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

10 - JAN à SEP - Blacksmith Bureau 2

Heading for Rothley 
- 29.01.2010

On the very first page of this blog, we asserted that the McCanns had lied about the case from beginning to end. Perhaps readers thought, oh this is blogland, people make all sorts of claims. No. We repeat, and it is a matter of record, that Kate & Gerry McCann lied from beginning to end of the investigation into their daughter's disappearance, a claim that will stand up in the libel courts because it is undeniably true. It began, as we said, with the parents failing to tell the police the truth in their very first interviews. As the case prosecutor, Mr. Menezes, stated in court, in Lisbon, this month: "the couple lied to police about how long they had left Madeleine alone." And it ended with the McCanns claiming through their spokesperson that the final report from that same Mr. Menezes concluding the case in August 2008, "cleared" them. That was also a lie, not a misunderstanding, one which they later embellished by claiming that "the courts" had cleared them. Nowhere does the report clear them.
Now, this is not just a problem for Kate & Gerry McCann. It is a very real problem for their friends, the so-called Tapas 7. Why? Because most members of the group confirmed in their own statements the accuracy of what the couple had told the police. And they did not do so by accident, nor by hearsay. Hearsay? No, couldn't be. They unequivocally confirmed the parents' claims from their own observation of who did what when they all shared a meal in the so-called Tapas bar that night. Accidental misinformation? How could it be? We know that they discussed the claims of who checked whom on the night of May 3/4 and then wrote down what they had agreed, on two separate pieces of paper which the police seized. A few days later, and before their second police interviews, the group produced a third, fully detailed, printed document again confirming that the parents had checked the children at the times they said they had. The times which Mr. Menezes, with the benefits of the investigation papers behind him, states are lies.
Half-truths ...

It is worth remembering what a witness statement is designed to do. As a UK legal guidance document puts it, in plain language: In general a witness statement should only contain information on what the witness saw, and not what others have said to him/her. The reason for this is simple: if everyone sticks to a frank description of what they themselves, and nobody else, did and saw then the statements can be compared to build up a picture of the truth. If, however, witnesses discuss what others have done, or if they describe what others are supposed to have done, the statements actually obstruct a picture of events emerging. The May 4 statements of the McCanns are not only untrue but they present a devastating breach of witness good practice. From the start both of them describe what others were doing that night when out of their sight, i.e information that they could not possibly have known was true, but which fits in with their own version of events. And, equally damning, even though the statements were taken independently, they use almost exactly the same words for long passages: they have clearly discussed and agreed and memorized what they are going to say. It would take months of police work to unravel the mixture of confusion, untruth, and collusion which these statements by the group provided, information, it's worth reminding ourselves, which was vital for the effort to trace the child during the first forty eight hours. When they had done so – and after Mr Amaral the "discredited cop" was removed from the case - they pinpointed the areas of inconsistency in the statements and decided that only by making these witnesses actually repeat their supposed movements that night – the so-called reconstruction – could the confusion be clarified.

So much for the claims, repeated again recently, that the case against the parents was "old stuff", an absurd idee fixe of Goncalo Amaral and his few colleagues in the early days of the case. On the contrary it was the new team led by Amaral's successor Rebelo who put the whole process of trying to get the truth out of the nine into action: if, as it appeared, the parents' version of their movements that night was untrue and the other seven had confirmed that version, then the investigation could go nowhere until the inconsistencies were confronted. And then? It was certainly not impossible that the inconsistencies would be ironed out and the credibility of the witness statements strengthened – in which case all nine probably would have been "cleared" - genuinely cleared - of suspicion. That in turn would certainly have led to a re-focusing of the case onto different lines of investigation.Why should anyone object to such an idea? And what did the Tapas 7 think about it?

Fugitives 'R' Us – 05.02.2010
After the hastily scribbled "Let's dismember Noddy" timelines the group subsequently sat down and created what they called a "collective recollection" of events. Written over the weekend of the disappearance - how did they find the time? - this was an expansion of the hand-written notes into a three page printed document, now including a lengthy description of Jane Tanner's fleeing stranger, though quite how a "collective document" could assist a sole witness, rather than unintentionally corrupting her evidence, was not made clear. Nothing, indeed, has ever been clear about this document except the bafflement it induced in the Portuguese police. Didn't professional people like them understand that it was a complete corruption of the statement process? Apparently not. Couldn't they see that it looked like another attempt at a unified story, as well as breaching the secrecy guidelines? Nope. Basically we wrote it to help you, said the group. Help us? You think this helps us? Police bemusement was complete when, having handed the thing around to British embassy staff as if it were the latest Big Issue, those who were being re-questioned on May 10 asked if they could take their own copies into the interview room to help answer the questions! 
La PJ a fermé les yeux dans la crainte de vagues qui lui seraient reprochées. Dès le départ (Twweedle..., Baby face...), les policiers portugais ont fait l'objet d'une nette condescendance.

In early September when the leading man and lady were removed from the stage and named, to audience uproar, as arguidos. Following their hasty exit to the UK the two stars now had to concentrate on the altogether less glamorous business of clearing themselves. Those, however, who thought that the parents, once away from the hysterical rumour mill of the Portuguese press, would dismiss the "ludicrous" claims against them with ease by calmly and simply putting forward the facts that demonstrated their innocence, were in for a shock. That was not to be their strategy at all. With their new-found financial resources the parents engaged two of the most skilled and expensive lawyers in London. One, Gerald Caplan QC, was a specialist in saving people from extradition, however strong the evidence against them appeared to be. He was the saviour, if that is the right word, of Chile's ex-dictator General Pinochet, who had begun his political career with the slaughter of his democratically elected predecessor and continued it with his "expunging" of political opponents by killing them on a truly South American scale. (...)

The other selected lawyer was a Mr Angus McBride, a high whizz at – what? Helping innocents abroad? No, not exactly. Wrongful arrest cases? Miscarriages of justice? Not those either. The very, very expensive McBride specialises in "repairing high-profile reputations" and dealing with the media. Famous actor caught with kiddy porn, career facing ruin? Angus is your man. Famous footballer with a penchant for violence and adultery? Send for Angus, he'll clean you up so you keep your earning power. Knows how to use the media, you know, there's nobody to touch him. For two innocent people, victims of a ghastly misunderstanding who just wanted the police to find their child, these were very strange choices indeed. (...) And quite how a celebrity reputation repairer could help free two innocent provincial doctors to return to Portugal and carry on with the search for their child seems something of a mystery. All very weird. Nevertheless that was their choice. Returning voluntarily to co-operate with the police was out of the window. Using the so-called "twin-track" strategy that the other lawyer, Ed "expunge it" Smethurst, so helpfully described, Caplan and his staff would explore the strength of the case against them, highlight their vulnerabilities, counter the police evidence and, in effect, challenge the Portuguese to come and get them via the extradition process.At the same time, on the other track, McBride would use the media via the pliant Clarence Mitchell to maintain or rebuild public confidence in the pair, using the full battery of leaks, documentaries, selected interviews and all the other black arts of news management to ensure that, even if the Portuguese case was strong enough legally to push the pair into a plane, public opinion would intimidate the Home Office into raising the bar. It was very clever, very professional and very pricey. As for the vulnerabilities in their version of events, some of which involved members of the Tapas 7 too, they had to be tackled. What to do?

Wednesday the 10th08.02.2010
We had planned to bring our own "twin tracks" – current events and the background to the case – together by this Wednesday but the skeletons are still being shovelled out of the Team McCann cupboard, so not quite. Still, it's unlikely that there'll be a verdict then so perhaps we'll have convergence by judgement day. Gradually the issues at the heart of the case, which are bigger than Gonçalo Amaral or any other individual, have become clearer. They will remain, like unhealed wounds, until one day, somewhere, a full libel case reaches the courts. Until then we have the present hearing. The McCanns' legal team have claimed that Amaral's theory of death in 5A reflects only his own false assumptions. Looking at the investigation as a whole, says the lawyer Duarte, rather than merely the early stages before Amaral was removed, his conclusions are clearly not justified by the investigation evidence. Therefore his repetition of the claim is an outrageous libel and a breach of their rights under Portuguese law. How to decide the truth? The evidence lies, of course, in the case papers. But to go through them, and the required witness clarifications, would amount to a full-scale trial covering months. The McCanns' case is that even if this were practical – and the costs would be colossal - such an effort would take too long: the damage caused by Amaral's "thesis" has to be addressed as a matter of urgency.

