celebrity" with unrestricted access to the corridors of the great and a developing taste for travel in private jets and then, in an altogether Hitchcockian twist, was accused of involvement in the disappearance of her own child before finding eventual sanctuary in her homeland. This transformation in her fortunes was matched, at giddying speed, by her portrayal in the media — from glamorous but stoical heroine to a rag doll stripped of all privacy and dignity in a matter of weeks. How she and her husband handled these switchback changes in their fortunes together with the public's perception of events provides the heart of the book, with the police investigation into their possible guilt provoking the most strongly felt and dramatic writing in the whole work.
Soon after their return to the UK the drama is essentially over. The pathos of Clarence Mitchell's press conference in front of their Rothley home, with the pair standing mute in his long shadow like a pair of dejected, sagging, criminals, remains sharp in the memory. Behind the scenes, however, and starting with a three and a half hour legal defence meeting on the day they landed in England, one of the most expensive and powerful legal teams in modern British history was being assembled. Given the paucity of the Portuguese police case against the pair — a large box full of loose ends — the defence effort seems disproportionate to any actual danger that threatened them and the tension inevitably falls away. What follows becomes something of a public report in which her campaigning work in child protection and her various interviews and public appearances are described in considerable, not to say tedious, detail. Meanwhile the exhausting, exhaustive and at times hysterically absurd campaign to find her daughter uncovers absolutely nothing, nada, not a single lead. Personalities are naturally described in limited — i.e. non-existent — depth according to the conventions of the genre. It is not easy for it to be otherwise when writing about living people who may still have a part, however obscure, to play; Goncalo Amaral, unsurprisingly, is the subject of scorn and bewilderment at his supposed lack of human feeling and his determination, according to Kate McCann, to stop the world searching for Madeleine. Little is said, though no doubt much could be written, about the various chancers and scoundrels who offered their services — at a price — to help locate the child.
Despite the collaborating lawyers and the ever-present sensation of a text having being under microscopic scrutiny before being allowed to reach the paying reader there are one or two minor surprises. The extremely active role of the grandly named but only recently founded International Family Law Group in the parents' affairs in the early days, including their part in the establishment of the controversial family fund, their pressing suggestions that Madeleine should be made a ward of court and their introduction of some serious mercenaries-cum-private investigators from the Control Risks Group, is bound to raise questions about their judgement. The IFLG was also intimately involved in the couple's ill-fated legal move to lay hands on Leicester police files on the case in summer 2008. M/S McCann gives a brief extract from the (previously confidential) Leicester police response to the action which stated, essentially, that there was "no clear evidence" to eliminate the couple from involvement in the child's disappearance and therefore they would not entrust them with the requested files. The LP position remains unchanged: the files are still denied to the parents. M/S McCann's feelings of having been abandoned by British "authorities" — she doesn't really do the separation of powers thing — once she is made arguida are revealed as the mirror image of Amaral's sense of abandonment by his own chiefs, though no doubt some readers will see deep currents beneath the apparently obvious truth of her comments. She explicitly denies any premonitions about Madeleine's well-being in Praia da Luz — somewhat surprising given the equally explicit statements of some of her friends on the question. And new to me, at least, is the Portuguese police claim that a witness saw her and her husband carrying something in a large black bag on the evening of May 3.
Aucune déclaration explicite sur une prémonition qui contredirait le sentiment de grande sécurité (qui a endormi toute prudence) et aucun témoin "au grand sac noir".
The conclusion of the book exhibits a certain tension. The celebrity/misery memoir rules demand an upbeat ending; M/S McCann is OK with that but is uneasy about how the public might judge her if she is, well, too happy, given the circumstances of a missing child, fate unknown. Still, she manages it well enough, just as she manages the burden of her guilt. The knowledge that she is a stronger and more able woman now than she was a couple of years ago helps her, she says, to "shake off" a little of that guilt. Such questions as the real meaning of guilt, together with Kate McCann's Catholic conception of it, take us away from the celebrity memoir and on to the much more complex area of Madeleine's value as a true self-portrait, a subject that we will soon turn to. For the moment we can leave her with her book successfully completed, staring sensitively into the distance, alone — apart from the presence at her side of Bill Scott-Kerr, Sally Gaminara, Janine Giovanni and Alison Barrow, all of Transworld publishers, Neil Blair and Christopher Little, her agents, the aforesaid quartet of lawyers and her friend Claudia from the Portuguese PR company Lift Consulting — sad but beautiful, stronger for her suffering. Cue music and credits.
Madeleine by Kate McCann 2 - 30.06.2011
Madeleine as a primary source & historical record. As a celebrity memoir the book is by no means bad. What about as a record for future students of the case by one of the two central figures? How reliable is it? Here "the case" that we're discussing essentially concerns May 3 and the week leading up to it. To a lesser extent it means the police investigation and that limited part of it for which the McCanns are primary sources. The remainder of the book, the greater part in fact, is of little importance: people studying the case, professional or otherwise, are unlikely to be deeply interested in the couple's extended travels around Europe or the enlistment of celebrities such as David Beckham to their cause. In this section we shall look closely at the first period and analyse it in detail; we can consider the couple's experiences at the hands of the Portuguese police later on in the third part of this review, where we discuss the value of the book as a self-portrait of Kate McCann. The constraints — the Portuguese judicial secrecy rules — which prevented her speaking in as much detail as she apparently wished about the case no longer apply. The possibility (of which the couple were highly aware) that they might lose their younger children to UK social services on the grounds of parental neglect perhaps justified a certain caution in their accounts of events; with the passage of time, however, the likelihood of any such action has dropped to zero. “...I have struggled to keep myself together and to understand how such injustices [the half-truths etc above] have been allowed to go unchallenged over and over again. I have had to keep saying to myself: I know the truth, we know the truth and God knows the truth. And one day, the truth will out.”
The first point to note is the extreme brevity of her coverage of the period. Out of the 368 pages of the work some 27 are devoted to the week of the disappearance, culminating in her 10pm visit to apartment 5A — pages 44 to 71. Two of these are diagrams, leaving just 25 pages of text or some 7.5% of the work. No interest in describing the period, or the wish to communicate the nature of the experience, is anywhere discernible. Neither the appearance nor any hint of the personalities of the seven friends who accompanied her to Praia da Luz are delineated: all of them, including the distinctively older Dianne Webster, remain mere names, their appearance on the page just patches of black, or rather grey, type, carrying as much life or personal response from the author as a telephone directory. Now, from the rogatory interviews we know that the old newspaper picture of a secretive, homogenous group was false. One or two of them were as near to close friends as the McCanns are ever likely to have; others hardly knew the pair. In their own lengthy descriptions of that week, despite the fraught circumstances under which they spoke, their personalities come to life – the owl-like and pompous but comically accident-prone David Payne, for example, his silkily ambitious wife (the one with the scarves) whose perfume can almost be smelt on the page, the embittered and hostile Russell O’Brien, deep-down conscious that his carefully planned career will never be the same again, the stage-comedy scatty old lady Dianne Webster, who can’t even remember her own address and isn’t old at all, veering wildly between genuine forgetfulness and a sharp suspicion that the less she says about anything the better for everybody. And their descriptions are alive as well, full of unexpected detail, doubt, colour, disappointment, incident and emotion, giving the lie to any suggestion that there really wasn’t much for Kate McCann to write about in that Praia da Luz week. Unlike her the 7 — except, of course, when they stray into certain “dangerous” areas — tell things more or less as they saw and, more important, felt them.
Can we be sure that the section has in fact been structured in the way we have described? Well, the passages of self-justification are obviously ex post facto, as they say, and therefore cannot have come from the period; nor have they in any sense sprung from the narrative of that week since they have nothing to do with communicating what happened then but are part of a quite different story, M/S McCann’s continuing defence of her own reputation, the “bottom of the garden” stuff and the rest in which she first lightly condemns and then strongly acquits herself. Then what about the Madeleine passages? Can we be fairly sure that they don’t spring from the narrative either? They certainly don’t seem to. Significantly our first real view of Madeleine on holiday — on the aircraft steps — is given not from direct memory but from the video made by the group. A few pages after that the bare recitation of events and lengthy descriptions of the apartment is interrupted:
Soon after midday,” she writes, “we collected the children.” A highly emotional passage about the child follows — but it doesn’t describe Madeleine McCann in Praia da Luz but in some more complex space: “I loved going to pick up the kids when they were little,” she adds, “the moment when your child spots you and rushes over to throw a pair of tiny arms around you makes your heart sing. It doesn’t happen every time, of course, but I have many special memories of meeting Madeleine at nursery at home. Hurtling across the classroom and into my embrace she would shout, ‘My mummy,” as if establishing ownership of me in front of the other children. What I’d give to have that back again.The next is on page 57:
It chokes me remembering how my heart soared with pride in Madeleine that morning. She was so happy and obviously enjoying herself. Standing there listening intently to Cat’s instructions, she looked so gorgeous in her little T-shirt and shorts, pink hat, ankle socks and new holiday sandals...OK, OK — but this wasn’t strictly the child in Praia da Luz either, but a photograph:
... that I ran back to the apartment for my camera to record the occasion.” The child herself is momentarily excluded as Kate McCann shifts time and space once more, “One of my photographs is known around the world now...” and in a convoluted mix of past and present, child and parent, tells us how it was that Madeleine had “done really well” to end up for the photograph with an armful of tennis balls, finishing, “Gerry loves that picture.On page 65 she demonstrates how hard she finds it to “see” the child, providing not an image of Madeleine in action but a multi-layered section of her own troubled memory from somewhere far beyond Praia da Luz:
Some images are etched for all time on my brain. Madeleine that lunchtime is one of them. She was wearing an outfit” — here comes mum — “I’d bought especially for her holiday: a peach-coloured smock top from Gap and some white broderie-anglaise shorts from Monsoon — a small extravagance perhaps, but I’d pictured how lovely she would look in them and I’d been right.” She adds, “She was striding ahead of Fiona and me, swinging her bare arms to and fro. The weather was on the cool side” — here she is again — “and I remember thinking I should have brought a cardigan for her, although she seemed oblivious of the temperature, just happy and carefree ” — again — “I was following her with my eyes, admiring her. I wonder now, the nausea rising in my throat, if someone else was doing the same.Her characterization of the child throughout these interpolations is flimsy and as for the dynamics of the relationship between mother and daughter - and anyone with children of Madeleine’s age knows how extensive and complex the relationship has already become — there is almost nothing. I stress these points not at all to criticise Kate McCann as a mother but to illustrate the way in which the child does not emerge naturally from the narrative — and that is because she is not really part of it. Perhaps the closest she comes to emerging is in the descriptions of her asking her parents “why they hadn’t come that night” — and that episode also, in a sense, comes from outside, due to the evidential significance it has subsequently taken on. From these considerations it should be clear that the whole section results neither from concentrated recollection nor the intensity of her feelings about episodes of four years ago: it has been assembled into a construct, not a description and certainly not a record. Of course every piece of writing of whatever kind is a construction, a literary construction, if only by selection. But a literary construction is chosen for its suitability to express the story, whether fact or fiction, in the best or most appropriate way. This section of Kate McCann’s book is something quite different: tellingly, she never “expresses herself” at all. The only interpretations of this extraordinary section that seem to make sense are, firstly, those that are probably familiar to her criminal lawyers: that she suffered from traumatic amnesia that week as a result of losing her child or for some pre-existing reason and has had to reconstruct the period from outside sources; or that she is still incapable, despite her own assumptions, of truly confronting the events of the period.
