Deprivation symptoms - 08.09.2011
In a few weeks time a cupboard labelled Evidence Supporting the Parents’ Claims since 2007 will be delivered to a Lisbon court, there to sit making its own silent statement. A thin and angry M/S Isabel Duarte will attempt to get it draped with grey cloth in order, she will shout, “not to distract the court”. Having failed to do so she will refer to its bulging contents throughout the rest of the libel trial but will be unable to find a way of opening it. After that the cupboard will be air-freighted to Scotland Yard to be inspected at intervals by the forty five or so officers undertaking a case review. The review will end with the cupboard still empty and the officers retracing the PJ’s steps since there are, literally, no other tracks to follow. It is the lack of sustenance on the cupboard shelves that is slowly but surely turning the activist supporters of the parents to the edge of hysteria, as a glance at their blogs, social postings and forum contributions will easily confirm: starvation rations always end up having that effect. Most of their postings now avoid any pretence of dealing with factual matters concerning the loss of the child, concentrating instead on a stream of invective against anyone who doesn’t share their obsessions. The rants, threats and evasions, together with the increasing use of shouting text like This (a symptom of the loss of an argument) communicate a toxic mix of perverted joy at the punishments awaiting Bennett, Amaral et al (they list them in drooling detail) and a curious sense of fragile edginess. What are they worried about and why do they seem to sense coming pain? As Gerry McCann might say, “ask them”: the Blacksmith Bureau doesn’t do counselling. The only reason they matter is that they are reflecting reality – the reality of the parents’ increasingly desperate situation and the dreadful fact of the ever-empty cupboard. The same sense of unbalanced aggression to enemies entwined with suppressed pessimism – or in her case actual foreboding pressentiment about her future – is to be found in Kate McCann’s Madeleine.
Still, a little way back from the toad-filled cauldron, we have the more “intellectual” of the supporters attempting to make some sort of case for the pair, although the same neurotic note is present. In the absence of anything factual to counter the rising din against the parents they have turned to the last-ditch “they couldn’t be guilty of anything because…” hand book, digging up stuff from the past – what other source do they have? – and laying it out yet again, perhaps in the hope that, like my daughter, if they say something often enough and loudly enough it will come true. Two of these threadbare claims are worth examining for how they stand up to the evidence, particularly the evidence from that four- -and-a-half-year-in-the-filling comfort box labelled The Other Cupboard. The first such claim is that little wonder, “nobody could have carried on acting naturally if they had…” As well as being put forward extensively by commentators in 2007 it has the final imprimatur of the demon prosecutor himself, Menezes, where he states in the archiving summary that their non-involvement in any criminal activity was demonstrated by, among things, “the normal behaviour that they adopted until the disappearance and afterwards, as can be amply concluded from the witness statements.” In other words if the parents had been involved in some dreadful event early in the evening of May 3 then they would have been quite unable to mask the emotions which one would expect to result from such a situation. What, one wonders, might legal counsel in a libel case, say, make of this claim?
He simply reaches into the overflowing cupboard, pats his tummy comfortably and begins.
* There is primary source evidence that when required or considered to be necessary the parents, particularly Kate McCann, are extremely skilled at masking their real feelings very successfully even when under enormous emotional and other stress. (1)
* This ability to mask, or deaden, the emotional response to the loss of their daughter, on request,was the subject of widespread remark by commentators and observers of the case who had watched their performances on television.(2)
* Had the parents been incapable of masking their emotions effectively then they would have been unable, by definition, to follow the advice they were given.So they have a proven and recorded ability to do so. (3)
* The previously unknown primary source evidence provided by Kate McCann in Madeleine regarding events on August 8 provides a second, quite separate, series of examples of the parents coolly misinforming the media and the public – lying – about their situation while giving no clues in their demeanour to the enormous stress the police had already placed them under and which, away from the public and the cameras, was resulting in despair and hysteria. (4)
* Finally, the parents behaviour after the disappearance cannot be slotted into this defence, although poor Mr Menezes didn’t notice. There is no normal template for behaviour in such circumstances that would distinguish it either from acting or from genuine emotional distress at events unknown to us.(5)
Clearly, the lawyer would conclude, the Menezes claim cannot be used in their defence in the way he suggested: the couple can fairly be described as expert at disguising their true feelings, however great the stress.
(1) The claims by the parents that they were advised to try and conceal their feelings in public are well attested. See Oprah transcript:
Four days after Madeleine's disappearance, the McCanns held another press conference pleading for their daughter's safe return. Kate remained calm as she spoke, but the tabloids would use her appearance against her, saying her lack of emotion implied guilt. "I'd spent 72 hours crying, and you suddenly almost feel a little bit numb," Kate says. She'd also spoken with a behavioural expert who'd given specific advice on how to act at the press conference, Kate says. "They said, 'It's quite important that you don't show any emotion, because the abductor could get some kind of adverse kick out of it,'" she says. "When you get the feeling that if you do [something] it could be detrimental in some way to your daughter, there's a huge pressure on you to do well."Though it may have done more harm than good, Kate says she doesn't regret taking the behavioural expert's advice. "It was advice given with the best intention," she says.’And from Madeleine, page 112:
In fact I would soon be advised by British police experts to try and stay as calm as possible and not to show any emotion in public, so it was probably no bad thing that my feelings seemed to be temporarily on holiday that day. The thinking behind this advice was that Madeleine’s abductor might get some kind of perverted kick pout of my distress and perhaps change his behaviour in some way.She adds:
Of course we were terrified by the implications of this theory. It meant that quite natural actions or expressions of emotion caught on camera could potentially jeopardise Madeleine’s safety.(2) We don’t cite news reporters as authorities on the BB. Googling the subject will produce numerous newspaper examples of how successful their dissimulation was. So successful, indeed, that she was accused of being “emotionless”.
(3) Self-evidently they could only have been witnessed dissimulating after advice if they had the innate ability to do so. By (2) above they have it in spades. Clearly it was already there, not grown overnight – and present on May 3 2007.
(4) On pages 210 – 214 of Madeleine, Kate McCann describes the events of August 8, which we have cited before. Two days previously their car had been seized by the police. During the interviews the police told Kate McCann outright that they didn’t believe her and made serious accusations about her behaviour on May 3 which left her hysterical. To Gerry McCann it was made quite clear that further meetings with them would no longer be as parents of the child but as potential suspects.Since M/S McCann maintains that until that time she had not seen warning signs of such accusations the shock must have been immense. Yet examination of the television interviews of the period shows the couple effortlessly dissimulating about their situation for a full week after August 8. Leaving aside the point that we now know that their comments that week, like those on the GM blog at the same time (see Gerry McCann’s blogs website), are thoroughly dishonest and intentionally misleading without any Portuguese secrecy claims to justify them, they also betray few or no signs of the events in which they had been involved, behaviour startlingly akin to their conduct on and after May 3. In other words they are not just capable of concealing their feelings and acting normally after trauma but demonstrably expert at it.
(5) Self-evidently except to Mr Menezes, the behaviour of the couple after 10pm on May 3 is to be sharply distinguished in its implications. Rolling on the floor and screaming, punching walls, throwing themselves to the ground when the police appear etc. – leaving aside the “masking” effect which such loud and unusual conduct might possess, is not evidence of “normal” behaviour at the hands of an abductor nor does it say anything either way about a person’s ability to deceive or dissimulate. And it could result from very different events. Drawing up timelines doesn’t strike the Blacksmith Bureau as strictly normal under the circumstances either, but that’s another story.
The second claim is that the parents, by keeping themselves at the centre of public attention, have behaved in a way that is quite counter to the expected behaviour of people with something to hide. Had the latter been the case, the claim runs, then they would surely have sought privacy in the hope that their notoriety and hence their suspected actions would be forgotten. Instead they stand proudly in the public eye. In which case it is down to the advocates of this view to demonstrate just when the parents have ever been free to withdraw from the limelight. In summer 2007? Nope, they tried and failed. (6) In autumn and winter of that year? No, again – their defence team shut the newspapers up while they hid behind those awful Rothley redbrick walls, certainly, but they saw it as essential for the pair to stay in the lights to propagandize as part of Project Expunge, the counter to an EAW. (7) In the first half of 2008? What, when they made their absurd Eurostar trip with accompanying photographs to try and counter the fall-out from the rogatory interviews? (8) Or later, when they span the archiving report to the UK media so dementedly to try and strengthen the so-called exoneration? (9) Or when the media caught them out using confidential Family Court proceedings to get at the Leicester police evidence? And that’s it, because shortly thereafter the Truth of the Lie was published and with it went any chance of the McCanns retreating from the lights as long as Amaral remained alive: silence in the face of his claims would have been treated as acceptance and thus they had to sue. Ever since then Amaral has given them no choice but to remain in the news, either defending themselves against the increasingly convincing claims being made against them in court or by fund raising to maintain the litigation effort. The claim doesn’t stand up when the record, rather than the hope, is examined. The fact is that since May 3 2007 the couple have held a wolf by the ears: passive silence and withdrawal has never been an option.
(6) Madeleine, page 190, “We had made a strategic decision to signal to the media that we would be withdrawing from the spotlight.” Gerry McCann STV interview August 24 2007, “We could not avoid the publicity; we never asked for it, we never wished we were in this situation. What we've done is to try and use it in a positive way to affect the outcome. In terms of the campaign, we said 60 or 70 days ago that we would be stepping back from it, and we've done very very little offensive media in terms of us coming out to campaign for Madeleine.”
(7) Project Expunge, Smethurst on BBC Panorama transcript, winter 2007. See Assange extradition proceedings for examples of how, despite the theoretical limitations on the right to challenge a European Arrest Warrant, public opinion can be used to pressure or delay a verdict up to cabinet level.
(8) High level media spin for the Eurostar Brussels trip complete with photographs of KM on the railway platform before departing. “It just so happened,” writes KM in Madeleine, page 298, “that the PJ’s trip to the UK [for the rogatory interviews] coincided with our visit to Brussels.” Indeed. Connoisseurs of McCann-speak will relish KM’s description of the origin of those interviews. Rather than the culmination of a lengthy and complex stage in the investigation into the two arguidos, prepared over months by the Portuguese prosecutors’ department and established under international treaty agreements, we have her breezy version of how they really came about earlier on the same page 298 :
“You’ll recall that, back in October, we had supplied the Portuguese public prosecutor with a list of people whom we felt statements should have been taken. In response the Portuguese police had decided to come to Leicester to be present while the British police interviewed Fiona… [and the others]. The questions to be asked were those Gerry and I had suggested to the prosecutor (obvious and pertinent ones, I hasten to add) with a few additions from the PJ.”La procédure, en matière d'affaire criminelle, n'est pas que les témoins assistés suscitent des interviews de témoins, mais qu'ils formulent des questions qui seront posées à ces témoins si elles respectent la règle. Kate MC présente donc ici un ordre des choses inversé : le Ministère public a souhaité que soient questionnés certaines personnes, les avocats des MC ont été priés de soumettre leurs propres questions.
(9) McCann Files et al. Various synchronised newspaper reports mocking the PJ and strengthening the “exoneration” in July 2008 previously cited in the BB.
