A Estrela de Madeleine
So much has been written and said about the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, which happened on the 3rd of May 2007 at the Ocean Club Resort, in Aldeia da Luz near Portimão. Probably even too much. What is certain is that this is maybe one of the most media-exposed missing persons cases of our days, and therefore has raised in everyone a great anxiety and the desire to know the truth. The popular imagination has produced a thousand and one solutions for the case, but the natural lack of knowledge of the people about all the facts of the investigation, along with their common precipitation, induces them into obvious error. And the truth is that it is not yet known what happened to Madeleine. Every writer should be aware of the people that he belongs for and for whom he writes for, of its sensibilities and its capacities. In this particular case, I must state, as an author, my trust in the famous 'popular wisdom' of this people, who has already passed through nine centuries of history, with its successive economical, identity or community crises, and which never quit being the "Portuguese people" in Europe: integrated but self-determined, orderly but not sheepish.
This book intends to launch a challenge to those who read it: to be able to distinguish what is fact from what is fiction. It is necessary and important to state, both legally and ethically, that there is no intention here of accusing or pointing at guilty people, but only to report a fact, or a set of facts, that are of public interest, as well as the contradictions that led to the formation of certain popular theories. Due to legal issues, it cannot be me, the author, to tell you what the truth, the truth of the case, is; but I can assure you that you can find it here, among the lines of this book. I do not intend to dwell over matters that are already widely known by the public. Everyone knows who Gerry and Kate McCann, Russell and Jane Tanner are; Matthew, Rachel and Diane Webster, Clarence Mitchell and Gordon Brown. Everyone knows where the Ocean Club is located, its layout, the location of the Tapas Bar, the church, the beach of Luz, the village with the same name, the Priest and the twins. In spite of this, there are not many who know what prompted the disappearance of this little girl, who was responsible for it, how and why.
We will skip a pure, hard chronology of the events, as it has been made public and analysed so often already. The steps forward and back in the formation of suspects; the hundreds of false leads... We consciously forget about the concept of 'personalization' of the acts that were carried out by the policemen. So much has been written about what has been happening in Faro, in Praia da Luz, in Portimão and in London. This book represents the opportunity to say the things that have not been written yet, and, essentially, what nobody has thought yet, or did not have the courage to reveal. Hence the challenge that is proposed to you, that of finding what is real in between the absurd of true facts and of fiction. The truth tends, sometimes, to loose its characteristic clarity and simplicity only to become, itself, a factor that is as doubtful and obscure as the society that it refers to. It is a paradox that, in so many investigations, the intense search for the desired truth, in order to succeed, has to walk paths that are distanced from the core point. It is necessary to go far, to reach for what is near.
The reader can imagine a library, where, after a hurricane has left all the books spread out on the floor, a person who cannot see is asked to place all the volumes back on the shelves. The person can fulfill the task using only the hands, but only an incredible luck would assure that the books are placed on the correct shelves. This is how this mystery started out. Everything was out of place. Fiction and reality are so intertwined, that the most rational and objective being would feel completely lost. Buying a book does not give us the power to "know" the truth, as if it was a chip that is implanted in us, right after we pass the checkout and pay for a heap of leaves and a binder. Buying a book means that we have the key to open the door into something that will make us think. After that, then, will come Knowledge. Here and now. Please do think. To the men and women at the Criminal Investigation Department in Portimão, at the Faro Directory and at the Central Directory for the Combat against Banditism of the Policia Judiciária. To those who carry on their shoulders the difficult mission of answering the questions of WHERE, WHEN, HOW, WHO, WHAT and WHY.
Chapter 1 - The phonecall of a lifetime
Francisco Meireles, a PJ inspector who is working at the Criminal Investigation Department in Portimao, receives a call after half past 11 p.m. He is summoned to the Ocean Club, in Praia da Luz, where an English girl has gone missing. When Meireles arrives at the OC, he sees two GNR vehicles on location, as well as the car that belongs to his chief, João Tavares. Several dozens of people were gathered near apartment 5A, which was completely lit, just like the ones above it. People are at the windows, and walking in and out of the apartment. Meireles' chief, Joao Tavares, calls out to him. They enter the apartment, while Tavares explains the situation to Meireles. The main door to the easily accessible ground floor apartment had been left unlocked, with three children inside, while their parents had been dining at the Tapas Bar. Meireles notices that the apartment has not been isolated to preserve the traces of a possible presence of one or more abductors. The furniture is impeccably aligned against the walls, as if someone had tried to make as much room as possible, in the center of the living room. In the bedroom, the bed where the child was sleeping is on the opposite side of the window. Under the window, there is another bed that had not been in use. Pas du tout, ce lit-là est en grand désordre, KMC y a dormi la nuit d'avant. Whomever entered through the window, would have left foot marks on the bed, which in that position resembled a trap. But that had not happened.
Joao Tavares phones Goncalo Amaral, the coordinator of the CID in Portimao. His presence on the scene indicates that the situation is serious, as this is not common procedure. Meireles goes to speak with Mrs McCann. Her eyes do not meet his all the time, and she seems to be somewhat distanced from the situation, but the inspector does not make judgements, as his experience tells him that people have very different reactions under stressful situations. He remains intrigued by Kate. Tavares and Meireles collect informal statements from the other members of the group - the Paynes, O'Brien and Tanner, the Oldfields and Mrs Webster. Non. They all initially transmit the notion that during the meal, they got up from the table at several occasions, to check upon the children. Meireles notices some discrepancies: while some members of the group say they checked on their own children and on the other children as well, others said each checked on their own.
Gerry, the child's father, looked more disoriented than the mother. Gerry seemed to be electrical, organising search parties to look for the child that might have walked out of the apartment on her own. Throughout the entire scene, the twins slept undisturbed. They were eventually carried away into another apartment, and never woke up. Tavares reappears, now in the company of Amaral and Guilhermino Encarnacao, the head of the Directory in Faro. Francisco Meireles discovers that the child's parents have already phoned to England, asking for the intervention of friends, both within the government and the media. Guilhermino had been informed of the situation by the National Director, who had been called by the British ambassador in Portugal. Meireles cannot help but wonder about the priorities, given the fact that those who are closer to the scene can help more rapidly than those who are far away, in the United Kingdom.
Chapter 2 - Abduction?
As the hours pass, the groups of volunteers continue to search the area. The resort is unprotected from strangers; apart from the central leisure area, which is gated, the buildings have no porter or security that guard it from strangers. As time goes on, the possibility of an abduction grows stronger over the possibility that the child could have wandered away on her own and suffered an accident. In the early morning, the PJ inspectors call in reinforcements from GNR, with sniffer dogs. Meireles is now convinced that this is an abduction, and that only a request for a ransom would yield more information. If the abductor didn't make contact soon, the outcome of the case looked grim. In the CID in Portimao, data is being collected and processed. Meanwhile, Luis Neves, the director of the Central Combat of Banditism Directory in Lisbon, joins the core group of investigators. On the same day, the policemen were confronted with the will of the parents to publicise their daughter's face as much as possible, which is usual in their own country. They were completely convinced that Madeleine had been abducted, and would not move an inch away from that theory.
Meireles thinks their theory makes as much sense as any other. What does not make sense is that they left their children in an apartment out of sight, out of their control, to go out and dine with friends. In the meantime, the inspector had been at the Tapas Bar; he had been sitting at the table where the group had also been, and he had talked to the waiters. They had told him that the group usually drank significant amounts of alcohol. On the night that Madeleine disappeared, they had consumed twelve bottles of wine, and some appetizers. Faux.The investigators have gathered informal statements, and they start to compare them. They soon realise that something is wrong. The couple's friends stated that they got up several times to check on the children, while the waiters from the Tapas bar say they did not get up that often at all. But even within the group of friends, there are contradictions. As time passes, Francisco almost definitely abandons the theory that the child could have left the apartment on her own. Two possibilities remain - a kidnapping for ransom, or an abduction for paedophilia. The third possibility was that someone inside the group could have been involved in the disappearance. Francisco did not want to bet on that theory yet.
The media wave that has invaded Praia da Luz in the meantime, looks like a bad prediction for the destiny of the child, Meireles thinks. The excessive publicity could lead to her death, as the abductor could be prompted into acting, by eliminating the only person that could lead to his identification, if he were to be caught. The coordinator of the CID tries to convince the parents not to launch a massive media campaign, but the parents remain unmoved. Two different approaches to a criminal investigation have their first clash. Two English people, one of them Jane Tanner, say that they saw a man carrying a child that could be the missing infant. The description given by Jane is very vague and carries a factor of doubt, as Gerry and a friend whom he was talking to, standing on the same location as Jane when she passed, saw nobody. The friend confirmed this. At the time that Jane says she saw the man, Gerry had just left the apartment. Francisco cannot conceive that an abductor would have been waiting for this 'visitor' in order to enter through the door or the window, right under the father's nose, to carry out the child and to walk around with her in his arms, down the streets. Francisco can only conclude that this was not how it happened. A criminal would not risk taking the child under such circumstances, so many variables out of his control. He would need five or six accomplices to control the situation, which is simply too much trouble to abduct a small girl.
Chapter 3 - The most simple hypotheses
Francisco Meireles reflects upon the material that he has compiled about the case, so far. He knows that the most simple explanations have to be exhausted, before the more complicated theories can be considered. He looks at the possibility that the explanation for the disappearance of the child lies within that group of people. The contradictions in their statements about the events of that late afternoon and evening, could be due to the stress of the situation, but they could also indicate something else. Francisco tries to keep it simple. What if... the child was involved in a domestic accident? Something went wrong... here in this third world country... nobody would believe it was just an accident... we would spend years and years in jail... what about our reputation? The children? Our families? It is done now, let's live with it and adapt to the situation. For Francisco, everything fits, but all other possibilities have to be discarded first. This should be the last one, as it is the most difficult and the most hideous one: the participation of the parents in the disappearance of their daughter. As a father, he finds it hard to believe, but statistics support the possibility.
While it seems the most simple hypothesis to him, Francisco knows it will be the one that may become the most difficult to investigate and to prove.
Francisco returns to the location, at 3.30 a.m., when the reporters are not around. He stands on the street where Jane Tanner was walking that night. He tries to imagine Gerry talking to his friend, near the little gate. Where would an abductor park his car? It is possible to park close to the window of the bedroom. But the area is completely visible from the balconies of other apartments. 'I don't think so'. Paedophiles have a huge 'market' in the eastern European countries, where they can buy children without major hassles. The sexual predator does not like to take chances. He carefully studies the situation, and here, there was not enough time for that. Less than a week, with people who were enjoying themselves, free of schedules and routines. And how would someone know when there would be checks on the children? How lucky that person would have to be, not to be caught by the comings and goings, and to enter and leave that apartment unseen? So many factors out of control, just do not seem to fit the profile of a cold, calculating paedophile, no matter how excited he was about his prey.
Even if it was a paedophile who had acted without a plan, this would be precisely the type of situation that would have left traces, yet absolutely nothing had been found. It makes no sense at all. The twins would have been taken if this was a case of illegal adoption. The parents' past offers no clues to a crime of vengeance. Francisco tries to think about all the aspects. He cannot understand the relationship between Malinka and Murat, and the phonecall between them that night. What if something happened, late that afternoon, that only the family knows about? The twins sleeping like champions, yet nobody takes them. A guy took advantage of the intervals between the checks, and risked taking the child away, who could have woken and started crying for her parents? It makes no sense.
