Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Trendy Hairbead

The last picture of Madeleine: Just eight hours later she was gone

Last updated at 16:40 25 May 2007

She must have been having so much fun.

Chuckling with delight, Madeleine McCann dangles her feet in a pool and poses for a holiday snapshot.

Less than eight hours after it was taken, Madeleine disappeared. So yesterday this became the last, poignant picture of the missing four-year-old - released by her grief-stricken parents in their desperate campaign to bring her home.

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madeleine mccann on the beach on day she was abducted This newly released photograph of Madeleine shows her laughing with her family on the day of her disappearance
It shows Madeleine with her father Gerry and two-year-old sister Amelie, sitting beside the pool in their Algarve holiday apartment complex. Her mother Kate is behind the camera with Amelie's twin brother Sean.

It could hardly have captured her character more perfectly - a cheeky little Miss in a pink summer dress and floppy hat, stealing the limelight as usual with that trademark smile.

That was at 2.29pm on May 3, a few days after the family checked in to an apartment in Praia da Luz and just nine days before her fourth birthday.

Kate and Sean McCann Kate McCann with Sean yesterday
And last night, another picture of Madeleine was projected onto London's iconic Marble Arch to bring her plight to the attention of the city.

During the day of her disappearance they had all gone for a walk, played tennis, and taken some more snapshots for the family album before relaxing by the pool.

Some time between 9.10pm and 10pm, an abductor is assumed to have snatched her from her bed while her parents dined nearby.

Three weeks on, there has been not a single trace of her whereabouts, no breakthrough in the investigation, and no clear indication that she is even still alive.

In the evening her parents gave her a bath, took out her trendy hair bead and washed her hair.

Then they tucked her up alongside Sean and Amelie before kissing them all goodnight.

Mr and Dr McCann - he is a consultant cardiologist, she a GP - remain convinced she is alive, and have vowed that they cannot even consider going home to Leicestershire until they find her.

But yesterday, for the first time during the remarkable campaign they are running in parallel with the police operation, they made known their frustration at the investigation's lack of progress.

The 38-year-old couple met Portuguese police chiefs to express their concern at the "apparent slowness" of the hunt.

A source close to the family said: "At every stage throughout this they have been feeding their own questions and concerns back to the investigating authorities through British police and in turn the Portuguese authorities.

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Maddy A photograph of Madeleine McCann is projected onto London's iconic Marble Arch
"While they remain content with the overall thrust of the investigation they do at times hope that their questions and concerns are addressed more quickly."

Yesterday the latest Portuguese initiative - a plea to the kidnapper from the Bishop of the Algarve - stalled almost immediately.

Bishop D. Manuel Neto Quintas appealed to Madeleine's abductor to phone him to arrange Madeleine's return - but he failed to supply a phone number.

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madeleine mccann on the beach on day she was abducted Madeleine's father Gerry with her twin sister Amelie (centre) and Madeleine (right) as the family relaxes by the pool. Hours later their holiday would turn into a living nightmare that appears to have no end in sight
In other developments, new leads have emerged from more than 300 holidaymakers' photographs that have been sent in to an appeal for pictures that might reveal the abductor.

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gerry mccann in rotheley Gerry McCann made a moving visit to a shrine in Madeleine's honour in their hometown of Rothley, Leicestershire, recently

Officers from the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre had appealed to tourists who visited Praia da Luz in the two weeks prior to the kidnap to send in their holiday pictures.

Strangers in the background of pictures are being cross-referenced with an image of known paedophiles using facial recognition software.

A spokesman for CEOP would not comment on the detail of the new leads.

It also emerged that the McCanns have been offered the use of private jets to make trips around Europe in their continued campaign to find Madeleine.

Early discussions are under way with Warner Brothers cinemas to put posters in every cinema and to play an appeal video of Madeleine before every movie.

Madeleine McCann Frustration is growing as the weeks slip by in the search for Madeleine

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Hanover Were Now On Board To Clean Up The McCanns Reputation

