Wednesday, 3 November 2010
QUESTIONS ARISING FROM THE INVESTIGATION.
The tragic case of the abduction of Madeleine McCann has become the most iconic of its type in living memory. To say this case has been characterised by the sheer scale of police incompetence involved would be an understatement, and the press and media coverage around the world seems to bear out many people’s opinion that the handling of this case was, at best, a shambles. Indeed, to quote the head of Scotland Yard, it was ‘Botched and bungled from day one.’ In our opinion, however, there is more than simple ineptitude involved, in fact we feel we have identified a number of very clear indicators that seem point to a level of corruption going right to the heart of the case. We feel that there is enough evidence of this corruption to warrant a full public enquiry into the way the entire case was handled, starting with Amaral himself. We accept it is not our place to demand that our questions be put to Amaral, or try to place any undue influence on such an enquiry, should one be mounted, but we do feel that at some point, the following concerns should be addressed.
Starting with the night Madeleine disappeared, Amaral was having a meal in his local restaurant. When he got the call that a child had vanished, presumed abducted, in his field of jurisdiction, instead of leaping into action and travelling to the scene to take charge, he remained at the restaurant, issuing vague orders to the effect that the child had probably just wandered off, and told the officers on the scene to come back the next day. Especially as he is a parent himself, we find this blasé, flippant attitude in dire need of an explanation.
There was no properly organised and coordinated search of the area and buildings, something that Amaral himself should have taken responsibility for. Some houses and buildings were not searched until several weeks later. Why was this not properly addressed right from the beginning?
The apartment itself, a possible crime scene, was never properly secured.(1) One local GNR officer, on arrival, is known to have said it was possibly the worst preserved crime scene he had ever attended. Family, friends and staff had been allowed free rein, and trampled and destroyed what little potential evidence there may have been. Again this failure is down to Amaral. Again we must ask, why did he not attend?
The initial forensic examination of the apartment was carried out in a very amateurish manner with some fingerprint dusting having to be done twice. The only print found on the window, sometimes mistakenly attributed to Kate McCann, was eventually shown to be that of one of the GNR policemen, Nelson Filipe Pacheco da Costa.(2) Who was in charge of this forensic sweep?
In the first few days Scotland Yard offered their assistance. They have a highly sophisticated computerised system known as HOLMES, which collates, analyses and compares all the evidence of a case, and significantly reduces the workload of the police themselves, and has been instrumental in solving a number of serious crimes in this country. This assistance was refused, allegedly by Amaral himself. Was this a simple case of putting national, or even personal pride above the wellbeing of an abducted child?
We understand that under normal police procedure a list of all guests who were staying at the complex would have been requested, along with a list of staff members. Yet this did not happen in this case.(3) Why was it that some holiday makers were even allowed to depart for home without ever being questioned?
Likewise DNA samples should have been taken from everyone in the area, to compare with any DNA found at the scene.(4) But again this normal, basic procedure was somehow overlooked, and many guests and members of staff were never asked to provide samples. This failure is exacerbated by the fact that there are still two DNA profiles collected from the apartment that have so far not been identified. How could this have been allowed to happen?
The hours immediately after a child is abducted are not called the golden hours for nothing. The chances of finding said child alive and well are statistically at their highest at this time. But the border patrols with Spain were not alerted to be on the lookout for Madeleine until a shocking eighteen hours had passed.(5)
Similarly the harbour authorities were not alerted until the next day. Why were the precious golden hours allowed to be so casually frittered away?
The rubbish bins around the holiday complex would have made ideal hiding places, or at the very least convenient dumping grounds for a criminal to dispose of anything incriminating, from a weapon to a small body. Under normal circumstances these would be one of the first things to be searched. Yet someone allowed the bins to be emptied a few days after the abduction, with no official attempt to search them ever recorded. Whose responsibility was this?
It is a common misconception that the parents called Sky News before calling the police.(6) Amaral knew perfectly well this was not true, so why did he allow this falsehood to continue to be spread, instead of correcting it? Indeed, could he even be the one responsible for starting this rumour in the first place?
There were also many false stories appearing in the press, firstly in Portugal, followed closely by the British press, that the McCanns party had consumed, according to which paper you read at the time, six, eight, ten, fifteen or even seventeen bottles of wine that night. Yet Amaral had in his possession the actual till receipt from the restaurant that night, showing that only two bottles of wine were purchased. If he knew the press were continually distorting the facts, why did he not correct them?
In this country the police are well aware of the importance of employing the public's help in searching for a missing child. There are set actions and procedures laid out, together with well established guidelines of groups such as CEOP, among others, stating clearly that pictures of the missing child need to be put into public circulation with minimum delay.(7) But here, not only was there no immediate appeal for information, the parents were actually advised against putting out any picture of Madeleine, or in any way publicising the fact that she was missing. In particular they were specifically advised not to draw attention to her most distinguishing feature, the one thing that could possibly identify her, the Coloboma in her right eye. This is incomprehensible to us, as it goes contrary not only to the guidelines mentioned above but to good common sense. Who gave this initial guidance to the McCann’s, and seemed so very reluctant to publicise the fact that a child had gone missing in a popular holiday resort?