There is, of course, a third: that she sees that whole week as a potentially “dangerous area” a shark filled sea in which she must move with enormous caution, her only safe refuges the island of ex post facto justification and the haven of her undoubted love for Madeleine, however strangely revisited. Can we go further and decide which of the three might be correct? One way of doing so is to remember those opening words:
...I have struggled to keep myself together and to understand how such injustices [the half-truths etc above] have been allowed to go unchallenged over and over again. I have had to keep saying to myself: I know the truth, we know the truth and God knows the truth. And one day, the truth will out.“Dangerous” or merely “contentious”? Either way, how Kate McCann handles areas of the case which have provoked so much comment and debate, and how much light her quest for truth will throw on them can help us decide which interpretation fits best. Leaving aside the whole question of the state of the apartment at 10pm on May 3, a subject about which by now we can be fairly sure M/S McCann is not going to have anything new to say, these contentious areas come down to three episodes: the decision not to use babysitters, the supposed visit of David Payne to her apartment on the early evening of May 3 and the notorious problems of the evening “timeline.”
The decision prompts a number of questions that in theory, and for a person who has nothing to hide, should be easy enough to answer: who exactly first suggested that the group should check the children and when? What stance did Gerry McCann, a born contributor, take? What was agreed about checking other couples’ children and what arrangements, keys, open doors etc, were agreed within the group to allow others entry to their apartments?
Ils ont clairement improvisé. Se seraient-ils mieux connus, ils se seraient peut-être concertés et organisés. Mais le couple "noyau", David et Fiona WP, avaient avant le départ résolu de la jouer perso, emmenant un baby moniteur sophistiqué.
And did they discuss or assess the risks of such a procedure before coming to a decision? In the rogatory interviews the matter was treated as “dangerous ground”. The group gave vague and contradictory answers to some of the questions but stood firm in claiming that the decision to check their children had been a “collective” one. Their responses, taken together with their police statements, demonstrated that there had been an attempt to construct a strong legal case against any charges of neglect arising from the checking after the child had disappeared. That case, developed and made explicit to the police by David Payne, was superficially ingenious: Mark Warner, it ran, used “listening checks” at most of its resorts with staff listening at guests’ windows every half an hour for signs of wakefulness or distress; finding that Mark Warner did not use the system in Praia da Luz the group put in place a system that followed the company’s half-hour intervals; in fact, said Payne and others, apparently with straight faces, it was better than Mark Warner’s system because there was some visual checking inside the apartments as well; therefore they could only be guilty of neglect if Mark Warner was prosecuted for the same offence in all its resorts.
Of course there were all sorts of problems with this claim, not least that it sounded strongly like our old friend ex post facto preparation and reeked of urgent legal discussion after the disappearance of the child, not before. And it was all too neat, especially when the four members of the group who had absurdly claimed that the checking was every fifteen minutes — some whir of motion in the Tapas restaurant that would have been — in their May 4 statements began shading their claims towards the half-hour mark. Still, it was hard to disprove unless the police could find out whether such elaborate and conscientious planning had really taken place at the beginning of the holiday rather than afterwards. All nine in the group, however, refused or transparently affected not to remember who said what and when, repeating only that it was a “collective decision”. But why should the police, Portuguese or UK, be so concerned about possible neglect as to try and break down their story in view of the appalling disaster that the group had suffered? Did it really matter enough for the Leicester police still to be trying to find out the background to the decision in April 2008? The answer is no, it didn’t. What mattered — and here the size of the pit the Tapas 7 (not the 9) were digging for themselves begins to come clear — was something much more important: the group was clearly not telling the whole truth but was that simply to evade the dreaded neglect issue? If they weren’t willing to come completely clean on that, even a year later, just how honest were they and could they be concealing something much more sinister?
That question, with all its implications, remains open and unanswered to this day, prompting much debate on the internet and, no doubt, a number of open files in Leicester police headquarters. It is extremely thought-provoking — and here we see the size of that pit again — that apparently not one of the Tapas 7 has come forward after four years and said, in effect, to the UK police, “Look, we were troubled; of course the ‘collective decision’ thing was a stance but an understandable, not a sinister, one. Can’t we start again and clear this up?” Of course it is possible that one of them has done so; if so he hasn’t told Kate McCann. Her contribution to dismissing baseless rumours in this section of Madeleine might sound slightly familiar:
As the restaurant was so near we collectively decided to do our own child checking service.followed, without further detail, by an entire page of prolix and defensive self-justification, again familiar from her previous media interviews. The visit, the “last sighting” of Madeleine McCann by someone outside the family, remains highly controversial and has been the subject of exhaustive debate on the internet and elsewhere. The questions about it arise at the very beginning since it was not mentioned by David Payne, Gerry or Kate McCann in their initial police statements, despite Kate McCann’s repeated assertions in the book that she had told the police “everything”. The first reference to it comes, oddly, not from either of the individuals involved but from Gerry McCann, in his May 10 statement:
David went to visit Kate and the children and returned close to 19H00, trying to convince the deponent to continue to play tennis, which he refused.Note the initial locution, “David went to visit Kate and the children”: there is no mention of any reason for the visit. Unfortunately the PJ did not hear what the principals had to say: neither Payne nor Kate McCann were present for that second round of interviews. Kate had cried off with stress; quite how Payne avoided questioning is unclear. Whatever, the result was that the Portuguese police received no information about the claimed visit from one of the participants until Kate McCann was questioned over four months later, on September 6 2007. And they still had no statement from Payne; in fact they were unable to compare his account with that of Kate McCann until they listened in to his rogatory interview in April 2008. Kate McCann’s September 6 statement runs thus:
While the children were eating and looking at some books, Kate had a shower which lasted around 5 minutes. After showering, at around 6:30/6:40 p.m. and while she was getting dry, she heard somebody knocking at the balcony door. She wrapped herself in a towel and went to see who was at the balcony door. This door was closed but not locked as Gerry had left through this door. She saw that it was David Payne, because he called out and had opened the door slightly.She now departs from direct knowledge deriving from her own experience, as she often does on important matters, adding helpfully:
David’s visit was to help her to take the children to the recreation area. When David returned from the beach he was with Gerry at the tennis courts, and it was Gerry who asked him to help Kate with taking the children to the recreation area, which had been arranged but did not take place.Then, reverting from hearsay to evidence, she concluded:
David was at the apartment for around 30 seconds, he didn’t even actually enter the flat, he remained at the balcony door. According to her he then left for the tennis courts where Gerry was. The time was around 6:30-6:40pm.This was the first appearance of the “Gerry asked Payne...” story — after four months! — and it was followed some twenty four hours later by the same story from Gerry himself in his arguido interview. Two weeks later, with the couple safely back in England and during that muffled and murky period when they and the lawyers were using the media to explore their vulnerabilities, a lengthy and carefully contrived leak was given to the London Times by Clarence Mitchell. The story purported to be about disagreements between the McCanns as to how far to co-operate with the PJ but buried half way into the story we find this:
Last week, however, a senior police source told a Portuguese newspaper that officers were still suspicious about the McCanns’ movements during the “missing six hours” before Madeleine’s disappearance. Sources close to the family [Clarence Mitchell] say that David Payne, one of the holiday party, saw Madeleine being put to bed when he visited the McCann apartment at 7pm. Previously the last confirmed sighting of Madeleine was at 2.29pm when a photograph of her and Gerry was taken at the swimming pool. Kate and Gerry McCann believe Payne’s testimony will be crucial in proving their innocence. They arrived at the tapas bar at 8.30pm, which would leave just an hour and a half in which they are supposed to have killed their daughter and disposed of the body. A source close to the legal team [this was also Mitchell] said: ‘If they were responsible for killing their daughter, how would they have done so and hidden the body in that time? There is a very limited window of opportunity'.So the story had developed even further. Note that Payne himself, after almost six months, has still told the Portuguese police absolutely nothing about the visit. The only reference to it that he ever seems to have made comes in a curiously unsatisfactory email from the Leicester police to their Portuguese counterparts accompanying some forwarded statements. Detective Constable Marshall wrote that Payne had stated informally:
...that he saw Madeleine, for the last time, at 17H00 [probably an error for 7pm] on 3/5/07 in the McCann apartment. Also present there were Kate and Gerry. He did not indicate the motive for being there or what he was doing. He also cannot indicate how long he stayed.Well ! The situation, therefore, was that Payne’s version of this visit was still open and, as it were, up for grabs. But not yet and certainly not for grabbing via the newspapers by the McCanns and their spokesman. As we have seen from his ingenious defence of the “checking” Payne has an instinct for keeping his options open. The claims were left standing, without rebuttal, for several weeks and perhaps there was a hope somewhere that it reflected Payne’s acquiescence in the story and the altered timescale. Not likely. In late October, strangely enough on the same date that Detective Constable Marshall sent his email along with the Gaspar statements to Portugal, he made the extremely rare move of communicating via journalists himself, speaking effusively to the Daily Mail about Kate McCann and her lack of problems with her children [media code: no, she wasn’t nutty or stressed-out enough to have whacked the child and accidentally killed her]. But 7pm was now firmly out: in that same article Mitchell and the McCanns had to reverse themselves, now stating “David Payne saw Madeleine at around 6.30pm.” Point made. In April 2008, just under a year after the child’s disappearance, David Payne was finally compelled to talk about the visit, making a statement to Leicester police as part of the rogatory interviews. The Portuguese police representatives watched the televised proceedings from behind a screen. Whether Lusitanian guffaws of disbelief resounded from their vantage point is not disclosed but Payne and Kate McCann seemed to be not just on different visits but different planets.