They claimed, therefore, that the key evidence should be the famous archiving dispatch by the prosecutors, a short-cut which can be taken as a factual and unarguable summary of the entire investigation. The relevant passages concern, firstly, 
the absence of evidence for any involvement of the parents in a serious crime, which, states the document, seems to result from the objective circumstances of them not being inside the apartment when she disappeared and from their normal behaviour until the disappearance and afterwards.
And, secondly, there is the conclusion : that 
the entire investigation had produced no evidence at all to formulate any intelligible theory as to what had happened and no evidence to decide whether the child is alive or dead.
Thus, the parents claim, and have claimed repeatedly, the authoritative summary of the whole investigation does not support Amaral's claim that the child is definitely dead and, as a matter of simple fact, "clears" them. Judgement should, therefore, be given against Amaral and the handcuffs of the injunction remain in place. On the other side lies the fact that the report explicitly refuses to "clear" them. In a long section on the vexed question of the inconsistencies in the Tapas 9's version of events, and the need for a reconstruction of their movements to clarify them, it says quite clearly that after all nine were requested to attend,
nevertheless, despite national authorities taking all measures to render their trip to Portugal viable and after the many doubts that they raised about the necessity and opportunity of their trip were clarified several times, they chose not to attend, for unknown motives, which rendered the [attempted reconstruction ] impractical. We believe, adds the report, that the main damage was caused to the McCann arguidos, who lost the possibility to prove what they have protested since they were made arguidos: their innocence regarding the fateful event. The investigation was also disturbed, because these facts remain to be clarified.

So that is what this judge, and no doubt future judges, will have to confront. So far two of the McCann claims have been shown to be untrue and go out of the window, unless the judge is both deaf and blind. Factually, there is no "clearance" for the parents in the report, and therefore in the investigation. Secondly the belief in "the involvement" of the McCanns was not Amaral's alone but that of the whole investigative team, as the police testified. A third claim that the document does not support Amaral's belief that the child is dead is true. The prosecutors say that the chances are 50/50 and one of them repeated it in court. But they say that on the basis of an incomplete, or as the prosecutors describe it, a "disturbed", not just archived, investigation. The very people seeking the protection of the Portuguese justice system refused to co-operate with that system when the investigation took place and, absurdly, remain beyond its reach while sitting in the courtroom! Leaving this conflict of rights and responsibilities aside, one question for the judge immediately arises: if they and the seven other key witnesses had agreed to co-operate would the report still say the same things?

No. Purely as a matter of fact it cannot. The entire reconstruction section is out. The claim that the parents lost their chance to show their innocence is out. And the conclusions arising from their questioning would have to be incorporated into the investigation and therefore the summary's conclusions would have to take a different form, one way or the other. Would the chances of the child still be, like Schrodinger's cat, an undecidable 50/50? We don't know, because the people claiming the protection of the law will not let us know, even though they were free to do so. So the claim that the archiving summary decides matters of fact and can be used as a short-cut in place of the full investigation record is very moot indeed. Nor was it acceptable to this judge, although it had been to the semi-secret and hurried second hearing now under appeal. An appeal court could hardly accept as an ultimate factual record a document that one of the parties had influenced by their refusal to return to Portugal. Against the objections of their lawyers the full record of the case on DVD was admitted in evidence. As a result the summary itself, and the circumstances that produced it,can now be assessed as part of the judgement process. Those are the points that the judge will have to decide on. And more judges in the future. It looks like the lawyers are going to be raking it in for a very long time to come.

Winning his spurs - 08.02.2010
The clouds of smoke and misinformation that hang over the efforts of Kate and Gerry McCann to avoid justice in Portugal in the Autumn of 2007 have yet to disperse. The first casualty of the switch from "The Fairy Story" to the deadly serious business of defending themselves was the removal of Justine McGuiness. M/S McGuiness was a slick enough PR person but her background wasn't in crisis management and she lacked the requisite sense of intrigue, as well as the stomach, for the new chapter in the Madeleine McCann case. Chocolate box suggestions such as a photo shoot of Kate McCann in an orphanage, with its overtones (clever, Justine!) of Princess Di, were OK back in the heady days of national martyrdom. Now was the time for stronger stuff. Two weeks after her departure Clarence Mitchell announced at a press conference outside the McCanns' redbrick house in Rothley that he was resigning from the Foreign Office to work with the McCanns, mainly because "he believed in their innocence." There is much dislike, even hatred, of Mitchell among those who have followed the case. The lugubrious undertaker-like figure of Clarence, however, brings a note of pure comedy into the sombre drama of Madeleine McCann; despite the sinister nature of his activities he remains as much a buffoon as a conspiritor, someone whose reach always exceeds his talents. Pompous as a small town councillor, the journalist whose love of gruesome murders made him the butt of unpleasant jokes from his colleagues, the trainee TV newsreader who, farcically, lost his job by falling asleep and missing his bulletin, the head of a glorified press-cuttings department in the civil service which foreigners believed was a spider's web of secret intelligence with Clarence at its centre,reporting daily to the prime minister with his MMU folder under his arm. Nobody, but nobody, had ever taken Clarence Mitchell as seriously as he took himself before; now was the chance to show that Clarence could play with the big boys. Not that there was anything comical about the role that was envisaged for him. Mitchell was not appointed as a successor to McGuiness - spokesperson to handle the media - and so criticism that he was a "dirty tricks" man, someone who brought PR - the occupation, let us remember, of the UK's next prime minister - into disrepute misses the mark. "Dirty tricks", the manipulation of the facts of the case against the parents, exemplified by his consistently untruthful versions of what was in the police statements, are what he was recruited and paid for. Comical? Yes, but there was something deeply disgusting about what Mitchell was to become.

He was appointed as part of the defence group which would, in accordance with the lawyers' strategy, be used to feed information supplied by the parents and their lawyers to the press, in order to strengthen the chances of escaping justice in Portugal. That was it. That is one of the reasons why his salary, unlike that of his predecessor, was not paid by the fund – debarred, you will note, from paying legal expenses – but by Ed the Expunger's boss, the millionaire Brian Kennedy. It was not a job for the faint-hearted and about the only thing to be said in favour of little Justine is that she wasn't up for it. Mitchell soon had work to do. We know now that as the twin track defence got under way there were two areas of acute concern for the parents about what they, and some of the Tapas 7, had told the police. What we still don't know - yet - is exactly what lies behind the intensity of their fears at the deepest level and why they were so determined to try and alter the record, even if that meant contacting other members of the Tapas Seven. That itself would be a desperately chancy and dangerous move, especially in the paranoid world into which the McCanns had, by degrees, descended: among the crooks and mercenaries that the Find Madeleine fund was financing, supposedly searching for the child, there was a strong belief that phones were being tapped. The first of the subjects that frightened the parents and troubled the defence did not involve the Tapas 7 version of events except peripherally - in the persons of Mathew Oldfield and Jane Tanner. It concerned the visit to apartment 5a of one of the last people known to have seen Madeleine McCann alive, her father. Mr McCann has spent a great deal of time trying to reconcile what he told the police in his three different statements about that visit with the timetable of events dictated by Jane Tanner's sighting of a possible abductor, as well as with the peculiarities of Mr Oldfield’s non-existent check on Madeleine shortly afterwards.

As is well known Gerry McCann now, and very abruptly, began to "remember" things about that visit. At the beginning of September, in Portugal, he had maintained that he had only gone into the lounge and the children's bedroom. Nowhere else. Was he sure? Nowhere? Absolutely. Now, a few weeks later, back in England and under the wing of Caplan and McBride, Gerry let it be known via their new and ambitious paid mouthpiece that Gerry had "remembered" going to the lavatory in the apartment.
Non, Gerald MC a mentionné son passage par la salle de bain dès sa première déposition. L'idée que le ravisseur était déjà dans l'appartement ne provient pas d'une "sensation" qu'aurait eue Gerald, mais de la logique, puisque Jane TB voit Tannerman s'éloigner du 5A 2 ou 3 minutes après la sortie de Gerald du 5A.
And let it be known also that he "sensed" the presence of an intruder while he was there. These "letting it be knowns" were not, of course, spontaneous recollections and they were made with the active or tacit approval of his lawyers as part of the "expunge!" agenda. The reaction in Portugal was immediate. The police, perhaps unwisely, jeered at these new discoveries and pointed out that, if Gerry McCann had sensed an intruder in the apartment but then calmly left his daughter to her possible fate by returning to his food and wine, he was an even worse father and human being than they had suspected. In response Clarence Mitchell was given one of his first jobs as a fully paid up member of the parents'– not Madeleine's, be it noted – team: get out there, get the address cards out, brief the press and kill the accusation. He passed with flying colours, first conferring with Gerry McCann and then lying smoothly for his £70 000 a year. "Clarence Mitchell said Mr McCann's realisation that he had been in the same room as the abductor only came to him later and the comments had been "totally misunderstood" by Mr Anjos [the police officer]. This was said in the original witness statement," Mr Mitchell added, "there is nothing that has come out recently that should be of surprise to the officers.” No such thing had been mentioned in the original witness statement. It was a complete and outright lie, made in the knowledge that Gerry's witness statement was known only to the police and to the McCann defence team and he could not, therefore, be caught out. Mr Mitchell had arrived. The newsfeed was a blueprint for the Mitchell approach: utterly dishonest, utterly untruthful, successful in the short term. Mr Mitchell had finally reached a position where what he said really mattered. Meanwhile the gaps in the Authorised Version, the ones that were causing Gerry McCann such anxiety, had to be plugged.

