The purpose of this site is for information and a record of Gerry McCann's Blog Archives. As most people will appreciate GM deleted all past blogs from the official website. Hopefully this Archive will be helpful to anyone who is interested in Justice for Madeleine Beth McCann. Many Thanks, Pamalam

Note: This site does not belong to the McCanns. It belongs to Pamalam. If you wish to contact the McCanns directly, please use the contact/email details    

The Blacksmith Bureau - 2011 *

Opinion articles that appeared originally at
The Blacksmith Bureau
Madeleine by Kate McCann, 14 June 2011
Madeleine by Kate McCann

Kate McCann on TV3

By John Blacksmith
Tuesday, 14 June 2011 at 00:10

Hopes that the extreme caution with which the McCanns have previously discussed the disappearance of their daughter might be moderated in Madeleine take something of an early blow: in the acknowledgements section M/S McCann credits, in addition to the normal celebrity quotient of editors, agents and publicists, no fewer than four lawyers (including Mr. E "Expunge" Smethurst and Adam Tudor of Carter Ruck) and thanks them not merely for their assistance but for their part in completing the book. 
       They may, of course, just have been refreshing her memory of the litigation that the couple has been involved in since 2008; or their collaboration may have taken a different form. Whichever it is their silent presence in the gap between page and reader suggests that both newsworthy revelations and glaring inconsistencies are going to be in short supply. Nevertheless for students of the case the book is a worthwhile read, first and least valuably as a memoir, secondly as a historical source and lastly as a self-portrait.
       Regarding the first, as a simple celebrity-cum-misery memoir it isn't bad at all. M/S McCann eschews the use of a ghost writer and, despite what we've read of her execrable "diaries", knows how to put a sentence together. The early pages, indeed, are the best and least self-conscious in the book as she writes lightly and without sentimentality of her Liverpool background and childhood.
       Her descriptions of student life and the early years of her relationship with Gerry McCann are less spontaneous, singing more of the celebrity literary agents' demand for background colour than any strong desire to share her memories. Life in New Zealand and the Netherlands floats by with almost no comment on the culture or population of the two countries, in contrast to her tale of attempts to have children which, as an erstwhile obstetrician, she recounts in considerable detail. About medicine as a vocation she has nothing to say and none of her patients are ever portrayed, anonymously or otherwise. She writes that she had no particular interest in a medical career — it was more a matter of deciding between the various opportunities that her undoubted academic ability and determination (and she is modest about these) offered her. With the birth of her children the conventional narrative of early ambitions achieved and human happiness attained is complete. Despite the unoriginality of the tale — which is the fault of the industry, not M/S McCann — this is an adult speaking, not a celebrity creation, comfortable with her judgements and decisions and, up to a certain point, confident in her identity.
       Thus the curtain is raised on the drama the reader is most interested in: between May and October 2007 M/S McCann suffered the loss of her daughter, became a world-wide "misery celebrity" with unrestricted access to the corridors of the great and a developing taste for travel in private jets and then, in an altogether Hitchcockian twist, was accused of involvement in the disappearance of her own child before finding eventual sanctuary in her homeland. This transformation in her fortunes was matched, at giddying speed, by her portrayal in the media — from glamorous but stoical heroine to a rag doll stripped of all privacy and dignity in a matter of weeks. How she and her husband handled these switchback changes in their fortunes together with the public's perception of events provides the heart of the book, with the police investigation into their possible guilt provoking the most strongly felt and dramatic writing in the whole work.
       Soon after their return to the UK the drama is essentially over. The pathos of Clarence Mitchell's press conference in front of their Rothley home, with the pair standing mute in his long shadow like a pair of dejected, sagging, criminals, remains sharp in the memory. Behind the scenes, however, and starting with a three and a half hour legal defence meeting on the day they landed in England, one of the most expensive and powerful legal teams in modern British history was being assembled. Given the paucity of the Portuguese police case against the pair — a large box full of loose ends — the defence effort seems disproportionate to any actual danger that threatened them and the tension inevitably falls away. What follows becomes something of a public report in which her campaigning work in child protection and her various interviews and public appearances are described in considerable, not to say tedious, detail. Meanwhile the exhausting, exhaustive and at times hysterically absurd campaign to find her daughter uncovers absolutely nothing, nada, not a single lead.
       Personalities are naturally described in limited — i.e. non-existent — depth according to the conventions of the genre. It is not easy for it to be otherwise when writing about living people who may still have a part, however obscure, to play; Goncalo Amaral, unsurprisingly, is the subject of scorn and bewilderment at his supposed lack of human feeling and his determination, according to Kate McCann, to stop the world searching for Madeleine. Little is said, though no doubt much could be written, about the various chancers and scoundrels who offered their services — at a price — to help locate the child.
       Despite the collaborating lawyers and the ever-present sensation of a text having being under microscopic scrutiny before being allowed to reach the paying reader there are one or two minor surprises. The extremely active role of the grandly named but only recently founded International Family Law Group in the parents' affairs in the early days, including their part in the establishment of the controversial family fund, their pressing suggestions that Madeleine should be made a ward of court and their introduction of some serious mercenaries-cum- private investigators from the Control Risks group, is bound to raise questions about their judgement. The IFLG was also intimately involved in the couple's ill-fated legal move to lay hands on Leicester police files on the case in summer 2008. M/S McCann gives a brief extract from the (previously confidential) Leicester police response to the action which stated, essentially, that there was "no clear evidence" to eliminate the couple from involvement in the child's disappearance and therefore they would not entrust them with the requested files. The LP position remains unchanged: the files are still denied to the parents.
       M/S McCann's feelings of having been abandoned by British "authorities" — she doesn't really do the separation of powers thing — once she is made arguida are revealed as the mirror image of Amaral's sense of abandonment by his own chiefs, though no doubt some readers will see deep currents beneath the apparently obvious truth of her comments. She explicitly denies any premonitions about Madeleine's well-being in Praia da Luz — somewhat surprising given the equally explicit statements of some of her friends on the question. And new to me, at least, is the Portuguese police claim that a witness saw her and her husband carrying something in a large black bag on the evening of May 3.
       The conclusion of the book exhibits a certain tension. The celebrity/misery memoir rules demand an upbeat ending; M/S McCann is OK with that but is uneasy about how the public might judge her if she is, well, too happy, given the circumstances of a missing child, fate unknown. Still, she manages it well enough, just as she manages the burden of her guilt. The knowledge that she is a stronger and more able woman now than she was a couple of years ago helps her, she says, to "shake off" a little of that guilt. Such questions as the real meaning of guilt, together with Kate McCann's Catholic conception of it, take us away from the celebrity memoir and on to the much more complex area of Madeleine's value as a true self-portrait, a subject that we will soon turn to. For the moment we can leave her with her book successfully completed, staring sensitively into the distance, alone — apart from the presence at her side of Bill Scott-Kerr, Sally Gaminara, Janine Giovanni and Alison Barrow, all of Transworld publishers, Neil Blair and Christopher Little, her agents, the aforesaid quartet of lawyers and her friend Claudia from the Portuguese PR company Lift Consulting — sad but beautiful, stronger for her suffering. Cue music and credits.

