- Who ?
- Beyond the Black Box
- The Policemen's Tales
- The Crucial Day, Part 1
- May 4, the Performance of a Lifetime
“Throughout all this, I have always believed that Gerry and Kate McCann are innocent,” concludes M/S O’ Donnell, “when they were made suspects, when they were booed at, when one woman told me she was "glad" they had "done it" because it meant that her child was safe, I began to write this article - because I was there, and I believe that woman was wrong. There were no drug-fuelled "swingers" on our holiday...Secure in our banality, none of us imagined we were being watched. One group made a disastrous decision; Madeleine was vulnerable and was chosen. But in the face of such desperate audacity, it could have been any one of us. So my heart goes out to them, Gerry and Kate, the couple we remember from our Portuguese holiday. They had a beautiful daughter, Madeleine, who played and danced with ours at the kiddie club. That's who we remember.”
Meet Linda McQueen and Nicky Gill, described as the best friends of Kate McCann, fellow Liverpudlians who had grown up with her and still see her, it seems, every couple of months.
“She is lovely,” said Nicky, in the recognizable patois of the City of Sentiment, “you could not say a bad word against her. There is absolutely nothing to say that would make anybody think badly of her." Mrs McQueen added that, “They are very together. They have their vulnerable moments, and probably their dark moments as well, but ...they are the most loving, caring, family-oriented couple that you could ever meet. They are absolutely fabulous. Those three children are the world to them, as our children are to them as well." Mrs McQueen dismissed claims that Mrs McCann struggled being a mother. "I have never ever seen Kate run ragged in her life, ever. If anybody was meant to have three children under three it's Kate. She is just cool, calm, laid-back, just very together and very happy - I think because it is everything she wanted."
Like Hubbard and the others the Tapas 7 unanimously described the couple as not just good parents but very special ones. Kate was described over and over by them as a “very cautious” mum, always very careful, veering on the over-protective, with her children’s care. But wait a minute, wait a minute, how does this square with what we have seen? Kate McCann simply couldn’t be accurately described as someone putting her children above all other considerations: just in the short period that we have been looking at it simply isn’t true. Kate McCann, as we have seen, put her children, for a few hours a day, well outside the protective parental circle. Even the worshipping M/S O’Donnell includes what little she knows of this bleak reality: almost hidden in the overripe vegetation of her prose we find a clearing, a more restrained paragraph, one which, no doubt, she’d spent much time on.
“We had booked a table for two at Tapas and were placed next to the Doctors' regular table. One by one, they started to arrive. The men came first. Gerry McCann started chatting across to Jes [BOD’s husband] about tennis. Gerry was outgoing, a wisecracker, but considerate and kind, and he invited us to join them. We discussed the children. He told us they were leaving theirs sleeping in the apartments. While they chatted on, I ruminated on the pros and cons of this. I admired them, in a way, for not being paranoid parents, [my italics] but I decided that our apartment was too far off even to contemplate it. Our baby was too young and I would worry about them waking up.”
There is no moral baggage or criticism involved in the observation that Kate McCann was very much not a “cautious and careful” parent during these few days: it is merely a matter of fact and it points towards a much more complex and human character than the sweet-smelling blonde void that has been so consistently presented to us, by herself and others. Perhaps there is a side of this rather over-determined lady, carrier of her parents’ fond hopes, that wants to throw the dice occasionally. Certainly there are deeper forces at work but what they are we don’t know.
Throw the dice? Consider: Kate McCann spoke of uneasy feelings, a premonition about the holiday even, before she left the UK. “Over attentive” she might well be, but in Praia de Luz, the fears seem to have been forgotten, discounted or very easily overcome. On the Tuesday night a Mrs. Fenn, the McCanns’ elderly upstairs neighbour and, as the only permanent resident of the apartment block, someone who clearly kept an eye and ear on what was going on, heard crying from the downstairs apartment, not babies’ crying but an older child’s, and not just a hissy fit: she described to the police prolonged sobbing and calling out “daddy” lasting from around 10.30 PM until 11.45 or so, ending only when the patio doors were heard being opened, presumably by the parents.
Mrs Fenn, while old, has her wits about her and she was insistent that this had happened on the Tuesday, when, of course, the Mark Warner Model half hourly “checking” was supposed to be in operation. In fact she gave the police the name of a friend whom she had described the incident to that night, so it is unlikely that she had the date wrong. So what had happened to the checking on only the second night of the routine? How could it have missed a child’s crying for over an hour?
The McCanns say that it didn’t, end of story. They have nothing to say about finding a crying Madeleine when they returned that night and nothing at all about missing any checks, something which the reader may believe or disbelieve as they feel fit. By Wednesday, though, there is no doubt at all that this famous “checking” had bitten the dust: members of the group confirm that this was a late night, that they went on drinking at the bar – heavily by their standards - after supper was finished and that for the last “forty minutes” or so – much more likely an hour at least – nobody made any checks.
Just why they all behaved in the same way during that period, rather than some of them, perhaps the “more cautious” ones, going back while the others remained at the bar is a mystery: something to do, perhaps, with the “emergent collective decision taking” so memorably described by Dr O’Brien. Probably it was an innocent enough matter of oh, come on girl, have one more drink, we’re all going up in a minute, as the clock ticked away. But over-cautious, or putting the children at the centre of your life, it was not. That night Kate McCann slept in the children’s room.
While both Kate and Gerry McCann make no mention of having heard their children crying, one person, it seems, confirmed that Mrs Fenn was not mistaken: the child herself. It was one of the very few moments that week that Madeleine McCann actually emerged as an individual with valid feelings of her own, rather than as a vague and unimportant memory – as in M/S O’ Donnell’s article – or a sickly sentimental bouquet of clichés. As Kate McCann told the police in her first statement, Madeleine had asked her on the Thursday morning just why she hadn’t responded to her cries. According to Kate the child never got an answer because she had never heard any crying. She then, according to the police record, “ignored her daughter's words because it was the first time she had talked about it.”