Our Guest Analyst - 09.09.2011
May be an interview with our guest Dr Eugene Heffer [not, for a number of reasons, his real name] formerly of Cambridge University, MIT and the Jerusalem Centre for Advanced Study. He is an expert on information theory and a consultant to a number of intelligence services. Dr Heffer is forty three and lives in London and Cambridge, Massachusetts.
JB: Thanks. I think this could be interesting: they think I’m nuts, or permanently stoned or something. Wait till they hear you.
EH: Here we go. Let me read these out, they’re kind of formal.
1)Kate McCann’s book Madeleine is either a truthful account of the last four and a half years or it is not. If it is then it represents one more stage in their slow and agonizing attempt to discover the fate of their daughter.
(2)If it isn’t then her opening words about her motivation for writing the book, “My reason for writing it is simple: to give an account of the truth”, can’t be accurate either.
(3)Reviews and analyses of the book have pointed out so much misleading stuff and actual untruths that it’s impossible to accept Kate’s opening claim, impossible.
(4)[added by JB with EH agreement] Rejecting that claim on the evidence doesn’t mean that the parents were involved in her disappearance. [end addition] It leads inexorably to the conclusion that the true motive for writing Madeleine must lie elsewhere.
(5)Information theory postulates that whatever that motive may be there will be expressions of it in the book.
(6)That in turn leads to the final conclusion of this line of reasoning: there is a “hidden text” within the main one.
JB: Thank you. Logic is a funny thing.
EH: It is indeed, John, and I can see why you’re looking a little bemused—
JB: It’s hot in here.
EH:Is that why you’re wiping your brow? Or is it the implications?
JB: Well, I can see why it’s called Wild Theory.
EH: John, you don’t have to tell me what a weird place this leads us to, I know it. I cannot see any alternative to the above reasoning – either we accept Kate’s words or we must end up with proposition 6.
JB: And proposition 6 –
EH: Proposition 6 is fucking crazy! It takes us right into Hollywood movie territory, we’ve got this woman, this physician, she’s lost her kid, she’s become world famous because of what she went through, she’s been blessed by the Pope, cleared by the prosecutors –
JB: I don’t know about cleared –
EH: – and now proposition 6 is saying, [laughs] I mean, the woman’s been sitting at a keyboard on her own, knowing what’s she’s doing, knowing the risks, they must have begged her not to do it, and she’s sending fucking hidden messages out and yelling catch me if you can at the whole world, while her husband is in bed rolling his eyes. I mean, what? That’s not even Hitchcock, it’s more like Stephen King.
JB: Or the Coen brothers maybe. I haven’t read Stephen King.
EH: Nobody reads Stephen King, it’s just a phrase – Coen brothers? Yeah, maybe. I knew the guy they based Burn After Reading on, he was an analyst too, ended up in the Potomac with an axe in his head. But that’s another story and I don’t think it’s as weird as this one.[sighs] It takes us into Crazyland but I still can’t see any alternative. I mean once you can accept it then what follows isn’t so strange, it kind of makes sense, but accepting it is screwy. Thank Christ they took the pair off the Vatican website otherwise we’re taking on the Pope as well. Screwy!
JB: All right, all right, I understand that. I’ve never been down that road but sometimes you sit thinking about the case and one way or another it really is very strange.
EH: Face it, it’s creepy.
JB: You get people who talk about Gordon Brown and things and conspiracies and how it’s a vast power network and all the rest of it but I think in many ways it’s not real belief, more like a game – otherwise they wouldn’t be able to sleep at night. And then sometimes I think that all that stuff isn’t just lazy fantasy but a kind of protection mechanism –
EH: How do you mean?
JB: – against… I don’t know, people sense something in the case they don’t really want to get any closer to…
EH: Oh yeah?
JB: That it’s easier, maybe, to, to go for melodrama stuff than confront things that are really… look, this is your stuff, your interview, not mine.
EH: Well I hear what you’re saying.
JB: Anyway, now you’ve crossed into Crazyland where does it go?
EH: How much time have I got?
JB: People don’t read long stuff well on screens.
EH: I know, print is different.
JB: They’ll forgive me if we split it up into more than one issue, so carry on.
The professionals - 16.09.2011
The rather de haut en bas reply from Cornelia Fuchs, the Der Stern journalist, to a forum member querying the media treatment of Kate & Gerry McCann is an entertaining example of “real media versus internet amateurs”, (...) Think of those centre-page experts who began shrieking in the McCanns’ defence in spring 2007 (before they had any access to the facts) and you have M/S Fuchs. The comparison is exact, for she writes in her email: “The McCanns have said again and again in many interviews that they have made a mistake, as they left their children alone in the apartment to sleep. They regret this deeply. They have to live with this guilt.” Weird, isn’t it, how the very same sentences come out as though something’s been injected into their brains? After four and a half years you’d think that they could at least rephrase this Schmaltz. (...) Why, she says, “Many times over the years a colleague has driven in this case to Portugal.” Note that she clearly hasn’t been there herself, on expenses or otherwise. Still, her hearsay informant colleague has actually, “spoken on the ground with several Portuguese investigators, as well as with participants in Praia da Luz.” Gosh! Coy, isn’t she, by the way? Doesn’t actually say Portuguese police, but only “investigators”. Finally her summary of what this massive professional research and analysis effort has uncovered: “Neither the Portuguese investigators nor Scotland Yard think that the parents are involved in her disappearance in any way whatsoever.” The second part of the sentence, as tends to happen with journalists, is an outright lie. Scotland Yard has never, at any time, given their thinking on the case to anyone, let alone an overseas gossip columnist whose most recent research concerned the choice of “pantyhose” or otherwise at a royal garden party. It’s all rather as you would expect, don’t you think?
A squalid industry that deserves to die - 16.09.2011
The email from M/S Conny Fuchs, implicitly propounding the worth and value of the media industry, gives us a chance to disagree. Not with the German media, we hasten to add, about which we know little save that an independent German press has rarely existed, but with the UK press. This week the London Evening Standard’s media analyst, “Professor” Roy Greenslade, gave us some statistics and analysis regarding its health. Greenslade, like so many other UK journalists, did rather well out of Madeleine McCann, joining enthusiastically in the UK press Death Ride and raising his public profile sharply by joining the parents’ paid mouthpiece shoulder to shoulder on a debating platform. He was yet another of the worthies who presume to pontificate about the case without any real knowledge of it, finding the parents very hard done by indeed before writing a column in which he expressed his exasperation about the mysterious Tapas group and asking if somebody could please tell him whether it contained seven members or nine? As usual the statistics tell the same story of unrelenting decline in both the numbers and the profitability of the print news media; Sunday newspaper readership, for example, has dropped from 16.2 million readers in 1991 to just 8.3 million by this August. Greenslade wonders whether the trend can be reversed. The answer’s no, Roy, for both Sundays and Dailies: the public have stopped buying your products and your industry is on the way to joining UK motorbikes, UK coal and the rest in the dustbin and along with it the careers of you and your colleagues. The professor himself offers some pop sociological analysis of the factors that might be causing this catastrophe – the usual stuff about leisure changes and increased television watching – before turning portentously to one of the elephants in the room with these words. “And what, you may well ask, about the internet?” Unfortunately this promising beginning is answered by “What indeed?” and then a mere two incoherent sentences about not knowing when people tune into it, whatever that may mean. Oh, dear. Roy shouldn’t need to be told how bad the situation is – he’s sitting in the middle of it. The Evening Standard itself, only a couple of decades ago one of the most influential voices in the British press with a bright house style, good guest writers, political influence and packed advertising pages, is these days a tawdry freesheet, sold to a Russian adventurer for a pound and now given away at tube stations for free, like the beggar’s paper The Big Issue, which it increasingly resembles. Nearly all its decent journalists are gone and the classified ads section long ago migrated to the net. An undignified but well deserved end: the print news media in microcosm.
Naturally perhaps, Mr Greenslade never suggests that there might be another reason for the decline – that the product itself is rotten, as rotten as stinking fish, and that a very large proportion of the people working with the product are just as rotten themselves, corrupted by the monopoly position in information that they retained for so long. Nor does it occur to him that the internet didn’t cause the industry problems – it just happened to provide, for the very first time, a real alternative to the stinking fish monopoly: people couldn’t run fast enough once there was somewhere else to go. It was the printers who were the first to pay with their jobs for the dishonesty and corruption which infests the press. Being thick as well as greedy the print unions set up a crazed and self-destructive monopoly within the monopoly, ensuring the papers were printed on hundred year old hot metal presses, censoring the stories they didn’t like, instituting a system of unstoppable perks and bonuses and, finally, establishing an organized income tax evasion plan in which the management silently colluded. Those newspaper printers are now gone as completely as Manchester mill weavers. But what was their justification for their suicidal money grabbing? Their answer, and by no means an inaccurate one, was they’re all at it, why shouldn’t we join in? They saw the crooks and chancers who owned the papers, the journalists with their “expenses” which dwarfed what MPs could get away with and all the other perquisites which monopolies can enjoy at the consumers’ expense. And the censorship? Listen, said the printers, have you ever seen any of the bosses’ families or friends written about? We’re just doing the same thing. It was rather worse than that: on top of the financial corruption and theft there was the increasing corruption of the news itself as PR men, politicians and advertisers bought their way into the pages so that it was no longer possible to know what was real news anymore, what was invented and what was planted for a reason. As reality began to catch up and sales to turn down at the turn of the century the players, perhaps sensing the end of the good times ahead, grew even more reckless and cynical. Such was the situation when Madeleine McCann went missing, bringing cries of relief from the industry at the size of the approaching bonanza. We’ll have a look at just a small part of that Death Ride and see whether it matches the exalted claims made on behalf of the merits and ability of the “professionals” by Conny Keir and her like – the Mirror Group, Lori Campbell and the McCanns.
What a cess pit! - 17.09.2011
Have you read the libel writ which the McCanns issued against Goncalo Amaral and which is now winding its way through the Portuguese justice system? No, thought not. Nor have we. The Mirror group has, though, because the McCanns gave it to them. They won’t publish it as a whole so that we can see its contents for ourselves – oh, no, no, just the bits they feel that we should read. Nor will they ever put in print why they accepted it or who exactly discussed it with them and what terms were agreed for its use and who chose the bits to highlight and the bits to leave out. That’s the sort of stuff that we, the people who pay them, are not allowed to know. This is the same Mirror group which employed the nasty little snitch Lori Campbell, whose denunciation of Robert Murat – for all the world like some horrible Soviet grass sending a Kulak to the camps under Stalin – diverted the Portuguese police effort when it might have been successfully concentrating on certain more likely suspects. The same Lori Campbell who helped Kate McCann secretly spread a pack of lies to the world not just about the police investigation in August 2007 but the scene of the disappearance itself on the night of May 3; the same Lori Campbell whose husband, an exceptionally murky figure behind his aliases, has been arrested on suspicion of major involvement in the hacking scandal. One wonders how lovable Lori would like it if people started going on television now and, instead of respecting her husband’s legal rights, tell the world what a suspiciously dodgy bastard he obviously is, as she did to Murat. Lori Campbell and her husband are not bad apples: no, they are quintessentially typical examples of what the modern tabloid journalist has become. How did we ever allow information to be rationed and manipulated in this way? And how did the Mirror, once supposedly a socialist voice for the British working man, come to this – secretly at the service of a couple of Portuguese police suspects? How had a supposed newspaper fallen into the game of withholding the news from its readers, as in the case of the libel writ, rather than providing it? (...)
