João Vasco Almeida
The first international poll about the Maddie case, done by Focus, reveals that both Portuguese and British are certain that Kate and Gerry McCann are guilty over their daughter's disappearance. Concerning the little girl's destiny, the numbers are even colder: She is dead.
The number is crushing: more than two thirds of the British and the Portuguese population blame the McCann couple for the disappearance of their daughter Madeleine, aged three, on the 3rd of May 2008 [sic], from an apartment in Praia da Luz, in the Algarve. An opinion poll that was commended to Eurosondagem by Portuguese Focus, and carried out in Portugal, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland leaves no margin for doubts. Despite the behavioural and cultural differences, the majority of populations replies affirmatively to two of the most direct questions of this inedited poll.
Nevertheless, when the numbers are evaluated according to nationalities, it becomes clear that in Portugal the blame that is popularly attributed to the McCanns rises to 77.5 percent. This means that only 22% of the population still believes that the Scottish couple has no responsibility in the disappearance of their eldest daughter.
The British, on the other hand, are divided, although the majority agrees with the Portuguese. The majority, 44.6 percent, states without a doubt that doctors Kate and Gerry are guilty over the disappearance of little Maddie.
The first question of the poll is unequivocal. In both countries, all the persons say that they know what happened on the 3rd of May. This means that it is not necessary to explain the McCann couple’s drama to anyone. Everyone, really everyone knows.
What divides the Portuguese and the British is the belief in Maddie's destiny. While in Portugal it is believed that the child is dead, far away there is a hope that she is well. The abduction theory collects the sympathy of 72.9 percent of the British, against only 11 percent that sustain the death theory. But it is significant that 15 percent of the British wish to reply "I don’t know" to the question concerning the cause of the disappearance.
Portugal Yes: 100%
United Kingdom Yes: 100%
The disappearance of Madeleine McCann is the most covered event by the entire media in 2007 and 2008. There is no disaster, no attack or political subject that surpasses the media treatment that was given to the case of the little British girl in the media. As an example, there are one and a half million internet pages that are dedicated to the disappearance of the little British child. Sky News, an English television station, broadcast more than one thousand hours, dedicated to the case. In the four Portuguese channels, the number attains almost three thousand hours, with news, debates and special programmes. All the national newspapers, both in Portugal and in the UK, placed the case on their front cover hundreds of times. During the first few days, no element of the media in the whole world ignored the case, with news being published from Germany to Zimbabwe. It is even more interesting to know that for the same news item, like the possible sighting of the girl in Amsterdam, there are 1553 different texts in English, ranging from the BBC to the Public Australian Radio.
More than news, there are already four books about the Madeleine case, three essays and one work of fiction, which together sold, and only in Portugal, almost 200 thousand copies. The champion of sales is the book by Gonçalo Amaral, the policeman who coordinated the investigation of the case during the first few months and who is now retired from the Polícia Judiciária. Due to him, editor Guerra e Paz has already sold more than 140 thousand books and prepares editions in Spain and in the United Kingdom.
News became a soap opera
Several voices were raised against the apparatus that surrounded the case's coverage. If Kelvin MacKenzie, an editor with 'The Sun', classified the news piece as the story of a lifetime, others underlined the danger of turning Maddie's disappearance into a pure soap opera. Clarence Mitchell, a former BBC correspondent and presently the McCann couple's spokesman, has issued hard criticism against the media coverage, classifying it as "soft" and unprofessional.
Q2. Do you consider Maddie's parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, guilty over their daughter's disappearance?
Portugal Yes: 77.5%
Don’t know/No reply: 0.2%
United Kingdom Yes: 44.6%
Don’t know/No reply: 17%
The fact that they left three children alone in an apartment in a foreign location leads to most replies to this question being affirmative. Here, what is asked is whether or not Madeleine's parents could have avoided the disappearance, if they were in their children's company. Much was speculated about the possibility of the couple being accused of neglecting the children's guard, while they were still in Portugal. Gonçalo Amaral, the man who conducted the case investigation during the first few months, sustains in a statement to Focus that there is an indicium that the parents did not take care of their three children. "But the Public Ministry did not consider the possibility of accusing them over that issue", the inspector says.
The law foresees that the couple can still be held responsible over abandonment or mistreatment, according to article 152, number 1, item a) of the Penal Code of 95, and presently according to article 152-A, item a) of the Penal Code in the redaction that was introduced by Law nr. 59/2007, of 04/09. But for that to be true, facts that are not sufficiently sustained by indicia or evidence would have to be proved, according to the Public Ministry. So it is common sense that prevails over this answer, given the fact that for the Latin culture, leaving children alone at home is something that completely contradicts a custom of permanent surveillance over children. The British accept this type of behaviour more easily, and give their children more freedom, leading to the McCanns' behaviour being less penalised in the British poll.