Premonitions, her daughter’s words, the fact that the group’s guard had dropped when the more serious drinking had started the previous night, might well have given Kate McCann – or anyone else – serious cause to brood on whether the evening routine should be changed, with perhaps one of them staying home while the other ate. Another of the couple’s numerous friends did quote Kate as saying in August 2007,”I wish I could roll back time and go back to the day before Madeleine was abducted. I would slow down time.” But no, it wasn’t anything to do with incautiousness, or any fancy acknowledgement of fate – someone else’s fate – tapping her on the shoulder, for she added the much more dramatic and completely unreal, “I’d think, where are you? Who are you? Who is secretly watching my family? Because someone was watching my family very, very carefully. And taking notes."
It was perfectly understandable that Jane Tanner should have tiptoed her way through this passage of her questioning, given her knowledge of what had occurred in the past year, because it was fraught with all sorts of potential contradictions. Surely something as troubling as the “much-loved” Madeleine’s question might have evinced symptoms of serious concern, or even self-reproach in her mother at a time when she was, once again, leaving the child in an unlocked apartment. No, apparently not. “More worried,” than on previous nights, yes, whatever that may mean. But there couldn’t have been any signs of major distress because that would conflict with everything that people, including Jane Tanner, had been saying for a year about Kate McCann’s demeanour on the evening of May 3 - totally calm and untroubled, with obvious inferences to be drawn as to the impossibility of her hiding anything emotionally.
Russell O’ Brien, among others, recounted what he saw in the apartment between the disappearance and the early hours of Friday morning as the parents punctuated uncontrollable, indeed hysterical, outbursts of shock with wildly agitated phone calls. As staff, holiday makers, police and even total strangers ran in and out or roamed through the apartment Gerry McCann was to be found “... on the phone to members of his family, curled up on the floor just outside the sliding patio door, sobbing uncontrollably and in between sobs just saying, ‘They’ve taken her,’ or ‘Somebody’s bloody got her’, you know, ‘She’s gone!’ He was incapable of even standing up,just lying on the floor...”
"Gerry was distraught, breaking his heart," said Madeleine’s aunt Mrs Patricia Cameron, retailing one of these phone conversations later, “the door was lying open, the window in the bedroom and the shutters had been jemmied open. Nothing had been touched in the apartment, no valuables taken, no passports. They think someone must have come in the window and gone out the door with her. It looks as if somebody has either been watching, or they’ve targeted her.”
“Their voices were out of control,” recalled Kate’s mother, “and I think it was just blind panic and fear that they couldn't get through to the police or to anybody, to make it clear that Madeleine had been abducted and they were afraid that every minute that was lost was crucial to getting Madeleine back.”
Later, after the investigating officers had finally accepted the likelihood of abduction, the parents’ calls reflected a frightening sense of isolation as well as despair at the latest developments, or rather the lack of them. The police had, said Kate McCann, shown a devastating lack of urgency – “as though I’d reported a missing dog.” And by four thirty in the morning what little police presence and activity there had been had apparently ceased: the parents were, it seemed, on their own. "It was frustrating for Gerry,” said Mrs Cameron again, after yet another phone call, “because between 5am and 7am the police seemed to do nothing, they were standing about."
The McCanns, according to those close to them, were not the sort of people simply to give up without a struggle. Their friends and relatives told the same story of how their calls changed during the night from shocked descriptions of the abduction and frustration at the initial, unsatisfactory, reaction of the police to a determined attempt to make up for the grotesque deficiencies in the Portuguese effort. By sunrise they were calling for outside pressure to be brought to the investigation via their friends in the UK. Patricia Cameron’s husband Sandy said, “Gerry was distraught and spoke at the same time as he cried. He seemed frustrated with the slowness of the searches in Portugal, with the fact that the borders had not been closed, and with the fact that sniffer dogs were not being used. Patricia and I contacted the British Embassy to try and help in this regard."
Jill Renwick had known the couple for over a decade. She spoke to Kate McCann at 7AM and described Kate imploring her for real assistance. "She just said, 'Help me, please help me'. She said, 'We've been searching all night until 4.30AM, and then everybody left us'. At that stage there was only one police officer at the door. They didn't know what to do.” So I phoned GMTV."
Il y a vraimet eu une montée en drame narcissique, même si l'on comprend qu'ils en rajoutent..
Qui refuserait ? Mais JR aurait-elle arrêté le frère de GB pour lui dire "mes amis dînaient tranquillement au restaurant, en Algarve, avec leurs copains, ils avaient laissé leurs trois petits enfants seuls, mais allaient voir toutes les demi-heures s'ils dormaient paisiblement. Ils avaient laissé une porte ouverte au cas où l'aînée, celle qui a disparu, se réveillerait et voudrait aller à leur recherche. La police portugaise n'a pas bloqué la circulation ni fermé les frontières et l'aéroport immédiatement. Pouvez-vous demander à votre frère d'intervenir ?"
Thus by breakfast time on May 4 a clear and fateful divergence had already opened up between police and parents, with the conventional host-country investigation being accompanied by the parents’ mobilization of outside political and media power. Perhaps the parents were, in their distress, ignorant of the risks they were running in bringing these notoriously unpredictable, and potentially treacherous forces into play; perhaps they felt they had no choice. In any event, by midday consular and embassy staff were already in frantic consultation with London and reporters and media hounds were scrambling for seats on flights for Faro. Within days this divergence between the two groups would become a chasm.