Q: Okay, and it was at what point that Gerry said to you go and, would you mind checking at Kate?
DP: I had to go back to my room to you know change into stuff appropriate for playing tennis in, and err so he knew that I’d walk up that by and past so he said oh why don’t you err, you know can you just pop in on the way, the way up...[fails to describe reason for visit] KM : David’s visit was to help her to take the children to the recreation area. When David returned from the beach he was with Gerry at the tennis courts, and it was Gerry who asked him to help Kate with taking the children to the recreation area,
Q: Did you open the door? Or was it already open?
DP: I think it was already open. KM : This door was closed but not locked as Gerry had left through this door. She saw that it was David Payne, because he called out and had opened the door slightly.
Q: Did you actually go into the apartment?
DP: I did.
Q: Or did you do the conversation from the door?
DP: No, definitely was inside the apartment, you know whether it be two or three steps into the apartment or you know however many, but I was definitely in the apartment. KM: He didn’t even actually enter the flat; he remained at the balcony door.
Q: Okay, so now what I’m gonna try and ask you to recollect, what everybody was wearing.
DP: I’m afraid that is, you know I’m, I cannot recall at all. I know that’s, you’d think that’d be an obvious thing to remember, I cannot remember. As I say the, from the children point of view predominantly I can remember the, you know, white, but I couldn’t say exactly what they were wearing. Err…
Q: But could you remember what Kate was wearing for example?
DP: I can’t, no. KM: She wrapped herself in a towel and went to see who was at the balcony door.
Q: I’m gonna pin you down and ask you how long you think you were in there for.
DP: In their apartment, it, it, I’d say three minutes, five maximum.” KM: David was at the apartment for around 30 seconds.
Q: When you finished ...did you say anything to Gerry about, about the fact that his family were fine?
DP: "Yeah, err yeah, I haven’t mentioned this before, but yes, yeah I’d certainly, when we met up I said oh yeah, you know everything’s fine there, you know probably along the lines of you know you’ve got a bit more of a free pass you know you can carry on for a bit longer...[fails to give reason for visit] KM: ...asked him to help Kate with taking the children to the recreation area.
At around six forty, as I was drying myself off, there was a knock on the patio doors and I heard David’s voice calling me. Swiftly wrapping my towel around me I stepped into the sitting room.But then she uses words that aren’t in the statement: “David had popped his head round the patio doors looking for me,” which quite cleverly attempts to resolve the open/closed doors discrepancy as well as shading another question —inside the doors or outside the doors? Neither! He is in the doorway, head popping. Having dipped her toes she moves rapidly back to the much safer territory of what others had said:
The others had met up with Gerry at the tennis courts and he’d mentioned we were thinking of bringing the kids to the play area. David had nipped up to see if he could give me a hand taking them down. As they were all ready for bed and seemed content with their books I decided they were probably past the stage of needing any more activity. So he went back to the tennis while I quickly dressed and sat down on the couch with the children.One wonders which lawyers were involved in the “popping” paragraph because, by altering her statement, Kate McCann has provided internal evidence that she is covertly attempting to smooth away inconsistencies that are hazardous for her rather than trying to throw light on the truth as she vowed to do. Oh, and the bit about Payne only staying for thirty seconds has somehow gone missing.
Dans sa déposition du 4 mai, KMC dit qu'ils étaient rentrés chez eux (une heure et demie plus tôt que d'habitude) et avaient renoncé au terrain de jeux pour les enfants, auxquels ils avaient donné leur bain.
Finally to the evening of May 3. M/S McCann is certainly not going to linger here and events before 10pm are despatched in a two page deadpan recitation of her statement, beginning with, “Gerry left to do the first check just before 9.05 by his watch.”
Matthew venait de revenir en disant que tout était calme au rez-de-chaussée..
By his watch? So near the end and more pause for thought! Gerry did not mention looking at his watch and noting 9.04 until the desperate hours of his September arguido statement, and for very good reason: it couldn’t be true. We know that he was actively involved in the preparation of the two “kid’s book” timelines in apartment 5A on the night of May 3/4, a subject on which Kate is understandably silent. Not surprisingly the person who wrote these timelines down, Russell O’ Brien, was almost equally coy about their preparation when interviewed by Leicester police, stating that he had forgotten their existence. Nevertheless, under questioning, he began to remember and confirmed not only his own role but that of David Payne and Gerry McCann in their preparation – while the searching and hue and cry was taking place around them and all within a few feet of Kate. If Kate McCann, indeed, had happened to wonder why one of Madeleine’s books had been ripped apart and glanced down at the timelines written on their covers she would have seen “9.20 Jane Tanner checks 5D, sees a stranger carrying a child.” Apparently she didn’t, not finding out about the sighting, so we are told, until very much later. O’Brien was vague and inconclusive about the exact role that each of the three played in their preparation but nevertheless it was established that Gerry McCann had been involved in both versions and that the second — marked “Gerald” so he could hardly deny it — included amendments from him.
The first sheet that the trio prepared states that Gerry left to check at “9.15”. The second, corrected by Gerry, alters this to “9.10-9.15”. There is no mention of 9.05, let alone 9.04. That the alteration was part of a process in which almost all checking times were systematically shifted back by five minutes or so to accommodate the otherwise insoluble conflicts between Gerry McCann’s presence in 5A and Jane Tanner’s sighting directly outside, does not concern us here. What matters is the internal evidence of the documents as to the truth: McCann could not possibly have allowed either document to pass unamended if he had indeed looked at his watch at 9.04 as he left to check. The documents show that the claim about the watch, first made four months after the event, is an invention. And so we arrive at Kate’s 10 pm check, there to read the cold leftovers of her previous statements and interviews. With that the strained and artificially constructed narrative of this section can come to an end, to be replaced immediately – and almost with a sense of relief — by wild, fist-beating, screaming action. This piece which purports to describe Madeleine’s last known week is a sadly unworthy memorial to a small and unfortunate child. As a historical record Kate McCann’s Madeleine is, as we have seen, self-serving and actively resistant to the truth. It is worthless.
Mystery, what mystery - 18.07.2011
(...) I do not believe that Murdoch or Murdoch's papers in themselves have, in any way, protected the McCanns. That protection, as Kate McCann confirms, was sealed by the visits of the couple's criminal lawyers to all the main UK media editors in late 2007 during which the latter were told, correctly, that the McCanns were bound to win every libel case they bothered to pursue since the evidence did not exist for a defence based on truth. (...)
Ah, that mystery - 18.07.2011
Somebody who was criticising me years ago, a BBC man who went very silent when he realised his bosses might find out he was posting on the net, said that I regarded the McCann affair as a giant crossword puzzle – in contrast to his own rather BBC view that there were hidden hands and forces at work. Conspiracies, he lectured me, really do happen. Tell me about it. Anyway, I plead guilty as charged, except I would think Killer Sudoku is a better comparison. The intermittent but obsessive wrestling with a problem which can make a two hour air flight pass in a matter of moments or can clean out the brain in intervals between real work or real-life challenges, was provided just as well by the McCann affair as a level-one-mind-bending Sudoku. And now? Where's the challenge? Ok, ok, we don't know how the body was got out of the apartment. Anything else? Not much, not since the latest candidate for the longest suicide note in history, Kate McCann's Madeleine, confirmed just about everything we had deduced and more. Sure, the pair's fairy story has been unravelling steadily, starting with the deadly Lisbon hearings in January 2010, continuing with the appeal court judges' demolition of the absurd "exoneration" claim – via their endorsement of Amaral's theory as an interpretation of equal validity to that of the unfortunate prosecutor Menezes – and untangling further with the Wikileaks stuff. But the speed has now become dizzying.
It is some six months since, in response to questions I had asked Goncalo Amaral, I was told that the parents' lawyer Abreu, had initiated the attempt to find the most favourable charges possible against his clients' at the McCanns' direct request. This, by the way, was not based on panicky misunderstandings on September 6 but had been under exploration since the crucial August 8 police interview, the details of which have only been made partially public now, by Kate McCann. There was no plea bargaining. Instead the police were willing to accept that Kate McCann was a sick woman, as Kate's description of their comments on August 8 illustrates. Incidentally their diagnosis of her as revealed in that interview stands up very well, and fairly, when compared with her revelation that for months in 2007 she suffered from feelings of disassociation and demonic possession that can only be described as psychotic. Where she and the PJ differ is that she suggests that the psychosis developed after 10 pm on May 3 while they believe it had begun before that. We've had four years to watch the woman while the PJ had three months: they did well. Given what they believed to be her state of mind it was obvious that a punitive sentence was never going to be demanded by coppers with any insight and human decency – which these officers, despite the filth that the parents, their employees and their supporters have thrown at them – possess in plenty; the woman needed help, for Christ's sake, as she still does, not imprisonment. It was the unanimous view of the three officers and Amaral that the parents and their lawyer left on the night of September 6 anxious to make a clean breast of the matter. And months after the Portuguese messages along comes this desperately disturbed woman to confirm the broad picture. In the wild and emotional discussions with Abreu which accompanied their change of mind that night there were few claims that they might do so because of their innocence. Gerry McCann's collapse onto his knees, tearfully shouting that they were finished, that their lives were over, was not followed by any ringing peroration as he eventually rose to his feet that they were innocent or being framed. No, he spat out words more fitted to a Glasgow crook than to an innocent doctor - "they've got nothing".