They are not guilty
If it is true that little Maddie disappeared from the room where she was sleeping with her siblings and without the supervision of an adult, it is also true, if the testimonies from the couple, from their friends and even from the employees of the Tapas Bar, the restaurant where they had dinner, are to be believed, that a system had been set into place that ensured checking on the children every ten minutes. Kate, Gerry and Matt were only some of the adults that went to the apartment on the night that the little girl disappeared, to verify that everything was quiet.
Q3. Do you think that Maddie was abducted?
Portugal Yes: 25.3%
Don’t know/No reply: 0.3%
United Kingdom Yes: 72.9%
Don’t know/No reply: 15.8%
She was abducted
The British continue to believe that Maddie was abducted and is missing. The Portuguese, on the other hand, believe that the little girl is dead. The abduction theory is sustained on several testimonies, like that from the couple's friend, Jane Taylor [sic], who asserts that she saw a man on the street that led to the McCanns' apartment, only a few minutes after the consensual hour at which Maddie supposedly disappeared. There is also the issue of the window to the three siblings' bedroom. It was supposedly closed until Kate made her last visit to the bedroom – when the mother noticed her daughter's disappearance. Another important testimony in the process comes from an Irish couple that asserts they saw, on the same night, a man carrying a child on the same street where the McCanns' apartment is located. But this couple, apart from assuring "to 80 percent" that the man was Gerry McCann carrying a child, also places his march in the contrary direction of Jane Taylor's [sic]. Summarising: There are two more or less credible, but contradictory statements about a man carrying a child in his arms on the night of the 3rd of May, in Praia da Luz. Apart from this point, the Polícia Judiciária and the media received hundreds of testimonies about sightings of Madeleine at various points of the planet. More: Scotland Yard, the British investigation police, even sent information to Portugal about the possibility of Maddie being involved in an abduction by a Belgian paedophile network.
She was not abducted
The dogs that specialise in finding cadaver and blood odour found both in the McCanns' holiday apartment and a vehicle that was rented by them, two weeks after their daughter's disappearance. The collected blood, according to analyses that were carried out both in England and in Portugal, belongs to one of the McCanns' children, although only 14 out of 19 alleles are detected. But it is also certain that it does not belong to any of the younger twin siblings. Therefore, those who sustain the death theory, defend that if it belongs to one of the children, but not to the twins, and if the couple has no other children, then the blood belongs to Madeleine. There is also the cadaver odour and the fluids that were found in a rental car, which supposedly belong to Maddie. If DNA that could belong to the little girl is present in a car that was rented days after her disappearance, there are indicia that she may have been transported inside it. But once more, the scientific police was not able to obtain evidence.
Q4. Do you think the child is alive or dead?
Portugal Alive: 12.2%
Don’t know/No reply: 10.8%
United Kingdom Alive: 36.7%
Don’t know/No reply: 16.2%
She is alive
Those who believe that Madeleine is still alive are a small minority, both in Portugal and in England. The police knows that, even if the little girl was abducted, the possibilities of remaining alive one and a half year after her disappearance are few. Kate McCann said, weeks ago, in despair: "I'd rather know that she is dead than to remain in this uncertainty", the mother said. The cases where a missing person that attained such a high media exposure remains alive are rare. The case of Mari Luz, the Spanish girl that disappeared after Maddie, ended badly because her abductor killed her in fear of the media pressure. The cases of missing children have rare happy endings, but it is still possible that Maddie was delivered to a paedophile network for sexual slavery – and due to the fact that she is blond with greenish eyes, she has a higher "market value" – or even that Maddie was kidnapped and kept as a hostage to this day. The best known case of a hostage that survived captivity is that of Natalia Kampush, the young Austrian who was kept imprisoned in a basement for 14 years.
She is dead
Dead: Out of the three main theories that were joined in the investigation – abduction, homicide and voluntary disappearance – none leaves major opportunities for Madeleine McCann to remain alive. The first one, which is explained above in greater detail, leads to any abductor, due to the girl's media exposure, wanting to get rid of the most searched child in the world. The homicide theory contains the solution in itself: If Maddie was killed inside the apartment in Praia da Luz, there is no hope that she could resist. The third hypothesis, that the girl could have left the house on her own and fell off a ravine, into a hole or into the sea, leads to the belief that, one and a half year later, there is no possibility that the human body could survive such an ordeal. In one word, Maddie is dead.
