Tonight Panorama aired their documentary into the review of the Madeleine McCann case by Scotland Yard. Goncalo Amaral admits mistakes were made and for the first time we heard how intimidated Robert Murat felt when he was made an arguido.
RICHARD BILTON: It is five years since a little girl vanished without trace on holiday in Portugal.
KATE MCCANN: Please do not hurt her. Please don’t scare her.
RB: Why has Madeleine McCann never been found?
ALAN JOHNSON: Disgraceful. It didn’t seem to me that they had had the benefit of a proper police investigation.
RB: And why in the country she disappeared have so many people made up their minds about what happened?
ISABEL DUARTE: I have friends that don’t want to talk to me about the case. I feel alone because I don’t feel support in public opinion.
RB: Why did the Prime Minister take the unprecedented step of telling British Police to investigate the case?
SANDRA FELGUEIRAS: Oh God. The Prime Minister giving an order to the Police to investigate something that is closed without no new evidence about it. Very strange.
RB: And with such views in Portugal what chance have the British Police got of solving the case? They talk for the first time tonight.
DCI REDWOOD: We are seeking to bring closure to this case.
RB: What does that mean?
DCI REDWOOD: Establishing what happened to Madeleine McCann.
RB: Solving it?
DCI REDWOOD: Solving it. Yes, of course.
RB: Tonight as Police identify new leads, Panorama exposes the tensions and deals behind what could be te last hope of finding this lost little girl.
This is Praia da Luz on the Algarve, out of season and very quiet. In May 2007 as a BBC correspondent I was sent to this apartment block in Luz, because a little girl had disappeared. What I couldn’t possibly know then was how enormous this case would become, that everybody would know about Madeleine McCann, that everybody would have a theory about what happened here and how she disappeared. And that even now, five years on, millions is still being spent trying to solve the case. After a year, the Portuguese authorities shelved the case. But now there’s a new drive to solve the mystery and its based here in the UK.
DCI REDWOOD: Our initial estimates in terms of the amount of material that we are facing is that it will be somewhere in the region of forty thousand pieces of information. There is ultimately a process of us turning every single piece of paper over and interpreting and analysing what is contained within them.
RB: Operation Grange, set up after a direct request from David Cameron is a year into its work and has already cost the British taxpayer two million pounds. This is the first time an officer has spoken publicly about the new search for Madeleine McCann.
DCI REDWOOD: There is myself a Detective Chief Inspector. I’ve got three Detective Inspectors, five Detective Sergeants, nineteen Constables and, Detective Constables I should say. And about six or seven members of civilian staff that perform various different functions. We are here in terms of seeking to bring closure to this case. That would be the ultimate objective, of course, and is our ultimate objective.
RB: What does that mean?
DCI REDWOOD: Well closure means establishing what happened to Madeleine McCann.
RB: Solving it?
DCI REDWOOD: Solving it. Yes, of course.
RB: Their daughter’s case has slipped down the news agenda but Kate and Gerry McCann have continued to raise awareness of the issue of missing people. Last month the couple took part in a charity fun run in London.
KATE MCCANN: For so many people its certainly a lifeline really. To anyone who has gone missing but also the families that are left behind.
RB: The McCanns have never wavered from their account that Madeleine was abducted and that they played no part in her disappearance. The new review is the result of their long campaign to get the British Police to re-examine the original Portuguese investigation.
GERRY MCCANN: Its taken pressure off us, I have to say, knowing that the Police are actually reviewing everything. Its a huge step for us.
RB: Since the case was shelved, four separate investigations by private detectives have been funded by the Find Madeleine Campaign. And the McCanns have issued a series of artists impressions of how Madeleine might look in the years since she disappeared. And this is the latest picture released today by British Police. How Madeleine might look aged nearly nine. In 2009 the family campaign for a review took them to meet the then Home Secretary.
