Updated: 4:20pm UK, Monday 02 July 2012
Former Metropolitan Police detective Ian Horrock’s report into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.
What happened to Madeleine McCann?
In February this year on behalf of The Sun newspaper I travelled to Portugal to review the investigation into the abduction of Madeleine McCann and the circumstances surrounding the offence. My analysis, reasoning and conclusions are shown here, and until the announcement by the Metropolitan Police Review Team in April, I was one of very few that believed that Madeleine may still be alive.
What happened to Madeleine McCann? I obviously do not know for certain; the following may be speculation but contains inferences developed from the known facts, information available to myself, and from over 30 years experience as a police officer. The harsh reality is that only one, or in my view possibly two people know what happened on that night.
I am sure many will not agree with me, the following is simply my view and should be read as such.
I will say from the start that after looking at the information available to me, I am of the view that there is a chance that Madeleine is still alive. I will explain how I have come to this conclusion.
Having tested the route myself, it is easy to see how Madeleine could have been snatched and the abductor made good his escape in less than two minutes. I also found that by turning right from the apartment he could have been totally out of sight within 30 seconds of leaving the apartment.
I have tried to look at this with fresh eyes untainted by what has been written in the past, much of which has been totally uninformed and not based upon any evidence, but on media reports, unreliable accounts, personal agendas, and sadly, often misguided vitriol. It is true to say that many of the police files have been released but these have not as yet led to any definitive conclusions.
In February 2012 I spent a lot of time looking at the scene and the locality.
Firstly, what are the options? The way I see it there are principally four.
1. That Madeleine either died accidentally, or was killed by her parents.
2. That Madeleine wandered out of the apartment and either became lost, or was taken by someone in the street.
3. That Madeleine was abducted by one or two predatory paedophiles, and she was assaulted and either died, or was killed.
4. That Madeleine was taken by a person or couple with the intention of keeping her, and raising her.
The talk of Madeleine being kidnapped by a paedophile ring, for a client in some distant place, or some of the even more farfetched theories are not worth discussion and equally are not credible. Should this have been the reason, sadly there are many places throughout Europe and indeed the world where this is a far simpler task than in a busy holiday resort in Portugal.
Likewise the idea that a random burglar suddenly deciding to take a child instead of valuables is also ridiculous.
My belief is that it is either the third or fourth option, although I believe that from looking at all the information available to me that the fourth is the most likely.
The thought that Kate and Gerry McCann had anything to do with the death of their daughter, whether being directly responsible, or covering it up is frankly preposterous. There is not one shred of credible evidence either direct or otherwise to indicate that this is even a remote possibility.
There are many reasons for saying this. Firstly and most importantly, it is statistically unlikely, the main reason being that there is no family history that would point in any way to this. I do not believe that anyone with any sense believes that they killed Madeleine deliberately, so this leaves a tragic accident. Even if such an accident had happened, is it feasible that they would not immediately seek assistance and call for an ambulance?
Are we saying that they coldly decided that Madeleine was dead and then put together an elaborate plan to dispose of her body? Did Gerry McCann simply walk down the road with a bag containing his daughter’s body and dispose of it, and then calmly go out for dinner. This is ridiculous in the extreme. Also, have they then maintained this pretence for so long, the simple answer is no. And as for it being a conspiracy between themselves and any or all of their group of friends, this stretches credibility beyond belief.
The spurious and often inaccurately reported forensic findings, the irrelevant behaviour of the cadaver dogs, Mr and Mrs McCann’s perceived demeanour as well as many other totally irrelevant points just fuel this uninformed and I must say often offensive conjecture. The simple answer is, there is no information, let alone evidence to indicate their involvement in any way. Should they have supervised their children more closely that night? That is not for me to say, but regardless of the answer, it does not assist the investigation in any way. Finally, and in my opinion, the most salient fact is that a male was seen at 9.15pm carrying a child who clearly fits Madeleine’s description. When taking everything together, this was clearly Madeleine, which therefore 100% rules out Mr and Mrs McCann as being involved in any way.
