- Noble English Tradition
Back to Basics
"We turn now to the question of the "reconstruction" (Article 150º of the Penal Process Code),which was not performed due to the refusal of some of the members of the holiday group to return to our country, as documented in the Inquiry. The reconstruction, at the actual location where the events took place, would have provided due clarification of the following extremely important details, amongst others:
- The relative distances between JANE TANNER, GERALD McCANN and JEREMY WILKINS at the moment when the former passed them which coincided with the sighting of the supposed suspect carrying a child. We find it unusual that neither GERALD McCANN nor JEREMY WILKINS saw her nor the alleged abductor, despite the restricted area.
- Matters concerning the window of the bedroom where MADELEINE slept with the twins, which was open according to KATE. Clarification as to whether there could have been a draught causing movement of the curtains and pressure under the bedroom door, as described by the witness.
- Establishing a timeline which includes the checking of the children left inside the apartments, given that if the checking was as tight as the witnesses and the arguidos describe, it would be to say the least, very difficult under such conditions for an abductor to enter the residence and leave with the child through a window of limited dimensions. We would add that the supposed abductor could only pass that window holding the child in a different position (vertical) from the one that was described by witness JANE TANNER (horizontal).
- What happened during the interval between 5.30 p.m. (the time at which MADELEINE was seen for the last time by anyone other than her family and the time at which the disappearance was reported by KATE HEALY (at around 10 p.m.)
The requested assistance and investigation from the British authorities mentioned above, despite the fact that it was almost completely carried out, added nothing new to the investigation. The questioning of the holiday group merely corroborated what had already been established during the investigation, without providing any additional significant detail. In conclusion, despite the efforts that were made and the exploration of all lines of investigation, it is not possible to obtain a solid and objective conclusion about what really happened that night, nor about the present location of the missing child. It should be remembered, however, that this investigation took place under conditions of exceptional media exposure, with the publication of much “news” of imprecise, inexact or even false content. This did not help in the discovery of the truth and frequently created a climate of unusual commotion and lack of calm. Therefore, as we do not currently envision the pursuit of any other line of enquiry within the process that might produce any useful result I submit our findings for your consideration, for you to determine and decide accordingly.
Portimão, 20th of June 2008"
It is a notable summary and while the strangulated prose of the original testifies to the bitter experience of confessing failure its conclusions are significant. Reading from the final sentence back:
- They state that they are pursuing no new lines of enquiry and nor do they envision any.
- That their investigation was hampered by unprecedented media exposure and "commotion".
- That the UK "rogatory letter" interviewees, principally the "Tapas 7" , provided no additional information.
- That they are still lacking information about what happened within the holiday group between 5.30 & 10PM on May 3.
- That the "timeline" provided by the holiday group makes it "at the least very difficult" for an abductor to have entered and left.
- That the information (provided by Kate McCann) that a draught had alerted her to a previously unopened window needed clarification or replication.
- That the circumstances of the Jane Tanner sighting were hard to reconcile with the geography of the location and the close proximity of others.
- And that clarification of these and other matters could not be obtained due to the "refusal" of members of the holiday group to return to Portugal for the necessary reconstruction of events.
In these unpromising conditions the 9 spent their time schlepping the juniors to and from creche, kids' club, play area, eateries and (occasionally) the sea-side in between lengthy - when their bowels permitted - jogging runs, windswept watersports and tennis - before another whirl of bed, biscuit and bath time followed by execrable English food at the "tapas" bar gobbled down in the intervals between the famous checking. And early to bed on most nights. Surprisingly, perhaps, not one of the 7 appears to have had anything except a wonderful time, with none of the bitching or depression that such circumstances can often unleash. Or so they say. To the questions of the investigating officers, some of them with rueful memories of the stress of small children - with one of them, a woman, the eyebrows can almost be seen rising at these sunny responses - the answers were always the same: everyone got along just fine, everybody was really happy. Everything was lovely.
