Friday, 21 April 2017

Part Four - The Great Exception

AJS writes: When Team McCann acted on behalf of Madeleine McCann in 2007, using funds provided explicitly for that purpose, it was an unmitigated  failure. A failure to such an extent that when the McCanns suddenly found pressing reasons to go home in September, thus leaving the “search” and “campaign” headless and in suspension, nobody noticed! Since not even one lead had ever been started, let alone pursued, there was, in fact, nothing to suspend. There never had been. 
Exactly the same applied to the post-2008 “Search”, except that the farce level now escalated to stratospheric levels of buffoonery with private “investigators” busy releasing pictures and descriptions of people who had literally never – never – existed and libelling paedophiles too near death’s door to defend themselves (the tabloids  and the McCann supporters loved that one). Meanwhile a host of crooks and hustlers descended on Madeleine McCann’s infinitely sad and inadequately protected  legacy and cleaned it out of several hundred thousand quid.
Straight out of Central Casting? 
Nobody cared; nobody was prosecuted, nobody was pursued: not only could the Fund and its “guardians” not find an abductor, they couldn’t even find the people who’d robbed their fund  blind. More important things to do, you know.
Or the kids'sticker book?
Meanwhile the McCanns were embarked on the Great Dom Pedro Hotel Search Expedition: money originally donated by the public for the child was again being used to pay luxury hotel bills for the parents – just writing this makes me want to vomit – as long as they could claim to the famously "independent" Fund directors that their luxury stays were part of “searching for Mudlin”, as when Gerry searched for Mudlin in Lisbon in early 2009, funnily enough without finding her there.  Until the whole farce came more or less to an end, dribbling away, like dirty, greasy  water in the gutter, around 2013, when the Grange investigation started to give the couple something new to fret about. 

This One's For Real

But in between these completely shameless, disgusting,  episodes  that few of us have yet  confronted because of their scarcely believable nature, we have the period September 2007 – Summer 2008. That was when, for the first and only time, the supposed interests of the child were ruthlessly set aside and the assembled might of the Team – that circle of City professionals surrounding the couple and the pile of readies – acted for a single purpose, one that, you might say, the funds and facilities could almost have been designed for: saving the arses of Kate and Gerry McCann.
 
As the pictures of the shrunken couple at this time show, they had temporarily lost the aura of breezy invincibility and “we spoke to Gordon Brown last week” confidence that had carried them along above the clouds to Washington, Madrid and the other Dom Pedro type venues, there to chit-chat as equals with government ministers about the Grave Problems  of Child Abduction. That fantasy voyage, so reminiscent of Preston Sturges's 1930s immortal black comedies about liars entrapped by their own dreams,  lasted until the PJ coldly reminded them of reality by turning up and seizing their car, clothes and possessions.  Now a chastened Gerry McCann allowed others to direct this latest  project and did what the professionals told him to do. 
The Team, under the overall direction of Ed Smethurst and Brian Kennedy, rapidly designed a twin-track  plan in which a powerful legal group under Michael Caplan  concentrated on the strengths and weaknesses of the Portuguese case while a reputational strategy under the direction of Smethhurst himself and media lawyer Angus McBride was put in place to  reinforce the McCanns’ greatest long-term weapon –  apart from their total and complete innocence, of course –  public support. If Track One failed to expose the weaknesses in the PJ case and kill it off  then Track Two would concentrate on enhancing public support.

Expunge it!

You get what you pay for: the lawyers’ bills, according to Gerry McCann/Vanity Fair,  were paid  by Kennedy, Branson and Stephen Winyard, and they were sizeable indeed. While   Caplan probed the official Portuguese position and evidence through conventional legal channels, McBride used the gopher Mitchell, one of the few people that Gerry McCann almost trusted, to engage the PJ  in a long-range propaganda war.
The Portuguese, in disarray following the loss of Amaral, never knew what hit them. Mitchell’s feline lies, pre-emptively exploiting the weaknesses in the latest PJ theories at every turn, shocked them with their shameless and populist   boldness (Gerry McCann’s “retrieved memories” appropriately derived from a May 3 act of urination) as well as with Mitchell’s apparent inside knowledge – courtesy of Caplan’s discoveries during his negotiations.
The Dignity of the Law - the Portuguese Supreme Court
Criminal cases, in the conservative Portuguese culture, were meant to be conducted with the gravity and respect accorded to Roman/Napoleonic law. And to them this was a case, if ever one existed, that deserved true respect –  the appalling disappearance and  possible death of a child. Yet the supposedly  oh-so-stuffy British, using the tabloids and television to lethal effect,  appeared to be treating it like a national  attempt to win the Eurovision song contest by smearing the judges, whipping up racist aggression among the audience   and letting off shit-smelling stink-bombs at the back of the studio.

