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Sightings revisited

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Sightings revisited

Post by Verdi on 07.05.18 22:00

Never let it be said my memory fails me confused

So let's kickoff with this one..





Feel free to add.

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Re: Sightings revisited

Post by Verdi on 04.07.18 1:28



My name is Maddie. They took me from my holidays

Público (no online link, appears in paper edition only)

By Andreia Sanches and Paul Torres de Carvalho
19 August 2008
Thanks to 'lisbonirish' for translation

Dozens of files. Hundreds of witness questioning records. Dozens of likenesses, letters, notes. P2 has read many of the pages that have piled up on the desks of the inspectors who investigated the disappearance of the English girl in the Algarve. Will we ever know what happened to Madeleine?

By Andreia Sanches and Paula Torres de Carvalho.

Fourteen months of searches, witness statements, leads – some ruled out, others followed up. "The conclusion one can draw from all the work that has been carried out (…) is that it is not possible to concretely and objectively determine what really happened" on the night of the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, the PJ concluded in a report included in the thousands of pages of the "Maddie Case", which were released from judicial secrecy only days ago.

In the last two weeks, the child’s parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, their private investigators and their lawyers have been studying the files in detail. The press as well. What did the PJ do with the information they received? What leads are still worth following up? That is what they hope to find out in the files.

In a Dutch shop with "no emotion showing in her face"

Lunchtime, somewhere between 1.00 p.m. and 2.00 p.m. on a day in May. Anna Martha Stam, a 42-year-old Dutch citizen, was with her colleagues in the shop where she works – a joke article shop in Amsterdam – when the couple entered. He "had a light moustache" and wasn't very nice. She "was slender" and spoke with a French accent. At least that was what remained in the shop assistant's mind, though she admits that she doesn't recall the couple all that well. She has a much better memory of the child in their company, a little girl who approached her at one stage. "My name is Maddie", said the girl in accent-free English.

Anna Stam is not the only person in the world after 3 May 2007 – the date on which Madeleine McCann, aged 3, disappeared from apartment 5A of the Ocean Club in Praia da Luz – has claimed to have spoken to someone "aged four or five" who not only looked like Maddie but also said her name was Maddie. But her witness statement taken by the Dutch police is particularly perturbing. "What attracted my attention was that she showed little or no emotion in her face", she told the Dutch police.

"She asked me in English: 'Do you know where my mummy is?' And I told her that her mother was back there in the shop." Anna was sure that the woman with the French accent was the girl's mother. But the child apparently replied: "She is not my mummy". And added: "They took me from my holidays".

The supposed "mother" later explained to the shop assistant that she had a small circus in France. She bought "scary masks", clown's clothes and "fake bloody fingers" and similar items totalling € 237.00. Then they all left the store. It was only later that Anna found out about the Praia da Luz case. Her witness statement was forwarded to the PJ on 15 June 2007.

In the lengthy case files now made available on the 14 months of investigation into the "Maddie Case" it is not clear what the PJ did with this statement or what follow-up work they carried out. And this has led to reactions. "We need to know what was done with this. This is exactly the type of prime information where we need to know if it duly taken into account by the police", the McCanns' spokesperson, Clarence Mitchell, told the BBC.

The Maltese lead: "You are not my mummy"

Kate and Gerry McCann, Maddie's parents, their private investigators and lawyers and the press have been dissecting the content of the thousands of pages of case files that were released from judicial secrecy: the main body of the files is made up of 17 volumes and 4,500 pages. And then there are 55 volumes of appendices and 22 files. Not all of the material was made public.

In the 14 volumes of "Appendix V" alone there are thousands of reports that make up, in the words of the PJ, "a large and dispersed web of supposed sightings and pinpointings" that "contained little, vague, contradictory, incompatible or incongruous information". Maddie was seen in Indonesia, Singapore, Mozambique, Syria. On 11 May, eight days after her disappearance, she was, according to many witness statements, in Brazil, Canada, Brussels, Zurich Airport and on the ferry to Ayamonte… all on the same day.