Were they fibbing? In the strict sense I think not, with some important exceptions. The explanation for much of their behaviour is surely in the personalities and experience of this naive and thoroughly unsophisticated crowd, meritocrats all, "outer-directed" people to whom careers have been everything and whose children have all been placed in the optimum planned birth slot after the completed first lap on the way to success and the "civilised" life - mid to late thirties. Reflective about their emotions, their present circumstances or anything else? Hardly at all. Capable of real insight into themselves? Not on the evidence so far. If you want a Hamlet meditation on the tragedy that has enveloped them you'd better go elsewhere for these are, in the most literal sense, deprived people. Everything is not false but pasteboard, as in those appalling, self-delusory, round-robin Christmas letters that we sometimes receive: holidays are "wonderful", friendships terrific, parenthood an unalloyed pleasure, while the possible abductor is, of course, a monster, never seen in human terms but through filters, as the drawings of Jane Tanner illustrate.
On comprend ce grand ressentiment. Pendant onze mois les TP9 ont été accusés de négligence parentale, d'échangisme, de complicité, de simulation, etc. Quel qu'ait été le type de drame, aucun des TP9 n'a songé à se demander en quoi il aurait pu y contribuer. À les entendre ils seraient tombés dans un piège.
And understandably so: they had by then been run through the rumour mill in a particularly crushing way, accused of almost everything, from gross child neglect, through sexual perversion to premeditated murder. Jane Tanner, for example, the most emotional and expressive of this emotionally rather buttoned-up crowd, breaks down as she describes her shock at being called a liar and fantasist. Her partner Russell O’Brien is bitter and talks of getting revenge on the media one day. Mathew Oldfield, on the right of the High Court photo, is clearly still so cross that he might just burst out of his shockingly ill-fitting jacket. Their feelings are reflected to a greater or lesser extent by the entire group: how, they ask, could “anyone in a million years” – a frequent phrase - have predicted what would happen on May 3? Any sense of having helped shape events by their decisions, however well-meaning, or that their own personalities might have played a role in what happened, is absent: instead there is a slightly strange, teenager-like, attitude that the world has let them down. They are, genuinely, innocents abroad.
But perhaps not that strange. Many of us have known one of these tight-knit provincial university groups who somehow manage to keep in touch with each other - sometimes with the dreaded round-robins or their Facebook equivalents - for decades after graduating, and whose aims and interests, such as they are, are deeply entwined. This one seems to have shared, in career terms, the long view, a determination to make the most of their middling talents and a willingness to forgo youthful diversions on the steady upward march to “success”, that beguiling phantom of the future, with children scheduled for the appropriate time, accommodation increasing steadily in size – the McCanns’ Rothley house providing a stunning example of their domestic tastes – and, eventually, no doubt, a Mediterranean villa to linger in or retire to, probably the first in their respective families.Les TP semblent avoir partagé, en termes de carrière, la vision à long terme, la volonté de tirer le meilleur parti de leurs talents médiocres et la volonté de renoncer aux déviations juvéniles au profit de la marche ascendante vers le «succès», ce fantasme de l'avenir.
The National Health Service, that vast, over-inflated monopoly bureaucracy, so often more welcoming to its employees than to its patients, was the comforting arena for their dreams and struggles, the latter rarely involving any risk to pocket or possessions. So, single minded déterminés, decent, in many ways admirable people these, sharing the slightly mindless interests of medical students, growing apart, in the modern way, from their family origins, sharing also, due to their institutionalization in the NHS and despite their exposure to the sufferings of patients, a certain blinkered innocence about the teeth and claws of real life waiting in the shadows for all of us. And, indeed, with these interests, their very young children and their collective boyishness, which embraces the ladies as well, with the exception of the aging in-law Diane Webster, it is easy to forget just how old they are. The running joke which caused so much mirth at the chilly dinner table on May 3 - that Jane Tanner was going to “relieve”, snigger (ricaner), giggle, her partner back at the apartment – seems more suited to a university bar or rugby changing room than to the evening meal of a hospital consultant with receding hair, his colleagues and their partners. Perhaps this collective naivety, now coming under pressure from the realities of approaching middle age, is the key to the first of a series of failures of judgement that they made: their absolute unwillingness to accept that having infants in the family changes everything for ever, including such trivia as the planning of holidays.
Dr David Payne, our consultant on the left of the picture, and his wife - the stance and expression of the latter reflecting a certain admirable je ne regrette rien - were the initiators of the holiday. Clearly comfortable in the role of organiser, if a slightly bumbling one, and accepted as the “leader” of the group, whether through his talent or through a certain lofty (dédaigneux), if amiable, presence, Doctor Payne described its origins (the italics are all mine) thus
"The first ... concept of a group holiday was when we went to Italy for our wedding... we had all of the guests staying there for that weekend, and it was fantastic. We had children staying there and everyone came and said what a fantastic time they’d had so that was the beginning.”