More than a month has gone by since Madeleine disappeared. The media pressure on the investigators is stronger than ever. The British government stands firmly beside the McCanns, like it has since the first moment, just like the British media. Lots of information was coming in from all sides, but one received special attention from the investigators at one point. Chief João Tavares rings up Francisco Meireles, telling him that a Dutch newspaper has received a map that supposedly shows the location of the child's body, and the lead is being taken seriously. Francisco meets his chief, and two Dutch journalists, who have been in Portugal for three days, trying to find out the location of the place that is marked on the map. They even hired sniffer dogs. Francisco and João Tavares feel like arresting them on the spot, for endangering the investigation.
But the lead has to be verified. The journalists take an envelope out of their bag, and they produce a document that they say had been received together with the map. It's a spermogram, a document that is issued when someone has his sperm analysed in a lab. João Tavares notices that there is no identification of the subject on the document, but he also notices a sequence of numbers on the lower right hand corner. He contacts a doctor who informs him that the sequence identifies the lab, the number of the test and the individual that was subject to the analysis. Therefore, while other colleagues go to Odiaxere, followed by a trail of journalists, João Tavares and Francisco Meireles go to Lisbon, where they identify the individual, who turns out to be a public servant, divorced and with evident problems of self-assurance and self-regulation. The man confesses that all he wanted to do was to help keep the case in the media spotlight, and that he will seek psychiatric help. João Tavares calls into the Algarve and informs his chiefs of the results from Lisbon, which prompts the diligences in Odiaxere to be stopped. The journalists who are on location don't understand why the searches lasted only two hours; the area is so vast that they expected to have news and live reports going for days. They are wrong, basing themselves on the judgement of those who have no competence in the investigation, and do not comprehend its development.
Chapter 5 - The inversion of things
On the 13th of July, Madeleine's father attended a ceremony where prizes were delivered to the most brave police officers of his country. During that ceremony, Gerry sent two types of sentence into two directions which, while diverging, were targeted at the same profession. He praised the "precious effort" of the English policemen who were participating in the investigation into the disappearance of his daughter, and thanked the "commitment and cooperation" of the Portuguese policemen. En flattant à si bon compte la police britannique, GMC devait savoir que les médias s'en feraient l'écho. Ce n'est qu'une des nombreuses occasions où les MC ont été condescendants ou critiques vis-à-vis des Portugais, pour ne rien dire de leur acceptation des horreurs que dispensait la presse caniveau britannique sur une police dont la mission était quand même de retrouver leur enfant. Si tel était le but, ce n'était vraiment pas malin. Mais si le but était différent, leur comportement a un sens.
Presuming that the investigation was a responsibility of the Portuguese police and the Public Ministery, which directed the process, and that the English policemen were in Portugal because they had been authorized by their Portuguese colleagues, then it is only fair to suggest that the "precious effort" should have been applied to the Portuguese. And "commitment" and "cooperation" are words that should have been used to refer to their British counterparts. Gerry McCann's words illustrate what so many Portuguese, especially those who live and work in the South of the country, feel: that the Algarve has become a Little England, where the offices of GNR might as well replace the picture of the President that hangs on the wall of the Chief's office, with one of Queen Elizabeth II. But the fact is that it is those "cooperating" and "committed" investigators from the PJ that are trying to solve this case. They do not obey the British Crown. It was not only the words, but rather other actions from the McCanns, who since the beginning were surrounded by media advisors, spokespeople, an ambassador and a prime minister who were available 24 hours per day and a favourable press, that offended the Portuguese. The notion susbsisted that the McCanns felt like the Portuguse who go to the Dominican Republic for their holidays: everything is fine, unless there is a problem.
Chapter 6 - "Death" said Krugel, Eddie and Keela
The month of July marks a turnaround in the case. A former South-African policeman, Daniel Krugel, offers to help the investigation at no cost. He is an investigator at a SA university, and claims to have invented an equipment that is able to detect the presence of DNA from a specific person. The PJ welcomes his help, Les MC demandent qu'on le laisse venir et la PJ accepte, espérant un donnant donnant, as the investigation is facing an imminent standstill. Krugel stays in Praia da Luz for almost a week and writes a report that demolishes the abduction theory. Non ! Madeleine had been killed. Her body had been, or still is, at Praia da Luz. He informs the police and the McCanns about the results, and returns to his country, refusing to discuss his findings. This is how it is decided to send for two dogs from England. Mais non, c'est à l'instigation de Mark Harrison, qui se moque du rapport Krügel, que les chiens sont appelés. Eddie is trained to detect traces of the presence of a cadaver at any location, while Keela is trained to detect minuscule traces of blood. They have solved over two hundred homicide cases together, and their credibility has never been questioned.
On the last day of July, the intuition of the investigators and the results from Krugel find two powerful allies that confirmed the scenario that had begun to form: the death of Madeleine McCann, on the evening of May 3. Eddie's handler opens the door to apartment 5A, and lets the dog in, to walk freely as usual. The dog sniffs around, followed by his handler, the policemen, experts from the scientific police, and a video technician, who registers the procedure on tape. At a given moment, in the living room, Eddie signals the presence of a cadaver to his handler. According to the laws of forensics, it's a cadaver that has been in that condition for at least two hours. On n'en sait rien ! Dans une expérience, un chien, un seul, a détecté un post-mortem de 90'. Francisco feels like he has been betrayed. It simply does not seem possible for a stranger to have killed the child inside the apartment, remaining on location for one-and-a-half to two hours, at least. But while his mind is swirling with thoughts, his heart is filled with sadness, as it becomes evident that Madeleine will never be recovered alive. On the next day, it is Keela who is put into action. After several minutes sniffing around the house, she detains herself next to a sofa in the living room. The investigators move the sofa aside, and Keela shows them two tiny spots of dry blood: one on the floor, the other one on the wall. The material is collected, and a decision is made, against the opinion of Francisco, and João Tavares. The samples are sent into a lab in Birmingham.
On the next day, early in the morning, Eddie is called back to service, to investigate the surroundings of the apartment. The dog stops here and there, marking a path that is referenced by apartment 5A and the beach of Luz. Without knowing, Eddie has just confirmed Krugel's findings. Absolument faux.The only problem with these 'witnesses', is that they cannot testify in court, and none of the work that any of the three - Krugel, Eddie and Keela - had done, could be used in a trial in Portugal. If those methods are valid in other developed countries, why can't they be admissible in Portugal? Francisco questions. The same dogs whose effectiveness and training had been decisive in the past to confirm the condemnation of dozens of criminals abroad, would soon be questioned because they had allegedly been "prompted" to make up results that contradicted the theory of an abduction by a stranger.
Chapter 7 - Keela and Eddie versus McCann (full translation of this chapter)
Francisco is in his office, still trying to set some ideas into order when, in mid-August, he does a rewind of the last two weeks of the investigation: These two canines, without knowing it, were at the core of a volcano, when in three separate moments, they "accused" Madeleine's parents of, at least, not saying the whole truth about what happened to their daughter. First, when they were given plenty of time and space to sniff through Robert Murat's house and all of his belongings, and did not discover anything that could minimally incriminate him. Second, when they detected the odour of death on the key of the car that they used, which was rented more than twenty days after the little girl went missing. In the same car where they found traces of blood and hair under the spare tire. Third, when, already in the new house where the couple was staying, Eddie once again smelled the characteristic odour of death on a pair of jeans and on a blouse that belong to Kate. The soft toy that the mother carried with her every time they went out, also presented a smell of death that was detected by the same dog. What the heck do we have here, then? - he thought, intrigued. - Did the parents stage this entire circus to hide the truth?
Were they, or only one of them, responsible for the death of the child, whose cadaver they readily concealed? If the dogs are never wrong, I think that the result stands at 3-0 for the dogs. Now, all we need is to transform the team of dogs into PJ Inspectors - he joked to himself. The truth was that the dogs had supplied precious elements to work upon, but which were not enough to build a formal accusation against anyone, on their own. It was important information on which a theory should be built, something that was not looking easy at all for the investigators. The McCanns had set a propaganda machine into motion, unlike any other that had ever been seen worldwide. In spite of the fact that they had assembled the best and most expensive experts within every area of communication, it looked like not even the couple expected such a result: this case had reached planetary dimensions, and hundreds of credulous people stated daily that they had seen Madeleine, now in Malta, then in Morocco, in Spain, Italy, Belgium and all over the world.
A popular saying tells us that "the higher the rise, the bigger the fall", and the disaster was proportional to the size that the phenomenon had acquired in the meantime. That was seen when, on the 6th of September, the investigators decided to confront the couple with what they had discovered in the meantime. Those who applauded, started jeering. Those who supported, turned their backs. Mass psychology explains what is behind these abrupt changes in opinion: in reality, this happens not because those opinions are properly structured or based on secure foundations, but rather on feelings that invade those who felt the disappearance of Madeleine as if it was a close relative. Therefore, it is only natural that the sense of popular opinion changes according to the dominating feeling of the moment; and when it is like this, one cannot demand rationalism where it never existed in the first place.
Chapter 8 - Accused
Shortly after 2 p.m., Kate sits down on a chair in a room that has been specially prepared at the PJ's department in Portimao. João Tavares sits down in front of her. The strategy is to work in a crescendo: starting out calmly, working towards an emotional peak, hoping for the witness to explode and confess. For the umpteenth time, the events of that late afternoon are remembered, more precisely the time lapse between 6.30 and 8.30 p.m.
Madeleine's mother insists on the same usual reply.
- We arrived, I played with the children in the apartment's living room, I prepared them to go to bed and by 7.30 they were actually asleep. We dressed up and went to dinner with our friends...
- Actually - João Tavares says, in a calm and pondered tone -, we think that some domestic accident happened in that house, which was covered up for fear of the consequences of wrong interpretations by the police or by the people, about your life. You ended up staging this entire abduction situation. You wanted to maintain your reputation of perfect medical couple at all costs, didn't you?
- Then prove it - Kate throws in a dry manner.
- We detected blood traces in the living room, madam.
- That could have been from the day that my daughter bled from her nose.
- We found blood in your rented car...
- That could have come from a piece of the girl's clothing, that could have been dirty with her blood, and then transported in the car.
- It certainly could. Let's have a look at this video, then...
On the tv monitor, Eddie can be seen sniffing over Kate's clothing and marking that it had been in contact with a cadaver. The reactions of the dogs in the vehicle that had been used by Madeleine's parents can also be seen.
- At the medical center where I work, in England, before we came on holidays, people died whom I had been in contact with... you must be forgetting that I am a doctor...
- Yes you are - João Tavares replies - and the death rate at the medical center where you work twice a week is extremely high...
- It's true - the arguida replies.
- Did you ever give your children any medicine to make them sleep?
- No, never - she replies with indignation.
This was a rhetorical question, as it was known that Kate's father had stated that it was usual for them to give the children Calpol to sleep.
For hours, the questions followed one another, and Kate reached emotional peaks several times. A confession is proposed to her, with the explanation that the penal context is more favourable in such cases. This is done to ensure that an exit is offered to a person who is feeling trapped. The entire situation is explained, so the potential criminal does not feel that there are still secrets in store that could compromise him or her. Madeleine's mother is confronted with everything that there is, for eight hours. All the inconsistencies in the witness statements, the timings of the alleged checks on the apartments, the drinks that were consumed at dinner. She did not give in. She was even indignant about certain questions. She never broke or recognized any guilt, except for the one that she felt about leaving her children alone in the apartment while she went to dinner. At this point João Tavares thinks she is either a great actress, or she is completely innocent.
