Monday, 30 June 2008

Sunday Star: New leads, the McCann “hopeful that "a breakthrough" is near?

This story was posted today, on the site “Dont Let Them Hurt Our Children”. The poster refers that there is no on line version, just appeared in the print edition.

McCanns boosted by fresh leads: "There is no evidence she has been hurt or killed".

Monday, 30 June 2008

McCanns boosted by fresh leads Sunday Star (No online link, appears in paper version only) - Sunday 29 June 2008

Kate and Gerry Mccann have been boosted by a series of fresh leads in the hunt for missing daughter Madeleine.They have been told of 'several' potential new sightings of the five year old, who vanished without trace while on holiday in Portugal in May 07. It has led to a 'widening and deepening' of the private investigation into Madeleine's disappearance. Last night the family's spokesman Clarence Mitchell said Kate and Gerry remain hopeful that "a breakthrough" is near.

He said "following the documentary at the anniversary of Madeleine's disappearance there were a lot of calls, which are still being followed up. "These include new information, potential sightings , although I cant go into any details." The privately funded probe into Maddie's disappearance from the family's holiday apartment in Praia da Luz on May 3, 2007 has become "wider and much more sophisticated" according to sources.

Metodo 3 the Spanish agency which took on the investigation is being aided by other agencies across the globe. In addition, doctors Kate and Gerry, both 40, from Rothley, Leics. hope their status as arguidos or suspects - will be lifted in the next few weeks. Police files on the case are due to be shared with third parties next month, which could signal an end to the suspicion which hung over the couple since last year.

Last night Mr Mitchell said the McCanns still believe Maddie is alive. He added "they continue to work on the assumption that Madeleine is being held somewhere. "There is no evidence she has been hurt or killed".

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Just yo confirm I'm posting at The 3 Arguidos

I put some comments and started a thread at "The 3 Arguidos" - Legal Mutual Assistance Guidelines and July 7 Court session - with the user name “pjreis”. This message is to assure other members of that forum that “pjreis” is the real Paulo Reis, from Gazeta Digital.

Another one bites the dust

Celia Edwards, British consul in Algarve, resigned from the Foreign Office, less than one year after replacing Bill Henderson (who retired, on July 31, 2007). Celia Edwards resignation will be effective from July 1. The Foreign Office confirmed already the resignation and referred that the decision was taken for personal reasons. Celia Edwards is the fifth Foreign Office representative to leave the Government, after being in charge of the diplomatic support and contacts with the Media, for the parents of Madeleine McCann, in Portugal.

John Buck, the UK Ambassador in Lisbon, left the Diplomatic Service on September 10, 2007, and was replaced by Alexander Ellis, a former adviser with the office of EU Commission President Durão Barroso. Sheree Dodd and Clarence Mitchell were the first two Foreign Office representatives sent to Algarve, after Madeleine McCann disappeared. Both left their government jobs: Clarence Mitchell became the McCann spokesman and Sheree Dodd was hired as Press Adviser to Michael Martin, the House of Commons Speaker.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Two slightly different versions

Lady Glenys Kinnock, MEP and one of the sponsors of the “McCann written declaration” about a EU Ambert Alert System, said that the idea of drafting it was from the MEPs, not from the McCann. Edward McMillan-Scott, another sponsor, said that “the 'written declaration' was proposed by the McCann” - two versions “slightly different”, both given in answers to questions made by Blackwatch, in the blog “The Sargeants”.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Kate McCann, from "yummy mummy to spin doctor"

Going Cheap? Female Celebrity in the Tabloid, Reality and Scandal Genres” is the subject of a one-day event sponsored by the School of Film and Television Studies, from the University of East Anglia. The conference “will examine how discourses of tabloidism, 'reality,' and scandal shape the construction of female celebrity in contemporary and historical periods”.

One the papers to be presented has an interesting tittle: “From Yummy Mummy to Spin Doctor: The case of Kate McCann - Examining the tragic circumstances in which Madeleine McCann's mother acquired fame”.

Keynote speakers are Pamela Church Gibson (London College of Fashion, UK), Imogen Tyler (University of Lancaster, UK), Mary Desjardins (Dartmouth College, USA) and Stephen Harper (University of Portsmouth, UK). The event will take place next Wednesday, 25 June, 2008.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Just a question:

Have you ever come across a situation where BOTH parents ask for a child to be made ward of court ?

Now I know what you did last summer...

Madeleine McCann was made a ward of court last summer, according to The Telegraph. Could have been any time between May and September 2007. Clarence Mitchell explained that Madeleine McCann was made a ward of court “on the instigation of Gerry and Kate”. As far as I know, Courts don't act “on the instigation” of anyone. Courts act and take decisions following formal requests, complains and/or accusations from solicitors, lawyers, social services, police and prosecution services.

What does it means, “on the instigation of Gerry and Kate”? The McCann just suggested it, during an informal chat with a Judge or while talking with somebody from Social Services? What kind of formal request was presented to a Court and what kind of arguments were used, to ask the Judge to make Madeleine McCann a ward of court and who signed that request? Did Clarence Mitchell used a wrong word – just a mistake, a lapsus linguae - or a carefully chosen word, when he said “instigation”?