A British Approach to the Law's Majesty

At least in Portugal the McCanns had intrigued against the PJ and prosecutors silently  through third party journalists, thus preserving a semblance of legal dignity: now that the pair was beyond reach their agents seemed to be openly and contemptuously mocking them through Mitchell and the tabloids. Arguidos just don’t behave that way, just as, on the Algarve, people don’t display their burnt-raw paunches or their flabby, oversized tits in the way that the British inferior  classes, beer-cans in hand,  do –  hence the apoplectic, almost strangled, outrage from people such as  Carlos (“Mitchell  lies with all the teeth in his mouth”) Anjos of the police federation.
That's the price you pay for looking at fictional national characteristics rather than modern realities. While the Portuguese are still, to this day, searching for the languid White's club intelligence agents and all-powerful perfidious Albion diplomats who subverted the case from the beginning - actions that fit in with their own world view and which, in a weird kind of way, they find comprehensible - they've somehow missed the fact that a dynamic, ruthless  and essentially classless collection of professionals from the most powerful city in the world blew them out of the water - legally and  openly.  Because they didn't have a case.

Nothing Personal

The public needling of the PJ in the British media was all quite deliberate, of course – Reputation Management on this scale often involves Reputation Destruction and, one by one, key figures like Anjos, Amaral and  Ribeiro, were targeted and put through the media mincer with  brutal, single-minded professionalism, while other Portuguese  thought to be keen on treating the McCanns like unpleasant and unwanted viruses  just get rid  of them! – like Paolo Rebelo, were treated with flattering respect and restraint. It was nothing personal and the McCanns themselves were not directing this effort: it was just a job to be done by clever professionals for enormous rewards. Welcome to the way the modern  City of London works, Mr Anjos.
As we now know the Portuguese prosecutors were in fact in a hopeless position.  In many ways Goncalo Amaral was like the detective in yet other Hollywood movies, those in which freaked-out superiors thrust their heads into their hands and mutter, all right I’ll give you another three days to crack this but then that’s it.  In the movies they keep getting another three days until the credits roll and the tears of gratitude flow but, as so often, real life was different: the killer pieces of evidence never turned up, Ribeiro, who’d loyally granted the extra days, went down with Amaral instead of ending up a national hero, the couple  were allowed to walk and without the missing pieces they could never be forced back. You win some, you lose some. The Portuguese  had done their best to serve the child's interests and had acted decently and with characteristic Portuguese mercy in letting the couple leave; but the evidence to  get them back again just wasn't there.  
 
It was the interviewer Sandra Felgueiras who best expressed the sense of baffled shock at the revealed weakness of the Portuguese position, weakness that even today people there and in the UK are in denial about. The only way the McCanns could be brought back – they were never going to return voluntarily – was via European extradition proceedings and these depended absolutely on the presentation of clear prima facie evidence of potential wrong-doing before removal could be granted.
That is the “no fishing expeditions” rule: you cannot extradite suspects in order to get them to talk, or to carry out a reconstruction or to examine the contradictions in their evidence. But that was exactly what the Portuguese needed to do  because the evidence hadn't been found.
Sinister Superbrain and Dancer - Home Secretary J. Smith with Male Chorus
In its absence  the case  remained purely circumstantial. No guiding hand from above was needed to protect the McCanns: they had democratic law completely on their side. It didn’t matter whether the offensively ungifted  Home Secretary Jacqui Smith or the brooding Big Brother fan, Gordon "incapability" Brown wanted to protect the McCanns or not – the judges would decide the law, not they, and if the judges decided it wrongly then the well-resourced Team would appeal until it was applied correctly.
The City was doing what it always does: ensuring that those who could afford the fees gained the full protection of the law, national or international, criminal or civil. And the public, including Winyard, Kennedy and Branson, whose motives are not known to be any different from those of the pensioners and their cash envelopes, had given them the money to pay the fees, just as the public has given them the money to pay the McCann-Amaral legal costs. Strange, isn't it, that no donor has ever sued for the return of their gift on the grounds that the Fund retrospectively broadened the number of beneficiaries without consent or consultation? But then people who've been suckered are notoriously reluctant to admit it publicly.
In the concluding part: the final  long-term rehabilitation plan for the McCanns following their “exoneration” – and the fate that has befallen it.
 

 

 

 

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Part Three - What a Coincidence!