Postscript - 10.07.2010
Antony Sharples writes: The Blacksmith Bureau signed off without fuss at the end of the hearings to lift the various gagging orders on Goncalo Amaral. I am not a blogger; I have no interest at all in giving opinions for their own sake. The only reason for the Bureau's brief existence was to help Amaral in his struggle with the McCanns, by providing information from police and other confidential sources which was being hidden from the public, and by acting as a link between Portugal and selected UK media. Before that the only reason for the Cracked Mirror was to provide the public - for the first and only time as far as I know - with some idea of what the people involved in the affair were really like. Kate & Gerry McCann have never been able to give frank and open descriptions of what happened on the night of May 3. As the Bureau posts showed, time after time they have told significant untruths while using a screen of public relations techniques and personnel to protect themselves from direct interrogation. The nearest the pair came to real questioning - and it wasn't very near, either - was in police headquarters in Portimao between May 4 and May 10. It is a matter of public and judicial record, as attested in court in Lisbon during the gagging hearings by the prosecutor in charge of the case, that the McCanns lied during those interrogations.That is the only reason I became interested in the case: not because I'm a crime story freak - far from it - nor because I thought the parents were criminals or monsters. Within weeks of reading reports of the disappearance of the child it was clear to me and others, as it later became clear to the prosecutor who wrote the 2008 report that the McCanns claim "cleared them", that they were not telling the truth. The question, which has never been answered, is why were they not telling the truth? What possible reason or justification could there be for the parents of the missing child to lie to the police?

Obsessionally trying to find the answer to that question led me into the shadowy, wild and ultimately repulsive world of the Madeleine McCann affair. Shadowy first, last and always because of Gerald McCann's naive and self-destructive obsession with melodramatic intrigue and secrecy rather than openness: nearly all the darkness stems from that one source. It is not true to say that such darkness derives from a criminal act which suddenly drew a rather colourless hospital cardiologist into a film-noir nightmare of the most terrifying kind. On that front, indeed, there is only silence: no kidnapper has ever contacted him, no abductor has enmeshed him in Hollywood horrors, no malefactor at all has ever surfaced or even left traces, let alone played games with Dr McCann. Colourless on the surface he might be but all the noir - the ex-SAS men, the dodgy private investigators, the chancers and hustlers, the bizarre and fantastic "suspects" named by Gerry McCann's own employees, the absurd and pompous "operational reasons", the inflated hopes and crushing media-fed letdowns - have come directly from Dr McCann and his way of handling a grievous family disappearance. The wildness of this world derives, of course, from the enormous financial bonanza which the case provided for so many deeply undeserving people - the Crisis PR crowd, the newspaper proprietors, the pompous and ill-informed feature writers and journalists and many, many others. Even for cynics such as myself it was an eye-opener on the modern world, this commodification of a three year old child, a child quite manifestly much more valuable missing and almost certainly dead than alive and at home. We've gradually grown used to the ways of the media and publishing worlds in which the freakier or the more bizarrely wicked the subject - two headed infants, sex slaves in the cellar, drug-induced octuplets - the greater the dividend, especially when suitably embellished with nauseating sentimentality.

But this one did me in: it was like watching jackals fighting to grab a bite out of the child's corpse and carry it away for it to be retrieved and auctioned off. What a product! A better writer than me once said that the ultimate merchandise was God's Own Medicine, Good Old Smack, heroin. Why, you didn't sell the product to the user - you sold the user to the product! William Burroughs should have been around to watch Product Maddie make literally tens of millions of pounds for those who provided bite after bite. Bite after bite: it was one of Bill Gates's people who said that the glory of selling information is that when you've sold it you've still got it and can sell it again. And again. Just like Product Maddie. Kelvin Mackenzie, ex-editor of the Sun, said it was "the story of the century" and found it quite natural that newspapers were putting on tens of thousands of readers every time they brought back a slavering, new mouthful: the public wanted to know more and it was the media's job to give them more. But more of what in return for the ackers? Facts? Accuracy? Most of the media libelled the McCanns around the time they were made arguidos, when they thought it was safe to do so. But not once did they penetrate the defences which the McCanns had erected so skilfully - and so expensively - around themselves in order to get the pair to speak freely; instead they betrayed the public by enacting the charade of "interviews" in which the agenda was laid down by the parents and their advisors. It was this willingness of the media to be used which led to the third element. For with that media betrayal people turned to the internet for information. Ah, the wonders of blogs, websites and forums! 

Something worrying happens to people at a screen. Harmless schoolmasters download images by the thousand of babies being fucked; others, again apparently normal away from the screen, glory in deceit, pretending to be someone half their age and of a different gender until they meet and score with a fourteen year old or simply gain some weird buzz from creating a false identity; still others obsessively google for the composition of poisons or the ingredients of bombs or the perfect murder. And others scream, shout and above all pose on forums. Facts could be discovered, yes, but in a matrix of deception and constant petty strife.Having left that world to smell fresh, clean air at the end of February I do not wish to re-visit it.To conclude: I do not regard the McCanns as killers or conspiritors in the disposal of Madeleine McCann. I have no theory whatever as to who did what on May 3. All I have ever wanted is to find out why the McCanns, as the prosecutor said, lied to the police and pass that information on to the public. I eventually became convinced that the only chance of doing so was if Goncalo Amaral faced the pair in an English libel court and all three were cross-examined under oath. To that end I volunteered to work with and support Amaral despite significant differences of approach that arose between he and his team and myself. We failed. The gagging hearings went the other way. The prospects of a defended English libel trial faded. Rather than disagree with that brave man's approach - Amaral is the one who has staked everything, not me - or with that of his support team I decided there was nothing more I could, or wanted, to do. It was over. As always, here's to truth.

Jane Tanner Again - 07.08.2010
Those attempting to follow the rather muted court proceedings involving Robert Murat and Jane Tanner may be interested in a little more background to the events that prompted them. Just how much comfort the outcome will bring to those interested in the facts of the McCann affair and the possibility of truth emerging, however, is another matter. The complaint by Mr Murat is a criminal, not a civil, one of "calumnious denunciation". From that marvel of infinite flexibility the Portuguese Penal code we learn that 
anyone who by any means, before the authority or publicly, with the knowledge of falsity of the imputation, denounces or casts upon a determined person the suspicion of the practice of crime, with intent that against her it is placed a legal proceeding, shall be punished with imprisonment up to 3 years or with a fine.
To prove such a charge, convincing evidence that the perpetrator "had knowledge of the falsity of the imputation" would be crucial. No such evidence has been or will be adduced for the very good reason that there isn't any, despite the continued scattergun smearing of M/S Tanner's supposed motives by the usual suspects. But clause two reads: 
If the conduct consists in the false imputation of unlawful fact or disciplinary penalty, the agent is punished with imprisonment of up to 1 year or a fine of up to 120 days.

Now that's a different ball game altogether. No need for a lawyer to dive into the outdated cess pit of conspiracy, cover up and political protection in the hopeless attempt to show that M/S Tanner knew that she was making a false accusation against Robert Murat. Just establishing that she had mistakenly pointed a finger at Mr Murat might well be enough to secure a conviction, leaving all sorts of juicy possibilities of civil actions stretching far into the future. Because a very convincing case can be made that it was neither the infamous Lori Campbell, nor the three Tapas 9 members who allegedly spotted Mr Murat on the night of May 3, who triggered the police into all-out action, thus effectively ruining Murat's life; no, it was the supposed identification of Murat as the figure later known as "bundleman" that was crucial. The basis of that claim is unambiguous. Goncalo Amaral made it clear that he was unwilling to turn the full might of the investigation onto Murat unless there was evidence suggesting that he might be the famous but elusive "bundleman". 
GA pensait à une enfant possiblement captive et craignait que l'on dise qu'il était passé à côté. La dénonciation de RM, par la reporter, au LC a fonctionné comme pression.
Having obtained a search warrant for Robert Murat's home, in his own words:
Before the search, we want to assure ourselves that Jane Tanner recognises him as the individual she saw on the night of the disappearance. She is sitting inside an unmarked car, whose tinted windows allow her to see out without being spotted. The vehicle is parked at the exact spot where she was on the night of May 3rd. Robert Murat, anonymous amongst plain clothes police officers, goes up the road in the same way as the alleged abductor. Jane Tanner is adamant: it certainly is Robert Murat that she saw that night. She definitely recognises his way of walking." And, he adds - the critical question - "But does he resemble the description she painted previously?

