Major Antonio de Matos
2. This situation immediately led to the deployment to P da L of members of the GNR emergency patrol, consisting of officers José María Batista Roque and Neslon Filipe Pacheco da Costa, who, at the moment the communication was received, were in the Odeaxere area and who immediately left for the OC, where they arrived at 23.00, with the aim of finding out about the situation.
3. The patrol found the situation to be somewhat strange as the way the child had disappeared was not clear as she had been sleeping inside the apartment with the twins, whilst her parents were out dining 50 metres away in the same resort, and therefore the officers contacted the GNR post commander at 23.17, to tell him that the parents were holding the hypothesis that the child had been abducted.
4. The commander of the Lagos post, Sargeant Antonio Henrique Conceicao Duarte immediately left for the site the girl had disappeared from, telling the officers to preserve the apartment, and arrived at 23.50 at the OC, where he was informed about the situation together with the patrol officers and where he saw that searches had already taken place, carried out by the girl’s father and locals, but without any results.
5. On 4th May at 00.12 the Post Commander ordered that the GNR Post should contact the PJ in order to inform them of the events, considering that this could be a crime that was of their competence for investigation, also concluding that more means were needed at the scene to carry out searches to find the girl.
6. At 00.40, given the complexity of the situation that seemed to surround the disappearance, the GNR post commander requested reinforcements from two sniffer dog teams from the Portimao territorial group to help in the searches, considering the possibility that the girl could have left the apartment on foot and could be somewhere not very far from the OC resort.
2. Development of Action
2. At 02.00 they arrived at PDL and began searching with the Portimao sniffer dog teams 2 binomios cinotecnicos, the terrain searches were extended until the morning with the dogs and officers on the scene, as well as the night guard and local people who volunteered to help in the searches that took place throughout the night.
3. During this nocturnal period, the searches took place along the entire perimeter of the OC, in the urban area, plots of land and the nearest buildings, the officers searching all the place where there was a possibility the child might be, this area being extended later to include all of the beach zone.
4. At 08.00 three officers with 4 search and rescue dogs from Queluz arrived at the scene, these dogs immediately began to operate.
5. During the searches that began again on 4th May in the morning, 9 officers from the Lagos post were used as well as officers from the Rapid Intervention Force, who were sent to the beach to collaborate in the searches talking place there, and who were occupied in this task for the rest of the day.
6. At 11.00 the Commander of the Portimao Post went to the beach, having noted the concrete situation in which the disappearance had occurred, namely the fact that more than 12 hours had passed, without any positive sign from the searches that had taken place, felt it was urgent that the action commander should appear on the scene and he named the head of the Criminal Investigation Section, Major Sequiera as the Operation Commander, the latter arriving at the scene at about 15.00 on 4th May.
7. With the aim of organising more extended searches of the terrain, a meeting was organised at about 15.00 with all the civil protection competent entities, namely the President of the Lagos Municipal Chamber, the President of the Luz parish, the maritime authority and the district commander of search operations with the aim of their collaboration in the actions to be taken, the GNR being responsible for the coordination of the land searches and the Maritime authority would initiate specific searches within its area of competence.
8. It was understood that everything was prepared by these entities in the operation of searches that were designated for the area and great advantage would be gained from the knowledge of the terrain of the persons that would be used.
9. The CDOS was asked about the viability of using the SNBPC helicopter during the searches that would take place in the afternoon and it was defined that the helicopter would be used in the searches and would be in P da L at about 16.00.
10. Lines of action were established, from the organisation of the searches to be carried out and the definition of areas, according to their priority, using the different means considered adequate, by officers from the different security forces, by firemen and by civil protection officers.
11. At 16.00 searches using the helicopter were initiated, the helicopter was used for 90 minutes, covering the entire area from the coast line to the EN 125, between the limits of Atalaia and Ponta da Cama da Vaca, this being the limit of the area considered probable for the child to be found, according to the hypothesis that she had left the apartment where she was staying on foot.
12. During the helicopter search, the area previously referred to was covered, in phases, running from north to South, this method is quite efficient in open areas, where something that does not fit with the scenario being examined is easily identifiable, however in the areas being searched, given the quantity of buildings and garden areas present as well as the vegetation composed essentially of small and medium sized shrubs, the detection of a child is difficult, given her small size, whether she is immobile or has fallen in a position that does not reveal her physical contours or covered by vegetation.
