David Brown and Steve Bird examine the puzzles and mysteries at the heart of the four month investigation
Why are the “Tapas 9” key to solving the Madeleine mystery? Kate and Gerry McCann were dining with seven British friends at a tapas restaurant in the Ocean Club resort when Madeleine was reported missing. The friends are crucial witnesses but have said very little publicly. Police sources have claimed there are inconsistencies in their statements to officers. The friends are Matthew and Rachael Oldfield, Russell O’Brien and his partner Jane Tanner and David and Fiona Payne and her mother Dianne Webster.
Did any of them see anyone taking Madeleine? Jane Tanner told police that she saw a man walking away from the McCanns’ apartment at 9.15pm. Sources close to the couple have previously said that the man had a child wrapped in the blanket and was walking in a southerly direction. However, the London Evening Standard reported yesterday that Ms Tanner had seen man carrying a girl dressed in Madeleine’s distinctive pink-and-white pyjamas walking eastwards, towards the house of the official suspect Robert Murat, 33.
Do police believe this was a man abducting Madeleine? Detectives refused to publicise the sighting for three weeks. Another witness, Jeremy Wilkins, is reported to have told police that he was in the area talking to Mr McCann and did not see the mystery man.
Did anyone else in the Tapas 9 notice anything strange? Matthew Oldfield said he had checked on the McCanns’ apartment at 9.30pm. A source close to the McCanns had said he did not look into the bedroom where Madeleine was sleeping with the two-year-old twins Sean and Amelie. But the Evening Standard report claimed he saw the twins but did not have a view of Madeleine’s bed.
Was there anything strange about the room after Madeleine disappeared? Mrs McCann was sure Madeleine had been abducted because the bedroom window was open and the security shutter was forced open, a source close to the family has insisted. Tests on the shutter showed no sign of forced entry. However, another friend claimed yesterday that the shutter had been left open.
When will the Portuguese courts decide what to do in the Madeleine case? Pedro Daniel dos Anjos Frias, a criminal instructional judge in Portimão, has decided that there is no need for the McCanns to be reinterviewed at this point, hence the prosecutor’s statement last night. The threat of them having to return to the Algarve in the near future has been lifted. The judge must complete his rulings by today on a variety of issues. It is believed that he has already authorised the use of Mrs McCann’s diaries as evidence.
Could the couple still be charged soon? Unlikely. LuÍs Armando Bilro Verão, the lead public prosecutor, must now decide if there is sufficient evidence to bring charges against them, if he needs to request the PolÍcia Judiciária to carry out further investigations or if the case against them should be dropped.
Why is it all taking so long? Portuguese detectives are still waiting for the results of tests on samples being carried out by the Forensic Science Service laboratory in Birmingham. They are also believed to want to carry out further searches in the Algarve and possibly at the McCanns’ home.
So how long will the McCanns have to wait? The couple can remain as arguidos, or official suspects, for eight months before the Portuguese police have to apply for a four-month extension. After this time they automatically cease to be suspects, but there is no requirement for the prosecutor to clear them formally. Robert Murat, a British self-employed property consultant on the Algarve and the only other official suspect in Madeleine’s disappearance, has been an arguido for four months.
Why has there been so much confusion? Portugal’s strict laws of judicial secrecy mean that nobody involved in a criminal investigation is allowed to reveal any of the evidence in the case. However, Portuguese police sources are regularly quoted giving incriminating details about the McCanns’ role in their daughter’s disappearance. Friends of the couple have increasingly been attempting to challenge these reports with their own interpretation of events. Both sides are actually breaking the law and could face up to two years in jail.
Who is who in Team McCann
Clarence Mitchell Former BBC journalist appointed on Monday as Kate and Gerry McCann’s official spokesman. Represented them in May and June after being sent to Praia da Luz by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Michael Caplan, QC One of few solicitors to be appointed QC, expert in extradition and international criminal law. Prevented extradition to Spain of former Chilean president General Augusto Pinochet Angus McBride Leading criminal solicitor with expertise in dealing with media and protecting reputation of individuals subject to media or criminal investigation Carlos Pinto de Abreu One of Portugal’s best-known lawyers with reputation for taking on controversial cases. Lodged McCanns’ libel action against Portuguese newspaper which said they were police suspects Esther McVey Former GMTV presenter and Conservative parliamentary candidate, trustee and spokeswoman for Madeleine Fund. Has known Mrs McCann since they did their A levels together Father Haynes Hubbard Anglican priest at church of Nossa Senhora da Luz (Our Lady of the Light) in Praia da Luz and his wife, Susan, have become close friends and confidants of McCanns Calum MacRae 18-year-old internet expert runs Find Madeleine website which has attracted more than 400,000 unique users and helped to raise more than £1 million in donations for campaign Philomena McCann Mr McCann’s sister, a headteacher, has been key family member to publicise hunt for Madeleine and to defend her parents Trish and Sandy Cameron Mr McCann’s sister and brother-in-law have been frequent visitors to the couple in Praia da Luz and Rothley. About 30 other relatives and friends also visited them in Praia da Luz Why are the McCann’s early television interviews being scrutinised? Commentators have seized on the lack of emotion shown by Kate and Gerry McCann during a series of televised statements and interviews in the weeks after Madeleine’s disappearance. It is claimed that this was an unnatural response and indicated that the couple were hiding something. In fact, criminal profilers had advised them to display no overt emotion in case Madeleine’s abductor “got off" on the sight of her parents in obvious distress. Off camera, they were deeply distressed and received help from counsellors.