Madeleine by Kate McCann - II, 30 June 2011
Madeleine by Kate McCann - II

Kate McCann: TV3 interview, 13 May 2011

By John Blacksmith
Thursday, 30 June 2011 at 12:43

Madeleine as a primary source & historical record

As a celebrity memoir the book is by no means bad. What about as a record for future students of the case by one of the two central figures? How reliable is it?

Here "the case" that we're discussing essentially concerns May 3 and the week leading up to it. To a lesser extent it means the police investigation and that limited part of it for which the McCanns are primary sources. The remainder of the book, the greater part in fact, is of little importance: people studying the case, professional or otherwise, are unlikely to be deeply interested in the couple's extended travels around Europe or the enlistment of celebrities such as David Beckham to their cause. In this section we shall look closely at the first period and analyse it in detail; we can consider the couple's experiences at the hands of the Portuguese police later on in the third part of this review, where we discuss the value of the book as a self-portrait of Kate McCann.

The constraints — the Portuguese judicial secrecy rules — which prevented her speaking in as much detail as she apparently wished about the case no longer apply. The possibility (of which the couple were highly aware) that they might lose their younger children to UK social services on the grounds of parental neglect perhaps justified a certain caution in their accounts of events; with the passage of time, however, the likelihood of any such action has dropped to zero. And, finally, M/S McCann now feels strong enough to confront those early days in Praia da Luz and has a fierce wish to write about events and correct the "half-truths, speculation and full-blown lies appearing in the media and on the internet". As she writes in the foreword to her book:

"...I have struggled to keep myself together and to understand how such injustices [the half-truths etc above] have been allowed to go unchallenged over and over again. I have had to keep saying to myself: I know the truth, we know the truth and God knows the truth. And one day, the truth will out."

So her day has come.


How has she tackled that week and what does she have to tell us?

The first point to note is the extreme brevity of her coverage of the period. Out of the 368 pages of the work some 27 are devoted to the week of the disappearance, culminating in her 10PM visit to apartment 5A — pages 44 to 71. Two of these are diagrams, leaving just 25 pages of text or some 7.5% of the work.