Why did Mr. Clarence Mitchell classified the fact that “some details of court proceedings concerning Madeleine have been made public” as something “regrettable”? Why did the McCann “instigated” the Court to take away from them their parental rights, the custody of their missing child?

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Who's the boss?

Audrey Fitzpatrick told Herald.ie, yesterday, that “she had a 'very encouraging' meeting in Dublin with the spokesman for the parents of Madeleine McCann (...) 'It was very good meeting him. He has offered us real help in getting Amy into the British media', she said. 'He was confident he will be able to get Amy's story on the BBC and on Sky and on GMTV too,' she said. He is doing this just because he wants to help find Amy. We're very grateful to him. We have been trying for a long time to get the British media interested in the search for Amy,' she added.”

So, Mr. Clarence Mitchell promised Audrey Fitzpatrick, the mother of teenager Amy Fitzpatrick, who disappeared in Spain, last January, that he “will be able to get Amy's story on the BBC and on Sky and on GMTV too”. I'm confused. I remember Mr. Clarence Mitchell was a BBC journalist, before switching to a well paid job at the Prime-Minister's Office (Tony Blair, remember?) where he headed the Media Monitoring Unit. After being sent to Praia da Luz, by the Foreign Office, to act as an adviser for Madeleine's parents, he quit his Government job to be a full-time spokesman for the McCann.

Amy Fitzpatrick's mother and her partner have been trying hard to have British Media interested in the case of her missing daughter, with no success. But Mr. Clarence Mitchell is “confident” he can change the mind of the editors of BBC, Sky News and GMTV – British TV channels that, until now, showed no interest in the case of Amy, as her mother said. That is the reason why I'm confused.

The editors of those TV channels follow orders from Mr. Clarence Mitchell? Does the spokesman of the McCann couple has such an influence over those editors, that he can make them put Amy's case in the news, even if – as it seems, according to Amy's mother – they haven't considered it, until now, a case important enough to get some good amount of TV time? Do those editors give more importance to a missing child case, depending from the person that phones them? Or is Mr. Clarence Mitchell pretending to have more influence that he really has?

The McCann versus Leicestershire Police

The McCanns hope their application to Mrs Justice Hogg will result in Leicestershire Police opening their files on scores of reported sightings of Madeleine, most of which have been passed on to them by police in Portugal, where the four-year-old disappeared in May last year,” wrote The Telegraph

The case will be heard in open court on July 7, in the Family Division of the High Court in London. Leicestershire Police is expected to contest the request, according to legal sources quoted by The Telegraph. The newspaper also refers that "Mrs Justice Hogg, a specialist in child welfare cases, is the sister of former cabinet minister Douglas Hogg and the daughter of former Lord Chancellor Lord Hailsham."


Two small (but important) details

The McCann couple has been trying hard to convince Members of European Parliament to support a “written declaration” about setting up an EU alert system for missing children. Adressing the MEPs, Kate McCann said that she “believe the chances for recovery (of Madeleine) would have been higher”, if an EU alert system was in place, on May 3 last year.

Lady Catherine Meyer, who founded a charity to deal with the problem of child abduction told The Telegraph: “"I am without a doubt sure that if an Amber Alert was in place when Madeleine McCann went missing she would have been found, without a doubt." The headline of that story, in The Telegraph says: “Alert 'would have saved' Madeleine McCann”.

The Daily Mirror quotes unnamed relatives of Madeleine McCann: “The family say Madeleine, four, who vanished in May 2007, may have been found if there had been alert system”. The Liverpool Daily Post wrote that “The McCanns believe a European version of Amber Alert - which notifies the public via media across the US when police confirm a child has been abducted - would have helped the search for their daughter in the crucial hours after her disappearance”.

But there are two small details that I believe people must think about it, when facing this barrage of arguments. First detail: Kate McCann raised the alarm that Madeleine has disappeared at 10.00 pm. But the first phone call registered by Portuguese police about a missing child at Praia da Luz resort, was made 46 minutes later. A patrol was sent, from the GNR precint of Lagos, arrived 10/15 minutes later, and called PJ after another 10/15 minutes they spend, in the field, evaluating the situation – common procedure, even for the outstanding British Police. Why that phone call was made only 46 minutes after Kate McCann found Madeleine was missing?

Second detail, according to The Times: “The UK’s most senior officer responsible for missing children today ruled out Kate and Gerry McCann’s plea to introduce an 'amber alert' system. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Richard Bryan insisted that there was no need to emulate the US system of immediate information broadcasts once children have been reported missing (...) People need to realise we have got a version of amber alert in the UK - child rescue alert,' he said. 'That has been in place since 2003 in Sussex and it was rolled out nationally by 2006. We have only had to use it on three occasions.”

European exception for a “McCann Alert”

According to Clarence Mitchell, spokesman of the McCann, there is the possibility of an exceptional extension of time being granted by the European Parliament for collecting all the signatures needed for the written declaration, which Kate and Gerry McCann joined.

"We are keen to get the number by the end of July but we are extremely encouraged by the number of MEPs who have signed it. The hard work will continue until we get the required 110 signatures, but there's the possibility of the period being extended under European Parliament rules and that's a major boost”, Clarence Mitchell said, according to The Press Association.

