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The Search for Madeleine McCann

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  • Pages: 9
  • Word count: 2132
  • Category: Police

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            Madeleine “Maddie” McCann was vacationing in Portugal with her English family (parents Gerry and Kate, and two other younger siblings) when she disappeared on May 3, 2007.  Her parents claimed that she was abducted right from the place where they were staying in Praia da Luz. According to Gerry and Kate, their three children were asleep when they went to have dinner with friends in a restaurant located 50 yards from their rented place. She remains missing to this day in spite of an intensive search which was conducted by the Policia Judiciara (PJ) of Portugal with the assistance of investigators from Leicestershire, United Kingdom, where the McCanns come from (Find Madeleine).

               The search for Maddie which was conducted for a period of 15 months before it was shelved was massive as well as expensive. The investigating team conducted a total of 443 searches which was participated in by 300 police officers who were picked up from different security forces in Portugal. A team was organized composed of 130 PJ officers who were detached from their normal duties so that they could concentrate on the Madeleine McCann investigation which gathered testimonies from 700 individuals including 112 employees of the Ocean Club resort. What made the investigation particularly expensive was the use of British sniffing dogs and the forensic tests which ran to the hundreds. The daily expenses of the two dogs alone cost the investigation 1,000 euros excluding their travel expenses which amounted to more than 2,700 euros. The expenses for the DNA tests incurred during the investigation had also been substantial, totaling some 145,000 euros. In particular, five invoices which covered “DNA tests and analyses on biological residues” during the last stages of the investigation alone had amounts in excess of 20,000 euros each (Nascimiento and Dâmaso).

            The first suspect considered by investigators was Robert Murat, a long time resident of Portugal with a British mother who was initially used by the PJ as a translator because he was fluent in both English and Portuguese languages. Murat became a suspect because of several tips including an anonymous telephone call. The first tip about Murat was provided by a British journalist who contacted the English police on May 6, three days after the disappearance of Maddie McCann, about a suspicious character “who lived in the area and was excessively helpful.” The journalist pointed out the fact that Murat was separated from his daughter who was the same age as Maddie McCann. The following day, the PJ had already compiled a dossier on Murat.

The anonymous telephone call was received on May 8. The caller, a Portuguese-speaking female, told the PJ that the person who abducted Maddie was closer than they thought. She described the abductor as a resident of Praia da Luz who spoke Portuguese fluently but had a British mother and whose name was Robert. She also informed the PJ that the suspect was currently helping them with the case. The case against Murat was further strengthened when English profilers stated their belief that there was a 90 percent probability that Murat was the abductor. Another informant who claimed to be a childhood friend of Murat told police that when Murat was still a teenager, he “revealed an inclination to have sex with animals.” Based on these tips and information, Murat was named a primary suspect on the fourteenth of May (Portuguese Reports).

            At the outset, Gerry and Kate told police that their daughter was abducted and demanded that they pursue this angle during the investigation. So, for more than two months, the PJ was pursuing this angle. However, the investigation took a different course on July 20, when the PJ asked Mark Harrison, an English expert on abduction and homicide cases, to help in the investigation. Harrison canvassed the Algarve area for several days to look for evidence. In his 13-page report, he stated that the only conclusion he could make was that Maddie was killed and “her body hidden in the areas that were [already] searched by the police and located near Praia da Luz.” In that same report, he recommended using sniffing dogs capable of detecting “cadaver and blood odour” inside the apartment where the McCanns stayed as well as in the house of Murat. His report was received favorably by the Public Ministry which allowed the use of two dogs: “Eddie” for detecting cadaver odor and “Keela” for detecting blood (Serôdio).

            When the dogs were brought to the apartment which was rented by the McCanns, both of them became “very excited” immediately, according to Martin Grime, an FBI advisor who was an expert in the use of dogs. He said that the body language of the dogs was enough evidence that both cadaver and blood odor were present in the apartment. He narrated in his verbal report that “Eddie,” the cadaver odor-sniffing dog found such odor inside the apartment. On the other hand, “keela” alerted the handler of the presence of the odor of human blood. The dogs were video-taped and the images became available for viewing by September (Portuguese Reports).

            The cadaver and blood odor where found behind the sofa in the living room, near the closet of the bedroom occupied by Gerry and Kate, on an article of clothing belonging to Madie, on her favorite soft toy, on the rented car which was actually only rented by her parents several days after she disappeared, as well as on several pieces of clothing which were owned by Maddie’s mother. These findings, according to police investigators, corroborated other anomalies which, to them, pointed to the parents as possible suspects. First, when police responded to Kate’s report, she told them of her suspicion that Maddie was abducted because of the open window in the room where she slept. Because of this, the coordinator of the investigation, Goncalo Amaral, believed that there was sufficient evidence to consider the parents as suspects in the case. The Public Ministry itself already decided that abduction was unlikely and that it was possible that what occurred was a case of homicide (Nascimiento and Dâmaso).

