MONDAY, 17 SEPTEMBER 2012
Yesterday we wrote a speculative piece based on the murky waters surrounding the Yard review and, in particular, Amaral’s contribution.
We should have separated the speculative from the evidential more clearly and given more information about what prompted the inferences and speculation, but life is short: in some ways we said too much yesterday, in others not enough.
So for those people who don’t bore easily and who are interested in the large amount of evidence, including inferential evidence, here’s a much fuller explanation of the factual background. People can then interpret the evidence differently and draw their own conclusions.
The Amaral statement
- On March 1 Amaral made his comments. He revealed that there was a Portuguese review team that nobody had dreamed existed and which was working jointly with Scotland Yard.
- There was operational detail. He claimed that the Yard was not concentrating on “sightings” (which Team McCann and the UK media had been suggesting, without evidence, was the focus of their effort); he claimed that, on the contrary, their focus “was on the investigation process that remains archived”. What does this mean? Our own interpretation is that he is saying the Yard are following the same lines as the original investigation, that is the same lines as Rebelo and before him Amaral himself followed. Readers may have different interpretations.
- The information about the Yard working directly with an Oporto review team, rather than merely liaising with “the Portuguese” suggests structural and investigative co-operation (with the Portuguese squad apparently being set up simultaneously with the review, according to later reports) a great deal deeper than is contained in the original Yard remit.
- The secrecy involved in the establishment of these arrangements may be judged by the fact that the office of the Attorney-General, Pinto Monteiro (the nice man who made the statement releasing the couple from their arguido status) has announced that he knew nothing about it. Questions have been raised as to whether the arrangement is even legal under the Portuguese constitution.
- And Amaral said that the “affair” was “not going well with the McCanns”.
The veracity of the statement
Clearly if the statement is factual then Amaral must have sources within the investigation, (which incidentally doesn’t fit with the various claims that he is “out of the loop”).In assessing its veracity one looks for reaction and corroboration or denial.
- Reaction was almost immediate. Explicit and public confirmation was given by the highest authorities in the PJ of the existence of the Oporto squad and further details, such as the name of its commander, were added.
- Confirmation was immediately given by the PJ of the existence of the joint working arrangements with Scotland Yard. In answer to questions the authorities appear to have suggested that the Oporto squad had been set up simultaneously with the Yard review.
- There was no confirmation of Amaral’s operational information about the lines being followed by the teams.
- In particular there was no denial of any of Amaral’s claims.
So Amaral’s statement cannot be rejected as untrue. There is no explicit confirmation of his explosive operational claims but there is not a word of denial, or rubbishing of Amaral himself. Given those responses we cannot see any evidence that all or any of it should be rejected. Of course the McCanns and their allies can comfort themselves by picking and choosing and, despite the absence of denial, claiming that his operational details are an invention. To us that seems excessively unlikely.
The Team McCann response
- The response, put together in a hurry and clearly a media “package”, followed the PJ response within days. Its contents are best illustrated by the Mirror link we gave yesterday.
- We cannot be certain why the package was put together, except that the subject matter came primarily from Amaral, though of course the team were anxious to smother and disguise this. Certainly it was a spin exercise: the material claimed that there was a “new review”. There is no new review, only the establishment of the Portuguese review squad a year previously. The package was anxious to stress that the McCanns welcomed these “revelations”.
- The material included an invention by the McCanns’ lawyer Rogerio Alves about the year-old arrangements. He said: "There is something that aroused enough interest from the Portuguese and British police to warrant “this” review [untrue] in search of new clues [untrue] .The most plausible explanation [of these untrue facts]is that information passed to or acquired by the Judicial Police has put them on the trail of something specific.” Plausible? It is without foundation, it is untrue.
- Clarence Mitchell followed up with the same fibs. “Kate and Gerry welcome this review. They see it as a positive development.” Which “review”?
- Like the authorities the McCanns had nothing to say about Amaral’s operational claims. No acknowledgement, no denial. Not even a claim of libel.
So, pretty much the usual type of package then. As we noted yesterday, however, it was risky. The invention of a “new review” that they could “welcome” cannot cover the fact that they were spinning about the Scotland Yard review in their own favour. Why should they need to do that? And what do the Yard team infer from it?