Officer José María Batista Roque of the GNR and his colleague Nelson da Costa were on vehicle patrol near Odiaxere on the night of May 3. Working out of the Lagos GNR station under its commander Sergeant Antonio da Duarte Conceição both were highly experienced men with decades of service between them. The radio message they received from Lagos instructed them to proceed to Praia de Luz to investigate reports of a missing child. A further message was received while they were on their way: it had now been reported to Lagos that the child was extremely young and that there were serious concerns for her safety. Proceed with all urgency. Their syrens announced their arrival around 11 PM. They quickly found their way to the throng in the main reception area of the Ocean Club. There they were greeted by a Mark Warner employee with language skills, M/S Sylvia Batista, and a distressed — he fell to his knees in front of the officers — Gerry McCann, who had left the apartment to meet them. The two police officers, Mr McCann, another of the Tapas group and Silvia Batista – to interpret - all drove up to apartment 5A, where Kate was waiting, and attempted to get a handle on just what was supposed to have happened.
SB, responsable de la maintenance de tous les équipements, avait été avertie par l'administrateur GC vers 22:30.
He found nothing to suggest that apartment 5A was in fact a crime scene. Far from having been disturbed in any way the child’s siblings were still sleeping soundly; there was no evidence of forced entry; there was not a sign of even the minimal struggle that a child might put up, let alone any displaced furniture, evidence of injury or use of force, and, of course, no visible traces of an intruder. Roque reported matter of factly of his search: “I found nothing strange in the apartment.”
What exactly Roque might have inferred from the bedding being "too tidy" he did not say but – and here we can read something between the lines of his factual statements, the twitching instincts, perhaps, of an experienced policeman — he gave the impression of being somehow troubled by the parents. Naturally they were “nervous and anxious,” he said, but at times he found their behaviour “unusual,” adding that, at one point, both of them knelt down on the floor of their bedroom and placed their heads on the bed, crying, although there were no tears. Clearly the whole scenario failed to form a consistent picture. What about those “jemmied” shutters and the window through which a kidnapper might have entered? They hardly featured in officer Roque’s initial report at all, since almost nothing had been said about them and he had seen nothing to suggest they had been interfered with. Much later, when investigators' suspicions about the parents’ version of events had arisen, he was explicitly questioned about the bedroom window by his superiors. In response he replied that he only remembered that the window in the girl’s bedroom was closed, with the exterior blind raised “the width of a hand.” Officer Roque knew that such a gap could not have been occasioned from outside since, as we explain below, these shutters can only be rolled up from the inside. He remembered nothing about the curtains and reiterated merely that Gerry McCann, not the virtually silent Kate, had indicated through the interpreter that the “window and shutter” had been open when the disappearance was discovered.
The shutters which officer Roque looked at are of a type not normally seen in the UK. Their perforated metal slats form a roll in a housing above the window and are operated by a vertical webbing strap, like a car safety belt, in an aperture on the inside wall alongside the window. To raise them one pulls downwards on the webbing and they are lowered by pulling and releasing the strap which, via a ratchet system, enables them to unroll and drop to their full extent on the outside of the building. These shutters feature two important security features. First of all they are always designed to fit snugly inside the exterior window recess and to descend the full drop to a window sill. This ensures that intruders cannot get their fingers under the shutter bottom to start lifting them: they must first insert a thin object, a screwdriver for example, or a knife to get the lift started, in colourful old-fashioned burglarese, a “jemmy.”
Secondly the ratchet system means that while the shutter can be lifted it cannot be rolled up from the outside since the roller remains in the locked position in its overhead housing unless released by the interior webbing strap. Attempts to raise it from outside, therefore, result in a heavy, unwieldy and sagging mass of metal which can only be held in a raised position by using props between sill and shutter. No evidence of the use of a jemmy or any tool was uncovered, then or later, and officer Roque could see that there was no distortion of the shutter and no sign of props: it had been opened from the inside. Nor was any evidence of the window itself being forced ever found. Roque later reported quite frankly that his own feeling was that this was not an abduction, though he did not state whether he based his view purely on the absence of intruder evidence.
And he was not alone. His colleague, Officer da Costa, gave a similar report. After the meeting at reception he had, he said, searched the apartment with his colleague, opening all cupboards in the bedrooms, living room and kitchen and checking under the beds and in the fridge. He did not see anything strange during the search, he reported, and there was no sign of a break in.
In fact, unlike officer Roque, he could not remember the father even mentioning an abduction and the only comment that he remembered Kate McCann making was a tearful request for more police officers. Thus a second officer made his inquiries without a word from the key witness, Kate McCann, regarding what she had seen at 10PM.
Officer Roque searched outside the apartment while da Costa remained inside or at the door. It was then, he reported, that a woman, evidently Jane Tanner although the officer did not identify her, told him that earlier on she had seen someone carrying a child “and running”. Because of the pyjamas the child had been wearing, she said, it could have been Madeleine McCann. Only then, said officer da Costa, did abduction “begin to be talked about.” His response to Jane Tanner was sceptical. If she had been able to see the pattern of the child’s pyjamas, he reasoned, then there must have been quite good light. So he asked her about the much more important question of what the person carrying the child looked like. She couldn’t tell him, replied Jane Tanner, since it was “very dark.” No, he reported, he did not find the “sighting” credible.
At around 11.15, only some quarter of an hour after his arrival, Roque contacted the Lagos police station and spoke to his superior Sergeant da Duarte Conceição, another veteran with twenty five years service. Despite his doubts and reservations he gave the sergeant a brief and relatively objective account of the facts, including that the father “had put forward a theory” that it could have been abduction and mentioned that a shutter could have been raised. With no sign of the child and no clues to indicate that she had wandered off Duarte now told the officer to preserve the apartment as a possible crime scene and wait with his colleague for him to join them. Then he set off at once for Praia de Luz.
Contacting the media at midnight? But the narrative, according to friends and family, was that the media had only been contacted after the failings of the investigation had become clear and the parents had been left isolated and unsupported with “nothing happening” at 4.30 in the morning. It is hard to see any real cause for dissatisfaction with the police so soon – police who were doing their best to find their daughter.
What dissatisfaction could there be?