How can the police establish Mrs McCann’s state of mind? Prosecutors are reported to want access to Mrs McCann’s medical records to see if there is any history of illness such as depression which could explain why she would kill Madeleine. They are also said to want British police to carry out investigations into the couple’s relationship and personal history.
Could Mrs McCann’s handwriting be used as evidence? A judge has authorised police to seize Mrs McCann’s diary and detectives want a graphologist to study the handwriting, it was reported yesterday. Alberto Vaz da Silva, a criminal psychologist and a handwriting expert, told the newspaper 24 Horas: “It would be possible to discover the temper and the character of the person in question. You can see if someone is lying or hiding something.” However, handwriting evidence is usually used only for forensic science purposes, not to determine a person’s emotional state.
Why could Mrs McCann’s newspaper interview lead to jail? Mrs McCann could be prosecuted under Portugal’s laws of judicial secrecy for telling the Sunday Mirror that police had seized her bible. She said: “One of the pieces of evidence is that a page from a passage in Samuel about having to tell a man his child is dead is crumpled - so I must have been reading it.” The 24 Horas newspaper said that the public prosecutor could accuse Mrs McCann of breaking the secrecy law, which carries a maximum two years' jail sentence. Varradas Leitao, a member of the Superior Council of the Ministerial Publico, said: “A witness or an arguida, the law is the same for everybody. You cannot divulge procedural acts.”
What are the police doing to find Madeleine or her body? Portuguese police are reported to be preparing for a new series of searches using sniffer dogs and infra-red equipment in an area between Praia da Luz and the village of Burgau, about two miles to the west. It has also been suggested that they will search the church in Praia da Luz and the town of Arao, where a big operation was carried out after an anonymous tip-off to a Dutch newspaper.
Who is advising Kate and Gerry McCann? British lawyers Michael Caplan, QC, an expert in international law, and Angus McBride, a solicitor who specialises in protecting the reputation of individuals subject to media or criminal investigation. They have also hired a Portuguese lawyer, Carlos Pinto de Abreu, who filed the libel action against a newspaper which said the police suspected them of involvement in their daughter’s death.
How can the couple win the battle of public opinion? Clarence Mitchell, 46, has been appointed as their official spokesman. He resigned yesterday as head of the Government’s Media Monitoring Unit and had previously been seconded to the Foreign Office to help the McCanns in the weeks after Madeleine’s disappearance.
What can Mr Mitchell do to help the McCanns? His job at the Cabinet Office has given him contacts among senior members of the Government and Civil Service. He also has extensive contacts with journalists in both Britain and Portugal and more than 20 years’ experience as a reporter.
Are the McCanns paying for his services? No. He has been employed by one of their wealthy backers and will continue to work for that person after the Madeleine case is over.
What action will the police take this week? Portuguese detectives are due to arrive in Leicester to work with a British police team investigating Madeleine’s disappearance. It has been reported that Kate McCann could be interviewed again this week. A Portuguese judge must decide by Thursday whether to approve requests by Portuguese police to secure more evidence.
Who’s advising British police on the case? Tony Connell, a member of the Crown Prosecution Service’s special casework unit, has been advising the “Gold Group” of senior detectives at Leicestershire Police, which is investigating the Madeleine case. Mr Connell led the review which led to the conviction of Damilola Taylor’s killers.
Could the McCanns be prosecuted in Britain? It is possible to prosecute a British citizen for a murder or manslaughter abroad under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. This was last done in 2005 when Christopher Newman was convicted at the Inner London Crown Court of murdering Georgina Eager in Dublin.
Can the public support Kate and Gerry McCann’s legal battle? A fighting fund to help to pay their legal costs is expected to be announced within the next few days. A source close to the family told The Times: “It will be getting set up and formalised as a proper fund. It has to be meticulously thought through.”