Did lawyers Michael Caplan QC and Angus McBride really help Kate McCann? Really? I can't even be bothered any more to list the number of problems that we have the answers to now. What about that famous, if ignominious, argument in their favour, for instance, that no couple could have gone on behaving "normally" at the tapas table that night, knowing their child was dead. Really? Now read the August 8 stuff in Madeleine to see the state they were in and the incredible accusations that the police had put to them. Then check Gerry McCann's blogs and their interviews for any hint of what must have been churning away in their minds. That pair would act naturally if they'd been turned into pillars of salt. Nah, there are details to wrap up but the challenge is gone. We know what happened. From now on it's just a question of whether they'll face criminal justice – can anyone really be bothered? – before Amaral eventually cleans them out in the libel courts. But that's just postscript.
Madeleine as a self-portrait of Kate McCann – III - 19.07.2011 Reading Madeleine is a weird experience. For a start – unless, of course, you are one of those "realists" who think the book is just the simple story of an unfairly traduced and long suffering mother – it operates at as many levels as a French symbolist poem. "Choose your audience and write to it," say the agents in their guidance to celebrity clients but for Kate McCann this is no simple task. She knows how many people there are at her shoulder as she writes – Abreu, Amaral, her various police questioners in the PJ, Bob Small and Detective Sergeant de Freitas from the UK, David Payne, and others, all with their own knowledge of the events she describes. She has the silent presence of her constituency of supporters to maintain as well, always searching for an approach that will keep them onside – did that sound too happy? Is my love for Madeleine coming across strongly enough? I mustn't sound too vain – as well as the note-takers on the skeleton crew still keeping the case open at Leicester police headquarters. All of them must somehow be satisfied. The major chord, as it were, of the surface Readers' Digest narrative – the only one that will be perceived by some of her less sensitive fans – dominates this series of undertones, one for each individual or constituency. It is a performance on a colossal scale, a high-wire act that must be petrifying her husband, evidence of an overpowering ego and an immensely strong will.
The cultural poverty that she and her husband share and which makes them describe – and, I think, experience – situations of extreme elemental drama in cheap soap-opera terms makes one hesitate before admitting that Shakespeare frequently comes to mind. Yet the sheer power and determination with which she sent hope and strength coursing back into her husband's limp, sobbing body on the night of September 6, for instance, is that of Lady Macbeth in its purest form. She is an extraordinary woman. Whether she is quite sane, in the commonly understood sense of the word, is another matter. When the PJ officers accused her of blacking out on May 3, of not being in control of her actions and feelings, they were, as I have written elsewhere, very close to the truth of what Kate McCann herself describes in Madeleine – months of believing that she was possessed by an alien force, "a demon", and an accompanying sense of seriously out-of-control fury, in other words psychotic, not neurotic, behaviour. But they clearly believed that such behaviour predated the evening of May 3. Hers are qualities that inspire both admiration and pity. If only they were the whole story! For the record of the last four years shows a deeply unpleasant underside to her complex personality. It is not the evidence she provides in the book of her obvious human weaknesses — vanity amounting to self-obsession, a tendency to attack, sometimes physically, those who provoke her, an obvious pleasure in being indulged associated with a certain financial acquisitiveness: most of us share some of those characteristics and worse. No, it is much more serious: few people mean anything to her at all and those that cross her...
People who have helped or served her fare almost as badly as those who have given her trouble. The experienced GNR officers who first appeared on the scene to search for her daughter, less fortunate in their careers than she, men of peasant stock on a poor wage in a poor country, are treated with casual contempt by this erstwhile child of the Liverpool slums: "Tweedledum and Tweedledee", she describes them mockingly, "bewildered and out of their depth". The ghost of harmless old Mrs Fenn, who dared to be concerned for Madeleine's well-being, is invoked to receive a paragraph of gratuitous insult before being despatched back to her grave; Justine McGuinness, having failed Kate McCann's expectations in some obscure way, is tossed aside like a bunch of old flowers. Goncalo Amaral, of course, stood squarely in her way. Having fed the UK rumour machine against him she watched, presumably with satisfaction, his career implode. Once his book threatened to bring the facts of the investigation to a British public almost completely unaware of them, she set out not just to silence but to destroy him, using the crone Duarte and the wealth at her disposal — none of it earned — to tie him up in Kafkaesque legal netting, his money seized, his freedom of speech gone, his family dependent on friends for financial support. It was a ruthless desire to hurt, not to defend, that is so clearly revealed in her pursuit of Amaral and his family, a campaign that almost succeeded when the police officer's wife broke down and begged her husband to seek a settlement with the pair.
It is notable, by the way, that Amaral's memoirs not only reveal a more cultivated individual than Kate McCann — he actually shows awareness of the history and culture of his own country and an aesthetic appreciation of its landscape — but a degree of humanity and warmth that is quite lacking in the icy heart at the centre of his adversary's book. Unfortunately he is also less devious: he underestimated Kate McCann when she was almost within his power and he is still struggling to overcome his error. That side of her personal ledger is almost enough to cancel out the pity one should feel for such a disturbed woman. This brings us to the last, and most extraordinary, aspect of Madeleine. It is a strange and troubling example of a divided self, for while her fingers tap out the repeated evasions and justifications of the last four years, another part of her, through bravado, sickness, a damaged self or her fugitive Catholicism. When Kate McCann writes of guilt — the guilt she admits at not having protected the child, of the things she might have done differently, the declarations ring empty, with no accompanying sense at all that she really feels, or perhaps even understands, the true meaning of the word. When she writes of her own innocence, in contrast, the mood, the feel, the crucial scenes, deny her own words. The book is one long, unconscious, confession, a cry for help.
Things are going rather well - 02.08.2011
The exoneration question 1 - 03.08. 2011
It’s magic: the Attorney-General Pinto Monteiro commanding the McCanns to depart. We all know that the McCanns’ libel lawyers attempted unsuccessfully to use the statement of the unfortunate Portuguese Attorney-General about the McCanns as a judicial finding rather than the mere opinion of a law officer. And we know of the constant attempts by the couple’s supporters to use this opinion as an “exoneration”, by which they actually mean exculpation. There is a certain sadness in the way that the opinion is brandished at every opportunity by those who are unable to confront the reality of the Madeleine McCann affair, but then what choice do they have? Since May 3 2007 not a single piece of evidence has emerged to support the claims of Gerry and Kate McCann that their daughter was abducted, nothing forensic, not a sighting, not a ransom demand, not even the possibility of a lead. Nada. The movement has, of course, been all the other way. As the primary sources have gradually emerged so the abduction claim has looked more and more senseless and, indeed, absurd.
When two witnesses make a claim that is unsupported by any evidence except their own testimony then the first, most basic and ultimately decisive question has to be posed: how reliable are they? Do they give an impression of being truthful people? Can their word be depended on? Well, we’ve seen their performance over the past four years and there is no need to repeat the evidence which grows greater each time one of the pair speaks out. To summarise: the Portuguese prosecutor stated in open court in 2010 that the parents were not truthful witnesses; they had, he said, lied. They fail the veracity test. And then, moving beyond the parents, we have their friends. It is an understatement to say that their actions have demonstrated a determination not to assist the police inquiry in any way: leaving Praia da Luz as soon as they could, loudly asserting that they would help the Portuguese whenever asked, meeting the parents secretly in late 2007 to discuss their evidence (as Clarence Mitchell so unwisely confirmed) and answering Rebelo’s final, and very human, appeal for their help in tracing the child with childish and transparent excuses and refusals. When they were finally questioned in spring 2008 the Leicester police, courteous and non-adversarial in their enquiries, time and again offered them the chance to be frank in their answers and show that they wished to help the search for their child. At the same time those apparently friendly officers, extremely well briefed on events in Portugal, compared their replies with the facts in their possession.
At every turn those of the seven whose Portuguese statements had suggested evasion or untruth failed the test of co-operation when offered the chance. David Payne demonstrated by his answers that his visit to apartment 5A, supposedly the last time Madeleine was seen alive by anyone except her parents, could never have taken place in the way he claimed; O’ Brien, faced with difficult questions about the troublesome “timelines” he’d written down when he was meant to be searching for the child on the night of May 3, asserted that he’d completely forgotten their existence(!). Jane Tanner, having given a passable defence of her original sighting, then destroyed her credibility by attempting to dodge questions about what happened in the notorious surveillance van (something that she has clearly discussed with Kate McCann, who endeavoured to boost her version of the van incident three years later in her wretched book). And the wriggling when they were asked if they were willing to return for a reconstruction of events – with the honourable exception of Dianne Webster – was simply laughable. If there was one message that the Portuguese police officers watching this performance received, it was that the group had no intention of helping the investigation and were already using lawyers to fight any attempt to make them return to Portugal. Without that co-operation the enquiry had nowhere to go. Just as, without their participation, the Scotland Yard review has literally nowhere to go. One needs to step back and take a deep breath here. Whatever the excuses and evasions that six of the seven came out with – that they didn’t trust the PJ, that a reconstruction might falsely incriminate their friends the McCanns and so on – they were demonstrating, as the parents had demonstrated before them, that they they didn’t want to know. But if they were as innocent of collusion as they claimed how could they possibly have been at risk if they had helped? Were they suggesting that the PJ might frame all nine of them? Really? And even if their dislike of the PJ could ever be justified, was it too much to ask that they hold their noses and co-operate in the hope that it might do some good for the child that all of them had known?
Naturally the supporters of the parents have nothing of significance to say about these matters. They cannot deny the sworn statement of the prosecutor confirming their status as liars; they cannot deny the written record concerning the seven’s evasions and non-co-operation: it’s simply there. Stuck as they are in summer 2007, their views formed for them by the media, without a single piece of information since then to support their weird beliefs, they simply lash out like the media that fooled them. Lenin called such people “useful idiots”. Grime the dog handler gets it in the neck, as one would expect, a money-loving hustler who fibs about his qualifications. The dogs themselves cop it too although, despite the abuse, McCann supporters rather love them because, unlike the factual, and damning, evidence above, the dog stuff can be argued about in circles for ever. Amaral is a crook and a monster who beats up suspects and intimidates people – as if that could make any difference to what happened on May 3. Leaving aside that Amaral hardly appears in Kate McCann’s version of events, do these people have any idea of how investigations run? If they’d come out of their time-capsules and watched the dodgy Scotland Yard copper Andy Hayman defending himself before the Commons committee the other day they’d have heard his strongest defence against accusations of somehow having corrupted the phone hacking enquiry. “What could I have done?” he asked, “if I wanted to corrupt the case tell me how I’d have done it?”