Article 116 of the European Parliament Regulations is, however, clear about this point: “A written declaration that has stood in the register for over three months and has not been signed by at least one half of the component Members of Parliament shall lapse ”. The so-called “McCann written declaration" was registered on April 24.

At the end of their day at the European Parliament, in Strasbourg, Kate and Gerry McCann only managed to convince 15 deputies to sign the document. Today, the written declaration of Edward McMillan-Scott still needs more 110 signatures.

According to an official source of the European Parliament, “it is not the McCann who joined an existing document, but rather a declaration that was drafted with the single purpose to associate the name of the McCann to it.”

According to McMillan-Scott, Vice-president of the European Parliament and author of the “written declaration”, President Hans-Gert Pöttering would be willing to authorize the extension of the legal time granted, if a total of 300 signatures would be reached at the end of the plenary session of July, a first in the Parliament’s history.

McCann wanted to seize “a policy that is already being enforced”

"The McCann couple launched a public relations campaign, trying to 'seize' a policy that is already being enforced...", accused the Member of European Parliament Carlos Coelho, member of the Christian-Democrat group in the European Parliament and Party colleague of President Barroso. And this MEP knows what he is talking about, as he was among the 54 deputies who had adopted, in a committee session, the European strategy concerning children’s rights, a document which was approved on January 2008.

The “written declaration” to which McMilan-Scott agreed to associate Kate and Gerry McCann thus does not contain anything new, when compared with the legislative project of the European institutions.

In January, after several years of work following a specific strategy, 630 of the 718 deputies present in Strasbourg adopted the European strategy as regards children's’ rights, approving the introduction of a European alert system in the event of an abduction, as well creating a phone number for assistance to the children, an initiative proposed in 2006 but not yet functional in several Member States - a delay considered to be “unjustifiable” for the majority of the deputies.

The document approved by the Parliament goes further, because the deputies “appeal for an European strategy against paedophile tourism and the introduction of a single corpus of off-shore criminal laws, applicable within the entire Union”, which would allow the prosecution, in Europe, of sexual offenders that committed crimes in third countries.

McMillan-Scott, author of the declaration to which the McCann were associated, and a certain Christopher Heaton-Harris, a representative of the district of Rothley are among the deputies who voted for this document.

The European deputy Heaton-Harris is also the author of a written declaration which shows clearly the value of this type of document: in April 2008, he invited his colleagues to sign a written declaration asking for the English language to become the only working language within the European institutions.

Duarte Levy and Paulo Reis

Version Française Version Española Versão Portuguesa

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Just to confirm the headline of our previous posts...

EU Vice-President Jacques Barrot REJECTS McCann's project of a European Amber alert”, was the headline. It doesn't say that Barroso and Barrot are against the idea of a rapid response alert, just that they don't support the McCann's “recent” idea, launched with the help of five Members of European Parliament. What Barrot said is very clear, I think: The EU will proceed with it's own legislative process of setting up a missing children alert system, following the formal decisions already taken, since 2006 (among others, a legal decision approved in the beginning of this year by the European Parliament).

The EU Commission has it's own project of a rapid response scheme, since 2006. And that is the project that EU and Barrot are willing to set up - not the McCann's inspired proposal of doing something vague and similar as the USA have done, with the Amber Alert. Check what Carlos Coelho, a Portuguese MEP from PSD said: "The McCann couple launched a public relations campaign, trying to "seize" a policy that is already being enforced..." (and watch the exasperation of Kate and Gerry McCann, when questioned by journalists about the fact they left three children alone...)

Take a look at this, from Missing Children Europe: "With as am aim to drive this ambition forward, the European Commission invited representatives of Missing Children Europe to an informal meeting on 17 August. Following this meeting Missing Children Europe convened an Interdisciplinary Core Group of NGOs and law enforcement agencies, which met on 31 August 2007 and drafted some initial recommendations. These recommendations were presented at a meeting convened by the Directorate–General Justice, Freedom and Security of the European Commission involving Representatives of the Police and/or Judicial authorities from the 27 Member States on 12 September. Meanwhile, the European Commission drafted European Guidelines on the EU Child Alert. These Guidelines were inspired by the recommendations of the Interdisciplinary Core Group. The Commission Guidelines were the starting point for the discussions at the Informal Meeting of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers in Lisbon of 2 October and will be the basis for the suggested project."

Duarte Levy and Paulo Reis

Version Française

EU Vice-President Jacques Barrot rejects McCann's project of a European Amber alert

The strategy approved by the European Parliament, concerning an alert system for missing children, will go forward, the European Commission Vice-president Jacques Barrot said, Monday, in Strasbourg. The appointment of Mr. Barrot to be the Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security, will be voted by the European Parliament next Wednesday.

Mr. Barrot mentioned the European Parliament project intended to set up a EU hotline in all 27 state member and a coordinated alarm system, in cooperation with NGO's and child protection associations and said that child protection was “among his priorities”, during a formal hearing on Monday. This hearing is one of the steps for the appointment of a new Commissioner or a change of portfolio. Mr. Barrot was the Commissioner in charge of Transports.

