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

12 - AVR 25 - Panorama (Bilton)

Madeleine, the last hope ? - Richard Bilton

Panorama (BBC1) – 25.04.2012



Five years ago this week, Madeleine McCann disappeared from a family holiday apartment in the Algarve, Portugal, and has never been found. Her parents, Kate and Gerry, are adamant that their daughter was abducted by a predator and persuaded Prime Minister David Cameron to order a review of the case by the Metropolitan Police. Here, the senior UK investigator talks to Richard Bilton about how he is working collaboratively with Portuguese police and explains why he believes he has the best opportunity yet to establish the facts.
  
Tonight Panorama aired their documentary into the review of the Madeleine McCann case by Scotland Yard. Goncalo Amaral admits mistakes were made and for the first time we heard how intimidated Robert Murat felt when he was made an arguido.

Richard Bilton: It is five years since a little girl vanished without trace on holiday in Portugal.
Kate MC : Please do not hurt her. Please don’t scare her.
RB: Why has Madeleine McCann never been found?
Alan Johnson : Disgraceful. It didn’t seem to me that they had had the benefit of a proper police investigation.
RB: And why in the country she disappeared have so many people made up their minds about what happened?
Isabel Duarte : I have friends that don’t want to talk to me about the case. I feel alone because I don’t feel support in public opinion.
RB: Why did the Prime Minister take the unprecedented step of telling British Police to investigate the case?
Sandra Felgueiras : Oh God. The Prime Minister giving an order to the Police to investigate something that is closed without no new evidence about it. Very strange.
RB: And with such views in Portugal what chance have the British Police got of solving the case? They talk for the first time tonight.
DCI Andy Redwood : We are seeking to bring closure to this case.
RB: What does that mean?
AR : Establishing what happened to Madeleine McCann.
RB: Solving it?
AR: Solving it. Yes, of course.
RB: Tonight as Police identify new leads, Panorama exposes the tensions and deals behind what could be te last hope of finding this lost little girl.
 
This is Praia da Luz on the Algarve, out of season and very quiet. In May 2007 as a BBC correspondent I was sent to this apartment block in Luz, because a little girl had disappeared. What I couldn’t possibly know then was how enormous this case would become, that everybody would know about Madeleine McCann, that everybody would have a theory about what happened here and how she disappeared. And that even now, five years on, millions is still being spent trying to solve the case. After a year, the Portuguese authorities shelved the case. But now there’s a new drive to solve the mystery and its based here in the UK.
Andy Redwood : Our initial estimates in terms of the amount of material that we are facing is that it will be somewhere in the region of 40,000 pieces of information. There is, ultimately, a process of us turning every single piece of paper over and interpreting and analysing what is contained within them. 
RB : Operation Grange, set up after a direct request from David Cameron is a year into its work and has already cost the British taxpayer 2 million pounds. This is the first time an officer has spoken publicly about the new search for Madeleine MC. 
AR : There is myself, a detective chief inspector, there are 3 detectives inspectors, 5 detective sergeants, 19 constables and detective constables I should say and about 6 or 7 members of the civilian staff to perform various different functions. We are here in terms of seeking to bring closure to this case. That would be the ultimate ohjective, of course, and is actually our ultimate objective.

Richard Bilton : What does that mean ? 

AR : Well closure means establishing what happened to Madeleine McCann.

RB :Solving it?
AR : Yes, solving it, of course.

Their daughter case has slipped down the news agenda, but Kate and Gerry MC have continued to raise awareness of the issue of missing people. Last month the couple took part in a charity fun run in London.
KMC : (spot) For so many people it's certainly a lifeline really. To anyone who has gone missing but also the families that are left behind. 
RB : The MC have never wavered from their account that Madeleine was abducted and that they played no part in her disappearance. The new review is the result of their long campaign to get the British police to re-examine the original Portuguese investigation. 
Gerald MC (spot) It's taken pressure off us, I have to say, knowing that the police are actually reviewing everything. It's a huge step for us.