Kate leaves the PJ department in Portimao as an arguida. Pinto de Abreu, who is well aware of the crucial role of the media, makes a statement about his clients' status in the process: Kate and Gerry had been made arguidos, and the latter shows himself a lot less available to reply to any questions. The investigators are well aware of what they say and of the choices that they were making, but destiny did not leave them any other options. Until here, all the questions that had been asked from the McCanns could find an appropriate reply and a plausible explanation, which gave the couple complete innocence. Everything was circumstantial, and there was nothing definitive against them. A few hours later, the Policia Judiciaria is informed that the McCanns will return to their home in England, to be reunited with the rest of their family. They know that by doing so, public opinion can only conclude, in their ingenuity, that they were escaping a possible detention, out of fear.
Chapter 9 – The science and the cunning
Francisco is working in the room that is dedicated to the Madeleine McCann case. His chief, João Tavares, enters the room and asks whether there have been any results about the forensics tests from Britain. There has not been a word, and they both realize that the case will drag on for months. Tavares adds that it is better to wait for months for the results from England, because if the tests had been done in Portugal, there would be accusations of ruining the material, or even worse, of manipulation of the test results. At the moment, all they have is a partially positive DNA match – meaning it could belong either to Madeleine or to her siblings, or to her mother… They decide to drive into Luz one more time. On the way, they discuss the dismissal of Gonçalo Amaral from the case.
João Tavares notes that the police is starting to rely too much on lab test results, CSI-style, and that they risk forgetting what made the PJ one of the most respected police forces in the world: their cunning ways, the manner in which they manage to improvise, and trust their intuition. He says they have to take the best from both worlds – to use the advances of science that can help them, but that they should never be transformed into pure scientists. And that they should never give up their way of life, eating and drinking well, just because the ‘Brits’ think it is not appropriate. Francisco noticed that his chief was upset about what had happened to Gonçalo Amaral, who had been targeted by the British media, with the sole purpose of getting him removed from the case.
It seemed like the Portuguese way of investigating had become old-fashioned, and that now they were supposed to adopt the British style. Francisco felt uncomfortable with the pressures that they had suffered lately, to adapt to the ways of the British. It was not that they were better or worse, it was that they were different. But as a young policeman, Francisco knew that it was better for him to open his ears and close his mouth, unlike his superior. The last few months had been complicated. The case had slowed down, and the colleagues from Lisbon who had been called in as reinforcements had returned home. All the available leads had been explored with no results, and the British media mocked the Portuguese police, with insults and humiliation, but the Police itself never defended their men by adopting a strong stance.
The Public Ministry refused to take any chances, contrary to the style of the Police, who knew that calculated risk and boldness had to be used in the appropriate measures. The best moments of Portuguese history had been due to those who were not afraid of taking their chances. Francisco had learned from his older colleagues that science and cunning can coexist within criminal investigation. He knew that not always the best decisions had been made. One of the most serious mistakes, to him, was that apartment 5A had not been immediately isolated. Meanwhile, the child’s parents had returned home. Francisco saw two possible explanations for the fact: they either saw that their position within the process could become more serious soon, or they thought that they could defend themselves better from their home country.
Although Francisco tried not to read what the papers wrote about the case, the truth was that he had noticed the support movement that the Portuguese people had formed around that couple. Those people, he thought, must have felt somewhat betrayed by the McCanns leaving the country so suddenly. Talking with his friends, Francisco had seen confirmation of his own thoughts: that the excess of advisors, the staged exits of the couple from their house, the walks on the beach, the soft toy in the mother’s hands, all that had maybe been done with the best of intentions. But it conveyed the notion that it was actually a marketing operation that had been promoted to whitewash any guilt of the parents in their daughter’s disappearance. Francisco had yet to form a definite idea about what had really happened on the evening of May 3, in Praia da Luz. Time was not helping to clarify what had happened to the little girl.
Absorbed into his thoughts, Francisco had not noticed that his chief rambled on.
- … can you see that, Francisco? We will reach the end of this story and we will be seen as incompetents. And maybe there are guys who are right when they say we spent too much time going over the abduction theory, but what were we supposed to do? Was there a reason to suspect a group of doctors on holidays in the Algarve? With their children and everything? This sh*t is in a state where it is impossible that they are all telling the truth” Someone is lying! This is from the books, boy… If about a certain reality, there are different versions, then at least one of them is failing the truth… We have yet to find out which one, and whether it is being done on purpose, or simply because someone is mistaken.
Francisco knows that his chief is talking about the inconsistencies in the witness statements. They do not match – the actions, the timings, the times do not fit. Everything is wrong! It may not be realistic to ask someone to remember the exact times at which one has performed one’s actions, but one should surely be able to remember how often a certain action has been performed, especially when it is asked the very next day. Can science clarify everything? Francisco takes his chances and risks sharing with his chief that he thinks the police has spent too much time on a theory that had been imposed on them from the outside in, instead of relying on their own work. The abduction theory had been instituted from the beginning, and only when it had been explored a million times, until not the tiniest possibility remained, had the police allowed themselves to look at other hypotheses. The case should have been worked their way, no matter how many tv cameras and journalists surrounded them.
João Tavares has to agree. The investigation had only advanced when they had finally followed their own way of working. While they were searching for paedophile abductors, they had not advanced a single step. They had wasted precious time, looking for ghosts that lasted only two days, like the case of the sailor. The newspapers were running wild, covering the story of a mysterious sailor who had left the marina with the child in his boat, and the police had already searched the man’s boat over a week earlier, in Vila Real de Santo Antonio. There had also been those poor people who had stopped at a gas station with their niece. The media were all over the issue, while the actual persons had been interviewed several days earlier. Abstaining from judging the parents of the missing child, Tavares can’t help but to state that, on the day that the police had stopped following the theory that had been imposed on them, all the clues pointed at the same group of persons. Advisors or no advisors. More Gordon Brown or less, the truth was that they had been directed. Francisco proposes that they set science aside for a moment, then, and look once more at the scene, while he drives the car along the road that connects the house of Robert Murat to the Apartment 5A.
Chapter 10 – The inconveniences of logics
The two policemen leave the car and look around them. It’s sunny, although it’s October already. There are few people at the Ocean Club, and it looks like nothing had ever happened there. They walk the road that connects Murat’s house to the corner of the apartment block where the McCann family had been staying. They try to imagine the scenario of that evening, with the children asleep in the apartments while the adults enjoy themselves in the restaurant. They decide that one of them will defend the abduction theory, while the other one will defend the possibility that something happened within that group of people, more specifically inside the McCanns’ apartment. Francisco gets to defend the abduction thesis, while the chief gets the other theory.
Francisco tries to recollect everything that he has learned over these past months.
- Well… We’re a happy family. Our lives are good. We have no major financial difficulties. We are instructed people. We’re doctors, as a matter of fact. We have three beautiful children. We don’t have enemies. We arrived here a week ago, with our friends who are also enjoying a good life. Some of our friends are also doctors, and they are equally happy. We all like to put the children to bed early, and to go out to have a few drinks. We’re staying at a resort in the Algarve, where we enjoy the day with the children, and in the evening, the kids go to bed, as it is time for mommy and daddy to have some fun.
- We went to dinner that evening, leaving our children who had been asleep since 7.30. An hour later, we were sitting at the table, with our friends who had equally left their children asleep in their bedrooms. We left the door unlocked, in case there might be an emergency. At some point, shortly after 9 p.m., the father went to the apartment and did not see his daughter where she had been sleeping, but he thought that she might be in the parents’ bedroom. He did not check if that was the case. Their friend Russell also went to check on his children, but he returned only an hour later, at the time when Kate, the mother, went into apartment 5A and did not find her daughter. Hence the despair… The child had been abducted by some stranger who had entered the bedroom and had taken her. This is it, chief!
João Tavares replies:
- Let’s see: according to the neighbour upstairs, mother and daughter had been yelling at each other. It seems that the child was hyperactive. The parents, despite the fact that they are doctors with three small children, did not bring any medication, not even a single tablet for a headache… or at least we didn’t see any. There were babysitters on offer for free, but they were dismissed that evening, for whatever reason. Among the group of friends, there are checks to suit every taste, according to their statements: every 15 minutes, every half hour, etc. Some only check on their own, others check on all the children, others only listen at the door… In the case of the twins, they didn’t even need to bother, they simply could not wake up, even in the midst of the turmoil that was generated that night. The caring mother told the neighbour upstairs that the police had been called when the alarm was raised, but she was lying. The first people that called the GNR were the employees of the Ocean Club. The same neighbour said she never saw the mother in a panic, which would be normal for a mother under the circumstances… As far as I know, nobody ever said that the lady was lying! The father, who was a lot more worried about gathering support in England, made one phone call after another, which were more political than anything else. And why was the child’s father wandering around, in the early hours of the morning, asking for the way to the church, when he had passed it so many times, on the way to the beach? And why did the English friends immediately send out the marketing and public relations heavyweight experts? Hum? And… if there were that many checks, when was the break that allowed the abductor to enter the apartment? And then there is the mother, saying that someone entered through the children’s bedroom windows, but the GNR people said that the shutters had never been forced… And then there are the doggies, that never missed a case over 200 times, and now supposedly have got it all wrong?
Francisco replies that his chief’s reasoning is correct, but nobody can be condemned over lying, or for failing to present coherent explanations for events. João Tavares smiles at the young colleague and replies that it is not always that way. In fact, he can remember a few cases. Francisco asks him to present his version, then.
- Let’s see, Francisco. You marry a woman from a social standing that is above you. You had to work very hard to deserve her, both socially and financially. The family didn’t like you very much, but they eventually accepted you, being a Catholic and all. You have three children. You’re the perfect family. You have worked yourself so far up, you’re even about to enter the government! Life is running smoothly and the path seems to lead all the way up. But then something happens, a domestic accident… we’re in a third world country – someone will think: this bunch of barbarians will never believe how it happened. What do we do now? A father taking care of his two children, while the wife spends time in jail here? This cannot be. Whom do we call? The emergency services? No! The police? No way! The best thing to do is to call England, as help is there, not here. We just went out to dinner, and when we looked again, she wasn’t there… Now you go looking for our daughter’s abductor because our only crime was to go for dinner at a location where we could not see our apartment, believing that, in spite of the fact that the apartment is on the ground floor next to a public road, we were not at risk, or rather our children were not at any risk.
João Tavares continues:
- Half the world thinks like this, Francisco, and the other half thinks a predator was watching them, and chose the right time to take little Madeleine out of her bed. The fact is that it was precisely them who made us consider the possibility that this story was badly told. The worried about their image far too soon. At no time did they consider the possibility that the child could have left the apartment on her own, got lost and fell into a ditch or something. Abduction, only abduction, and “They’ve taken her!”. This leads me to another possibility, which is that the parents know that this is an abduction that was carried out by someone, and that for a reason, they cannot say more than what they have already said. In reality, when we reach this point, it seems like nothing has been decided yet in this game. Don’t you agree?
Francisco does agree, but he also thinks that the parents are guilty of the crime of exposure or abandonment, according to the Portuguese Penal Code, article 138. João Tavares nods. He was one of those that defended that the parents should have been made arguidos from the beginning, but superior orders were that the parents were to be kept in a situation where they would cooperate with the police. Only results would later confirm whether this had been the right choice, or not. He is well aware of the responsibility that he and his colleagues carry. The whole world is looking at them, waiting to hear what happened to Madeleine. Tavares knows that if only logics were to be applied to this case, it would have been solved on the night of May 3. The child had been abducted while she was asleep in the apartment, and that was it. The next step was to find the abductor, and after his identity had been clarified, he would be traced, and so would Madeleine. This was logics.