            The investigators also found the testimony of Kate about the possibility of abduction because of the open window in the room where Maddie had been sleeping unbelievable. First, according to Amaral, the window was closed when they arrived at the scene. Besides, according to him, three people informed them that the window was indeed closed when they passed by the apartment. Then Kate said that she did not touch the window. However, when they dusted the window for fingerprints, they found Kate’s fingerprints there in spite of the fact that the cleaning lady testified that she cleaned the window the day before the incident. Police also took into account the “many inaccuracies, incongruities and contradictions” in the testimonies offered by the parents and their friends as further evidence that Maddie’s parents only staged the abduction. By September, in the face of the evidence gathered, Gerry and Kate were considered suspects but were allowed to post bail (Taulés).

Amaral offered his explanation as to what he believed might have happened. According to him, working on the information provided by the parents themselves that Maddie had trouble sleeping, he surmised that the girl might have heard her father talking to somebody outside the apartment. She wanted to look out the window by climbing atop the sofa. However, since the sofa was moved away from the window, she might have fallen when she failed to reach the windowsill. As a consequence, she died when her head hit the floor. According to Amaral, he believed that it was Kate who found Maddie on the floor which explained why her fingerprints were found on the window (Taulés).

            Amaral believed very strongly in the homicide angle. He pointed to the fact that the DNA traces detected by the dogs in the boot of the rental car 23 days later proved that Maddie really died, her body hidden somewhere first, and transported 23 days later. He also reiterated the fact that the blood found by the dogs was “washed blood,” indicating that someone (most probably the parents), tried to hide the presence of the blood in order to stage an abduction. Amaral said that he pointed the investigation towards this direction when he was taken off the case for claiming that the British police were steering the investigation towards the abduction theory favored by the McCanns (Taulés). However, the supposed DNA evidence on which the whole homicide theory of the Portuguese police was based was dismissed as inconclusive by the Forensic Science Service in Birmingham. In its final report, it explained that the evidence did not support the theory of the Portuguese police because aside from the fact that the samples submitted for analysis were not enough, “badly degraded and heavily contaminated,” it was not established properly that they really belonged to Madeleine (Allen).

            The statement made by an Irishman about a man whose image resembled Gerry whom he saw carrying a child on the night Maddie disappeared was also discredited by the PJ because the friends of the McCanns claimed that Gerry was with them at the restaurant. Their statement could not be contradicted by the restaurant employees, either, since they could not be sure whether Gerry left the restaurant or not. The Irishman, Martin Smith, said that he saw the television footage of Gerry carrying his other child on September 9, 2007, while leaving the plane upon his return to the United Kingdom. He stated that he was struck by the fact that Gerry’s gesture as he “turn[ed] his head down,” was very similar to the gesture of the man he saw carrying a child during the night in question in Portugal. Smith said that his whole family saw the man that night and three of them thought that the child could really have been Maddie. So he gave his deposition to the Irish police sometime during the last week of January, 2008. His statement reached the hands of the Portugal police by February 19, but was set aside due to the statements made by McCann’s friends at the restaurant which established his presence there (Portuguese Reports).

            During the middle of March, 2008, the Public Ministry wanted to conduct a May, 2008 reconstruction of the events of the night in question. The purpose was to explain the inconsistencies in the statements made by witnesses in order to establish with more clarity what really took place that night. Unfortunately, the McCanns and their seven friends were advised by their lawyers not to return to Portugal any more because they might be faced with another round of accusations. The Public Ministry declared that because the reconstruction did not materialize, the McCanns “lost the possibility of proving what they have been protesting since they were made arguidos [suspects]: their innocence regarding the fateful event” (Portuguese Reports). However, because their guilt could neither be proven beyond any doubt, the McCanns were removed from the list of suspects by July, 2008. The case was shelved but could be reopened in case new evidence crops up. Meanwhile, the Portuguese lawyers of the McCanns would be filing a formal request for access to the case file to enable the McCanns to analyze the police investigation and take it from there. Maddie’s parents, however, reserve the right to file a complaint against the Portuguese police for the clumsy handling of the investigation. For Gerry and Kate, the search for Maddie continues (Allen, Wilkes, and Firth).

Works Cited

Allen, Vanessa. “The dodgy DNA evidence that lead to the McCanns being made suspects.”

            Mail Online. 22 July 2008. 11 November 208.



Allen, Vanessa, David Wilkes, and Niall Firth. “Police report into Madeleine’s

            Disappearance is leaked online as McCanns threaten to sue police over bungled

            Probe.” Mail Online. 22 July 2008. 11 November 2008.


Find Madeleine. The Official Website to find Madeleine McCann. 9 August 2008.

            11 November 2008. <http://www.findmadeleine.com/>

Nascimiento, Ana Luisa and Eduardo Dâmaso. “Dogs mark trail next to the

Window.” Madeleine McCann Discussion. Tru TV             Crime Library. 8 September

  1. 11 November 2008.


Portuguese Reports. 24 August 2008. 11 November 2008.


Serôdio, Alexandra. “Recourse to the dogs advised by British expert.” Portuguese Reports.

            8 August 2008. 11 November 2008.


Taulés, Silvia. “Goncalo Amaral: Gerry McCann hid Madeleine’s corpse on the beach.”

             Madeleine McCann Discussion. Tru TV Crime Library 6 September 2008.

11 November 2008.


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