Madeleine's mother to be quizzed again by Portuguese police

Last updated at 17:39 13 September 2007

•Kate McCann agrees to checks on twins' welfare
•Portuguese police want to quiz her for third time
•Tycoons refuse to fund McCanns' legal defence
•Fingerprinting pioneer to help McCanns with DNA test
The mother of Madeleine McCann is to be interviewed again by police investigating her daughter's disappearance.
Portuguese detectives could travel to Britain to quiz Mrs McCann. She was interviewed twice last week and formally declared a suspect after police told her they believed she had killed.
Kate will face 40 key questions about the night her daughter disappeared from their Algarve holiday apartment on May 3, her relationship with the four-year-old and her movements since Madeleine went missing, respected Portuguese daily Publico claimed.
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Kate McCann arrives home in her car today
The development came as Kate McCann has invited social services to check on the welfare of missing Madeleine's twin brother and sister.
She is expected to be visited shortly after telling social workers she wanted them to see that two-year-olds Sean and Amelie are not at risk.
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A police officer escorts Mrs McCann as she drives home
A distressed Mrs McCann, 39, today briefly left the family home in Rothley, Leicestershire, to collect the twins after a family friend took them for a walk.
Relatives have gathered in the village to support her and husband, Gerry.
Mr McCann's older brother John, 48, who was with the couple at their home today, confirmed the plans. He said: "Kate has invited social services to make sure everything was OK, that was at her behest."
Leicestershire County Council said they could not comment on individual cases.
A Portuguese judge has signed a warrant instructing British police to seize items of evidence from the home of Kate and Gerry McCann.
The police, who could visit the McCanns as early as today, are expected to take Mrs McCann's private diaries, her husband's laptop computer and Madeleine's 'cuddle cat' toy.
Two friends of the McCanns, who were with the couple on the night Madeleine disappeared, are also expected to be questioned again.
A distressed Mrs McCann, 39, today briefly left the family home in Rothley, Leicestershire, to collect the twins after a family friend took them for a walk.
Relatives have gathered in the village to support her and husband, Gerry.
Mr McCann's older brother John, 48, who was with the couple at their home today, confirmed the plans. He said: "Kate has invited social services to make sure everything was OK, that was at her behest."
Leicestershire County Council said they could not comment on individual cases.
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Kate McCann with Cuddle Cat Mrs McCann was rarely seen without Madeleine's favourite toy, Cuddle Cat, after her daughter disappeared
The prosecutors yesterday submitted an "emergency" request to a judge to authorise commandeering the ring-bound journals and the Apple Mac which Mr McCann uses to send emails and update his internet blog.
Police believe something Mrs McCann has written in her diary could unlock the mystery to the four-year-old's disappearance.
Mrs McCann started the diary at her sister-in-law's suggestion to record how the family had battled to look for Madeleine - with the idea that she would show it to her daughter once she was found.
Philomena McCann explained: "I asked Kate to keep this journal because at first the Portugese police were doing very little."
She also revealed that Madeleine's mum washed the little girl's Cuddle Cat within days of her disappearance - and again two months ago.
Police are believed to want to confiscate Madeleine's toys, including the favourite Cuddle Cat, which her mother has cradled since her disappearance.
She said the first wash was to clean off the sun cream and sand of the holiday.
Then it was soiled by Mrs McCann carrying it around all the time.
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Kate and Gerry McCann with their twins Amelie and Sean at the park yesterday
Kate McCann and twin Amelle Kate McCann and daugher Amelie on their way from their Leicestershire home to a playground
"It would be extremely distressing for Kate because she has seen it as a symbol of her daughter since she went missing," she said.
"Why on earth do they ask for the toys now? Why didn't they think of this before?"