But the secret was in the investigator’s mental exercise, in his capacity to abstain from preconceived notions, and to look solely at the matter that had been determined. It’s not easy, as it is about human beings trying to discover in other human beings something that they are trying to hide at all costs. Here, the weapons are equal and the rest does not matter. The two policemen walk up the street from the supermarket, back to apartment 5A. They try to imagine Gerry talking to his friend, and they also try to imagine a person walking across the top of the street, towards a car or a house. They try to imagine the couple’s friend, passing the same spot, watching the abductor calmly committing the crime and walking away from the apartment. Gerry should have seen the man. More so, Gerry should have seen his friend. It did not seem to be the case.
They both speak about a situation when they are both on the same location, with no pedestrian movement around them, at a time when most people are having dinner, and each of them seems to observe a different scenario. How can the human mind be interpreted under such circumstances? One fights for yes. The other fights for no. One of them is definitely lying. They may both be lying, even with the best of intentions. Or both may be telling their truth. The one that is real to each of them. Even when one lies, it is not always with intention. We are only human and these things do happen. The compassion that the parents provoked on public opinion, deviated the attentions from the fact that the least that they did, was to leave three small children on their own, in an apartment that was easily accessible from the outside. That same compassion was the ultimate enemy of those who should have looked at the case without any emotions.
These policemen are well aware that the path that led them to the possibility of the group of people knowing more than they were saying, was the most difficult one. They had restlessly pursued every single lead, every small clue, until the limits of reason, drying them all out until only one possibility was left standing. Truth was that, although the investigation did not take the direction that so many people wanted it to take, it had gained its own life and taken a specific route, with the input from Krugel, from the dogs, from the analysis of the witness statements, from the lab test results. It was not the policemen, through their own will or because they wanted to hatch a conspiracy plan against the McCanns, but rather specific data that had pointed the investigation into a certain direction. This was now the drama of these policemen. What should they do? Give up and archive the case? That was not even a possibility, as the values at stake were even higher than the personal and professional pride, or the reputation of the Policia Judiciaria. What had been the destiny of a child that had been taken out of her normal life with her siblings? These policemen know that, no matter how long it takes, the answer will appear.
Chapter 11 - The six fundamental questions: Where, when, how, who, what and why
The six fundamental questions that an investigator should be able to answer when he reaches the end of a process, remained in the air, in the case of Aldeia da Luz. The two first ones were answered, although 'when' still pointed to an excessively wide time lapse, between 6.30 p.m., which was the time at which the McCanns had returned to the apartment and the child had been seen in public for the last time, and 10 p.m., the time at which Madeleine's mother cried out the alert. The 'how' could have been answered if the versions that had been given by the people who had intervened, matched minimally, which was not the case. The statements left wide open doors. Plus, the 'how' question can't be separated from the 'who', which widely explains what happened, and how it happened. If it were true that a child had been taken out of her bed by a stranger, wouldn't it be normal to hear her cry out? Except if she were in such a deep sleep, that she wasn't able to notice that she was being carried away in the arms of a stranger. The 'what' and the 'why' also have to be established together. When the specifics of an abduction, namely by a paedophile, are being looked at, its motivation is explained from the beginning: sexual, financial, or both. When a child goes missing without a trace, it's probably licit to associate the parents to such a possibility.
It was the parents themselves who expressed their will to participate in all the investigations that were performed to clarify this disappearance. When that same investigation confronted them with the inconsistencies of the reports that had been presented, why did they find that strange, and rebelled against it? All the hypotheses must be placed on the table, and they can only be excluded when they have been exhausted. The involvement of the parents in the disappearance was a possibility that still had a lot to explore, while the abduction theory always lead to nowhere and seemed to hit a series of dead ends. The true drama of the McCanns and their 'entourage' was that the investigation seemed to be going into a direction that was opposed to the one that they defended. This might as well be done in the best of intentions, but they should have allowed for all the lines of investigation to follow their own course.
They may not always have been well advised about what to do or what to say. They hired many advisors, but failed to realise the most important feature of the Portuguese people: that they unite for only a few causes, but when they do, they can give away the shirt that they are wearing. These remains of a latin tradition, of extremes, of all or nothing, collided with a risk and information management machine that was built from London. Through the eyes of those who avidly consumed every little piece of information about the case, the McCanns were transformed from parents who made a bad judgement about their children's safety, into guilty persons in the disappearance of their daughter, and into false people, in the image that they wanted to give to the public.
It was the same media machine that they summoned up to support their cause and to spread the word, that turned against them and 'expelled' them from Portugal. If nobody had known about the judicial status that they were given in early September 2007, they probably would not have left our country. Madeleine's parents never concealed that they wanted the media on their side. They never conceived another possibility for the work of the Portuguese investigators apart from the one that they defended: that while they were dining, having left their children in what they considered to be a safe environment, an abductor had entered the bedroom and had kidnapped their daughter, taking her into Spain or Morocco. Why not into some region inside Portugal? After all, the probabilities that a Portuguese citizen had been the abductor were a lot greater than any other nationality. There are ten million Portuguese and only a few hundred thousand foreigners in the country. João Tavares tries to keep a schematic reasoning in these cases. Since he became a policeman, João Tavares has used a mental scheme of analysis. But in this case, the scheme is more confused than ever before. Not because he lacks elements, but rather because there is an excess of them. An excess of information can paradoxally render itself useless.
Although the clues point to a certain sequence of events, João Tavares is unable to dismiss any of the hypotheses, after all these months. The only possibility that he admits to set aside is that of the child leaving the apartment on her own. Keep it simple, he tells himself over and over again. But he was not allowed to, and the result was a huge mess, of planetary dimensions. Every year, children disappear in Portugal, in the United Kingdom, in Spain, in France, all over the world. The explanations, no matter how gruesome, are usually simple. Paedophile predators, persons with sexual disturbances. Abductions for ransom, abductions for human slavery, for illegal adoption. Or children that, according to statistics, were subject to violence or to an incident within the family. Those are 'simple explanations' exactly because they derive from the most basic, and monstrous, core of feelings that the human being is capable of. Self-preservation at any cost; egoism; the need for absolute power; avarice; despise for others; hedonism. João Tavares has always believed that the human being, no matter how educated and how instructed, no matter how polished in its image and in its manners, is capable of literally anything.
João Tavares reflected upon the fact that after so many centuries, the human race seemed to have evolved so little.
- We're capable of anything to preserve ourselves, or to prevent us from losing the power that we have conquered in the meantime. He couldn't help the regret that he felt over the fact that this case had been rendered a lot more complicated because at its beginning, realities were assumed that should never have been.
How were they to solve this mystery, now?
Ocean Club – Apartment 5ª
Praia da Luz
May 3, 2007
Between 6.30 and 10 p.m.
Possibility: Entrance through door
Possibility: Entrance through window
Possibility: Transported to another location, alive
Possibility: Transported to another location, dead
Possibility: Unexpected action by another individual
Possibility: Close group
Possibility: Abduction by stranger
Possibility: Abduction by known person
Possibility: Death and concealment
Possibility: To hide relevant action
Possibility: Actions that derive from abduction
Chapter 12 – M&M&M – Murat, Malinka and McCann
João Tavares has been intrigued about Robert Murat since the early days of the case. He had decided on a discrete surveillance of the Englishman. On his request, the colleagues in Britain had informed that Murat, during the time that he lived in Norwich, had functioned as a bridge between the Portuguese community and the local authorities. Malinka was living in Praia da Luz. He had been photographed while talking to Murat near his house. A citizen from Eastern Europe with a cold, calm disposition, young Malinka worked with computers, building websites. According to a neighbour, he favours young girls. That phone call in the night of the 3rd of May, still doesn’t fit in João Tavares’ head. The Russian was heard by the police, two days after his friend Murat read in the papers that the Policia Judiciaria was looking for him, and then he erased everything from his computers.
Murat was known by the McCanns before. When Gerry was questioned about that possible relationship from before the events, he replies that he does not want to comment on that matter, a statement that prompted many interpretations. Could this be the missing element to consider his participation in a possible concealment of the cadaver? Theoretically, yes, but nothing was proved. Could Murat be the link to another person who entered apartment 5A, thus justifying the absence of any traces of the little girl in his residence? Anything is admissible in the area of theories and hypotheses. At the beginning of the case, João Tavares liked to look at Murat as a person who liked to be helpful, who needed to be socially accepted in order to feel important, who enjoyed being the link between different cultures, who talked too much and apparently watched too many movies. But the truth was that Professor Sullivan, a British expert in profile analysis, had concluded that there was a high probability that Robert Murat fit the pattern of the paedophile who might have abducted Madeleine, abused her, and killed her afterwards.
This specialist analysed the suspect’s past, his present life, he heard people who knew him personally, and formulated his verdict. The police could not ignore this report. They had to presume it was correct, given the reputation of the expert, and acted accordingly. João Tavares thinks this is nothing but modern fantasies, and that his own, old-fashioned methods are just as reliable, to say the least. Malinka, unlike Murat, had time to prepare himself for the police. If he had anything to hide from the police, he had time enough to get rid of it. There was very little to incriminate the Russian. João Tavares would have preferred to keep him and Murat under discrete surveillance, and if there was no reason to question them, they would not have been questioned and that was it. He is very sorry about those days when some of the British journalists who were covering the case directly from Praia da Luz, suspected an individual who walked around the place, helping out and doing translations, and the first thing they did was… to warn the authorities in London about those suspicions. He is also sorry about the fact that the pressure to sell newspapers and tv audiences, had prompted the journalists to publish the story that a certain individual was being the target of the police’s attention, despite the fact that the investigation suffered serious damage from it. For João Tavares, the action of this M&M&M trio is far from clarified.
Those who persist, always achieve. Or almost always. João Tavares and Francisco Meireles launch into an exercise that consists of finding and eliminating the possibilities that are contained within the mental scheme that both had drawn out, in order to find an answer for each one of the core questions, instead of only trying to find the Truth. They believe that by walking this route, the last remaining possibility will be the one that will be closest to the Truth. Another issue is the Material Truth of the Facts, which has to be proved in the criminal process. They return to the Department in Portimão. They carefully examine dozens and dozens of papers, video surveillance tapes, written documents. In order to organize themselves in the midst of so much paper, they separate the documents that contain more sensitive information, from those that contain merely bureaucratic text.
- We will presume that the dog wasn’t wrong, ok? – says Francisco.
- Maybe it arrived in the Algarve and got his 201st case wrong – João Tavares replies, with a funny smile.
- Well, chief, what do you think about the notion that a body was in the living room where the dog detected the odor, instead of one of the bedrooms? Wouldn’t it have made more sense to hide it in a bedroom?
- That’s right, Francisco, but what if something happened precisely in the living room, and the body remained there until it was decided what to do with it?
- Just ‘being’ there is not enough. It had to remain there for at least one-and-a-half to two hours – Francisco concluded.
- Correct. And what did it take to get it out of there? At least, to wait for darkness. If it was risky to take it out at night, then during the day it would have been madness – João Tavares finalizes.
The two policemen conclude that there might have been an accident inside the apartment. There was no apparent reason for a voluntary crime. Maybe something unexpected had happened, and the parents decided that the best action would be not to assume the fact. It was a possibility that should be considered, taking into account the work of the English dog, and also the work that had been done by the GNR’s sniffer dog, that had detected the trail of Madeleine between apartment 5A and another apartment, and lost it there. The same English dog found a series of clues that lead him to the beach at Luz, the beach where Krugel had found the presence of Madeleine, already a cadaver. The other dog detected small spots of blood in the living room, which the investigators could at least affirm that belonged to one of the three children of the McCanns. All of this put together, gave them a vision that was not enough as evidence, but certainly as an indication, supported by the theory that the child had been killed inside the apartment, transported from there into another apartment, and then taken to the beach of Luz. The beach offered the sea as a possibility to conceal the body of Madeleine. But the interior of the Algarve also offers countless possibilities for someone who wants to hide something, to do so with relative ease and success.