Q5. In your opinion, even if they were not directly involved in their daughter's death, do you think that Kate and Gerry are responsible for her death, or not?
Portugal Yes: 89.6%
Don’t know/No reply: 3.8%
United Kingdom Yes: 54.9%
Don’t know/No reply: 10.7%
They are responsible
Here, the opinion is the same in both countries. Above all, there is an important piece of data: This question was only answered by those who previously considered that Maddie is dead. Gerry and Kate McCann are held responsible over their daughter's death even if they had nothing to do with that possible homicide. During the first few months, analysts like Francisco Moita Flores or Barra da Costa underlined the "cold" behaviour of the parents, mainly of the little girl's mother. Gonçalo Amaral, on the other hand, pointed at the "atypical" behaviour of the couple. The PJ inspector says that the mother, after noticing her daughter's disappearance, abandoned the twins in the bedroom and ran to the restaurant where her husband was. If Maddie had disappeared, Gonçalo Amaral questions, wouldn't it be logical to at least protect the twins, phoning her husband and, above all, not leaving them alone?
There is more. The police was only called almost 40 minutes after the little girl's disappearance. If the phone call had been made earlier, the cited former policemen say, the case might have taken another direction. Another aspect of the guilt that is pointed at the McCanns is the "contamination" of the crime scene: the apartment where they spent their holidays. At the moment when they noticed Maddie's absence, all the friends went to the location, mixing fingerprints, footprints and DNA traces with those of the possible abductor. This means: Apart from leaving the child to death, the parents did not defend the crime scene, both Portuguese and British believe.
They are not responsible
Contradicting the numbers, there is the simple fact that the disappearance of a child is something unusual and to which no father or mother is certainly prepared. It has been widely speculated that if Madeleine's parents were Portuguese, today they would be imprisoned over their behaviour. But there are some who believe that despite thinking that the child is dead, the parents are not responsible for the case. Namely: At the moment when the mother noticed the disappearance, she ran towards the restaurant, located only 50 metres as the crow flies, from the apartment, to call her husband in a moment of despair. All the testimonies coincide on the fact that Kate was very upset when she reached the restaurant. The friends immediately got up to attend to the situation and it is more than natural that they searched for the little girl, inside the apartment and in its surroundings, shouting out her name and even walking the streets, looking for her. The hard number of minutes that ranges from the discovery of the disappearance until the GNR was called may also be explained by the fact that the McCanns asked their friends to call the police from the resort's reception. Furthermore, the process that Focus was given access to reports that the receptionist first notified the resort's management before she dialed 112. The result: While the friends helped the couple to search for their daughter, the resort delayed calling the authorities.
Q6. In your opinion, is the McCann couple hiding something?
Portugal Yes: 78.3%
Don’t know/No reply: 12.2%
United Kingdom Yes: 26.1%
Don’t know/No reply: 12.3%
They are hiding
The biggest doubt concerning the participation of the parents in the solution of the case resides in the 48 questions that Kate McCann, after being made an arguida in her daughter's disappearance, refused to answer. Therefore, the Portuguese majority says that the McCanns are hiding something. These replies do not allow concluding that the McCanns are hiding something that could lead to the discovery of truth about the case. Merely that the perception of the public is that the parents' behaviour is suspicious and that their media exposure, repeating the same message, asking everyone to do everything to find their daughter, while at the same time refusing to cooperate with the police, leaves the impression that they are withholding information. Kate McCann entered the Judiciária in Portimão as a witness, and after hours of questioning, the authorities decided to make her an arguida. At that point in time, being officially a suspect over the disappearance, Kate defended herself as the law permits. Another doubt that is left to those who answered 'yes' is the refusal to return to Portugal for a reconstitution of the evening of the crime, and the leaving of the Algarve on the morning after the couple was constituted arguidos, in a trip that contradicted what the couple had always stated: "We will never leave Portugal until we find our little girl".
They don't hide anything
Contrary to the Portuguese, the British do not believe that the McCann couple is hiding anything. The British press, which has always questioned the Portuguese police's methods, was quick to point out the failures of the investigation. More than the McCanns hiding something, what the British public opinion seems to believe in is that the right questions weren't asked. Therefore, when the McCanns are made arguidos, it is better for them to return home with their children, than to stay in Portugal, risking ending up in prison. It is also conceded that the presence of Clarence Mitchell, a former BBC journalist and then an aide to the British prime minister, as the McCanns' spokesman, contributed to raise their prestige with the population.