“Subsequently…we had holidays with other people, we went away with Kate and Gerry and other friends to Majorca and …although it was very hard, difficulties with our child sleeping wise and it’s hard work, still you appreciated the fact that there’s a group of you there and we subsequently had been away with Russell, Jane, and Matt and Rachael on another group holiday the year after that, and …it is much easier when you have a group of children, it’s great for the parents and you’re all at a similar stage in life with the way that they’re growing up. We were always looking to continue that yearly holiday.”
“We were looking to go on that type of holiday where we had all the amenities that Mark Warner offer so they’ve got the sporting facilities, they’ve got the crèche facilities for the children... so that, that kind of holiday was what we were looking for.”
“all those Mark Warner holidays were very much the same, different resorts but the same sort of layout, the same hypothesis of having kid time and adult time”. She also said, “They all offered a babysitting service. When Dave and I went we didn’t have children, but we were very aware, we met lots of couples that were using the baby listening service.”
"... some of us had been to various Mark Warner resorts before, the Greek one in Lemnos, originally before Grace was born, a last minute deal and it was great, it was all inclusive, we all like sport and sunshine it was...just a very relaxing place to go, and we were quite keen to do that again because everybody in the group is pretty sporty, if you have a lot of people together you can share sort of the child care arrangements and it’s also very relaxing for everybody.”
“...when we went to Greece it was like the fastest holiday I’d ever been on because there was only about an hour when they [the children] were asleep at lunch each day and a couple of hours in the evening where you were actually sort of off child care duties, so the week went by in about sort of six hours, it was all sort of, it was very quick.”
"Er,” she replied, “we didn’t really think. I think we thought Ella would definitely be going to the kids club because I almost felt bad that she wasn’t getting that much kid attention in Exeter. And Evie probably to the kids club in the morning but then stay with us in the afternoon and that morning would give, well me a break you know to do, to do something else but at that point I hadn’t really, I hadn’t really thought about what that would be or, you know, whatever.”
The good, perhaps...
“I think we all went to the Millennium Restaurant, which had a sort of kids supper and that was certainly sort of, sort of early evening, I can’t remember whether it was six or seven, that sort of time, I remember the kids being very tired but we all trooped across and had a massive table, you know, overtook the restaurant, it was a bit of a walk and certainly with the younger kids it, you know, imagine we’re having to pick them up and put them down and they’re wanting to walk, it just took ages and it was quite sort of late for the children, they were sort of not behaving particularly well and just very tired and wanted to go to bed...”
“The Millennium was a good ten minute walk along roads with sort of, where you had to actually cross into the road to get round ...obstructions on the pavement and there was quite a lot of traffic that did come occasionally through quite fast, so it was quite a long walk to get there.”
“It’s just we are sort of fairly similar...we’re sort of from the same background, we have similar issues about child rearing, which is why we sort of get on.”
Dr Gerald McCann has made a great many comments about his ill-fated trip and, indeed, about a vast number of other things but explaining just why such an obvious step wasn’t taken doesn’t appear among them. Nor have the 7 felt able to enlighten us. Perhaps it was, indeed, money: they are a notably careful lot and at this stage of their lives may have felt there wasn’t much to spare on top of the holiday costs. It can’t have been intellectual stupidity. And – here come the sleuths! - the idea that it was a deliberate act to avoid outside scrutiny of their activities accords neither with what we know of their personalities, nor with any supporting evidence. Certainly finding and organizing such assistance would have bitten into another day or so of their holiday, just as the inferior alternative of buying more baby monitors would have done, assuming that these were even available in Lagos. Even so the decision to do the evening supervision themselves is hard to explain, contradicting as it does their expressed desire for some – by no means undeserved - “social time on our own”.