The remarks were considered by several Members of European Parliament a “diplomatic answer” to the McCann strong critics about the European Parliament project, published in Gerry's blog on 13 June. The parents of Madeleine McCann went to Strasbourg today, trying to get the support of more 182 MEPs, for a “written declaration” that appeals for a system similar to the American Amber alert to be set up in EU, but they only managed to get 15 more signatures and are far from the 393 needed.

During a Press Conference, Kate and Gerry McCann reacted with exasperation, when journalists questioned them about the fact that they left three children alone in an apartment, the night when Madeleine disappeared. “We didn't abandoned or neglected Madeleine. Somebody came in the apartment and took a child. Repeating that question is really annoying”, was the answer of Gerry McCann.

“The fundamental question is the fact that a child was kidnapped and there is a criminal on the run”, said Kate McCann. “We must concentrate in the fundamental question. It's not helpful to insist in raising the same subject. Nothing changed, in the last 14 months and I don't understand why we are talking about that, again.”

Duarte Levy and Paulo Reis

Version Française

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

European missing children alert system being developed since 2006

Gerry McCann “has grown frustrated” by the refusal of many Members of European Parliament to sign up a “written declaration” proposing the creation of an EU alert system similar to the Amber alert, in the USA. The father of Madeleine McCann accused those MEPs of a "complete lack of understanding in what we hope to achieve.”

The McCann have been campaigning for an EU alert system, to deal with cases of missing children. But since 2006, the European Commission has approved a project to set up a single EU hotline number (116 000) and a coordinated alert system, between the 27 Member States.

On December 2006, a special meeting of Member States endorsed the European Commission's initiative to reserve a set of common free phone numbers “for services of social value”, including the number 116 000, to be made “available for hotlines for missing children.” On February 2007, the EU Commission formally adopted the decision “reserving the 116000 telephone number in all Member States as a hotline for reporting missing children.” Viviane Reding, the EU Telecom Commissioner at the time, said that she was “delighted that today the first major step towards a single EU hotline number for missing children has been taken”, according to BBC.

Until now, four European countries have set up the 116 000 hotline to report missing childrenBelgium, Greece, Portugal and Denmark – and France will do it this summer. The European Federation for Missing and Sexually Exploited Children (“Missing Children Europe”) was invited by the European Commission to help in this project and, following a meeting on 17 August 2007, Missing Children Europe convened an Interdisciplinary Core Group of NGOs and law enforcement agencies, which met on 31 August 2007 and drafted some initial recommendations, which were the basis for a Commission Guidelines about missing children, discussed at the Informal Meeting of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers in Lisbon of 2 October 2007.

The EU hotline and alert system for missing children is high in the agenda of the French EU presidency, to start in July 2008 and new and important steps are expected, for 2009, as “Missing Children Europe” refers, on a report about it's cooperation with this EU project.

In his blog, on 13 June, Gerry McCann strongly criticized the EU project, claiming that the 116 000 number “is only operational in one out of 27 European countries (Greece) so far.” Also, he considers that the system the EU is setting up, since 2006, does not mean “an Amber alert will be issued for an abducted child as no such system exists." The McCann, who will be in Strasbourg today, 17 June, still need 182 Euro MPs to sign up the “written declaration” but this document carries no legal weight in the European Union.

Duarte Levy and Paulo Reis

Version Française




Just ignorance?

Monica Sanchez created a petition on-line, to the UK Prime Minister, to set up an alert system for when children go missing. Why? “There is no actual warning system in this country for when children do go missing. This has to stop as there are too many children that go missing by setting up an amber alert system which should not only cover the UK but also Europe,” she wrote. With a little research, she could find that there is a UK national alert system, since 2006 and the European Union has been working to set up a similar system with the 27 Member States, since 2006.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

McCann couple goes to Strasbourg for a last ditch stand

Gerry and Kate McCann will be in Strasbourg next Tuesday in order to try to secure enough support from Members of the European Parliament for a “written declaration” concerning the creation of a European Amber Alert system covering all 27 EU states. But, in fact, this idea was originally proposed by the EU Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security, Mr Franco Frattini, in 2006: a detail never mentioned by the McCanns, their media advisers nor by Clarence Mitchell. Mr Frattini proposed that each country should establish an EU alert system, but it was not an initiative for the European Parliament’s legislature.

However, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Richard Bryan, a UK top ranking police officer, who is the Association of Chief Police Officers head of missing people, told the media in May 2007 that “there was no need to emulate the US system of immediate information broadcasts once children have been reported missing.”

According to the Times on-line edition, “Mr Bryan congratulated the McCanns on doing a 'sterling job' in raising the issue of how police deal with child abductions, but he said that police would rather use other investigative techniques to trace children before going public and potentially alerting abductors.”

The UK already has a national alert system for missing children, as Richard Bryan told the Times, “that has been in place since 2003 in Sussex and it was rolled out nationally by 2006. We have only had to use it on three occasions.”

Since 2006, Mr Frattini’s initial idea has taken shape. In February 2007, the European Commission decided to ask all member states to reserve a dedicated set of national phone numbers starting with “116”. The idea was that they should be used as a hotline in the event of a missing child. So far, 10 EU countries have adopted the idea, but the UK is not one of them.