The toy has already been tested by scientists but further tests are expected to be more stringent.
Police sources have questioned Mrs McCann's decision to wash the toy so soon after her daughter disappeared.
"It's the last thing I'd expect a mother who is devastated at losing her child to do," said a former Scotland Yard detective.
Yesterday it emerged that lawyers in Britain acting for the McCanns have advised them the Portuguese authorities will struggle to press charges that stick.
A close friend said: "The legitimate question to ask Portuguese police is: 'Where is the body? Where's the evidence that Madeleine is dead?'."
The friend said the McCanns' new legal team, based in London, had been working around the clock to "get up to speed on the case".
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Gerry and Sean McCann Gerry McCann and his two-year-old twin son Sean
The couple's Portuguese lawyer, Carlos Pinto de Abreu, has hit out at his country's judicial system in a scathing interview with a local newspaper in which he declared: "Justice in Portugal is slow and incapable of producing proof."
Friends of the McCanns believe they are the victims of a sinister campaign to frame them for Madeleine's disappearance after police botched the search to find their abducted little girl.
The 39-year-old doctors have strenuously denied ever harming Madeleine and are devastated the hunt for her has been overshadowed by an attempt to "set them up".
But in two days of police interviews in Portimao last week, detectives alleged there was damning evidence that Madeleine had been in the Renault Scenic they hired 25 days after she disappeared. They alleged bodily fluids, blood and hair corresponding to Madeleine's DNA had been found in the boot.
Judge Pedro Miguel dos Anjos Frias is now sifting through a 4,000-page police dossier as Madeleine's parents face an agonising wait to learn if they will be charged.
He could take "weeks" to study the contents of ten lever arch files, according to a friend of the McCanns, who said: "Our understanding is there's no filtering process whatsoever - everything is in there.
"The judge has had the kitchen sink thrown at him."
The judge will make a decision within ten days on key requests made by the prosecutor, Jose Cunha de Magalhaes e Meneses.
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Madeleine McCann McCann's lawyers believe it will be almost impossible to press charges without finding the corpse
These requests have not been made public, but are things Mr Meneses now believes need to be done to complete the case.
A source in Portugal claimed that one of the requests was to bring Kate McCann back to be requestioned.
And the whitewashed church in Praia da Luz that became a poignant focus of the McCanns' campaign is expected to be searched, with the judge present.
It still has yellow and green Madeleine ribbons on the pews and altar.
Roads around the church, which had deep holes dug by workmen at the time Madeleine vanished, could also be excavated.
Portuguese sources said the prosecutor wanted police to re-interview the couple's friends and family.
Detectives in the Algarve believe somebody could have helped them dispose of Madeleine's body, although the friends with whom they were on holiday have furiously denied such a "hurtful" conspiracy.
The couple were declared "arguidos", or formal suspects, during police questioning in Portimao last Friday.
They flew out of the country to their home in Rothley two days later.
Last night the McCanns got a boost when the police case appeared to be undermined by a pensioner who is potentially a key witness.
Pamela Fenn, 81, lives above the apartment where Madeleine disappeared and is reported to have told police she heard Madeleine screaming below.
But yesterday she broke her silence to say it was "absolute rubbish" she had made any such claims to police. Mrs Fenn said: "I didn't even know that family was in there."
Sir Alec Jeffreys, the inventor of DNA fingerprinting, said he was prepared to act as an expert witness for the McCanns.
He stressed that DNA matches on their own did not establish a person's innocence or guilt.
Sir Alec told BBC TV's Newsnight: "There are no genetic characters in Madeleine that are not found in at least one other member of the family.
"So then you have an incomplete DNA profile that could raise a potential problem in assigning a profile to Madeleine given that all other members of that family would have been in that car."