It is only when the lavatorial squalor and nastiness of the UK press is laid out in this way – truthfully – that the reader can see that the McCann affair was not an aberration at all but a profound expression of just what that industry, with its monopoly on the packaging and control of written information for its own ends, had become as it started to rot and decline. (...)
Review news - 20.09.2011
So we have our review off the ground with the news that three Scotland Yard officers – not the ridiculous “thirty” that some of our reliable overground media claimed – were in Portugal in August. And what’s that gushing sound we can hear? The noise is, according to the good old Express, coming from “a source close to the couple”. Close to where? Top? Bottom? Wait a minute, is this a private, coded, reference to the Bureau’s last essay concerning cess pits, or septic tanks as they’re known to the newly respectable? It could be. A sewer pipe is apparently “a waste product conduit issuing from the bottom…of a building.” From the tasteful McCann Rothley mansion? By golly, it could be, couldn’t it? Anyway this source close to the bottom has spouted, “They are relieved. Things are finally being done and Kate and Gerry are being kept informed of every move.” Really? Every move? Some time later a further batch of waste product rumbles through the salt-glaze pipe. “Kate and Gerry,” it glugs, “have had several meetings with police reviewing their daughter’s case.” And finally, “They have been told that if something has been missed they will find it. They are relieved that something is finally happening.” And indeed it is, according, once more, to the Express: “The team is currently sifting through 20,000 pages of evidence assembled by Portuguese detectives. They will review witness statements, make a fresh appeal for information and carefully re-check alibis.” A “police source” added: “They will be looking for something that has been overlooked or not developed which could lead to a fresh line of inquiry – a sighting, a tip-off, something that didn’t ring bells at the time but could be vital.” Well, that won’t take long, will it? And then what? What are the alternatives? There are only two.
Scenario One has them stretching out the job of “going through the files” for months, chatting to the Portuguese, looking in the Leicester police files and then going to the home secretary and saying, “we’ve found nothing.”
Scenario Two has them doing the same thing but going to the home secretary rather sooner and saying “we’ve found nothing; it looks like we need a serious talk with you-know-who and their friends.”
“Hang on hater,” cry the Sad People, “you’re distorting the facts again. What about the third option, that the police find new leads?” Not a chance. Not even a tiny, tiny chance. Don’t believe us? Think we’re wrong? Let’s watch the police press statements over the coming months together, shall we?
A Curious Interview. Our interview with Dr Eugene Heffer has been unavoidably held over. To compensate we offer this curious document which a rather dodgy free-lancer we know has offered us, stressing that it is fiction. It runs: Everyone will be hoping that the nightmare is finally coming to an end for sad Kate & Gerry. The tot’s parents have kept their dignity and composure throughout their tragic ordeal and now they begin to see a glimmer of light and hope. As they join us in our interview room overlooking London’s docklands we offer them coffee and point out the sofa we installed this morning so that the pair can sit hand in hand. Despite the strain they are holding up well, managing to conceal, as in their Amsterdam picture, the terrible burden that they carry under a pretence, if that is the right word [no, it isn’t, change it. Ed] of stoicism. “It’s not about us, it really isn’t,” whines [no, no, no! Ed.] says brave Kate, “it’s all about Mudeleine.” And Gerry adds, “you know, there’s no evidence at all that anything bad has happened to her, as we keep telling the police.”How do you manage to carry on, we ask him?
Gerry sighs and plucks at his ear lobe, “You know,” he says, staring into the distance, “the money helps.” He yelps as his wife squeezes his thigh fondly. “The money helps to keep the search going,” she says, without moving her forehead or eyebrows, “that’s what Gerry meant to say.”
“Will you be helping the enquiry?” Thirty two million acres – a huge task but possible
“We already are,” says Gerry firmly, rubbing his thigh. “We’ve given the police a list of locations that we want them to check on the ground.” Where? Gerry smirks. “If I knew,” he said, “I wouldn’t tell you – ouch.” Kate leans forward. “That’s just his way. What Gerry means,” she drones [no, no Ed] helpfully, “is that we wouldn’t do anything, not in a million years, to and especially the way that people have helped us all this time which is what matters to Mudeleine more than anything ever. I don’t know what we’d have done without it. The help I mean. Not the – ”
“Money,” shouts Gerry, “money means nothing to us.”
There is an abrupt and deathly silence.
Kate sits there impassively, her fingers fiddling with what looks like a rosary – we remember her firm Catholic faith that has succoured her for so long – but is actually a thin chain-metal dog collar. “Gerry gets stressed sometimes,” she says finally. He does: for a moment his eyes went all piggy, his chest puffed out and he looked like he might smash me in the face and then jump up and down on my neck. [should this be in??Ed] But at once he is calm again. “Look, we’re not claiming to do the police’s job for them but there are certain places they have to search – New South Wales, for instance, at least the coastal strip, the northern Sahara, the Potosi area and the upper Andes, then we’ve had a firm sighting south of Kremenchug which means the Donets basin has to be checked...”
“And the Spanish border,” says Kate, slipping the dog collar around the neck of a miniature stuffed spaniel she has produced from her Lana Marks Cleopatra handbag.
“The Spanish border. M/S McCann could we ask you about that fascinating page in your book describing the plans for fleeing across the Spanish border before the next police appointment?”
Silence. Gerry McCann taps his foot.
“Who is your owner?” he finally asks.
(no no no Ed] [And delete this crap about the border. Are you nuts?]
“We heard of a sighting in Indonesia,” we said.
“That’s right, says Gerry, who has calmed down now[no, no,no. Ed] Do you know how many islands there are in Indonesia? 17,500! Then there’s Greenland. Is Greenland in Canada?” Kate shakes her head and slowly tightens the metal collar around the neck of the soft toy, “I don’t think so.” Gerry shrugs. “Edgar has been following up these Inuit leads so we intend to ask for the Nome-Anchorage highway to be dug up along its whole length, or at least the permafrost melted, something which the home secretary will investigate. And don’t even ask me about Brazil.”
“It’s shockin’,” Kate says, “the official figures say there are four hundred and twenty one paedophile settlements in the Brazilian rain forest, with fifty eight huts in each. That’s an average of seven thousand four hoondred and twenty abuse episodes per calendar year.” Her face is utterly serene as she talks but her white knuckles tightening the chain around the neck of dog doll show the hidden strain that is never far away. There is a soft thud as the head leaves the body like a cork from a popgun and drops to the floor.
“Just think,” she says, “picture all those perfect little – ”
“ANGOLAS,” yells Gerry, staring intently at his wife, “and Mozambiques! That is, all the Portuguese colonial possessions.”
“It could take a very long time,” we venture, “to search all those places. A very long time.”
“Yes,” says Kate. “Yes,” says Gerry, “but this time we must get it right.”
The interview is at an end. Kate and Gerry leave for another gruelling series of briefings elsewhere. They are in our thoughts.
Perhaps this time there will be a happy ending; perhaps those searches will find little Maddie. But after so many heartbreaks one fears for Kate & Gerry McCann – their hopes have been raised and then dashed so many times. Remember 2007? Then too the McCanns had several meetings with the police – but instead of Kate being hugged and told that the tot had been found she was greeted with the Portuguese for “you’re nicked my old beauty.” Another day is ending for the McCanns. Life can be so hard. We pick up the two glass eyes which popped out of the spaniel doll head, slip them into the bin and make a note to have the cleaners vacuum up the remaining shredded stuffing. Then, thoughtfully, we turn out the office lights and leave.
Vox populi - 21.09.2011
There is so much hate on these comment pages. Kate has said time and time again that she regrets what she did even though it was well within the bounds of responsible parenting.
Pour l'opinion publique les MCs n'auraient jamais dû laisser leurs enfants seuls. Cette critique est immédiatement étouffée par l'argument que nul plus que les MCs ne regrette amèrement un acte qui, toutefois, n'est pas une négligence car il se situe “à l'intérieur des limites de la responsabilité parentale”.
Movements offstage - 22.09.2011
Anyone who reads the occasional stories put out by the Express about Kate and Gerry McCann over the past year or two finds an increasingly curious lack of pattern. (...) Then there was that strange interview with Goncalo Amaral amid the side streets of Praia da Luz. Nobody knew what to make of that. It was the first time that Amaral had appeared in UK tabloid pages without the usual words from the McCann prompt-book – “disgraced” “fat” “sacked” etc. – pinned to his back. And the reporter, James Murray, treated him with polite respect, something quite unheard of in the UK media. But then what was Goncalo Amaral doing telling James Murray about an “abductor”? The Sad People on the forums, the love forums, that is, not the hate forums, were reduced to flummoxed debate. Was Amaral back pedalling to get out of the libel case? Or what was he up to? And now they are reporting the Scotland Yard review at some length. As they would. The owner of the Express has invested a great deal in the McCanns and their friends and not by choice but through gritted teeth after his lawyers told him he had no option but to settle his libel case. Mr Desmond, as anyone who checks his career will discover, just hates to lose and he particularly hates losing money. Perhaps that explains the appearance of Mr Murray in Portugal, where he went out of his way to establish contact with Amaral’s circle. Since then he has been back quite a few times and the lines of communication remain very open indeed. Desmond likes playing games and being both wooed and distrusted by both sides – after all, that’s why you become a newspaper owner, innit? Still, the McCanns can sleep as easy as they ever do because a “most unhelpful”, as Clarence might describe it, bid by an outsider to get the Express to do a series on those celebrities the Tapas 7 has come to nothing. So far. Non coopératif.
The Question of Proxies - 25.09.2011
Proxies in the news media are people acting as a disguised channel of information in the interests of another party. As internet usage warns us they are intimately connected with subterfuge because the sole intention behind them is to protect the original source from accountability for the claims. Proxies have sprouted crazily over the last forty years or so in the rich, well manured undergrowth which surrounds that proud and lofty trunk, the modern newspaper – and newspaper it is, for the broadcast media are not vulnerable to the pest in quite the same way as the press. (...)
So where exactly do the McCanns fit in to this charming business.