The Name of the Game

Reputation Management, broadly, is the defence of a business against  intangible threat rather than   material hazards such as accidents, internal fraud, acts of violence and so on. Reputational  threats can be derivatives or second derivatives of such disasters - such as investors’  fears that a company’s reserves might not survive a similar blow in the future, or they can be independent of any material origins, as rumours, founded or unfounded, often are.In all cases the company is forced to deal with degrees of belief and confidence – psychological, not physical matters, demanding specialist skills.
Note that, unlike Crisis Management, which reacts to events, Reputation Management is pre-emptive and activist at all times, penetrating national media on a continuing  basis to influence public and political perceptions of the client. It stinks but it's necessary. It is rarely used  by individuals, however rich. 
The subject is too vast to deal with in detail here and interested readers should look up its origins and development on the net, preferably going further than Wikipedia. What matters to us is that the RM industry exists by systematically  exploiting  the mass media  Gerry McCann had been using, amateurishly but effectively, for his own purposes since May 4. And now here was nice Mr Woolfall to provide him with a crash course on its inner workings for a whole fortnight. Of one thing we can be quite sure – Dr McCann got a great deal more out of  Woolfall than the latter got out of him.

So Very Helpful

It was obviously from Woolfall that  Gerry McCann learned about the absolute necessity for  supposed "spokespeople" to make Reputation Management work.  Without one, or a dozen, such people, RM simply  cannot exist: there has to be a human mechanism that anonymises the source of  "information" - “spin” - being put forward, that distances the client from the propaganda and disguises its real motivation. The mechanism is the  “cut-out valve” spokesperson, whose words can ultimately be disowned  by the client and who can be blamed and paid off if exposed.
The "McCann narrative" often speaks of McCann spokespeople as “taking the load of dealing with the media from the parents’ shoulders”. If you believe that, you'll believe anything. 
Instead, with the exception of Sheree Dodds, the spokespeople were reputation managers – for the McCanns.  Both Mitchell and McGuinness stepped far over the line separating speaking for the couple from identifying with their interests; both got too close to the PJ investigation. McGuinness, so lightweight a personality that she probably needed to avoid strong winds, remains  notorious for her coquettish meddling with the September police interviews. Less publicly noted has been Mitchell’s contributions on like lines – in his first meetings with the McCanns he pushed for the release by the PJ of pictures of the non-existent “bundleman”, for example. That really helped Madeleine, didn't it?
 
Summarily removed from spokesman's role after only three weeks
That was one of the reasons, along with the Papal visit and similar stunts, why he  – the supposed “powerful cover up agent from  the government” – was warned by the Civil Service and then, after only three weeks in the job,  summarily ordered back to London  and never permitted to work with the McCanns again. Only three weeks - it seems he was there much longer, doesn’t it? Yes, because Mitchell, as always, inflated both his contribution, his significance, his value and his role.

So What Were They Doing

According to the McCanns the “fight” and “search” for Madeleine, in which their PR experts joined, was the absolute priority. If that was the case it was a grotesque failure. But is it a credible description of what they were actually doing?
 
Forgotten featherweight
 
The first problem in deciding that question  is the nature of our sources. Gerry McCann provenly   and deliberately misled the British public in his blogs about the police investigation; Kate McCann is a self-confessed liar about it; Clarence Mitchell and Woolfall are hopelessly compromised as people who lie (“spin”) to order and for a living. Going on that record we’re not going to get transparency, are we?
Still, the narrative runs like this: we were overwhelmed by the media, offers of help and advice; we did our best to do what the experts advised us* to and we made up for deficiencies in the PJ investigation with our own innocent attempts to campaign and search for the child.  Then, months later, we found, to our amazement and horror that the PJ might have come to suspect us, the parents of the victim! We were treated like common criminals and made arguidos.  By early September it was obvious that we could do no more for Madeleine in Portugal and we returned to Britain.
Now Kate McCann may be many things but she is not an idiot. Can she possibly  be telling the truth with these claims of total ignorance about the PJ's suspicions until the 8 August?
We have the words of her own book to contradict her.** There is quite another interpretation of those three months - that the aim was always to bypass, find out the details of, attack or attempt to influence the Portuguese police investigation, while protecting their reputation in the UK. And the Fund, the “Campaign”, the “Search”, the financial backing from multi-millionaires, the Control Risk initiative, the employment of a campaign manager and RM person – all these original pillars of the save-the-missing-tot edifice just happened to fit exactly into that  plan. What a coincidence!   

From Small Seeds...

That structure of support for the parents was, by the time of their departure for the UK, ready to be put into practice at an international level: the two celebrated criminal lawyers from Kingsley Napley that Rachael Oldfield had “found” would be meeting them almost as soon as they got off the plane – perhaps to discuss the question of who would be paying their £600+ per hour fees, for it certainly wouldn’t be the McCanns. The power, professionalism and resources first put in place in the name of Madeleine McCann in early May  were now driving a Team McCann capable of  defeating the Portuguese authorities and preparing the way for an eventual grand rehabilitation, as well as the ambush on the investigating detective - to save the parents, not the child. We will deal with the result in the next article.
One of the most famous documents in the whole McCann Affair dealt in its own sweet way with  the return of the couple - the Hanover Communications press release, of which that company were once so proud:
"We helped the McCann family [the parents]deal with the media storm which surrounded them on their return from Portugal in September 2007. From scratch, we created a comprehensive media handling package within six hours which enabled us to handle 850 media calls in the first week. By giving journalists positive stories to report, coverage turned from hostility to the McCanns to sympathy about their ordeal. This campaign won the crisis communication category at the 2008 CIPR awards."