Pourquoi tant d'insatisfaction, alors que la police portugaise faisait de son mieux pour retrouver leur fille ? Fondamentalement, ils voulaient qu'on cherche Madeleine loin de PDL, par-delà les frontières, malgré l'absence totale de témoignage concernant un véhicule. L"idée d'enlèvement est connotée par l'idée de distance, d'éloignement. Compte tenu de l'absence de signes indiquant que le G5A avait été une scène de crime plutôt qu'un appartement d'où une enfant était parti de son plein gré, les policiers se devaient d'abord de vérifier que Madeleine n'était pas bloquée, blessée, à une distance de marche, ce qui n'a pas empêché le sergent da C. Duarte de réquisitionner des renforts, dont K9, et d'appeler la PJ.
Les MC ont beaucoup moins insisté sur l'enlèvement auprès de la police qu'auprès de leurs proches. Craignaient-ils d'en dire trop ? Ou les gendarmes avaient-ils été catégoriques d'emblée sur l'état du volet ? On remarquera que, à aucun moment Kate, témoin essentiel, n'a essayé de dire ce qu'elle avait vu. Pas une seule fois au cours de la nuit Kate ne raconta aux policiers l'histoire des volets et de la fenêtre forcés qui ne lui avaient pas permis de douter de l'enlèvement.
The idea that the search effort could immediately be transferred from the local area to a far-away hunt for kidnappers with all the fashionable paraphernalia of closed borders and the rest of it was simply fanciful, both at the time and in hindsight. Leaving aside that there was no description of a vehicle or any third party to alert outside forces to and, indeed, absolutely nothing to suggest a kidnapping save the hearsay hunches of the Tapas group, how could resources have been switched away from Praia de Luz without risking the fate of the child? The overwhelming need was to exhaust every local avenue in case the child was lying trapped somewhere in the darkness, in a gulley perhaps, or lying injured at the foot of a stone staircase, possibly with rapid loss of blood. And that is what the police, while increasingly mindful of other, remote, possibilities did.
Sergeant Duarte, just like the other two officers, could see nothing, literally nothing, to indicate that an abduction had taken place. And once again Kate McCann did not come forward to tell the sergeant what she had seen. Even so, after carrying out further searches, he contacted headquarters for more officers to attend the scene immediately, called in the nearest available dog team and contacted the criminal investigation police, the PJ, in Portimao. And thereafter the search effort and investigation rapidly gathered pace. The additional officers from the GNR requested by sergeant Duarte soon arrived and, at about 12.40 AM, so did Inspector Pimental of the PJ together with a technical scene-of-crime officer. Despite the continued absence of any hard evidence to indicate that apartment 5A had been a crime location rather than merely the child’s temporary home, the apartment was cleared, the twins finally moved – still unconscious - and the family allocated alternative rooms so that a forensic search could be made.
The parents, reported the inspector, “looked quite tired and anguished,” particularly the mother. Not only anguished, but silent. For the fourth time that night Kate McCann, the only witness of value, failed to come forward and tell the police – this time in the person of a criminal investigator - what she had seen. Once again the story of the jemmied shutters and the evidence that made her “certain” that abduction, not a disappearance, had taken place – evidence that Kate McCann later alleged that she had given the Portuguese police but could not describe to the public - once again, her story went untold. After the site had been isolated the inspector examined the flat with his specialist Barreiras. Both of them were critical of the free-for-all that had been allowed to continue in the apartment before their arrival due to the failure of the GNR officers to lock down the location. Statements and photographs were taken and the inside of the bedroom window was finger printed. While GNR officers remained on site to keep the apartment isolated tracker dogs began searching around 2.30 in the morning. Throughout the night the strengthened forces continued to search streets, gardens and car parks and now vehicles were being stopped for examination as well. Between 2 and 2.30 AM Portimao police headquarters, after liaising with the PJ officers at the scene, contacted Faro to ensure that outgoing flights from the airport were monitored while the GNR in Lagos were ordered to keep vehicles under observation for signs of the child.
At dawn Chief Inspector Tavares de Almeida of the Criminal Investigation Department in Portimao, after abandoning his planned holiday, began consideration of a further widening of the investigation. The first phase of the search for Madeleine McCann had finally ended and it was time to draw breath. It was around now, between 4.30 AM and 7, that the local search was temporarily wound down, three officers only continuing with the so-far fruitless effort while their colleagues got some badly needed rest. This was the period that the McCanns described as a time when “nothing was happening,” when, in Kate McCann’s words the investigation had all the urgency of a “search for a missing dog” - the comments a scurvy reward, it may be thought, for the efforts that the Portuguese had put in throughout the night to find the child of these strangers in their land. It was also the period which finally prompted the despairing couple, neither of whom, of course, could have been aware of the full dimensions or any shortcomings, of the search effort – for how would they have known? - to call for full-scale outside media and political help via their friends and family.
Or so the narrative tells us.
In any inquiry each investigative possibility requires different management and a different allocation of resources and manpower, most of which has to be brought in from outside. A decision to concentrate on “woke and wandered,” for example, which included the chance of the child being seized and assaulted while missing, would require a high concentration of relatively unskilled manpower in the local area combined with intensive forensic work. Suggestions of an act of vengeance or malice, on the other hand, would need a totally different resource allocation, with much less manpower “on the ground” and a concentrated research effort into the actions and whereabouts of possible perpetrators. Accidental or other death at the hands of close associates, such as local employees, the holiday group itself or even the family, would require relatively limited, but very highly qualified, manpower and would need to concentrate on what a head of the PJ described as “pure investigation” – carefully analysing the whereabouts and statements of possible suspects and examining them over and over for conflicts and contradictions – “clues.” Lastly, abduction or kidnapping remains by far the most open-ended, intractable and resource-hungry line of enquiry, putting virtually limitless demands on police forces for as long as they can be afforded.