Quite apart from the havoc which ensued for Mr Murat this is also the key to the entire abduction issue, much more important than the supposed "impossibilities" that Inspector Amaral made such unfortunate mention of in his television documentary, more important indeed than the swamp-like and impenetrable testimonies of the Tapas 9. If, a little over a week since the disappearance, M/S Tanner identified Robert Murat, the round faced, north-European with short fair hair and, above all, spectacles, as the nightmarishly shadowy but indubitably long-haired, long-faced and swarthy figure she claimed to have seen in similar lighting on May 3 then clearly she was a completely worthless eye-witness who could not be relied on to have seen anything on the night of May 3. She was discredited. It is doubly unfortunate that this relatively simple question – whether or not a possible abductor had been witnessed in the vicinity of apartment 5A — was not seen as the independently critical issue it undoubtedly was and dealt with accordingly : that rarity in the McCann case a clear cut and resolvable conflict of evidence. Instead, once the excitement of the descent on Murat had subsided, M/S Tanner's actions became tied up in the investigators' minds with the important but completely separate matter of the potential case against Gerry and Kate McCann and the possibilities of collusion between members of the Tapas 9.

A discredited Jane Tanner meant that there was no evidence of any abductor, only of a disappearance. Naturally the question of why the nine closest witnesses should maintain a theory without anything to support it, in other words a free invention of the human mind, would then arise in further questioning and could well have become the focus of the investigation – an investigation that desperately needed focus rather than diffused suspicions. And, a minor bonus, we would all have been spared the endless Rorschach-blot fantasies of the McCann/Mitchell press conferences and "suspects." The consequences for the inquiry were ultimately enormous. So what went wrong? Why should the remote chance of clarification lie in an obscure and unpromising denunciation hearing three and a half years after events rather than in the original investigation? We'll look a little deeper into those questions next but first I want to remind readers who wish to refresh their memories of something I have pointed out ad infinitum here and in other places, without result : in her only recorded questioning on the matter, during the rogatory interviews at Leicester police headquarters Jane Tanner did not deny that she had identified the person she had watched from within the surveillance vehicle, Robert Murat, as the person she had seen on May 3. She denied many things but not that.
Oui, mais elle l'a reconnu du bout des lèvres, sachant, au moment de l'entretien "rog", que RM était innocent.

Now you see it, now you don't - 10.08.2010

By any standards of analysis there are few reasons to doubt the truth of Inspector Amaral's statement that Jane Tanner identified Murat from the undercover van as the "fleeing abductor" she had seen on May 3. The evidence indicates that there were numerous police officers involved in the planning and execution of the operation, including more than one in the surveillance vehicle tasked with making a record of M/S Tanner's reactions. Nor was the initiative itself a private whim of Amaral's - far from it: Bob Small, an officer from Leicester Police, was intimately involved in preparing the action and played a greater role in carrying it out than Amaral himself. 
L'instigateur est effectivement Bob Small. GA est passé par-dessus (comme le montre l'absence de l'épisode dans les PJFiles) le règlement du tapissage pour la bonne cause, une enfant, peut-être encore vivante, étant en jeu.
M/S Tanner's response to the appearance of Murat was reported by the officers in the vehicle without ambiguity. She herself made no claims that they had prompted or intimidated her or in any way behaved improperly in any way during the identification process, and from the reports it seems clear that there was no question of her muttering "yes, all right, it might be...," or of nodding her head nervously to a barked and intimidating "that's him, isn't it?" No, the officers reported that she was "adamant" that it was Murat whom she had seen on the night of May 3, and that she had added the telling detail that she "definitely recognised his way of walking".

It is inconceivable that, faced with this battery of witnesses able to refute his claims, Amaral would have chanced inventing Jane Tanner's responses. Naturally nobody has rebutted, or even cast doubt on, his version. Further support for the Amaral statement comes from a rather unwanted direction. A dishonest claim that Jane Tanner "adamantly" nailed nice Mr Murat as the Bundleman Beast really only makes sense if it was part of an attempt by the inspector to destroy her credibility by lies. The evidence suggests the opposite. It appears that Inspector Amaral didn't even have Jane Tanner in his sights : all that mattered at that time, both to the PJ and to the UK police on site, was Murat, not Tanner, and it is perhaps for this reason that there was no immediate analysis of the serious implications of what she had said and done in the van. Goncalo Amaral, in fact, seems to have temporarily lost interest in her. In the Truth of the Lie she disappears completely for several chapters, the inspector concentrating instead on some extremely weak gossip about David Payne and Kate McCann provided by English-speaking witnesses. M/S Tanner only seems to have drifted back into focus eventually as a sort of by-product of Amaral's mounting, but highly diffuse, suspicions about the Tapas 9 members and their lifestyles.

So the mooted reconstruction of the events of May 3 was abandoned and Jane Tanner was allowed to leave on May 17, rather than having to stay, play her role and identify Bundleman under the eyes of watching policemen with the shared memory of what she had said in the van fresh in her mind. The Truth of the Lie is vague and slightly defensive about the reasons for not proceeding with the reconstruction before the nine left, but it is hard to avoid the conclusion that with Murat apparently in the bag and his life being publicly shredded, everyone, UK police included, thought it wouldn't be needed.
C'est dans ce même type de perspective que les Smiths ont été appelés à PDL. Il s'agissait d'identifier RM, rien d'autre. C'est pourquoi, une fois acquise la conviction que la famille S n'avait pas croisé RM, plus personne ne s'est intéressé à lui.

M/S Tanner takes the stage - 10.08.2010

Now, for those who are interested and have the stamina to cope with the detail, we can turn from Inspector Amaral's one hundred or so word description of the episode to Jane Tanner's version, part of the statement, made on video and with Portuguese police officers watching behind a one-way screen, at Leicester police headquarters in April 2008. The McCann affair has many minor theatrical dramas within the main story. Kate's dulled refusal to answer the forty eight questions; Gerry McCann suddenly exploding into spitting anger outside a Lisbon court house; the weird atmosphere, somehow suggestive of past evils, emanating from the echoing car park in the Grimes dogs' video, and many others. Jane Tanner answering the police questioner's quiet, "and can you just go on to tell me a bit more about that surveillance?" lacks the high drama of these scenes but is nevertheless one for the connoisseurs. What I did on my walk, or everything you didn't need to know. The officer received much more than one bit but they weren't necessarily the bits he wanted. M/S Tanner begins with a lengthy overture to the event itself, including detailed descriptions of how she was contacted by Bob Small to carry out the observation, ("And Bob Small rang, erm, rang me," she told Detective Constable Ferguson, adding helpfully, "on my phone"). The officer listens in virtual silence as she gives an account of her walk to the rendezvous point so implacably detailed that one wonders if she'll quote the humidity figures for the day and the size of the shoes she was wearing. Why hurry? There were lots and lots of things to describe, including encounters and conversations on the way, one of them with Robert Murat - "He jumped out and said hi," said ever helpful Jane - as she walked past his house. Her recall was outstanding. A year after the event she remembered the colour of his car and, strikingly, was even able to tell her questioner the thoughts and reactions going through her head while she was talking to him. She describes in further detail her overwrought and fearful emotional state at the time of this pilgrimage through Praia da Luz, much of it to do with a misunderstanding about which police would be in the van and whether they might abduct her. Finally, finally, she arrived at the van and described its disguise as a refrigerated vehicle.