Another expected standard course of action would be to immediately check all CCTV footage from the campsite, local shops and businesses, garages and road and motorways.(8) Again, inexplicably, this simple operation was overlooked. Who was responsible for this oversight?
Right from the start of the investigation, up until Amaral was removed from the case there were a great number of leaks to the press, often attributed to a ‘Source close to the investigation.’ This flouted the supposed strict secrecy laws, forbidding anyone from talking about an ongoing case. Who was this ‘Source?’
In particular, a journalist by the name of Felicia Cabrita was able to obtain all of the names and personal details of the McCann party of friends, including all their mobile phone numbers.(9) These were then published, again contrary to the secrecy laws, in her paper. Again, who supplied her with these details?
With regard to the secrecy laws, we understand that it is usually at the discretion of the police chief in charge of a case as to whether to implement these laws to begin with. It is also our understanding that in this particular case it was not deemed necessary by Amaral’s superiors to have invoked this rule. Why then did he go ahead and place a secrecy order on the case, only to apparently flout it at will?
One of the biggest mysteries, at least to ourselves, is that the apartment was not officially declared a crime scene until 100 days after Madeleine’s abduction.(10) In that time the apartment continued to be let to other families and holiday makers. We find this utterly staggering, almost beyond comprehension. Surely Amaral should have known that leaving it this long, and allowing further uncontrolled access to a crime scene is to completely negate the value of whatever limited forensic evidence that may still be found?
The sniffer dog reactions have probably raised more questions than any other single part of this case, and have the potential to have a book written just about them alone. But we begin with pointing out the very salient fact that the McCann’s hire car was examined, not in a secure, forensically clean environment, but a public car park. Who made this choice of location.
It is also considered to be standard practice for a suspect vehicle to be impounded with immediate effect, and we would expect that car to be taken to the examination area on the back of a police transport vehicle, or some similar arrangement. Yet here the hire car was allowed to be driven there by the McCanns themselves, who by now were obviously considered as suspects. Who authorised this?
The hire car should, within reason, have remained as anonymous as possible, and placed in a line of similar looking cars, of similar make. Instead it was left highly identifiable, with all the missing Madeleine posters still stuck inside the windows. Who allowed this to happen?
Samples of material from the point at which the dogs alerted, thought to contain DNA, were taken from the hire car and also the apartment and sent to the Forensic Science Service in Birmingham, one of the worlds leading centres for DNA analysis.(11) These samples came back as inconclusive, showing the samples could have been from anyone, in particular Madeleine’s sister, Amelie or even Kate herself. Why then did Amaral choose to ignore these results, and proceed to make the McCanns arguidos?
Furthermore, when questioning Gerry a short time after the PJ received these inconclusive results, the interviewer, presumably on Amaral’s orders, outright lied to Gerry, telling him the match to Madeleine’s DNA was 100% positive.(11) This is deliberate misrepresentation, and that alone would have seen any prosecution case thrown out of court on day one. What on Earth possessed Amaral to behave in such an unprofessional manner?
The following day it was Kate McCann’s turn to be interviewed as an official arguido.(12) Much has been made about her refusal to answer the notorious forty eight questions. But it is known that had she remained a simple witness, rather than an arguida, she would not have had the right to remain silent, nor the right to have a solicitor present. If these questions were so important that the PJ needed answers to them, why did Amaral himself pass the order to make the McCanns arguidos?
It is now known that a change was due on the Portuguese statute books just eight days after the McCanns were made arguidos, requiring significant evidence to justify such an action.(13) Was Amaral fully aware of this, and if so did it put him under undue pressure to ‘achieve results?’
Prior to heading the investigation into Madeleine’s abduction, and also that of Joana Cipriano, we know Amaral was head of the local drug squad. It begs the question, in what way would this qualify Amaral, or anyone else with a similar background, to head a missing person investigation?
We also wonder, while moving in these smuggling circles, did Amaral happen upon smugglers of other commodities, such as human traffickers or child smugglers?
We must consider the fact that Praia De Luz is a popular vacation resort, and the area as a whole is heavily dependant on the tourist industry to support the local economy. It would go without saying that a highly publicised child kidnapping would have a severe impact on the tourist trade. Therefore we have to ask, was there any undue influence from highly placed people from within the holiday business to somehow ‘Hush up’ the whole case, sweep it under the carpet and somehow ‘Solve’ the case as quickly as possible?
Going back to the most basic of police procedure, it would be natural to expect Amaral to have interviewed, or at the very least informally meet the McCanns at some time during the investigation. Why is it then, that the three of them never met until the court hearing that successfully banned his libellous book on the case?
But perhaps the biggest question of all is why on Earth Amaral was ever allowed anywhere near this case in the first place. In this country if a police officer, particularly a high ranking one, was suspected of any wrong doing they would be suspended until such time as any allegations were proved or dismissed. However, as we know, Amaral was made an arguido himself in an earlier case he coordinated, over his alleged cover up of the torture of the mother of another missing child. We find it inconceivable that, as, himself, an arguido he was then put in charge of the investigation into Madeleine’s abduction. This runs completely contrary to the standards of police accountability we are used to in this country.
We accept that this list of concerns is only a selective one, and can perhaps be considered as a brief skim over the case.