All very simple. Like having the kids in the bedroom of your own home while you sit in the garden fifty - or is it twenty? - metres away. Jane Tanner, slightly contradicting her comments above, made it clear that it wasn’t like supper in your own garden at all – after all such homely events are not normally preceded by a Risk Assessment. She admitted, “...we were just weighing it up and it seemed a reasonable risk, well I did think of it as a reasonable risk then it just, we thought it would be fine.” At this point alert readers may have noted that the McCanns make no appearance at all at this crucial time, which seems, to put it mildly, odd, considering Dr McCann’s firm views on just about everything and considering also that it was he and Kate McCann, as parents of three young children, who were by far the most affected by this “collective decision”. It seems rather unlikely that he was uninvolved, doesn’t it? It is much more probable that, in the absence of Leader Payne - who, with his supportive mum-in-law and baby monitor, was out of this particular loop - Gerry McCann would have been closely, and characteristically loudly, involved in the final decision. No doubt the group subsequently felt that it would be wrong and unfair to say so, hence the other reason for O’ Brien’s disingenuous comments about group decisions.
“...we’d thought about it [leaving the children alone in their rooms] and talked about [it] in between couples and between Rachael and I was, I mean, the worst thing you go well, you know, why are you worrying so much? They’re locked in, they’re safe, the worst thing that can happen is they wake up and not really know where you are for five, ten minutes, and first that’s pretty unlikely, Grace sleeps all the way through nearly, you know, nine times out of a hundred, and at worst she’s gonna be upset for ten minutes and then you’re gonna be, you’re gonna be there err just the thought of something like this is just completely just out of our experience.”
Imagine what? Fire? Bizarre and unlikely accident? An intruder? Pas nécessairement un ravisseur, plus probablement un cambrioleur, surtout si la porte est ouverte. Is it really that inconceivable? People a little less sheltered than these narrowly dedicated - or should it be, especially in the case of Gerry McCann - focused professionals, rich or poor, might find such things all too easy to imagine. For every aspiring Tapasite in the embrace of a safe provincial university and the National Health Service or convention circuit, there were plenty of others who'd strayed beyond Mark Warner and had their pockets picked in Madrid or Athens, or who’d come home in their youth to Moss Side or London, to find a dealer or a hooker in their doorway, vomit in the hallway, or their rented rooms smashed, burgled and ransacked.
These interviews, coming as they did after almost a year's silence, tended in many cases to strengthen the seven's credibility, which had been under attack in the media of both countries: Russell O’ Brien’s claim, for instance, that he had been dealing with his sick child’s bed sheets on the night of May 3 had been mocked as a lie for months, for Mark Warner employees had told the Portuguese press that he had never requested clean sheets. Quite right, said O’ Brien dismissively, he hadn’t – because the apartment had a washing machine, which he’d used that night. Of course, he added with his characteristic resentment, the Portuguese press hadn’t reported that, had they?
Jane Tanner, brought by fate into the bleak surroundings of the Leicester Police interview room, watched by both a video camera and, behind a two way mirror, the Portuguese police, had had her fill of “theories.”“There’s a lot been said but, you know, we’re not a bunch of swingers that went out there for a swinging holiday,” she protested, adding the fascinating aside that, “I can’t think of anything worse, to be honest.” Her questioner, possibly intrigued by this insight into her personal tastes, let her proceed. “We didn’t go out there on a swingers’ holiday to dump our kids in the kids club while we got pissed and shagged each other, you know. That’s not what we did. One week a year,” she added bitterly, “there’s, there’s one week a year, the other fifty one weeks of the year with the kids all the time! In terms of our family, you know every spare moment’s with the kids: Russell doesn’t go off playing golf or go to the football ...it’s spent with the kids. I just think the Portuguese police have obviously got this idea of us and it’s completely, completely wrong in terms of the way we are and what, you know, our motives for being on holiday there were.” She added, as Jane Tanner often did, “I’m telling the truth.”
“It was quite normal, culturally and traditionally, for English tourists to leave their small children alone in the bedroom or apartment to sleep while the parents are absent.”
Neither then nor later did Jane Tanner enlarge on this alternative explanation of peer pressure and it remains another of those little gems that she drops now and then without quite realising the impact of what she has said, especially since it implies that she might, under some circumstances, be just be a tiny bit, well, suggestible. We can recall also the “well organized” Russell O’ Brien’s flat, “It [the decision to leave the children] was a group decision, collectively taken.” So nobody’s going to hear anymore about that, then. In any case, by the time Jane addressed the question in Enderby a year after her uncomfortable Portimao experience, both of her earlier “explanations” had vanished without trace. "Of course, you look back now and think, yes, probably we were stupid but I think we were lulled into a false sense of security because this baby listening service is offered in other places and yeah you look at it now knowing what happened and... you’d think we were probably reckless...”