RB : Since the case was shelved, 4  separate investigations by private detectives have  been funded by the Find Madeleine Campaign and the MC have issued a series of artist impressions of how Madeleine might look in the years since she disappeared. This is the latest picture, released to-day by British police, how Madeleine might look, aged nearly 9. In 2009, the family's campaign for a review took them to meet with the then Home Secretary.
Alan Johnson : I was enormously sympathetic to their case.  All the stuff that appeared, you know, in certain tabloïds, you know, suggestion they were the guilty party, you know I think it's very difficult under that kind of saturation coverage not to start believing in some of those theories, but by the time they came in to see me I was absolutely clear that, you know, they were the victims in all of this.
RB : What do you think of the way the Portuguese treated the MC ?  
AJ : Woah, it seems to me not from any close working with the Portuguese police, but it seems to me to have been disgraceful. It didn't seem to me that they had had the benefit of a proper police investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine. 
Qu'un ex-ministre de l'intérieur se permette un tel jugement est une chose, que sans vergogne il le livre à un journaliste en est une autre. Tout ce que dit DCI Redwood de ses rapports avec la police portugaise, au grand dam de Richard Bilton, décrit les propos de AJ pour ce qu'ils sont, de la calomnie vulgaire.

RB : The review team, finally settled last May, and made of experience murder squad detectives has been sifting through the evidence ever since.  It's not simply office based, they've travelled to Portugal 4 times and they've visited Spain twice. But what can they do that hasn't already been done ?  
AR : We are drawing together information from three separate sources. The legal enforcement bodies within Portugal, the UK enforcement agencies of which obviously the police are the main part, and also and unusually the private investigation world which as we know is an element that was used by Mr and Mrs McCann to further the search for their daughter.
RB : But why, why was this unique circumstance ?
AR : Because at no time before have those three elements been drawn together in one place. And so what we’ve done over the past number of months is bring into one place, i.e. here in Belgravia, all those pieces of the jigsaw.

RB : And that's important because private detectives are banned here in Portugal, so it's the first time all the gathered evidence is being seen together. 
C'est complètement faux, ce qui est interdit, c'est de faire travailler des détectives privés sur une affaire en cours. 
To-day the Met said that they have so far identified  195 fresh leads in their review. But concern remains of how much can be achieved given the initial flaws in the investigation. 
bâtonnier Antonio M. Pinto :  I'm convinced the MC case will feature in Portuguese judicial history as a bad example, what a criminal investigation should not be. 
Dénigrer ce que font les autres est un vieux truc qui dispense de faire.
RB : So even now what do we know for sure about the case ?
Madeleine's parents were 5 days into a week long holiday at the Ocean Club resort. They were there with 3 other families. All 4 couples had left their children sleeping unattended, something they were later criticized for, but they made regular checks to make sure all was ok. 
Si RB avait au moins lu l'ordonnance de classement du procureur de la République, il aurait vu que des témoignages avaient montré que ces rondes n'étaient pas régulières.
It was 10 pm on May the 3rd when Kate MC made the 70 m walk to check on her children. She told the police that when she entered their bedroom in the apartment 5A, the window and the shutters were open and Madeleine had gone. One of the MCs' friends said that earlier on that evening she had seen a man carrying a small child away from the block. 
En 2012 DCI Redwood n'avait pas encore éliminé Tannerman.

The holiday flat still draws attention for some, but for me it feels strange to be back. I feel a real odd bond with this place. I spent so much time thinking of what might have happened here as every sort of new theory was rolled out. It feels like it"s still full of  questions. 
Right from the start it's a case that is marked by mistakes. The local police initially assumed that Madeleine had simply wandered off. So there were some hours before the flat was sealed off as a potential crime scene, access wasn't restricted. The Portuguese Attorney General would later report this meant any forensic evidence at the scene was contaminated  with irreversible and undetermined damages. 
Le premier pollueur (et quelle pollution ! Le fameux volet !) fut le père de la disparue.
And the man who led the investigation for the first 6 months , Gonçalo Amaral, now admits he got things wrong. 
GA : It's a fact that our investigation has its faults and that we lost a lot of time. Lots of things didn't get followed up. And I am just as much to blame for that as anyone else (pas sûr qu'il dise cette dernière phrase).
RB : 5 years on it is easier to access the early days of the investigation. Thousands of police files have been made public and some of those who were at the centre of the police operation are now prepared to talk. 

RB : So, this is where she disappeared from, this street is lined with satellites trucks and then the police say that they have taken for questioning a man who lives at the end of the street, just behind those bushes down there. So all the journalists stay from here to there and Robert M now becomes the focus of everybody's attention.
Robert M was in his 30ties and living with his mother. Half English, half Portuguese, when Madeleine disappeared he offered his skills to the Portuguese police as a translator. But 11 days in with no quick resolution for the investigation in sight, the spotlight turned on him. Now Robert M believes that with the Portuguese police under pressure he was an easy scapegoat. 