ALAN JOHNSON: I was enormously sympathetic to their case. All the stuff that appeared in certain tabloids, you know, suggesting they were the guilty party. You know I think it is very difficult under that kind of saturation coverage, er, not to start believing in some of those theories. But by the time they came in to see me I was absolutely clear that, you know, they were the victims in all of this.
RB: What do you think of the way the Portuguese treated the McCanns?
ALAN JOHNSON: Well it seems to me, er, not from any close working with the Portuguese Police, but it seems to be disgraceful. It didn’t seem to me that they had had the benefit of a proper police investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine.
RB: The review team finally set up last May and made up of experienced murder squad detectives has been sifting through the evidence ever since. Its not simply office based. They’ve travelled to Portugal four times and have visited Spain twice. But what can they do that hasn’t already been done?
DCI REDWOOD: We are drawing together information from three separate sources; the legal enforcement bodies within Portugal, the UK law enforcement agencies of which obviously the Police are a main part and also and unusually the private investigation world which as we know is an element that was used by Mr and Mrs McCann to further the search for their daughter.
RB: And why, why was this unique circumstance?
DCI REDWOOD: Well because at no time before have those three elements been drawn together in one place. And so what we’ve done over the past number of months is bring into one place, i.e. here at Belgravia all of those, all of those pieces of the jigsaw.
RB: And thats important because private detectives are banned here in Portugal so its the first time all of the gathered evidence is being seen together. Today, the Met team said they’ve so far identified 195 fresh leads in their review. But concerns remain about how much can be achieved given the intital flaws in the investigation.
ANTONIO MARINHO PINTO: (translated) I’m convinced the McCann case will feature in Portuguese judicial history as a bad example. What a criminal investigation should not be.
RB: So even now what do we know for sure about the case? Madeleine’s parents were five days into a week-long holiday at the Ocean Club Resort. They were there with three other families. All four couples had left their children sleeping unattended, something they were later criticised for. But they made regular checks to make sure all was OK. It was at 10pm on May 3rd when Kate McCann made the seventy metre walk to check on her children. She told police when she entered their bedroom in Apartment 5A the window and shutters were open and Madeleine had gone. One of the McCanns friends said earlier that evening she’d seen a man carrying a small child away from the block.
The holiday flat still draws attention for some but for me it feels strange to be back. I feel a real odd bond with this place. I spent so much time thinking about what might have happened here as every sort of new theory was rolled out. It feels like its still full of questions.
Right from the start its a case thats marked by mistakes. Local police initially assumed that Madeleine had simply wandered off so it was some hours before the flat was sealed off as a potential crime scene. Access wasn’t restricted. The Portuguese Attorney General would later report this meant any forensic evidence at the scene was contaminated with irreversible and undetermined damage. And the man who led the investigation for the first six months, Goncalo Amaral, now admits he got things wrong.
GONCALO AMARAL: (translated) Its a fact that our investigation had its faults and lost a lot of time, lots of time and a lot of things didn’t get followed up. And I am just as much to blame for that as anyone else.
RB: Five years on it is easier to assess the early days of the investigation. Thousands of police files have been made public. And some of those who were at the centre of the Police operation are now prepared to talk.
RB: So this is where she disappeared from. This street is lined with satellite trucks and then the police say that they have taken in for questioning a man who lives at the end of the street just behind those bushes down there. So all the journalists shift from here to there and Robert Murat now becomes the focus of everybody’s attention.
Robert Murat was in his thirties and living with his mother. Half English and Half Portuguese, when Madeleine went missing he offered his skills to the Portuguese Police as a translator. But eleven days in with no quick resolution to the investigation in sight the spotlight turned on him. Now Robert Murat believes that with the Portuguese Police under pressure he was an easy scapegoat.
ROBERT MURAT: At one stage I was taken to an area where they wanted to fingerprint me and take photographs and all that kind of stuff. And I think they were trying to disorient,er, me because they moved me around from room to room, hallway to hallway, corridor to corridor and it seemed very choreographed calling out, “Well, take photographs of him” and you know, he’s, er, “We want to send a team to Poland.” It was kind of a choreographed situation.