Although the second option is extremely unlikely it needs to be covered. If Madeleine had left the apartment, she would have gone out of the patio doors and walked towards where her parents were. It is also likely that she would have been seen by someone who would have reunited her with her family. She would not have wandered far, and the chances that at this very moment a predator being there who is attracted to this age of victim is so unlikely that it goes beyond reasonable consideration. This option therefore can also be discounted. Additionally, the most telling point that dismisses this theory is the open window and shutter. This also assumes that the sighting by Jane Tanner was not Madeleine and I do not believe this to be the case.
Now to the third and fourth options. These I believe are very similar in how they were carried out, but with clearly different endings. I will detail how I believe she was taken and then go on to explain why I believe that the final option that Madeleine is still alive is realistic, and arguably the most likely.
It is my belief that Madeleine was targeted and her parents observed from shortly after they arrived at The Ocean Club. The McCann family arrived on Saturday 28th April 2007, and with the exception of Saturday evening, they dined every night in the Ocean Club on the complex. This pattern could have been observed by anyone, so by Thursday they could have been observed for up to four nights during which time their routine was firmly established. Whoever abducted Madeleine was then able to put their plan together.
Although it has been said by some that the apartment the family were in made it easier for the perpetrators to carry out this offence, this is in my opinion relatively academic. Unless the family were in a totally secure apartment, the abductor’s plan would simply be amended accordingly. The reality is that the only way to prevent such things happening is to keep our children within sight 24 hours a day. This is simply not a realistic option for anyone.
Others have said that the apartment is the last one that a perpetrator would choose. I disagree. I believe it provides possibly the simplest means of escape, as well as being relatively shielded from view. This on the other hand could not be predicted as many others provide the same accessibility. The reason this abduction has taken place is not about the location of the apartment, it is about where this specific child was when she was abducted.
The routine of Mr and Mrs McCann and their friends, along with the regular checking of the children would have been easily observed, as well as the fact that access via the patio door was simple.
I also believe that the choice of Thursday for the abduction was not mere chance. Whoever committed this offence could have known, but even if not, would have surmised that the family may be leaving on the Saturday. They would therefore not wish to leave it until the last night in case the McCann’s changed their routine, perhaps going out for a final meal, thereby taking the children with them. By choosing Thursday, this also allowed the possibility of another day should they be unsuccessful at the first attempt.
On the night itself Gerry McCann would have been seen to check the children at 9.05pm and then rejoin the group. This could be seen either from within the Ocean Club area, or more likely from the alleyway that runs between this and the apartment. Due to the height of the wall and foliage on top of it, as well as the area inside being well lit in contrast to the darkness elsewhere, those dining would have been easily observed whilst anyone in the alleyway could remain unseen.
This is the ideal time. Sunset on the 3rd May 2007 was at 8.25pm, so it would have been quite dark by 9pm. Mr and Mrs McCann and the rest of their party would have been relaxed and having dinner. To leave it much later than this increases the chances of them coming back to the apartment earlier than had previously been the case. It is also likely that those responsible would have known that it was probable that Madeleine would be in a deep sleep by this time, and that her parents were in the middle of their evening.
After observing previous routines, they would have known that they had at least 20 to 30 minutes before the next check. They would observe the group for a few minutes and then go to the apartment. At the end of the alleyway they could see that the road was clear, it is then only literally a second for them to go through the gate and into the garden area where they would be virtually out of site. It is then simple to enter the apartment through the patio doors.
The abductor then went into the bedroom where the twins and Madeleine were sleeping. He has no interest in the twins, he is looking for Madeleine. The window and blind were very likely opened in order to facilitate exit. If two were involved, Madeleine would have been handed out of the window to the second person. If one, then he could have climbed out the window with her, but I believe it to be more likely that he realised that this was not a simple task when carrying a child and would then have left via the door leading to the car park. Although entry was gained via the patio doors, this was not the exit route as it is not only unnecessary and illogical, it would also substantially increase the chances of being seen and possibly caught.
It is clear in my mind that the plan and escape route were planned and probably rehearsed in advance. It was clearly well executed as it was successful. This was not an impulsive act; it was planned. This took patience as well as planning. It would have involved observing the McCann’s for some time. This is reinforced by the six sightings of a suspicious male in the days prior to Madeleine’s abduction. The person responsible for this offence is both a controlled and controlling individual.