Robert M : At one stage I was taken to an area where they wanted to fingerprint me and take photographs and that kind of stuff. I thought they were trying to disorient me, they moved me around from room to room, hallway to hallway, corridor to corridor, and it seemed very choreographed , calling out "well, take photographs of him" and you know, hum "we want to send a team to Poland". It was kind of a choreographed situation.
RB : They wanted to intimidate you ?
RM : Yes, I think so. It did intimidate me at the time, it's now that I realize what was going on. I had 5 persons rushing into a room and standing behind me and it felt very very "life on Mars" and I felt very, you know, just very pressured. 
RB : He was questionned for 19 hours before he was released. 
The next day he returned to collect his belongings and RM says he met Gonçalo Amaral, the lead detective.
RM : He basically told me it was a game of two halves and as the night before I hadn't confessed, then he would get me on the second half and he just kind of turned his back on me. He didn't, he just.... It seemed he didn't  care about the truth? That's how I felt. 
RB : One of Portugal's leading lawyers now believes that close attention of the world's media affected the initial investigation.
AP : The police feel like they have to quickly find the culprits, because if they don't they would be in the dock themselves. And as such, what happened in this case is that the police's main concern was to find a suspect.

RB : It was British sniffer dogs that changed the way Portuguese detectives were thinking. The dogs indicated possible traces of DNA in the MC flat and in the family's hire car. Although this was found to be inconclusive by forensic scientists, the Portuguese police made Kate and Gerry MC arguidos or suspects in their daughter's disappearance. 
L'ADN ne laisse pas de trace et les chiens n'alertent pas à l'ADN ! Un des chiens alertait en présence d'odeur de cadavre, même si le cadavre n'était plus là, auquel cas aucun prélèvement ne peut être effectué et donc l'alerte corroborée forensiquement. Mais le chien en question était le meilleur chien britannique spécialisé et était régulièrement testé. Il ne s'était jamais trompé. Par ailleurs, il avait tout de même alerté dans le dernier endroit où on avait vu Madeleine et nulle part ailleurs.
RB : We know the Portuguese police believed they had the answer to what happened that night in apartment 5A, because we can now read an internal interim report from the week the MC were declared suspects. It said the minor Madeleine died in apartment 5A, a simulation of an abduction took place, Kate and Gerry MC are involved in the concealment of the corpse of their daughter, and 5 years on that view seems to be as strongly held as ever by some in the police.
C'est une possibilité que l'enquête n'a pas permis d'exclure, il y en a d'autres, le procureur est clair là-dessus : le crime est indéterminé.
Carlos Anjos : I think something happened accidentally in the flat that night. I think that most Portuguese investigators think the same as me. And I think there will be problems for the British authorities to go forward. 
RB : One big problem is only whether the Portuguese authorities can reopen the case.
Sandra Felgueiras is one of Portugal's leading TV presenters and has covered the MC story from the start. With her own nightly news show she has watched the Portuguese public support shift away from the MC.
SF : They were following the case as it was a big movie, so if you start saying, 3 months later from the disappearance that maybe the MC are involved, people start saying "o my god, those guys, the same that were asking for help, I gave them money, I tried to help them, and now they might be involved, the police is saying that". Then people's minds changed. And I never felt really that the Portuguese were likely to give a chance to the MC again.

RB : With the Portuguese police and the public opinion apparently against them, the family decided it was best simply to get out of Portugal, they returned home without Madeleine.
GMC (spot) : We have played no part in the disappearance of our lovely daughter...
RB : Nearly a year later the Portuguese General Attorney assessed the evidence and found there was no case to answer for the MC or Robert M.
KMC (spot) :  it's hard to describe how utterly despairing it was to be named arguidos and subsequently portrayed in the media as supects in our own daughter's abduction. Our priority has always been the search.
Comme l'a déclaré le spin doctor, le fait que les MC aient émergé de leur statut d'arguido sans être inculpés prouve qu'ils n'auraient jamais dû être arguidos.
RB : Despite Kate and Gerry MC no longer being suspects, Portuguese public opinion hasn't changed and it continues to be influenced by the man who initially led the investigation before he was removed. 
RB semble ne pas vouloir comprendre que les MC ne sont plus suspects parce que l'affaire est close et non parce qu'il a été démontré qu'ils étaient innocents. Si l'enquête continuait ou si, plutôt, on passait à la phase d'instruction, ils redeviendraient témoins assistés car l'homicide involontaire suivi du recel de cadavre est l'un des crimes possibles énumérés par le procureur de la République. L'opinion publique n'a donc aucune raison d'avoir changé. 
 