No sensible investigative effort, in any force, could make progress without this initial appraisal of evidence and weighting of possibilities and, even as the McCanns were preparing for their interviews, a police team in the recently established “crisis room” was brainstorming the affair accordingly. The trouble was that in this most extraordinary case they were losing control of planning, and the opportunity for cool analysis, almost before they had begun: control of events, and the determination of the future direction and scale of the investigation, was already slipping - or being taken - from their grasp.
Gerry McCann gave his statement at eleven fifteen that morning and Kate McCann just after two in the afternoon. The two statements were virtually identical and, in a further confirmation that the officers’ fears about contamination were well-grounded, included hearsay descriptions of what other members of the group had been doing, rather than being confined to what they had actually seen for themselves.
Le principe de la narration spontanée interdit l'intervention de l'OPJ qui prend la déposition.
On the whole their contributions were relatively dry and factual with no mention of forced intrusion. Neither of them had any complaints about police performance in the previous twelve hours, although, of course, as parents of the missing child they were free to say what they wished. It is noteworthy also that in their statements there is no record of any of the supposedly clear but secret evidence of intrusion and abduction, such as the different position of the child’s soft toy or the condition of her bed, which Kate McCann in particular - until the opening of the police files - consistently implied had been provided to the police. Nevertheless they maintained that it was clearly an abduction.
Before leaving the police headquarters the couple were taken through their witness secrecy obligations under Portuguese law and made aware, yet again, of the official police view that publicity was likely to endanger their child. The McCanns neither protested nor demurred at these warnings. Late in the evening the process was finally over and they were driven back, with the usual nightmarishly high Portuguese traffic speeds doing nothing to calm their nerves, to arrive in Praia de Luz just before 10 PM. It had been a long and exhausting day. The parents never gave a satisfactory explanation of Gerry’s independent activities, backed by his wife, on May 4, the beginnings of the "parallel investigation." Speaking of the immensely important decision to "bring in" the media Kate McCann seemed completely unaware of the significance and potential of their actions, as though it was a matter of no importance. She said that they had done so because "they didn't know what else to do," following this rather odd reasoning with one of her long Scouse-voiced chain of absurd non-sequiters which interviewers invariably allowed to pass unchallenged until they died away: "The feeling was absolute helplessness," she emoted helplessly, "you're absolutely desperate. I mean, this is our daughter who we love beyond words, and every second is like hours. Nothing can happen quick enough." Gerry at least acknowledged that "The Portuguese police were saying, 'No, no media,'" but like his wife used the "D" word in defence of his breach of the requirement - "but we were desperate at that point."
Gerry's ultimate motivation may never be known. As we have seen he was consistently described by friends and associates in Praia de Luz as a man who favoured action of any sort over reflection, although this seems extremely odd, even incompatible, with a doctor who specialised in cardiac diagnostics: act first and assess later in that field and you end up surrounded by dead bodies. The painstaking analysis of life and death possibilities preceding action that Gerry McCann must have regularly practised in his profession was apparently absent in Praia de Luz.
He later talked of wanting to “act” as a way of overcoming temporary shock and grief, apparently oblivious both to the egotistical implications of his statement and to the obvious argument that in this case the potential risks of independent – and publicity based – action may literally have been a matter of life and death for another person. “If we had stayed indoors,” he said later, once again with a somewhat eyebrow-raising emphasis on the "we", which excluded Madeleine, “locked ourselves away and waited, and waited, and waited for a month, we would be shells of the people we are. We are doing everything we can to try to become a family of five again.” Whatever one makes of such a view it clearly reflects his unusual certainty that his acts were capable of delivering Madeleine McCann up from her fate, and his refusal to accept even the possibility that her chances lay beyond his influence.
If he ever worried about taking independent action in a criminal case without any knowledge of investigation, or hesitated before taking irrevocable decisions regarding his child, he has not told us. Nor has he ever given any detailed explanation of why the Portuguese police approach – and particularly the cautions against the very initiatives which, as we shall see, he was already taking - was unacceptable to him. The ineffable Clarence Mitchell later said, “Everything we have done from the word go [in terms of the media] has been very carefully considered and thought through.” This was clearly not true, something which should hardly surprise us, given its source: the parents do not claim to have spent time on consideration, only desperation, or action for its own sake and there was no time or opportunity for the parents to “think things through” before acting: the eye witnesses, as we have seen, show that Gerry McCann moved from floor-rolling hysteria to compulsive telephone-based action without any interval for assessment and consideration.
And nor did he ever seek to justify, explain or even mention his failure to keep the police fully informed about his independent actions and, particularly, his briefing against them, behind their backs and above their heads, on May 4. It is in this failure, indeed, that the seeds of so much of the bitterness and distrust between the police and the parents lay. Carlos Anjos, the head of the Portuguese CID Officers Association, later spoke for many of them when he accused the parents of creating “a monster of information” which had damaged the case. His strictures then and thereafter were factual but one can sense underneath them an additional element of shock and betrayal at the way the parents had done things as much as what they had done.
As for the latter Anjos was categorical: “We were against this [publicity] from the start. And importantly, we were against the release of Madeleine McCann's photo all over the world. We thought the photos that were released should not show the distinct mark Maddie had in her eye. From our experience in criminal investigations this was a kidnap, which was what we believed...the revealing of such a distinct feature would put that person's life in danger.”aPhotos with the feature were released by Gerry’s relatives on May 4: clearly in his conversations with them he had not seen fit to pass on the police warnings, let alone insist on compliance with them. A forgivable slip, with so much going on in his mind? Quite possibly. But such slips, with incalculable consequences for the fate of his own daughter, – and how many more of them might there be? - were, of course, consequences of his independent initiative and the major argument against it. He was playing with fire, fire which risked consuming someone other than himself.