Although floodlit, the window of the apartment and exit to the car park are not easily observed. Once out of the apartment car park there is a simple choice, turn left or right. By turning right the abductor has to cross Rua Dr Francisco Gentil Martins, the road leading down to the entrance to the Ocean Club. However within less than 30 seconds he could be totally out of site in an alleyway with high walls that leads directly from Rua Dr Agostinho da Silva to Rua Do Ramalhetete, the main road that leads out of the village. Turning left means he would have to walk a greater distance, initially uphill and with a greater chance of being seen. Although there are many apartments overlooking the car park, how many people were actually sitting there and taking any notice. Also, the entrance is relatively secluded and once they are away from the apartment, provided they did nothing to draw attention to themselves there is no reason for anybody to notice them, and even if they did, to think twice about them.
If I am correct, a car would have been parked near to the end of this alleyway. If two people were as I believe, most likely involved, the second person would already have been in the car by this time. I believe the reason why a car was not parked any closer, such as in the actual car park of the apartment block, is that this would substantially increase the chances of being caught.
The whole abduction process from being in the alleyway by the Ocean Club to getting in a vehicle would have taken no more than two minutes.
This timing would also fit in with the sighting by Jane Tanner at 9.15pm. I am totally of the opinion that the person seen by Jane Tanner was involved in Madeleine’s abduction and that the child the person was carrying was her.
Why am I so convinced? The plain reality is that it all fits. I am not making everything fit, it simply does. The time fits, the description fits, even down to Jane Tanner identifying the pyjamas that Madeleine was wearing that night. The route is the most likely to be the one taken, everything points to this being Madeleine and her abductor and nothing I have seen contradicts this.
Why else would the child be wearing pyjamas? If the person was taking a child back to their home or apartment, then she would not have been in pyjamas. Also the description of how the child was being held possibly indicates that the person carrying her may be unused to carrying a child of this age. I also think that if she was being carried by a paedophile or someone intent on doing her harm he would be carrying her differently with her face pointing inward with either a hand over her mouth or close to it, to prevent the possibility of her making any noise. Someone who believes they care for her would not do this.
I believe the later sighting by the Irish family to be irrelevant and not Madeleine.
Even if Matthew Oldfield had noticed Madeleine missing when he checked at 9.30pm, this would have made no difference as whoever took her would have been well away by then, and in any event were expecting the children to be checked about this time.
After looking at all the information available to me, this I believe provides the most plausible explanation as to how Madeleine was abducted.
Was it one person, was it two, were they locals, were they there on holiday or simply visiting, was she taken by a paedophile or by someone who wanted to raise her and look after her. I obviously do not know. All I can do is to provide a few thoughts and theories.
To answer the first question, was it one person or two. Although I do not know, I believe that from the nature of the crime, the manner in which it was carried out and from examination of the scene and area, this would point to it being more likely that there were two people as opposed to one. This can obviously not be said for certain, and as with all the other points mentioned is simply my opinion.
Now to one of the most difficult points, was it a paedophile or someone who wanted Madeleine as an extended member of their family. Again I do not know, but what can be done is to look at it logically, and see what is the most likely.
I do not believe that Madeleine was abducted with the intention of some sort of long term grooming and abuse similar to that experienced by Jaycee Dugard or Natascha Kampusch, and in any event both of these girls were substantially older when they were taken.
A girl of Madeleine’s age is not the usual target age for a paedophile; she is substantially younger than most victims of these offences. This however cannot totally exclude this possibility, as we have seen from the conviction of David Bryant in March 2012. In his case however he snatched the victims from the street and did not kill any of them.
Although it cannot be under estimated the amount of planning that a paedophile without a conscience is prepared to go, I believe in this case that the choice of Madeleine and her place of abduction underlines the fact that this was not a planned or even random paedophile attack.
Additionally, people who commit these offences generally do not just commit one. They often start slowly and develop more confidence with time. If a paedophile had been responsible for the abduction of Madeleine, then it is likely that he would not only have had a history of similar offences, but would have certainly committed some since. Again, this is simply my opinion in this case and perhaps a generalisation. Clearly some paedophiles will only commit one offence of this nature, but this is usually not the case.
There are other reasons, the fact that whether one or two people were involved, that they have not shared this information with someone and who due to the very large reward on offer would be likely to report it. Also if two or more people, this is a good bargaining chip for any future arrest. This has not happened.
