Thursday 15 February 2018

How Do You Deal With Shameless?

The complaints about the Yard investigation seem to be getting louder and weirder. But why? Why  prefer fantastical theories to the reality? For perhaps the fiftieth time, there isn’t a case  against the McCanns regarding the disappearance because there's no evidence to charge them with. Literally. 
But should it be so hard to hard to discover what happened that night? Isn't something wrong?

It Should Be So Easy...

Pause for a moment and think: if, say, an abductor had taken the child, what sort of evidence would we expect could solve the case? That’s easy enough: evidence of intrusion – prints, exterior interference, DNA etc; evidence of forcible removal –  struggle, noise, damage, cries; eyewitnesses; a trail; screams or cries of distress from a child forcibly restrained in someone’s arms; tip-offs from the families of locals. A confession. A body.
But we haven’t got any. It’s never turned up.
But what  if something  happened as the PJ posited, an accident involving a member of the group - would gaining  evidence be easier? Yes and no. A much smaller target area and a greatly restricted number of possible suspects, sure. But no intruder forensics, of course, and DNA evidence, except that of the child's death, wouldn’t help since the whole group had a right to be in the apartment. And while the number of suspects is limited so is the number of useful or independent witnesses. Readers can  go through the options for themselves: what emerges, one way and another, is that because of the restricted location and the absence of decisive forensic evidence, investigators are almost exclusively  dependent on a small number of witnesses - mainly the holiday group itself. 
The PJ, having  found no convincing evidence of abduction, concentrated on the group.  Since, as we pointed out in The Cracked Mirror, nothing has  emerged to add to what they found regarding abduction, their decision to discount that possibility appears to have been thoroughly vindicated: if ten years have produced zero evidence for an abduction but some evidence against then clearly a) the PJ did not miss glaringly obvious abductor evidence because they were too busy focusing on the McCanns and b) despite much excitable searching and sighting nothing whatever has been unearthed anywhere in the world. Abductor-wise there is nobody to question, nowhere to begin and no way of finding an area to explore. That's why there is no search for an abductor and hasn’t been since Ribeiro made clear it was all over in summer 2007 and that they were concentrating a very few expert officers to attack the material that could progress the case. Just exactly as Grange is doing now.  

But It Isn't

But from the very beginning, and for whatever reason,  the Tapas Nine refused to talk frankly to the PJ and took  the disastrous and incomprehensible decision to provide their own “sequence of events” to them on May 10 2007. The reason most often suggested for this failure to be completely open was the alleged fear among the Nine that their own words of co-operation might be used by the incompetent  but draconian UK child protection industry to take their children away for neglecting their welfare in PDL.   
The often-suggested alternative reason – that the group feared the PJ was so useless and/or wicked that they might all be at risk of some nameless miscarriage – does not hold water: in their PJ  statements on the morning of May 4  several of the Nine were already guarded in their words when it was much too soon to have made a judgement about the dishonesty or incompetence of the police, let alone act on it.  
By May 10 the group had constructed its   “sequence of events from 8.30 to 10PM”, the so-called “typed timeline”, which they arranged to be handed to an incredulous PJ prior to the next round of statement-taking.
It can be found Here

An Attack On Investigation Itself

The document has been much analysed; here we will merely note that it is incontrovertibly not a statement of events but a selectively constructed narrative pointing unerringly and with emphasis to a specific  intruder entering apartment 5A, leaving behind signs of his presence, abducting Madeleine McCann and being witnessed hurrying away with an unconscious child in his arms. All between 8.55 and 9.25, no earlier and no later. Other "events" that might have been relevant to a mystery disappearance are excluded.
There is no possible doubt about this intention: textual and statistical analysis shows that of the 5 claimed checks over 1.5 hours, no less than four took place at ten minute intervals between 8.55 and 9.25, the “abductor available” period while no others took place at all the whole evening except Kate McCann’s abduction-confirming 10 PM visit.
Each of those four checks, by GM, MO (twice) and JT revealed supposed "facts" - observations of changes to the apartment consistent with the presence of an intruder, of a stranger hurrying away with a “possibly drugged” child in his arms,  about  gates “probably shut” but later “possibly open”. The “intruder” was, without any doubt, unjustifiably retrofitted into the narrative in the available slots as, for instance, by Oldfield’s “shutters-down at 8.55” (intruder hadn’t been in the bedroom yet), Gerry McCann’s  most famous urination in history (time was tight so the abductor was retrofitted in with his presence in the loo), and, of course, the fabulous moving door.
The McCanns have always stood by the  "facts" in this narrative and have had nothing to say about its potential malign effects on the investigation. Kate McCann writes in Madeleine that she has no doubt at all that the JT sighting was of the “abductor” while Gerry McCann, through his spokesman, talked of the possible accompanying presence of the “abductor” in the apartment while he was peeing at 9.10 when the PJ were trying (yet again!) to work out who was doing what in late 2007.
Outside this group-decided window-of-opportunity-for-the-abductor  period the “sequence of events” supposedly covering an hour and an half  contains almost no events, little description  and no useful information whatever. The 8.35 - 9.00 period just contains names and supposed arrival times at the restaurant, the 9.30 -10.00 period consists of just 60 words – the equivalent of two average length sentences – about what the Yard think is the critical period of the evening.  What happened to those "events"? What were people doing and seeing? How did the group know that nothing worth telling the police about had occurred in that other hour? Why the sudden explosion of checks coinciding with the window of opportunity for the abductor and the complete absence of them  at other times? How could they have known that Gerry McCann pissing in a toilet bowl at 9.10 was a significant "event" but neither his nor anyone else's bladder was worthy of mention between 9.35 and 10 PM? Where, indeed, was he then? They don't say. When, exactly, did he return to the table from his 9.05 check? They don't say.
We should add, finally, that this self-serving stuff was a betrayal of the investigative process itself.  It was a “collective narrative” when the police, all police everywhere, want an uncontaminated non-hearsay summary of personal experience; it was a selection of information that suited their pre-conceptions and ignored everything that didn’t, when police everywhere want answers to what they, the police, are interested in. It drew on the knowledge of what others had already said in their first statements, a corruption of  the witness process every bit as bad as contaminating the crime scene;it mixed personal recollection with details of what others were doing and put forth both as equally true.  All of it was a complete subversion of the universal statement analysis and validation procedure - comparing separate, confidential  first-person recollections with each other to establish the truth.