Hayman knew what he was talking about: unlike in the movies, the Mail, and the minds of McCann sleepwalkers, no one policeman has the power to bend an investigation his way – there are too many other people involved. But no, Amaral/Moriarty did it all. Again, the time warp plays its role: events since 2010 don’t seem to have happened – no Lisbon court case finally destroying the McCann story that Amaral was a lone rogue cop; no appeal court verdict devaluing the prosecutor’s “exoneration” – parroted by the Attorney-General – as a mere interpretation; no foreign office cables confirming the British role in making the McCanns the chief suspects; no admissions by Kate McCann that her husband wanted to confess to disposing of Madeleine’s body; nor that he felt the game was up to such an extent that he wanted to bundle the kids into a hire car and flee across the border – to Spain, she says, though it might have been Gibraltar; and no acknowledgement that Gerry McCann told his wife and his lawyer that he was changing his mind about confessing not because he was innocent but because the police evidence was too weak to convict him – “they’ve got nothing!” It’s all one way, isn’t it? Against which we have what on the other side? Well, a helpful Attorney-General said nice things and…and…and…well, everyone who doesn’t believe the McCanns is a hater. Or mad. Oh, and whatever you say there was no motive, means or opportunity, so there. And anyway…they were exonerated. To which we will return.
An interlude - 05.08. August 2011
Y eut-il un coup de poker ? Feignèrent-ils de feindre pour mieux dissimuler ? Pondérèrent-ils le bénéfice/coût de revenir sur leurs paroles eu égard aux éléments nouveaux que semblaient détenir les policiers ? Mais de quels indices disposaient-ils au juste ? Étaient-ils assez solides pour emporter la conviction ?
The Bureau suggested that Gerry McCann had “wanted” to confess and that he changed his mind and argued instead that they should tough it out hoping that the evidence against them was too weak to gain a conviction. That is the only interpretation that appears to make sense of what we know; as a Lisbon judge might say, however, it is only an interpretation. Confess to this lesser charge or risk something much worse? It is like this in Common Law But first of all, what, in essence is Kate McCann’s claim? It was expressed by Philomena McCann when she contacted the news media under instructions from Kate McCann on September 7.
They tried to get her to confess to having accidentally killed Madeleine by offering her a deal through her lawyer - 'if you say you killed Madeleine by accident and then hid her and disposed of the body, then we can guarantee you a two-year jail sentence or even less.This was no vague media report: as Kate McCann describes on page 246 of her book she and her husband were on the phone for around two hours that morning “calling family and friends to make them aware of the situation and to give them the green light to voice their outrage and despair if they wanted to. Nobody needed a second invitation”. Philomena McCann gave the same version to all the major news media. And the official police version? They stated publicly and categorically that it was untrue: the Portuguese police do not make deals. There is a clear conflict therefore – once again – between the police version of events and the claims of the McCanns. Either the police version is untrue or that of the McCanns is untrue and there is no possibility of reconciling them. For those who believe the McCanns were the victims of a police conspiracy throughout the affair that is no problem; for the rest of us the claim needs to be looked at carefully. According to Kate McCann’s book she went into her police interview at 2.55 pm on September 6. Apart from a fifteen minute break at 5 pm the questioning went on until 7.50 that evening in an atmosphere that was ”quite amenable”. There was a break, following which, she writes, her lawyer “disappeared into a meeting” with several of the PJ officers, leaving her feeling “upset and frustrated”. As you would if your lawyer had gone off without instructions or any warning and left you for over two hours. If. “At last,” says Kate McCann, “Carlos re-appeared.” The time, therefore, would be just after ten. She then adds that the questioning finally finished as 12.40. What happened during those two and a half hours? Kate McCann has nothing whatever to say except for one ten second snippet – that in the corridor outside a room one of the officers, Paolo Ferreira, told her that she should listen very carefully to what her lawyer had to say since it was very important.
According to the police records of her statement:
At this moment, and because it is late, 11 p.m., the interview was interrupted and will be continued the next morning. She says nothing further. Reads, confirms, ratifies and signs, as do the interpreter and the defence lawyer.”
Significantly,perhaps, the questioning had ended at this point:
At 10 p.m. she got up from the table, as it was her turn after having been replaced by Matt. She entered the apartment by the balcony door which was closed, but as already said, not locked.It should be clear by now that Kate McCann has deliberately made no attempt to describe what actually happened on that critical evening, in stark contrast to her descriptions of the August 8 interview, which cover pages 212 to 214 of her book. There is no description of the attitude or demeanour of the police so graphically described in the August 8 pages, almost none about her state of mind, almost nothing about her discussions with her lawyer; the only time she quotes a police officer – out of many hours of questioning – is the Ferreira comment above which just happens to fit in with her “deal” claim and which just happens to have taken place in a corridor away from the stenographers and witnesses. And so we come to the discussions in the villa later that night. To make any sense at all of Kate McCann’s description the reader has to bear in mind that both the lawyer, who has a record of this discussion, and a second witness, his assistant, were present, thus putting certain constraints on what she can claim Abreu said. This is the reason for the apparent senselessness that so many readers have noticed in the section, as though the records of two different conversations have been mixed up. The chronology is quite unclear and the reader has to study the text very closely indeed to know just when Kate McCann is addressing Abreu (rarely) and when she is talking rhetorically and melodramatically to the reader. First, Abreu’s description of what the police had said, as mediated by Kate McCann in the book. Does it match what Kate McCann claims? It does not. Here is Philomena with the authorised version again:
They tried to get her to confess to having accidentally killed Madeleine by offering her a deal through her lawyer - 'if you say you killed Madeleine by accident and then hid her and disposed of the body, then we can guarantee you a two-year jail sentence or even less.We do not have a similar public record of what her lawyer actually said in quotes; we have Kate McCann’s paraphrase of what he said:
* If Kate McCann admitted that Madeleine had died in an accident in the apartment andWell yes, it would be wouldn’t it, for Christ’s sake? What else could it be? Nowhere does she quote Abreu – who as I say has a record of the conversation – as saying what Kate McCann claimed via her relative on September 7, “if you say you killed Madeleine by accident”. That is an invention by Kate McCann passed on to Philomena McCann to be given to the media. Nowhere does she quote Abreu as saying that the police said then we can guarantee you a two-year jail sentence or even less." That is an invention by Kate McCann passed on to Philomena McCann to be given to the media.
* If she confessed to having hidden and disposed of her body then
* The sentence she would receive would be much more lenient than if she was “charged” [sic] with homicide.
Le recel de cadavre "vaut" une amende et, en cas de non-paiement, le correspondant en jours de détention. On ne voit absolument pas en quoi il y a eu "marché".
And that’s it. Kate McCann, four years later and now having to give a description of the “proposal” for the first time, has completely withdrawn her initial claims. But without those claims what she describes is not a deal ! It is a statement of fact. There is no carrot and stick: no reward is being offered to her on the one hand and no threat is being made on the other. A pity it took four years for it to come out. How dare they ! Following her lawyer’s factual statement Kate McCann then goes off into transports of shock and indignation, how dare they, this tactic isn’t going to work with me, blah, blah. Trouble is, there is no record that she actually said this to Abreu – who, I repeat, has a record of the conversation – rather than to the pages of Madeleine four years later. And try as she might to take the couple of sentences she claims to be quoting from Abreu out of context and chronology to maintain the fiction of a proffered deal,with her earlier claims deleted they now make no sense. “You need to think about it,” Abreu says at one point, though Kate McCann uses the word “insisted". Think about what? Since no deal has been offered he cannot be talking of acceptance of a deal. And, “it would be only one of you. Gerry could go back to work”. Yes, he could. So what?
There is no point in going through the rest of this lamentable chapter to see the various ways in which Kate McCann has endeavoured to complete the impossible task of quoting Abreu more or less accurately when the original claims which justified it being called a deal have been deleted. The reader merely has to check. Her ringing peroration, “do you want me to lie? What would you do, Carlos?” again makes no sense with the revised wording: the police haven’t asked her to lie, her lawyer hasn’t brought her a message asking her to lie. And nor does Gerry’s tearful collapse and cries of “we’re finished, our life is over”immediately following her description of the harmless non-proposal make any sense. But of course it wasn’t a reaction to a non-existent, gun to the head deal, was it? Because a page earlier, before the “deal” was mentioned, Kate McCann was writing, “I could see by this time that Gerry was beginning to crack”. So what was it that made him first “crack” and then, eventually, collapse? He began to crack, according to his wife, as his lawyer finished outlining the apparent strength of the case against them, given on the same page. That certainly does make sense and so does his eventual recovery from despair after he’s thought the evidence through, recovered himself and made the judgement that, despite what his lawyer had told him, there was a good chance that if they hung on and admitted nothing the evidence might not be strong enough to convict either of them of anything. Which is exactly what they did.
In conclusion the reader may note what happened next, after they took the decision not to confess and Gerry asked their lawyer “whether he was up to the job” of defending them on the new basis. On a previous occasion, the McCanns, having made up their mind about events, made desperate phone calls in the middle of the night seeking assistance from those they thought might help them, followed by calls to friends and family asking them to contact the media with their version of events ahead of that of the police.
En vérité on ne sait pas si Gerald a demandé qu'on entre en contact avec les médias. Ce n'était pas utile, ses proches étaient sonnés et se sentaient horriblement impuissants. D'où les appels aux médias, pour se sentir moins seuls.
That was on the night of May 3 and the morning of May 4 2007. On the night of September 6 and the morning of September 7, Gerry McCann rang the British police officer Bob Small and desperately sought his help, after which both parents made calls to friends and family asking them to contact the media with their version of events ahead of that of the police.
Gerald a demandé à Bob Small ce qu'il devrait dire à la PJ et BS a répondu : la vérité.
Enough said. The evidence shows – and Abreu knows – that no deal was ever offered.