RB: What, to intimidate you?
ROBERT MURAT: Yeah, I think so. And it did intimidate me at the time. Its now that I realise what was going on. I had five people rushing into a room and, erm, and standing behind me and it felt very very ‘Life on Mars’. It felt very, er you know, erm, just very pressured.
RB: He was questioned for nineteen hours before he was released. The next day he returned to collect his belongings and Robert Murat says he met Goncalo Amaral, the lead detective.
ROBERT MURAT: He basically told me it was a game of two halves and as the night before I hadn’t confessed, erm, then, he would get me on the second half and he just kind of turned his back on me. He didn’t… He just… It seemed he didn’t care about the truth. That was the, thats how I felt.
RB: One of Portugal’s leading lawyers now believes that close attention of the worlds media affected the initial investigation.
ANTONIO MARINHO PINTO: (translated) The police feel like they have to quickly find the culprit because if they don’t they would be in the dock themselves. And as such, what happened in this case is that the Police’s main concern was to find the suspect.
[info_box]JJP has pointed out that whilst doing the transcript he noticed something in the translation carried out by the BBC. On hearing what Antonio Marinho Pinto says JJP provides an alternative translation
“ANTONIO MARINHO PINTO: (translated) The police feel like they have to quickly find the culprit because if they don’t they would be in the dock themselves. And as such, what happened in this case is that the Police’s main concern was to find a suspect. “[/info_box]
RB: It was British Police sniffer dogs that changed the way Portuguese detectives were thinking. The dogs indicated possible traces of DNA in the McCann family’s flat and in the family’s hire car. Although this was found to be inconclusive by forensic scientists the Portuguese Police made Kate and Gerry McCann arguidos, or suspects in their daughter’s disappearance.
REPORTERS: How do you feel Gerry? How do you feel Gerry?
RB: We know the Portuguese Police believed they had the answer to what happened that night in Apartment 5A. Because we can now read an internal interim report from the week the McCanns were declared suspects. It said, “The minor Madeleine died in Apartment 5A.” “A simulation of an abduction took place.” “Kate and Gerry McCann are involved in the concealment of the corpse of their daughter.” And five years on that view seems to be as strongly held as ever by some in the Police.
CARLOS ANJOS: (translated) I think something happened accidentally in the flat that night. In general I think most Portuguese investigators think the same as me. And I think there will be problems for the British authorities.
RB: One big problem is only the Portuguese authorities can re-open the case. Sandra Felgueiras is one of Portugal’s leading TV presenters and has covered the McCann story from the start. With her own nightly news show she’s watched Portuguese public support shift away from the McCanns.
SANDRA FELGUEIRAS: They were following the case as it was a big movie. So if you start saying three months later from her disappearance that maybe the McCanns are involved people start thinking, “Oh my God, those guys, the same that were asking for help, I gave them money. I tried to help them and now they must be involved. The police is saying that.” And peoples minds changed and I never felt really that the Portuguese were likely to give a chance to the McCanns again.
RB: With the Portuguese Police and public opinion apparently against them the family decided it was best simply to get out of Portugal. They returned home without Madeleine.
GERRY MCCANN: We have played no part in the disappearance of our lovely daughter.
RB: Nearly a year later the Portuguese Attorney General assessed the evidence and found there was no case to answer for the McCanns or Robert Murat.
KATE MCCANN: Its hard to describe how utterly despairing it was to be named arguido and subsequently portrayed in the media as suspects in our own daughters abduction.
RB: Despite Kate and Gerry McCann no longer being suspects, Portuguese public opinion hasn’t changed and it continues to be influenced by the man who initially led the investigation before he was removed. Goncalo Amaral has since made this documentary sticking to his version of events. He still believes that Madeleine wasn’t abducted but died in the flat. He’s also written a best selling book about it. And so far he’s made at least £300,000.
RB: Are you comfortable making money out of a missing girl and a case that actually you failed to solve?