A simple question: why? - 26.09.2011
As Roy “Count the Tapas” Greenslade, official commentator to the state funeral of the UK press might ask, “Why indeed?” What were the McCanns doing when they got involved – right up to the hilt – with this nauseating industry? Why did the parents of a missing child who claimed from day one that they wanted to provide the widest possible knowledge of what had happened to Madeleine McCann almost immediately turn to the personnel, address book and methods of outfits designed for exactly the opposite purpose – the secret limitation and distortion of information about events? It is, quite frankly, inexplicable. Or is it? Of course we have the Authorised Version put forward in the pair’s interests, a kind of repeated mantra: unforeseen crowds of media people after return from Portimao – flee them or work with them – all pulling together for Madeleine – nice Alex Woolfall teaches how to deal with all these media people – Sheree Wood sent by the government to help – Justine blah blah – Clarence blah blah – gradually they helped get the message of hope for Madeleine across in the most effective way blah blah. It isn’t very pleasant reading that garbage now, not in the light of what we know. Starting on May 4 the parents used unpaid proxies, friends and family whose role we’ll examine, to get information into the media that had nothing whatever to do with any “search for Madeleine” but already included purely defensive information in the parents’ own interests, not the child’s, as the evidence proves. And after this first, amateurish but successful attempt to use unpaid proxies they immediately started working with Alex Woolfall, not the media itself. Woolfall is the recipient of glowing testimonials from the McCanns for his expertise; rather less often do they mention that his expertise was in the very “Crisis Management PR” that Greaseball Oil turned to. Have a look at a current puff by Bell Pottinger the CMPR specialists that Woolfall was representing from May 4 on. As successful examples of their services their website gives:
Eurostar Independent Inquiry: providing communications support for the publication of the independent inquiry [our italics] into Eurostar trains trapped in the Channel Tunnel during bad weather.
McLaren: supporting the CEO and senior management of McLaren during the FIA investigation into allegations of theft of technical information.
Mark Warner: providing 24/7 crisis management support following the disappearance of Madeleine McCann from a Mark Warner resort in Portugal.
You can see why Eurostar would want their services after having left two thousand passengers shivering under the Channel for 16 hours, an experience described fervently, if unoriginally, as “a complete nightmare” by one victim. Another complained “...no proper organisation. There is water but people are hungry. Staff are pleasant but have no idea. I'm exhausted and also angry at being treated so badly." Pretty minor really – but note the italicised bit: “support for the publication of the independent inquiry”. In other words Eurostar were worried that an independent report would hammer them so Bell Pottinger were paid to stop the reader getting the words of the findings by placing distorted versions of them in the media. Not much point in having independent enquiries really then, is there? But that was trivial stuff: with Maclaren you’re getting into proper CMPR territory – theft allegations with millions in sponsorship at stake as well as a possible finger on the collar. Get busy fibbers! Mark Warner, whose reputation was very much word of mouth, wanted to make sure that their USP didn’t become “Stay with us and return one short” after May 3. Fair enough. They failed, unfortunately for them and their future, because the McCann frenzy was too big to handle and their take on things – “no evidence of a break in” – was drowned, if that is the appropriate word, by the abduction claim.
So what were the parents doing sitting at Woolfall’s feet while he taught them his methods? Was it his experience in fund raising, or raising awareness of lost tots that they were soaking up? Not according to his CV: “His experience covers product contamination and sabotage; death and serious injury in the workplace; redundancy, administration and Chapter 11 announcements; regulatory breaches and fines; sex discrimination and whistle-blowing cases; fraud and theft; pension fund deficits; use of child labour; medical negligence and a wide range of other controversial issues.” And “covers” doesn’t mean fighting against these horrors, so that you could argue his expertise might be valuable in the equal horror of a child kidnapping, say. Not at all – it means protecting the interests of those accused of them! With a record like that the guy would be a great, a superb, choice to work for the abductor – but for the victim’s parents? Why? Kate McCann confirms in her book that “we came to rely on Alex Woolfall as our de facto media liaison officer. It was he who guided us early on, giving us simple advice that has served us in good stead since.” You can say that again, Kate. Woolfall’s advice was utterly and completely cynical, comparing the media, as Kate indiscreetly recounts, to Pavlov’s dogs slavering at the prospect of reward. All they needed, he told Kate, continuing the laboratory animal analogy which came naturally to him, was to be fed something to keep them happy: that way they were yours. Not at all the Authorised Version that found its way into the media that summer in the quality dailies, is it? That tale of amateur but enthusiastic family members and friends beavering away at do-it-yourself searching and campaigning, with “young Calum” putting together a website, ol’ uncle Alex smiling benevolently and everyone pulling together like a hick chorus line from a Hollywood musical. No, there wasn’t much mention of throwing meat to the dribbling media dogs then.Why were they in the business of throwing meat at the dribblers in the first place? Kate McCann again: “He told us to ask ourselves the following two questions before giving anything to anyone [our italics] in the press: what was our objective and how was it going to help?”
Kate speaks the truth! She speaks truly and conclusively, in this instance at least. That sentence describes perfectly the times when they step out from behind the protection of paid liars : every interview they have ever given shows the same cold, cynical calculation in using the media for their own aims only. No interest in informing the public, no frankness about themselves, no sincerity, only example after monotonous example of steadfastly, rigidly, following the Woolfall Crisis Management method – only ever speak to the public via the media to get what you want. And indeed if what they wanted was merely to “search for the child” and get a campaign going in her interest in spring 2007, arguing perhaps that they would sup with the devil if that would help them in that objective, how is it that the record doesn’t support them? For at the time when, as Kate herself states, the searching had temporarily come to a halt because of “other distractions”, that is the period after they returned to England – how was it that their CMPR (Communications, Marketing and Public Relations) effort only then began to reach its peak? Even as they landed yet another CMPR specialist, Hanover Communications, was engaged and ready to go, as the Bureau wrote nearly two years ago when we published its boast:
We helped the McCann family deal with the media storm which surrounded them on their return from Portugal in September 2007. From scratch, we created a comprehensive media handling package within six hours which enabled us to handle 850 media calls in the first week. By giving journalists positive stories to report, coverage turned from hostility to the McCanns to sympathy about their ordeal. This campaign won the crisis communication category at the 2008 CIPR awardsNot much mention of Madeleine McCann there. You know, when a couple immerse themselves so deeply in the techniques and practices used almost exclusively by those facing the possibility of financial catastrophe, disgrace or, particularly, prosecution, then the old saying comes irresistibly to mind: if it walks like a duck and looks like a duck...
Crisis, what crisis? - 28.09.2011
“Crisis management public relations expert Glenn Selig, caseyfounder of the PR firm The Publicity Agencyhorror, talks about the fallout from the Casey Anthony Case, the money that may be made, and defending clients in the court of public opinion…” “By giving journalists positive stories (des histoires à succès) to report, coverage turned from hostility to the McCanns to sympathy about their ordeal. This campaign won the crisis communication category at the 2008 CIPR awards.”
On the whole the McCanns’ use of proxies has protected them – in the public arena, that is, and among people who have not studied the case. But there is a problem: Madeleine McCann herself. The whole point of proxies is disguise – disguising, obviously, the true source of the proxies’ information and, just as important, disguising the trail itself, the methods used by the true source to effect the disguise. CMPR is almost always a short-term operation to influence or deceive the public; it was designed to be used by businesses defending corporate actions where individual guilt and punishment does not, except in the case of corporate manslaughter, arise. Protecting the share price of a company protects the jobs of those who work in it and the defensive effort can therefore be seen as socially benign rather than a conspiracy to protect guilty individuals. Should the attempt fail then the defeat is merely a regulatory one or a fine which, however large, is paid by the company, that is, ultimately, the customer. The CMPR companies that manage the defence-of-reputation effort are never investigated for deception. With the adoption of CMPR by individuals, not corporate bodies, the game changes but the techniques of delegated disguise and deception still remain beyond the reach of the law, win or lose for, as we said previously, in this context at least the public has no defender. Once Pinochet was back on the plane to Chile there was no point in anyone examining the methods that had got him there; once the Natwest 3 had lost their battle and been extradited, convicted and sentenced the case was closed.
But the McCann affair is very different, as is the more recent Dewani case. Both are, literally, life and death matters in which public arena victories and defeats, however temporarily eye-catching, are strictly secondary to the criminal investigation process seeking the perpetrators of a crime. As long as the fate of Madeleine McCann is unknown the investigation can never be closed; and as long as the investigation continues the actions of all possible suspects, both before and since May 3, will remain under scrutiny and analysis.
That analysis, whether by the Portuguese PJ, Leicester police or Scotland Yard, has to include the use of the public arena by the parents of the child, otherwise it is not an investigation worthy of the name. What motivated it? Misplaced fear? Worry about neglect accusations? Or other reasons? The examination of those questions means throwing an unwelcome light on the mechanics of media deception and the techniques of disguise, particularly in two crucial areas, the bookends of the case, so to speak: the claims made by the family proxies on May 4, chiefly regarding forced entry to apartment 5A and the accusations of a “frame up” and a “deal” made by the same proxies on September 7. This potential vulnerability can be heard rumbling in the background, like distant artillery fire, in the pages of Kate McCann’s Madeleine. She writes
At some point that morning [May 4] we’d become aware that friends and family were appearing on television expressing our concern about the lack of police activity overnight…we were quite surprised that people were giving interviews but it was understandable. After all we’d been on the phone half the night to our friends and relatives, sobbing that nothing was being done and begging for their help.But she avoids the subject of jemmied shutters like the plague. And it is difficult to see how her description can account for the sheer amount of information – favourable to the parents, not the child – that Michael Wright had amassed on the morning of May 4 about matters other than “the need for help”. In the London Standard that day he was quoted thus:
Michael Healy [Michael Wright], the missing girl's uncle, added: "There has been some negative spin put on this,[there had been no spin at that time, negative or otherwise] with people criticising them for leaving the kids and going on the tear.” Mr Healy added, “But it's nonsense, they were close by and were eating within sight of where the children were and checking on them. Other members of the group were checking on her as well. No one was rip-roaring drunk.On page 130 there is a description of their initial “assumptions” as to how the abductor had entered and exited the apartment but the well-known claims of forced entry are again missing from the record. As for the other bookend we have seen in previous articles how Kate McCann has tried to dig her way out of the sizeable pit of the September 7 proxy claims while slowly sinking deeper into the mire, her strangulated prose on page 243 reflecting the ghostly presence over her shoulder of both the police readers and her own defence lawyer. Still, all these little misunderstandings can be cleared up by the review. The various relatives can tell the police how they all independently got the forced entry stuff; Michael Wright can tell them how the parents, between their tears, were able to give him so much data about their parenting habits and, naturally, all of them can answer simple questions like “did Kate and Gerry ask you to speak to the media?” The answers should help them clear their names of the unjustified slurs which have stuck to them for the past few years and allow the police to concentrate their efforts elsewhere. Equally Kate can clear up the little matter of the “deal” to plead guilty to accidentally killing the child and why she has now withdrawn it and substituted a New Deal of which Roosevelt would be proud; and what exactly she meant by the words “green light” on page 246; and whether it was her sick father or herself who invented the “frame up” claim. Kate McCann, in particular, having got somehow diverted from clarifying all these matters in Madeleine, must be greatly looking forward to the review team’s questions so that she can provide the answers that will take her, finally, Beyond The Smears.
Meanwhile mere members of the public like us, who were force-fed their versions of events by proxies and who can’t ask follow-up questions, and others like Goncalo Amaral – plus anyone else who might face the McCanns in the libel courts some day – have to do what we can without the straight answers that others may be able to coax. (...)
