segunda-feira, 19 de março de 2012

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A Line in the Sand         e      CLEAR AS CRYSTAL                              

By Dr Martin Roberts
19 March 2012


By Dr Martin Roberts
19 March 2012


When, according to legend, Colonel William B. Travis invited comrades to step across a line he had just scored in the San Antonio dirt, he was offering them a stark choice: Exit the Alamo ahead of the impending battle, or stay and face certain death - an unenviable decision for anyone to have to make. The sad and inexplicable disappearance of Madeleine McCann is not something to be either trivialised or dramatised, but the story, as we understand it, incorporates an equally decisive moment - the moment when, it is said, she was 'taken.'

The McCanns' declared belief that their daughter Madeleine was alive until 'that minute,' after which time they 'obviously didn't know what happened to her,' places Madeleine's fate squarely in the hands of whomever is deemed to have taken her - at that minute. But, as previously discussed (see articles: 'There’s nothing to say she's not out there alive,' 2009; Consequences, 2011 ), the McCanns have a great deal riding on the wager that Madeleine was abducted. For wherever there is an effort at expansion, be it of a physical body or conceptual position, the repercussions following a collapse are just as extensive. An empire, a galactic star or Enron - it makes no difference. The same principle applies and it is one from which the McCanns are not exempt.

All the while the roulette wheel is spinning and the ball in play, 'abduction' is a candidate explanation for Madeleine's disappearance. But should someone grab the spokes and the ball settle in 'zero' then matters would take a very different turn. 

If Madeleine McCann was not abducted, then she is unquestionably dead. 

People do not just disappear off the face of the earth. And if Madeleine met her death inside apartment 5A, then her parents must know that is what happened. How could they not? But the question is not quite the straightforward one of 'alive or dead,' depending on which side of the window one places a potentially fatal event. It is altogether deeper than that. If Madeleine McCann was not abducted then the repercussions would be grave indeed.

Like Hercules keeping the world aloft on behalf of Atlas, an entire apparatus of socio-legal machinery has, for five years, propped up the abduction hypothesis; a hypothesis for which there is not 'a grain of proper evidence' (to quote Messrs. Carter-Ruck), making it 'meaningless' in the McCanns' very own terms. A child's bare feet being carried in one direction, followed, three quarters of an hour later, by a little girl, wearing the wrong pyjamas, being carried in the opposite direction, are altogether insufficient as indices of a single child abduction. The 'thesis' has nothing else to commend it.

The situation appears disconcertingly unresolved; dangerously so for the McCanns all the while the possibility exists that, somewhere in the case files, there might be evidence which links them directly to their daughter's disappearance. Of course they and their lawyers would contend otherwise, but the issue, as we know, remains open.

The hypothesis that Madeleine was abducted is no more valid than the hypothesis that she was not. And that, hypothetically speaking, does more than open a window. It opens a whole can of worms. Madeleine McCann's 'non-abduction' would invalidate completely the statements of the McCanns and their holiday associates, since, as Gerry McCann has previously explained, all of their depositions, without exception, are bound by an 'abduction' context:

"Clearly at the time we felt what we were doing was quite responsible. If we were going to be down and further away or round the corner we would never have left the kids, and with hindsight... everything with hindsight is all taken in the context of your child being abducted." (BBC Panorama - The Mystery of Madeleine McCann, 19.11.07).

Hence a 'non-abduction' hypothesis would require us to dispense entirely with seemingly evidential statements, and go where the impartial evidence alone leads. No more stories of dining out; no more checking on the children; no more milk and biscuits at tea-time, and neither tears nor stains washed away in the morning. 

When viewed in this light, the Portuguese authorities' insistence that a reconstruction alone would offer the McCanns the opportunity of exoneration they claim is theirs by right, is much easier to understand. The McCanns, however, have dug themselves an even deeper pit in the interim, since some things, even in hindsight, cannot be 'taken in the context of your child being abducted,' Kate McCann's extraordinary statement as to 'circumstances,' for one:

"I know that what happened is not due to the fact of us leaving the children asleep. I know it happened under other circumstances." (Daily Mail, 17.9.07).

This tells us quite clearly that something happened at a time when the children were awake and/or one parent at least was present. Kate does not mention Madeleine's being 'taken.' Indeed, the concept of a nocturnal abduction in the parents' absence is totally inconsistent with this more 'knowledgeable' observation.

For his part, Gerry McCann has contributed the following:

"So. An' if she died when we were in the apartment or fell injured, why would we... why would we cover that up?" (Interviewed for Seven on Sunday (Australia), 2011).