- But then, chief, what about the residues that the dogs detected inside the Renaul Scenic? – Francisco questions.
- Well, that really messed the whole picture up, because finding that type of residues in the area that is located just beneath the spare tire is a complicated matter; come to think of it, it’s not really that complicated… or at least not to me – the chief replies, smiling.
- Sure – Francisco continues – one thing is to transport clothing that might have carried traces from the child. They did move house twice, after all, didn’t they? Another entirely different matter is the location of the dog’s findings. Precisely the spot where one would hide things inside a car, right? In the cavity for the spare tire, more precisely beneath the tire. What a strange thing, chief.
- Strange things happen here with the Portuguese, Francisco. When information was released that we had found these elements in the car, the first thing that happened was a voice from London saying that if something had been found, it could only be due to the fact that we had planted it there. Fantastic, isn’t it? – João Tavares protests with indignation, while he walks across the room, from one side to another and back.
- You know what, chief? I’m fed up with those half-profiles and people telling us that we need the CSI here. Those people have no idea how an investigation unfolds in reality.
Francisco is upset about the notion that a criminal investigation works like in the American tv shows. This is completely wrong. It is one thing to analyze great amounts of blood or other bodily fluids, and quite another to examine minuscule samples, that may even be contaminated, which was the case. Apartment 5A had been covered with digital prints of the dozens of people that had been through it, after the child had disappeared. Even if some criminal had entered the apartment and taken the little girl, what residues would have been left behind? Unless the person had sneezed or grabbed the door handle without gloves, there would have been nothing.
With luck, some footprints might have been preserved, but by the time that the police arrived on location, tens of people had walked through the apartment, covering the footprints of a possible stranger with their own. João Tavares did not lack ideas, what he needed now was to place them into position, in order to be able to produce a theory that could explain the events of that evening, and to sustain it on facts that could be proved in a court room. This seemed like a gigantic task to him. The whole investigation had been tainted with wrong information. Normally, investigators are able to discern what is correct from what is false. But the dimension that this case had achieved, made it impossible to determine what was valid or not. Hundreds of witnesses had been heard, thousands of diligences had been carried out. It is all included in the process, and no matter how often one goes over it, there is always a possibility that the missing link is there, somewhere, hidden among millions of words.
- Listen, Francisco, while we continue on our work of eliminating possibilities, let’s imagine this was an abduction perpetrated by a stranger, a freak who wanted to hurt the little girl, who realized that in the apartment he could not be at ease with her, and took the child somewhere else. Let’s admit that there was none of the noise that would be expected under such circumstances. We could even admit that the pig had his ways with the child. Did he abandon her on the street? I don’t think so! He is not a human being anymore, he is an animal and he sees his task through. He knows that the child can point at him as the person who hurt her. Never. It’s not only about prison, it’s also about life in prison and the condemnation by society.
- Ok… Then what, chief? Keep going… - Francisco says, intrigued about João Tavares’ line of reasoning. - Then? Then he had to get rid of the body, because it could tell us a lot about what had happened, and about the perpetrator. Sea or land? For the sea, it is necessary to have means, and the possibility of having them, of being transported to them with the child, without being detected… I don’t think so. A guy like this, under the circumstances, wants short distances and to spend as little time as possible with the victim. At least after he got what he wanted…
- And also, at least to me, all the sightings of the child were nothing but people who had been under the suggestion of the phenomenon. If you look at it closely, all those people who swore that they had seen the child with a couple or with a man, said that she was very sad, calling out for her mother, and even that, so many days later, she was still wearing the same pajamas that she wore on the night that she disappeared. It’s all fake. In all those cases that we managed to identify the child and the people, it was clearly proved that they were all mistakes. Some of those alerts even came from people who were perfectly honest, while others, I don’t know, but maybe they were thinking of the millions in that reward. When money is thrown into the case, it just gets worse. People get so obsessed about the euros, they want to see Madeleine anywhere. Do you remember – Francisco smiles – that guy who called us, saying that he had seen the girl on the train to Sintra, accompanied by a man who had a suspicious face? There are some nutcases out there…
- That is just it, Francisco! – João Tavares is animated. – You have just touched an interesting point, and I need no dogs to convince me of this. The child, unfortunately, does not belong to the world of the living anymore. Even if someone was holding her, could we ever believe that she would be kept in that condition, knowing that this is the most publicized child in the world? I don’t think so. The excessive publicity that was given to her face and to the issue of her iris were her condemnation, even in the case that she left that apartment alive. When a child goes missing because she is lost in a shopping center or on the beach, I think it is correct to tell the world about what should be told, and to publicize the child’s distinctive features. Now, if she ever left there alive, publicity killed her. She is worthless to the person who took her. For adoption, it’s the biggest mistake ever. To be included in a pedophile network? She is worthless under these circumstances, even more so because they prefer to keep both themselves and the children anonymous, because if the children remain unknown, then the risks are less. The rest is just empty talk, my friend. She died and God take care of her, because she was an innocent who fell into a world of pure beasts.
Francisco has to agree with his chief. The months that have passed have proved just that, that the destiny of Madeleine was sealed in one of two possible ways, during a time lapse that did not surpass two days. The first one, when she disappeared from that apartment. The second one, when her face and her distinctive signs were prematurely publicized to the world. He cannot understand why there was such a rush to publish the image, or such a hurry in calling the British media on the night of the disappearance. Why the assumption that this was an abduction case, when it had not yet been determined whether this was a simple case of leaving the apartment by herself? If, for example, on that night the children had been given the medicine that Madeleine’s grandfather had said they usually were given, and which induces sleep and relaxation as side-effects, then there would be an explanation for the fact that the McCanns immediately stated that the child could not have left on her own. Francisco and João Tavares are embroiled in this conversation when they are warned that a Spanish journalist called Tosca Dell’Anno is waiting at the reception, claiming to have valuable information about the case.
Chapter 14 – The Frenchman from Spain
A knock on the door is followed by the entrance of a man in his thirties, who is holding a briefcase under his arm. Francisco invites him to take a seat. João Tavares says that they are aware that the Spanish man has been trying to contact for quite some time now, but that they have been very busy. In a mixture of Portuguese and Spanish, the man replies that he understands. He states that he investigates this type of cases and that he holds information that he thinks is in their interest.
- But… - Francisco interrupts – as far as I know, you have been talking to the media for a while now, speaking about someone called ‘El Frances’, isn’t it? Please tell us about that, then.
- Yes it’s true… yes… this man is very dangerous and we have to be very careful…
- Don’t worry about that – João Tavares interrupts – danger is our business and we don’t do anything else but handle those dangerous guys – he says, smiling.
- Well… I have documents here with me that will prove I’m right. This man works for pedophile networks and he abducts boys and girls on order… I believe that Madeleine is alive and that she is worth over two million euros for the trafficking networks…
- Two million? – Francisco is surprised.
- So… - João Tavares says – can you explain to me how the most wanted child in the world, one that has her photo visible just about everywhere, can be worth all that money? Isn’t that a counter-sense? But move on… what evidence do you have of what you are saying? We investigate all the possibilities, but we have to have something solid to work on, otherwise every person that walks into here tells us a different story and there we go, following another ghost and collecting one more stamp to place into our scrapbook of invisible suspects. I’m sure you know what I mean, my friend. What do you base your allegations on?
The man senses the provocative tone, but this is how it has to be done. One cannot show too much interest under such circumstances, risking that the person who came into the police offices to give information, leaves with more than he walked in with. Here, information can only flow into one direction, and it certainly is not from the police to the informant.
- I have information that the man spoke to some persons in a Bar in Seville, and that he mentioned Madeleine. Now you go and investigate…
- Well, that’s better, then! – João Tavares says – That’s it, then? You heard that some people heard about a Frenchman. And this was in Seville… And a guy who, according to you, works in child abductions for pedophile networks, hangs around in bars speaking about it… very well… I will tell you one thing, then, I have a reputable psychologist that swears that she saw the child in the company of a couple, a Dutch man and an English woman, in Belgium. We found them and everything has been clarified. If we hadn’t, Belgium would be upside down by now. I have a teacher who swears that she saw the child crying out for her mother at a petrol station in Morocco. The images from the location show absolutely nothing. In Malta, she has been seen lots of times, but when it is time to catch her, it seems that she has been moved onto the other side of the island.
After a pause, he continues: - An illustrious architect in Switzerland also spotted the child in Greece. I have a brilliant detective from your country saying that he has surrounded a village in the mountains in Morocco, because he is certain that the child was taken there and is being held captive. Right after that, he says it was Murat and his friend who abducted the child. To complete the film, as you well you, a few days ago the most wanted child in the world was being carried on the back of a poor woman, along a national road in Morocco. This one got herself a photo and everything. As you can see, my dear friend, there are plenty of certainties in this case, but the difference is that someone who has no responsibility in the case can go around and say what he pleases, while we have to sit in here and work through everything that pops up. Do you understand? Then do us a favor, and when you manage to collect more and better information than that, bring it over, and we will be only too happy to analyse it, ok? The chief’s speech comes out all at once, unloading his thoughts. Actually, this case is intoxicated with speculative information, which contaminates the road that leads to the Truth. After this episode and after yet another phone call from this individual, João Tavares refused to see him again, because apart from the lack of quality of the information that he was offering, he was far too worried about being photographed at the PJ’s door in Portimao, and giving interviews where he said nothing relevant and where he complained about having leads that the police did not value. The silence that followed would end up proving that he had no credibility. Later on, João Tavares found out that the Spaniard had proposed to sell to Metodo 3, for 40 000 euros, information that allegedly would lead them to the whereabouts of Madeleine McCann.
Chapter 15 – The secrets of Praia da Luz
A secret is something that is hidden from someone specific, or from the world. It can be an action, a piece of knowledge, a feeling. It is not what is being hidden that defines a secret, but rather the action of keeping it, imposing a commitment on those who agreed to keep it, be it between two persons or a group of people. The Police is an abstract entity that is formed by men and women that represent the idea of the institution. They all have their own secrets to keep, and they do keep them; not only professional secrets, but especially personal ones. It was with men and women that the group of friends of the McCann family was confronted from that night onwards. They crossed paths with people who handle the “I didn’t do it”, “I wasn’t there at that time”, “I don’t know that person” every single day of their professional lives. Later on, most of the times, the story ends with “it was him”, “I was there” and “I know him”. These men and women deal with repetitive mental schemes. People lie, and policemen and –women are used to hearing lies without indignation or constraint. They know it’s part of the game.
The Policia Judiciaria was surrounded in this case like it had never been in its history of over 60 years. It had never been so confined in its movements, as there was no space left to even think about anything that diverted from the wave. There were no solid constraints, there was no written order to do this and not that. But there was an avalanche of information like Portugal or the world had never seen. And simultaneously, the “Madeleine product” was massified, placing the cherry on the top of the cake of this invisible corset. The fact is that the police, while exploring the wrong path for months, allowed for the secret to gain strength, to grow and to become almost indestructible. If the confrontation of versions and inconsistencies had taken place only days after the fact, we would probably be looking at a very different outcome, today. And now, Praia da Luz keeps a terrible secret. The most experienced policemen, those of older age and more experienced in life, commented softly among them that Madeleine had not been abducted. Not in the way that had been suggested to them. Their experience as policemen told them that child abductions are not murky cases like this one, with discrepancies that simply have no solution.