Many of their claims are hard to pin down as outright lies rather than subjective opinions or errors, yet they remain unsupported by outside evidence; alternatives to their theories, such as abduction, are dismissed on the basis of inside or privileged information which, when examined after the passage of years, is found to be non-existent; outright and proven lying, as in Gerry McCann’s blogs claiming they are not under suspicion when they are in fact reeling from the police accusations recently made against them, can be finessed by arguing that what they were “really” saying was that they were not arguidos; the court evidence of prosecutor Menezes about their lying can be dismissed as a harsh way of characterising trivial inconsistencies; an admitted lie to the public, such as on page 206 of Madeleine and in Gerry McCann’s corresponding blog entry, can be justified, somehow, by judicial secrecy; finally,their mysterious and obsessive use of proxies, paid and unpaid, which cast an enormous cloud of darkness and confusion over their true motives, can perhaps be excused by the need for help with the uninvited media. None of these examples point to any crime on their part. Each of them can be argued over, as they often are on internet forums, and a defence of their conduct made. But the sheer volume of them, one after another after another, is gradually overwhelming. And taken as a whole, (...) they always point in one direction – in their case that of constant and single minded self-exculpation. But what is it that they are trying to exculpate themselves from?
High Stakes - 16.11.2011
So the libel case resumes in February. One doesn’t have to be a pessimist to wonder whether it will really take us any closer to the truth. That a (democratic) criminal trial is dedicated to establishing the truth about an event is neither myth nor pretence, as anyone who has served on a jury should know. But a libel trial is a rather different matter in which truth takes very much second place. Not only is it not one of the jewels in justice’s crown, it is in fact the pits, whether in the UK, Kazakhstan or just about anywhere you name. Nor are the reasons hard to find: no country has found a way of establishing equality between the two sides so that both cases can be presented in equal strength and detail, and few have bothered to try. The odds on Mr Putin losing a libel case in his own country are roughly the same as the odds on a hugely wealthy litigant in the UK losing to a Big Issue seller: such are the realities of power. Where does the balance of power lie in McCanns versus Amaral? The answer is less obvious than it might seem. The financial power of the parents, like almost every other aspect of their lives, derives from others, not their own resources. And the “others”, whether millionaires with an interest or a supportive public, will only cough up on a big scale as long as nothing untoward occurs to dent their sanctity. Unlike them Amaral has little to fear financially from unpleasant revelations since enough mud to dam the river Tagus has already been smeared all over him. So while his current wealth and earning power are effectively zero they are potentially much greater than that of the McCanns: should the gradual movement in his favour from the judges continue towards a vindication then future world-wide book sales would dwarf the rewards from both The Truth of the Lie and Kate McCann’s lamentable opus. There is also an asymmetry in the risks both parties run. Amaral, frankly, has little to offer the pair should they win and has spent two years learning how to cope with ruin: how much worse can it get for him? The parents, however, should they lose face a frightening future. Unfortunately such high stakes don’t guarantee new insights.(...)
The location of the proceedings and the legal system under which they have been taken is an additional complication.Whatever one’s feelings of friendship for the Portuguese people the performance of its young (?) legal system throughout the whole Madeleine McCann affair has left a sad impression. It is one of an alien judicial system, seriously compromised by fashionable but troublingly flexible human rights concepts, imported and badly bolted on, post-Salazar, to a rickety existing structure, one which lacks transparency and predictability and which does not seem politically independent. Perhaps that accounts for the profound lack of faith in it shown by educated Portuguese in their discussions with The Bureau. Most shocking of all, more shocking even than the intellectual inadequacies and political compromises of the prosecutors’ report from within the criminal justice system, was the outcome of the McCanns’ assault on Amaral in the civil courts. The viciousness of the parents’ attack was predictable —after all we know what sort of people they are—but the extreme result and the reaction to it were not. The fact that human rights concepts could be perverted to strip and humiliate Amaral in virtual secrecy, reminding one not just of a Salazar victim but an unlucky litigant from the seventeenth century, seemed to come as a complete surprise not only to most lay Portuguese, who clearly don’t expect to understand their own laws, but to the legal profession itself. A number of the latter said that they did not know that Amaral’s fate was legally possible. What sort of system does that reveal? Nor did the Lisbon hearings, under a twenty eight year old judge, do anything to rectify this Alice-in-Kafkaland impression. Only when the appeal court judges gave their ruling did we finally seem to be reading the words of normal people looking at the evidence. But what a time to wait! And which way, given the social strains induced by recession and the approaching end of the Euro (?) , will the judicial future go?
It was presumably the McCanns’ status as putative martyrs which accounted for the lower courts’ otherwise baffling acceptance of the more infantile claims made by the pair, which should have been thrown out with contempt and derision. The claim that “the search for Madeleine would be damaged” by Amaral’s book and television programme is one of the most risibly childish ever put before a civil court, resting on a subjective psychological, not fact-based, hypothesis incapable of proof or disproof and only arguable in terms of counterfactuals: i.e. not a matter that can ever be determined by a court. But in this case, under the glare of international publicity and political uncertainty, the courts themselves seemed to lose their bearings and sense of proportion. Admittedly, and under similar crazed media pressure—initiated, we should never forget, by the McCanns—the UK courts have shown signs of being infected by that same triumph of sentimentality over reality, witness Hogg’s comments in the important case of McCanns vs. Leicester police. But the latter came harmlessly in the judgement, after the police, via their counsel, had ruthlessly brushed the schmaltz aside, denying the sacred couple—Oh unforgiveable!—what they demanded on the basis of the facts, something the Portuguese lower courts, unfortunately, were incapable of doing. Presumably Isabel “Gorgon” Duarte will attempt to keep things on the same sentimental fantasy level when she appears in court in February. What else can she do? The evidence for the conclusive exoneration which the pair crave and which would demonstrate that Amaral’s claims must be untrue or malicious isn’t there, as those Leicester police have reminded us by word and deed since 2008. Turning Menezes’s shoddy little document into a fair summation of the case is probably beyond her if—and it’s a big if—Amaral’s defence team have analysed it and the circumstances which produced it in proper depth. Judging from her performance in Lisbon, where she seemed to be hawking smelly quayside fish rather than examining the witnesses, Duarte lacks the necessary restraint and focus to go calmly and forensically for Amaral’s weak points.
On his side, to add to this cloud of unreality which surrounds the judges, Amaral has shown no sign of relinquishing his misguided attempts to blame the UK government for the collapse of the case against the pair. One must hope that Duarte will go on hawking her fish rather than calmly inviting Goncalo to provide the evidence for such a claim and when he fails to do so—because there isn’t any—invite the court to decide that a man who can thus convince himself of this theory without evidence might have done exactly the same thing with the McCanns. So there’s a kind of crazed symmetry to the case, with the McCanns on one side still maintaining that the child was abducted without a shred of supporting evidence except their own statements, and their opponent maintaining that the pair were saved by the UK government without a shred of supporting evidence save his own beliefs. Finding truth and reality in the gap between these two slightly unreal positions is no easy task. Still, one remembers the day of the appeal court verdict when all the falsity and garbage fell away for a moment and we heard normal people, people like us, speaking realistically and sensibly from the bench and drawing the self-evident conclusions that we’d despaired of ever hearing in the weird, shadowy world of the McCann case. Then one’s faith in the Portuguese system and the possibility of getting at the truth was, despite the obvious weaknesses, restored. It could happen again.
Appearances can be deceptive 1- 26.11.2011
The twin problem at the heart of the Madeleine McCann affair remains: almost everyone who investigates or studies the case in detail is troubled by the parents’ attitude to the truth. Yet, given their innocence of involvement in the disappearance of the child, what possible motive could they have for lying?
Si les MC ne sont pas impliqués dans la disparition de leur fille, quelle raison auraient-ils de mentir ? Les MC sont les deux seuls témoins de signes manifestes d'intrusion dans leur appartement : Madeleine n'aurait pu ouvrir ni la fenêtre ni encore moins le volet roulant. Si l'on se fie à leur témoignage, Madeleine a effectivement été enlevée. Et pourquoi finalement douterait-on de leur parole sous prétexte que personne ne peut confirmer leur témoignage ? Nombreux ont été ceux qui ont entendu que le volet roulant et la fenêtre avaient été soit fracturés (UK), soit ouverts (PT), mais absolument personne ne les a vus ni fracturés, ni ouverts.
The first officers on the scene, while not suspicious of the pair, were unable to share the self-evident certainty of an abduction that the parents, sometimes impatiently, sometimes hysterically, pressed on them. Both the written statements of the parents and their friends and the printed timeline which they offered to the police, a document in which weird and disturbing exactitude about the nine adults’ own movements was combined with a void about the child herself, created a sense of unease amongst the investigators. While the parents, as befitted their special role, were not immediately challenged, we now know that as early as May 10 the police had switched from suspicion to active disbelief of the group version of events, for Gerry McCann overheard Oldfield’s sobs in the face of shouted claims that he was lying. From then until September the parents were somehow incapable of convincing the police that they were truthful and reliable witnesses. That may be because Portuguese policemen are unintelligent monsters who only believe a story when it is beaten out of the unfortunate victim with clubs. But the evidence suggests otherwise, for their increasingly frequent, and heavily structured, broadcast interviews seemed to provoke the same scepticism in some of the public as it had in the original investigators; even some of their supporters noticed the strangled caution with which they expressed themselves and a certain tension that was hard to put down purely to grief at the loss of their daughter.
Just what is it about them? Critics were troubled, and with good reason. Even when they were safely back in England, even after the investigation was shelved, their interviews continued to give the impression of wriggling away from anything resembling free discussion, much more like modern politicians caught up in some queasy scandal, trying to fend off questions rather than answer them while simultaneously searching for answers that wouldn’t be used against them in the future. Always there was a sense of an agenda, sometimes obvious, sometimes, it seems, known to them alone. Invariably they seemed incapable of narrating a simple rounded version of events rather than a partial, and self-serving one. Whatever the subject, whether they were describing the “checking”, the fund, the Portuguese authorities, the future, not only did their answers need retrieving from beneath a dense and deadening blanket of sentimentality, apparently capable of being called up or discarded at will, but once found they were almost always strangely devoid of that human necessity, a sense of proportion. So we grew used to the awful predictability of their appearances and the evolution of those familiar, dispiriting voices. There was Kate McCann’s practised and exaggerated Scouser drone, impenetrable guardian of her real feelings and reactions, capable of provoking instant fury at her evasions before gradually numbing us into submission, like smoke puffed onto angry bees. And Gerry McCann’s all-purpose Glasgow street chippiness—picture that chin and nose thrust upwards, the neck stretched, the eyes narrowing—a studio version of, “do ye no fockin’ believe me, eh?” always ready to burst free, like a special-effects Hollywood alien elbowing its way out of its Respectable Doctor container. Whew! Naturally while we sat helpless at our screens shouting just answer the question there were voices explaining to us the reasons for their weird performances. Of course they weren’t at ease, they’d lost a child! Of course they couldn’t speak freely, there were the secrecy rules, or the mysterious and sepulchral “operational reasons” quoted so self-importantly by Clarence Mitchell. And of course Mitchell wasn’t a repulsive Uriah Heap helping them evade the truth, why he protected them from countless demands on their time. If your daughter had been taken then you’d be different too!