GA has since made this documentary sticking to his version of events. He still believes that Madeleine wasn't abducted but died in the flat. He has also written a best selling book about it and so far he's made at least 300 thousand pounds.
RB : Are you comfortable with making money out of a missing girl and a case that actually you failed to solve ?
GA : I can tell you that when I left the police force, it was to write the book to clear my name, to defend myself from what the British journalists and some Portuguese journalists were saying, accusing me of incompetence and other worse things. 
RB est vraiment un non-journaliste d'investigation ! Il ne sait même pas que c'est le parquet qui dirige l'enquête criminelle, pas le coordinateur.

RB : By assuming a case for which there is little evidence you actually diverted attention from the actual search for a missing little girl.
GA : The book deals with 5 months of the investigation and the conclusions at the time needed to continue and be checked. The truth is only known when an investigation is finished. 

Kate and Gerry MC are suing Gonçalo Amaral. They say that his allegations are false and not only libel them but also damage the hunt for Madeleine. The libel lawyer concedes that defending the MC against the former detective isn't a popular fight here in Portugal.
ID : I feel all alone.
RB : Why ?
ID : I feel alone because I don't feel support, not in public opinion, I have friends that don't want to talk to me about the case.
RB : Why ? I don't understand.
ID : Because every one believes in Gonçalo Amaral, every one believes that I am defending a father and a mother that have killed their daughter and got rid of the corpse.
Quand un avocat est si susceptible qu'il est susceptible d' être victimes...
RB : And it's that public opinion that is critical of the way the case has been dealt with. A former British Home Secretary believes that to have any hope of success the new review will require a huge political effort.
How complicated is it that in Portugal the public opinion seems to be against the MC ?
AJ : It's not something I had to think about because I was going through to the first state, but it's something the Prime minister might need to think about and I hope he does have to think about it because that would suggest that there is something there that is worth pursuing. And it is worth having a bit of a diplomatic err charm offensive with the Portuguese on. Now a bit of diplomacy can ensure that you do get the co-operation you need from Portugal and we do get to the bottom of this.

RB : It has taken years for the MC to secure a British police review of the investigation, years in which public interest in their daughter's disappearance has faded.
By 2010, the case of Madeleine MC was getting far less media coverage and the Find Madeleine Fund was starting to run out of cash. So Kate MC decided to write a book to tell her story of what life was like in Luz.
The book was serialized in both the Sunday Times and the Sun with their parent company News International paying a reported 1 million pounds into the Find Madeleine Fund. But it was about much more than money, the MC felt they were getting nowhere with the new Home Secretary, Teresa May, so printed on the front page of the Sun was an open letter from the MC to her boss, David Cameron, appealing to him as a parent to agree to a review. But Panorama has learnt there was much more going on behind the scenes to try to influence the Prime minister.

It was just a year ago before the worst excesses of phone hacking were known, the time when the NotW seemed to have an enormous influence on Downing Street, now we've been told by the highest government sources that pressure was being exerted on David Cameron by News International and by the Sun newspapers in particular, as well as by the MC.
Within 24 hours the Prime minister decided that a review could be paid for out of a  special contingency Fund run by the Home Office and reserved for special cases. Madeleine MC, the Prime minister decided, was a special case.

The HO declined to explain to us why they chose this unsolved case above any other, but a source at Number Ten told us that David Cameron acted as a sympathetic parent. Of course it's politically risky to pour millions of pounds of taxpayers' money into an investigation that might never be solved, but the man in charge is optimistic, publicly at least, saying he believes his team has the best chance yet of finding out what happened to Madeleine MC.
AR : As a detective it is a huge privilege to have an opportunity to work on this case and I'm, both my team and I feel that.
RB : So five years on, 2 teams on, 2 million pounds on, are we any nearer knowing what happened to Madeleine MC ?
AR : I'm satisfied that the systems and process that we are bringing to this set of circumstances will give us the best opportunity to find those investigative opportunities that we can then present to our colleagues in Portugal.