I do believe that when all the available information is examined logically and objectively, that Madeleine was taken by someone who wanted her as part of his or their family. Once they have made the decision to carry this out, whoever was responsible would be prepared to take more risks than perhaps others would. These risks however are mitigated by the level of planning and control in the abduction process.
If my theory is correct, certain inferences can be made. The people responsible will not have a close extended family as would it be feasible that no one would make the connection to Madeleine. I do not think that they have any children of their own. I also believe that they could have rationalised it in their minds by thinking “they’ve got three, we haven’t got any”. In a perverse way they may see this as being alright as they have left the family with two children. There has also been talk of Madeleine at times being badly behaved in the days leading to the abduction. I do not know if this was true or not, but it is irrelevant. Even if it was, I’m sure that the accounts have been over inflated and exaggerated. People may argue that if this was true, why would anyone take a poorly behaved child. This has no significance as once they have developed the idea, they would simply rationalise this by “they can’t control her, we can”. The things that have been latched on by many of the critics of Mr and Mrs McCann are of no relevance whatsoever. I am also of the view that whoever took Madeleine will speak English, albeit not essentially fluently, and not necessarily as a first language.
Now to one of the most significant questions. Were those responsible local to the area, or visitors, whether from elsewhere in Portugal or further afield. Again no one knows. The reality is that they could be either.
Whether they were local to the area or a visitor I am of the view that Madeleine was seen early in the week, and from then the plan was developed to abduct her. If local, they could have initially stayed in the area, and if from further afield, would have left on Thursday, and possibly even vacated their accommodation before this.
This analysis would be incomplete without some comment on the Portuguese Police investigation and whether it would have been conducted differently in the UK. I honestly cannot say for sure as different people do different things, some are more efficient and professional that others, whether down to experience or other factors. I will however highlight a few points.
The scene should have been sealed as soon as first officer arrived. This would have potentially preserved evidence that may have been left behind and enabled a more reliable forensic examination of the apartment. However, talk of road blocks and the border being closed is totally unrealistic. This would not have happened in the UK. Regardless as to whether this was done or not, there are many places to cross the border therefore this would be largely impractical and ineffective.
Talk of her being taken away on a boat from the beach, a local marina or on a ferry to Africa is not only unrealistic, it is also unhelpful.
One of the main problems as I see it was that quite early on in the investigation, as well as looking at the offence as possibly being committed by a paedophile; the police clearly suspected that Mr and Mrs McCann were in some way involved. This was obviously an initial valid and correct line of enquiry, however, even though there was absolutely no evidence to support this, it clearly became of significance and the focus of much of their time and resources.
This was undoubtedly reinforced by the comments made by a member of the British Police team, who regardless of the fact that there was absolutely nothing to point to either Mr or Mrs McCann being involved, still stated that their involvement ‘deserves as much attention as the criminal and sexual motivations that has been previously prioritised’. This in my view misguided analysis also disregards the sighting by Jane Tanner.
This may have supported and gave credence to the views of some in the Portuguese Police and diverted investigative resources away from more realistic and obvious lines of enquiry.
Such thinking would potentially have closed the minds of the police to other lines of investigation and avenues of enquiry, thereby missing many opportunities to gather evidence, interview witnesses and identify potential suspects. In such cases as has been seen all too often before, both in the UK and elsewhere, the investigator often, albeit subconsciously will try to make the evidence fit his theory. This can be extremely dangerous. Although theories are of course a significant part of detective work, they should be based on evidence and not simply that you think you know what happened. The vital point is to keep an open mind and to go where the evidence leads, not where you think you want it to go.
The reality is that in such cases it is fundamental that the investigators keep an open mind and work to the evidence not what they think may have happened. Also, their belief should be that they are looking for a live child and not confirmation of death. This mindset is fundamental to the way an investigation progresses and how the people working on it respond to information.
One of the first things that should have been done was to conduct extensive house to house enquiries. The purpose of this is to establish everyone who was in the resort, and the nearby properties, particularly those whose apartments overlooked the pool area. This should also have included employees, not only of the Ocean Club but also of nearby businesses and holiday complexes. I obviously do not wish to generalise but a distressing but realistic fact is that the hotel and holiday trade attracts many itinerant, deviant and paedophilic men. I am not saying that this was the case here, but this is obviously an avenue of enquiry that should have been fully examined, and as far as I am aware wasn’t.