After this performance DC Ferguson could be forgiven for expecting an equally comprehensive description of the only matter that he or anyone else cared about – what the bloody hell did she say inside the van when Murat appeared? Perhaps it is, after all, better to travel than arrive: the flood of verbosity suddenly ebbed. About the big question – not a whisper. Poker anyone? Behind the silent transcript serious games are being played by both sides. Jane Tanner knew perfectly well that somewhere there was a record, perhaps even a bugging, of what was said in the van that night. She also knew, because of Bob Small's involvement, that the record had to be known to Leicester police themselves and, by extension, to that very police officer facing her from the other side of the desk giving absolutely no indication of how much he knew. M/S Tanner, clearly a nervy enough type, could be forgiven for suspecting a trap. Despite her interrogator's courteous demeanour, he and she both knew that whatever description she gave of the supposed identification incident would carry its own information. If she said that she had identified Robert Murat as the Bundling Beast then she was discredited once more, but this time finally and decisively. If she denied it and yet the record showed what Amaral claimed, then it was worse – she had fingered Murat but was now confirmed as a liar as well, with all the messages that would carry. Bob Small, as far as she knew, might even be behind the one way viewing screen in the interview room with the watching Portuguese, transcript of the surveillance in hand. As for a refusal to discuss whether she had identified him in the van or not, well, that would be a milestone, the first outright refusal to give significant evidence by any of the Tapas 7. With one bound... She said absolutely nothing. This is the full and complete transcript of Jane Tanner's description of whether or not she identified the passing Murat as Bundleman:

Bob drove me up to where, erm, the rest of the team were to do the surveillance. Erm, so I went off in the back of this like refrigerated, well it was pretending to be a refrigerated, erm, van and took it round to the point on the road and obviously, in hindsight now, I realise they [the officers in the street, not in the van] were probably calling Robert Murat to try and get him to walk across, across the top of the road so that, you know, I could see. [Not a word so far about the issue] But it was a bit odd because there was a car, where we were parked there was a car that moved just at that point that he appeared and then two other people walked by, so I didn't really, but I didn't even recognise it as the person I'd been talking to five minutes before [my italics JB. Note that this does not refer to the identification or otherwise of Murat in the street as Bundleman but to her apparent failure to recognise the Murat in the street with the Murat she had encountered outside his house] well, you know, half an hour before, so. Erm, and then, erm, [here come the erms] then went, I think because it has gone a bit wrong because this car had been there and then tried to set it up elsewhere, but again I couldn't really see, I couldn't really see that well and, you know, it didn't look, it didn't jog, jog any memories". [Still not a single confirmation or denial of the identification]

As Jane Tanner might say, Whew! The transcript does not tell us how Jane Tanner got away with this dying fall. Did her words tail off slowly? Had she, once again, started to sob? Had she bored DC Ferguson to death? Or had he found out what he wanted to know?

- Now,he says, "you are left with that mental image in your head about the man carrying the child." [He is talking about her description of the May 3 sighting earlier in the interview]

- Um, said Jane.

- And you said, you described his hair quite well. Having seen Murat then and obviously in the papers since, could you link the two of those? [NB not "did you link the two of those that night?"]
- I don't think so. I mean, I don't, phew, I don't, I don't think it, no, there doesn't, there's no, but then the person I see in the paper doesn't really look like my recollection of the person I met on the way to meet Bob Small. [Still not a word] It's really annoying because normally I would have probably taken more notice but I was so worried about what I was going to do, because I didn't know at this point at all, I didn't really take any notice, but I think it was too short and [still nothing] I remember it being, being long into the neck and not so. [still nothing] Again, I don't really, when I saw Robert Murat outside his house he looked quite little to me, but then when you see him on the telly he seems quite bit, so I can't, again, I don't think the build, the build was right, I don't... [She describes Murat outside his house and on the television. No mention of what she said and did in the van.]
Another dying fall. The officer effectively ends the matter, with a question that is not only leading but does not concern the subject of the surveillance responses at all, only whether or not M/S Tanner feels, in April 2008, that Murat and Bundleman are the same person.

-So you don't feel, in your heart of hearts.

- No.

- You don't feel it was the same person? [NOT "you didn't SAY it was the same person.]

- No, I don't, no.

Hardly a surprise, that last answer. But it had been quite a performance. It is almost superfluous to point out that the whole issue could have been dealt with in fifteen seconds had M/S Tanner wished to do so – along the lines of yes, they produced Robert Murat and I didn't think it was the man I'd seen on May 3 and I told them so. Jane Tanner, for whatever reasons, skilfully evaded the only issue at hand. As always Leicester police have played their cards very close to their chests. Despite the restrictions of the rogatory letters they could have probed Jane Tanner's answers a little more but chose not to. Why would that be? And why had the Portuguese not mentioned the surveillance incident in the list of questions they wanted Jane Tanner asked in Leicester? 
Ils ne l'ont pas mentionné probablement parce que ce tapissage, n'étant pas réglementaire, devait rester informel.

Reasons to be cheerful ? - 10.08.2010

So will Jane Tanner finally give us all some answers one day in a Portuguese courtroom? It's not impossible, though it is likely to depend more on Robert Murat's strength of motivation and stamina, than on the supposed facts of the case. If the finding went Mr Murat's way it would make him, properly handled, a multi-millionaire in the longer run, but he may not wish to pursue that route. What about the record of the surveillance van episode though? What if that appeared via the court proceedings? Leaving aside the impossibility of predicting anything pertaining to the Portuguese legal system it is hard to be completely optimistic. The operation that Jane Tanner and Goncalo Amaral described involved, we can be sure, plenty of documentation: location and usage records for the refrigerated van, the names of the officers allocated to the case, timesheets, the instructions for the operation itself and its modus operandi. And, lastly, the report provided by the officers in the van to Inspector Amaral, together with information copies where required.

If you thought Jane Tanner was quiet then what about the Portuguese police and prosecutors? Where are the records? None of the above documents are in the case files, nor is there any clue as to who took the decision to exclude them and who that person answers to. Those who feel that that same legal system is holding back information for devastating future use against the McCanns may be pleased and reassured about this, as may those who feel Goncalo Amaral has a number of smoking guns hidden behind his back. For the rest of us it is another matter. When it came to the preparation of the rogatory letters calling for the UK interviews in 2008 the Portuguese made no request for Jane Tanner to be questioned about her presence in the surveillance van, an omission which seems odder the more you think about it. The preliminary statement of facts in the rogatory letters ran:

...since the beginning the parents attributed the disappearance of the child to an act committed by third parties, claiming it was an abduction...and using an intense media campaign. Time went on without this scenario being absolutely confirmed...However, and in view of the statement made by one of their friends, Jane Tanner, we could be facing such a scenario.

So the further investigation of Jane Tanner's evidence and credibility was at the heart of the rogatory request. The incident in the van was perhaps the biggest test of all and yet the Rebelo team wanted nothing whatever to do with it. I spent a certain amount of time in 2009 attempting to locate the whereabouts of any of the documents, without result. In addition to their relevance to M/S Tanner they were, I felt, of very material interest regarding the McCanns, not because of collusion about false evidence between them, but because the parents and their lawyers, as we know, had developed their version of events between 8.55 and 9.25 on May 3 around the time constraints imposed by Jane Tanner's "sighting". The production of documents discrediting her witness abilities would, at the least, I thought, have repercussions in the UK ahead of the various McCann media initiatives preceding the Portuguese injunction hearings; it is hard to believe that the Cutting Edge documentary, for example, would have taken quite the same form with the report of the officers in the surveillance van now circulating in the public domain.

Inspector Amaral and his team apparently did not agree with me. After a very lengthy attempt to get him to throw any light he could on the matter, during which I got the impression that my view as to the significance of the stuff was not shared, I was finally passed a response by an intermediary. The documents were "probably" not in the case files because the operation itself did not conform to identification guidelines and would have been inadmissible in court.

Hmm. So there it rests. As for the admissibility issue, well, the dog videos wouldn't have been admissible either and yet they found their way into the wider world, and are key components not of the Madeleine McCann investigative and judicial process but of the larger, and longer lasting, Madeleine McCann Affair.

In view of the answer I was given the question of whether the operation was actually legal under Portuguese law arises. If it was illegal then naturally that would explain why such a survivor as Rebelo wouldn't touch the issue with a barge pole, and there are endless troublesome possibilities, even now. A case might even be made that the police themselves had been party to the "calumnious denunciation" of Robert Murat. In any case victory, as they say, has many parents; defeat is an orphan.

Looking back, the presence of Bob Small that night may have been a lucky break. The only reason we know anything about the surveillance, apart from Goncalo Amaral's one hundred words, is because Leicester Police (helped or not helped, unofficially, by the Portuguese) without authorization under the rogatory letters, took it upon themselves to let Jane Tanner give her unique take on the matter. They clearly know what was said in the van and and we can be fairly sure that whatever documents exist in the UK are not going to be "vanished".

For the supreme optimists among us, who knows, the silence about them in Portugal might be at British request. Why, that might even be a factor in the McCanns' visit to the fragrant Theresa May and their demands - constant, now, since June 2008 – to get access to just what files both police forces may have in their possession. Jane Tanner played a good hand but I suspect the affable DC Ferguson held, and holds, the stronger cards.