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#McCann : Bridget O'Donnell - December 2007

My months with Madeleine

It was a welcome spring break, a chance to relax at a child-friendly resort in Portugal.

Soon Bridget O'Donnell and her partner were making friends with another holidaying family while their three-year-old daughters played together.

But then Madeleine McCann went missing and everyone was sucked into a nightmare

Bridget O'Donnell
Bridget O'Donnell. Photograph: Graeme Robertson
We lay by the members-only pool staring at the sky.
Round and round, the helicopters clacked and roared.
Their cameras pointed down at us, mocking the walled and gated enclave.
Circles rippled out across the pool.
It was the morning after Madeleine went.
Six days earlier we had landed at Faro airport.
The coach was full of people like us, parents lugging multiple toddler/baby combinations.
All of us had risen at dawn, rushed along motorways and hurtled across the sky in search of the modern solution to our exhaustion - the Mark Warner kiddie club.
I travelled with my partner Jes, our three-year-old daughter, and our nine-month-old baby son. Praia da Luz was the nearest Mark Warner beach resort and this was the cheapest week of the year - a bargain bucket trip, for a brief lie-down.
Excitedly, we were shown to our apartments.
Ours was on the fourth floor, overlooking a family and toddler pool, opposite a restaurant and bar called the Tapas.
I worried about the height of the balcony.
 Should we ask for one on the ground floor?
Was I a paranoid parent?
Should I make a fuss, or just enjoy the view?
We could see the beach and a big blue sky.
We went outside to explore.
We settled in over the following days.
There was a warm camaraderie among the parents, a shared happy weariness and deadpan banter.
Our children made friends in the kiddie club and at the drop-off, we would joke about the fact that there were 10 blonde three-year-old girls in the group.
They were bound to boss around the two boys.
The children went sailing and swimming, played tennis and learned a dance routine for the end-of-week show.
Each morning, our daughter ran ahead of us to get to the kiddie club. She was having a wonderful time. Jes signed up for tennis lessons. I read a book. He made friends. I read another book.
The Mark Warner nannies brought the children to the Tapas restaurant to have tea at the end of each day. It was a friendly gathering.
The parents would stand and chat by the pool. We talked about the children, about what we did at home. We were hopeful about a change in the weather. We eyed our children as they played. We didn't see anyone watching.
Some of the parents were in a larger group.
Most of them worked for the NHS and had met many years before in Leicestershire.
Now they lived in different parts of the UK, and this holiday was their opportunity to catch up, to introduce their children, to reunite.
They booked a large table every night in the Tapas. We called them "the Doctors".
Sometimes we would sit out on our balcony and their laughter would float up around us.
One man was the joker.
He had a loud Glaswegian accent.
He was Gerry McCann. He played tennis with Jes.
One morning, I saw Gerry and his wife Kate on their balcony, chatting to their friends on the path below.
Privately I was glad we didn't get their apartment. It was on a corner by the road and people could see in. They were exposed.
In the evenings, babysitting at the resort was a dilemma. "Sit-in" babysitters were available but were expensive and in demand, and Mark Warner blurb advised us to book well in advance.
The other option was the babysitting service at the kiddie club, which was a 10-minute walk from the apartment.
The children would watch a cartoon together and then be put to bed.
You would then wake them, carry them back and put them to bed again in the apartment. After taking our children to dinner a couple of times, we decided on the Wednesday night to try the service at the club.
We had booked a table for two at Tapas and were placed next to the Doctors' regular table.
One by one, they started to arrive.
The men came first.
Gerry McCann started chatting across to Jes about tennis.
Gerry was outgoing, a wisecracker, but considerate and kind, and he invited us to join them.
We discussed the children.
He told us they were leaving theirs sleeping in the apartments.
While they chatted on, I ruminated on the pros and cons of this.
I admired them, in a way, for not being paranoid parents, but I decided that our apartment was too far off even to contemplate it.
Our baby was too young and I would worry about them waking up.
My phone rang as our food arrived; our baby had woken up.
I walked the round trip to collect him from the kiddie club, then back to the restaurant.
He kept crying and eventually we left our meal unfinished and walked back again to the club to fetch our sleeping daughter.
Jes carried her home in a blanket.
The next night we stayed in. It was Thursday, May 3.
Earlier that day there had been tennis lessons for the children, with some of the parents watching proudly as their girls ran across the court chasing tennis balls.
They took photos.
Madeleine must have been there, but I couldn't distinguish her from the others.
They all looked the same - all blonde, all pink and pretty.
Jes and Gerry were playing on the next court.
Afterwards, we sat by the pool and Gerry and Kate talked enthusiastically to the tennis coach about the following day's tournament.
We watched them idly - they had a lot of time for people, they listened.
Then Gerry stood up and began showing Kate his new tennis stroke.
She looked at him and smiled. "You wouldn't be interested if I talked about my tennis like that," Jes said to me.
We watched them some more.
Kate was calm, still, quietly beautiful; Gerry was confident, proud, silly, strong.
She watched his boyish demonstration with great seriousness and patience. That was the last time I saw them that day.
Jes saw Gerry that night.
Our baby would not sleep and at about 8.30pm, Jes took him out for a walk in the buggy to settle him.
Gerry was on his way back from checking on his children and the two men stopped to have a chat.
They talked about daughters, fathers, families.
Gerry was relaxed and friendly.
They discussed the babysitting dilemmas at the resort and Gerry said that he and Kate would have stayed in too, if they had not been on holiday in a group.
Jes returned to our apartment just before 9.30pm.
We ate, drank wine, watched a DVD and then went to bed.
On the ground floor, a completely catastrophic event was taking place. On the fourth floor of the next block, we were completely oblivious.