Mistakes are understandable under stress. The type of feelings that are experienced under such conditions, often originate mismatching reports, but they remain understandable. That was not what happened with the McCanns, with their friends, with the waiters at the restaurant, or with other witnesses. Absolutely nothing was matching. This fact, if understood as an indication of guilt, can be understood as being the result of an accidental event. Nobody planned it. It simply happened, and they adapted to it. But the secret behind this, is still there. At this point, the policemen cannot hide their secret anymore. They have formally indicted the McCanns of having, at least, participated in the concealment of their daughter’s body, and they have inferred from it that there has been a link between that concealment and the facts that originated the death that they suspect. As they could not discern any reason for anyone that was close to the child to end her life intentionally, they opted for the possibility of a domestic accident, or a small aggression that might have ended tragically.
This was the sequence that originated the formalization of the status of suspects in the practice of a crime, on the parents of the child. The same policemen had defended, since the beginning, that the statements that the parents had made, concerning not only the missing child but also her siblings, proved that their behaviour had been an infringement of the Portuguese Penal Code, and effectively constituted a crime of Exposure and Abandonment. The secret that the policemen kept was that they suspected that the McCanns were telling them a lot less than what they knew. The entire development of the process ultimately confirmed that suspicion. They always kept talking to the couple, regularly and in an amicable manner, but the dangers of such communication is that it is impossible to keep information flowing only in one direction.
Some of the policemen, in an initial phase, understood the McCanns’ concern with the media as a manifestation of the famous British phlegm. They even conceived that those staged exits from the house, with an advisor who informed the journalists of the exact route and of the gestures that would take place, were done to keep their egos high. After all, these parents were at the center of world attention. What seemed more worrying was that they saw this fact as an absolutely natural thing. As if, every time that a child went missing somewhere in the world, the media from all other countries rushed to the door of the house where the child had been taken from. It had never happened in such a dimension, and it looked as if for the McCanns, it was just normal.
Chapter 16 – Father and daughter, Inc.
When questioned about the relationship that was visible between Madeleine and her parents, all the witnesses that were interrogated by the investigators were unanimous in saying that there was a lot of complicity between father and daughter. The neighbour that lives above apartment 5A stated that she heard Madeleine shouting, during those days that the family spent at the Ocean Club, for two sorts of reasons. Either because she was yelling at her mother while her mother yelled back, or because she was screaming out for her father. This portrait was interesting for the policemen, as it offered them an idea of what that family could be like. Later in time, when they read the mother’s diary, they confirmed just that. Kate called her daughter ‘hysterical’ and hyperactive, consuming the mother’s strength to a limit, while she complained that Gerry didn’t help her much with the children, leaving her with the chore, the heavy chore, of taking care of those children on her own. She was probably not referring to the action of ‘raising’ them, but rather to daily care: food, clothing, baths, putting them to bed, teaching discipline. This also helps to understand the reason why Madeleine, and probably also the twins, preferred their father. He was associated to playing and to good things. The mother was associated to less pleasant issues of daily life.
When the investigators started looking more closely at the family, they asked themselves if something tragic could have happened during one of those discussions. Could it have been on that late afternoon, when the sun was still shining and the child was reluctant about going to bed? Was the mother tired of a week of holidays, with more work with her children than on a normal week at home? And what if, right from the beginning, nobody believed that the Portuguese authorities would be able to distinguish an accident from something more serious? What if Gerry was confronted with something bad and had only five seconds to decide? What if his love for his wife and for his two other children made him follow the path of concealment and lies? And, if that was the case, wouldn’t there have been the help from someone else? And what if none of this was the case and the parents were completely innocent about the disappearance of their little Madeleine?
These academic questions followed policemen Francisco Meireles and João Tavares even when they spoke to the couple in an informal, friendly manner. This work possibility did not seem inappropriate to them, and the clues that were collected would end up reinforcing what they thought had happened. None of them, despite their convictions about the case, would have bet their salary on it. There were too many circumstantial indicators, and a lack of solid indicators, and nobody can, in conscience, accuse some parents of their own child’s death, unless one is absolutely certain of what one is doing, and that everything supports that accusation. Nevertheless, they were looking at a scenario where the daughter probably admired her father more than her mother; but how many families are like this? The people usually say that ‘one educates, and the one other spoils’.
Chapter 17 – Is it a Lobby? It’s certainly not people
When someone is charged by the State with the mission of investigating a crime, one should do it properly and with exemption, and above everything, not assume any preconceived notions about the events. This was precisely what happened in the case of the disappearance of Madeleine. All the investigation lines were followed until exhaustion, progressively, from the most obvious ones to the most complex. Nobody looked at a predetermined result, or subjected the information that kept arriving, to that same result. That is why the investigation has been ongoing for such a long time. When someone has the duty to inform the other citizens about certain events of public life, one cannot take sides with anyone. Opinions can not, or rather should not, be manipulated to serve someone’s interest. Those are the general principles of information, but their practice reveals itself quite different. This case was the perfect example for that.
Most of the Portuguese media reported the events, published new information about the case, and fulfilled its informative role, at the end. In Great Britain, things were done another way. Most of the English journalists, with their media under the control of higher powers, provoked national reactions with less favorable comments about the Portuguese populations and its institutions, using literally anything to make three main notions prevail: that Madeleine had been abducted during her sleep; that the parents were completely innocent of anything that was related to that; that the Policia Judiciaria was composed of a band of incompetent drunks, who didn’t know the first thing about criminal investigation. In fact, those who could manifest their opinion about the competence of the PJ were precisely the English policemen who had followed the work since its early days, and from those, until today, nothing was heard but compliments about the Portuguese investigators. The choir of the English journalists was so well orchestrated, that people started believing that it was a lobby, not organized by the media, but by higher powers.
At some point, the insidiousness reached such a level that the investigators themselves started to ask whether the English media were being used as the voice of someone invisible, so unanimous and fierce was the defense of one single opinion. The rumors about bribes offered by the British media to inhabitants of Praia da Luz and to Portuguese journalists, in order to publish certain news and to silence others, only inflamed the spirits on both sides. Anything that carried ideas that were contrary to the British perspective was immediately contradicted and distanced from the information services. On the other hand, anything that in any way contributed to promote the image of the Portuguese sardine eater, drunk, incompetent and lazy, was made into the news of the day.
Chapter 18 – Up yours, puppet “Toni”
(note: this chapter is filled with typical Portuguese expressions that totally loose their effect in translation, also because I unfortunately lack the level of knowledge of the English language that would eventually allow me to replace them with similar, or equivalent, expressions – sorry about that) The Portuguese ‘Toni’ is the typical character that lives off schemes, who always carries a toothpick at the corner of his mouth, and who thinks he is a daily sportsman because he wears his purple and yellow shellsuit at all times of the day, every day. He wears a silver chain around his neck, and his favourite socks are white sports socks with proudly show two crossed tennis racquets. Our ‘Toni’ loves to spend his Sunday afternoon at the shopping mall, with his Vanessa and their children Bruno Vitor and Soraia Tatiana, each wearing his own purple and yellow shellsuit. His car has a small plastic skeleton dangling from the rearview mirror, and a dog figure sitting on the car trunk, nodding its head every time that the car brakes. When he sees a female on the street, he invariably produces a naughty comment. This is our ‘Toni’. What does the British Toni look like?
At some point in time, the Portuguese ambassador to Britain was “bold” enough to give an interview to The Times, during which he committed the terrible insult of saying the following, in brief: “Normally, the children (in Latin countries) are always accompanied by their parents, by their family. It’s a different pattern.”
“Portugal is a safe country, safer than Great Britain, and where only very few children go missing.” None of this is a lie. Within puppet logic, some Toni writes an article in an illustrious British newspaper, under the suggestive title “Oh, Up Yours, Senor”. Its author wanted to recommend that the Ambassador of the Portuguese Republic to Great Britain would put something into a location that we will not specify. The ‘Senor’, which is an intermediate state between the Portuguese ‘Senhor’ and the Spanish ‘Señor’, indicates a certain lack of knowledge and a lack of habit in using dictionaries.
He continued with offences to the investigators of the Policia Judiciaria, which the puppet classified as “spectacularly stupid and cruel”, and stating that the police acted in that manner in order to “hide the humiliation of not being able to discover who abducted the child, thus attacking the parents”. Not satisfied with this, he continued, accusing the Portuguese press of having transformed this case into “light entertainment” and that the jeering at Kate McCann by the people “was not from another country, it was from another planet”. He finished his unique and brilliant intervention in this case with a warning to the Portuguese ambassador: ”if in the future you are not able to say something constructive about the disappearance of little Madeleine, then you might as well keep your stupid, sardine munching mouth shut”.
There were people in Portugal who immediately tried to find out more about the person that wrote like this. Even being a puppet, he probably existed and this was how it was established that he was a novelist who published a column in a newspaper. He was not known for his merits as an investigator, much less a criminal investigator. He had no experience whatsoever in the areas of diplomacy, or of Portuguese gastronomy. Therefore, what did he mean when he “counselled” the Portuguese ambassador into saying “constructive” things about the disappearance of Madeleine? One could not understand anything, except that one was in the presence of a specimen of the British ‘Toni’. It could not be anything except the aforementioned ‘normalized opinion’ that some master wanted to make prevail.
Chapter 19 – The puppets are out there
On a warm afternoon in early September 2007, the mobile phone rings. The number on the screen started with ‘0044’. On the other end of the line, a male voice speaking in English, confirmed the owner of the telephone:
- Yes, how can I help you?
- We would like to count on your daily comment, for half an hour, from Praia da Luz. - As far as I can help you…
- There is just one small detail…
- We have an editorial line that is positioned against this form of investigation, and we would obviously like to know whether we can count on your support.
- We have a problem there, my friend… it’s that I am in favour of the investigation line that is being carried out by the Policia Judiciaria.
- But if the problem is money… 2000…
- Maybe you have misunderstood me, but when you arrived here, I was already here and when you leave, I will stay here and there is no money that will make me betray the country or the things that I believe in, do you understand?
- Hum, ok, but we all have a price, haven’t we? 2500 and we have a deal.
- Look, little fellow, if you have a price then that is your problem, I don’t have a price and you know what? Do not call me again. If you call me again, I will go and meet you to wash my honour in your face.
On the other end of the line, the call was ended, but this was another example of a ‘professional’ and of whom he represented, one who could never be classified as a ‘journalist’. A journalist listens to all the parties and only reproduces the true facts, informing the persons who read or listen to him about what he has been able to establish. He can, and should, question the data that is made available, always working for the right of the people to be informed; he does not try to fabricate a convenient truth for one of the parties of a process. We don’t know whether that was someone who is a professional journalist, but this phone call showed what many English professionals had already softly complained about to their Portuguese colleagues. They noticed the difficulties that they encountered upon trying to produce ‘home news’ without something that somehow questioned the good reputation of the McCann couple, or that deviated from the famous abduction theory.
About this situation, Dr Vitor Silva, a psychologist, wrote in Portugal Diario, on the 22nd of January, 2008:“Spin Doctor” is a press advisor of sorts, who tries to “turn” or to “condition” the media agenda and the news that break or are about to break. They try to “sell the fish”, to minimize the damages caused by bad news, they counsel their clients in their relationship with the media. Maddie’s parents can count on the services of a former spin doctor of Gordon Brown, the prime minister of Great Britain. It’s an escalate in the media war that is related to this case…
Chapter 20 – Unwanted help
Francisco and João Tavares are back to their paperwork, when the first one observes a rather thick binder and asks his chief:
João Tavares replies:
- About a million, no? I think I’ve stopped counting long ago, Francisco.