GONCALO AMARAL: (translated) When I left the Police Force it was to write the book to clear my name, defend myself from what the British journalists and some Portuguese journalists were saying accusing me of incompetence and other worse things.
RB: By assuming a case for which there is little evidence you actually diverted attention from the actual search for a missing little girl.
GONCALO AMARAL: (translated) The book deals with six months of the investigation and the conclusions at the time so the investigation needed to continue. The truth is only known when an investigation is finished.
RB: Kate and Gerry McCann are suing Goncalo Amaral. They say his allegations are false, and not only libel them but also damaged the hunt for Madeleine.
RB: Hi, its Richard Bilton from BBC Panorama. We’re here for Isabel Duarte. The libel lawyer concedes that defending the McCanns against the former detective is not a popular fight here in Portugal.
ISABEL DUARTE: I feel alone.
ISABEL DUARTE: I feel alone because I don’t feel support, not in public opinion. I have friends that don’t want to talk to me about the case.
RB: Why? I don’t understand.
ISABEL DUARTE: Because everyone believes in Goncalo Amaral. Everyone believes that I am defending a father and a mother that have killed the daughter and got rid of the corpse.
RB And its that public opinion thats critical to the way the case has been dealt with. A former British Home Secretary believes that to have any hope of success the new review will require huge political effort. How complicated is it that in Portugal public opinion seems to be against the McCanns?
ALAN JOHNSON: Its not something I had to thing about because I was going through to the first state but its something the Prime Minister might need to think about. And I hope he does have to think about it because that would suggest that there is something there that is worth pursuing. And it is worth having a bit of a diplomatic, er, charm offensive with the Portuguese on. Now a bit of diplomacy can ensure that you do get the cooperation you need from Portugal, erm, and we do get to the bottom of this.
RB: Its taken years for the McCanns to secure a British Police review of the investigation. Years in which public interest in their daughters disappearance has faded.
By 2010 the case of Madeleine McCann was getting far less media coverage and the Find Madeleine Fund was starting to run out of cash so Kate McCann decided to write a book to tell her story of what life was like in Luz. The book was serialized in both the Sunday Times and the Sun with their parent company News International paying a reported one million pounds into the Find Madeleine Fund. But it was about much more than money. The McCanns felt they were getting nowhere with the new Home Secretary, Theresa May, so printed on the front page of the Sun was an open letter from the McCanns to her boss, David Cameron, appealing to him as a parent to agree to a review. But Panorama has learned there was much more going on behind the scenes to try to influence the Prime Minister.
It was just a year ago before the worst excesses of phone hacking were known, a time when News International seemed to have had enormous influence over Downing Street. Now we’ve been told by the highest government sources that pressure was being exerted on David Cameron by News International and by the Sun newspaper in particular as well as by the McCanns. Within 24 hours the Prime Minister decided that a review could be paid for out of a special contingency fund run by the Home Office and reserved for special cases. Madeleine McCann, the Prime Minister decided, was a special case. The Home Office declined to explain to us why they chose this unsolved case above any other but a source at Number Ten told us David Cameron acted as a sympathetic parent. Of course, its politically risky to pour millions of pounds of taxpayers money into an investigation that might never be solved. But the man in charge is optimistic, publicly at least, saying he believes his team has the best chance yet of finding out what happened to Madeleine McCann.
DCI REDWOOD: As a detective it is a huge privilege to have an opportunity to work on this case and I’m…, both my team and I feel that.
RB: So five years on, two teams on, two million pounds on are we any nearer knowing what happened to Madeleine McCann?
DCI REDWOOD: I am satisfied that the systems and process that we are bringing to this set of circumstances will give us the best opportunity to find those investigative opportunities that we can then present to our colleagues in Portugal.
RB: And could the mystery of Madeleine McCann be solved in such a basic way as a re-appraisal of a piece of paper that you have got downstairs?
DCI REDWOOD: Anything is possible and clearly within that material the answer could lie.
RB: Do you think this case will be solved one day.