The “package”, by the way, failed to take off after three days’ headlines, presumably because there were no other facts, apart from Amaral’s operational comments, to sustain it. And just like the Portuguese authorities and the rest nobody was going within a mile of those.
The Yard Response
UK police had said they were not going to give a “running commentary” on the case. For seven weeks they said nothing publicly about Amaral’s claims. During that time, however, they must have been working with thePanorama programme, since these things are not put together overnight. When they began working with them we don’t know.
- At the end of April, tied in with the fifth anniversary of the disappearance, the Yard came out with its publicity blitz. The Yard told us almost nothing that was completely new, just the 195 leads and the near-monthly visits to Oporto.
- The publicity drive gave the impression that the Yard were opening up: “the first time Andy Redwood has spoken about the case”. But he wasn’t opening up: the main information was yet another direct confirmation of the non-operational claims of Amaral and once again, like the Portuguese authorities, avoided any mention of Amaral and his comments on where the inquiry was heading.
- The rest of the apparently new stuff was actually about Redwood’s supposed beliefs – his conviction that the child was abducted by a “stranger”, that the child might be alive and so on, together with very strong verbal support for the McCanns.
- For whatever reason the Yard made comments that the press could report as some sort of conflict with the Portuguese, apparently to do with either re-opening or some interim structure before formal re-opening. We don't know why.
Our conclusion now is that the Yard was not being frank in the publicity drive and that they deliberately masked the fact that it was essentially a response to Amaral, something that puts Redwood’s apparent buffoonery into a quite different context. Otherwise the waters are so murky that many interpretations across the spectrum are possible. We just don’t know.
Amaral’s leak: too hot to handle
Too hot to handle: the clamorous confirmation of certain parts of Amaral’s statement and the absolute silence and non-denial about the other parts – from the Portuguese authorities, from the McCanns, from the UK media, of course, and from Scotland Yard—is a fact and is too suggestive to ignore.
- Amaral himself has added absolutely nothing to enlarge on his statement..
- In subsequent interviews he has made references to the review in both countries but has taken a quite different line and has not referred to his initial claims. Plenty about what the Yard has said in its PR drive, plenty of criticism and an attack on the 195 leads, plenty of stuff that he’d said in other places before. But about the meat of his March 1 statement, not a word. It’s as though someone else had said it and he knows nothing about it.
- He took part in the Panorama programme. For whatever reasons he confined himself to subject matter that had no relationship with the March 1 statement. He has not said subsequently that Panorama edited him unfairly.
- In the seven months since he made his statement there has not been a single denial anywhere that all of what he said was true. Nobody has claimed, on or off the record, that he was giving an incorrect or misleading version of the facts, nobody from the PJ’s directorate, nobody from Oporto, nobody from the Yard, nobody from the McCanns. Nobody has come forward to defend the McCanns against the explicit charges.
- All the evidence suggests that nobody knows what to do with the second half of Amaral’s comments.
- From all this material we’ve concluded that Amaral was telling the truth in his statement. If this inference is true what might be the implications?
- Already the leak has caused dissension between the Attorney-General’s department and the PJ. If the conflict continues it could result in the Oporto squad being abolished on the grounds that it is illegal, something that is already being claimed. That would damage the current Yard review irreparably.
- There is no evidence that the McCanns knew anything about any of Amaral’s revelations. If they are true then clearly their lawyers will be looking to exploit the leak, on procedural grounds or the legal questions surrounding the Oporto squad or on whatever grounds they can dig up – leading to the interesting situation that they would be using Goncalo Amaral as a source in their own defence!
- We do not know what stage has been reached in the re-examination of the evidence. If it has produced grounds for examining the parents more closely, but not conclusive grounds, then premature acknowledgement of the existence of the claims could prejudice attempts to make them conclusive.
- If, a definite if, the Yard team have been giving the parents a false sense of security, as many suspect, then a spanner has been thrown into those works.
- The implications for the McCanns are obvious.
No doubt readers can think of other possible implications.
There we are. We wouldn’t even have bothered trying to search the muddy waters, let alone write about them, if Scotland Yard hadn’t deliberately done a McCann – bringing a version, a narrative of events, to the public via the media. Otherwise we would have waited until late in the game. But when public bodies give a version so partial and so full of obfuscation then it’s time to examine it, and the possible circumstances linked to it, very closely.