Compounding the two perspectives one might justifiably re-iterate Gerry's very own question: If either parent was present in the apartment when 'it happened,' why should they cover it up? But we are entertaining the hypothesis of non-abduction, don't forget. If there was no abduction, then the parents, knowing what happened, have failed to reveal what they know. Instead, therefore, of subscribing to an interpretation along the lines of, 'We did not cover up an accident. Why should we?' if faced with the actuality of a cover up, one would inevitably have to explore the question of 'why?'

We have already moved, hypothetically it must be said, backwards in time from a nocturnal abduction to a diurnal event of some kind; an accident earlier that Thursday, perhaps? Yet Kate McCann, writing in her book, 'Madeleine,' with even greater clarity of exposition than when discussing the 'circumstances,' takes us back further still:

"Wednesday, 2 May 2007. Our last completely happy day. Our last, to date, as a family of five."

The abduction hypothesis sees Madeleine removed from apartment 5A on Thursday night, in which case that very day, May 3, would have been the McCanns' 'last, to date, as a family of five.' Even accepting that Kate seems to have had a problem with dates elsewhere in the book, there can be no doubting her accuracy in this instance. 'Wednesday, 2 May 2007' she says, clearly and completely, Thursday 3 May no doubt etched indelibly in her memory. If the McCanns were no longer a family of five on the Thursday, then something pretty serious must have happened beforehand. Tellingly, she had earlier stated (to Oprah):

"You know I look back and think oh why can't we just rewind the clock and it takes you back to really happy memories you know, things that you really enjoyed and it's just a reminder really of what isn't here anymore."

Perhaps 'what isn't here anymore' went missing between Wednesday 2 and Thursday 3 May, 2007? That would account for the sudden reduction in family size alright.

All of this of course hinges on a hypothesis of non-abduction; a hypothesis which cannot be confirmed simply on the basis that abduction remains unproven. In that sense Gerry McCann's repeated reference to the impotence of a negative outcome is correct, and the McCanns appear to be on eternally solid ground. Unless or until the abduction hypothesis is disproved. The very possibility of that happening would give anyone in the McCanns' position cause for concern, since a logical proof of the kind envisaged need only be accomplished once to be conclusive. Small wonder then that attendance at a reconstruction, which might determine once and for all whether an abduction was even feasible, has never been high on the McCann agenda.


Police training, no less than that of a criminologist or any other variety of crime analyst, will doubtless point up the significance of the early stages in any felony, when mistakes on the part of the guilty party are most likely. It's a characteristic of crime that has fuelled many a plot of Agatha Christie's and features heavily in the Hitchcock classic, 'Dial M for Murder.' Even Thomas Hardy's Mayor of Casterbridge is undone in the end by an error of judgement early on in the story. No matter how much time has elapsed, or how many embellishments have been added to the account of Madeleine McCann's disappearance, the solution to the puzzle most probably resides somewhere near the beginning of events as they are known to have unfolded.

Criminals are not necessarily unintelligent. They are human, however, and subject to error like anyone else. Kate McCann, in her book 'Madeleine' confirms just how smart she considers the anonymous abductor of her daughter to have been:

"It wasn't until a year later, when I was combing through the Portuguese police files, that I discovered that the note requesting our block booking was written in a staff message book, which sat on a desk at the pool reception for most of the day. This book was by definition accessible to all staff and, albeit unintentionally, probably to guests and visitors, too. To my horror, I saw that, no doubt in all innocence and simply to explain why she was bending the rules a bit, the receptionist had added the reason for our request: we wanted to eat close to our apartments as we were leaving our young children alone there and checking on them intermittently."

If not a speaker of Portuguese, he will have done remarkably well to have garnered the significance of this dining schedule, written in Portuguese, from a glance inside a staff notebook.

Persistent references over time to Paedophiles and 'rings' thereof implies that the suspect was felt to have had some 'previous,' and not to be confused with opportunists. Indeed they had been studying the McCanns' every movement apparently. According to Kate McCann, 'They'd been watching us for several days, I'm sure.' Anyone capable of adopting a methodical approach such as this is unlikely then to go on and do something absolutely dumb subsequently.

In just the same way that cardiologists are trained to recognise symptoms of cardiac disorder, so investigative police, whatever their nationality, know and understand the hallmarks of a crime. It's what they do. Just as the bed-ridden patient is not called upon to interpret the trace of the oscilloscope to which he or she is attached, police judgement in matters of criminal investigation should be respected. They can tell, for instance, if they are looking for a 'seasoned pro' following a burglary, or a rank amateur, simply from the way in which a set of drawers has been rifled (the practised burglar will waste no time, 'working' a chest of drawers from the bottom up, not top down).