At 1am there was a frantic banging on our door.
Jes got up to answer.
 I stayed listening in the dark. I knew it was bad; it could only be bad. I heard male mumbling, then Jes's voice. "You're joking?" he said. It wasn't the words, it was the tone that made me flinch.
He came back in to the room. "Gerry's daughter's been abducted," he said. "She ..." I jumped up and went to check our children. They were there. We sat down. We got up again. Weirdly, I did the washing-up.
We wondered what to do. Jes had asked if they needed help searching and was told there was nothing he could do; she had been missing for three hours.
Jes felt he should go anyway, but I wanted him to stay with us. I was a coward, afraid to be alone with the children - and afraid to be alone with my thoughts.
I once worked as a producer in the BBC crime unit. I directed many reconstructions and spent my second pregnancy producing new investigations for Crimewatch.
Detectives would call me daily, detailing their cases, and some stories stay with me still, such as the ones about a girl being snatched from her bath, or her bike, or her garden and then held in the passenger seat, or stuffed in the boot.
There was always a vehicle, and the first few hours were crucial to the outcome.
Afterwards, they would be dumped naked in an alley, or at a petrol station with a £10 note to "get a cab back to Mummy". They would be found within an hour or two. Sometimes.
From the balcony we could see some figures scratching at the immense darkness with tiny torch lights. Police cars arrived and we thought that they would take control. We lay on the bed but we could not sleep.
The next morning, we made our way to breakfast and met one of the Doctors, the one who had come round in the night.
His young daughter looked up at us from her pushchair. There was no news.
They had called Sky television - they didn't know what else to do.
He turned away and I could see he was going to weep.
People were crying in the restaurant.
Mark Warner had handed out letters informing them what had happened in the night, and we all wondered what to do. Mid-sentence, we would drift in to the middle distance. Tears would brim up and recede.
Our daughter asked us about the kiddie club that day.
She had been looking forward to their dance show that afternoon.
Jes and I looked at each other. My first instinct was that we should not be parted from our children. Of course we shouldn't; we should strap them to us and not let them out of our sight, ever again.
But then we thought: how are we going to explain this to our daughter?
Or how, if we spent the day in the village, would we avoid repeatedly discussing what had happened in front of her as we met people on the streets?
What does a good parent do? Keep the children close or take a deep breath and let them go a little, pretend this was the same as any other day?
We walked towards the kiddie club.
No one else was there.
We felt awful, such terrible parents for even considering the idea.
Then we saw, waiting inside, some of the Mark Warner nannies.
They had been up most of the night but had still turned up to work that day.
They were intelligent, thoughtful young women and we liked and trusted them.
The dance show was cancelled, but they wanted to put on a normal day for the children.
Our daughter ran inside and started painting. Then, behind us, another set of parents arrived looking equally washed out. Then another, and another. We decided, in the end, to leave them for two hours. We put their bags on the pegs and saw the one labelled "Madeleine". Heads bent, we walked away, into the guilty glare of the morning sun.
Locals and holidaymakers had started circulating photocopied pictures of Madeleine, while others continued searching the beaches and village apartments.
People were talking about what had happened or sat silently, staring blankly. We didn't see any police.
Later, there was a knock on our apartment door and we let the two men in.
One was a uniformed Portuguese policeman, the other his translator.
The translator had a squint and sweated slightly. He was breathless, perhaps a little excited. We later found out he was Robert Murat. He reminded me of a boy in my class at school who was bullied.
Through Murat we answered a few questions and gave our details, which the policeman wrote down on the back of a bit of paper.
No notebook.
Then he pointed to the photocopied picture of Madeleine on the table. "Is this your daughter?" he asked. "Er, no," we said. "That's the girl you are meant to be searching for." My heart sank for the McCanns.
As the day drew on, the media and more police arrived and we watched from our balcony as reporters practised their pieces to camera outside the McCanns' apartment. We then went back inside and watched them on the news.
We had to duck under the police tape with the pushchair to buy a pint of milk.
 We would roll past sniffer dogs, local police, then national police, local journalists, and then international journalists, TV reporters and satellite vans.
A hundred pairs of eyes and a dozen cameras silently swivelled as we turned down the bend.
We pretended, for the children's sake, that this was nothing unusual. Later on, our daughter saw herself with Daddy on TV. That afternoon we sat by the members-only pool, watching the helicopters watching us. We didn't know what else to do.
Saturday came, our last day.
 While we waited for the airport coach to pick us up, we gathered round the toddler pool by Tapas, making small talk in front of the children.
I watched my baby son and daughter closely, shamefully grateful that I could.
We had not seen the McCanns since Thursday, when suddenly they appeared by the pool.
The surreal limbo of the past two days suddenly snapped back into painful, awful realtime.
It was a shock: the physical transformation of these two human beings was sickening - I felt it as a physical blow.
Kate's back and shoulders, her hands, her mouth had reshaped themselves in to the angular manifestation of a silent scream.
I thought I might cry and turned so that she wouldn't see.
Gerry was upright, his lips now drawn into a thin, impenetrable line.
Some people, including Jes, tried to offer comfort. Some gave them hugs. Some stared at their feet, words eluding them. We all wondered what to do. That was the last time we saw Gerry and Kate.
The rest of us left Praia da Luz together, an isolated Mark Warner group. The coach, the airport, the plane passed quietly. There were no other passengers except us.