Exoneration 2 - 15.08.2011
What I’d like to talk about is a part of physics that is known, rather than a part that is unknown. People are always talking about the latest developments in the unification of this theory with that theory, and they don’t give us a chance to tell them anything about one of the theories that we know pretty well. They always want to know things that we don’t know. So, rather than confound you with a lot of half-cooked, partially analysed theories, I would like to tell you about a subject that has been very thoroughly analysed.These words apply strongly to the McCann case. There are those on both sides of the fence who don’t want to look close at the continuing affair of Madeleine McCann to see what has been established but are much happier concentrating on what might or might not have happened in PDL on May 3 2007. This is perfectly understandable, whatever stance one takes about the disappearance, but there is no doubt which “side” gains most from the situation. As we said in Part One, the supporters of the parents who have studied the case are happiest when the concentration is on only two occasions, May 3 2007 and July 21 2008, the date of the parents’ exoneration at the soothing hands of a Portuguese law officer. As for the former date we are back in the wonderland territory of the media harpies who grew rich on the case. The front pages of their newspapers carried the latest leaks from Portugal, most of them, in the strangled vowels of Clarence Mitchell, “unhelpful” to the pair, while the centre page feature writers in the very same issues churned out non-factual, gushingly sentimental defences of the same couple. What a good cop, bad cop game, what a great scam! The simpletons who believed those centre-page features never understood the way they were being manipulated. Weirdly, they actually believed that the writers were sincere, rather than working a front page/centre page game at the request of their editors. But enough of that: the harpies’ mantra from the start was always the same: “Nobody knows what happened that night; the only certainty is that Madeleine McCann went missing from her bed at 10PM.” Some certainty that’s turned out to be. That time of temporary ignorance and rumour, where emotion was as important as fact, is still the chosen ground of the McCann supporters, despite their risible fibs that they “have all read the files” – yep, all those thousands of pages of text and charts in Portuguese – rather than a cherry-picked selection. Why? Let’s keep it complicated and messy
Because debate confined to May 3 can always be guaranteed to go round in circles, without resolution,which is what they want. On Amazon at the moment there is a lengthy debating section between supporters and critics of the pair and reading it is like being teleported. Round and round and round it goes, the supporters seizing on the wilder theories, which they can easily rebut, or on some of the more noxious and aggressive critics of the parents, so that the debate can be nicely personalised, or on minor inaccuracies which they can peck away at until the point of the original contribution has been forgotten. Then again they can wait for the “neglect” question to come up – manna from heaven! They did/they didn’t/they did/they didn’t. As we said previously, in the four years since May 3 literally nothing has emerged to offer any factual strengthening of the parents’ abduction claims, so the supporters are always – and we mean this in the most literal sense – in denial, denying the relevance, or the truth, or the validity, or the honesty of everything that comes out and fails to support their case, and that means virtually everything that comes out, period. Anyone who doubts that this default position of denial and deliberate confusion is their only choice should have a look back to forums and social media from the past, showing their reactions to possible evidence supporting the pair as it occurred. It’s all there still, if you look.
Confronted with one of the Team’s latest gimmicks the responses of these supposedly hard-nosed “realists” are always the same: a new, devilish, drawing of a lurker in PDL four years ago, produced by Clarence out of a hat? Thank God, they write, for progress in this sad, sad case. The latest “sighting”, be it on the slopes of Kilimanjaro or the other side of the moon? Oh, God, they post, let it be true. Another paedophile monster, usually and conveniently dead or dying, flagged up by the McCanns’ deranged detectives? Ah, then all that stuff about “innocent until proven guilty” or “persecuting people” goes straight out of the window with hysterical screams of hatred – get that swine now! Remember how those defenders of the righteous suddenly became a lynch mob, urging on the despicable employees of the parents who pursued that poor emaciated sinner to his death from cancer in Germany? No, the McCanns’ supporters aren’t deniers by nature, far from it: apart from the professional journalists, who are in it for the money and will write anything as long as the ackers keep coming in – wouldn’t you say, Brunty? – they are quite exceptionally gullible. But always, always, their early hopes are dashed, the sightings are fiction, the suspects are imaginary and the Portuguese courts, little by little, year by year, slowly assert the validity of the police team’s theories, leaving them, once again, with nothing. Then it’s back to the old methods – go on, have a look on Amazon.
But in that gap between May 3 and 2008 there is one subject that the parents themselves are not at all keen on but the supporters love – the dogs. They love them, because once again, any argument or discussion can be made to go round and round in circles, just like the “neglect” question. Since there is no crime of child neglect under Portuguese law, only of intentional or reckless abandonment, then all debate is and will always be a matter of mere opinion, ignorant or expert,incapable of factual resolution. Since there is no forensic confirmation of the dogs’ findings their indicative evidence will never be presented in court and, once again, questions of fact can be buried in the McCann supporters’ favourite ground of unresolvable opinion, argument, insult and counter-insult. The sad and unpleasant fact is that, in the eternal absence of anything confirming the parents’ claims, their supporters have slipped into the position of wanting the fate of the child to remain a matter of opinion, not of fact. They need this stain removed from their characters as soon as possible – Clarence Mitchell. And so to those famous words announcing:
The archiving of the Process concerning Arguidos Gerald Patrick McCann and Kate Marie Healy, because there are no indications of the practise of any crime under the dispositions of article 277 number 1 of the Penal Process Code.Or as The Times reported the next day, having discussed the matter with Clarence Mitchell:
A statement released by his office confirmed that it had decided to ‘close the file’ on the investigation concerning the disappearance of the minor Madeleine McCann due to lack of evidence that any crime was committed by the persons placed under formal investigation.Or as the Guardian, which doesn’t appear to have discussed the matter with Mr Mitchell, reported on the same day:
Portugal's attorney general, Fernando José Pinto Monteiro, said there was insufficient evidence to continue the police case.And there you have it. Within 24 hours the action of the Attorney-General, the head of the Portuguese prosecution service, releasing the couple from arguido status “because there are no indications of the practise of any crime” (by the parents) has become, surprise, surprise, wait for it, a matter of opinion. And not just a matter of opinion but a matter of factual misstatement. Close the file, eh? Not shelved then. Insufficient evidence, according to the Guardian. The statement doesn’t say that, does it? But the Guardian, perfectly aware of the way the Team spin after a year of experiencing it, has spotted the ambiguity at the heart of the statement: “no indications of the practise of any crime” followed by shelving means that the evidence against the pair may be incomplete, whereas the same statement followed by closure would mean something very different. So they put their spin on it to suggest what they thought was the real meaning of the report. And as it started so it continues – another circular battle of opinion. And who was responsible for that? The wretched McCanns and their spokesman, unable to let the simple action of the Attorney-General speak for itself, but lined up on July 21 determined to brief and spin the media and the public world-wide the moment the news was official. The only fact, as the harpies might say, is that the McCanns were no longer arguidos; around it, however, we can continue having a battle of words about what it really means, because the parents and their team are incapable of ever letting an event occur unspun. A moment’s thought, of course, will demonstrate that an action surrounded by such ambiguity and vulnerability to spin can’t be equated to a judicial verdict, which is what the parents, the supporters and Messrs Carter Ruck wanted and still want to suggest: imagine the media in such disagreement when reporting the end of a trial of the parents – the Guardian reporting conviction, the Times reporting acquittal and the Independent, no doubt, reporting a mistrial. But perhaps that’s just our opinion.
A subject that has been very thoroughly analysed. Lastly back to the real world, the one that moves on rather than being stuck in time, and back to Richard Feynman: “they always want to know things that we don’t know. So, rather than confound you with a lot of half-cooked, partially analysed theories, I would like to tell you about a subject that has been very thoroughly analysed.”
* The veracity or reliability of the McCanns as the witnesses testifying to an abduction of their child. We know, from unchallenged court evidence by the prosecutor in Lisbon, that the McCanns did not tell the truth in their accounts of May 3.
* The reliability of the tapas group’s statements offering support to the McCanns’ claims, such as those of Mathew Oldfield and Jane Tanner. We know, from the request to the UK for rogatory assistance in 2007 when the prosecutors stated: “There is some inconsistency in the statements of the entire group in what concerns some details, which should be better clarified, with a view to determine rigorously the activity of the people that evening.” And from the prosecutors’ final report: “Taking into account that there were certain points in the arguidos’ and witnesses’ statements that revealed, apparently at least, contradiction or that lacked physical confirmation…”
* The question of Amaral’s role. Isolated rogue policeman out to get the McCanns, as claimed by the parents, or authentic voice of the whole investigation? We know the answer: Inspector Ricardo Paiva, Chief Inspector Tavares de Almeida, Luis Neves, the national director of the DCCB – the Portuguese equivalent of the British Serious Organised Crime Agency, Guilhermino Encarnacao, head of the Faro Policia Judiciaria, Inspector Paulo Ferreira and Inspector Joao Carlos – the absolute cream of the senior ranks of the PJ – were all in agreement with the focus of the investigation being on the McCanns as prime suspects. (Source, Lisbon court hearings, Kate McCann’s own book).
* The question of “the deal”. The pair claimed in a media campaign that they were offered a deal involving a reduced sentence if Kate McCann admitted accidentally killing the child. If she did not confess to this untrue accusation a “homicide” or murder charge would result. We know that in Spring 2011 Kate McCann in the book “Madeleine” completely withdrew this claim, replacing it with a new form of words which made no mention of the above deal. According to her all she was told, via her lawyer, was the factual statement that if the child had died accidentally and she had hidden the body she would receive a lesser sentence than if she had killed the child. (Read it and see, page 243)
* A new police team supposedly took over from Amaral, ending his line of enquiry and following a new line which excluded the McCanns as suspects and was reflected in the final report. We know that, on the contrary, Rebelo was in England in late 2007 (accompanied by an ex-member of Amaral’s team) conferring with the FRS on the interpretation of the dog evidence (public record); that he and his team provided the questions in the rogatory interviews, via the prosecution department, following up the first team’s line of enquiry focused on the McCanns; and that as late as April 2008 he was still attempting to get the Tapas 7 back for a reconstruction to test their evidence. (Rebelo’s correspondence). No, not a matter of opinion. These examples don’t give us a grand unified theory of exactly what happened on May 3 2007. They do tell us a great deal about the facts, and the gradual destruction of the parents’ claims in the face of revealed evidence and judicial process, a process that is still going on both publicly and privately. And when you take the disproved examples away, just how much exactly is left of the entire McCann narrative – you know, the one that led to their “exoneration”?
The question of libel - 22.08.2011
Why is the whole question of libel and defamation so central to the McCann affair four years on? Answer: there is a proven pattern of Kate and Gerry McCann restricting and distorting the information flow to the UK public until the Portuguese shelved the case in the summer of 2008. Since then the comments of the Portuguese Attorney-General which accompanied the archiving have been used by the parents to continue the denial of information process by the threat of libel actions against the overground media. It is this that underlies – and justifies – the constant internet attempts to inform the public of material that they were actively prevented from hearing at the time.