Madeleine’s photograph should also have been released to the media immediately.
Jane Tanner should have been interviewed more thoroughly and far earlier and any description she gave of the man carrying the child should have been put out immediately.
There should also have been a more urgent and wider appeal for witnesses. Although there was significant publicity, this was piecemeal and in reality often generated more by the media than by the police. I am also aware that there are many people who were there at the time, whether residents, guests or staff, both at the Ocean Club and elsewhere, who even now more than five years later have still not been spoken to. It is imperative that everyone who was there needs to be identified and interviewed.
One of the problems in such investigations and after such a length of time is that people are often too embarrassed to come forward, or believe they have no useful information. They shouldn’t be, each and every snippet could potentially help. It is often said “it is probably nothing, but”. Let the police be the judge. They are the professionals.
It is also clear that the difference in culture and language did not help the investigation. Regardless of this, all statements should have been either recorded or at least written by an interpreter as opposed to the information being translated back and forth and recorded by the officer conducting the interview. This is a potential recipe for confusion, and again would seem to have caused problems here.
It is also I feel important to mention the many so called legal restrictions, whether real or perceived, that may or may not have hampered the investigation, particularly in the early stages. To be perfectly honest I am not really bothered that the Portuguese Police say that they could not do such and such a thing, whether this is because of their limitations, legal rules or simply established practice. If any of these restrictions hampered the investigation, then they are clearly wrong.
The investigators who have been working with Mr and Mrs McCann have clearly worked tirelessly with all the available information they have. There has also recently been talk of a review by the Portuguese Police. Additionally the UK police review is the correct course of action, regardless of what some people may think. This is being conducted by experienced investigators and hopefully any suggestions or guidance they make will be acted upon, and that where feasible they will be allowed to be more involved in the investigative process. This however is where there may be a breakdown. The Portuguese Police claim they need new evidence, and the UK Police‘s hands may be tied as they seem to only have a review function. There has obviously been significant co-operation between the UK and Portuguese Police but the reality is that there can never be enough, and unless and until full and unrestricted access to everything is allowed, and that investigators on both sides are permitted to go anywhere that the evidence leads them, this case will always be hampered.
Now to the main question. Where is she now, and why has she not been discovered. Many have said that with all the publicity, she would have been seen. This is not necessarily correct; there are many instances where this has not happened. Also don’t forget that whoever took Madeleine knows that she could be recognised at any time and therefore they will go to any means necessary to ensure this does not happen. Could her hair be dyed a different colour, has she now got a tan, is she speaking a different language, has her hair been cut short and perhaps being dressed as a boy. These are just a few of the many ways in which she could be being disguised to prevent identification.
Another point is that a child will often accept what they are told, particularly if said in a caring way, and will therefore act accordingly. Memories cannot be totally erased but behaviour can be controlled, influenced and changed. I also believe that there is a good chance that whoever took Madeleine may in all likelihood have subsequently moved and therefore have new friends and neighbours who accept them for what they are, and not necessarily be suspicious. People generally accept what they are told by others, and are not naturally disbelieving.
I do not believe she is local to Praia de Luz, or even the Algarve, but if taken by someone who is Portuguese, she could still be in the country or now be elsewhere such as Madeira, even Brazil or somewhere else where Portuguese is either the main language or where there is a substantial Portuguese community. It cannot be under estimated the lengths these people would go to in order to preserve their ‘family’. How simple is it to get a passport or identity documents in Portugal, I do not know. I hope this has formed a part of the police investigation and that they have examined any such applications and records.
If she has not been taken by someone local, then the reality is she could be anywhere in Europe or even further afield. This would particularly be the case if the person who abducted her was staying in the complex or nearby. It is also likely that whoever abducted Madeleine had most likely driven there.
What can now be done by the police? I obviously do not know what the police either in Portugal or the UK have done, or intend to do, other than what has been reported. I will therefore limit myself to a few points, some of which may hopefully have been done already, but some that have clearly not.