We arrived at Gatwick in the small hours of an early May morning. No jokes, no banter, just goodbye. Though we did not know it then, those few days in May were going to dominate the rest of our year.
"Did you have a good trip?" asked the cabbie at Gatwick, instantly underlining the conversational dilemma that would occupy the first few weeks: Do we say "Yes, thanks" and move swiftly on? Or divulge the "yes-but-no-but" truth of our "Maddy" experience?
Everybody talks about holidays, they make good conversational currency at work, at the hairdresser's, in the playground.
Everybody asked about ours. I would pause and take a breath, deciding whether there was enough time for what was to follow. People were genuinely horrified by what had happened to Madeleine and even by what we had been through (though we thought ourselves fortunate). Their humanity was a balm and a comfort to us; we needed to talk about it, chew it over and share it out, to make it a little easier to swallow.
The British police came round shortly after our return. Jes was pleased to give them a statement. The Portuguese police had never asked.
As the summer months rolled by, we thought the story would slowly and sadly ebb away, but instead it flourished and multiplied, and it became almost impossible to talk about any-thing else.
Friends came for dinner and we would actively try to steer the conversation on to a different subject, always to return to Madeleine.
Others solicited our thoughts by text message after any major twist or turn in the case. Acquaintances discussed us in the context of Madeleine, calling in the middle of their debates to clarify details.
I found some immunity in a strange, guilty happiness.
We had returned unscathed to our humdrum family routine, my life was wonderful, my world was safe, I was lucky, I was blessed. The colours in the park were acute and hyper-real and the sun warmed my face.
At the end of June, the first cloud appeared.
A Portuguese journalist called Jes's mobile (he had left his number with the Portuguese police). The journalist, who was writing for a magazine called Sol, called Jes incessantly. We both work in television and cannot claim to be green about the media, but this was a new experience.
Jes learned this the hard way. Torn between politeness and wanting to get the journalist off the line without actually saying anything, he had to put the phone down, but he had already said too much.
Her article pitched the recollections of "Jeremy Wilkins, television producer" against those of the "Tapas Nine", the group of friends, including the McCanns, whom we had nicknamed the Doctors. The piece was published at the end of June. Throughout July, Sol's testimony meant Jes became incorporated into all the Madeleine chronologies. More clouds began to gather - this time above our house.
In August, the doorbell rang. The man was from the Daily Mail. He asked if Jes was in (he wasn't).
After he left I spent an anxious evening analysing what I had said, weighing up the possible consequences.
The Sol article had brought the Daily Mail; what would happen next? Two days later, the Mail came for Jes again. This time they had computer printout pictures of a bald, heavy-set man seen lurking in some Praia da Luz holiday snaps.
The chatroom implication was that the man was Madeleine's abductor.
There was talk on the web, the reporter insinuated, that this man might be Jes.
I laughed at the ridiculousness of it all and then realised he was serious. I looked at the pictures, and it wasn't Jes.
Once, Jes's father looked him up on the internet and found that "Jeremy Wilkins, television producer" was referenced on Google more than 70,000 times.
There was talk that he was a "lookout" for Gerry and Kate; there was talk that Jes was orchestrating a reality-TV hoax and Madeleine's disappearance was part of the con; there was talk that the Tapas Nine were all swingers.
There was a lot of talk.
In early September, Kate and Gerry became official suspects.
Their warm tide of support turned decidedly cool. Had they cruelly conned us all?
The public needed to know, and who had seen Gerry at around 9pm on the fateful night? Jes.
Tonight with Trevor McDonald, GMTV, the Sun, the News of the World, the Sunday Mirror, the Daily Express, the Evening Standard and the Independent on Sunday began calling.
Jes's office stopped putting through calls from people asking to speak to "Jeremy" (only his grandmother calls him that). Some emails told him that he would be "better off" if he spoke to them or he would "regret it" if he didn't, implying that it was in his interest to defend himself - they didn't say what from.
Quietly, we began to worry that Jes might be next in line for some imagined blame or accusation.
On a Saturday night in September, he received a call: we were on the front page of the News of the World.
They had surreptitiously taken photographs of us, outside the house.
There were no more details.
We went to bed, but we could not sleep. "Maddie: the secret witness," said the headline, "TV boss holds vital clue to the mystery." Unfortunately, Jes does not hold any such vital clues.
In November, he inched through the events of that May night with Leicestershire detectives, but he saw nothing suspicious, nothing that would further the investigation.
Throughout all this, I have always believed that Gerry and Kate McCann are innocent.
When they were made suspects, when they were booed at, when one woman told me she was "glad" they had "done it" because it meant that her child was safe, I began to write this article - because I was there, and I believe that woman is wrong.
There were no drug-fuelled "swingers" on our holiday; instead, there was a bunch of ordinary parents wearing Berghaus and worrying about sleep patterns. Secure in our banality, none of us imagined we were being watched.
One group made a disastrous decision; Madeleine was vulnerable and was chosen.
But in the face of such desperate audacity, it could have been any one of us.
And when I stroke my daughter's hair, or feel her butterfly lips on my cheek, I do so in the knowledge of what might have been. But our experience is nothing, an irrelevance, next to the McCanns' unimaginable grief. Their lives will always be touched by this darkness, while the true culprit may never be brought to light.
So my heart goes out to them, Gerry and Kate, the couple we remember from our
Portuguese holiday. They had a beautiful daughter, Madeleine, who played and danced with ours at the kiddie club. That's who we remember.
© Bridget O'Donnell 2007.
· Bridget O'Donnell is a writer and director. The fee from this article will be donated to the Find Madeleine fund (