The rate of claimed sightings was "excessive" in the weeks of May, June and July… And they often meant that an unnecessary waste of time for those who had to investigate them. Because some of the reports "merited being looked into", as the hundreds of interview records and reports of other police work, involving both the Portuguese police and the police forces of other countries, show.

Others, however, were given minimum heed – on some reports one can even see handwritten notes by the investigators, such as: "no interest". Others again were put on hold for the future – awaiting "solid information".

It is not always clear what was done in a "supposed sighting" situation. For example, in the case of the two British tourists, twin sisters, who claimed to have travelled on a bus in Malta on 17 June 2007 "with a girl who looked very much like Madeleine McCann", and who even had "a peculiar mark in her right eye" – and Maddie does indeed have such a mark. The woman the child was travelling with "prevented" her from talking to the tourists "several times", they said. But the girl finally said to her: "You are not my mum".

The Maltese police showed interest in the witness statement and asked the PJ for more information: "Does the missing girl speak with a Scottish accent?" Maddie only speaks with an accent "when she is joking/mocking her father", who has such an accent, the PJ replied.

"Can we see mummy soon?"

Morocco was also the scene of numerous "sightings", as the PJ calls them. Anne Mari Olli, a 45-year-old Norwegian retired social worker living in Spain, for example, says that she saw a blonde girl looking sad in a petrol station in Marrakech. The girl was with a man who did not look like her father. "Can we see mummy soon", the child apparently asked. This was on 10 May, seven days after the disappearance in Praia da Luz. Olli only saw the news that evening. "I am certain that it was the girl", she says in one of the messages forwarded to the police in Portimao.

Information added by the PJ, dated 6 June, one month after the alleged "sighting", reveals that the CCTV footage from the petrol station, which had been requested by the British police, with the knowledge of the Portuguese police, "was not available in VHS, as they are very short and was taped over". The lead from the Norwegian woman led to nothing.

Around the same time, Madeleine, or someone who looks like her, was allegedly seen by many other people in the same region: on 19 May in a mansion in the area of Massira; on 15 June in Agadir; on 19 June in Marrakech; on 26 September again in Marrakech…

Report on a strong suspect

Two days after Madeleine's disappearance, a Portuguese emigrant in Germany, who was on holiday with his family in Sagres, went to the PJ in Portimao to report a situation that had alarmed him. A situation the PJ took very seriously: married to a German woman, a father of two children – a boy of almost three and a girl almost four years of age – Nuno de Jesus had gone to the beach at Mareta on 29 April 2007. His children were having fun in the sand "playing the normal games children of their age play", he said.

Between 4.00 p.m. and 5.00 p.m., Jesus "noticed the presence of an individual with a small, silver-coloured camera, who was covertly taking photos of his children in a detached way".

Nuno de Jesus states that, after having photographed his children, "the individual possibly took more photos of two boys, aged nine and five, who were the sons of a couple" next to them on the beach. Given this behaviour, and "assuming that the 'photographer's' objective was to kidnap his children or make illicit use of the photographs", Nuno de Jesus says he began to stare at the photographer in a threatening and aggressive way, which led him to move away and leave the beach", one can read in the interview statement taken by the PJ.

Later, the emigrant saw the same man again near a street café approaching his daughter. He had no doubt that the man's intention was to snatch the girl.

On the basis of this statement, the investigators drove to Sagres and established that a car similar to the one Jesus had described as belonging to the suspect had been hired by a Polish citizen, Wojciech Krokowski, who was in Portugal with his wife, Anetta Krokowski. They were staying in an apartment in Burgau, which is very close to Praia da Luz. All details of his stay in Portugal until his return home, via Berlin, were studied in minute detail.

The PJ inspectors determined that the couple returned home without a child. Their home in Warsaw was searched by the local police. "The result was negative. This couple does not have the missing child", states written information from Interpol, dated 6 May 2007.