13. Simultaneously the searches for the child continued, by means of the officers referred to previously, in all the areas surrounding the beach, and many local people were seen, who were looking for the child on their own initiative.
14. At 20.00 a new meeting was held with the entities involved, in the sense of making an evaluation of how the searches had been carried out up to that moment and given the absence of results, it was decided to continue them for the next days or until some result was achieved.
15. On the part of the GNR, as responsible organisation, not just for the searches on the ground, but also for the security of the perimeter surrounding the apartment the child disappeared from, it was agreed to maintain a force headed by an officer, considering that on the scene there was a concentrated number of national and foreign press teams and the site had also become a meeting point for people going through information about the case which needed to be gathered and passed on to the police.
16. Considering that the searches that had taken place with the help of the helicopter had not yielded any results, it was agreed to reinforce and extend the foot searches and reinforcement from the search and rescue dog team was requested, which arrived at P da L at 23.00 with 3 more sniffer teams for a total of six officers and eight specialised dogs.
17. During the nocturnal period, field searches were reduced, given the lack of visibility, searches were made by EPG officers with the search and rescue dogs which concentrated particularly on the urban area of P da L.
18. The commander of the Portimao Prosecutor Division, which provided the officers for the nocturnal period was asked for the search operation order, which took place, the officers of that search force being organised by attributing them an area, next to the coastline, surrounding P da L, based upon the knowledge these officers had of the area.
19. In the nocturnal period and for the duration of the search phase, officers from the Criminal Investigation Nucleus remained on the ground who made the first exploration of diverse information that emerged, which was then channelled to the PJ, these officers also covered the locations closest to P da L, working in a certain way as operation reserve command during that period.
20. During this phase, during the nocturnal period, sniffer teams from the Portimao Territorial Group that were directed essentially to carry out patrols and searches in the urban area of P da L.
21. Indications were given to the Commander of the Albufeira Traffic Division to send available patrol teams to the Lagos area with the aim of carrying out a reinforcement of circulation control from the A22 and EN125, with the aim of guaranteeing greater intensity of patrols and STOP actions on the access roads to the Algarve, under the responsibility of police officers from that unit.
22. On 5th May at 08.00 the second day of searching began and given the absence of results from the previous day, a first systemised search area was established, including the entire area south of the EN 125, Quatro Estradas/Atalaia and Almadena/Burgau being the limits, with an approximate area of 16 km2, which had already been covered on 4th May by the CDOS helicopter between 16.00 and 17.30 and by officers and members of other entities that collaborated in the searches.
23. This area, considered to be the close perimeter of the site of disappearance, was divided into 17 sectors, the search responsibility was given to the different teams that had been established for this purpose, during the morning and afternoon. The insistence upon searches in this close perimeter was justified by its being the most probable area where the girl would be found, still working on the basis of the theory that she could have the left the apartment where she was staying on foot.
24. Working from this perspective, the probability was that she would have walked south in the direction of Rua Francisco Gentil Martins, because of the fact that it was an area that she had passes several times on the way to the beach, because it was the zone with the best illumination and because the road sloped downwards. The probability of her having taken the route towards Rua Agostinho da Silva, either to the right or to the left, was considered to be relatively reduced, because of the fact that this area was darker and that the ground layout presents an ascending direction. In these theories, it was considered to be a remote probability that the girl would have walked north to the Rua 1º de Maio and the EN 537-1 that links P da L to the EN 125 (Espiche crossing), considering that she would have done this over 1.2 km and where there would have been a greater degree of certainty that she would have been seen by motorists travelling on the road in either direction, the latter never having been reported.
25. On 5th May, those directly involved in the operations that took place in PDL and the surrounding area were 6 officers from the EPG sniffer team (search and rescue team), all available officers from the Lagos territorial post (about 20 officers), reinforcements from the Portimao Territorial Division (10 officers), reinforcements from the Silves Territorial Division (10 officers), from Albufeira (10 officers), from the Portimao Command Group (15 officers – FIR and IC), from the Faro TG (4 officers), GIPS (6 officers), from the Portimao Prosecutor’s Division (5 officers) a number of Guarda officers who were maintained for the rest of the search days.