On April 21, following a meeting with the McCanns, five Members of the European Parliament (Edward McMillan-Scott, Roberta Angelilli, Glenys Kinnock, Evelyne Gebhardt and Diana Wallis) submitted a written declaration to the European Parliament concerning “Emergency Cooperation in Recovering Missing Children.” The declaration “calls on Member States to introduce a missing child alert system” and asks for the creation of a “common organisation to provide assistance and training” to police forces in the 27 EU countries.

In order to have the “written declaration” sent to the EU President and published, the McCanns still need the signatures of 182 more Members of the European Parliament to reach the required number of 393. The “written declaration” is just a way to “launch or relaunch a debate on a subject that comes within the EU’s remit”, but it has no legal implications for the EU state members.

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Friday, 13 June 2008

One month without a report about a Madeleine's sighting

Does anyone remembers the last report about an alleged Madeleine's sighting? It was exactly on May 13, in Brazil. It's curious, how the number of reports about people claiming they saw Madeleine has ups and downs, in different periods of time. Just a coincidence? A direct relation with the fact that Madeleine is – or is not - on the front page of British tabloids? Is there another plausible or possible explanation?

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

European police organizes a child kidnap simulation

Portuguese and Spanish police officers will participate, as observers, on a simulated child's kidnapping, to take place on June 12. The simulation was proposed by the French Justice minister, Rachida Dati, in order to test the coordination of the authorities of all EU countries in these kind of crimes. The simulated kidnap will take place in France. A child from Luxembourg will be “kidnapped” by two police officers, who will try to drive her from France through Belgium, to an unknown destiny, using a car with a Dutch licence plate. Police from France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Holland will participate in the attempt to trace, find and arrest the “kidnappers”. UK police was also invited as an observer, but refused the invitation.

Duarte Levy & Paulo Reis

Version Française Versão Portuguesa

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

UK Ambassador denies contacts between Governments about Madeleine's case

The only thing I know about the investigation is that Madeleine is still missing”, Alexander Ellis, UK Ambassador in Portugal, told Jornal de Notícias. Alexander Ellis told that what the British Embassy did, in the Madeleine McCann case, was just to “facilitate meetings between the relevant authorities and giving all the necessary support to the British citizens involved in the case.”

Asked if there were any contacts between the British and Portuguese Governments about the case, taking in account the fact that Clarence Mitchell, at the time a UK Prime-Minister's office high ranking official, was sent to Praia da Luz, to help the McCann couple, Alexander Ellis said: “I don't believe. This is a question for Police, not for the Governments, and the authorities have been working with a good coordination.”

But Gordon Brown, speaking to journalists in Lisbon, before the EU summit, on October 2007, said that he was planning to talk, with the Portuguese Prime-Minister about questions related to Madeleine McCann disappearance. The Portuguese Prime-Minister Press Office denied that the question of Madeleine's investigation was ever referred, during the meeting with Gordon Brown. “The only subjects raised during the meeting between Gordon Brown and José Sócrates were related to the EU summit. All the rest is pure speculation”, according to the same source, quoted by Portuguese daily Correio da Manhã. A spokesman for Mr. Gordon Brown denied this and told British Media that prime minister Gordon Brown spoke to his Portuguese counterpart Jose Socrates about Madeleine during the EU summit in Lisbon. Mr Brown’s official spokesman said: “They both agreed what matters was there should be the closest possible co-operation between the Portuguese and British police.”

UK Government also “believes that Durão Barroso is in a very good position” to be the first post-Lisbon Treaty EU President, according to the UK Ambassador. Alexander Ellis is married with a Portuguese and during the two years before being appointed as Ambassador in Lisbon, he was one of the advisers of Durão Barroso, current EU President.

Duarte Levy & Paulo Reis

Spanish Version

Version Française

Monday, 9 June 2008

Clarence Mitchell invited for the “Annual General Meeting of the Churches' Media Council”


The Churches' Media Council asked the McCann spokesman to be one of main speakers on the “Annual General Meeting of the Churches' Media Council”, to take place today, June 9, at the Hayes Conference Centre, in Swanwick, Derbyshire. “The McCanns and the Media - The Inside Story” is the subject of Clarence Mitchell' speach. “Kate and Gerry McCann have used the media in their search for their daughter, Madeleine, and they have been abused by the media. What has their experience of the media been like, and what does it teach us”, is the story that will be told from Clarence Mitchell's “unique perspective”, according to the Churches' Media Council site.

Tim Gardam
, former Head of Current Affairs at BBC TV and Radio, Controller of News and Documentaries at Channel Five, Director of Television and Director of Programmes at Channel 4, and currently Principal of St Anne’s College, Oxford, will be in charge of the conference opening and keynote adresses. You can see the list of other speakers here. The fees for attending the full conference are 320 £.

The Churches' Media Council, according to their own site, “exists to build bridges between the Christian community and the media. It does this by encouraging and resourcing media bodies and producers, especially as they deal with issues of faith and values, helping churches and Christian organisations to engage constructively with the media, and keeping them informed about key developments, supporting Christians working in the production community, through theMediaNet (formerly the Association of Christians in Media) and contributing to the development of broadcasting policy.