The girl who shouted "help" in Mem Martins

The photographs showing a close-up of the blemish Madeleine McCann has in the iris of her right eyed travelled the world. It was a very particular mark, which, as the parents believed, would help anyone who saw her to recognise her. That is why they highlighted it a lot. And there were a lot of people around the country (and indeed around the world) who were bending down to look children they encountered straight into the eyes.

In addition to the shop assistant in Amsterdam and the twin sister tourists in Malta, there are dozens of witnesses who are very certain that they saw the child because of that special mark, as reports filed by the PJ show. On 13 May 2007, for example, a woman named Vontrat Sylvie contacted the police in Colmar (France), saying that, on 11 May, she had seen a gypsy couple with a pram carrying a child that did not look like their daughter at all. The woman said she had gone up to the girl, looked into her eye and that she had a mark. French police issued e-fit photos of the couple.

One month later, on 11 June, the PSP police force in Amadora, received a report from a man who had just seen a girl with straight blonde hair, dressed in a track suit and with a mark in her eye in a restaurant in Mem Martins. The man spoke some words to her, called her Madeleine. According to the man's report the child reacting by shouting: "Help!"

The man the child was with – 30-40 years old, 1.70 m (5’ 7’’), swarthy complexion, "of Magreb origin", suddenly got up and left with the girl in a black BMW "with an NL disk", meaning that it was likely from Holland, the witness said. The police went to the scene of the sighting, but never traced the child or the BMW.

The girl seen in Montpellier in France in February of this year by Melissa Fiering also had a mark in her right eye. Ms Fiering, aged 18, stopped at a roadside restaurant and saw a girl very similar to the child who had gone missing in the Algarve, whose photos she had seen in the news. When she called the "Maddie" to the child, she "looked surprised". And the man who was sitting next to the child suddenly got up and took her away. After viewing CCTV footage from the scene, police, however, concluded that this was a different child.

On 16 May this year, a man named Trevor Francis says he saw the girl on the Venezuelan island of Margarita. "She had a blemish in her right eye. I am 85% sure that it was her."

Gerry was also in a "sighting"

On 26 May, Martin Smith, an Irishman described by the Leicestershire police as a "decent" man who was not looking for fame, came to Portugal to give a statement to the PJ and tell them what he saw on the night of 3 May 2007, at around 10.00 p.m., in a street in Praia da Luz: a man carrying a child in his arms, with the child's head resting on the man's left shoulder.

The image he saw: a man approximately 175 to 180 cm tall (5’ 9’’ to 5’ 11’), 34/35 years old, short brown hair, and carrying a blonde girl wearing pyjamas "roughly four years of age", has never gone out of his head, he said.

On 20 September, the Irishman once again contacted the authorities. He was "distressed", going on to explain that when he saw the McCanns on the TV news on 9 September getting off the plane that had just landed in England, now as "arguidos" he sensed that he was witnessing a "repeat of the events of the night" on which he had seen the man "carrying the child back in Portugal". The way Gerry was carrying one of his children, Sean, whose head was resting on his shoulder, was "exactly" the same way the unidentified man in Portugal carried his child.

The PJ asked for more information. On 23 January Mr. Smith gave another statement to the police in Drogheda, Ireland. He repeated that he was 60 to 80 per cent sure that the man he had seen carrying a child in Praia da Luz was Gerry.

In the final report on the investigation, the PJ guarantee, however, that at the time Smith says he saw Gerry in the street, Madeleine's father was sitting at the table in the Tapas restaurant in the Ocean Club.

Inspector thought that "all of them" were lying

The police wanted to find out everything about the McCanns from the very beginning of the investigation. What they had eaten, the colour of the clothes they had on, what they had with them, what they were wearing, the arrangement of the furniture in the apartment they had rented in the Ocean Club, if they had left windows or doors open. And at what times they did what. Everything they could remember, the most minute details of the day on which their daughter Madeleine disappeared.

Kate and Gerry and all members of the group that dined in the resort restaurant (the Tapas) on 3 May while their children slept in their apartments, gave their version of the facts, a very consistent version. But, with time, the police detected "little distortions of the information they had initially given and one could register slight alterations to the truth, affecting the investigation and the direction they would force it to take", Chief Inspector Tavares de Almeida writes in a report included in the files.