It's not too late - 11.08.2010

A high-profile defended UK libel trial is a winner-takes-all game. Ideally success requires a number of things. First, a long purse. Without it nothing can be done. The English civil justice system uses a high proportion of the best legal brains in the world, and they rightly earn a great deal of money. The meticulous research effort required to put a case together that will stand up to the ferocious ability of these lawyers to shred and dismantle weakly based claims – and UK civil lawyers leave prosecutors standing in their courtroom skills - means the preparation of the case has to call on more of the finest brains available, this time as researchers and experts in the appropriate field. A network of specialist assistants and private investigators, on hourly and daily charges, working for the lawyers, has to perform the mundane but, again, expensive, task of simply locating these people, from anywhere in the world, to assist in the case. Everything has to be paid for: paper, paperclips, copying, transcript services, phone calls – the bill for those alone, before a single professional fee is paid, will run into thousands.

It is pointless embarking on such a venture, therefore, without at least a million pounds available to finance it, either by owning it, earning it, or setting up a powerful fund to raise that kind of money. The latter, in turn, requires a large number of people emotionally committed to a simple-to-understand cause and an expert group, including volunteers, able to mobilise them. There is no evidence that Goncalo Amaral has either. Some of the books written by participants in the Irving v Lipschitz libel case are models of how a well-planned, but above all professional, defence can be financed and led. It is difficult to see many parallels with the inspector's case. Financially Goncalo Amaral is weakened and the (literally) world-wide constituency of potential supporters has clearly not rallied, or been encouraged, to his side with large-scale contributions; there has, indeed, been little evidence of international campaigning with the object of raising serious amounts. Nor, very surprisingly, is there any evidence of rich individuals in Portugal rallying to his cause with their own funds. The McCanns have had both a fund and a bank of public sympathy to call upon, neither of them yet drained, as well as wealthy individuals willing to spend in their support.

And that is before we turn to the merits of the case. My own belief is that there is evidence, much of it summarised in previous Bureau entries, of conduct by the parents that amounts to a "suggestive pattern of behaviour", one consistent with a desire for the Portuguese investigation into their child’s death to "fail". There could be many reasons why the parents felt and acted in such a claimed way, loss of confidence in the abilities of the Portuguese police, lack of belief in their objectivity and the fear that they might be unjustly accused obviously among them. But there is certainly a less charitable case that can be made and then it would be for the court to decide it on the merits of the evidence, including cross examination. Inspector Amaral himself would have a status within this framework as someone more than the author of an accusatory book: if, as Carlos Anjos alleged, there was actual obstruction of the investigation, then the inspector himself was possibly a victim of such obstruction, both via the media briefings against him and in the circumstances preceding his resignation.

But that's just my view and there is no guarantee of victory. There may be another strategy, a different attack or defence; whatever it might be, though, there has to be a foundation slab of factual evidence underlying it to offer the slightest chance of success. And, given the profile of the McCann affair, it needs a top lawyer to build it. I have seen no evidence of such a case being marshalled in the classic sense – assistants and volunteers organizing research work, appeals for information in Portugal, private investigators or, again, volunteers, making the rounds of those participants who have retired and are free to speak, or any other manifestations of a determined and focused case-building exercise. Instead we have, as we know from the pronouncements of the inspector and his supporters, a number of scattergun assertions and suspicions about the possible guilt of the McCanns and their circle – the Gaspar stuff, the belief that "The British Empire" is against Portugal, the fraudulent fund claims, the belief that that benighted incompetent Gordon Brown had protected the gang – the list goes on. Some of Goncalo Amaral's widespread and diffuse suspicions might have an element of truth behind them, but as libel courtroom evidence they would not even fail: any decent English lawyer would tell the inspector – "we simply can't go into court with this stuff, the judge will just throw it in the bin: it's worthless."

It is English lawyers, their fangs sharpened by the adversarial English system to a degree that I don't believe Iberian lawyers can conceive, who jumped on the assertion that the child was dead, together with the implication that the parents knew it. Given that assertion, combined with the exceptionally unwise and incorrect statement in the Truth of the Lie documentary that the McCanns' version of the abduction was "impossible" they simply rubbed their hands and waited for the money to roll in. They knew immediately that the McCann legal teams in both countries didn't even have to make a case: they only had to invite Amaral to provide any evidence for two libellous claims. And of course there isn't any; opinions yes, evidence no. I believe that Inspector Amaral is a brave man whose career may have been wrecked through the possible failure of the Tapas Nine to help wholeheartedly with the investigation into the death of Madeleine McCann, a failure which as we know from the performance of Jane Tanner in front of the Leicester police, reached as far as the UK as well. And I believe he deserves justice. His professional advisors are something else. No lawyer should ever have let him make the above statements: he either failed to use one or he was dreadfully, appallingly, advised. His current lawyer, or lawyers, are, as the injunction hearings showed, totally out of their depth. Not only were they unaware of the treaty rigmarole which had to precede any appearance by officer De Freitas, thus leaving both that officer and Amaral to be humiliated by Scotland Yard and the Home Office, but the case they presented was a disgrace, warmed leftovers from 2007 and an apparent inability to respond to real-time events in the courtroom.

The prosecutor's testimony that the couple had not told the truth was a gaping open door – which Amaral's lawyer failed even to see, let alone to kick aside. It was hard, very hard, to listen to the English press outside the courtroom impatiently and contemptuously asking, "yes, yes, but what's new?" The McCanns' lawyer, the umbrella wielding Isabel Duarte, not the most impressive advocate since Cicero, was able to bellow her way to victory without any problems from her opponent. And then there are the unprofessional advisors, the not very intelligent, not very scrupulous, individuals who have invited themselves into the inspector's circle, one or two of them in the UK. Until the inspector has a house-cleaning he will remain within a group of people who simply cannot be taken seriously by lawyers, policemen or even, outside Portugal, journalists. By their constant search for shadowy culprits, their lazy posturing on Portuguese television screens and their collective inability to put a case together that can command respect - rather than kid's comic stuff - as well as their transparent exploitation of Amaral's fame for their own ends, they are enclosing the inspector in a very dangerous bubble of illusion. It may be that the inspector no longer wishes to go to the UK courts via an edition of the Truth of the Lie. But nothing stands still and the power of the McCanns' professional advisors will still reach as far as the Portuguese courts, so whatever happens something new is surely necessary. Goncalo, there are people who are gaining by their association with you, professionally and otherwise, but if things go tits up it's only you who will pay the price. Wake up before it’s too late: start afresh!

A political digression - 13.08.2010
(...) I suspect that the lasting face of the Labour government 1997-2010 could be that of the Home Secretary, M/S Jacqui Smith, she who now wishes to help govern the BBC. Will we look back on her as the protector of British interests, robustly telling the Portuguese to phrase their rogatory letters in the correct form? I think not. ...)

If it walks like a duck... - 14.08.2010

The departure of the Labour Government has, probably temporarily, left the air as sweet as a woodland misty morning. (...)

Nothing takes us back from the clean August air of 2010 to the foetid gloom of that horrible period as rapidly as the Madeleine McCann affair. The episode showed that the culture of news management had spread like an infection across British public life, a private game played between the media and anyone – business, local government, the police, the NHS, the Natwest banker thieves – who wanted to present a version, a "story" to the public through PR and spokesmen. In other words lies. Spokespeople are paid liars: that is their sole function. Of course they, and the people who employ them, deny it – what else would one expect? The media themselves know it since many of its members have moved smoothly between the declining fourth estate and the cancerously growing PR industry over past decades. Only the public isn't let into the game. Whether you've shot an innocent Brazilian by mistake, lost a patient under an incompetent's knife or dumped toxic waste all over African villagers, it's all the same: set up a meeting, call in the spokespeople, work out a "line" – that is, a version of events - and then start dialling the editors. A smooth lie machine. And of course, properly presented, lies sell newspapers and bring in TV advertising. (...) Remember this one?

"Every morning, [in the weeks after May 3] Woolfall and the McCanns worked on a strategy for the day after they had brainstormed ideas overnight with a close circle of friends in Britain. They then organised a series of carefully scheduled statements, interviews and photo-opportunities."

The coffin, making us laugh. Sound familiar? But, of course, it wasn't a "line", was it? No, it was the heroic attempt to gain publicity for the sad parents and their missing child, you know those parents who really, really, needed publicity, the poor forgotten things.

As cleared as mud - 18.08.2010

When the Bureau criticised Amaral's legal team in the strongest terms recently we mentioned its apparent inability to profit from the open door provided by the testimony of the prosecutor, Mr Cunha de Magalhaes e Menezes, at the gagging appeal hearings. The report that the prosecutor had written, the one which the parents in their inimitable way claimed "cleared" them, came to form the basis of the McCanns' legal case against the inspector. The original case, a typical piece of McCann disingenuousness dependent on the case papers not being widely read, was that Amaral was a loose cannon, a "disgrace", a loner with whom none of the other police - decent chaps - agreed. Studies of the case files destroyed this argument. Unfortunately the short suicide note, or gift horse, that Goncalo's "dead in the apartment" gaffe amounted to enabled the lawyers to slip away from the original claim and shift their ground: Yes, the Inspector Tavares De Almeida's interim police report in September 2007 undeniably reflected a virtually unanimous case against the parents - but it was only interim. The prosecutor's final report of 2008 was the summation of the case - and Amaral had ignored it in his book. He had, therefore, picked out evidence which suited him, and by implication his book sales, and ignored evidence which did not support his case in the same way. That was not what a genuinely impartial person looking for the truth would, or should do. The transition was complete.