The structure of the section is as follows:

1) A day to day account of the minutiae of the holiday, reading rather like an appointments diary. Much of this indeed appears to be taken from a journal which she started keeping after May 2007 to assist her recollections. Examination shows that this has been filled out by material taken from her statements to the Portuguese police and information provided by the rest of the group in their 2008 statements to Leicester police, the so-called rogatory interviews. Finally she has added brief titbits of an unimportant nature presumably taken once more from her journal — page 58, Gerry buys a new pair of sunglasses, page 56, a fun game called "object tennis". Page 60, her pink running shoes, would she be taken seriously wearing such a colour?

2) This takes up around 18 pages. The remaining 7 consist of insertions into the narrative — about a page and a half or so of complex memories of Madeleine and some 5 pages of justification by Kate for her actions written from outside the story itself.

When we look at the section as a whole the main impression is the acute contrast between what has come before — the cheerful tale of her previous life — and what follows — the emotion-filled drama of the investigation and the way in which it turned on them, followed by the proud recitation of her achievements as a campaigner.

It stands alone, a flat recitation varied only by the insertions. Incidents may indeed be described as "exciting" or "fun" but the words have no resonance, being neither fun-filled nor in any sense exciting but all written in a monotone. Every writer, amateur or professional, puts a part of themselves into a story whether they wish to or not, independent of the words they use: in Kate McCann's case there is what we call an extreme disjunction between the words on the page and the real feelings of the author — such as they are — as expressed in that mystery, the tone of a piece of writing.

Apart from the insertions it is more of a drone than a tone. No interest in describing the period, or the wish to communicate the nature of the experience, is anywhere discernible. Neither the appearance nor any hint of the personalities of the seven friends who accompanied her to Praia da Luz are delineated: all of them, including the distinctively older Dianne Webster, remain mere names, their appearance on the page just patches of black, or rather grey, type, carrying as much life or personal response from the author as a telephone directory.

Now, from the rogatory interviews we know that the old newspaper picture of a secretive, homogenous group was false. One or two of them were as near to close friends as the McCanns are ever likely to have; others hardly knew the pair. In their own lengthy descriptions of that week, despite the fraught circumstances under which they spoke, their personalities come to life – the owl-like and pompous but comically accident-prone David Payne, for example, his silkily ambitious wife (the one with the scarves) whose perfume can almost be smelt on the page, the embittered and hostile Russell O'Brien, deep-down conscious that his carefully planned career will never be the same again, the stage-comedy scatty old lady Dianne Webster, who can't even remember her own address and isn't old at all, veering wildly between genuine forgetfulness and a sharp suspicion that the less she says about anything the better for everybody.

And their descriptions are alive as well, full of unexpected detail, doubt, colour, disappointment, incident and emotion, giving the lie to any suggestion that there really wasn't much for Kate McCann to write about in that Praia da Luz week. Unlike her the 7 — except, of course, when they stray into certain "dangerous" areas — tell things more or less as they saw and, more important, felt them.

Can we be sure that the section has in fact been structured in the way we have described? Well, the passages of self-justification are obviously ex post facto, as they say, and therefore cannot have come from the period; nor have they in any sense sprung from the narrative of that week since they have nothing to do with communicating what happened then but are part of a quite different story, M/S McCann's continuing defence of her own reputation, the "bottom of the garden" stuff and the rest in which she first lightly condemns and then strongly acquits herself.

Then what about the Madeleine passages? Can we be fairly sure that they don't spring from the narrative either? They certainly don't seem to. Significantly our first real view of Madeleine on holiday — on the aircraft steps — is given not from direct memory but from the video made by the group. A few pages after that the bare recitation of events and lengthy descriptions of the apartment is interrupted:

"Soon after midday," she writes, "we collected the children." A highly emotional passage about the child follows — but it doesn't describe Madeleine McCann in Praia da Luz but in some more complex space: "I loved going to pick up the kids when they were little," she adds, "the moment when your child spots you and rushes over to throw a pair of tiny arms around you makes your heart sing. It doesn't happen every time, of course, but I have many special memories of meeting Madeleine at nursery at home. Hurtling across the classroom and into my embrace she would shout, 'My mummy!," as if establishing ownership of me in front of the other children. What I'd give to have that back again."

The next is on page 57:

"It chokes me remembering how my heart soared with pride in Madeleine that morning. She was so happy and obviously enjoying herself. Standing there listening intently to Cat's instructions, she looked so gorgeous in her little T-shirt and shorts, pink hat, ankle socks and new holiday sandals..." OK, OK — but this wasn't strictly the child in Praia da Luz either, but a photograph:

"... that I ran back to the apartment for my camera to record the occasion." The child herself is momentarily excluded as Kate McCann shifts time and space once more, "One of my photographs is known around the world now..." and in a convoluted mix of past and present, child and parent, tells us how it was that Madeleine had "done really well" to end up for the photograph with an armful of tennis balls, finishing, "Gerry loves that picture."