The detailed reports submitted separately by Madeleine's father and mother on what they had done up to the disappearance of their daughter were not always coherent or identical. There was doubt, for example, as to whether or not they had slept in the same bed on the night before or how much time David Payne has spent in the McCanns' apartment on the afternoon of 3 May.

In the course of the investigation, Ricardo Paiva, the PJ inspector in charge of liaison between the police and the McCanns, reports, on 3 September, on "various instances of 'strange' behaviour on the part of the couple, as they gradually reacted increasingly negatively to the intensifying investigation work" being carried out by the PJ. Paiva makes reference to the fact that the couple suggested to the police that they continue to focus on the abduction theory and that they should not "forget to continue to investigate the suspect Robert Murat", the first person named arguido in the case.

The inspector also writes that "strangely enough, Kate McCann also requested several times, more than three months after Madeleine's disappearance, that the police carry out tests on Madeleine's twin siblings' blood, hair and nails", as she had remembered that, in the night of the disappearance, the twins had not woken up despite all the noise during the searches and that "now she presumed that they were under the effect of some kind of sedative" the abductor had given to the three children.

To the investigators, the "information gathered at the beginning from the family members and friends was uncertain" and "worked over" by the group so as to "support the version they presented and maintained".

Chief Inspector Tavares de Almeida believes that the information that led to the investigators suspecting Robert Murat not only delayed the investigation "but may have also resulted in the loss of the child". And he adds: the statements from the whole group result in total incoherence, in view of which one can easily believe all of them are lying".

From the other side with love

Many of the reports of "psychic visions" and "predictions", as the PJ calls them, related with the McCann case were not disclosed. The police opted to file them in 22 files together with diverse "speculative reports" for the "mere possibility of a future need to consult them". So they were kept. Even so, the files that have been released do contain various reports of this type, some of which the PJ received via Siren (the European police exchange of information system). One such case, dated 14 May: a German woman informed the local police that she had had a "vision" and that the child was in Sagres, in a specific house in a specific street (she even gave the precise address). The woman said she "sensed" the child was alive, but "in a bad way".

Other reports arrived by mail, sometimes written by hand. "I live in Haarlem, in the Netherlands" wrote another person who said he/she was an antiques dealer and that a friend of Kate and Gerry McCann had come to his/her shop asking for help. After communication with the angels, he/she managed to produce a sketch of Madeleine's alleged abductor: a bald man whose face "she couldn't get out of his/her head". The drawing is dated 06.06.07.

In the vision, the abductor was near a house where there was a cellar with a metal bed and toys. "The room with the metal bed was also seen in a dream by my friend David", he/she added, before signing off "with love" and leaving contact information and promising to pray for the investigation.

In June, Interpol in Wiesbaden (Germany) forwarded the following communication the PJ: "The possible abductor of Madeleine McCann is called Kathleen and was employed by Madeleine's father. The abduction was an act of revenge because her mother died three years ago due to wrong medical treatment prescribed by the Dr. McCann. Madeleine is already dead and is in a yellow house in the village of Bidea. The informant says she derived this information from using a pendulum".

On 23 August 2007 a new report: someone named Mark called a PJ team and informed them that Maddie was at "no. 19, Rue du Boulanger in Fez, Morocco". The inspector who signed the "information report" to be submitted to a superior officer does not give much more detail and concludes: "[the man who called] further stated that the girl's parents could thank him for this information by giving thanks to Our Lady of Fatima. That is all the information I have with regard to purposes deemed fitting". It was not clear if anyone was sent to the address in Fez.

What the police wanted to do but the judges wouldn't let them

As the McCanns gradually became the main target of suspicion, on 1 August PJ Inspector Joao Carlos applied for authorisation to bug the house Kate and Gerry were staying in and also the hired car they were using. The aim was to gather "new evidence" to support the theory that Madeleine had died in the holiday apartment in Praia da Luz.