Version Française

Sunday, 8 June 2008

British Foreign Office helped the McCann to go back home


Between September 7 and 10, last year, Kate McCann was fighting for her life, according to The News of the World, because Portuguese authorities were trying to frame her. "They want me to lie - I'm being framed”, Kate told the Sunday Mirror. The reason, she explained, was the fact that Polícia Judiciária was “running out of budget for this investigation and want it to end". Another reason, she said, was that Portuguese Police “don't want a murder in Portugal and all the publicity about them not having paedophile laws here, so they're blaming us."

But at the same time, Gerry McCann admitted that he was already informed by his lawyers that PJ “may have cobbled together enough to charge them.” Even being "absolutely confident' there was no evidence to link him and Kate with any suspicion of murder” of their daughter, Gerry admitted the “latest twist of events”, during the first weeks of September, “had left him with 'anxieties". According to the September 9 edition of The News of The World, “the McCann now fear the cops may be about to arrest and charge them. Gerry told us: 'Our lawyer said the weight of it is that, under the Portuguese legal system, they've got enough to move forward against us."

The father of Madeleine McCann considered also the possibility that “sooner or later, there'll be a formal process whereby we can rebut things in court. Then it will all come out. Gerry explained that the McCann were “negotiating with the police” in order “to be allowed to go home to the UK”, after being named as “arguidos”, or formal suspects in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.

As those negotiations were going on, the “Foreign Office was 'firing on all cylinders' in its efforts to help the McCann”, as the Telegraph wrote on September 10. And the agreement that allowed Gerry and Kate to go back to the UK was reached through direct contacts between the British Foreign Office, the Portuguese Justice and Foreign Office ministers and PJ, with the help of John Buck, UK Ambassador in Portugal at the time. Justine McGuiness and David Hughes, members of the McCann team of advisers, played also an important role in those contacts.

A source from PJ explained that if the couple had attempted to leave Portugal before the questioning that took place between 7 and 8 of September, the Public Prosecutor's Office had instructed PJ inspectors to stop them and was ready to name them as "arguidos" and impose more severe restrictions on their movements. The Portuguese authorities accepted a “gentlemen's agreement”, after the Foreign Office guaranteed that the couple would return to Portugal, whenever the Public Prosecutor's Office requested their presence.

The sudden change of attitude from the McCann, trying to go back to UK after promising that they would never leave without Madeleine, happened two months after a special British police team came to Praia da Luz, with Eddie and Keela, dogs trained to detect the smell of blood and dead bodies. But one month before being named “arguidos”, the PJ spokesman, Olegário de Sousa, had already revealed, on a interview with BBC, on August 10, that police was following a new line of inquiry which included the possibility of Madeleine being dead.

Duarte Levy & Paulo Reis

Version Française

Why did the chickens run away


Once again, Clarence Mitchel comes forward with another “spin”, trying to justify something that is difficult for any common citizen to accept. Some of the McCann friends refused to come to Portugal, to participate in the reconstruction of the events at the night Madeleine McCann disappeared. Let's analyse carefully the dialogue between Pat Kenny and Mr. Clarence Mitchell, on a interview with RTE Radio 1 (*). Pat Kenny was kind enough to put the question on a very “friendly” way:

(...)

Pat: Now, the last thing is quite amazing, astonishing, development in a sense that it's about a cancellation of a reconstruction of what happened on that night. But the reconstruction wasn't going to be televised, so what was the point of it?

CM: Well, that's exactly the question that Gerry, Kate and their friends were asking. There are a whole host of reasons why they had very strong concerns about what this would actually achieve. They've all said consistently - and continue to do so - that they will do anything to help find Madeleine. This particular proposal, the way it was phrased, the way it was being put forward, they felt would not in any shape or form help to find her. As you said, it wouldn't have been televised, so there would have been no new leads coming in... Why, what good would it have done well over a year after the event? Nobody seems to have given any consideration to Kate's mental well-being, you know, was she expected to see a child playing Madeleine in front of her? All sorts of other questions...”

(...)

I admit three possibilities as an explanation for this nonsense, quoted from that interview:

1 – Mr. Clarence Mitchell and the McCann's British lawyers just don't care about what their Portuguese lawyers explain to them;

2 – Mr. Rogério Alves and Mr. Carlos Pinto de Abreu are lousy lawyers and don't even know the basic procedures of a criminal investigation;

3 – Mr. Clarence Mitchell is lying;

Why? Because, according to the Portuguese Penal Code, reconstruction of events and/or facts related to a crime is a way of getting evidence acceptable by the Court, following a formal decision from police and judicial authorities, under specific circumstances and conditions.

This is a translation from article 150º, Portuguese Penal Code:

Chapter V – About the reconstruction of events
Article 150º
Conditions and procedure

1 - If there is a need to determine that a fact could have occurred under certain circumstances, it is admissible to do its reconstruction. This reconstruction consists in the reproduction, as exactly as possible, of the conditions under which is supposed the facts have taken place and the in the repetition of the way events happened.

2 - The formal decision ordering the reconstruction of the fact must contain a brief mention of their subject, day, hour and place where it will occur and how it will be done, eventually recording it on video. Within the same formal decision can be designated an expert for implementation of certain operations.