RB : And could the mystery of Madeleine be solved in such a basic way as a re-appraisal of a piece of paper that you’ve got downstairs ?
AR : Anything is possible, and clearly, within that material, the answer could lie.
RB : Do you think this case will be solved one day ?
AR : I really really hope that we can make a difference and of course we are here to try and bring closure for the family.

But in Portugal the MC family's lawyer believes since the case was shelved in 2008 detectives, convinced that the mystery has already been solved, have ignored new lines of inquiry.
ID : I consulted documents that were sent to the files after the investigation was closed. There was a declaration on those documents saying "it is not of interest for the investigation".
RB : So there were new leads coming in that were being discarded ?
ID : New information. Pages and pages and pages of information. And noone was interested in making a deeper investigation around that information.
Isabel Duarte ne peut ignorer que toute information un tant soit peu crédible est acheminée vers le Ministère public afin d'être examinée par le procureur, seul apte à diligenter une enquête. Qu'attend-elle de ses insinuations ?
RB : We understand that in the Algarve there has been some low level animosity at the arrival of British officers. Operation Grange has no jurisdiction in Portugal and only the Portuguese can reopen the case, so much of the British work over the last year has been spent reassuring their colleagues here that it's a joint effort. But just last month the idea that the Portuguese themselves would have a case review was unheard of.
SF : Madeleine MC case now in Portugal is a file that is closed, it's an old story, a closed story and we don't have any news about it. The last information I've got this morning from our Public Prosecutor was that even knowing that you in the UK are trying to solve the case again with the Scotland Yard as an investigation, they are telling here that in Portugal there's no investigation, that they are not going to re-open the case.

RB : Is there a review of the case here in Portugal ?
CA : No, I don't think so, I think it's too delicate to roll, it calls into question the reputation of the police and I don't think that the chief of the police would risk it.
RB : It was only while we were in Portugal that things began to change. We contacted a well known politician here, Ana Maria Gomes to get her to ask questions.

AG : According to the information I got, the Portuguese police is also conducting a review.
RB : Who told you there was a Portuguese review then ?
AG : I called the director of the National Criminal Police, his deputy told me that there was a review of the procedures that were followed in the investigation.
RB : Why does nobody here in Portugal know about this review ?
AG : I don't know. Public opinion in Portugal was so upset and concerned with the economic crisis and its job destruction and so on. But this is a very important case and foremost to find out what happened to Madeleine and to make sure that the Portuguese justice and the political system is properly seen outside of Portugal.

RB : Within a week of our interview, the Portuguese police finally confirmed tat a team based in the northern city of Porto, well away from the original investigation, has been reviewing the case for the last year.
Pedro do Carmo : That work has been carried out discretly and it will continue to be carried out discretly.
RB : Here people seem to be open-minded. In Portugal people seem to have a clear view about what happened, have you encountered that ?
AR : My engagement with the Portuguese is with the police officers sitting within the review team in Porto. Those officers are engaged, they are open, they are working with us collaboratively and I’ve not encountered with them any of those views.

RB : So what next ? An odd and at times a tense mix of British and Portuguese police forces continue to pick through the evidence. One wrong word could jeopardize everything, the discomfort is obvious.
RB : Won't they be slightly offended that they worked very hard on the case and now foreign police force's saying "we're gonna have a look at what you did because you failed ?
AR : What I would say to you on that, Richard, is that it would be wholly inappropriate for me to comment to you about how the PJ feel about this and that most probably is a matter best taken up with them.
RB : Did they start their review because you had yours ?
AR : I'm not willing to discuss with you the logistical side of the Portuguese policing response, but, ultimately, the decision around reopening is for them, it is a sovereign decision for the Portuguese authorities, but obviously what we seek to do is to bring them the best quality information to assist them in making that decision.

Next Thursday Madeleine MC will have been missing for 5 years. Our Prime Minister has gambled taxpayers' money on finding a resolution. Today the British team announced they have fresh evidence in addition to the leads from their review. It now falls to them to succeed where the Portuguese have so far failed to solve this enduring mystery.

Ce reportage illustre l'art de poser des questions impertinentes qui restent donc sans suite, dans le meilleur des cas.