As for the way, rather than the what, policemen have, as we have said, good instincts. Inspector Amaral knew that morning that conversations must have been taking place with outsiders of which he was ignorant, including, apparently, critical assessments of his own force’s operations. The effect on him and his colleagues of the ensuing discovery that the parents were briefing against the force to both the UK government (as Freedom of Information requests have since demonstrated) and to the media, while going through the charade of defending them or letting it be known that they “fully supported” the police – behaviour more typical of tricky politicians with their backs to the wall than crime-victims – can be imagined. The UK media may have been willing to play along with this game which was quite transparent to them, though held back from their readers, but police officers could soon see all too well what was happening.a
In the last analysis the McCanns' initial behaviour in this regard – mainly Gerry’s – remains a mystery, haunted by virtual silence, perhaps silence to himself as much as others. Behind it lie the unfathomable possibilities of darkness and self-doubt, qualities which are anathema to Gerry McCann - doubt in continuing hindsight not about any of their actions on the evening of May 3 but on the possible consequences of what they did afterwards. How could stealing the initiative from the police ever have helped to recover the child in the long run? Whatever its weaknesses it was the only force with the power and resources to find the child, after all. Could the release of the photographs actually have harmed her? Even now the child may be lying dead somewhere because, yes, the attempted police embargo, based on experience and expertise and yet so casually breached by Gerry, was fully justified and a kidnapper rapidly got rid of this overwhelmingly recognisable burden. Where, indeed, did his certainty that he could isolate the weaknesses and improve on an entire country's police force derive from? Lastly, the “failure” of the investigation, the shelving of the case that was met with such satisfaction by the McCanns and their spokesman, but which amounted to an admission that the Portuguese would never find their child – was that really a desirable outcome and had the conflict between the parents and the police contributed to it?
It was just after 10PM when the parents came out and made their statement to the media.
"Words cannot describe the anguish and despair that we are feeling as the parents of our beautiful daughter Madeleine. We request that anyone who may have any information related to Madeleine's disappearance, no matter how trivial, contact the Portuguese police and help us get her back safely. Please, if you have Madeleine, let her come home to her mummy, daddy, brother and sister. As everyone can understand how distressing the current situation is, we ask that our privacy is respected to allow us to continue assisting the police in their current investigation.”
Gerry McCann had much more to say about the sight of the assembled media and the problems, as well as the opportunities, it brought but it nearly always started with this astonishment at the appearance of the media pack that he had neither inspired nor expected but that he had, somehow, to react to. As with so much of the case “the narrative” became standardised - how he and Kate, as total beginners facing the frightening crowd of reporters had to decide to interact or run away; how, with the assistance of the Foreign Office media advisors such as Sherie Dodd and communications experts like Alex Woolfall brought in by Mark Warner, they learned how to cope with the insistent demands for interviews and statements and how they finally determined to use the media for their campaign, instead of being used by it, learning the ropes from these experts quickly – and all of it beginning on that Friday evening of May 4. Addressing a hushed and extremely respectful audience of MPs of the Media & Culture Committee in the House of Commons in early 2009, a sober-suited Gerry McCann said: “The first impressions really started on day one when we came back to Praia da Luz having spent the day in Portimao at the police station. Clearly, there was a huge media presence there already."
Oprah: And so when you came and realised that your daughter was missing and you're in a foreign country at the time you made a decision you know an effort to try to get her picture out to try to err engage the media. Is that true?
Donc, quand vous avez réalisé que votre fille avait disparu et que vous étiez dans un pays étranger, vous avez décidé, vous vous êtes efforcé de faire connaître sa photo pour impliquer les médias. Est-ce bien ça ?
All the information was “deniable”, as though provided by a skilled politician or an experienced PR man not a shocked parent, for not once did Gerry McCann say these things himself directly to the public media: it was all done using the clan and “friends”. Nor was he forthcoming to the unsuspecting officers looking for his child about his role in mobilising the media and his conscious breach - or rather explosive destruction - of their no publicity rule. It was not, needless to say, merely about the release of "a picture": by the time the police car carrying the pair pulled into Portimao police headquarters that morning Sky had been well briefed with the parents’ story. And so had GMTV. So had BBC1 news. So had BBC 2 Newsnight. So had all the important UK dailies.
Bien plus tard, après que le dossier de la PJ, copié sur DVD, a été rendu disponible pour tout un chacun, confirmant que l’histoire du volet forcé n’était qu’une histoire sans, curieusement, en tirer de conclusion drastique, les MC se sont efforcés de semer la confusion à défaut de pouvoir frontalement faire prendre le dit comme non-dit. Pour les supporters, qui n'ont jamais été démentis, la faute, s’il y avait faute, était due à la famille qui, du RU, avait mal compris et répercuté les malentendus sur les médias.
Les dépositions des TP7, ainsi que celles des premiers agents de la GNR et policiers qui se sont rendus sur les lieux la nuit du 3 mai, sont sans ambiguïté.
Much later, after the police files were released and the completely fictitious nature of the “jemmied shutters” claims was exposed, attempts were made by defenders of the pair to claim that all this was simple confusion – the parents, they said, had never made any such claims, it was shocked and anxious relatives who had seized on agitated early news from the pair, including misunderstandings, and had then passed on minor inaccuracies when contacted by the media.
The explanation is untenable; it is untrue. The evidence clearly shows that Gerry McCann, far from passing on to his circle only chaotic first impressions or mistaken interpretations of what had happened immediately after the disappearance, quite clearly hammered home certain key information for many hours after the disappearance which he intended them to pass on to the media. Madeleine’s uncle, Michael Wright, made this quite clear on the same day. Speaking from the grandparents’ home in Liverpool, after pointing out that they were in “a hell of a state,” he said, “Everyone has been up all night. I spoke to Gerry and he wants as much publicity as possible if it helps.”
Pas une seule fois le concept de confidentialité n’a été évoqué. Mais surtout aucun démenti officiel n’a été apporté. Le mythe du volet forcé, de la fenêtre béante et du vent en folie dans les rideaux laissant deviner la silhouette de l’homme chargé d’un enfant franchissant la fenêtre comme dans les cauchemars était durablement implanté.
Les rumeurs procèdent de même et se développent selon le même mécanisme.