3 - The advertising of the reconstitution should be, as far as possible, avoided.”

Pat Kenny was surprised by the fact that Portuguese Police wanted to use the McCann and friends, for the reconstruction, rather than actors:

(...)

Pat: That's... they were going to use the McCann and the people who were there actually that night rather than actors.”

CM: Well, exactly, and how many reconstructions have you heard of in Ireland, Britain, or anywhere else, where the original people involved in a case actually take part? It is virtually unheard of. And so, again, that made us - made our lawyers wonder, you know, what is going on here? And on top of that, the Portuguese - as a norm - do not do reconstructions. Last year, just after Madeleine was taken, BBC Crimewatch proposed just such a reconstruction with actors. And the police said, "No, no, we don't do that here, we don't do reconstructions." And yet, suddenly they turn around over a year later to say "We will do one, on our terms". And, you know, there was some debate within the group. Now, Gerry and Kate, as 'arguidos', as suspects, are, would have had to go back if they were forced back - legally - to go. There was no question of them saying "No, we couldn't go", but the friends are not suspected of anything or not involved directly in that sense, to that degree. And, as a result, they had freedom of choice. And they discussed it themselves - at length - and decided to let the police know that, you know, that: "Thank you for this offer, on this occasion, but we don't feel it would be helpful". And that's what happened. And the police made it clear as well, they wanted everybody, or it wouldn't happen. And as soon as one or two of the friends said "no", then it simply fell away.”

Pat: There was some suspicion that they were trying to kind of trip people up. You've given a statement... Now, let's see you walk through the statement that you gave and let's see if we can find any holes in it.”

CM: I have to be very careful what I say, Pat, because the police are still investigating this and our lawyers are still looking at it, but, um, you can draw that assumption if you wish, I would not wish to comment on that.”

(...)

So, some of the McCann friends refused to take part in the reconstruction, making it impossible from a legal point of view. They “discussed it themselves - at length - and decided to let the police know that (...) 'Thank you for this offer, on this occasion, but we don't feel it would be helpful". Could the reason for that have been the “suspicion that they (the Portuguese Police) were trying to kind of trip people up...You've given a statement... Now, let's see you walk through the statement that you gave and let's see if we can find any holes in it”, as Pat Kenny mentioned?

You can draw that assumption if you wish”, was Clarence Mitchell answer. Yes, we can, as Barak Obama supporters say.

(*) The interview with Clarence Mitchell begins 10 minutes after the start of the audio record

Duarte Levy & Paulo Reis

Version française


Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Tapas friends denied Mccann's version of events

Fiona Payne, her mother, Dianne Webster and her husband David Payne denied the Mccann version of events on the night of May 3, when Madeleine disappeared. Their statements to Polícia Judiciária, on June 11, 2007, in Portimão, were clear: each couple was in charge of checking their own kids and there was no system of regularly checking all children, at the same time, by each one of the nine adults having dinner at Tapas Restaurant. According to today's edition of Portuguese daily “24 Horas”, Fiona Payne has made statements to PJ on three different occasions, just like Mathew Oldfield and his wife Rachel. “The statement of Dianne Webster, mother of Fiona, was very consistent and there was no need to question her again”, a judicial source told “24 Horas”.“The other persons who had dinner with the Mccann – Janne Taner, Russel O'Brien, Mathew and Rachel Oldfield – made contradictory statements”, the same source said. “Jane Tanner always said that she left the restaurant to check on her daughter. Fiona, David and Dianne told PJ that she never left the restaurant, before Kate Mccann raised the alarm”, wrote “24 Horas”. These informations were confirmed by the statements of several Tapas workers.

Monday, 2 June 2008

The McCanns and the winning trio (*)

The results of an opinion poll carried out in the UK among a thousand businessmen at the “Leaders in London International Leadership Summit” show that the three most influential people in the UK (after Her Majesty, the Queen) are Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and the billionaire Richard Branson.

These three winners are - in the same order – strong supporters of Madeleine McCann parents, the little British girl who disappeared from one of the most peaceful villages on the southern coast of Portugal. The results of the poll have the merit of shedding light on how – and perhaps why – an apparently common couple of doctors continue to flout the judicial system of two sovereign democratic states, to the point of refusing to assist the British and Portuguese police detectives in finding out what actually happened to their own daughter.

Since Madeleine disappeared in May 2007, her parents, Gerry and Kate McCann, have received extraordinary support from two of the most influential people in the UK: former prime minister Tony Blair and his Party colleague, Gordon Brown, the current resident of nº 10, Downing Street. Moreover, it seems that it was the support of these two personalities that helped to open the door for the financial backing offered by the third one. It was Tony Blair and Gordon Brown who were behind the instructions given to the UK ambassador, John Buck, and to the British consul, Bill Henderson (the two senior UK diplomats in Portugal at the time she disappeared), to make sure Gerry and Kate McCann were given all possible assistance.

It was the ambassador, John Buck, who made the trip from Lisbon to the Algarve, after having alerted the Portuguese minister of Foreign Affairs and the director of the Policia Judiciaria (PJ) about the disappearance. This was before even the local police (GNR) or the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the PJ in Portimão had been alerted. They were only notified by a phone call from the Ocean Club at around 22:45.