So then, we have a shrewd suspect with a reasonable I.Q. But even intelligence has its limitations. No amount of studying the McCann family at play would have told him which of two bedrooms the children occupied. Smashing his way in via the wrong window would not be the smart thing to do. And since the shutters were always down he could not have known, unless he had been invited in previously, who slept where exactly.

(Kate McCann (6 Sept., 2007): "The window to Madeleine's bedroom remained closed, but she doesn't know if it was locked, shutters and curtains drawn, andthat was how it remained since the first day, night and day. She never opened it. If somebody saw the window shutters in Madeleine's room open, it was not the deponent who opened them, and she never saw them open." ).

Is it possible that manipulation of the window was the culprit's first and biggest mistake? Kate and Gerry McCann both confirmed on 4 May that Kate had discovered it disturbed the previous night:

"At 10pm, his wife Kate went to check on the children. She went into the apartment through the door using her key and saw right away that the children's bedroom door was completely open, the window was also open, the shutters raised and the curtains drawn open. The side door that opens into the living room, which as said earlier, was never locked, was closed." (Gerry McCann).

"At around 10pm, the witness came to check on the children. She went into the apartment by the side door, which was closed, but unlocked, as already said, and immediately noticed that the door to her children's bedroom was completely open, the window was also open, the shutters raised and the curtains open, while she was certain of having closed them all as she always did." (Kate McCann).

It seems so obvious. Until, that is, one gives more careful thought to the practice of abduction in this instance and the simple logistics of breaking and entering.

Kate McCann again, in 'Madeleine:'

"For a long while we would assume that the abductor had entered and exited through the window of the children's bedroom, but it is equally possible that he used the patio doors or even had a key to the front door. Perhaps he'd either come in or gone out via the window, not both; perhaps he hadn't been through it at all, but had opened it to prepare an emergency escape route if needed, or merely to throw investigators off the scent. He could have been in and out of the apartment more than once between our visits."

No one but an idiot would struggle to get in through a window only to struggle out the same way. The suspect was no fool and would have left by a door. The bedroom window was either a haphazard option or chosen because it lay on the elevation furthest from where the parents were dining. Then again so did the front door. Clarence Mitchell's remark, 'he got out of the window fairly easily,' said with all the certitude of an established fact, was a lie. Anyone attempting to climb through that window, in either direction, with or without the impediment of a child in his arms, would have had difficulty in doing so, as the police quickly established. It is also appropriate that we deal here with a few of Kate McCann's 'suppositions.'

'He could have been in and out of the apartment more than once between our visits.'

He could have made himself a cup of tea, sat and watched football on the television.

Such wild speculation flies in the face of common sense. How many 'visits' does it take to abduct a child? There was not the time in-between Gerry's 9.05 check and Jane Tanner's 'sighting' minutes later for an abductor to have made several trips to the premises. Given the window as integral to the undertaking, Gerry would have noticed this himself had it been opened earlier. By 10 May, Gerry McCann was 'fully convinced that the abduction took place during the period of time between his check at 21h05 and Matthew's visit at 21H30.' Except that in his earlier (4 May) statement to police this interval of time was punctuated mid-way by the activities of Jane Tanner:

"It is stressed that when one of the members of the group, Jane, went to her apartment to see her children, at around 9.10/9.15 pm, from behind and at a distance of about 50 metres, on the road next to the club, she saw a person carrying a child in pyjamas. Jane will be better able to clarify this situation."

So, one visit - a 'smash and grab.' But without the 'smashing' as it turned out.

'For a long while we would assume that the abductor had entered and exited through the window of the children's bedroom.'

'For a long while,' after the police had established to their satisfaction that no-one had passed through the window at all, seems to reflect a certain stubbornness on the McCanns' part. And yet, 'it is equally possible that he used the patio doors or even had a key to the front door.' Rather more likely, all things considered. But if there's an easy access way in, why contemplate a problematic way out?

'Perhaps he'd either come in or gone out via the window, not both; perhaps he hadn't been through it at all, but had opened it to prepare an emergency escape route if needed, or merely to throw investigators off the scent.'