26. It is be to be noted that the Commander of the Lagos Territorial Post, given the seriousness of the situation, cancelled the leave of officers from the post for seven days following the girl’s disappearance, considering that it was necessary to have officers with knowledge of the area, not only for the search teams but also for the security of the Operation Command and the apartment the girl had disappeared from.
27. Others who took part in the searches were officers from the Lagos Public Security Police, the Maritime Police within their area of responsibility (maritime public domain), officers from Municipal Civil Protection, volunteer firemen from Lagos and from the Portuguese Red Cross.
28. Six officers from the Algarve Canine Rescue team (ECRA) – a legally constituted association - joined in the searches by volunteering their help at the PDL Operations Post.
29. Each search team always had an officer responsible for contact with the Lagos GNR Territorial Post, this officer would be attributed the area that the team would search and would give a photocopy of the marked area to each of the officers showing the indications about the technical manner the searches should adopt, with the formation of search lines, there had to be a visual over view of the limits of each officer’s area and they were told to observe all accessible sites, where it could be possible to hide a girl or a body and the residents should be asked whether they had any useful information.
30. At the end of each search period, the individuals responsible for each group, whether they were officers or civilians, would present themselves at the Command Post, with the purpose of reporting the way in which the searches had been carried out, whether the whole of the attributed area had been searched and if any pertinent information had been gathered.
31. An organised group of volunteers, mainly English residents from the area, were also integrated into the searches, who also had a Command Post contact member, this group was attributed sectors that had been previously searched by GNR officers.
32. At 11.00 a meeting took place in the Portimao DIC installations, attended by the Directors and coordinators from the PJ, the Group Commander and the officer whose signature appears below, in their capacity as responsible officers for the ground searches. The Guarda referred to the way the searches had been carried out, the feasibility of implementing STOP actions on the roads to Luz was discussed, the PJ not having any objection, considering that it could be useful to the investigation.
33. On this day, apart from the actions implemented by the Traffic Brigade on the furthest roads, STOP operations were carried out on the EN 125, in a discontinuous manner, to control the access routes to P da L and surrounding areas, with the aim of creating instability, given the possibility that the girl had been taken by someone within this perimeter and was aiming to take her from the area. With the help of patrols from the PTR, Aljezur and Odeceixe, STOP actions were also carried out on the EN 120, considering it to be a regional penetration road to the area of Costa Vicentina.
34. The Lagos Security Police also carried out a random control of vehicles, using the STOP actions especially at the EN 125 roundabout that gives access to the A22, these actions were continued over several days.
35. On 6th May at 08.00 the third day of searches began, continuing to make efforts in different sectors of the close perimeter, considering that this is an area with a high number of houses, that it was important to go through this area again, with the aim of contacting their owners, collecting information that could be useful in locating the missing girl. Effort was made that the teams did not repeat sectors they had searched previously, given that people have the tendency to search in the same way, thereby minimising situations of error in the execution of searches in the different sectors of this close perimeter.
36. On this day a second level of searching was begun, with them being extended to an intermediary perimeter, in a semi circle with the eastern limit in Lagos/ EN 120/ Bensafrim/ Barao de Sao Joao / Barao de Sao Miguel and Boca do Rio as the western limit, covering an are of almost 75 km2, divided in 17 sectors with a wider net than the area of the close perimeter, a mixture of searches was carried out in this area, using foot and motorised teams, especially the use of motorcycles, depending on the topography of the terrain. The need to extend the perimeter of the searches was due to the fact that no sign of the girl had been found during the previous two days in the areas that had been searched and from the third day the theory that the girl might have been taken by someone was considered and, in the face of this hypothesis, the search operation was given a new scenario, becoming the search for a girl – alive or dead –(the second possibility being the most probable) who had been left somewhere by an abductor.
37. In the hypothesis that the girl had been taken by someone and taking into account the time that had passed before the Guarda was alerted, it would be possible that she had been transported to a distance quite far away, further than any of the search perimeters, however the lack of any information about what really could have happened, makes it necessary that the decision about how to direct the searches, should be based only on the typology of the crime eventually in question and on the profile of the aggressor of this kind of crime, who would normally leave the victim in a place not very far from where she had been taken and who would in most cases bury the child. Within the theory, searches were made using an all terrain vehicle of the area composed of the Mata Nacional do Barao de S. Joao.