And then, in May 2011, Madeleine was published and, astonishingly, blew the gaff and turned our suspicions into facts. Kate McCann showed clearly that in Portugal they really had been lying to us, and the evidence remains in print and on the Net. Their claims to the public, as expressed in their interviews and in Gerry McCann’s so-called blogs were an outright exercise in deception: the blogs, which, remember, nobody forced them to write and which addressed people directly without the contaminating influence of the professional media, show how Gerry kept up the deadpan pretence that they were not “subjects of interest” to the investigation for months. Even when they were left with only the clothes on their backs, the rest having been seized for forensic examination, and even as his wife was hysterically denying to her police accusers—just like Oldfield, way back on May 10—that she was lying about the disappearance, Gerry was reassuring the world that there was no reason whatever to believe that the police suspected them. Worse, and one cannot over-emphasize the significance of this admission, the book showed (on pages 205/6) that they are willing to tell calculated lies—Kate’s word—to prevent the public from knowing anything about police investigations into their own role in the disappearance, and she gave a flagrant example of them doing so. She appears to have no understanding of the implications of what she has written—that she and her husband will be the judges of when to tell the truth about police inquiries into themselves and when they will choose to lie and deceive. From the book the motive is clear: denying the existence of any facts that might sully their consciously created image of wounded innocence and weaken public support, their most valuable defensive asset. How often have they acted on these calculations and lied to us about police inquiries since that occasion on August 2 2007? We cannot know, except that she does not claim that it was the only time. Have they lied about, say, similar inquiries or forensic investigations by Leicester police? Again we don’t know: we only know, since Kate McCann, told us, that that is the way they operate. As Gerry McCann once sniggered to an interviewer in a different context, “if we knew we wouldn’t tell you,” and now we know that, for once, he was telling us the truth.
Given what Kate McCann has revealed about their modus operandi in Madeleine, one theory, always unlikely but a sort of refuge for Bureau people anxious to avoid drawing the grim but obvious inference of their untruthfulness, now seems untenable: the remote possibility that a joint psychological weakness in communication, some congenital incapacity for handling the truth, lies at the root of all their troubles, making them look guiltier than they are and arousing a false certainty in everyone from Amaral onwards that the innocents are deliberately lying. Pages 205/6 knock that theory on the head. Accordingly it would have been pretty unrealistic to expect a sudden conversion to vivid frankness in their latest public outing: much more likely was a repeat of Gerry McCann’s performance in front of the Media, Culture and Sport Committee, with the street-fighter firmly packed away back into Special Effects while its owner, Dr McCann, gave us the benefit of his weighty views. Still, it would be worth a look, if only to see if anything had changed.
Appearances can be deceptive 2 - 27.11.2011
And so to the Leveson inquiry, which the McCanns, not having been hacked, have invited themselves into. It is primarily a show business affair and one’s main impression is that, with the exception of the Dowlers and their like, and leaving the McCanns aside for the moment, both sides are equally repulsive and deserve each other. Both are locked into a continuing private game: once the inquiry is finished, perhaps even before the comical denunciations are complete, the symbiotic relationships will resume, for showbiz can’t exist without cheap media to promote it, and the more down-market the celebrity the more down-market the promotional means required. (...)
But now Kate and Gerry McCann, who appear to have wandered in from a different plot, are behind the microphone. Four and a half years and family genes have transformed Kate McCann from the svelte figure overcoming her grief to pose wistfully for the paparazzi on the Praia da Luz rocks, into a dead ringer for an ageing waitress in a Liverpool chippie, waiting to go out and snatch a fag. Some of this is irrevocable, some, knowing the McCanns, may be down to Kate, devoid of make-up, wanting to create the appropriate ruined image for the occasion. Whatever, she doesn’t have to try very hard. A quietly bizarre note is struck by her left hand which vanishes beneath the desk, presumably hanging on to one of Gerry’s fleshly body parts, a curious, gauche, lapse into immodesty not usually seen in formal daytime company.
Both of them have shocking complexions, greyish pink, more reminiscent of over-worked night-shift immigrants than provincial doctors. Gerry McCann’s eyes flicker continuously from side to side as he speaks; below them are two chestnut shaped lumps, one moment hardly noticeable, next, as his cheeks tighten, appearing to swell visibly with tension or suppressed fury. She sits, drooping, at his side while he does the talking, telling the assembly the now familiar story of the nightmare they have endured at the hands of the media, chiefly the press, and, less familiarly, what he wants done about it.
The voice itself is quiet and largely reasonable but as the subject turns to retribution his face speaks more loudly than words: this is something more than his nose-in-the-air chippiness. The more you watch his features as he develops his theme, the more stretched they become until, at times, the skin at the bottom of his chin is actually tugged upwards towards his bitterly narrow mouth. Extraordinarily, the man goes through virtually the whole of the session like that, absolutely consumed by anger and resentment, and the intensity of the body language produces a stir of perceptible, perhaps surprised, concern in the room. At times Leveson, not a notably gentle person, looks almost uneasy on their behalf.
Counsel takes Gerry through the multiple examples of wild and untruthful tabloid story lines. What, like “the shutters had been jemmied and the door was hanging off”? No, no, no. Ah, you mean, “Portuguese police try to frame tot’s parents?” No, they don’t include that one either: most of them, in fact, are the excremental output of the Desmond factory, once his staff had grown sure that the supposed forensic evidence would send the McCanns down and leave them unable to sue.
As Gerry’s calls for retribution for this stuff, however politely expressed, continue undiminished, one is reminded, with a start, that the bent figure beside him was responsible for the analogous scream of anger which echoes through the pages of Madeleine: the craving for vengeance on Amaral and others who have wronged her is now on full view in her husband. Asked why he is present, he offers no nonsense about being there for Mudelin’. He wants, he says, action, processes put in place to protect “ordinary people”. Against what, exactly? Why, activity which would fall well below the “standards that I would deem acceptable”.
Such as descending on his apartment to discover that his clothes and car have been seized by the police, as described on page 205 of Madeleine? Sorry, that’s us asking, not the inquiry. But Gerry, never strong on either magnanimity or legal details, certainly wishes that the inquiry’s powers stretched over the Portuguese border, for he urges that its resources should be used to track down the Portuguese person who might have leaked his wife’s misbegotten diary, so they can face proceedings for “contempt of court”.
A late episode in his testimony took us straight into Alice in Wonderland and the Red Queen, whose solutions always involved executions all round. Gerry’s calls for condign punishment for “repeat offenders”—journalists guilty of repeated inaccuracies— led to the intervention of the judge himself on behalf of the media! In response to Dr McCann’s mad demand that such repeat offenders should be banned from working at all, Leveson stirred in his seat and tried to bring him back to reality.
“I understand exactly why you're saying that,” said Leveson soothingly, “but just let me share with you the difficulty, that what journalists do is exercise the right of free speech...”
“Sure,” was the Red King’s brisk answer and then he was off again, the chestnut lumps above his cheeks standing forth once more, dealing with his beloved subject of appropriate punishment for his enemies.
“Yes,” said the judge as the end of this peroration, adding, “I wasn’t criticising you at all.”
What’s the score?
So much for the passions. How did he score on the truth index? Any improvement? The essence of Gerry McCanns’ account of their Portuguese experiences followed closely the story first outlined in his Edinburgh Festival interviews and then developed to the Commons select committee.
* The media had “descended”, arrived out of the blue, confronting him on his return from Portimao police headquarters.
* They were supportive and accurate at first. Then, as news died down and the parents decided to withdraw from their media campaign on behalf of their daughter, the media had to invent stories to satisfy the insatiable demands of their employers.
* Most of the inventions were wild and offensive accusations that the parents were guilty of involvement in the death of their child, or even, for example, had “sold her”, much of the stuff being taken from the Portuguese media. These continued until they returned to the UK.
* Because of the draconian Portuguese judicial secrecy rules they were unable to counter these monstrous fantasies.
None of this is true.
As all of us outside parliament and inquiry hearings know the media were contacted on a very wide scale during the night of May 3/4 by people working on their behalf and with their consent. With judicial secrecy plus the explicit instruction from the PJ “no media” in place it could not have been the Portuguese who alerted the media, let alone turned an “incident”, potentially liable to be resolved by daybreak like other missing children events, into a huge United Kingdom story. It was only possible for the media to have descended in their hundreds if they had been deliberately alerted en masse by agents of the parents.
For Gerry McCann, though, everything begins not with the group alerting the media, contrary to police instructions, during the night of May 3, but with the sudden appearance of the media crowd on the afternoon of May 4. As he told the commons committee:
“The first impressions really started on day one when we came back to Praia da Luz having spent the day in Portimao at the police station. Clearly, there was a huge media presence there already.”
But perhaps Dr McCann has been reading the demolition of this claim in the Blacksmith Bureau, along with other websites which he tells the inquiry—chestnuts swelling?—he will deal with “going forward”. For he has altered his position just a little, even though, of course, he can’t contradict his previous claims. Now he has added in his written evidence to the inquiry:
”Jon Corner, a good friend and godparent to the twins used his media experience to release a number of pictures of Madeleine to the whole of the UK media in the early hours of the 4 May 2007 to publicise her image.”
So, a tiny change. Yes, but leaving aside all the other emails and phone calls made during the night of May 3, was Jon Corner doing this at the parents’ request?
No. McCann adds in his verbal evidence:
“... a very good friend of ours [Corner]who we spoke to in the early hours of 4 May took it upon himself [our italics] to issue photographs of Madeleine to all the major media outlets in the UK.”
Took it upon himself. That’s clear for the future then.
The change in media reporting
Websites such as the computer generated EMM news tracker listing Madeleine McCann stories certainly show a slackening of new information in July. But there is no correlation with the claims by the pair that they wished to take a lower profile: interviews with the couple in the media are shown not only to have continued unabated but to have increased in length and intensity as they began to defend themselves, rather than concentrating on “the search for Maddie”. The argument that there was a vacuum due to their attempted withdrawal which required filling by invented stories is clearly false.
The new stories
The new stories dating from July were not inventions of the media. Indeed an argument can be made—remember Oldfield crying on May 10—that for the very first time the media were reporting truthfully on the affair: that almost from the beginning, and certainly since May 10 the “search for Madeleine”, stripped of Team McCann/ Alex Woolfall inspired camouflage, consisted of investigation into the Tapas 9’s claims. That was the story but the early reporting, so much approved of, and inspired by, the McCanns, never reflected the reality of what was actually going on.
Both in the House of Commons and in the Leveson inquiry the McCanns have distorted history by deliberately conflating the mad and disgusting inventions of the Express and other gutter papers reaching into September, with the truthful reports starting in July that they were the subject of police investigation themselves, reports which the parents did everything they could to deny or suppress, as Madeleine and Part One of this piece describe.
All along, again exemplified by Gerry McCann’s interviews in Scotland during the Edinburgh Festival, questions about why rumours of their investigation for possible involvement were appearing in both the Portuguese and UK media were met with the repeated response from the pair that it was a “mystery” why the stuff was being printed. But it wasn’t a mystery at all: the McCanns knew perfectly well why. And none of that had anything to do with the later mad and vicious nonsense about “selling Madeleine” and the rest.