- Well let me tell you, chief, that there were over two thousand in Portugal, plus some five thousand that were sent in from England.
- And all for nothing – João Tavares says.
- That’s true – Francisco agrees – Help that only further complicated this entire mess…
- In truth – João Tavares interrupts -, maybe it did not complicate anything at all, Francisco.
- What do you mean? – Francisco asks.
- Let’s see… for each one of them that was explored to no avail, the closer we have come to the truth, right? Look at it, from that torrent of information that we received for months, the faucet is now only dripping a few drops every once in a while.
- You’re right, Chief.
- The chief is always right – João Tavares replies with a smile.
João Tavares knew what he was talking about. He knew that the truth would not emerge from a single policeman, Portuguese or English. He knew that the definite solution of this case would come as the result of the hard work and the exhaustive exploration of every single theory that would be annexed to the process in the meantime. If a single lead, pointing to precise persons or locations, failed to be explored until its natural elimination, it would always be a loose end that others would use to argue the neglect and the incompetence of the Portuguese police. Thousands of leads were explored by the investigators from the Algarve and from Lisbon. In order to eliminate any doubts, over five hundred apartments and hundreds of vehicles were thoroughly searched in the area, and hundreds of persons were questioned. Kilometers and kilometers of coastline and inland terrain were searched. If Madeleine was in the area, dead or alive, she would have been found. But she wasn’t. Nor could she be.
Chapter 21 – The conscience of People
The conscience of a people is based on what was its history, on its customs. One people has specific characteristics that distinguish it from the others, and normally there is an accepted division among the people of Europe, into the Northern, the Eastern and the Southern. The ‘Portuguese people’ belongs to the latter category. With their soft customs, peaceful, proud, solidary, passionate, and sometimes a bit selfish, the conscience of this people was awakened by the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. Curiously, it had not been awakened, or not in this way, by Joana Cipriano Guerreiro or by Rui Pedro, or even by Rui Pereira or Claudia or Ana Sofia, among others. Voyeurism, we all know, is an obligatory condiment for any national media receipt, but it does not justify everything. From early on, the people have felt solidarity with the loss that those parents had suffered. So had the policemen. They forgot that they cannot have feelings in these cases, but as they are only human, they make mistakes. They make mistakes and they will continue to make them, just as courts will make mistakes with their sentences, prosecutors will make mistakes with their accusations. They make mistakes because they make decisions, and only those who make them are entitled to the displeasure of, at a given moment, verifying that the route that they have taken was not the correct one. It is most serious when the mistakes do not allow for Justice to be corrected anymore.
Excessively and exhaustively covered by the media, this disappearance took over the lives of people and many identified with the pain of Gerry and Kate, who on the other hand called all possible attention upon themselves. Everything was scrutinized into the smallest detail, and the constant following of the process by the media lead to breaks of the judicial secrecy, and inevitably some details of the process were made public. With daily revelations about the developments, the McCann family started a steep decline in the public opinion, and lost the national support that they had enjoyed. They then opted to return to England, turning their backs on those who had supported them so intensely and unconditionally. For this people, that still believes in Justice and that was genuinely solidary with the McCanns, this attitude, right after they had been made arguidos, was a stab of a knife into their back. For this people, they should have stayed at least until the lab test results were known, and then they would make a decision. Instead, for the moment that they chose, for what had happened two days earlier, for the silent preparation, and for the way that it was done, the Portuguese people think that the McCanns have fled Justice. When they returned home, we realized that these same characters that had been all the rage all over the world, if it wasn’t for the journalists that were gathered at the door of their so comfortable residence, had nobody waiting for them except for a few relatives.
The Northern people are different, more closed upon themselves and maybe also less colorful. Or at least that is the general notion that we have of them, as for those of us who deal with them every summer, that is not exactly the impression that the British leave behind. Maybe another one, rather close to the opposite, of some excesses and some haughtiness… We could conclude that there are no better or worse people, just different ways to approach and deal with the situations. That is difference. Every country has its circumstances, its people, its culture, and that largely determines the way that they relate with one another, and with others.
Chapter 22 – Pray for us sinners
Following the excellent and well-knitted campaign that promoted two key notions on a worldwide basis, “Maddie disappeared” and “Maddie was abducted”, British diplomacy, which had opened so many doors for the McCann all across the world, ultimately proved several things, including that those who hold the power to influence are closer to the divine graces, while those who do not hold it, must insist in prayers. It was that same power to influence, politically and in the media, that took Madeleine’s parents to the Vatican, where they attended a public ceremony sitting in the front row, and two or three minutes of the attention of Benedict XVI were conceded to them. The way that this meeting was reported all over the world, lead the public to believe that these were powerful people who had access to everything and everyone. That was not the way it happened in Berlin, where they wanted to meet the President of the German Government, Angela Merkel, but had to do with the Mayor of Berlin. That was not the way it happened in the United States, where the British machine wanted the McCanns to be received at the highest level, and ended up being met by a member of staff from the cabinet of the First Lady, Laura Bush. It was not the way it happened in Spain, where instead of Zapatero or a member of the Royal Family, they were received by the Minister for Internal Affairs. It could not be any other way. How would the heads of the states that the McCanns wanted to visit, explain this to their own citizens, while the parents of equally missing children never had been given the opportunity to present their cases to those that govern them?
Diplomacy tells us to treat our allies well, but not to the point of compromising heads of state with issues that are not solved yet. The information services of each one of those states also counselled their leaders to prudently stay away from that matter. The ones at the Vatican are actually the best in the world. Benedict XVI was the high point of a campaign that had started much earlier, with the visible and well publicized visits at the church in Luz, constantly appealing to religion and to God. The visit to the Vatican represented a conquest for those that were coordinating the pro-McCann campaign; yet, nothing could be done when that State decided to redraw all references to Madeleine from their official site, a clear message that they wanted to distance themselves from the case. What led to this happening only days before the first lab test results were revealed? Coincidences? Surely not!
We all sin and the Vatican takes that for granted. But did the advisers to Benedict XVI not rush themselves, when they wanted to associate the papal figure to the events that were taking place in Portugal? Didn’t they, initially, step aboard the wave of pity and sympathy towards the McCanns’ pain? Didn’t it look good, in terms of religious policy towards a country like the United Kingdom, that the figure of the Pope became associated to what was the event of the year for Her Majesty’s subjects? Certainly yes. From that small, yet influent state, strong winds blew when Rome received the news that the McCanns held a key to the church, which had been given to them by a parishioner from a group that was associated to the Church, bypassing the local priest. The clerical hierarchy fell upon the Portuguese church, which after being admonished, ended up blaming the poor priest, who had not contributed to the situation at all. Those nightly prayers, even though “God is everywhere”, were seen by many as visits to the only location where the couple thought there were no wire taps, thus being able to talk freely. In reality, although they believed they were being tapped, at home and on the phone, the fact was that they were not.
Chapter 23 – The worse is always for those who leave
Has anyone tried to imagine how many millions of articles have been written, all over the world, about the disappearance of Madeleine? How many thousands of hours of tv broadcast time, blogs, discussion forums? How many newspapers were sold, how many journalists were at Praia da Luz, how many commentators and opinion makers saw their careers gain a fresh breath? The numbers are overwhelming, it’s useless to try to think about it. Has anyone already tried to place him or herself into the mind, into the body and soul of Madeleine? Imagine yourselves barely four years old. Remember what you thought back then, what were your daily priorities. Playing. Eating. Father. Mother. Siblings. Grandparents. Aunts. Uncles. Family. Fun. Laughter. I like this one better than that one. I want more of this and less of that. Simple, right? Now imagine yourselves in that world of simplicity and innocence and all of a sudden, without a warning, it’s over. Everything goes dark and it’s over. Even before you could experience the difficulties of adolescence. Of studies. Of dating. Of having children. Everything is over. Before it had even started.
Now go a bit deeper. Your eyes are Madeleine’s eyes. Your body is still small and fragile. You don’t need to be strong anyway, your parents are there to protect you from danger. You’ve played all day long. You’ve played with daddy. The holidays are good, although you’d rather spend more time with your parents and less at the crèche of this place where you’re staying. It’s still in the daytime. Dinner is served. You play with your siblings. Rituals are carried out, which you have already adopted although you’re small. Then… well, then there are the policemen that try to prevent other adults from hurting children like you, and who make sure that those adults are punished. Sometimes they don’t succeed, but they do everything they can to explain it.
- That’s it, Francisco. And you know what? – João Tavares says, showing a resigned face – in the middle of all of this sh*t, the whole world could stand on its head, but the worse is always for those who leave us, who should have stayed around for many years more, you understand? The kids are absolutely innocent of the monsters that adults can become, and then it’s always the same. The weaker one loses out. It’s like I told you, there are not that many differences that separate us from the gorillas in the jungle.
- You’re absolutely right – Francisco agrees – but let’s get this paperwork done with, because we need to hurry.
Francisco was talking about the final redaction of the rogatory letters that were to be sent to the British authorities, and which included the request for several diligences. The letters are a poisoned gift, and despite the fact that they target several people, there are two persons who are of special interest to the policemen. And those are not the McCanns. It’s a bit like those routine police actions, when you go to a hotel to find out whether a certain individual is staying there, and you ask the receptionist for the guest book. You write down seven names at hazard, and an eighth name, which is the one that actually matters. The receptionist is watching, and although he gave the policeman all the information that was needed, he ended up knowing nothing about the person who was actually the target of that action. The aforementioned police cunning is revealed in these details. The police has established the logical chain of events a long time ago, and has also understood, for quite some time, that they will hardly find the queen evidence. The process will have to live from details. From the circumstances and the detection of small failures from the person that committed the crime, that concealed it, and logically, has lied.
- Let’s see whether the English dispatch this swiftly so we can advance – Francisco says, never taking his eyes off the papers, and putting them into a sequence. Formalities abound, and they want to make sure that nothing fails in this diligence that is so important.
- There is no hurry anymore, Francisco – João Tavares notices -, the one who had to leave is gone now, now all it takes is for us to move calmly, but well, because the bad deeds are done. If we were looking for a little girl that was locked up somewhere in a room of the house of a dangerous, disgusting paedophile, then we would be in a hurry, but as we know, actually, as only we know, that is not a theory that we will swallow anymore.
Chapter 24 – Quim Zé – that terrible man
It was already in January 2008 that the McCanns’ advisor revealed, during a press conference that was held in a hotel in London, two drawings of a man that he considered to be the main suspect of being the author of Madeleine’s disappearance. He said that Gail Walker, a British tourist in Praia da Luz, had considered the man and his movements to be strange. This advisor concluded that the man, whose photofit he was holding, might lead to Madeleine. He also mentioned that he could be completely unrelated. He thus reassured public opinion and the subject himself, without ever informing the entity that is responsible for the investigation, exhibiting to the world the drawing of the face of a man that he knew would immediately be pointed out as the author of the most media-exposed abduction ever.
It was suggested that this was the result of a private investigation, which had been carried out over the last few months, and which had made the production of the drawing possible. The press conference was held with great apparatus and the world press was invited. It looked like finally the famous abductor of Madeleine was to be revealed, and the moment had to fit the news. Said man, or at least the one who most resembled the picture, was Mr Joaquim José, an individual who had already been approached by the Policia Judiciaria during the second half of the month of May 2007. The newspapers echoed this fact. It was concluded that it would have been enough to show the drawing to the investigators first, and everything would have been clarified. But this was not what happened, and Mr Quim Zé had a battalion of journalists at his doorstep. Joaquim earned his few minutes of fame, which he surely never wished for, due to being married to a British woman who, after a heavy discussion among the couple, denounced him to the PJ for being the dangerous kidnapper who had abducted the English girl. The witness that had helped draw up the photofit ended up stating that Joaquim José was not the man that she had seen. The fact is that Joaquim José was ‘hit’ with the Police and the journalists camped at his door. The next time that he fights with his wife, he will certainly think twice, and make up with her, to prevent her from accusing him of being the mastermind behind 9/11 or of being the retroactive mentor of the death of Kennedy, in Dallas.
