It is eight years to the day since the attempts of the McCanns to conceal the real course of the Portuguese investigation from the British public collapsed. It was perhaps the most daring and successful criminal deception in UK history, not just in its lies but in the sheer, extraordinary, scale and ambition of the effort.
But at 3.17PM on August 6 2007 two dogs were brought into an underground car park in Praia da Luz and during the next two hours, in a strange and slightly sinister atmosphere that can still be picked up on the video recording, things changed for ever.
Kate McCann partially acknowledged this in her own inimitable way in Madeleine: “It was on Monday 6 August that the atmosphere changed…” But that was in 2011 when circumstances had driven her into her own version of "openness" in the book that has been described as “reading like a defence brief for some future trial”.
According to her she was “ambushed” that afternoon by a media pack and left shaking by claims that the dogs had been turned loose on apartment 5A as well. But even as the "not-suspects" strategy of concealment fell into ruin and uproar in Portugal they went on pretending to the UK public:
“Today was again very busy,” began Gerry’s blog for the Brits that evening, rather like the captain of the Titanic describing “a damp but bustling scene” as the waters rose around his neck, “I went to a large office store in Portimao to buy a new printer and ink”.
He was going to front it out to the end.
Madeleine, though, has half a dozen purple coloured and richly comical pages describing the dreadful, nay terrifying, effect that the PJ’s nasty behaviour and the wicked press rumours had on her and her husband - their phone calls in search of help, their tears and “despair” at these rumours and, most of all, the impact all this was having on what really mattered: their media interviews lined up for Day One Hundred. Oh, Maddie, Maddie, how could they let you suffer like this.
She describes Day 99, August 10, in detail. How she’d woken that morning deprived of sleep and feeling awful and then, for Madeleine’s sake, had forced herself to face the horrific and hostile press pack.
“It was a terrible day: both the atmosphere and the line of questioning followed by the press were intensely antagonistic. Their focus, dictated by the behaviour of both the police and some sections of the media over the past few days, was very different from ours. We wanted to talk about one hundred days without Madeleine, the search and the launch of ‘Don’t You Forget About Me” on YouTube; they wanted to talk about blood and dogs.”
Tragic, don’t you think? But somehow she got through it all. “Later,” she finishes her description of the day, the British consul came over to discuss “the recent problems with the media and the way we had been treated by the police. Alan Pike [for it is he] also flew out from the UK on a mercy mission…it all helped to strengthen our armour.”
Missing from her description of this long Calvary are two words: “Campbell” and “Lori”.
Readers relatively new to the Bureau may wonder at our disgust and contempt for the Mirror newspaper, our delight at its current dire financial plight and, in particular, our repeated and entirely accurate descriptions of the rag as a “criminal enterprise”.
Lori Campbell of the Mirror only has one entry in Madeleine’s index but was, as is well-known, Kate McCann’s closest media contact, the person she fed her leaks to throughout the investigation – while insisting that she was silenced “by the secrecy rules” – and someone she turned to whenever the police were getting too close. Really close, as on the day after she was made an arguido when Lori and Kate together invented the story that the PJ had offered her the famous "deal".
August 10 and 11 were two such days. The windy and tear-jerking verbiage of pages 208-216 of Madeleine, exactly like the windy and tear-jerking fiction of the scene where the “deal” was supposedly discussed on September 7, pages 242-245, are a cover for what was really going on. Desperate situations prompt desperate measures: on those two days Kate McCann and Lori Campbell were putting together an extraordinary concoction of outright lies and invented sources to try and pre-empt the dog findings.
There were no “interpretations” by Campbell, no “misunderstandings” of the detailed conversations the pair had that day, no third parties or Chinese whispers involved to distort the message. It came straight from Kate as the “grieving mother” set about trying to save her sorry arse.
The report in the Mirror
- Alive When Taken
followed by a Sunday Mirror
editorial further down - perhaps the most embarrassing editorial ever written - has to be seen to be believed. Its purpose was to make the claim that police evidence had demonstrated that the child could not have died in the apartment.
Telling the British public the lie that the police evidence had already cleared her was an astonishing and incredibly risky move. Why did she do it? And why did she do it so soon after the dogs had been deployed? It only makes sense if Kate McCann could already feel the PJ's fingers on her collar - that even though they hadn't told her the results of the dog searches, the end was probably approaching.
What would the PJ make of her actions when they found out? She dismissed the question: they'd already started to show their hand so the pose as innocent victim was no longer sustainable - let them think what they want: if the dogs really had found firm evidence of death in the apartment then she was finished anyway. The UK, on the other hand, was where her support against the Portuguese police had always been: it was there that belief in her innocence had to be maintained for future use, whatever the local risk.
In this, her analysis proved to be far-sighted and accurate. The threat from the UK police was harder to assess amid the conflicting signals she was getting but in the end it was a chance she was prepared to take. She can hardly be blamed for not foreseeing that the case files would be released to the public to publicly demonstrate some of her lies, nor could she have imagined that seven years on Scotland Yard would, in the most creepy and unnerving fashion, issue public statements specifically dismantling them.
So she took the risk. She and Campbell constructed the story together before sending it on to the Mirror’s London offices. It stated as official fact:
Police had specific evidence from the apartment that the child was still alive when she left
Madeleine was kidnapped, as the toy she had fallen asleep with was left on a ledge placed too high for a child to reach proved
There was a window of less than five minutes for a kidnapper to pounce - not enough time to kill her and clean up
Police did not believe blood found in the apartment was Madeleine's as it was not consistent with signs of a struggle
The McCanns had been told in a secret meeting with police within days of May 4 that the child was alive when she left the apartment
then invented “a police source” to disguise the fact that the source of this stuff was Kate McCann herself. The supposed police source was quoted as saying:
"Although there has been much speculation about a 'lost hour' in which Madeleine could have been taken...the kidnapping must have been meticulously planned. Police found no fingerprints or DNA on the Cuddle Cat or in the room, indicating the intruder wore gloves.”
In return for printing this stuff the Mirror
, of course, was able to print the “nasty rumours” about the pair’s possible culpability without any objections from the couple themselves.
To disguise your sources is one thing. For a historic national newspaper with a proud tradition to do so by deliberately inventing a police source and putting fictitious claims in its mouth about an important crime is something else - a deception and a betrayal of readership trust from which a paper can rarely, if ever, recover.
Criminal deception usually catches up with you in the end, whether you are a newspaper or a pair of pathological liars. Campbell's dodgy journalist partner Ross Hall passed her record of Kate McCann's claims on to the News of the World, which is now dead. As the Mirror drifts helplessly towards the rocks of insolvency or takeover so the couple face their own consequences. What do you think that the British and Portuguese re-investigations have made of this? Taken the Dizzy Izzy Duarte line and said that’s just old out of date stuff?
And what does Kate think they think? Perhaps the famous "voodoo doll" picture of a hair-sprouting Kate McCann on Crimewatch
tells us. Of the five claims above two - cuddle cat and the "secret meeting" - were exposed as non-existent by the release of the case files and the other three were publicly,specifically and ruthlessly excluded in 2013/14 by Operation Grange. Gosh, you'd almost think the Yard were tracking her claims and dismantling them step by step, wouldn't you?