Q7. Do you think that Madeleine's parents should be penalised or not?
Portugal Yes: 70.4%
Don’t know/No reply: 13.0%
United Kingdom Yes: 28.6%
Don’t know/No reply: 6.0%
Once again, the public opinion in both countries is divided. In Portugal, the clear notion is that the couple of doctors should be held responsible and penalised over losing a daughter. Maybe that was why the couple, understanding how important it would be to have a good defence in the Country, hired one of the most renowned lawyers, Rogério Alves, a former head of the Portuguese Bar. The punishment that is expressed in this reply does not specify a form, therefore the only thing that can be concluded is that the Portuguese would at least like to see the McCanns punished over the lack of attention that they gave their children. The law, as previously seen, both in Portugal and in England, foresees that leaving minor children unaccompanied may be a crime, although with very different penalties under both jurisdictions. But the McCann couple continues to fight for their image to pass in a clean manner to the public opinion. For once, the parents of an abducted child have also the onus of proving that they are not guilty over the disappearance, although no evidence was found and validated against them.
The British public opinion considers that Maddie's parents should not pay for what happened. Far from the Latin behaviour of keeping one eye on the beach and the other eye on the child, the British generally accept easily that small children stay home asleep while they leave for moments. In the United Kingdom it is also common to educate the children under less pressure, allowing for individuals to become responsible earlier and less, in a popular language, "mother's children". Those who believe that the McCanns should not pay for what happened still believe that the couple is far from being guilty in the case, and even, according to the British press, that they were mistreated in Portugal. An article from prestigious 'The Times' should be referred, in which the newspaper stated that the couple has been ignored by the police and that they don't get replies whenever they asked them from the Portuguese authorities.
* Indicative values of the average of replies, when summing the partials of both countries and dividing by two: POR + UK / 2 = Result.
The analysed universes are constituted by: Continental Portuguese population, from both sexes, of ages comprised between 18 and 64, residing in housing with a fixed network telephone; English population, from both sexes, of ages comprised between 18 and 64, residing in housing with a fixed network telephone. In both countries, the technique of telephone interview was used (CATI) with a structured questionnaire. The same questionnaire was used in both countries. 1221 interviews were carried out; 609 in Portugal and 612 in the United Kingdom. The interviews were distributed by sex and age in a proportional manner towards the universe. The collection of information on national territory was carried out between the 14th and the 17th of August 2008, having been secured by 22 interviewers that were selected and trained by Euroexpansão. In the United Kingdom, the collection was carried out between the 20th and the 22nd of August 2008, with the cooperation of nine interviewers. The collection of information was controlled in two forms: direct control – accompaniment of the execution of the interviews; Telephonic supervision – new contact with the interviewees, in order to confer the execution of the interviews and the conditions under which it was performed.
Amid fraudulent detectives, bombshell books being edited in London and new reports, the drama is far from over
Over the last few weeks, the Madeleine case has seen new developments, although they are not as publicised as before. The case tires some of the public that wants to rest during the summer. But the truth is that during the summer, editors Guerra&Paz managed to sell the rights to Gonçalo Amaral’s book, 'The Truth of the Lie', into Spain, and is close to sealing a deal for the United Kingdom. But this was not the only novelty. A group of private detectives that was working on the case, desisted, cashing in on almost 600 thousand euros without yielding any result from their work. Oakley International left without results.
The money came from the fund for the search of Maddie, which is increasingly slimmer. The case of the detectives that abandon the investigation is a film that the McCanns had already seen before, when the Spanish detectives from Metodo3 also kept their money and failed to produce any results.
Meanwhile, Focus was also able to establish that there are reports about the case, written by criminal scientists, that may shed a new light on the case, namely concerning the certification of the DNA that was found in the apartment where the McCanns spent their holidays in Portugal. Meanwhile, the case remains archived. When the judicial holidays are over, and if none of the parties requests the opening of the instruction phase, the reopening of the inquiry or of the process until then, the McCanns will definitely lose their arguido status. This is due to the fact that the Portuguese law foresees that, after the archiving, one of the interested persons may request the reopening of the process or the passing into the instruction phase, and in that case the former arguidos would recover their status. But it is unlikely that this will happen.
Thus the coming weeks will certainly bring news to the most media exposed disappearance of a child in the world, which took place on the 3rd of May 2007, in the Algarve, Portugal. Madeleine McCann, aged three. From that day onwards, with one single known destiny: missing.