That, from early July onwards, the police were deliberately leaking to the Portuguese press while overrating the strength of their evidence is irrelevant to the issue of why the UK were printing stuff suggesting that they were potential suspects: rightly or wrongly they were potential suspects, the media knew it and the parents knew it but chose to deny it.
Hostages to judicial secrecy
Finally, the parents maintained to the inquiry, as before, that they were constrained from answering their critics by the threat of two years imprisonment under the judicial secrecy rules, a quite extraordinary fib in the light of Kate McCann’s revelations in her book of how the pair had time and again successfully evaded the rules using family, friends and allied journalists. This is one example of how the parents ignored that law any time it suited them in the crucial war for the support of the UK public.
Lori Campbell In Praia Da Luz, Sunday Mirror, 12 August: “There is also further "concrete evidence" that Madeleine was still ALIVE when she left the holiday apartment. Her kidnapper had a window of just five minutes to strike - from when dad Gerry last checked on the children until family friend Jane Tanner saw a man carrying away a child she is sure was Madeleine wrapped in a blanket...The new revelations rubbish reports in Portuguese newspapers this week that she was murdered or died in an accident inside the villa. And they come as local police Chief Inspector Olegario Sousa ruled Gerry and Kate out of the inquiry - and admitted for the first time Madeleine could be dead. Now, the Sunday Mirror can give a true picture of what happened when Kate found her daughter missing.”
The information was provided to Lori Campbell by Kate McCann. For a further strong example see the very important “Beyond the Smears” in the Times. The journalist in that story has admitted in writing that he was fed confidential information that had never appeared elsewhere by Gerry McCann. There are many other examples.
And we have:
Madeleine Page 246, September 7: For a good couple of hours we were on the phone calling family and friends to make them aware of the situation and to give them the green light [our italics] to voice their outrage and despair [to the media] if they wanted to.Gerry McCann answers questions under oath!…
Madeleine Page 246, September 7: [Justine] was ringing selected newspaper editors in the UK. We knew only too well how we would be portrayed in Portugal that morning and Justine wanted to give the British media a broad outline of what was really going on...
As you can see, the evidence offered by this group of witnesses under the rules of the inquiry is being accepted without close examination for veracity, a procedure which rather suits Kate and Gerry McCann. Nevertheless there was one incident which gives us a very faint hint of how the McCanns might perform under real cross examination, rather than the easy ride provided both here and in the sycophantic commons committee hearings. In his written statement for the Leveson inquiry Gerry McCann wrote:
When I gave evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport select committee in 2009 a number of questions were [sic] raised as to the presence or otherwise of the PCC during this period and their willingness to get involved. Whilst we understand that the PCC have said they tried to contact us through the British Embassy in Portugal in May 2007 the first we were aware of it was when the PCC gave evidence to the Committee in 2009....however when it came to the reporting of articles both defamatory and otherwise the PCC did nothing that we are aware of. The PCC did nothing proactive before our libel complaint. We did approach the PCC about these articles but the then chairman, Sir Christopher Meyer, explicitly told us that it would be better if we were to seek redress through the courts. I found it amazing that the press regulator could do nothing to regulate the press.Now just about every word in this paragraph was a serious misrepresentation of the facts, only this time they didn’t get away with it. It almost certainly came about because, in preparing his written statement for Leveson, McCann had copied out his original stuff for the Commons committee, completely forgetting that he was copying one of his own, er, mistakes. And the Commons committee had checked it out against another witness, Sir Christopher himself, and found it wanting, as one of their reports demonstrated.
The point was that, leaving aside the claim that the PCC had never contacted them, Gerry McCann was saying that Sir Christopher, on behalf of the PCC, was telling him that they didn’t want to know about the false stories and told him to sue instead. Sir Christopher’s version was very different. Which was true?
It appears that Sir Christopher, who clearly has his own views on the truthfulness or otherwise of Gerry McCann, wasn’t willing to leave to chance which version would be accepted by the inquiry. Did he approach Leveson legal staff? Someone, certainly, had drawn the inquiry’s attention to the facts as described in the commons committee report before the McCanns appeared.
…and gets stuffed
Counsel for the Leveson inquiry: There's a whole section [of the report of the commons committee] that goes to that [the PCC] issue. The position I think is—I'm back in your statement, paragraph 101— the PCC's position is that at an early stage they put a message out that they were ready, willing and able to assist you. This was in May 2007. Do you follow me?
Counsel: I think your evidence is, well, you never got that message. Was that right?
McCann: [waffling] If I did, it was lost in the time when we were obviously dealing with lots of things, and I would say probably similar to Mrs Gascoigne who gave evidence earlier this morning, that I was only vaguely aware of the PCC at that time....[continues to waffle]
But counsel took him not just through that rather dodgy answer but to the other issue: who had told the truth about the PCC’s attitude, he or Sir Christopher Meyer?
Counsel: The general thrust of what you were told by Sir Christopher Meyer during the course of an informal conversation...is that if you wanted to deal with the issue of libel, well, then the route was legal recourse, legal action. But if you wanted to deal with it in some other way, then the PCC might be able to help?
That, of course, was Sir Christopher’s version, not his. Counsel for the inquiry then wanted to be quite clear for the record.
Counsel: Does that capture the sense of that meeting?
But McCann wouldn’t say yes or no. Instead he launched into a ludicrously long piece of damage limitation and flannel. Bored readers can ignore it but it gives a flavour of how Dr McCann is likely to deal with issues of the truth in future judicial settings, whether involving libel or other matters. Forget the flannel and remember the simple question: will he now confirm that it was Sir Christopher’s version that is correct, not his own?
McCann: It's probably fair to put in there that I had a number of conversations with Sir Christopher, primarily because we became friendly with his wife, Lady Catherine, through her work with PACT, so on that first occasion I met Sir Christopher and he broadly asked, "How are the media treating you?" and we were very open and at that point we said, "Considering the interest, not too bad”, and we didn't really have too much in the way of specific complaints. I did have further informal conversations and they also dealt with correspondence from Kingsley Napley over the period, but the gist of the conversations, and most of my dialogue with him, informal rather than written, was that we agreed with our legal advice and we took the best legal advice we could get, that the way to stop this was to take legal action and not to go to the PCC and I think Sir Christopher agreed with that.
If you search underneath that garbage you will detect the answer, “yes”: Sir Christopher was correct. He had never told McCann to sue rather than dealing with matters through the PCC; Gerry McCann, on the contrary, had told him, that that was what he was going to do.
Tedious, we know, but just for once we have seen Gerry McCann’s veracity being tested in a legal tribunal concerned with facts, rather than in staged interviews from which he can withdraw, or stalk out of the studio, at any time. For some of us the result is exactly what we would expect.
As for the rest there was a predictable conflict between the McCanns’ initial and written assertions of being innocent victims of the media, like Mrs Gascoigne perhaps, and the weighty evidence that the two sides were, and remain, as thick as thieves, negotiating, arguing, shouting, dealing, suing and settling right up into 2011, just like the cheap celebs and their agents. Not quite Mr and Mrs Dowler, somehow. But we knew that anyway, didn’t we?
So, the mixture as many times before. After four and a half years they continue to serve up evidence of why we can’t believe what they say. And each time the evidence grows a little stronger. Meanwhile the evidence for abduction…
Spinning in the wind - 11.12.2011
The shovels and pulleys came out in the middle of the night, Kate McCann grasped her crucifix tight to her chest and Lo! The Coffin is among ye. Team McCann, flyblown and rotted, silent for so many months, climbs out of the grave and crawls into behind-the-scenes action. Now Scotland Yard are not going to talk to anyone about the details of the review, any more than Leicester police have after four and a half years; travel details and numbers, yes, but operational stuff, not a chance. So the stuff from Brunt and others was fiction and if the police didn’t give them a nod or a steer—and, we repeat, they didn’t—then it could only have been the Team. And this is where it gets interesting. The only way we’re going to know which way the review is heading is via the parents. Sooner or later they will get what they think is reliable information about the inquiry’s direction and they’ll start to spin pre-emptively—smily spin and “looking forward to the conclusions” and we’ll assume they’re home and dry; otherwise we’ll watch them wriggle while their lawyers attempt to negotiate. But that should be a long way down the road, shouldn’t it? Not while the Yard are still doing the fieldwork. But the Team came out spinning about the police trips to Spain this month, and there wasn’t a smile to be seen. Two hundred and forty three Google entries showing that the stuff had been planted pre-emptively all over the place, all because the word Barcelona had been mentioned. And, just in case anyone thinks it was a one off, back they came with further supposed detail a few days ago, this time bringing in Goatherd Edgar. Why is it so important to provide a fictitious reason for the Yard’s presence in Spain? Unlike 2007, when so many of the melodramatic features of the case emerged from the parents’ weird and distorted imaginations, Gerry really is in the shadows now and doesn’t know who the Team can trust. James Murray of the Express, who helped to embroider the latest version of the Spanish trip, is as close to Amaral as he is to the parents and his unpredictable master hasn’t forgotten that half a million libel settlement. And—”sooner or later they will get what they think is reliable information”—did someone at the Yard deliberately tempt the McCanns,to see, just like us, which way they would spin in the wind?
Plenty more jockeying for position to come.
Not spinning but dangling - 14.12.2011
Let’s recap. News came out that Scotland Yard had been in Barcelona recently. At this point, as we wrote the other day, the freshly dug-up Mitchell and Team began spinning with a loud whizzing noise, planting their version of events all over Keirland, otherwise known as the overground media. The story was that Scotland Yard had come to the city to follow up perhaps the most risible of all the “sightings”, the crazed “yacht lady” incident. Suppressing our giggles and taking it seriously for a microsecond, what could they follow up? The source of the story doesn’t live in Barcelona but in Britain and the supposed woman isn’t Spanish. Come on. The obvious reason for the Yard’s presence was to talk to Barcelona-based Metodo3, and so it has transpired. Yet the Team hadn’t mentioned them once until yesterday, leaving us all to conclude—correctly— that they were deliberately attempting to mislead and take the focus away from the “detectives”. Today we know that their efforts to conceal the real target failed: the Yard have been talking to Metodo3 and have taken possession of a large number of documents—thirty boxes, according to Metodo’s boss, Francisco Marco. Marco, who just happened to appear on Spanish TV this morning, said that they had “provided the Yard with all the documents and information we have collated worldwide about Madeleine's disappearance so they can continue the investigations we carried out in Spain, Morocco and the rest of the world”. So there we are. If you live in Keirland you’re at liberty to believe that the Yard sent four detectives to Barcelona to collect thirty boxes of “sightings”, none of which were part of the investigation that the Yard are reviewing. If you live in the real world you’ll be more interested in exactly what Gerry McCann instructed Metodo3 to do, both in Portugal and elsewhere, and any evidence that shows how those instructions were carried out. And the detectives live in the real world, not Keirland.