There needs to be full cognitive interviews carried out not only with Mr and Mrs McCann, but also with Jane Tanner and the others in their extended group. Also of any other significant witnesses that were identified. Those responsible for the abduction of Madeleine will have been seen by someone, although they probably have not registered it. I do not know if this form of in depth witness interview was conducted or even considered, but I do not believe so. Just because it is five years since this abduction, it is not too late. Many of those present will still play the events of that week over and over in their minds. It may be that they felt uneasy about someone and haven’t even realised the significance of it. What is needed is to record this and then compare with others. It is not a short or simple process, but it is a necessary one. Jane Tanner should also look at all the photographic material, particularly the videos. She may think that she couldn’t recognise the individual she saw, but she just may. Someone has seen who was responsible for this, nothing happens in a vacuum.
Have there been any occasions of burglaries in the region, most likely in the six months prior to the abduction, in houses with young children where nothing was taken. There could possibly have been a previous attempt at a similar crime.
Also, the numerous instances where a male got into various properties and assaulted young children who were there on holiday. It would appear that many of these were not even investigated. This is another line of enquiry that should have been pursued more vigorously and even after the passing of time still can and should be.
There have also been reports of named suspects not even being interviewed, let alone eliminated, as well as information given to Crimestoppers not being taken by police. These are matters that need to be resolved, acted upon, and procedures put in place to ensure this does not happen in the future.
I would have hoped that everyone who was in the Ocean Club and nearby at the time have been identified and interviewed, whether they were there as guests, residents or even staff, but as mentioned previously this is not the case. There needs to be a systematic analysis conducted to identify every single person who was there and also precisely where they were at any relevant times. Many will have been eliminated, and others who clearly are not responsible can also be. Those that are left need to be traced, interviewed and eliminated from the enquiry. This should start with those who would have driven to the area, as well as checking car hire companies. I am not saying categorically that the offence was committed by someone who was actually on holiday; it could be someone who regularly visits. No person or group can be totally discounted until they have been identified and eliminated in some way.
The reality is that as in any investigation and review what is needed is going back to the basics. To start at the beginning and work forward and not the other way round. There are three main avenues to solving any crime; forensics, witnesses and interviews. In this case, there are no reliable forensics, there would seem to be no apparent suspects, and therefore what is left are the witnesses. This is where the focus should obviously be.
Also, people both in the UK and throughout Europe should also be asking themselves what was their son, brother or friend doing when they were in the Algarve that week five years ago.
Too many enquiries get bogged down in chasing farfetched and unrealistic avenues of enquiry. I know this from experience. It is natural to try and leave no stone unturned and in enquiries such as this which are conducted in the public eye and under the glare of publicity sometimes rational decisions are not made. Those tasked with this investigation need to concentrate on what they know, and what can be done.
The police have appealed to anyone who was in Praia de Luz, and particularly the Ocean Club between the Saturday, the 28th April and Friday, the 4th May 2007 and who still have not been interviewed to come forward. This appeal needs to be continually reinforced until every person has been spoken to. It should also include anyone who still has any video or photographs taken there who have not yet handed this over.
In conclusion, I obviously cannot dismiss the possibility that Madeleine was abducted by a paedophile for a sinister purpose, and that she is now dead. This is one line of enquiry that the police must obviously continue to investigate vigorously.
However I do not believe this to be the case and have given my reasons why. I’m sure many people will disagree with this; that is their prerogative. I also do not wish to unrealistically raise hopes and expectations. Is believing that Madeleine is alive being overly and unrealistically optimistic. I do not think so, and until there is categoric evidence to the contrary, I will continue to believe this. Hopefully those continuing the investigation have the same belief.
Ian is the senior consultant at BGP Global Services. Along with others at BGP, he is experienced in the assessment of major crimes scenes. Such assessments are conducted not only for media groups, but also for law firms, law enforcement bodies and other organisations.
WOW, that is all I can say… Someone finally doing their homework and explaining how Madeleine could have been abducted.
Brilliant article… And as they say:
The plain reality is that it all fits. I am not making everything fit, it simply does. The time fits, the description fits, even down to Jane Tanner identifying the pyjamas that Madeleine was wearing that night. The route is the most likely to be the one taken, everything points to this being Madeleine and her abductor and nothing I have seen contradicts this. Spot on.