* Because the parents immediately supplied their version of the disappearance to the British public via proxies and mouthpieces. (1)
* They then established a media team to present managed & restricted news about the affair.(2)
* They deliberately misled the UK public about the course of that enquiry, concealing the fact that they were under investigation by Portuguese police. (3)
* They deliberately falsified the record of their pre-arguido interviews, instructing proxies to report to the UK media a supposed deal offered by the police. (4)
* Afterwards they instructed their UK lawyers to give personal assurances to UK tabloid editors that there was no case against them and hence no defence to libel claims. (5)
* Those assurances were based on their own assertions, not the evidence, and had no legal basis. (6)
* The resulting media silence about the case against them was matched by television programmes giving air time, once again, to their story. (7)
* And when the case files were finally released they put forward selected extracts giving a false impression of what the investigation revealed there.(8)
* The intention and net effect of these measures was to enlist the support of the British public in their favour via a one-sided presentation of the case. After September 11 2007 that support had a legal significance regarding the preparation and execution of a European Arrest Warrant. (9)
Thus the alleged defamation of the couple by people like Mr Bennett is not primarily a matter of personal views or vendettas but an attempt, however fumbling, to help provide information to the public arena that has been deliberately hidden or misrepresented at the instigation of the parents. Finally, in the only cases which have come to court so far, the various proceedings against Amaral and others in Portugal, the judicial findings to date have:
* Brought significant information into the public arena confirming the truth of a number of the suppressed claims of the Portuguese police and refuting (not rebutting) the claims of the parents.(10)
* Those confirmations and refutations offer suggestive evidence as to the likely veracity of other claims made by the parents.(11)
* And have so far officially favoured the interpretation of the Portuguese case put forward by Goncalo Amaral which is in direct opposition to their version.(12)
* And, most importantly, have only been available to the British public because the media reporting of court proceedings is protected against libel. (13)
* So that, on the very first occasion since May 3 2007 when free reporting of the disappearance of Madeleine McCann to the British public took place, the picture that emerged – a factual courtroom picture – was in close accordance with the supposedly wild claims of the critics and not in agreement with the information provided under the media restrictions enabled and enforced by Kate & Gerry McCann.(14) That is what prompts the continuing attempt to provide the full information to the public who were cheated of it, whether via the internet or the courts. That’s it. Many internet readers apparently want their pieces short and snappy, just like the tabloids, which means leaving out all that tedious stuff called evidence. That’s great for the anonymous snappiness fans who want the “anti” equivalent of a tabloid piece, nice and easy to read and preferably entertaining. I wish those people would read elsewhere for their fun. It’s the evidence that matters in a question of life and death and people’s futures, not the bloody entertainment. Here it is.
(1) See our Cracked Mirror for full descriptions of the initial reporting and the way it was carried out by proxy. Rogatory interviews, particularly David Payne, on contact with the media.
(2)Woolfall et al, directly quoted statements by named McCann family members. Citation of Portuguese secrecy rules by McCanns and family when it suited them, breach of the rules via proxies when it suited them – Madeleine by Kate McCann, p.246, for a glowing example. BBC news editors’ blog on BBC website, our paraphrase: We determined to report the case from the parents’ point of view.
(3) Media interviews and Gerry McCann’s blogs provide numerous examples. Madeleine by Kate McCann, pp 211- 213 describing the police accusations against them and their belief that the McCanns were not telling them the truth etc. on 8/8/07 and KM’s hysterical reactions. Cf Gerry McCann, 8/8/07 and his version of the interrogation and the experience undergone by his wife that day: “At our meeting with the Portuguese police today we reaffirmed that we have to believe Madeleine is alive until there is concrete evidence to the contrary.” Madeleine p.213 “…I was in no doubt now that they were trying to make me say I’d killed Madeleine or knew what had happened to her” and ibid p.219, the dog evidence supposedly backing this claim given to her by the police 11/8/07; cf GM blogs 11/8/07 for his version for the UK public, “There was a statement from the Portuguese police today regarding the recent activity in the investigation and media speculation. They confirmed that there are new leads and that we are not suspects in Madeleine’s disappearance”. [!]
(4) Madeleine, p.246, “the green light” instruction. The subsequent proxy claims, perhaps the biggest media headlines in the whole case, were relayed by Philomena McCann and others on September 7 onwards, reports with direct attribution still available on internet press records, see EMM News Observer for examples. In clear breach, once again, of the Portuguese secrecy rules when it suited them. The claim of a deal was specific: KM to confess to killing the child accidentally leading to short sentence to avoid the much more serious murder charge. The claim was totally false and has now been rescinded (annulé) in Madeleine p.243 by KM herself, primarily, no doubt, because there was an independent (the lawyer Abreu’s assistant) witness to the supposedly offered deal.
Added: For the obtuse, the original claim by KM was that she should confess to killing the child accidentally to avoid a charge [sic] of “homicide” [sic]. Yawn. That claim has been rescinded and replaced on p.243 with a supposed “deal” involving an admission that the child died in an accident in the apartment – no mention of dying at the hands of KM -- and that KM disposed of her body etc. The lawyers reading this know exactly the significance of the change.
(5) Madeleine, p.264 et al. “On Tuesday September 11 we had an 8am conference call with Michael Caplan, Angus McBride and Justine. It was decided that Justine and Angus would visit the editors of the main tabloid newspapers and Angus would explain to them that there was absolutely no evidence to support our involvement in Madeleine’s disappearance”.
(6) This claim, which was taken by the tabloids as a lawyer’s confidential assurance based on his privileged access to the prosecution case, was misleading. On that date the defence team had not only not been presented with the prosecution case but forensic results were not complete so there was no basis except the parents’ unsupported word for this “legal assurance” which has intimidated the media ever since.
(7) Public record, McCann Files etc. BBC’s Panorama being the obvious example. Panorama was made with the full co-operation of the McCanns, at least one legal advisor and selected friends. It had the avowed aim of presenting the case in favour of the parents, not the whole picture – see E. Smethurst quote in the programme about “expunging” from the British public’s mind any views incriminatory of the McCanns. See also BBC R4 documentary in Spring 2008 for unsupported claims by T7 member regarding the rogatory interviews, again in breach of the secrecy rules and unchallenged by the BBC. There may be other similar TV trash which we missed.
(8) See the briefings given by the McCanns and their team on the date of the shelving and their spokesman’s dishonest spinning of the Archiving Summary, the best example being Associated Newspaper stories such as the London Evening Standard and the next day’s Mail story . For example the parents, via Clarence Mitchell, dishonestly claimed that the prosecutors “mocked” and “ridiculed” their own police force and its investigation in that report, once again misleading a public who were not in possession of the evidence.
(9) Note, once more, the “expunging” statement: why should there be a need for any expunging in regard to a factual investigation by a legal team member? In the absence so far of the subpoenaing of the McCanns’ and the BBC’s non-legal records of why they co-operated in the programme we are left with inference but there can be no reasonable doubt as to the strategy. Note the way in which the EAW for the alleged rapist and nutcase Assange has been held up by the “human shield” of public support and celebrity finance. In theory the EAW is almost unchallengeable except on extremely narrow grounds compared with non-EU extradition processes but in the Assange case, whatever the final verdict, such support has done its job. A further point to note is that subjective public disgust or disapprobation could shame suspects into returning to co-operate voluntarily with an overseas investigation – and, conversely, expunging any vestige of it would work the other way.
(10) Witness testimony of Prosecutor Menezes in Lisbon 2010: “the parents did not tell the truth”. Witness testimony of assorted PJ officers disproving the McCanns’ “lone rogue cop” version of Goncalo Amaral.
(11) Self-evidently: the first time the case had ever come to court for proper examination of the facts rather than media junk or out-of-court-settlement these bombshells resulted.
(12) Findings of the judges in the McCann versus Amaral and others case in the appeal. Specifically the critical question of whether the conclusions of the archiving report were a “finding” of the case or an “interpretation” of the investigation. Their judgement was that they were an interpretation only and, on the evidence so far presented to the courts, one of no greater strength than the interpretation put forward by Amaral. The forthcoming hearings of the related full libel trial will throw much more light onto the affair.
(13) The law of privilege.
Wheeling & dealing - 23.08.2011
It is slightly unfortunate that the references I gave in my piece yesterday resulted in much attention to just one of them, The Deal That Never Was. This meant that the rest of the piece concerning the solid evidence supporting my argument that the McCanns have distorted and rationed the truth has been left to wither. Some preliminary points which, I’m afraid, need repetition. I have no opinion or theory or belief as to what happened to the child on May 2007; I have no wish for the McCanns to be “brought to justice” for anything they might be alleged to have done that night; I believe Kate McCann needs help and support, not punishment; I do not feel that they got away with neglecting their children; I do not campaign for the child Madeleine any more than I involve myself in the fate of all the other children who disappeared or died somewhere on earth that night – any child’s uncertain fate, to paraphrase John Donne, diminishes me, for we are part of the same whole. But that is not why I write about the affair. The reasons are summarised in yesterday’s piece. My own interests are in the continuing struggle to protect free speech against its many enemies and, in particular, the constant attempts to manipulate public opinion via the media, whether by politicians, media owners and journalists or the professional liars and lobbyists of the PR business. Anyone with those interests at heart had to accept the challenge thrown down by Kate & Gerry McCann when they brought – unasked – their one sided version of events to the British public and then used the very funds provided by that public to employ specialists in misinformation and the law to build a truth-rationing machine without precedent in the UK. Robert Murat, the third arguido, never assaulted the public in this way. It is for that reason that I respected his privacy and have never even looked at the case files regarding his supposed actions: they do not concern me. The actions of the McCanns do.