Why is the McCanns’ hire car pivotal to the investigation? Portuguese police claim they have found traces of Madeleine’s hair and bodily fluid in the boot of the Renault Scenic, indicating that it was used to transport Madeleine’s body after her death. Scientists have said that it should be possible to establish whether the hair came from a dead or living person.
Does this mean the scientific results hold the key to the case? Not necessarily. Kate and Gerry McCann used the Budget rental car to move apartments, taking with them all their children’s toys and clothing, which would have contained large amounts of genetic material. It was also used by friends, relatives and people who worked on the campaign to find their daughter.
Where is the car now? When the McCanns left Britain they drove the car to the airport. They have since said they will hold on to the vehicle to get their own independent scientific examinations done.
Under what circumstances was the car searched? Police seized the car last month and took it to an underground car park opposite their offices in Portimão. Police sources say this is an unusual place to carry out such a delicate search.
Is there any other explanation about how the material could have got there? If the DNA samples did come from Madeleine’s corpse it would seem an amazing coincidence that the McCanns hired a car used by their daughter’s abductor and killer. However, friends of the McCanns claim that the couple are being framed. It has also been suggested that the samples may have been labelled incorrectly.
Why do Portuguese police want to read Kate McCann’s personal diaries? Detectives want to check for inconsistencies with the information previously given to police and for clues about the personal relationship between Mrs McCann, her husband and other members of the party who went with them to Portugal. Mrs McCann was seen regularly writing several pages a day in the diaries.
What evidence could be held on Gerry McCann’s laptop computer? Mr McCann sent and received dozens of e-mails almost every day from friends and people involved in the campaign to find his daughter. It may be possible to retrieve those e-mails, which detectives hope could provide information about the events surrounding Madeleine’s disappearance and the couple’s connections with other people.
Why does a Portuguese judge need to authorise the seizure? Portuguese police must get an authorisation from a judge to request items which are abroad or to retain items taken without the owner’s permission. Mr and Mrs McCann are believed to have taken most of the objects home to Britain. There are also reports in Portugal that police seized a copy of Mrs McCann’s diaries before the couple left the country to ensure they could not be destroyed. A judge must be asked to authorise a seizure without the owner’s consent within 24 hours.
Why didn’t the Portuguese police seize these items in Praia da Luz? It may be that the items left Portugal some time ago when Mr or Mrs McCann made previous trips to Britain, or a friend may have taken them. The couple left the Algarve on Sunday morning at very short notice. They notified the Portuguese authorities but perhaps police did not have the opportunity to ask a judge to authorise the seizure of items without the couple’s consent.
Has the judge been asked to authorise any other seizures? Portuguese papers reported yesterday that officers wanted to obtain Madeleine’s favourite soft toy, which Mrs McCann took home. It is also claimed that police seized the Renault hired by the McCanns 25 days after Madeleine’s disappearance. The car contained samples of the girl’s hair and “bodily fluids”.
What else has the judge been asked to do? It has been reported that detectives want to search the church in Praia da Luz where the couple regularly prayed after Madeleine disappeared. They would only require an order from the judge if the priest or bishop in charge refused to authorise the search. It has also been suggested that police want to search a cemetery beside the church and to excavate roads where sewers were being replaced at the time of Madeleine’s disappearance.
Who is revealing details about scientific evidence? By law Portuguese police are prevented from revealing details of investigations. However, some officers have been secretly briefing Portuguese journalists.
What scientific evidence have police collected? In a briefings on Monday night detectives said that they found traces of “bodily fluids” in the car which had probably come from Madeleine with a large amount of Madeleine’s hair in the boot of the car.
Why are the “bodily fluids” significant? When pathologists refer to bodily fluids they usually mean the putrefying substance created during the decomposition of a body tissue and blood. This “fluid” is evidence that a corpse has been present, but DNA samples are required to identify the body. It is unclear what “fluids” have been found. It might be traces of urine, dried blood or vomit, which would not conclusively prove Madeleine had died.
Does a large quantity of hair prove that Madeleine’s body was in the car? No. The hair must show evidence that it came from a decomposing body. Other hair could be “transmitted” from items of Madeleine’s clothing and belongings.
Is anyone else confirming these reports? Sources in Britain who are assisting the Portuguese investigation have agreed that there is “significant” scientific evidence linking Mr and Mrs McCann to their daughter’s death. However, Portuguese officers took the highly unusual step of publicly denying a report which was allegedly based on sources in Britain.