But judge Pedro Frias from the district court of Lagos rejected the request on the grounds that the law does not allow for the bugging of conversations for any of the illicit acts being investigated. Bugging is only possible for crimes, with a prison sentence of more than three years, related with drug, weapons or contraband trafficking, or violence, threat or coercion.

In order to pinpoint the location of each of those involved, and determine the movements of the arguidos in the case, the PJ and the Prosecutor's Office also applied for authorisation to analyse the information in the telephone communication (calls and text messages) between the McCanns and their friends.

This application was also rejected by the judge, who argued that there was no "legal basis" for the request. In the magistrate's understanding, access to the text messages between Madeleine’s parents and people they had contact with would mean "taking knowledge of the contents of telephone conversations or communications already made without there having been a prior judicial authorisation order". Hence, the exchange of messages between them remain unknown.

Two million for a child

Throughout the investigation, the police made a point of stressing that "there was never a demand for a ransom". Although, in June 2007, an Ocean Club employee received a voice message on her mobile phone in which someone asked for money in exchange for the child, which was not taken seriously…

On the other hand, there was no shortage of attempts to extort money from the McCanns. For example, on 13 August 2007, at 00.33 a.m., an e-mail was sent to sosmaddie@yahoo.fr from a French e-mail address, that was quickly forwarded to the PJ: "The child is in Morocco, in a place called Beni Mellal, roughly 100 km from Marrakesh", the sender wrote, leaving a contact number and asking for $500,000 in exchange for more information. The person added: "I swear this is not a lie. I work and don't have time to waste on lies. You have an alternative – not to pay the money and never to see poor little Madeleine alive again."

Before that, in June, a demand for €2 million in exchange for information that would lead them to Madeleine arrived from the Netherlands. "You’d better believe me", the unknown person e-mailed to the parents. The man was later arrested and confessed that he knew nothing about Madeleine. The same was the case with a couple in Spain (a Portuguese woman and Italian man) that asked the McCanns for money in return for information.

Bought by a paedophile ring?

A few months ago, on 22 April to be precise, Paulo Rebelo, the man who replaced Gonçalo Amaral at the head of the investigation, sent a fax to the Portuguese Interpol office. "Three days before Madeleine disappeared a Belgian paedophile ring apparently placed an order for a little girl. Someone connected to that paedophile network had seen Madeleine, taken a picture of her and sent it to Belgium. The buyer had agreed that the girl was what he was looking for and Maddie was then abducted."

Rebelo explains that the information was "intelligence" – i.e. confidential – and asks Interpol for cooperation with a view to finding out from the Belgian police authorities if they had gathered all information considered relevant in this matter.

However, the files do not show how Rebelo's request was followed up. Many of the exchanges of information between the police forces of different countries on people convicted of sex crimes and paedophiles have been taken out of the files before they were published. The explanation given: "to preserve the privacy of people who have nothing to do with this case". Nevertheless, the possibility that Madeleine's disappearance could be linked to the actions of paedophiles is referred to several times.

Kate writes: "Lack of information is torture"

"The son born to you will die…" This is part of a passage from the 2nd Book of Samuel that was marked in Kate's Bible and apprehended by the PJ. Why was that passage marked?

And why, two nights before Maddie disappeared, was the child, or one of her siblings, crying for more than an hour and a quarter – according to the statement of a neighbour who heard the crying in the McCann's apartment between 10.45 p.m. and midnight on 1 May.

And if the neighbour is right, does her statement not show that the parents did not interrupt their dinner every half hour to go check on their children in the apartment, given that the crying only ended when they came home? Could this not mean that, if there was an abduction, the abductor had a lot more time than one thought?

And did Kate ever say that she had a "bad feeling" about the trip to the Algarve? Gerry says she didn't. She herself didn’t answer that question (as well as others during her interrogation in September, when she and her husband were named arguidos). Matt, one of the seven friends on holiday with the couple in Praia da Luz, says she did say it.