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Pat Brown Probes The Algarve In The Search For Maddie

American Criminal Profiler probes McCann mystery
She arrived in Lisbon from Washington, D.C wheeling a travel-worn suitcase and carrying a metal detector. Inside her suitcase, she’d packed a soil probe and a spade.
 Pat Brown - Criminal Profiler, TV commentator and author - was on a mission. As social networking sites buzzed with the news – split between those that wished her well, and those that vociferously didn’t – Brown was undeterred. “This has nothing to do with self-publicity. I am simply trying to get to the truth”. We caught up with her when Brown arrived in the Algarve after meetings in the capital with Gonçalo Amaral and others who have put their reputations on the line in an attempt to solve the millennium’s greatest mystery.

One of the first questions we asked was why an American criminal profiler and TV personality felt the need cross the Atlantic to Portugal to investigate a missing person’s case that was almost five years old?
“Two reasons,” she told us. “One is that I have always been passionately involved in a search for the truth. It’s not something that makes me popular, but it’s something I care about above my own reputation as this case threatens to prejudice the way missing person’s cases are handled.
“We have a situation here where there are two parents who have refused to cooperate fully with a police investigation – who have refused to answer questions, who have changed their stories and fled from jurisdiction – but who have then taken their story - in the way they want us to believe it - to the media, asking people to donate money to fund a search for a child who, statistically-speaking, is almost certainly dead!
“I can understand bereaved parents doing some crazy things, but never have I seen parents like this before! Their actions have opened the door to speculation.
“My other reason is to show support for Gonçalo Amaral and freedom of speech”. Amaral faces trial for defamation of the McCanns over the publication of his book, “The Truth of the Lie” in which he maintains that three-year-old Madeleine McCann died in apartment 5a on the night of May 3rd 2007. His trial was originally set for February 9th -10th, but postponed. Brown decided to take advantage of her booked flight to see if she could learn anything new by visiting the crime scene.
And did she?
“Yes, absolutely. I discovered more about the situation on the street; I learnt about the locks on the doors and how they work; how the shutter and window would be impossible to open from the outside; about the kind of terrain here – but my line of thought has remained the same: there are two simple answers to this crime.
“The simplest answer is that Madeleine was abducted by a local predator (in which case she would almost certainly have been killed within two to three hours) – and the second simplest answer is that she died in a tragic accident and her body was disposed of.
“To eliminate the second simplest answer, we have to establish without doubt that there was an abduction – and that hasn’t happened”.
Does she believe, like Gonçalo Amaral, that what’s needed is a reconstruction of the night Madeleine went missing?
“Hell yes! And that’s what they have consistently refused to go along with – all of them: the McCanns and the rest of the Tapas group! The McCanns particularly have been their own worst enemies. They could provide answers in a number of ways: by taking part in a reconstruction, by submitting to polygraph testing. You see, they have to be eliminated in order for the first simplest answer to be the highest probability!
“Another aspect that truly bothers me is the promotion of mythology. Sex rings have become the new bogeyman. Every parent has been made to fear that their child could be grabbed by a sex ring – but sex rings do not operate in hotel complexes!
If a sex ring wants a child, it grabs one off the streets in some poor neighbourhood. It doesn’t snatch a middle-class child from its bed while on holiday, particularly when - if the stories we’re led to believe are true - all the parents were jumping up and down from their dinner table every 15 minutes to check on their children! Any abductor would be lying in wait thinking “when the heck am I going to get a chance to break into an apartment!”

Brown’s experience of profiling began when she was already in her 40s and had been working as a sign language interpreter on hospital trauma wards for over a decade. During those years she “saw everything”: gunshot wounds, stab and rape casualties, victims and villains. The experience taught her a lot about life, crime and circumstance – and then she found herself having rented a room for four weeks to a man she believed should have been “a person-of-interest” in a brutal sexual homicide.

This unsettling experience was the start of her interest in profiling and how homicide cases are handled. It took six years for the police to bring the man in for questioning and declare him a suspect in the murder – and it led to Brown specialising in a profession that invariably finds itself called in way too late.
“One of my ambitions is to make profilers a prerequisite on all police forces,” she told us. “We need to be called in right at the beginning. Crime scenes need better handling”.
“If parents were separated when police first arrived on the scene, along with everyone else involved, it would be much easier to verify everyone’s stories - and a true timeline could be established.
“In this case, the McCanns and their friends were given days to confer with each other. The result is that in order to look better maybe, or to explain things that are embarrassing, they may have screwed up the timeline to the extent that they look guilty. Or, if the McCanns were involved in the death of their daughter, they had a chance to get their stories straight”.
So what’s the bottom line? Will this case ever be solved? “If it could be proved that Gerry McCann was at the dinner table in the Tapas restaurant between 9.15 and 9.55” (when a man looking apparently very much like Gerry McCann was seen by an Irish family carrying a child in pink pyjamas over his shoulder as he walked in the direction of the beach) “then that would be proof that there was an abduction”.
“If the cadaver dogs were right” (brought in three months after Madeleine went missing, and which reacted positively to the possibility that a dead body had lain in the apartment) “then there was no abduction”.
And for those two details to be established, we’re back to the reasoning of former police officer in charge of the case, Gonçalo Amaral: there has to be a reconstruction of that fateful night of 3rd May 2007 – using all parties involved.
“But so far as we know, that doesn’t look like happening any day soon!” Brown shakes her head. “I honestly don’t know what the Metropolitan Police are doing with their current review of the case - which is costing millions of pounds. As far as I can see, they haven’t started where they should have started – with crime scene reconstruction.
“That’s where there’s the best crack at getting to the truth!”

Was Madeleine Abducted?

Four years after she disappeared in Portugal, Madeleine McCann has not been found. Kate McCann has written her account of her daughter's disappearance and the aftermath By Enid O'Dowd

Town and Village, June 2011

You're meeting seven neighbours, with eight children under four between you, in one of Ranelagh's many restaurants, only 120 metres or so from your homes which you can't see from the restaurant; what do you do about childcare?

That was the 'almost' equivalent dilemma faced by Kate and Gerry McCann and their friends on their holiday in Praia da Luz in May 2007 – except they were not on their home patch as you were in Ranelagh. The group, which became known as the Tapas nine and six of whom were doctors, decided to make 30 minute checks. This system, Kate claims, had worked on previous evenings but when she checked at 10 pm on Thursday May 3rd, Madeleine was not there and, despite an international search involving the Portuguese and UK police and private detectives, she has still not been found.

Last month Kate McCann published "Madeleine - our daughter's disappearance and the continuing search for her". In the foreword of the book she states that her "reason for writing the book is to give an account of the truth". Isn't that odd phraseology - surely there can only be one version of the truth? All kinds of tales have circulated about Madeleine's disappearance according to Kate, and indeed they have; the publication of this "truthful" book seems to have accelerated the internet debates on the discrepancies in the McCanns' story.