This clever and elegant restatement of the case, which eventually nailed Amaral at the gagging hearings had, however, its vulnerabilities, as the legal team knew. There were two: the first was the startlingly ambiguous nature of the final report itself which correctly outlined the lack of any convincing evidence of parental guilt likely to gain a conviction, but followed it up with explicit evidence of non-co-operation by the Tapas 9. The second, the crucial area, the point of balance of the whole case, was what exactly happened in the interval between the two reports. We know to the point of exhaustion what Amaral's team did but what exactly did Rebelo's officers add to the investigation? As for the first, Amaral's lawyer, if he was any good, would clearly be expected to draw the prosecutor out on the matter of inferences. From the lack of solid evidence for parental involvement that would convince a "reasonable man", the prosecutor inferred in his report the possibility of their innocence. From the evidence of non-co-operation, on the other hand, he refused to make any inferences at all. Why the difference? A lawyer like James Dingemans QC, granted perhaps the best legal brain in the UK, would have been rubbing his hands at the prospect of taking the prosecutor through this shambles of a report line by line.

As for the second area, even the phlegmatic Mr Dingemans might have grown excited. What exactly had changed between the writing of the two reports apart from a failure to strengthen the beliefs of the investigators into a 51% likelihood of conviction for an offence? What evidence had Rebelo uncovered to invalidate the conclusions of the interim report rather than merely giving up on the hope of using them in court? How, for example, had the original forensic findings regarding the shutters, window etc, which had implanted severe doubts over the possibility of abduction in the police team's minds, been countered or corrected? Had the contradictions in the Tapas group's timelines been clarified? The McCanns' defence team avoided this whole area as if it were a piece of stinking fish because there's nothing there, is there? All that differs in the two phases are the opinions, the interpretations as to the likelihood of a conviction of the parents for anything, which is something very, very different from evidence of exoneration. A glance at what happened to the third arguido Robert Murat is sufficient. The case against him was not left in any doubt, or re-interpreted: it was dismantled, leaving nothing of the original suspicions and not the slightest evidence that he had failed to co-operate with the investigation – on the contrary. The contrast with the other two arguidos, the pair who ran away from Portugal, is clear and brutal.

This is why the McCanns' legal team, particularly the UK end, where all the research had been done, was by no means confident of a result before the start of the gagging hearings, since they had no convincing fallback if the two vulnerabilities were properly exploited. They had no need to worry. Goncalo Amaral's lawyer, who will be remembered chiefly for going sick before the first hearing, decided not to ask why the claim that Amaral was a Lone Ranger had been expunged and to go for the time warp defence: wheeling out the witnesses as if it were May 2007 and staying clear of researching the investigative details of the Rebelo phase. That, apparently, remains a job to be done. That was bad enough. But if, through lack of focus and research the lawyer couldn't ask the prosecutor what facts had changed or emerged during the time interval to justify the reverse gear into which the report had been slammed, he could still salvage something with the contradictions and the differing attitude to inferences. Why, exactly, he could ask, as he went through the report line by line, why had the stuff about contradictions in the T9 evidence been put into the report? Why exactly was the failure to participate in the reconstruction mentioned so prominently? Now we know the answer to that – the police were insistent that it had to go in – but it would have been good to hear the prosecutor's view together with the killer question: was there a deficiency of information regarding the parents' role as a result of the aborted reconstruction, yes, or no? Could a successful reconstruction have altered the conclusions of your report? Yes or no?

In fact the lawyer could have spared us all and gone off for a cup of tea rather than cross-examining Mr Cunha de Magalhaes e Menezes. Not only did he not go through the report in this way but he hardly found it worthy of notice that the Portimao prosecutor had volunteered the information that the Tapas 9 had not been completely truthful. Some desultory questioning around the edges of this potential gold-mine led to airy hand-waving from the prosecutor as he explained briefly that it wasn't crucial. And that was it. What wasn't crucial? Were the police on record as saying they weren't crucial? Can you give us some examples please? Now, can we turn to the letters from all of the 7 refusing to attend the reconstruction – can we go through their reasons please? Do you believe those reasons hold water? And so on. Instead the lawyer moved on to other things, presumably to the sound of popping champagne corks around the UK team's television screens. And then onto eventual defeat, though whether things will remain that way in the future we don't know.

It need hardly be added that the Bureau does not suggest that Inspector Amaral was correct in his claims that the child died in the apartment and the parents, with help, covered it up. Nor do we think that Humpty was corrupt, a stooge or anything other than someone struggling to bring a conclusion to a case that was going nowhere and which the infinitely flexible Portuguese legal system wanted shot of. The question, at root, is did the failure to make a case against the McCanns - and we can all agree there was no case - derive from lack of co-operation by the Tapas 9 or not? The chance to cross-examine the Portimao prosecutor on this question and the cirumstances surrounding his intellectually weak and politicised report was missed: a loss not just to Amaral but to the historical record, to all of us, including the parents and their hopes of "exoneration". Still, back to these "non-crucial" fibs. or inaccuracies. They are a subject dear to the hearts of McCann supporters, in what one might call the fallback case. The claim waiting in the wings, as it were, is that if the group are shown to have lied or misled in their original statements why, let's face it, be reasonable, be realistic, they were all just worried that they might be accused of neglect by the child-protection fascists and their innocent lapse punished wrongly and disproportionately. OK, not completely frank but only for that reason, nothing to do with anything sinister. We can turn to that one next, bearing in mind one very interesting fact: whatever the media columnists - we've all done it - and good old friends 'n' family might have hinted, the parents, and indeed the Tapas 7 have never so much as whispered about this possible reason for telling "non-crucial" untruths. Complete silence. Now why might that be?

Oh God, philosophy - 03.09.2010

The philosopher Karl Popper – said blacksmith, once again getting all pretentious – compared the scientific enterprise to a light beam in the darkness: picture a circle of light on a cellar floor thrown by a torch. New facts are discovered and what were once considered facts are discarded, new theories arise, often from major disagreements between scientists, old ideas die out one by one but, due to the special nature of scientific research, the pool of light always gets larger.It is the cumulative nature of such research, Sir Karl claimed, that makes it so special – as long, that is, as the scientific method is followed: once something is established, as facts are established in a court of law, one moves on, not, as in other fields of inquiry, re-opening the same questions time after time according to one’s own mood, or opinions. The latter happens, of course, as we know all too well, but then it is no longer science. One can agree or disagree with Sir Karl's implied belief that the light will eventually fill the whole universe. What a thought! All those university heads saying, that's it, we've discovered everything, we're going home now, all the bosses of the money-pits like the farcical Large Hadron Collider saying, we don't want taxpayers' money any more and we'd like to give it back. No, we don't think so, somehow. Neither Sir Karl nor the weird and unfortunate Stephen Hawking ever acknowledged that this belief in the eventual triumph of science is merely a faith, in exactly the same sense as religious faith, but let's not bother with that. Back in the smaller world of problem solving we can share in the optimism which science can induce, without faith but with evidence instead.

The Bureau sees every sign that the pool of light which began as a dot in the darkness of Praia da Luz on May 4 2007 has slowly, and with fits and starts, grown larger and larger. Not just to the size of a dinner plate: more like a football ground floodlight. None of this light has yet shone on the exact path taken by the people who disposed of the child and it is entirely possible that, in the narrow definition of a "case," it will remain unsolved as far as details are concerned; but we already know pretty much enough. In fifty years time if someone wants to write a book about Madeleine McCann claiming, like Jack the Ripper books, that the Queen or Gordon Brown or that fabulous beast the "tenth tapas", did away with the child they won't have a free run – unless, that is, they and their readers wish to ignore the pool of light, the evidence. Unfortunately for Kate and Gerry McCann – and the Tapas Seven, together with all their children - the light has shown up nothing, not even a dust particle, to support their various versions of events. Nothing. Given the activities of their own detectives, the Metodo group and other investigators and the highly watchful public ready to report anything from Alaska to the Antarctic, one would have expected at the very least some hopeful mysteries, some loose ends worthy of further investigation, if nothing really solid. Nope. Not only is there nothing but the supposed leads have been exposed as bogus or worthless at extraordinary speed.