In order to clear up some of these questions, in April this year the PJ asked the "holiday group" (nine people) to come to Portugal and take part in a re-enactment of what had happened. "Either you believe our version of the events of 3 May 2007 or you don't. If you believe it, what's the point of the re-enactment?", wrote one of the couples in an e-mail.

The re-enactment never materialised. Despite the fact that all said they wanted to cooperate in finding out the truth – particularly Kate, who said this in a letter to Paulo Rebelo of the PJ in December. In the letter, Maddie's mother pleads for information on the course of the investigations: "I appeal to you as a human being", she wrote. "The lack of information is torture."

The famous fingerprint of a GNR officer

At the end of the investigative process, the Public Prosecutor's Office writes that enormous efforts went into the investigation. Mark Harrison, a British specialist and advisor to all police forces in the UK on missing persons, kidnappings and murders, drafts a report explaining that "extensive professional efforts" were made to "find Madeleine McCann alive".

The files reflect that effort: in the days immediately following the disappearance, hundreds of men and women from the Maritime Police, PSP, PJ and GNR - which coordinated the searches in the areas – were out looking for the girl. There are numerous reports of police officers across the country being sent out to petrol stations to view CCTV footage (especially when someone reported something suspicious), though it is certain that many images remained unseen because they are kept for a very short time and quickly taped over.

The files also contain many reports from police officers, from practically all parts of the country, who actively investigated the most slender of suspicions. On 4 May, for example, a woman was seen pushing a pram with a child in it: the PSP in Lagos were alerted and two inspectors immediately went to the scene. They look for the woman, found her in the street, spoke to the child and found out she was Portuguese. Couldn’t have been Maddie. There are several such episodes.

But the investigation is far from flawless. Anyone used to watching the US crime series "CSI" will see crime scenes being cordoned off. In Praia da Luz, on the night of the disappearance, things were nothing like that. "People who were in the apartment where Madeleine disappeared and from close by were going in and out of the property and walking around inside it at their leisure, without any restriction", says the first PJ inspector who arrived on the scene. "One GNR officer said they had looked for the girl inside the closets and other parts of the apartment without taking any precaution with regards to leaving traces of themselves on the scene, on the one hand, and removing or adulterating any other traces of interest, on the other."

The fingerprints found on the scene show precisely that. For days investigators endeavoured to establish to whom the fingerprints on a window in the McCanns' apartment belonged. Only after searching the databases of police forces from several countries – in vain – did they establish that the fingerprint belonged to a GNR officer.

What was the point of the dogs after all?

In a report on 31 July 2007, the British specialist Mark Harrison, whose mission was to work with the Portuguese authorities, recommended that the investigation return to the McCann's apartment – and other places already search – with special dogs they had in the UK. These dogs, he explained, were specifically trained to detect cadaver odour and blood. "This search process could be repeated in all the apartments occupied by the friends who holidayed with the McCanns", he proposed.

So the dogs came. And they caused an uproar: they detected cadaver odour in the McCann's apartment, namely next to Kate and Gerry's closet, on garments belonging to Kate and on Maddie's cuddle toy (the same toy Kate was always seen holding after the girl disappeared). They also detected blood in the living room and in the boot of the car the McCanns had hired some time after the disappearance.

It was to a large extent based on these finds that Kate and Gerry were named arguidos in September. Because, as the PJ writes in the final report "in a first scientific examination" the British laboratory that analysed the traces collected (the Forensic Science Service) raised the possibility of the DNA found in the McCann's hired car being compatible with Maddie's.

But, in the end, the conclusion was reached that the material found "could not be attributed to any one person in particular".

A year and two months after the disappearance of Madeleine, the police acknowledged that they were in the same position they were in on 3 May 2007: with no lead. No evidence was gathered to charge any of the three persons named arguidos in the course of the investigation (the McCanns and Robert Murat, the man who had originally helped the PJ translate several witness statements early on in the investigation). On 21 July past, the Prosecutor's Office shelved the. The police investigation had come to an end.

[Acknowledgement pamalam @ gerrymccannsblog]


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