And there is a repetition again and again of certain "facts" and themes from different people which cannot have been the chance result of misunderstandings: as is well known in information theory when a number of independent sources carry the same data then it derives from a common source. The circle of friends and relatives provided the deniability. This same circle – mostly part of the Glasgow/Liverpool clan of which we have spoken before, with its intense, almost atavistic clan loyalty and solidarity against the outside world — also provided the mainstay of indirect and deniable information from the parents over the coming months, although with the later formalization of the “campaign” and the growing influence of the media professionals like Woolfall, Dodds, McGuinness and Mitchell their contributions became a good deal more measured and disciplined.
At no time early on – not once - did any of them report Gerry McCann as asking them not to repeat his comments to the public, or that he and they were bound by confidentiality. Nor is there any mention by them of Gerry, later in the day, telling them that the forced-entry and other information he had given them had now been found to be incorrect. Quite the contrary. Tellingly, exactly the same techniques were used by the same clan members at the only other period of critical pressure during the McCanns’ long Portuguese stay after May 4, when the professional media advisors were silent, disengaged or in disarray. When the pair were made arguido and questioned by the police about their possible role in the child’s disappearance the same charade of “silence” from the parents was maintained while versions of what had happened to them - extremely anti-police and including the fictional stories of suggested plea bargains -were provided for the world media after being passed on in phone calls intended for publicisation. The technique was identical and identifiable. No, the evidence is unarguable that, just as at arguido time, Gerry McCann knowingly used the clan as conduits for a version of events, as well as an appeal for help in finding a missing child.
Of course any family would want to help one of their own in distress. And the willingness of the tight-knit clan to help mobilise the media wasn't wrong, or a conspiracy to hide the truth - that much is obvious. Nevertheless, just as relations between the police and parents were permanently soured when the PJ discovered that Gerry McCann was briefing against them via others, so the way in which a number of the McCanns' relatives threw themselves into the spin game of deniability and non-attribution, of the dishonest language of the "close source" and the "family friend", and all the other techniques of news control exacted a distant penalty. Those who looked closely at what was coming out from "the McCann Team" asked themselves why these methods were being used from May 4 onwards. The saccharine tributes paid to the pair for their eventual "mastery" of the press could not conceal, after all, that news management, as practised in politics and public relations, is essentially about withholding and distorting news and arranging misinformation: that is its function, that's what the friendly word "spin" means.
Comment la décision de sensibiliser le monde quant à la disparition d’un enfant, avant que soient engagés des experts ou des conseillers gouvernementaux (pour jeter un pinceau de lumière dans les ténèbres) a évolué sans heurts vers une machine à spinner, déguiser et limiter l’information ? Quel était l’intérêt ? Qu’y avait-il à gagner ?
Il est impossible d’éviter de conclure que si les parents auraient beaucoup gagné à manipuler les médias sans spin doctors, franchement et sans esbrouffe. La campagne des professionnels a certes été percutante, elle a touché pratiquement la planète entière, mais elle s’est aussi trouvée entachée de dérives douteuses, d’opinions sans fondements, … et a alimenté le fonds de millions, mais à quel coût !
The seeds of the rumours about them, the mad theories on the internet, that they had done away with the child, that it was a pre-meditated act, that the child wasn't even alive on May 3, all that revolting fantasy had its beginning in that question - why? Why weren't they frank and open?
Leurs réticences, leurs contradictions, leurs allégations mensongères suscitèrent sur la toile les théories les plus extravagantes, les rumeurs les plus aberrantes, les hypothèses les plus insensées, de la fausse disparition, puisqu’en vérité Madeleine n’avait jamais mis les pieds à PDL, jusqu’à la disparition fomentée, irréversible et définitive en passant par la disparition simulée. Mais, au fait, pourquoi ces cachotteries ?
The clan can't be criticised for coming to the aid, as they saw it, of their own and then being born along on a wave of public hysteria and the excitement of being at the centre of an enormous drama,
L’enfant, dans une perspective judéo-chrétienne, c’est un don, et non un dû, et un don que l’on accueille en s'en sachant responsable, bien que, depuis une cinquantaine d’années, la place de l’enfant a complètement changé, la contraception, le travail des femmes, le couple fonde la famille à travers la naissance de l’enfant, de droit à l’enfant, de désir d’enfant qui semble légitime pour tout un chacun.
Temps passé ensemble de cohabitation plus que de co-interaction. Horaires non synchronisés.
Maintenant il y a un retour en arrière, les normes de l’enfant qu’il fallait écouter, de l’enfant devenu petit sujet tel que l’entendait Françoise Dolto ont changé, certains pédiatres recommandent de dire non sans explication à l’enfant. La société de consommation met très vite la main sur l’enfant et il est très difficile de résister. and they were used by others as much as they used. But if only the Sherie Dodds and other government media experts had been sent to advise the family instead of the parents - especially in the virtues of restraint and silence! But that isn't the way the world goes round.
After this a “family friend” whom we have heard from before provided the necessary blast of colour: “Jill Renwick, from Glasgow, told the The Standard: "Maddy is gorgeous. She has white blonde hair. She is active and chatty and intelligent, not shy. She is four next week and starts school this year.” Miss Renwick added the dramatic but thoroughly untrue detail that “Kate and Gerald are rushing about looking for her." And then the abduction story, which we heard from M/S Renwick before, was delivered, together with another reminder of how careful and responsible the McCanns were: “Mrs Renwick said she feared Madeleine had been abducted: "The shutters had been broken open and they [sic] had gone into the room and taken Madeleine." That showed, shall we say, a certain unfamiliarity with the facts but, when she reverted to the parents' conduct, M/S Renwick was much more well-informed and careful. “They were watching the hotel room and going back every half- hour. The parents went out about eight, went back in at nine the [children] were fine went back in at 10 and she was gone."
