As Kate McCann declared during an interview to mark the 10th anniversary of the alleged disappearance of her beloved daughter Madeleine .... 10 years is a great marker of time. A strange comment to make about a missing daughter, you'd think every year is the same day in day out - nothing but heartache until the day you die. Still grief is a very personal thing, perhaps it was Ms McCann's way of coping before the cameras after ten years of grief - who knows.
One thing is very apparant, time has prominently featured around every corner of this convoluting mystery of Madeleine McCann's disappearance. Mystery because of the circumstances surrounding the disappearance, the aftermath that has created confusion in the minds of so many interested observers - hardly surprising with all that time to mull over the official case files, the media reports, social media etc. The case has become a minefield of theory, speculation and malinformation; some might say by deliberate campaign on behalf of the McCann faction, others might say it's all just cashing-in on someone's misfortune - perhaps a combination of the two might be nearer the truth.
From the moment Kate McCann was said to have raised the alarm when she discovered Madeleine missing from her bed at approximately 22:00h on the night of 3rd May, time has taken the leading role in this long running saga. From the McCanns own version of the truth, that of their group of holiday friends, their family and friends back home, early media reports and of course staff and other guests at the Ocean Club holiday complex. They all played their part.
Of course no one expects the Ocean Club staff nor the guests during that week, to recount timing with any degree of accuracy - that would be unrealistic, nonethless the investigative police force would use the collective timings to help draw a picture of events. This is the very point where it all starts to get very messy indeed.
The McCann team made full use of the Portuguese policing secrecy policy operational at the time, it enabled them to hide from answering awkward questions and so they used the grapevine to scatter their campaign propaganda worldwide which was largely assisted by the services of a UK government spindoctor, seconded to the Portuguese Algarve to control media representation. The Portuguese police investigation was restricted to the respective testamonies of the McCann couple and their group of friends holidaying with them, there was really nothing else to guide them apart from the word of those in and around the Ocean Club complex.
Unbeknown to the key players in this saga and the public in general, in accordance with Portuguese law, when the case was archived the case files were made available for public scrutiny, that's to say in this particular case, released into the public domain. Not normally any big deal but as regards the case of a missing three year old child, the McCann campaign team and UK press were very anxious to get their hands on this valuable documentation. Had it not been for that simple fact, the PJ files being released into the public arena, like as not, the public would be none the wiser.
The witness statements of the McCanns and their group of friends have been scrutinised, analysed, compared, pulled-apart, sown back together, twisted, turned, exhausted so there's hardly any ink left to see. What remains crucial is the contradictory content of the key witness statements - timing! Where - when - how - why? The first witness statements of this group were taken by the PJ on Friday 4th May 2007, the second round of interviews on 10/11th May - when memory is at it's freshest. You'd think at this early stage, statements would show some consistency as regards the where - when - how - why, curiously the collective recollection of events improved dramatically almost one year later, when the group were again interviewed by rogatory process back in the UK.
In short no one seems able to say, with any certainty, where they were at any given time during that week. Even the night of the 3rd May at the Tapas restaurant, there is no clear indication of the group's movements. Naturally, timing is a key element to any criminal investigation, this case was no different so it was to the groups advantage that not one of them could be pinned down to a specific time and place during the whole week. Not even the Ocean Club records - the crech register the Tapas bookings the Milennium restaurant the tennis court bookings - could confirm the groups movements during the whole week.
The most important element is of course Madeleine McCann. There is no doubt that Madeleine arrived at the Ocean Club with her parents and siblings early afternoon on Saturday 28th April 2007. One independent witness, the daughter of the Ocean Club cleaner allocated to apartment 5a, claims to have seen Madeleine and her family leave apartment 5a at lunchtime on Sunday 29th April, on their way to eat with one of their friends in a neighbouring apartment. That was the last independent witness to testify Madeleine's presence at the Ocean Club, after that nothing that could be said to be beyond reasonable doubt!
There were however two important sightings that greatly influenced the direction of the PJ investigation - at least for a time. One was that of McCann friend Jane Tanner, who claims to have witnessed a man walking along the street close to apartment 5a, carrying a child dressed in what appeared to be only pyjamas even though the stranger was fully dressed, as she saidhe didn't appear to be a tourist. Then there was a family of holidaymakers , three of whom testified to having seen a strange man walking the streets of Luz at approximately 22:00h on the night of 3rd May, coincidentally also described as not looking like a tourist and carrying a child dressed only in pyjamas. The investigation soon ruled out these two seemingly irrelevant alleged sightings.
Under the leadership of DCI Andy Redwood, Operation Grange was created by the Metropolitan Police in May 2011, a unit assigned to review and later in May 2013, to re-investigate Madeleine McCann's disappearance, thought the two sightings to be of great significance. So much so, that DCI Andy Redwood took the lead in a Crimewatch Madeleine McCann Special, broadcast in September 2013, in order to bury Jane Tanner's sighting once and for all by the creation of a man who must have been hibernating for six years as it only just occured to him he might have been the man witnessed by Jane Tanner on the night of 3rd May 2007. What a relief that must have been for Jane Tanner - to finally be rid of the burden of the monster she'd created six years prior.
Well, that nuisance out of the way, DCI Andy Redwood thought it the right time to re-introduce detail of the other sighting, previously dismissed by the invetigative authority back in the summer of 2007. DCI Andy Redwood used the Crimewatch production to showcase two e-fits, said to be of the same man, based on the individual the family of holidaymakers claim to have seen at around 22:00h on 3rd May. The e-fits based on the second sighting, that had been in existence for a number of years but only just come to the fore, became the focus of the Operation Grange investigation. This 'revelation' as he called it, altered the whole timeline providing the alleged abductor extra minutes to abduct - thus making the abduction theory more plausible, so he thought!
DCI Andy Redwood, surprisingly, didn't appear to place any importance on the inconsistant and contradictory McCann group's witness statements, or later rogatory interviews. He opted instead to focus all his attention on two alleged sightings that had been investigated and ruled-out by the PJ in the summer of 2007. He retired from police service in December 2014, an untimely move considering Operation Grange were still being allocated special funding to continue the review/investigation of the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.
So from the timeline scribbled on the cover of Madeleine's sticker book handed to the police by team McCann on the night of 3rd May 2007; the important timing of the poolside photograph said to have been taken on 3rd May; right down to DCI Andy Redwood's revelation moment in October 2013, the clock is still ticking.
Time and tide waits for no man - almost twleve years down the line and the clock is still ticking. Time is of the essence.