The transformation was complete: that was what the "Campaign for a Missing Child" had become. 
Anyway, here's the  City balance sheet for the period May 3 - September 10.  
____________________________________________________________________________________
1) The IFLG and McCann established “Fighting Fund” founded in early May, no doubt with the best intentions.  
What did it achieve in this period for the child?
Nothing. Nothing at all. The money and effort, the consciousness-raising and campaigning   produced zilch. No trace of the child or her remains was ever found.
What did it achieve in this period for the parents?
Resources from the fund were used for the benefit of the parents, in travel expenses, for example, and to finance the parents’ reputation management by paying for a full-time employee to act, campaign and, in September, text illicitly from Portimao PJ police headquarters.
The claim by the McCanns that they were “searching” – something they couldn’t have done from their own resources – using fund money provided them with all-embracing cover for anything they wished to do and continues to do so: stay in five star hotels? Yes. Fly around in private jets? Yes. Sue those "damaging the search?" Yes. And so on.
____________________________________________________________________________________
2) The legal incorporation of the Find Madeleine Fund  by Messrs BWB.
What did this structuring achieve  for the child?
Nothing, nothing at all.
What did it achieve for the parents?
It made it easier for payments to be made by the public and therefore increased the pool of money available.It enabled the fund to be structured in a way that would and did benefit the McCanns financially -  and not just for mortgage payments.
_____________________________________________________________________________________
3) The arrival and employment of Control Risks, the security specialists.
What did their arrival achieve for the child?
Nothing, nothing at all. There was nobody for them to track, no kidnapper to negotiate with, no traces to follow. They could have stayed in the UK.
What did they achieve for the parents?
Within days the company was being used by the parents to take down and go through their police statements, for reasons not yet satisfactorily explained. These were, of course, strictly confidential to the PJ investigation. It is no use saying that the McCanns did not provide written copies of their statements to the police. They did it from recollection which is a clear breach of confidentiality.
A donor, who had offered to pay for Control Risks to help locate the child, ended up paying for these so far unexplained  activities concerning the PJ investigation. Given the secrecy which, when it suits them, the McCanns so delight in, we do not know what else they did for the parents while they were in Portugal.
___________________________________________________________________________________
4) The establishment of, and training in, media handling methods and structures, enabled initially by Alex Woolfall.  
What did these media efforts achieve for the child?
Nothing, nothing at all. The media campaign, the “search” campaign, produced no results of any kind, ever.  By interfering in the investigation – see Clarence Mitchell and KM pushing the PJ over the non-existent “bundleman” sighting, see Justine McGuinness giving fictional and anti-police accounts of the arguido interviews – these two PR operators helped affect the outcome of the investigation and overshadowed it. 
What did they achieve for the parents?
Enormous benefits. The McCanns were, for example,  given carte blanche to ration information under the excuse of using a spokesperson to “handle the media load” - see what we described as the "cut-out mechanism" above. During the period when the McCanns claimed not to know that they were suspected by the PJ the media management techniques were used on the broadest scale to feed information to selected journalists in their favour, to smother criticism, to deny facts and to deceive the British public – see the admitted KM lying.
 

___________________________________________________________________________________
 
Notes for those interested:  *Doing what they were told?
The claim that the important decisions were usually taken by others and the pair went along with them is not perhaps the wisest line to adopt.
“IFLG “told us” to set up a [the] Fund”; “Alex Woolfall  told us we would have to engage with the media”; “Woolfall told us we would need to engage a spokesperson.”; “…whatever the case, it was suggested to Gerry that we should use Madeleine’s Fund to employ someone to replace Clarence”.
“Hugh  had been brought in by a firm called Control Risks, which was primed to help…”; “By the Sunday evening, we found ourselves [my italics]giving our statements again, this time to a couple of detectives from Control Risks.”
Many other examples of this affected passivity can be found throughout the book, sometimes blurring the lines of responsibility, as in the examples above, at others acting as pre-emptive alibis for actions which the public might question ( “Responsible parenting”, accepting private jet offers, being told to look emotionally blank on TV and all the rest.)
None of these are particularly reprehensible, yet taken together, as any reader of the blog or Madeleine can easily ascertain, they add up to show an intense, obsessional and uninterrupted  awareness of public perception and reputation management –  “Sir Philip Green kindly offered us the use of his private jet. But what would people say?” –  a highly dubious faux naiveté, and, most important, their profound unreliability as witnesses of their own actions. 
** We never dreamed...
Madeleine was generously seeded with Kate McCann’s obliviousness – to the point of idiocy – of the threat from the PJ, just  in case any reader might not be aware that she was reely, reely, shocked to find that they were under suspicion. Examples:
“If 18 July was the date I now identify as a turning point, the following Monday, 23 July, was the day when the warning sirens should have started to sound”[meaning they still hadn’t]; “With hindsight it is clear to me something was going on in Portimão I would never at that time have anticipated”; “Apart from finding little things like this slightly puzzling or exasperating, I hadn’t sensed any profound change in the behaviour of the PJ, or in the direction their investigation was taking”;  “Our attention was focused on the search, and on campaign plans... By 2 August, however, those sirens were wailing so loudly I cannot understand how I missed them. And yet I did. [my italics]
Leaving aside any speculation and the fact that we know that the PJ suspected them early on, we have, first of all, KM’s statement that after thirteen hours (!) questioning at PJ headquarters as early as  May 10 Gerry McCann  had heard Oldfield “shouting and crying” under accusations of complicity in the disappearance.
 
