Sunday, 5 August 2007

Portuguese weekly “Sol” : "Looking for Maddie’s body"




The investigations have returned to their initial course.
Portuguese and British police search for the body of the child in the surroundings of Praia da Luz.

By Felícia Cabrita (felícia.cabrita@sol.pt) and Margarida Davim (magarida.davim@sol.pt)
Weekly "Sol" (Original version, in Portuguese)
Translated by: Mark

“There are strong signs” that Madeleine, the English child that disappeared from Praia da Luz almost one hundred days ago, “is dead”, police sources have told Sol. The 180º turnaround that the investigation by the Policia Judiciaria (PJ) from Portimao seems to have done in the past few days, even led the Attorney General, Pinto Monteiro, to postpone the making of an interview that had been requested by British media chain BBC – an interview that would be focusing on the fact that, so long after Maddie’s disappearance, the authorities still remain without real clues concerning her whereabouts.

Although an official source from the PGR justified the postponing of the interview with “agenda issues”, the moves by the PJ and some elements from the British police during these last days – accompanied by two dogs, in Praia da Luz – seem to indicate that the investigation is now centred on the McCann family and their group of friends. Sol could find out that the English dogs are trained for different tasks. One, to detect human remains originating from dead flesh, and the other one to detect human blood or fluids. A specialist that was contacted by Sol explains that the technique of these animals rests on scientific bases, and that while “one of the dogs can distinguish between natural death or death by accident that does not involve bloodshed, the other one can diagnose whether someone died a violent death, with bloodshed or other spilled fluids”.

Tuesday night, a black and white cocker spaniel that is trained to detect death, spent several hours in the apartment that the McCann family occupied in the Ocean Club resort, and from where Maddie disappeared on May 3. According to sources within the investigation, the dog marked the death of the child inside the apartment.

On the dogs’ trail

The English dogs do not contradict the clues that were detected by the sniffer dog that GNR sent to the location, on the day following the English girl’s disappearance. It’s an animal that only follows odours, and that “detected the movement of the child from the room to another point inside the apartment”, according to a source with the Guarda. The same source said that “based on that signal, it was not possible to conclude whether the child was alive or dead – because a sniffer dog will smell both the living and the dead”. Yet, outside the house, both through the windows that faced the Tapas restaurant – where the McCanns had dinner with their seven friends – and through the main door, “the dog lost the trail, as if the child had exited, for example, rolled up in a blanket”, that source said. A team from Sol, on the terrain for the last two weeks, could observe the work of the cocker spaniel from the British police, performing several diligences along the water in Praia da Luz and in a nearby valley.

The animal’s path, on Wednesday night, seemed to test the deposition from several witnesses that were heard by the PJ in late May – namely an Irish family that have been living in Luz, and who, on the day that Maddie vanished, reportedly crossed ways with a man that carried a child that seemed to be asleep. According to their deposition to PJ, Martin Smith, his wife and his children, after leaving the Kelly bar, which is located approximately 400 metres from the Ocean Club, around 9.50 / 10.00 pm, saw an individual described as Caucasian, measuring 1.70 – 1.75 m, walking towards the beach. The Irish man told Sol that he knew Robert Murat (the only arguido in the process) visually for years – and also remembered seeing the Anglo-Portuguese man in a bar that evening, “already a bit intoxicated”. Therefore, the Irish dismissed the possibility that the person he saw carrying a child could be Murat: “If it was him, I guarantee to you that I would have recognized him”.

Concerning the clothes the man he saw on that night was wearing, Smith only refers the “beige trousers”, given the fact that his upper body was hidden by the child’s body, which was not covered. It is curious that one of the elements that formed the group of Maddie’s parents’ friends, guaranteed to PJ several days before Smith was heard, that - at a moment when she left the table to check on the group’s children - she had crossed ways with a man that was wearing trousers that fit the description that was also made by the Irish man. That individual was also carrying a sleeping child. And the witness, who even managed to see what pyjamas the child was wearing, just “thought it was strange that the child was barefoot and uncovered”. This witness said it would be 9.15 pm.

Direct access to the PM

According to the course the PJ from Portimao is now conducting the investigation, and considering the trail that the British police’s cocker spaniel tracked along the sea shore, the individual would have descended to Praia da Luz, where he could have disposed of Maddie’s body. Sol knows that the English team contacted João Alveirinho Dias, a professor at the University of Algarve and a specialist in oceanography, in order to collect information about the sea’s dynamics and the beach area where everything may have happened. The investigator, who was not briefed about the context of the police inquiries, told “Sol" that he was consulted on “the sand movements, where they come from and where they go to”. The police investigation has therefore, and according to our sources, returned to its initial course, and it becomes increasingly clear, as Sol had reported previously, that there is no proof against Murat.

Yet, the British media continue to point a finger at the Anglo-Portuguese man, although the criminal investigation has returned to clues that relate to the group of friends of Madeleine’s parents. A journalist with the Daily Express – who has repeatedly contacted Sol searching for new information on this case – recognized this week that it is “difficult for an English newspaper to adopt a critical tone concerning Madeleine’s parents”. The Daily Express cited, in one of its last reports, the news that have been published by Sol, describing them as a “hate campaign” against the McCanns.

The same journalist ended up confessing that “it’s the only way we can transmit your data”. Sol knows that Gerry McCann has regular contact with Gordon Brown, the British Prime Minister. Clarence Mitchell – who was the first spokesman for the McCanns and is now in the press cabinet at Nº 10, Downing Street – confirms those contacts. “I know there is a communication line between Gerry and Gordon Brown. I know they talk. But I don’t know what they talk about, because those are informal conversations”, he clarified, further adding: “The Madeleine case is treated whenever there are bilateral meetings between Portugal and the United Kingdom. Gordon Brown is sensitive to the case and wants it solved quickly”.

Translated by: Mark 04.08.2007