Chapter 25 – Madeleine / Mari Luz
Missing Portuguese children
On the police level, the commitment was the same as in any other case. What this one had in particular, was that diligences that were taking place, day after day, were transported into publicity, despite the fact that the reporting was not always the most faithful mirror of what had actually been carried out by the authorities. The police did not always show to be prepared to deal with a type of publicity that it was not used to at all. Tradition demands that the work is carried out in secret, and results are only shown at the end. The parents of missing Portuguese children felt that there was a different treatment of this case. They felt that, because of the dimension of media coverage. But the police did not commit any more or any less to this case than to any other, and it was certainly not the high number of investigators that were assigned to the case, that would guarantee a different quality in their work. This became obvious when dozens of investigators that had been dislocated into the Algarve, returned to their original posts. This is not what determines the solution of the cases.
What effectively happened in the case of Madeleine McCann was that, since the early days, people who make it their work to project events, to mould them and to give them impulse, took sides in the process. They carried their mission out, knowing that the first impulse would be the hardest one. That if this one was properly executed, the rest would follow naturally. And that is how it was. With all the implications that it brought along. In January this year, Mari Luz Cortes disappeared in Huelva. The Portuguese media converged into that city, and as the media took an interest in the case, so did the public. There is another missing child in Spain, Amy Fitzpatrick, aged 15. The young Irish girl disappeared on the evening of New Year’s Day, and never seen again. Neither the Spanish nor the English media ever gave this case a relevance that came even near to that which was given to the cases of Madeleine or Mari Luz. There are Portuguese children that disappeared several years ago, from the street where they lived, from the garden where they used to play. Parents who were broken by the emptiness of not knowing. They even conceive that their children may be dead, but they are dead and dry inside, themselves. They were all forgotten, until a little British girl, almost four years old, disappeared when she was spending a week of holidays with her parents, in Praia da Luz. Just for having reminded us of the others, those Portuguese boys and girls that had been forgotten, only for that, Madeleine has done a great favour to those who refuse to forget.
In fact, the media formula that was used by the McCanns has made ‘jurisprudence’, as their example was followed by others, namely by the family of Rui Pedro Mendonça, that created the site www.ruipedro.net, and the parents and family of Mari Luz. Madeleine awakened the sleeping minds, helping those who still refuse to accept the fate, the destiny, the star of some Portuguese children and their parents. But she did so much more than that. She prompted debate, heated opinion interchanges. She motivated cultural convulsions. She forced us to speak about missing children. She made so many of us read, learn, speak about children that disappear without a trace, that are sexually exploited, that become labour slaves, children from poor countries where their organs are used to save the lives of children in rich countries with rich parents, even if that means the death of the poor children. Madeleine made us talk.
Chapter 26 – Thank You Maddie (this chapter is fully translated)
You represented to Portugal and to the world so much more than you can ever imagine. You entered the lives and the daily existence of millions, albeit for the worst of reasons. You did it for the worst of reasons. You definitely were and still are important to many of us, all over this world. It’s a pity that for the world to wake up, you had to be taken away from our midst, just like it happened to Joana Cipriano Guerreiro. The truth is, “Madeleine McCann”, a name that was repeated until exhaustion all over the planet, will be something that we will still remember in many years. At some point, the world’s spotlights turned on your parents and it seems that everyone has forgotten you, that your name is merely being used as an excuse for the names “Kate and Gerry” to be said. From a certain moment onwards, you were passed onto a secondary plane, when that which you had suffered or might have felt, that, indeed, was the most important thing.
Maybe you even were turbulent and a ‘know-it-all’. So what? That is precisely the attitude that the world needs. Common knowledge does not tell us that those who truly changed the course of History, spent their childhood in the uttermost tranquillity. They revealed that same state of turbulence, of curiosity and stubbornness, since their early days. Those are the ones that we need, at least here in our little corner of the world, I can guarantee you that. People who will question things, and therefore, will move them forward, changing, inventing and creating. We know you only from a photograph or through some videos, it’s true, but we were all left with the desire to meet you personally. Some look at your photos and say that there was a sad girl, others say you were the happiest child in the world. Truth is, there was simply a child that could and should have seen more colours beyond the black that she came here to find. Madeleine, or Maddie, as some call you, will always be synonym of someone who disappeared on an early evening in May 2007, in a tourist resort in a region of this sunny country. But that is not all. Millions of texts were written in your name. Thousands of hours on tv were occupied, all over the world, by your face. Posts and people that you never even heard of, were questioned. You prompted the parents of other children, who had been taken away from their loved ones, to learn how to show their suffering to the media. Heads of government have spoken only because you disappeared. Thousands have cried and prayed for you. There were adults who lost their faith in life, and others united over you. You were so much more than important.
You know, Madeleine, many of those people who work as policemen, did everything they could to solve the mystery of your disappearance, and to bring you back to the cosiness of your bed. Then they continued, never stopping, to do everything they could to clarify what had happened to you. Hundreds of men and women dedicated themselves to trying to understand what had been your destiny. They never looked at their meagre salaries or at their non-existent overtime payments. They gave up time with their families and with their “Madeleines” to search for you, to try to understand what might have happened to you. If you’d ask them today if they would do it all over again, whether there was a microscopic chance of returning you into your bed or not, I assure you that all of them would respond to the calling again, and get back to work. Come rain or sunshine, against whomever they might have to go, they would do it all over again. Just for the fact that you are a child, innocent, small and helpless, they would go into all the deserts of Morocco to search for you. They would lift the world’s carpet to see if you where underneath it.
These people are not always perfect in everything they do, but I can guarantee you one thing: they are committed, they are stubborn, and they also don’t like losing one bit, especially when children like you are at stake. That is when they dedicate themselves even more to the services that other men assign them to. Not only because of the justice of men, but essentially because of the justice that your name deserves. They did everything they could so you could laugh at the end. So you were not gone in vain. You certainly aren’t. Only for the fact that you confronted us with the worst and the best in so many of us, and also because you did it without ever saying a single word, you were a heavy stone that hit the standing waters of our national feeling. For all this, we thank you, Miss Madeleine Beth McCann. Thank you!
Chapter 27 – Finally...
It was in this police, social, political, journalistic and psychological context that the main characters of this play lived, throughout many months. Because, after all, this is a show. It had everything that a grand production needs: leading actors, supporting actors, doubles, “lights, camera, action”, laughter, tears, lies, police cunning, police ingenuity, the good and the bad, the innocent girl, power games, manipulation, “blood, sweat and tears”, hatred and love, ostentation, good people and bad people, solidarity that was denied to those who needed it, and when they needed it most. As if this were not enough, this mega-production also included prime ministers, directors, prosecutors, English millionaires, ambassadors, bottomless funds, loaned airplanes, a pope who receives but not too much, a cardinal who is a fierce defendant of Opus Dei, secret services, sightings from Jupiter, express CSIs, lots and lots of DNA, private investigators who are constantly a step away from cracking the case, crazy associations of conspiracies… a world of actions and characters that set this show in motion, a show that took place in a small, unknown village, Aldeia da Luz, which ended up projecting itself all over the planet.
Were we prepared for all of this? Obviously not. Which does not mean that after making the necessary adaptations, we did not rise to the situation, which we did. We took a while to adjust to the novelty. It’s normal, in a human being. What is not normal is that those who have the truth right in front of them, refuse to see it, simply because it is not convenient. In the beginning, we said we could be integrated but not submitted. Look at Spain, the country right next to us. If this case had taken place there, it would not have had an external approach like it did in Portugal, simply because Spain is duly integrated within Europe, but still places its national identity and pride before everything else. Unfortunately, in Portugal this is not always the main perspective. Throughout more than 60 years of history, the Portuguese Policia Judiciaria was always proud of its good work. It was an institution that had its very peculiar culture, one of transmission of knowledge among colleagues. The greatest asset of that police force was the mixture of people that formed its investigative personnel. People from humble origins and others from wealthy families. Some who had only basic instruction and others with a degree. For all of them, to become an “Agent in the Policia Judiciaria” was a motive of pride and worthy of everyone’s respect.
This mixture of backgrounds, all of them necessary with a PJ Brigade, often helped to solve cases through a combination of experiences and perceptions, which had been obtained from real life. And this mixture created a feeling of solidarity and of familiarity. It was a second family for many agents, and not rarely, it was their only family. Criminal investigation today is not exempt from mistakes, because it has to be done by men and women, not by error-free computers. Facts and possibilities are analysed under the light of knowledge that was produced by others before, and adapted to each case in particular. It is not always done the best way, but other professions also make mistakes, so why would anyone believe that criminal investigators are free from error? This is precisely why everyone is considered innocent until proved guilty. The serious criminal investigator, when he makes a mistake or when he makes a conclusive judgement, does not do it inadvertently, but rather because indices point him into that way. He is a collector of evidence, which, directly or indirectly, will allow the law to produce an accusation against someone for the practice of a crime. And even because those who have the mission of accusing others, may also err, because they are also men and women, there are other stages that follow, of a superior hierarchy in terms of decision, that are under the responsibility of other men and women, whose mission it is to judge the accuracy of the steps that had been taken before.
Of course, the system does not always function in such a clear manner, due to the fact that we are dealing with human beings, and power and control so often rule above the truth. This investigation has largely overstepped the mere search for truth about what happened to the little girl. It has become a power game in which different forces have disputed everything among them, except for the desire to discover the truth. Finally, everything was done and the conclusion is that the investigators will have a hard time to reach their initial goals, but it will still be a dignified conclusion to the work and dedication that were placed into this case. Madeleine Beth McCann would thank them, for everything that they gave up for her, and for the search. For her truth. If someday, someone would like to thank them, they will reply: “You’re welcome. That is what we are here for!”
João Tavares and Francisco Meireles are on service in Praia da Luz for the last time. Or at least, that is what they expect. The place does not bring them bad memories, but it has shown them doors that are still closed to human knowledge. They are sitting on the wall that surround the Church of Luz. The sea, as they can see it from there, looks imposing. It is very blue. It is a lot of sea. They say that it talks to those who listen to it, but it’s never said a word to these policemen. Francisco had never properly made a friendship with his chief. But he liked to talk with him, because he was always learning. The chief was not prone to talking about his family life, but Francisco took a chance and teased his superior:
- Well, Chief, looking into the blue like that… don’ tell me you already miss this, when you have barely left?
- Francisco, Francisco – João Tavares says, keeping his eyes on the ocean and smiling – everything in life, even the worst things, can help us to learn a little more.
- That is quite true, chief. But sometimes, if we knew a little more before things happen, that would be a good idea.
- That would not be funny at all. Knowing what is coming, would take pleasure out of life. This is how it’s enjoyable. Suddenly and without warning. That is how we see who can take it as a man!
- Well, I actually think it would be great. For example, it would come in handy for Euromillions, wouldn’t it?
João Tavares looks away from the ocean for a moment, and looking at Francisco, he says:
- I don’t usually bet on Euromillions, my friend, but if I ever did, there would be at least four numbers where I would place my little crosses, to hit the winning key. And I bet that at least I would get those four right. As a matter of fact, I would even call it the Luz key.
Those would be the 5, the 2, the 3 and the 1!