The book is actually the story of Kate's life to date. It covers her childhood, her education, her meeting and marriage to Gerry McCann and the births of their three children. The McCanns needed a series of IVF treatments to become parents which makes it all the more odd that they would leave three children under four in an unlocked apartment on the ground floor in a foreign country.

According to Kate, all three children were good sleepers. She did not want to use the evening crèche provided by the holiday company; understandable as her children had a routine and were in bed by the time the crèche opened at 7.30 pm.

She argues on p. 54 that it would have been unwise to leave the children with someone neither they nor themselves knew. Yet her children were happy in the day childcare facilities and had come to know the staff who were available, at extra cost, to babysit for clients in the evening.

She states "we felt so secure we simply didn't think it was necessary (to hire a babysitter) and our own apartment was only 30-45 seconds away".

An astonishing statement.

Surely security concerns are not the main reason parents organise babysitters? As a GP, she more than anyone, would appreciate that the risks of leaving children alone at night do not relate to "security" but to other factors, like vomiting and choking, waking up from a nightmare, wetting the bed, and febrile convulsions which affect one in twenty children under five.

Kate does not mention a witness statement by Pamela Fenn who lived in the apartment above stating that she heard a child crying for 75 minutes on Tuesday May 1st calling for "daddy". This contradicts Kate's statement of 30 minute checks.

The book cover proclaims that all royalties are donated to the Madeleine Fund. A company called Madeleine Fund: Leaving No Stone Unturned Ltd was incorporated on 15 May 2007. According to Kate, over the weekend of 11th, 12th and 13th May she and Gerry had meetings in Praia da Luz with a paralegal from the International Family Law Group and a barrister. The barrister told them "our behaviour (in leaving the children unattended) could not be deemed negligent" and was "well within the bounds of reasonable parenting".

The legal pair suggested the McCanns use London solicitors Bates Wells and Braithwaite to set up a company to manage the funds that would be donated. On p.137 she records that this firm drew up articles of association for the fighting fund (limited com and talked to the Charity Commission who ruled that the proposed company did not meet the requirements for charity status as it focussed on one child and did not meet the public benefit test. Hence Kate says, the decision was that "it would be a 'not for profit' private limited company. It was set up with great care and due diligence by experts in the field".

From the dates Kate gives, it would appear that Bates Wells and Braithwaite could not have had instructions to act until Monday May 14th, yet they were able to incorporate the company the very next day.

A day is very little time for the solicitors to have drafted company documents for this proposed company which was not an ordinary trading company, to have agreed the documents with their clients the McCanns who were in Portugal and also to have obtained a ruling from the Charity Commission.

And what was the hurry given that Madeleine could have been found at this early stage of the investigation?

On p.138 Kate says "everyone agreed that despite the costs involved it (the company) must be run to the highest standards of transparency".

To date, three sets of accounts have been filed with the UK Company's office. In the first set going to March 2008 an analysis of expenditure is given though this is not a statutory requirement under UK law. However the accounts filed for the years to March 2009 and to March 2010 give no expenditure analysis. Now this is perfectly legal but not the "transparency" to which Kate referred. In 2009 for example the only expenditure information filed gives the merchandising and campaign costs as £974,786 and the administration expenses as £30,865. Not very informative!

When the McCanns were made arguidos (suspects) in September 2007 Kate refused on legal advice to answer the 48 questions put to her. This was her legal right but the refusal fuelled the doubts about her story. It is understandable why she might not want to answer questions in a foreign country with the possibility of mistranslations complicating her difficult situation but surely there is no reason now not to put the record straight by answering the questions in her book. She doesn't do so.

British sniffer dogs Eddie and Keela and their handler Martin Grime were used by the Portuguese authorities. These dogs had a 100% accuracy rate in 200 cases and found both blood and cadaver (dead body) traces in various places in the holiday apartment and in the boot of the car rented after the disappearance. Kate says that research Gerry conducted after the Portuguese police showed them the video of the dogs' search revealed that dog evidence is unreliable. She quotes Gerry as dismissing the sniffer dog video as "the most subjective piece of evidence gathering imaginable". She claims that the dogs had merely been trying to please their instructor.

If you read this book without having read the other material available which questions the abduction theory, you could not fail to have the greatest of sympathy for the McCanns. However, it is a statistical fact that in the majority of missing children cases, a family member, a neighbour or someone known to the child, is involved. The Portuguese police would have been negligent if they did not consider this possibility. They did not find any forensic evidence of an intruder in the apartment which had been to some extent contaminated by the Tapas group searching the apartment when Kate raised the alarm.

Since the book was published last month, Scotland Yard has agreed to conduct a review. A reconstruction of that evening which the Tapas nine initially agreed to do but which never happened would help. Hopefully the review will be independent with the co-operation of all and with no possibilities excluded.

The book costs €15.99 in local shops and is published by Bantamress.

Relevant Websites
(includes Portuguese police files) ... une_11.pdf