Kate McCann never mentions this again. Are readers supposed to believe that neither she nor Gerry wanted to find out more and never asked Oldfield about it? Not even to ask Oldfield why he was being accused? Not even to say to each other, Jesus Christ, you don’t think it could be Matt, do you? Matt?
We’re expected to believe that when Gerry told her about this nightmare scene KM droned, “that’s interesting dear, now do you want chips or beans?”
Three weeks or so later the German lady at a media conference mentioned gossip that the McCanns were involved. Gerry answered: "I have never heard before that anyone considers us suspects in this. And the Portuguese police certainly don’t."
KM adds “…we were so totally dumbfounded when the tide turned against us two months later. We knew we were innocent, and we believed the PJ knew that too”
She writes “On the evening of 17 June, the Portuguese police were quoted on Sky News as having stated that the crime scene at apartment 5A had been contaminated by us and our friends, and that as a consequence vital evidence had been lost. I was livid.”
So livid that she contacted everyone she could think of with any influence to interfere in the investigation and get the PJ to withdraw and apologise. But not so livid that she thought  that she and the group were under suspicion.
“On Saturday 30 June,” KM writes, “a piece entitled ‘Pact of Silence’, written by journalists Felícia Cabrita and Margarida Davim, appeared in a Portuguese newspaper.” But the penny supposedly still didn’t drop.
“It was on Monday 6 August that the atmosphere changed.” That was after the car had been impounded. She writes, “Again we assumed, at least initially, that this was a procedural measure recommended to the PJ by the British experts.[!] ”
 

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Part Two - Following the Money


JB writes: It wasn’t long before expert assistance to the McCanns began to arrive, especially, it might be said, once it became common knowledge that money was being hurled at the parents on a giddying scale. 
Kate McCann, in Madeleine,  describes meetings with the IFLG – lawyers specializing in international custody battle cases who, she says, “told us that we needed to set up a ‘fighting fund’, whose objectives they would devise” and  a “security consultant” who brought the interesting news that “an anonymous…donor had set aside a considerable sum of money for us to put towards the cost of hiring a private-investigation company if we wished.” Finally, the London charity accounts specialists, Bates, Wells and Braithwaite, would be instructed by the IFLG to draw up the relevant articles of association for the Fund.
 
Kate McCann is very careful indeed in her description of who exactly was offering to do what and for how much money, covering these essentially cold-blooded financial discussions in a warm blanket of mild emotionalism and Scouse  naiveté (note the “told us” phrase above), but three of the essential City roles were thus already being put in play: maximising income (the “fighting fund”), security and risk protection (Control Risks)  and capital structuring (good old BWB). All, of course, done for the benefit of Madeleine McCann.
 

Beyond Imagination

Every time I try and picture these discussions and negotiations, images refuse to come into focus, so weird and bizarre, so Breaking Bad  does this series of meetings seem. Was Kate McCann rushing out of the room to weep about her child, wipe her eyes and adjust her make-up every few minutes? Did everyone take regular five minute breaks while Gerry McCann stress-and-grief-vomited heavily in the loo? Did Gerry break off a detailed question and answer session about relative financial advantage with one of the assembled  experts by suddenly throwing himself onto the carpet, howling like a dog and shouting  “f*****g paedophiles” for five minutes? Did an IFLG expert kneel by his side, murmur “there, there” and attempt to fan him back into normal consciousness with a large folded spreadsheet?
How, how, could a couple sit there discussing and deciding  the labyrinthine ways wealth can be channelled and juggled a week after real life had demonstrated the truth that most of us have learnt through its shocks  – the absurd irrelevance and uselessness of money compared with the things that matter: love, loss, parenthood, family, suffering, helplessness, potential evil? How could they bear even to think about money at that time?
 