A vanishing act

Strangely, John Buck left his position in Portugal (and his diplomatic career) on September 10, 2007, the day after Kate and Gerry McCann fled to the UK, after having been made arguidos (suspects). Before him, two other British diplomats had left their positions: the consul, Bill Henderson, and Sheree Dodd, who has been sent over by the Foreign Office at Blair’s direct request. She was replaced by Clarence Mitchell, after having called the attention for some inconsistencies about the McCanns, namely their behaviour and their lack of cooperation with the Portuguese PJ and the British police.
Bill Henderson surprised everyone by announcing his resignation. He retired at the end of August, a few days before took place the police interviews that ended with the McCanns getting the arguido status. After their departure, Celia Edwards became the UK consul for the Algarve. She accompanied Kate and Gerry McCann during their interviews with the PJ in September 2007.

John Buck was replaced by Alexander Wykeham Ellis, the ambassador who turned up in Portimão on the very day the PJ detectives returned from a trip to Enderby. His wife is Portuguese and he has an in-depth knowledge of Portugal, where he had previously worked between 1992 and 1996. He had come from Brussels, where he worked with the president of the European Commission, Durão Barroso.
On several occasions, Tony Blair used his prerogative and contacts to enable the McCanns to be received by the authorities in selected countries, to launch the Madeleine Fund, notably the Vatican, where they met Pope Benedict XVI and stay at the guest house of the UK ambassador Francis Campbell, a privilege normally reserved for distinguished guests.

During a phone call to the McCanns, last June, it was Blair in person who assured them of his on-going and increased support and told them that they need not hesitate to contact him if there was anything he could do. This support continues today, despite the parents’ situation vis-à-vis the official investigation into the disappearance of their daughter.
When Gordon Brown came to power, the UK government’s support not only intensified, but also became more visible. And the new prime minister had no trouble admitting that he was in personal contact with Gerry McCann to discuss the case, as he had done at the end of May. The same day, the UK authorities put a discrete pressure on the PJ to reveal more information about the case. It was he who – on several occasions – talked to journalists about the McCann case, referring his contacts with the Portuguese authorities. He did it on a more visible way, on June 9, 2007, when the Portuguese prime minister, José Socrates, visited London in the context of the rotating European Union presidency.

Outside nº 10 Downing Street, Gordon Brown told the UK media that he had discussed the McCann case with José Socrates and had asked him to ensure maximum assistance to Kate and Gerry McCann. In September, just after they had been made arguidos, the McCanns called on Gordon Brown and David Miliband, the UK Foreign Secretary, to ask them to intervene as they said they were victims of “an injustice”. On September 10, the Foreign Office was described as being “firing all canons” in its efforts to help the McCanns.
On October 2007, in Lisbon, even though Kate and Gerry McCann were (and are) already arguidos in the investigation into their daughter’s disappearance, it was once again Gordon Brown who surprised journalists during a press conference when he announced that he was going checking the McCanns’ situation and the status of the investigation led by the PJ, in cooperation with the UK police. At the same time, in the UK, a police detective commented on the difficulties the police was having with the Home Office, concerning the UK side of the investigation.

A wise advice

Despite the growing negative public opinion about the McCanns (which has even led some media sites to ban comments about the case), when the Lisbon Treaty was signed, it was yet again David Miliband and Gordon Brown who used the opportunity to take the subject with several members of the Portuguese government, including prime minister José Socrates. But this time, it was done in secret, far from the eyes of the media.
It was also from the Gordon Brown's office that came the suggestion to scale down the media exposure of McCann couple and the campaign to find Madeleine, according to a source close to McCann family. Gordon Brown’s advisers are worried about the possibility that the next steps of the investigation of Madeleine’s disappearance, which was following a new line of inquiry, may produce results that could damage the Prime-Minister´s image, due to his close relationship with Gerry McCann. This was revealed by Gazeta Digital and SOS Madeleine on August 26, 2007.
Richard Branson’s generous financial support becomes more understandable when we look better at his close relationship with Tony Blair. Moreover, the influential former Labour leader and prime minister, a Kate and Gerry McCann staunch supporter, was able to discuss the subject during his recent meeting with Branson on his private island, where they were accompanied by Elon Musk (Paypal), Larry Page (Google) and Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia), among others.
But the McCanns’ financial backing does not stop there. Yet again, thanks to some of his friends excellent contacts, the couple received financial support from Stephen Winyard, Brian Kennedy and JK Rowling, who is herself one of the most influential women in the UK.

Knocking On Heaven's Door

Another interesting and revealing episode took place on September 12, when Justine McGuinness and David Hughes, press advisers for the McCann, accompanied by the powerful Angus McBride, held meetings with editors of most of the major British newspapers. During the meetings, it was explained to the editors that the fact that Portuguese Police couldn't find a body would it make impossible for a court to sentence them, even if the McCann were formally charged and went on trial. The McCann send, at the same time, a strong challenge to Portuguese police: "Find Madeleine's body and prove we killed her”, as the Daily Mail wrote, in the same day edition.

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Duarte Levy & Paulo Reis