It is at this point that involvement of the window becomes even more paradoxical. Although 'Elvis' is supposed to have left the building after Gerry McCann, he must have been present inside before him, otherwise he would surely have been noticed approaching the patio, with evil intent, by either Gerry or Jez Wilkins standing opposite the gate outside. There is no other way of accommodating Jane Tanner's 9.15 sighting of him. But if our man had some nefarious purpose in mind for the window then, being something of a forward thinker, he would have carried that purpose in with him just as assuredly as he carried Madeleine out. This means that he could either (a) open the window etc. on first entering the apartment, then pick Madeleine up from her bed, or (b) lift Madeleine up, then draw back the curtains, open the window and raise the shutters with Madeleine in his arms all the while.

It doesn't take much thinking about. But once the window was opened it would have been as obvious to Gerry as it was to Kate. More so in fact, as Gerry stood over his children while they were asleep. Kate's attention was only drawn to the room by the slamming door. If 'Elvis' had prepared an emergency escape route, it would have been done first, not last, and Gerry would have seen it, as the two are supposed to have been in the apartment at the same time, i.e., the window would already have been opened.

For the moment, however, let us play devil's advocate and rescind Kate's attribution of intelligence to the supposed felon, who simply refuses to take the easy route. He waits for Gerry to leave 5A, then springs into action, quickly opening the window, curtains and shutters (audibly to anyone outside) before snatching Madeleine up and marching out through the door (with her body back to front, according to Jane Tanner's description); not forgetting that he tidied Maddie's bed before leaving.

And he opened the window because? Gerry had left, 'Elvis' remained undiscovered, the emergency had passed and intruders do not waste time leaving 'red-herrings.'

But the window served some purpose, surely?

According to Kate McCann ('Madeleine'), Matthew Oldfield was accused by Portuguese investigators of having passed Madeleine out through the window in question. Without drawing Oldfield unnecessarily into the debate, Madeleine's passage through the window in this way is the only rational explanation for the fact that her head and her feet had changed ends by the time she was seen by Jane Tanner. Let us therefore consider what might have happened next.

'Elvis' (who is indoors) hands Madeleine to an accomplice, who, punctual to a fault, is waiting outside the window. He (the accomplice) then marches off, stage left, across the road ahead of Jane Tanner. 'Elvis' himself now leaves the building through the front door, not the patio (he, like Jane Tanner, goes unnoticed by McCann and Wilkins standing outside) and bolts like Richard Branson in the opposite direction, having gently closed the door behind him. Jane Tanner did not hear a door slam as she approached her own apartment. Nor did she see anyone sprinting down the road ahead of her as she turned the corner, although why the person actually carrying the child should merely amble away is a mystery in itself.

There being no sighting of 'Elvis' fleeing empty-handed means that there was no hand-over either, no accomplice, and no reason for the window to have been opened after all. Yet Kate and Gerry McCann each affirmed (4 May) that that is how it was discovered on the night Madeleine is said to have been 'taken:'

'The window was also open, the shutters raised and the curtains open.' Additionally, Kate herself was 'certain of having closed them all as she always did.'

Let us go back to 'square one' for just a moment. The abductor having entered via the patio, has it in mind, at least, for Madeleine to exit via the window, which he opens for the purpose - fully, having drawn back the curtains - fully, and raised the shutters - fully. No self-respecting criminal is going to make a crime moredifficult to accomplish by leaving obstacles in his own path. Now, as we cruise along exploring the hypothetical relevance of an open window to the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, we might consider whether a sail is more likely to billow before a following wind or a lateral one, and whether a curtain bunched to the side of an open window will go 'whoosh' in a gentle breeze. Of course it's more likely to happen if the curtains are in the closed position as Kate describes in the opening scenes of the McCanns' very own documentary, 'Madeleine Was Here:'

" I went back in, the curtains of the bedroom which were drawn,... were closed,... whoosh... It was like a gust of wind, kinda, just blew them open."

If the curtains were in his way at all then 'Elvis' did not pass either Madeleine's body or his own through the window, which he would not have opened simply to let the air in. Nor would he have bothered to reset the curtains afterwards, just as he didn't close the window or lower the shutter, apparently.

Despite the presence of her fingerprints alone, Kate McCann is adamant that shedid not open the window. Which leaves a Portuguese speaking visitor to the Ocean Club, who checked on a staff notebook earlier in the week, paid several visits to 5A, then checked to see that the McCanns were actually at the Tapas restaurant on the Thursday night (wouldn't you?) before arranging the scenery at their apartment that night.

As for who actually 'abducted' Madeleine McCann, and when... Well, that's another story.

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