Kate McCann doesn’t tell us and I don’t know. So let’s take a deep breath and confine ourselves to noting, then,  the  arrival of  fee-charging professionals, the innocent beginning of a process that eventually led to the emergence of a McCann group not just independent of the national criminal investigating force (as KM points out the McCanns immediately began giving alternative versions of their police statements to Control Risks detectives) but eventually in outright opposition to it.
 
One other pointer to the future should be observed: the reference to  “an anonymous…donor” having set aside “a considerable sum of money”. It wasn’t just tearful pensioners, sticking a fiver in an envelope and sending it to Praia da Luz, who helped make the real  Team McCann a serious rival to the PJ in terms of resources. Most people were supportive of the McCanns and those that both believed in them and were wealthy enough to put up more than piggy-bank fivers made contributions that nowhere show in the Fund’s financial reports. The rich, it hardly needs saying, share the same virtues and vices as the poor, including, thank God, the inchoate desire to help in some way.
Raising consciousness the Big Phil way
 
Notwithstanding the arrival of the professionals, in these early weeks the team, such as it was, was dominated by the McCann family and their activities  – the indirect approach to Gordon Brown, the direct approach to the Foreign Office, the hidden intrigues – already! – against the PJ, coupled with public espousals of support for the same force from the unlikely but expansive figure of Philomina McCann, the marvellous creation of the website by precocious Scottish waifs no doubt  sipping Bovril in their ragged pyjamas while they slaved over their volunteer keyboards.

Grey Figure Enters Left


Woolfall, left, keeping a friendly eye on the stricken McCanns
Meanwhile the media continued to make the running and hold out the cheque books amid the chaos they had created, with a certain  Alex Woolfall, a PR man for the Bell Pottinger agency, coaching the parents on the right way to handle the “press pack”.
Woolfalls’ appearance and role is replete with irony, though not for reasons that Woolfall himself, who does neither irony, information (as against spin), personality (as against ego)  nor self-insight, would recognize. A middle-aged, successful but somewhat colourless media man, Woolfall was sent out to protect the  Mark Warner group against the huge potential threat that the McCann affair represented.
The interests of the parents and  Mark Warner were potentially in conflict, whereas many students of the case with a bent for the dark eccentric are convinced that Woolfall was despatched to protect the pair. Forgetting, as we can at this distance in time, the ritual verbal treacle  about tragedy, missing tot, hope, “we all want her back”  and so forth expressed by everybody involved, Woolfall’s job was to stay out in Praia da Luz to counter publicity that might damage future  business and profits and, secondly, to establish whether the McCanns might take them to the cleaners through the courts for negligence. He did his job well.
That is not quite the way that Gerry McCann and his media adviser describe their relationship but who’s surprised by that? One of them has the reputation for being not merely economical but positively miserly with the truth, as we know from that 2007 “Blog” which, thanks to the determined resistance of  the database keeper Pamalam, Gerry has been unable to retrieve and consign to legal quarantine; the other has spent a lifetime being paid to design, polish and present manipulated versions of the truth. No wonder the two got on so well.

The Final Piece of the Jigsaw

Both the McCanns have been effusive in their praise for Woolfall and his tuition in how to handle the media. In return Woolfall has expressed his profound belief in their innocence, based, as he notes, on a great deal of “close observation” of the couple’s behaviour in Praia da Luz. He can say that again – close observation was what he was sent out to do. Oh, and to help, of course.
Woolfall himself, despite his richly comic potential, is not an important figure in the case. The reason he’s mentioned is because  he was the first emissary to the McCanns of that now-vital corporate component,  Reputation Management.
Maximising income; security and risk protection; capital structuring. What’s missing from the McCanns’ nascent City package? Why, managing reputation, of course. The fourth limb of the whole deal. To which we’ll turn in the next part.
But the reader might have a question first, connected with that phrase “corporate component”. We’re talking here about a “team” of dedicated family, volunteers and  helpers looking for a missing child, aren't we? The stuff of weepy feature columns across the land, a narrative of simple people acting selflessly - lapped up and amplified by every gooey tabloid world-wide.  So how come that before our eyes this sweet little grouping is beginning, in mid-May 2007,  to equip itself with “corporate” weapons, i.e. those designed and sold primarily for the development and protection of multi-million finance and business organizations, not individuals. They’re just a couple of NHS doctors with a missing kid, for f***s sake. What’s going on?
Quite.  
Next: Reputation Management and the final establishment of the real Team.
 

Friday, 31 March 2017

The Golden Keys to the City


Can We Help?

The City of London is by far the most powerful  and influential repository of professional expertise in the world.  Its comprehensive skills are open to anyone without an obvious UK criminal record who possesses the Golden Keys to the City: the money to pay the fees.