DCI REDWOOD: I really, really hope that we can make a difference and of course we are here to try and bring closure for the family.
RB: But in Portugal the McCann family’s lawyer believes since the case was shelved in 2008 detectives here convinced the mystery has already been solved have ignored new lines of enquiry.
ISABEL DUARTE: I consulted documents that were sent to the file after the investigation was closed. There was a declaration on those documents saying, “It is not of the interest of the investigation”.
RB: So there were new leads that were coming in that were being discarded?
ISABEL DUARTE: New information, pages and pages and pages of information and no-one was interested in making a deeper investigation around that information.
RB: We understand that in the Algarve there has been some low level animosity at the arrival of British officers. Operation Grange has no jurisdiction in Portugal and only the Portuguese can re-open the case so much of the British work over the last year has been spent reassuring their colleagues here that its a joint effort. But just last month the idea that the Portuguese themselves would have a case review was unheard of.
SANDRA FELGUEIRAS: Madeleine McCann case now in Portugal is a file that is closed. Its an old story, a closed story. We don’t have any news about it. The last information I got this morning from our Public Prosecutor was that even knowing that you in UK are trying to solve the case again with Scotland Yard, with the Scotland Yard as an investigatiion, they are telling here in Portugal that there’s no investigation, that they are not going to re-open the case.
RB: Is there a review of the case here in Portugal?
CARLOS ANJOS: (translated) No, no I don’t think so. I think its too delicate to roll. It calls into question the reputation of the police and I don’t thing the Chief of Police would risk it.
RB: It was only while we were in Portugal that things began to change. We contacted a well-known politician here, Ana Maria Gomes, to get her to ask questions.
ANA MARIA GOMES: According to the information I got the Portuguese Police is also conducting a review.
RB: Who told you there is a Portuguese review then?
ANA MARIA GOMES: I called the Director of the National Criminal Police. His deputy told me that. Its a review of the procedures that were followed in the investigation.
RB: Why does nobody here in Portugal know about this review?
ANA MARIA GOMES: Well, I don’t know. Public opinion here in Portugal now is so upset and concerned with the economic crisis and its job destruction and so on but this is a very important case, first and foremost to find out what happened to Madeleine and to make sure that the Portuguese justice and political system is properly seen outside of Portugal.
RB: Within a week of our interview the Portuguese Police finally confirmed that a team based in the northern city of Porto, well away from the original investigation, has been reviewing the case for the last year.
UNNAMED PT SPOKESMAN: (translated) A network has been carried out discreetly and it will continue to be carried out discreetly.
RB: Here people seem to be open-minded. In Portugal people seem to have a clear view about what happened. Have you encountered that?
DCI REDWOOD: My engagement with the Portuguese is with the Police Officers sitting within the review team in Porto. Those officers are engaged. They are open. They are working with us collaboratively and I’ve not encountered with them any of those views.
RB: So what next. An odd and at times a tense mix of British and Portuguese Police Forces continue to pick through the evidence. One wrong word could jeopardise everything. The discomfort is obvious.
RB: Won’t they be slightly offended that they worked very hard on the case and now a foreign Police Force is saying we are going to have a look at what you did cos you failed?
DCI REDWOOD: What I would say to you on that, Richard, is that it would be wholly inappropriate for me to comment to you about how the PJ, the Policia Judiciara feel about this and that most probably is a matter best taken up with them.
RB: Did they start their review because you had yours?
DCI REDWOOD: I’m not willing to discuss with you the logistical side of the Portuguese policing response but ultimately the decision around re-opening is for them. It is a sovereign decision for the Portuguese authorities but obviously what we seek to do is to bring them the best quality information to assist them in making that decision.
RB: Next Thursday, Madeleine McCann will have been missing for five years. Our Prime Minister has gambled taxpayers money on finding a resolution. Today the British team announced they have fresh evidence in addition to the leads from their review. It now falls to them to succeed where the Portuguese have so far failed, to solve this enduring mystery.