The dangers of celebrity - 19.12.2011
Why won’t they just shut up? Or, to put it more delicately, why are they just as intent now on getting stories into the media as they were, say, in the far off days of November 2007? What’s going on? A campaign? Yes, absolutely. Not the diary nonsense—that wasn’t part of any plan, only Mitchell aiming a fire extinguisher at the flames ignited in the Leveson inquiry. For the rest, just look at the evidence.The McCann stories over the last month have been invented and offered to the media, not sought out by them, and they are all linked. Equally they haven’t been provided transparently in the normal manner—by media conferences or press releases—but by a news management team using the usual tricks: anonymity, source material restrictions, contact with favoured journalists, “false dialogues” (in which one of the media team pretends to be responding to a story which they have in fact provided) and a definite “line”. All the kind of stuff which isn’t far from phone hacking in its conscious duplicity and which has helped to land the press in its present miserable state. The material about Scotland Yard, about Metodo and about the latest “abduction” claim has all been provided using these tricks and the parents are clearly the source. Ah, the supporters of the parents might say, this is all part of the never-ending “search for Maddie”. No. The first Scotland Yard story speculating about the Barcelona sighting does not appeal for further information but actively misleads; the second Scotland Yard-related piece about Metodo3 does not seek information about the child; the latest story about “police accept abduction theory” is concerned only with the veracity of the parents’ version of events and does not involve Madeleine McCann at all.
So it’s not about the child. What is it about? The obvious answer is ask the parents. But it says something about their weird and unassailable place in society that the mere idea of asking them such a question, let alone getting an answer, is literally incredible. In the absence of any openness from the pair we can only say that it looks like they are seeking somehow to influence the news. As in November 2007? But they were suspects then! Skulking in Rothley while their agents looked to thwart a European Arrest Warrant by “expunging” doubt and cementing vital public support. Now they’ve been exonerated. They have their review. There isn’t a word of criticism in the media and their privacy is respected. They have their own detectives checking for any possible sightings of the child. They are, by dint of the fund which directly benefits them, rich. And they have the ear of virtually anyone they wish to meet, from the archbishop of Canterbury to the home secretary. Left alone to get on with their work the British and Portuguese police may even find their daughter. So what’s wrong?
Given the circumstances there can only be two answers. The first is that the parents have lost it. There is the darkness surrounding the disappearance of their daughter, a darkness that can never be shared; and their subsequent fame brought with it the threat to identity chronicled in numberless celebrity break-downs and suicides. Kate McCann, indeed, that veteran of the Oprah Winfrey show, can remind one of the grotesque star of Sunset Boulevard in her consuming need for public approbation and belief. And Gerry McCann seems quite unable to communicate without simultaneously, perhaps unconsciously, burnishing the image which he believes that same public have of him. Perhaps their compulsive leaking and spinning is a symptom, not a vice.
The only other interpretation that would fit all the facts is that, while both may be unwell, their latest campaign has a certain rationality: just as in November 2007 they are attempting to use the media, and therefore the public, as a human shield. Only this time we cannot yet see the threat which they fear will engulf them.
Some thoughts on the libel trial - 21.12.2011
We have heard from the Daily Express journalists today and there is little in their evidence that will come as a surprise. There are, however, issues that some people in Portugal, chiefly those surrounding Goncalo Amaral, might need to think about. Not us, because we don’t claim that the McCanns disposed of their daughter’s body. Our position has been clear all along: that Gerry and Kate McCann are documented liars whose conduct has thrown a pall of defensive misinformation and confusion over the disappearance of their daughter and who have attempted by both fair means and foul to restrict information about the case from reaching the British public.
MCs make judge talk nonsense.
As if on cue a typical example of that confusion occurred on Wednesday when Lord Leveson highlighted the fact that many of the wild Express stories came after September 7 when the pair were made arguidos.He invited the journalist Pilditch to see the parallels with contempt of court in the UK context, that is, once a person is charged with an offence then all potentially prejudicial comment must cease. Once the pair had been made arguidos, he said to Mr Pilditch, then surely you should have thought it was now time to be silent or coldly factual about them. But Lord Leveson had forgotten, for the moment, the McCanns’ courtroom redefinition of the word arguido. According to them, and contrary to most English definitions of the Portuguese term until now, it didn’t mean “suspect” at all! So if it didn’t mean suspect then it couldn’t possibly have any parallels with the English contempt of court question, and Lord Leveson’s point was inaccurate and meaningless. That is what we mean by “a pall of defensive misinformation and confusion”, in this case under oath, and it confused and misled Lord Leveson.
But then his lordship speaks the truth
Mr Pilditch clearly believed, and still believes, that his information—not necessarily his reports—accurately reflected the thinking of “senior officers of the Portuguese police”, the so-called “Tal y Qual” question. He claimed, indeed, that the case papers (and, he later added, Amaral’s book and the Lisbon hearings) demonstrated that the PJ clearly had been thinking that way. Counsel for all the celebrity victims, quite clearly recently briefed by solicitors for the McCanns, did not accept this, being very anxious to challenge Pilditch’s interpretation of the case files with three examples of his own. It is Lord Leveson’s response to Sherborne’s point that is of significance. Leveson is neutral; there are no clouds surrounding him; he is not Judge Eady. So his comments are a good guide to how a fair-minded European judicial figure without deep knowledge of the affair responds to what he is told is the PJ case against Kate & Gerry McCann. He stressed these unarguable points.
· The PJ had provided no evidence at all to support any of the “tittle-tattle” about the McCanns’ supposed guilt that the journalists had reported.
· The journalists themselves now accepted that it was second-hand “tittle-tattle” and was not based on firm evidence.
· The case papers provided no evidence in support of the PJ claims, which the journalists clearly implied came from Amaral.
· From the legal point of view, therefore, all of it is fiction.
These are the views of a judge on what he had heard. There was no dissent from counsel for the newspapers or from the witnesses; the hearings were in public; we heard what the witnesses said and it is impossible to disagree with the judge’s conclusions.
It is no use people assuming that Leveson’s comments are irrelevant because he doesn’t know the case in detail or, worse, because of some paranoid fantasy that he is part of a McCann-protecting British establishment: these are agreed facts and the parents defence team will lead with them at the forthcoming libel trial. The onus is on S.Amaral to provide convincing evidence of his own in refutation. Now S. Amaral has claimed that he was “about to” get convincing evidence implicating the pair when he was pulled from the case. We think that is the most dangerous route that he can possibly embark on, for it is exactly what the McCanns’ defence team expect, and want, him to do. It is a counter-factual, an unprovable hypothesis. Moreover it fits in with the picture they wish to paint of someone who guesses first and looks for evidence afterwards and then makes excuses when none turns up. Just listen to it in your head: “you thought you would have got the evidence if you hadn’t been unfairly taken off the case at the instigation of the UK?” Yes. “In the way you thought you would get evidence confirming the dog’s activities?” No answer. “In the way you thought you would get evidence that her body had been buried and hidden?” No answer. “In the way you thought you would get evidence for us today that Gordon Brown had got you removed?” No answer.
The claim that he was pulled from the case under UK pressure makes the hole deeper. The McCanns will call witnesses, including Alipio Ribeiro, to show that S. Amaral’s removal from the case was in no way prompted by UK intrigues in support of the McCanns and S. Amaral will be totally unable to refute such evidence—because it is true.
Goncalo Amaral needs to understand that the UK interference claim will never be accepted judicially and that making it in February will be fatal. He should, even at this late stage, abandon it. Yes, yes, we know, we’re only the little Bureau and are ignorant about Portugal blah-blah—but one can only speak as one sees: S. Amaral, whom we still support, has admitted before that he was shocked by the surprise violence of the McCanns’ successful assault on him; it might be wise to ensure that he is not shocked and surprised again.
Firstly, we think he is going to have to provide evidence explaining systematically and comprehensively what the grounds were that led the team of officers, of which he was a part, to focus on the parents. If it is convincing and backed up by other police officers then it will weigh with a Portuguese court.
Secondly, he will have to demonstrate why the absence of evidence incriminating the parents did not lead to the PJ immediately dropping its interest in them and looking elsewhere. Was it reasonable to persevere? Or was it irrational? What, exactly, was the view of the man in charge of the case, Alipio Ribeiro?
Thirdly there is the evidence of exactly what happened on the night of September 6 2007. S. Amaral has claimed to friends of ours that Kate McCann wanted to make admissions about the circumstances of the child’s disappearance. Her chronology of events that night, like the rest of her account of September 6, is not convincing and includes both contemporaneous and current claims of police misbehaviour, including the so-called and much modified “deal” assertions. He has to provide, somehow, evidence of what the actual sequence of events at police headquarters was that evening.
Lastly, the prosecutors asserted in their final report that there was “no evidence” of the commission of any crime by the McCanns in the investigation case files; in the same report they noted that the investigation was incomplete by virtue of the McCanns and their friends failing to co-operate with the inquiry (on the question of reconstructing their movements and clarifying anomalies in their statements). At no point does the report state that their absence was merely marginal or unimportant.
Examining and drawing out the implications of these two statements in the report is likely to be of crucial significance. “No evidence of the commission of any crime” means explicitly and unarguably “no evidence of the commission of any crime in the files submitted to us of this incomplete investigation.” At some stage Menezes and his colleague have to tell the court exactly how they reconcile this apparent contradiction and exactly what they meant when they wrote that the parents “lost the chance to demonstrate their innocence”.
Paolo Rebelo, who is likely to be called, should have to testify as to why he attempted so forcefully to get the friends back for the reconstruction. That he was doing so as late as April 2008 speaks of the importance that he, and his post-Amaral phase of the investigation, attached to their participation. Why did he then decide to curtail the investigation without such important evidence and without asking the prosecutors for further time? Le statut d'arguido ne pouvait plus durer et l'enquête ne pouvait avancer. Il aurait fallu une décision politique de constrangimento que personne ne souhaitait.
It can be done
We believe that a properly marshalled defence by S.Amaral’s team covering these points can win him the case: the Portuguese appeal court judges have already accepted that the prosecutors’ report was an “interpretation” and that S. Amaral’s alternative interpretation was valid. But time has passed: now he has to show the flesh and bones of his interpretation.
He does not have to provide evidence proving the McCanns guilty of a crime involving their child, only that the investigation of which he was a part had good reasons for focusing on them, acted in good faith to establish the facts of the disappearance and had evidence to suggest that a “complete” rather than admittedly “incomplete” investigation would lead to different conclusions than those non-judicially expressed in the prosecutors’ report. Nor does admitting that he systematically leaked to two journalists invalidate in any way the direction the police inquiry under him and Ribeiro took. All that will assuredly lose it for him will be a reliance on matters that he cannot substantiate.
The McCann lawyers know the score
It is clear from Mr Sherborne’s questions today that, unlike Lord Leveson, whose knowledge of the case depends only on the newspapers and what he has heard in an inquiry of which the McCanns are only a part, and unlike also the family’s ignorant supporters, the McCann defence team knows what the parents’ vulnerabilities are and knows that its job is very much unfinished. The book Madeleine, when closely read, makes this even clearer. But while that has great significance for all of us in the future, it will not help S. Amaral in February: then he will have to present an evidence-based defence to the claims against him.