Does the scientific evidence prove that Madeleine was killed? Because the samples have degraded over time the scientists can never be 100 per cent certain that they came from Madeleine.
What happened in the four hours before Madeleine was reported missing? Kate and Gerry McCann claim that while they dined at a restaurant with friends regular checks were made on Madeleine and their two-year-old twins, Sean and Amelie, at their nearby holiday apartment. Mr McCann told police he saw his daughter asleep at about 9pm. A friend, Matthew Oldfield, entered the apartment at about 9.30pm but did not look in the bedroom Madeleine and the twins were sharing.
It is not known if anyone apart from Mr and Mrs McCann saw Madeleine alive between 6pm and 10pm, when she was reported missing by her mother. The timing is crucial but would be only circumstantial evidence in any prosecution. Although a small child could be killed quickly it would take time to hide a body so that it was not discovered in the biggest search in Portuguese history.
Why did Kate McCann cry out “They’ve taken her?” when she discovered Madeleine missing? Portuguese police are reported to find it suspicious that Mrs McCann immediately believed that more than one person had taken her daughter. This could suggest that she knew who had taken Madeleine, perhaps people who thought they were helping Mrs McCann by removing her daughter’s body.
Alternatively, it could be an off-the-cuff remark by an hysterical mother or perhaps was misheard or misunderstood in the confusion of the night.
What were the movements of the McCann’s friends on the night Madeleine disappeared? The McCann family had stayed at the Ocean Club resort with three other British couples and their five children, and a single woman. Russell O’Brien, a doctor from Exeter, left the restaurant for half an hour to look after his own daughter, returning shortly before Madeleine was reported missing.
His wife, Jane Tanner, was the only witness to report a man carrying away child from the McCann’s apartments. There is confusion about when members of the party arrived at the tapas restaurant and left to check on their own sleeping children.
How much alcohol did the McCanns and their friends drink on the evening Madeleine disappeared? Kate and Gerry McCann and their friends are reported to have told detectives they shared four bottles of wine, with another two barely touched before Madeleine was discovered missing. However, it is claimed detectives have recovered a bill showing they downed eight bottles of red wine and six white during the afternoon and evening.
Why was Madeleine’s bedroom window and shutter open? Kate and Gerry McCann told police that the window shutter in Madeleine’s bedroom, which could not been seen from the restaurant, had been forced open. Police tests showed the heavy metal shutter had not been forced up from the outside, so must have been pulled open from inside the room. Assuming that the abductor entered through the apartment’s unlocked patio windows, why would he or she not leave by the same way or the use the front door? Or was the window opened to make it appear as if an intruder had used it to enter the bedroom?
Why did Madeleine’s sister and brother sleep through her “abduction”? Sean and Amelie were heavy sleepers who were not disturbed by their sister’s abduction, claim their parents. However, they also slept through their mother’s hysterical response to Madeleine’s disappearance and the presence of dozens of people who joined the search before being carried out by a female police officer. Kate and Gerry McCann have strenuously denied sedating their daughter.
Why were the McCanns allowed to leave Portugal if they are suspects? The Portuguese authorities allowed the McCanns to return to the UK after they agreed to reside only at their home in Rothley and to return for further questioning if necessary. Portuguese law states that after someone is declared a suspect, police have eight months to conclude the investigation into that individual. If they require further time officers can apply to the courts for a four-month extension. If the McCanns refused to comply with a request to return to the Algarve for interview, Portuguese police could issue a European Arrest Warrant under which extradition can be carried out within six weeks.
Why has it taken so long to find the evidence that could implicate Kate and Gerry McCann? The material was only collected at the end of July and early August in a review of the investigation carried out by Portuguese detectives with the help of British police and two sniffer dogs. Many of the samples are very small, containing just a few cells, while others are of poor quality because of damage by cleaning or simply the passing of time. A full report of the findings will not be ready for weeks, but many results have already been passed to the Portuguese authorities.
What evidence were police looking for? Detectives are searching for any evidence that proves Madeleine is dead or contradicts the accounts of Mr and Mrs McCann and other witnesses.
What is the most important forensic evidence? It appears the Forensic Science Service believes it has discovered compelling new evidence, possibly from more than one source. Portuguese detectives told Mrs McCann repeatedly that they found traces of Madeleine’s blood in a Renault Scenic hired three weeks after she disappeared, suggesting that the missing girl’s parents used the vehicle to carry her body. It is possible to tell if the blood came from a living person or from a corpse, and even the time of death. However, some reports suggest that the quality of the blood sample was too poor to confirm the origin while others have denied any blood was found in the vehicle and claim it was other “bodily fluids”. Unless a body had been placed in a freezer, it would have badly decomposed during the warm weather; leaving a mass of traces invisible to the human eye.