Influence, political status, class – none of them matter a dot, as long as the ackers are there. Footballers like Lineker or Beckham, politicians of all hues, oligarchs, sheiks, lottery winners,  Indian honeymooners with a South African tale to tell, English rock musicians.

The politically powerful, those shadowy creatures so beloved of aged, trad-jazz loving, Professor Teddy Cardigan and his ilk,rarely  have a chance against mobilised professional expertise at this level. The  US government, for example, faced with a relatively cheap but determined rescue package on behalf of the data hacker McKinnon, whose extradition they had demanded, was effortlessly seen off.
The controversial Gina Miller, who knows her way round the City as well as a few other places, had no trouble at all hiring its resources to pin the entire British government like a specimen butterfly when it came to Brexit, so far without having been assassinated by Those Behind Everything.
The great Brinks-Matt bullion robbers, as scary a bunch as you’ll ever have the misfortune to meet, included a number who walked free from the grip of the criminal justice system. A decade later the City, on behalf of the insurance companies based there and using their own investigators and informers, was still tying the “cleared” ones up in legal knots and gradually getting hold of their assets, without fuss or publicity, via the civil courts.  

Having and Holding

The world being what it is, if you are doing well in Kazakhstan, South Sudan or Moscow you get what you want with muscle and, ultimately, let’s face it, sudden death. But if you want to play in the wider world, or get out before you're taken out,  then that will usually mean playing by London rules, and London rules are all about protecting yourself and your property against risk, not with bullets but with the superior and much more reliable force of law, national and international,  expertly handled.  
Whether it’s to stop the state grabbing your inheritance or taxing your lottery win too heavily, arbitrating between exiled Russian thieves, defending your innocence, getting what's left of your musicians' royalties back from  crooked managers, maintaining your reputation, insuring your tennis arm or your breasts, enforcing your contracts, or making your divorce settlements work, the City – actually twin cities with finance and accountancy in the City itself, entrepreneurship and media production based in Westminster and the law situated comfortably on the border between them – does it better than anywhere else.
Others – in the Hague or Geneva – can carry on making the world a better place but London, much to the disgust of righteous Europeans, lets other people handle that sort of thing and gets on with making real money from its immense, concentrated – and often foreign-born – brain power on behalf of those with the Keys. And that is why baffled Portuguese, even today, search for hidden explanations for the extraordinary and incomprehensible whirlwind that engulfed them when they tried to investigate  a couple of common little doctors about the disappearance of their child.
For the media uproar that  Gerry McCann, with the instincts of a gambler,  had unleashed on May 4 2007 made them multi-millionaires within a few weeks, courtesy of public support and public donations, a narrative  that even the most fanciful of film plots would have struggled to get away with. That presented  this unlikely  pair with the Golden Keys to the City – and, as always, the City was ready to help.
Next: Part Two,  Coping with grief, you know.  

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Yes dear



Even in the gallery of grotesques surrounding the McCann Affair, Detective Dave Edgar stands out – and by no means reassuringly. Can you imagine the sound of your front door splintering in the middle of the night and then seeing those giant stranglers’ hands thrusting through to  tear the panels out?
As you back away, incapable of speech or rational thought, the leprous  hands wrench out the  top panels and the weird melting-waxwork, cauliflower-eared visage of Edgar appears. “Chroist,” he says, “this isn’t number fifty fucking two, is it? There's been a mistake.”
But then Edgar has a long  history of not being able to get through the right door.
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Maddie Cop on Trail of ‘Mr Spotty'

Whoops!
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Maddie Detective Flies to Germany

Will Question Paedophile about Missing Tot 

Whoops!
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Get's Turned Away! Flies Back Again!

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And all the rest.

Edgar gave his definitive conclusions years ago.  “Obvious facts”, he told the media when he was still working on the case in 2009, demonstrated that the child had been taken by a solitary abductor who “wanted a child to take care of”.
Along with this conclusion to his research he rubbished all other claims. A group of traffickers? A gang of paedophiles? No, no, definitely not, said Dave. “There has been a huge reward offered. One of the gang would have broken ranks by now and come forward for the money.” So no gangs.
And there was no planning, meticulous or otherwise – Madeleine McCann was, he concluded, “simply in the wrong place at the wrong time”.  
 
So how does Brains justify last week's  360 degree turn and  absolute rejection of  all his own contentions? New evidence? Nope. So how can theories that he said “just didn’t stand up”, like the abduction gang theory, suddenly start walking?
You have to remember Edgar is part of McCann land, that territory in which the truth as such never exists, only the latest bullshit. He never mentioned the existence of his earlier contemptuous public dismissal of gangs and  he fibbed that this was "the first time" that he was "speaking out".  He doesn’t give any evidence or any reasoning at all, let alone comment on the undeniable fact that if "one of the gang...would have come forward by now" in 2009, then how come it doesn't mean anything eight years of increasing likelihood later?   And, naturally, he doesn’t even have the nous to see that not doing so only adds to the firm public image of a relatively decent but chronically thick and pliable buffoon.