Even more seriously they left themselves with no choice but to stand by this document for ever, for how could any one of them say they wanted to rethink anything in the future without destroying the timeline and the credibility of the other eight? They had trapped themselves, whether they were guilty of anything or not – the worst outcome for investigators, worse even than a “pact of silence” (no, there never was one) which, after all,  is an implicit admission of guilt and as such can eventually be broken by offering incentives.
And indeed it was the worst outcome. They stuck by their “collective recollection” all the way until the case was shelved. They survived the Archiving Summary's verdict of refusal to co-operate in forming a picture of what was going on that evening "for unknown reasons". They  survived the prosecutor’s evidence  in the Lisbon court that they hadn't told the truth about the checking times. They survived the refusal to do  anything  to help Amaral’s successor Rebelo make sense of their actions. And they survived  the Leicester interviews  unscathed, despite their inability to make their various claims add up. As far as anyone knows, they have stuck by it in Operation Grange. At no time have any of them evinced the slightest sense of shame or regret at the effect that their actions and silences may have had on the investigation into the child's fate.
Now the official Redwood/Grange  revisions or revelations of  "window of opportunity" times and sightings has stranded the typed timeline like a dirty  piece of paper from a sinking ship. Perhaps that's what it is. Without the 8.55-9.25 abductor –  remember four “checks” in those thirty minutes and none before or afterwards until 10PM –  the narrative is manifestly absurd.  The attempts to paint an innocent stranger as a bogeyman  who wore “clothing [that] did not seem to be of UK origin and may well have been purchased in Portugal” and carried a “motionless/limp…possibly drugged” child as he "rushed" away from the apartment where Gerry McCann had sensed his presence and Oldfield had observed the door he’d opened,  all will  demand explanations one day.

Want to Have a Go?

But so what? Demands – who moved the door? – are one thing, results another. What if they still don’t want to help or "can't remember"?  Faced with the utter intransigence of that group and their peculiar and striking absence of shame, would you fancy your chances of discovering what happened that night? In case you'd forgotten you can't force  the truth out of people, you can't force them to incriminate themselves and, thank God,  you can't lock them up until they answer your questions.  
Get real: we're lucky it hasn't taken two decades. Instead, we repeat, things are on target.  

Tuesday 13 February 2018


Fuss  time about Grange once again: an opportunity for us to correct something we'd assumed about it. It appears that Grange are telling us the full truth when they state that the McCanns are not suspects in this investigation.
Why is that the case?
It runs like this. First, no minister, prime minister or any other member of the government can order the investigation of anybody, despite the wonderful powers allotted to UK governments by assorted McCann sceptics. That's just the law and it protects us all against the assorted lunatics and bastards - always excepting the wonderful  Mr Rees-Mogg - who govern on our behalf.
But, as we all know, it can, via the Home Office, authorise an "investigative review" in certain cases. The McCanns asked for one and the government, after consultation with the Portuguese, granted it. In this case Mr Bennett, to give that awful character his due, is correct although, as always, his reasoning and his inferences are wrong: the remit and therefore the legal status of an "investigative review" matters very much indeed.
There is no provision in such a remit for naming any targets, for "clearing" them or for making them suspects: it is purely what it says, a review of investigations that have already taken place, despite the fact that a second, so-called "investigative" phase of the Grange review was initiated in 2013. There was never any question of the McCanns or other named individuals being targeted for investigation - it would still have been illegal: only when  prima facie evidence of an offence is publicly available  can an investigation of individuals  be ordered via the prosecution service (not the government) and there was no such evidence in 2013. 
So, the Yard officers were being perfectly truthful in 2012 in stating that they were not suspects in any way in the review.  That remains the case today.
But what about evidence emerging in the course of the "investigative phase" of the review from 2013 onwards? Could that affect the couple? It is not a question that anyone is willing to answer or discuss  or even pose publicly; not the police, not the McCanns, not the lawyers. It does not suit any of them to do so. In that sense it is exactly analogous to the hole left in Operation Grange's history by the refusal of the same three parties to discuss the implications of  Redwood's new timeline and the apparent identification of the person seen by Jane Tanner: it does not suit any of them to do so. 
Given the extremely muddy words of the Yard's description of their 2013 investigative  phase - i.e. not giving any defensible legal definition of it - it appears that Grange, in order to proceed with one at all, agreed to exclude the McCanns as suspects from that as well. 
No, said the Bureau wearily, that wasn't a cunning plan to protect guilty people, no, equally wearily, the Yard wasn't ordered to. They were obeying the law and putting the review above legal challenge,  as somebody should perhaps tell Mr Sutton.
The parents aren't and never have been suspects or "persons of interest"  in Grange. They never will be. The PJ, who have their own laws, have, as we know, adopted exactly the same position. After Grange ends such undertakings have no meaning, of course: it does not lie within the powers of any of the above parties to exclude evidence garnered lawfully and within the terms of the remit during Grange from consideration by the Ministry of Justice in Portugal or the CPS over here.  

Everything remains on target.