Still, knowing, as all professional English people do, the nightmare possibilities associated with child neglect accusations, such as their removal by the mad, incompetent, commissars of the social services without the irritating formality of a trial, who can blame the seven for tacitly adopting a line and sticking to it? Wouldn’t you? The trouble was that the fumbling and ashamed stonewalling of the seven which preceded the “emergence” of a defensible line on the neglect issue was perfectly obvious to the trained officers of the PJ, making it dreadfully difficult, if not impossible, for them to decide whether they were truthful witnesses or not in the separate and altogether more serious matter of the disappearance issue. It was a situation that was never resolved and its ultimate consequences for the investigation were, as we shall see, profound.
Russell O’ Brien was supposed to be the friendliest, after the Paynes, but then it turned out that he didn’t know them that well either, although you have to work to discover it. Dr O’Brien, readers may have observed by now, could be very crisp when addressing subjects that animated him, like his treatment by the press, and very clear in his recollections when they concerned such things as the behaviour of the Portuguese police. On other matters he was considerably more vague and a great deal more prolix. He was asked the straight question, put in at the request of those same Portuguese police, “what kind of relationship is there between you and the McCann couple”?
So that’s clear then.
This surprising distance between the couple and others and the fuzziness in recollections of their activities - in very sharp contrast to the seven’s solid certainties about the McCann’s characters and what they were and were not capable of - runs like a leitmotif through what little can be discerned of their lives. Both born in 1968, both the children of artisan families with no particular advantages, Kate an only child, Gerry the youngest of five. The Healy’s from Liverpool, that tough, bitter, city of sentiment and decline, the McCanns Irish immigrants to the equally tough city of Glasgow. Both families Catholics and both attending Catholic schools, something of more importance to Gerry than Kate: Glasgow is still a city where your religion can matter when you're growing up. Intelligence and determination, and no doubt firm parental encouragement, were the means that took them away from these thoroughly deprived surroundings, using the upward path of the professions and the comforting career structure of the NHS. Kate McCann, a high flier at school apparently, studied at the University of Dundee, her husband closer to home, at Glasgow. Gerry clearly the more ambitious, specialising, after a stint in sports medicine, in cardiology, not as a surgeon but as a diagnostician. Kate qualified as an anaesthetist, eventually going into general practice. They met in 1995 at the Western Royal Infirmary before both taking posts in New Zealand for a year. Married in 1998. Their first child Madeleine was born in 2003.
Such are the bare facts of an unusually bare joint biography. Their known responses to their experiences, or any projections of themselves as individuals are vanishingly rare. There is a short Facebook entry by Gerry written – in contrast to the oppressive, strangled banality of his later, thousands of words long, “blogs” – in the usual bouncy, brainless Facebook style with limited details of what appears to be, as we have seen before, a rather limited life. There seem to be no records of how they see themselves and who they are. There are no recollections by anyone of why they wanted to go into a healing profession, or whether they had a sense of vocation, or even any interest in healing. Neither of their medical specializations involve the conscious patient very much – an output map from an MRI scanner and associated aids in one case, an unconscious and masked figure in the other. Kate’s later, and brief, experience in personal healing as a GP seems to have left hardly a trace. “Interests,” in the conventional sense, are conspicuously missing, except for sport. On the matter that separates them from the rest of the nine – the desire to have children early rather than late, the failure to do so and the IVF treatment that followed, some of it, apparently, in Amsterdam – almost nothing has been said, by them or others.
Impressions, on the other hand, rather than description, as in Praia de Luz, were in plentiful supply once the child had disappeared, although, oddly, few of them seem to derive from their ex-patients. Everybody quoted in the media described them as popular or very popular, though few were actually able to say why. Coming to more recent times the universal opinion was that they were devoted to their children and were “brilliant” parents; these opinions, expressed after May 3, are of dubious value since the media will only say saccharine things about victims, but there is plenty of consistency in the accounts and no reason to disbelieve them.
La suite ici