The Payne family had a baby monitor and did not check their children during meals. That left four members of the Tapas 7 who claimed they did, the Oldfield couple and O’ Brien and Tanner. All four emphatically claimed in their May 4 police statements that their children were checked “every 15 minutes”.
...and the reality
Not one member of the Tapas 7 and neither of the parents ever volunteered the truth to the police: that Madeleine McCann was checked, at the very most, only once during the entire evening.
Have a look at O’ Brien’s first timeline again:
8.45 Everyone meets at the pool for dinner
9.00 9.00 Matt Oldfield listens at the windows of apts 5A, B, D. ALL blinds are
9.15 Gerry McCann goes to the room? Bedroom door open.
9.20 Jane tanner checks 5D, sees a stranger carrying child
9.30 Russell 0 Brien in 5D, child is sick
10.00 Alarm given after Kate
Now, can you see the significance of the 8.45 entry? The document is an attempt to show that, as he and the other three claimed, all the children except the Payne’s were checked every 15 minutes – dead on. That is why “everyone” had to be there at 8.45 – so that the first and second “checks” on Madeleine take place exactly on time at 9 and 9.15.
So far so good, except it comes to a sudden halt. Where is the next fifteen minute check – the one due at 9.30? It isn’t there. And the 9.45 one? Where’s that?
On the second timeline a 9.30 check has been inserted. But how can it be a “check” since nobody seems to know if, like Schrödinger’s Cat, the child was dead or alive, present or taken after Jane Tanner’s 9.20 sighting? And instead of the 9.45 scheduled check which, again would have revealed whether the child was present or not, there is only “9.50 Russell returns”.
It is evident that O’ Brien’s attempt to show that Madeleine McCann was indeed being checked at fifteen minute intervals, as all four claimed, cannot succeed, even with the assistance of Gerry McCann and David Payne.
For their part Kate & Gerry McCann, whose statements resembled the performance of a synchronised swimming team, so near-perfect was their agreement, told the police next day that the checks were every half an hour, a much more difficult matter to disprove. The others, however, stuck to their unsustainable “every fifteen minutes” even though they couldn’t provide examples.
It seems quite clear that there was no co-ordinated plot by all nine to get the timelines right on May 3 before meeting the police. There was neither time nor opportunity to do so and the police statements are chaotically divergent. This refutes all ideas that the child may have come to harm before 5.30 on May 3 with an efficient cover up by the group. There wasn’t a cover-up, only a mess.
There are, however, three and a half years later, significant questions still needing to be pursued. What exactly was happening between 9 and 9.30 PM? Why did O’ Brien’s first timeline suddenly run out of steam after 9.15, around the time of the supposed sighting? Had something happened? And just how could a supposedly responsible group have literally lost sight of one of their children for at least three quarters of an hour, even though one of them had seen a decidedly dodgy looking man hurrying away from the apartments with an inert child in his arms? Did it really never occur to Jane Tanner to glance at Madeleine McCann’s bedroom window as she walked past it a few minutes later, the memory of that far from reassuring stranger fresh in her mind?
The group, and primarily the seven, made it as hard as they could to answer these questions. As they still do. Over the weekend following the first interviews they pooled their memories of what they had told the police and embarked on Timeline 3. It is important to note that the effort was not led or co-ordinated by the McCanns, but by David Payne.
It is a plan to avoid action against themselves for child endangerment or neglect. Payne’s plan can be seen emerging in the police interviews and was clear and simple.
None of us endangered our children; we had been led to believe that the Mark Warner half-hourly listening check system operated in this, as in their other resorts; on arrival we found it did not; we therefore carefully instituted our own system based on Mark Warner’s legally unchallenged methods – every half hour – but with visual checks in addition , an improvement on MW. Therefore we were following best practice.
Cute, eh? Charge us and you’ll have to charge Mark Warner.
The group copied the timeline to British consular staff. Not the least consequence of their selfish and irresponsible actions was the misleading of the Foreign Office: the apparent clean bill of health which it gave to their behaviour on May 3 contributed to the misunderstanding between the FO and the Portuguese police.
In no sense was the agreed timeline an attempt to help the investigation; quite the reverse. With the abandonment of the 8.45 start time and the neat fifteen minute intervals the “regular checks” descended into chaos and stage farce: Mathew Oldfield is moved around like a puppet, checking children whose parents had apparently only just left them, chasing up the “late” Paynes and deciding to help Brien with his sick daughter. After that he goes blind.
The unalterable presence of the independent Jeremy Wilkins leads to a situation akin to a signalman discovering that he has switched all trains onto one line: Tanner, Wilkins, Gerry McCann and the abductor all converge, head on, from different directions. Signalman Payne tries to avert the crash by putting Jane Tanner on red in the tapas bar while Gerry McCann steams off ahead. Then he has to make McCann stop for a lavatory break and switch Jane Tanner onto a passing loop by Wilkins and McCann. An invisible passing loop.
Of course there never had been any checking “system”. It so happened that Jane Tanner and her partner were moving between restaurant and apartment at intervals that night because their helpless child needed frequent medical attention and around those forced visits the fairy tail of regular checking was spun. Others, then and on previous nights, occasionally wandered out at random for fresh air and a brief look or listen, according to whim – perhaps. Gerry McCann apparently returned to his apartment between 8.55 and 9.15. We do not know why. Nobody else ever went near her nor was she ever seen again.
The three timelines and the police interviews between them show the way a protective, weak and ultimately unsustainable cover story was created to protect all nine. It was carried out on May 5 and 6. It was inconsistent with all their police statements.
There is no direct evidence that it was created to protect Gerry and Kate McCann against accusations of involvement in the disappearance of the child, rather than neglect charges. It is undeniable, however, that the group did lie to, and mislead, the Portuguese police, as Express newspapers, from whom they wrongly accepted libel damages, claimed.
The consequences were extremely serious, and here we come to the issue at the heart of the whole case: the damage they did to the investigation and their absolute refusal over three and a half years to assist in rectifying it. In particular:
- The police were faced with undeniable evidence that they were not telling the truth
- Faced with this the police had to investigate why and what they might be hiding, using up time that could have been otherwise used
- The smokescreen they created made it much harder to gain a clear picture of the movements of Gerry McCann
- Their failure to check on Madeleine McCann and their attempts at collective amnesia, made it impossible to determine the time of her disappearance
- Their refusal to agree to additional questioning by the Portuguese police made it impossible to clarify their evidence and
- As a direct result made it impossible for the prosecutor to exonerate the parents and move the search on in other directions, a situation which remains to this day.
At any time it is open to the Tapas 7 to volunteer new evidence by confessing the reasons for lying to the Portuguese authorities. They just won’t do it. And the parents won’t ask them to. This is why the clamour for them to return to Portugal grows ever louder. Perhaps only court action by the Express group will force them to defend their decision to mislead the investigation.
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Jeffrey Archer and his lawyers once thought they could outwit and outsmart the newspapers. Archer eventually ended up in prison.
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