Embarrassment in Court

If you want to know how reliable an investigator Edgar is you need to read the  transcript of his exceptionally brief, embarrassing and unsatisfactory evidence at the Lisbon libel trial.
It was a lamentable, stumbling performance. At one point proceedings came to a halt as Edgar, muttering about "that officer er...er..." couldn't even remember Paolo Rebelo's name until he was told.  He was strong on assertions, including the assertion that he had “facts” but when pressed on these facts, particularly about the McCanns unfounded claim that the book had “damaged the search” by making all the Portuguese give up on looking for her because she was dead, the sound of rowing back splashed around the courtroom. “Each case is different,” Edgar mumbled...“it’s very difficult to  say"…"again it’s difficult to say…” He blamed the masses of files left by the previous private investigators for not making more progress since he had to "review it all first".
The Guerra and Paz lawyer seemed to think that Edgar’s “investigation” was a joke in poor taste. 
Lawyer: Did you have access to the investigation files?
Sherlock Holmes: Yes, I had access to the files via Madeleine McCann’s parents.
Lawyer: All of the material?
Dave McMaigret: They passed on to me what was considered relevant...[mumbles] I don’t know if it was all.
[After five years he still didn't know. Now why would that be?]  
Lawyer: Then how did you manage to conduct an investigation without analysing the evidence? Who did you contact in Portugal?
J. Edgar  McHoover: [avoids answering first question] I contacted an informant
That’s it. That’s Edgar’s investigation and place in history. Still, he ended on a characteristic note:
Lawyer: Were there other private  investigators  before you?
Phullip Marlow: Yes, but I was the first professional.
Of course you were, dear.
 

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Payback Time




Hello, Clarence. Remember all those years ago when we said you would pay for what you did?

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Clunk!

Clunk!

Clunk!

 
No, not the Wayback machine, the real one, the Payback Machine. One after another up they come before our eyes, the Verdict, the Final Judgement  and The Empty Cupboard. The main shelf of the cupboard is now labelled "Grange: facts in the McCanns' defence to emerge from the investigation." It is big, it is friendly and it is empty.
 
The Bureau always said that the McCann/Amaral case was a fight to the death. That was not rhetoric: one of the two sides was going to be destroyed - literally.  That was why we joined the struggle in our  own small way.
 
The Verdict resulted from the demolition of the McCann narrative  during the libel trial. It was the beginning of the end.
 
The Final Judgement provided, for the first time, a defence for the UK media in the libel courts after the McCanns' eight year attempt to muzzle it at source.  Eight years after the McCanns and their revolting Portuguese ally, Isabel "no friends" Duarte, ambushed Amaral in order to prevent the publication of his claim that "the child died in the apartment"  the couple are being relieved of 400 000 Euros and faced with claims in the tabloid press that - guess what? - the child died in the apartment.
 
Eight years older and four hundred thousand euros lighter, the McCanns are today faced with the publication in the Sun of claims that they are not body disposers but - guess what? - killers. The Sun  stuff  is far worse than the UK media ever produced in September 2007 while the couple cowered  in their hideous Rothley home waiting to find out if their lawyers would save them.
 
They did, the shelving and the Archiving Summary followed and the way was open to sue.
 
Clunk! Years later one of those lawyers sat in the Lisbon witness box listening to the McCanns'  claims and credibility being destroyed. Payback time. Two years later he has had the pleasure of hearing the lying "exoneration" claim  - that the McCanns and the slug-like opportunist Mitchell dishonestly presented to the media the day after the shelving - dismissed by Portugal's highest court.
 
Clunk! News International lawyers passed the Sun story last night. Clunk! Amaral's  draining of their resources leaves them without enough of their, ahem, own money to sue. That means Carter-Ruck taking on the Murdoch organization on no-win, no-fee basis. Good luck with that one.
 
The Empty Cupboard - the Reality Cupboard - has finally brought starvation. Nothing has emerged from the four year Grange investigation to strengthen their chances in any libel court, as News International knows. So far the McCann "team" has whined and snuffled at these claims but has made no threat to sue.
 
Amaral won. The McCanns are now being destroyed in front of our eyes. By Amaral and the public that they deceived. Grange is a footnote.
 
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Exits to background babble...wayback...super injunctions...Murdoch and Rebekah will always save the McCanns...Teddy Cardigan threatening arch protector May and the Yard ...tenth tapas dunnit...they've got away with it...R Hall - how the mainstream media will bury McCann news for ever in a UFO, take it from me...Joanna Morais...the British Establishment will protect their own, I have the tapas bar table photographs to prove it...ambassador Henderson...Dr Roberts: how a pyjama jacket was eaten by Jim Gamble...yes dears, yes dears...