Does any trace of Madeleine in the hire car prove she was killed? No. Mr and Mrs McCann hired the car to buy new clothes in the town of Portimão a day before they flew to Rome to see Pope Benedict XVI. They then used it regularly for family outings and to collect friends and relatives from Faro airport. They continued using the car until shortly before flying home yesterday. Kate and Gerry and their two-year-old twins would have often carried in the car items used by Madeleine. These items could easily certainly carry Madeleine’s hair and minute traces of skin, dried blood, saliva and vomit. The same could be said of the holiday apartments used by the McCanns and their friends in the Ocean Club resort. However, if the blood came from Madeleine’s corpse the only other highly unlikely explanation would be that a previous hirer had moved the body. One report suggested yesterday that Madeleine’s DNA had been found on the floor of the McCanns holiday apartment, but because of degredation it was based on an incomplete picture, with only 15 of the 20 genetic markers usually used for such analysis.
What is the DNA evidence that has supposedly been found by the Portuguese investigators? Newspapers in Portugal have been reporting that “biological fluids” with an 80 per cent match to Madeleine’s DNA have been found underneath upholstery in the boot of the McCanns’ rented Renault Scenic. Some media reports claimed that another DNA sample with a 100 per cent match to that of Madeleine’s profile had been found in the car.
What would this tell us? Perhaps nothing. If it was sourced from something such as a hair follicle or skin cells then that could have been one of Madeleine’s hairs that had stuck to the clothes of a family member or her “cuddle cat” toy that her mother carries. If it was from Madeleine’s blood or corpse, that could be more significant. The most important issue is the size of the sample found. If there was a substantial amount of material it is unlikely to be from accidental contamination and would indicate that Madeleine had been in the car.
Can investigators establish if the DNA sample comes from someone who was alive or dead? Unlikely, according to British experts. A DNA profile does not change just because someone dies. You can tell if DNA has degraded but that can happen if, for example, it had been exposed to sunshine.
Does an 80 per cent match with biological fluids indicate that Madeleine was definitely in the car? No. The sample will have been tested against a definite sample of Madeleine’s. A 80 per cent match indicates that profilers could find only 16 of the 20 markers usually used for such analysis and suggests that the biological traces are tiny and degraded. Additionally, the twins Sean and Amelie could share a high percentage of DNA characteristics as most siblings do. What complicates the matter further is that all three of the McCanns’ children were born through IVF and it is unknown whether the couple’s sperm and eggs were used for conception.
What about the discoveries of the “cadaver” sniffer dog? Mr and Mrs McCann were shown a police video of a sniffer dog used to find corpses “going crazy” when it approached the hire car. Reports also claim that is discovered the scent on the vehicle’s key fob. Mrs McCann is reported to have explained that in her work as locum GP she came into contact with six corpses in the weeks leading up to Algarve holiday.
This seems a high number for a locum GP working just a couple of days a week but would be easy to check against surgery records. The crucial difficulty with the sniffer dog “evidence” is that it cannot distinguish between corpses. This type of dog is trained to find bodies, not identify where dead bodies have been. Crucially, they can become excited by other scents.
Any evidence of Madeleine’s death on Cuddle Cat? The cadaver dog is alleged to have become excited when shown Madeleine’s favourite soft pink toy, called Cuddle Cat. The cat had become poignant symbol of a mother’s loss as Kate McCann carried it with her at all time from the night of Madeleine’s disappearance. She washed it four days after the police tests, claiming it had become dirty. The toy was potentially crucial evidence and should have been seized by police very early in the investigation.
What evidence can be found in Mrs McCann’s Bible? Mrs McCann, a devout Roman Catholic, claims that police told her that a crumpled page in her Bible was evidence that she was involved in the death of her daughter. The page contained a passage from Samuel II, chapter 12, verses 15-19, which recalls how man’s child is stricken with illness after he “scorns” the Lord. The man fasts for seven days, refusing to get up off the ground, to try to gain redemption — but eventually his child dies. Mrs McCann claims that detectives told her that damage to the page proved she had been reading it.
Why are the McCanns suspects in their daughter’s killing? Portuguese police refuse to say why the couple have been made official suspects. Under Portuguese law police can not question someone as if they had committed a crime unless they are a “suspect”. It could simply be that police wanted to ask the couple about the evidence they had collected, and that the seriousness of the process has been misunderstood and exaggerated by cultural and language differences. The McCanns believed that they were about to be charged with Madeleine’s death, but it does not appear police disclosed any crucial evidence to them.
All parties have strenuously denied any wrongdoing.