Next, the claims of “invention”, made by both critics and supporters of the McCann family. This is not the first time that people have simply missed what is laid out before them – the knowns, as I boringly call them, not the unknowns. In the past I’ve spent considerable unpaid time pointing out that Jane Tanner, in her rogatory interview with the Leicester police, neither confirmed nor denied identifying Robert Murat, for very good reasons of her own, even though she was offered the chance to do so. The evidence is there but still people, preoccupied with prior theories, miss what is staring them in the face. Kate McCann, who reads the Bureau, knows very well the significance of that evasion both for Tanner and herself, which is why she has spent pages 134 to 136 of her book Madeleine attempting to bolster her friend’s version of the surveillance van episode. Then, a few weeks ago, I was described as a liar and fantasist, again by both critics and supporters of the family, for stating as a fact that Kate McCann had described in Madeleine how her husband had seriously considered sneaking his family into a car and fleeing across Portugal’s border to Spain as fugitives immediately after the pair were made arguidos. But there it is on page 254. How extraordinary for people to claim to be experts on a case, fail to read the most important primary source to have emerged about it since The Truth of the Lie – and then make accusations of lies and invention based on their own lazy ignorance. What happened on the internet to thoughtfulness and good manners? Certainly I speculated that Gibraltar might have been their eventual destination – for obvious reasons of jurisdiction – but that is not what the accusations were about. And now we have the latest example of failure to read followed by abuse. I wrote yesterday that “They deliberately falsified the record of their pre-arguido interviews, instructing proxies to report to the UK media a supposed deal offered by the police.” And as evidence for my assertion I cited in footnote (4) (voir ci-dessus).
Birth of a legend. So let us turn to the chain of evidence, boring and unexciting no doubt but necessary to turn assertions into factual statements. Page 246 contains the following passage:
Friday 7 September. After a measly two hours sleep we got up and braced ourselves for the day ahead. I remained calm. For a good couple of hours we were on the phone, calling family and friends to make them aware of the situation and to give them the green light to voice their outrage and despair if they wanted to.Despite the usual dishonest nature of the prose the meaning of this passage is quite unambiguous. Kate McCann, in clear breach of the secrecy requirements which she and her husband constantly claimed prevented them from speaking as freely as they would like, was passing on a version of her September 6 interviews and consultations and giving her family the green light to make that version known to the world’s media. (That, of course, is exactly what she did during the night of May 3/4 regarding the disappearance of the child and the shutters nonsense but we will leave that aside.) The media were contacted and the version was passed on. And there it is during the next twenty four hours, for example, in the London Evening Standard, a favourite leak spot for the McCanns and their team:
Madeleine's aunt, Philomena McCann, says today the police "offered to do a deal if she confessed to accidentally killing Madeleine".She said:
They tried to get her to confess to having accidentally killed Madeleine by offering her a deal through her lawyer - 'if you say you killed Madeleine by accident and then hid her and disposed of the body, then we can guarantee you a two-year jail sentence or even less'.In the Daily Mail :
Mrs McCann's lawyer told her that police would offer her a two-year sentence if she pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of her daughter.And in the Guardian and Sky News :
Philomena McCann, Mr McCann's sister, said the police claims were "ludicrous". "They are suggesting that Kate was somehow responsible for accidentally killing Madeleine and kept the body and then got rid of it. I have never heard anything so absolutely ludicrous in my life," she told Sky News.And in the Telegraph,under the heading Madeleine McCann's family accuse police :
The McCanns were both named as "arguidos", or formal suspects, on Friday after two days of police interviews during which Mrs McCann was offered a "deal" of a suspended prison sentence if she admitted to "accidentally" killing her daughter and told police where the body was.It should be clear, I think, that the claim was specific. The deal revolved around Kate McCann admitting that she had killed the child accidentally. And the implication was also clear: that if she didn’t so confess to killing the child under these circumstances then the possibility of a more serious charge – killing the child intentionally, i.e murder – might result. To rescind : verb. To make void; repeal or annul. Finally we turn to Kate’s book, page 243. Where is the above claim? It is not there.
Carlos announced what the police had proposed. If we, or rather I, admitted that Madeleine had died in an accident in the apartment , and confessed to having hidden and disposed of her body , the sentence I’d receive would be much more lenient: only two years, he said, as opposed to what I’d be looking at if I ended up being charged with homicide.I ask again: where is the claim that Kate McCann was asked to admit to killing her child accidentally?
Cet épisode ressemble beaucoup à celui des shutters, les MCs n'ayant jamais dit à la PJ que les shutters avaient été forcés, mais seulement qu'ils les avaient trouvés ouverts.
It has been rescinded. To cut from the laborious evidential chain for a moment, the nub of the matter was expressed by a sharp-minded forum member who can read this morning:
The important part of the issue is what Kate writes about her lawyer's advice [in the book JB] which included no mention of Kate killing Madeleine. What Kate wants the public to believe he meant is irrelevant.The claim stands and, as I wrote in an addendum to footnote (4) yesterday, the lawyers who read this blog know exactly what the significance of the change is. So much for the evidence. This bit has nothing to do with yesterday’s post and today’s elaboration. Of course I have my own opinion on why Kate McCann misled the public and is now misleading them again and exactly what did happen that night, based on what I am told the interviewing officers reported to Amaral. But that is just opinion, fun to read, no doubt, but based on so far unconfirmed sources. I was writing about fact. But for those who are actually interested in the techniques used by Kate McCann and her advisors in telling her story I recommend a close reading of the paragraph following the one quoted above and page 240 in which she supposedly describes the police interviews. As for the latter you have to read it very carefully to see that Gerry McCann was also in discussion with the police that night and equally carefully to note that Kate McCann was questioned in detail about events after the supposed consultation between police and lawyer containing the “offered deal.” She doesn’t have much to say about that period, does she? And the former is a classic, beginning “Pardon? I really wasn’t sure if I could possibly have heard him correctly?” The entire paragraph is meant to suggest that all the rhetoric – “my incredulity turned to rage”, “how dare they suggest I lie” “how dare they expect me to live with such a charge against my name” – consists of her responses to Abreu’s “offer” , after which “he insisted” that she needed to think about it. Nope. Read it again, folks. Nowhere does Kate McCann state that she addressed these words to her lawyer or that they were part of a conversation between them. That is because they weren’t. I repeat, read it again. Meanwhile the accusations I made against the McCanns yesterday stand.
Both sides or none - 24.08.2011
First an apology. In The Question of Libel the other day I used the phrase, “For the obtuse, the original claim by KM was that she should confess…” The word obtuse was aimed at one or two critics who simply denied the facts as explained for their own reasons – and of course continue to do so – and not at any of those honest students of the case who had been deceived by Kate McCann’s intentionally convoluted prose on page 243 of her book. I am sorry if the word gave offence: that was not my intention. Perhaps I could be forgiven for enlarging on my comments yesterday concerning my own attitude to the McCann couple. I quite accept that they have many supporters who are rightly shocked and disgusted by the various “theories” of what happened to Madeleine McCann and the way the pair have become a living Cluedo board for crime fans and recreational posters. But, as the more honest of those supporters must know deep down, these are not at the core of the sceptical or anti-McCann movement: that core, in which I do not include myself for the moment, consists of numerous individuals working hard and conscientiously simply to add to the truth. Where would we be now without the translators of the case papers which, I remind people, were released to the public, not to the McCanns? Answer: back in July 2008 when the parents’ spokesman span them so dishonestly to the UK press, confident in the knowledge that readers didn’t yet know the original Portuguese content. The translation costs to the McCanns are claimed to have run to six figures – without unpaid volunteers who would ever have financed an independent effort?
Rien ne garantit que les MC aient réellement fait traduire les PJFile (aucune facture n'apparaît dans les comptes).
And where would we be without the owner of the Pamalam website who, in the face of great difficulties and legal threats, has ensured that the blogs of Gerry McCann have not been withdrawn and suppressed? The latter are primary sources for the way in which the pair deliberately misled the UK public about the course of the investigation into their own role as potential suspects,examples of which I gave in the Question of Libel piece. The pair short-sightedly put them in the public domain when it suited their purposes and then attempted to assert copyright on them once their purpose had been fulfilled. This unthinking short-termism in their own interests runs throughout the case. The parents appear to have been shocked when they realised that most of the case papers were going to be made available to the public, despite the absence of any trial. But should they have been? The disappearance and investigation took place in an overseas jurisdiction, not in Glasgow or Liverpool. The parents were warned from Day One that, whatever half-baked ideas the group had picked up from English tabloids and Crimewatch about the way to catch child abductors, if they wanted to get their child back they had to accept the investigative methods of the host country. They deliberately ignored those warnings, just as they ignored the fact that the case files would be released if the case were to be archived, in accordance with the law of the democracy in which they were guests – all of it demonstrating their unwillingness to learn anything about Portugal. They went their own way. So who should they blame for the consequences?
The case files present the details of a Portuguese case enabling the UK public – or that part of it that can be bothered – to see the details of the investigation that the parents have fought tooth and nail to conceal. One day the McCanns are going to have to accept that the struggle is lost and they must search for a new way to “expunge” the widespread public scepticism about their claims. I wrote yesterday of the McCanns’ “assault” on the British public regarding, essentially, the latter’s right to hear either both sides of a legal investigation or, under the UK contempt laws, neither side until a case comes to a conclusion. It was the gradual breach of these information rights by media manipulation that brought me to the McCanns’ case, not some prurient interest in a couple of provincial doctors and their wretched trip to the Algarve. Until 2007 The Bureau was a satirical news and arts internet journal, a side-line and relaxation from my supposedly “serious” fiction writing [chorus from the pits: yerr, boo, and you’re still writing fiction]. But it always featured articles on people attempting to manipulate the public. (...)
M/S Defonseca is the author of "Surviving With Wolves", a heart-warming memoir of survival in WWII which was rapturously received by critics, became an international best seller earning some $23 million and has had a film made of the story. That the author claimed to have crossed Europe after her Jewish parents had been killed in the Holocaust, being succoured by a team of wolves on the way and killing a German rapist with a knife - all at the age of seven - might have raised suspicions, one would have thought. Well, it's all product, innit? Not a bit of it. When The Bureau tried last year to find a single supporter for its claims that the book was obviously a pack of lies from beginning to end, a typical product of Anglo-American fraudpub complete with American "editor", it found only Mr David Irvine whose collaboration is not always helpful. The lady herself has now confessed all, including the fact that she isn't even Jewish.
Those were the sort of stories that the Bureau was covering before the McCanns launched their assault, alongside its staples such as the agony aunt column advising the Prince of Wales on his sex life.
With that track record do you think the Bureau was going to ignore the couple when they brought themselves to its attention?