38. On this day, 6th May, the same number of Guarda officers was deployed as on the previous day and was reinforced by 16 officers from the Evora Territorial Brigade who replaced officers from the Faro Territorial Post, the latter being used in STOP operations on the main access roads to Lagos. The remaining entities and search groups used the day before were maintained with the exception of the Red Cross which only participated on 5th May.
39. During the nocturnal period, as on the previous nights, about 18 officers were deployed, guaranteeing the functioning of the Control Post, security and the preservation of the site the child had disappeared from, the control of surrounding areas and the closest localities was continued, searching for suspicious movements, whether by people or vehicles, mainly using officers from the Criminal Investigation Nucleus.
40. On 7th May at 08.00 the fourth day of searching began, at that time there was no sign or positive result and so sectors of the perimeter continued to be searched, new examinations of the close perimeter were carried out by new teams and searches of the intermediate perimeter were continued, the means used being similar to those of the previous days.
41. On this day the perimeter of the searches was extended to Lagos in the north and to Vila do Bispo in the east, for an are of about 250 km2, these searches being carried out almost entirely with the use of vehicles, given the topography of the terrain and the vegetation, this was called the distant perimeter, with an average radius of 15 km from P da L, being divided in 14 search areas.
42. The same activity carried out on the previous nights took place, namely the deployment of officers from the criminal investigation nucleus, controlling any eventual suspicious movements in the areas surrounding P da L.
43. On the 8th May at 08.00 the fifth day of searching began, maintaining the theories of the previous days, in other words the lack of existence of any information to direct the searches to any specific area and searches were continued within the three perimeters with the same number of officers.
44. On this fifth day the search operation was joined by forest fire fighting officers from the Terras do Infante Association, using three all terrain vehicles, who carried out searches using their own means in forest and rough terrain areas of the distant perimeter, using their exhaustive knowledge of these areas gleaned from their daily activities of preventing forest fires.
45. Given the number of days that had passed since the disappearance of Madeleine McCann it was considered appropriate to request help from the Lagos Voluntary Firemen who took part in the operations, and on this day carried out searches as the Bravura dam, situated to the north of Odeaxere, using their aquatic equipment, considering that a body that has fallen or been thrown into water tends to surface after 72 hours, this team searched all the branches of the dam using an outboard motor and found nothing suspicious.
46. Officers from the Lagos Aeroclub offered their help in flying over the search areas with the aim of collaborating in the ongoing operations, their offer was accepted by the Operations Commander and they were instructed to fly over the Intermediate perimeter, they used 4 ultra light planes, flying at low height and in a line formation, but found no information to report.
47. On 9th May at 08.00 the sixth day of searching began, continuing with the search sequences of the previous days using teams of officers from the different entities that had participated in the operation, searching in the three perimeters that had been defined, at this stage all the sectors had been covered at least once by different teams, using all terrain vehicles in the distant perimeter, motorcycles in the intermediate perimeter and foot and horse teams in the close and intermediate perimeters, as well as air searches, without any sign of the girl being found.
48. Given the status of the searches, the officer undersigned, as Operation Commander proposed to the Portimao Territorial Group Commander that the searches of the area should be concluded, considering that the efforts made until then, with an elevated number of human resources used had allowed for the searching of a vast area, especially due to actions of the search and rescue sniffer teams, which with a great physical and spirited skill, with the help of technical capacity, consolidated by years of accumulated experience in multiple scenarios, searched vast areas without detecting any sign leading to the girl’s location.
50. The search and rescue sniffer teams continued to carry out searches until 18th May when they returned to the Queluz post.
2. Searches carried out in the Maritime Public Domain were the responsibility of the Maritime Authorities, who carried them out within the scope of their knowledge, technical experience and using their own means.
3. Given the operational scenario and taking into account the deployment of officers and the areas searched, at the end of the seventh day of operations it was decided that all possibility of finding the girl by means of searches of the area had been exhausted, no sign or information relevant to the investigation having been found.
4. Taking into account that during the searches carried out, care was taken to minimise the hypothesis of error, with the division of the area into sectors and searches undertaken by different teams, it is considered that if there is any possibility that the girl should be found in areas searched, her eventual location would lead to action from the ongoing criminal investigation.