We can leave the Burned Letter Mystery aside as unworthy of comment, although the reaction of the McCann camp to it is itself evidence, if only of the increasing loss of a sense of reality there. But think of the others - of the lady, for example, who, Goatherd Edgar told us at a press conference, had interrogated various strangers as the quayside, apparently expecting them to be delivering Madeleine as per request. Well, you might think, that one could run and run, in fifty years time a Duke of Clarence was the Ripper book could build a case around such a suggestive lead - but no: with seven billion people on the planet to search among, the original of the supposed child buyer was uncovered within days! Unlike, ahem, a living Madeleine McCann after three years. Or, another example, the Morocco sightings. Ah, Morocco: lots of mountains, tribesmen, including the strange Blue People, deranged kif-smokers, wealthy European paedophile exiles behind whitewashed courtyard walls, even slaves from south of the Sahara – I mean it's a film set for mysteries that will run for ever. Not for the McCanns it isn't: the little blonde child spotted on the back of a robed native had every right to disappear into the Rif, her blurry features launching a thousand publishers' advances – but no. The kid was tracked down within the week. Unlike, hmm, a living Madeleine McCann after three years.

And there are many other such examples of "leads" being not just dubious, or unverifiable but immediately falsified, despite the supposed "research" that had gone into them, far more, as both we and the police know, than the science of statistics suggests there should be. The inability of the parents' camp to see how genuinely comical their leads have become - can anyone forget the derision of the media mob at last year's press conference? - is becoming increasingly weird but who cares, who needs to speculate? The evidence is enough. For if the attempts of the parents and their gruesome helpers have thrown as much light on the "abduction" as their wretched balloon candles hissing in the drizzle before plunging to the ground, it is quite otherwise for the Affair as a whole. Our pool of light shows such things – to pluck mere examples out of a rich collection - as accounts to prove just where the Fund bonanza went as well as the testimony of such McCann supporters as the Portuguese lawyer who tried to frame Amaral with money from the Fund channelled to him by Metodo. Plus the superb collection of excuses, all in the written record, from the Tapas Nine as they successfully aborted the requested reconstruction. No Stone Unturned - how very appropriate was the name they chose. All the strutting and posing of 2007, all the presentation and propaganda stuff which people like the Coffin and Smethhurst actually believed achieved something real rather than illusory, is in the past along with other media trash - yesterday's news. While the light shines ever more widely on the slug-infested, slimy reality - did any public drama ever possess such an unpleasant cast? - which always underlay it.

Entertaining Mr Mitchell - 17.09.2010

Anyone new to the McCann case – the Bureau's target audience - must be slightly puzzled by the opprobrium that our friend the Coffin, AKA Clarence Mitchell, seems to attract. Just what is it about him? Why, in particular, do critics of the saintly parents' Authorized Version of events criticise and abuse him more than almost anyone else involved in the case? Even that grim whiner Gerry McCann hardly attracts the verbal flak that bursts around Mitchell every time his absurd, Muppet-like features, augmented recently by what appears to be a cheap synthetic wig, appear on the screen. (...)
Of all the actors in this drama Mitchell is the one with the fewest excuses, the one who, above all others, chose to involve himself in the affair – and people sense it. The prime movers, the McCanns and the Tapas 7, all - according to the Portuguese police - found themselves at the centre of a nightmare that was not originally of their own choosing. The family clans who sprang to their defence with their instinctive underclass distrust of the police were sucked in by their children. Others, like Amaral, had to descend into this cess pit due to the demands of their professions; still others, like the hapless, stumbling Gordon Brown walked into it because of their lack of political nous. Clarence Mitchell is different: he sought out the opportunities offered by the shit-filled tank and chose to enter it up to his neck, finding, perhaps for the first time in his life, a place where he was comfortable and fitted in. Unlike the others he had almost nothing to lose, not even financially, as we shall see, and the inevitable consequence of his immersal, the stench he emits, is one he seems quite able to live with: people may abuse him or back off, holding their noses, but that, apparently, doesn’t trouble Clarence: somehow he seems used to it.

It would be an understatement to say that Mitchell, in sharp contrast to the others, lacks friends and defenders to provide a balancing view of his character. Voices raised to sing of the cuddly side of the McCanns are chiefly those of their families, granted, but that is because – see the Cracked Mirror – nobody beyond their clans has ever really known either of that closed pair. Still, Kate McCann has been described warmly by a few acquaintances at least and the widely unloved Gerry has had some friendly words said about him even if, as in the statements of David Payne, perhaps his nearest friend, these have a defensive Gerry's not everybody's cup of tea but... tone. (...)

Enter the new man - 19.09.2010

Mr Mitchell's career began when he went for his job interview at the Hendon and Finchley Times as a trainee reporter in 1982. The editor who took him on, a Mr Dennis Signy, wrote about the occasion many years later, with Clarence, courtesy purely of his share of the lottery ticket that was Madeleine McCann, at the height of his dubious pomp. Before that hardly anyone seems to have noticed this grey and maladroit figure very much, even when he was a television news reader. It is a brief, piquant document which fills in one or two of the blanks in Clarence's biographical notes, though not quite in way the latter might like.
One of history's great war correspondents - 23.09.2010  

(...) Laurie Margolis, a BBC reporter himself, is the second person after that worthy to have noticed our hero in his earlier incarnation. He too wrote about the man only after his Madeleine lottery ticket had come up. Margolis was still working for the BBC as he wrote and one can almost sense his desperation to find something interesting to say about this grey shadow, this raincoat hanging on a peg. He testified without enthusiasm to Mitchell's competence and his having worked on various big crime stories during his broadcasting career - but the dramatic deployment of Mitchell to world hotspots as a "fireman" and war correspondent somehow passed him by; indeed he stresses that the stories in which Clarence was a "major figure" were only domestic ones, not overseas. Like Signy he cannot utter the magic words "I liked him" and like Signy also he feels the irrepressible need to reach for his hatpin: his list of the "major figure" stories carries a bitchy hint that his ex-colleague has a slightly unhealthy interest in violent or perverted crime, and he is our source for the unfortunate, and now famous, incident when Mitchell fell asleep and failed to read his scheduled late-night news bulletin. He adds mildly that his colleague "never quite made it" as a presenter. Margolis said of Mitchell's appointment by the McCanns, that he imagined Clarence was content in his new role as the family's voice since "he's centre stage on a huge story, intimately involved as ever, and on television and in the papers all the time." Not quite the way that Clarence himself would describe it.

I showed them - 24.09.2010
(...) The now famous Media Monitoring Unit was the modern equivalent of the old press cuttings digest which every large organization and any government has needed since the rise of the modern press (the BBC itself, for example, has a media monitoring unit). In the past a few juniors, usually supervised by elderly ex-reporters or PR men at the end of their careers, sat with scissors in hand cutting and pasting press stories into volumes for circulation to other departments. Television and computers, of course, changed all that: now a series of juniors sat in front of monitors abstracting the stories. Mitchell's compulsive exaggeration of his own importance reached its peak when spinning his MMU work: outsiders, many of them in Portugal, have grasped at Clarence's studied myth - making to believe he was a "government figure" with the ear of the prime minister, a sort of Big Brother of censorship working from the shadowy vaults beneath 10 Downing Street, sent - as a "fireman" no doubt - by the prime minister to put the lid on the terrifying revelations that might result if the McCanns were not handled properly.
(...) It should hardly be necessary to add that his appointment as media liaison for the McCanns in late May 2007 was not a political one, had nothing to do with Blair, Brown or any other minister but was a civil service – administrative – move when a media person was needed at short notice. There is only one mystery outstanding about his posting to Portugal, and that will no doubt will be solved in due course: was he given the work because his absence would hardly be noticed, let alone regretted?

(...) That anyone should have found anything mysterious about his transition to paid spokesman for the McCanns is equally surprising. All Mitchell's thwarted dreams of the past quarter of a century were fulfilled in a rush by the Madeleine lottery ticket in May 2007: with his known and attested qualities - his constant desire to be somehow "involved" in news stories, his childish pleasure at being the centre of public attention, his love affair with being on-screen, his fascination with violent or perverse crime, his constantly cheated ambition to be a "big player" – could there be any question of going back to a grey civil service job? Are you kidding? He was made for it and he knew it. And Mitchell recovered that sense of his own worth that Dennis Signy had noted and which had been draining away in the corridors and canteens of the civil service. With the knowledge that Gerry McCann wanted him, he was able to state his terms – and there was no question of working for expenses as his predecessor Justine McGuiness had done, however good the cause: he wanted what he called "his package" from the civil service to be matched. That achieved, courtesy of Brian Kennedy, he took up the role. His performance is a matter of record, save for the bits which Mitchell, still not a wealthy man, is saving for his other pension, his memoirs. It only remains to assess his achievements.