"Il n'y a pour l'instant aucune preuve que la petite fille a été enlevée. Nous espérons qu'on va la retrouver tout près d'ici".
Mais la version banale de la disparition n’avait aucune chance de surnager face à celle du volet, des pieds nus et de l’angélique apparence de la disparue. Même The Guardian, connu pour son exigence en fait de reportage et de chronique, préféra cautionner un volet forcé dont avait ouï dire le père de KMC.
Poor Mr Hill. Nobody wanted to hear this stuff, not when the other story, complete with wonderful details of Madeleine’s angelic appearance and bubbly personality neatly clothing the defence of the parents, was so readily available. Indeed another Healy clan member, Brian, the aged, credulous and malleable father of Kate McCann immediately rubbished Mr Hill’s claim that there was “no sign of a break-in” that day in the UK Guardian, a newspaper with a famous reputation for sober reporting and accuracy. Mr Healy, said that his son-in-law had given him “the facts” on the phone. In a bravura performance in which every “fact” except Gerry’s name was untrue he told the Guardian, “Gerry told me when they went back the shutters to the room were broken, they were jemmied up and she was gone. She'd been taken from the chalet. The door was open." Fate was stacking up against The Version According To John Hill.
C'est l'immédiateté, avec ses avantages et ses inconvénients, que permet le téléphone cellulaire.
"It was frustrating for him because between 5am and 7am the police seemed to do nothing, they were standing about," she told the BBC, dutifully repeating what Gerry had told her in that call, “we [who was we?] feel that what's been going on in Portugal has been ineffectual.” Well done Trish. And to back it up the ever-helpful Jill Renwick (again!) also contacted the BBC later. Ms Renwick made no bones about it: the McCanns, she said, felt let down by the Portuguese police. Almost the last, sad, moment of Mr Hill’s fifteen minutes of fame before this lonely provider of objectivity fell silent was his confident assertion that day that the windows to the apartment had not been forced open and that as far as intruders were concerned the apartments featured some “highly professional” locks.
Ces remarques non seulement manquaient de théâtralité, mais elles furent perçues comme indignement prosaïques et à peine énoncées furent envoyées aux oubliettes à l’instigation de la MW dont le meilleur atout était une sollicitude affichée et AW, son spécialiste en PR et en médias qui avait d’emblée embrayé sur l’histoire du volet. GMC dont une telle déclaration mettait singulièrement en question la responsabilité se chargèrent de dissuader Mr Hill de donner quelque avis plus avant.
AW, le spécialiste en gestion de crise fut effectivement le mentor des MC comme ceux-ci du reste n’hésitèrent pas à le reconnaître : il les aida à définir leurs objectifs, à pondérer les résultats souhaitables du recours aux médias et à clarifier leurs expectatives.
Mr Woolfall was given a handsome tribute by Gerry speaking to the House of Commons committee :
Right at the very beginning, Mark Warner had a media specialist, a crisis management specialist from Bell Pottinger called Alex Wilful, [sic] who was incredibly helpful to us and, in those early days, gave us quite simple guidance which we found particularly helpful. It was very much along the lines of: what are your objectives? What are you hoping to achieve by speaking to the media? Be very clear about what you want.Gerry McCann, added that his advice "was very, very good because there is an element that they are there on your doorstep" (the doorstep again!) before giving further handsome credit to others:
The government sent out a media adviser who had expertise in campaign management, Cherie Dodd, who previously worked at the DTI and started talking about planning for us, how we could utilise the media in terms of achieving objectives.Hormis les aides fournies par MW, les MCs bénéficièrent des services d’une conseillère en médias, spécialiste de gestion de campagne, envoyée par le gouvernement britannique : CD, qui avait préalablement travaillé à la DTI , dressa pour eux un planning et les initia à l’art d’utiliser les médias à leur avantage.
And of course – how could one forget? –
Subsequently Clarence came out. That was very important, one, to assist us in trying to get information to help find our missing daughter and, secondly, in protecting us from the media because the demands were unbelievable.Et puis CM vint... les aider à obtenir des informations qui serviraient à retrouver Madeleine et les protéger des médias dont les exigences étaient incroyables.
En moins de temps qu’il n’en faut pour le dire, l’enlèvement acquit ses lettres de noblesse, tous les ingrédients susceptibles de séduire le public étant réunis. Toute autre histoire avait l’air fade comparativement et était condamnée à finir dans la poubelle médiatique.
Eut-il l'intuition que la PJ commençait à trouver étrange le diagnostic d'enlèvement posé sans indice à la clef, AW s’employa dans un premier temps, et à contre-courant dans l'océan médiatique, à assurer que les MC, loin de songer à l’hypothèse d’un enlèvement, avaient d’abord pensé que Madeleine était sortie de l’appartement toute seule et avait eu un accident ou avait été recueillie par quelqu’un de bien intentionné.
This says almost as much about him as it says about them - but Smart Alex is impervious to these ironies and Gerry is clearly happy for Mr Woolfall to retain his own beliefs as to who was really running whom. In reality Woolfall had almost nothing to teach Gerry: he was a natural. Before these experts had said a word to him, in just under twenty-four hours of unassisted and frenzied activity he had put out a version of events that seduced people into its soap-opera mendacity and beside which other narratives stood no chance.
En particulier la version de la PJ. La PJ avait beau faire, ils n’arrivaient pas à insérer les faits dans un scénario d’enlèvement. Très vite les MC firent figure, non de victimes, mais de célébrités éclipsant largement le bouc émissaire chargé de tous les fiascos, débâcles, déboires, GA.
"A propaganda campaign against Kate and Gerry McCann started within 24 hours of Madeleine vanishing," the report stated. "While the police were secretly spinning their doubts about the McCanns to the media," [ the one comment to the JDN on May 4, nothing else ] "the couple were faithfully obeying Portugal's strict laws preventing them from speaking about the investigation." History is written by the winners. Gerry McCann's achievement on May 4 had been a staggering one.