On page 65 she demonstrates how hard she finds it to "see" the child, providing not an image of Madeleine in action but a multi-layered section of her own troubled memory from somewhere far beyond Praia da Luz:

"Some images are etched for all time on my brain. Madeleine that lunchtime is one of them. She was wearing an outfit" — here comes mum — "I'd bought especially for her holiday: a peach-coloured smock top from Gap and some white broderie-anglaise shorts from Monsoon — a small extravagance perhaps, but I'd pictured how lovely she would look in them and I'd been right." She adds, "She was striding ahead of Fiona and me, swinging her bare arms to and fro. The weather was on the cool side" — here she is again — "and I remember thinking I should have brought a cardigan for her, although she seemed oblivious of the temperature, just happy and carefree" — again — "I was following her with my eyes, admiring her. I wonder now, the nausea rising in my throat, if someone else was doing the same."

Her characterization of the child throughout these interpolations is flimsy and as for the dynamics of the relationship between mother and daughter — and anyone with children of Madeleine's age knows how extensive and complex the relationship has already become — there is almost nothing.

I stress these points not at all to criticise Kate McCann as a mother but to illustrate the way in which the child does not emerge naturally from the narrative — and that is because she is not really part of it. Perhaps the closest she comes to emerging is in the descriptions of her asking her parents "why they hadn't come that night" — and that episode also, in a sense, comes from outside, due to the evidential significance it has subsequently taken on.

From these considerations it should be clear that the whole section results neither from concentrated recollection nor the intensity of her feelings about episodes of four years ago: it has been assembled into a construct, not a description and certainly not a record. Of course every piece of writing of whatever kind is a construction, a literary construction, if only by selection. But a literary construction is chosen for its suitability to express the story, whether fact or fiction, in the best or most appropriate way. This section of Kate McCann's book is something quite different: tellingly, she never "expresses herself" at all.

The only interpretations of this extraordinary section that seem to make sense are, firstly, those that are probably familiar to her criminal lawyers: that she suffered from traumatic amnesia that week as a result of losing her child or for some pre-existing reason and has had to reconstruct the period from outside sources; or that she is still incapable, despite her own assumptions, of truly confronting the events of the period.

There is, of course, a third: that she sees that whole week as a potentially "dangerous area" a shark filled sea in which she must move with enormous caution, her only safe refuges the island of ex post facto justification and the haven of her undoubted love for Madeleine, however strangely revisited.

Can we go further and decide which of the three might be correct? One way of doing so is to remember those opening words:

"...I have struggled to keep myself together and to understand how such injustices [the half-truths etc above] have been allowed to go unchallenged over and over again. I have had to keep saying to myself: I know the truth, we know the truth and God knows the truth. And one day, the truth will out."

"Dangerous" or merely "contentious"? Either way, how Kate McCann handles areas of the case which have provoked so much comment and debate, and how much light her quest for truth will throw on them can help us decide which interpretation fits best.

Leaving aside the whole question of the state of the apartment at 10PM on May 3, a subject about which by now we can be fairly sure M/S McCann is not going to have anything new to say, these contentious areas come down to three episodes: the decision not to use babysitters, the supposed visit of David Payne to her apartment on the early evening of May 3 and the notorious problems of the evening "timeline."

The Babysitting Decision

The decision prompts a number of questions that in theory, and for a person who has nothing to hide, should be easy enough to answer: who exactly first suggested that the group should check the children and when? What stance did Gerry McCann, a born contributor, take? What was agreed about checking other couples' children and what arrangements, keys, open doors etc, were agreed within the group to allow others entry to their apartments? And did they discuss or assess the risks of such a procedure before coming to a decision?

David Payne

Dr Payne being ingenious in his rogatory interview

In the rogatory interviews the matter was treated as "dangerous ground". The group gave vague and contradictory answers to some of the questions but stood firm in claiming that the decision to check their children had been a "collective" one. Their responses, taken together with their police statements, demonstrated that there had been an attempt to construct a strong legal case against any charges of neglect arising from the checking after the child had disappeared.

That case, developed and made explicit to the police by David Payne, was superficially ingenious: Mark Warner, it ran, used "listening checks" at most of its resorts with staff listening at guests' windows every half an hour for signs of wakefulness or distress; finding that Mark Warner did not use the system in Praia da Luz the group put in place a system that followed the company's half-hour intervals; in fact, said Payne and others, apparently with straight faces, it was better than Mark Warner's system because there was some visual checking inside the apartments as well; therefore they could only be guilty of neglect if Mark Warner was prosecuted for the same offence in all its resorts.

Of course there were all sorts of problems with this claim, not least that it sounded strongly like our old friend ex post facto preparation and reeked of urgent legal discussion after the disappearance of the child, not before. And it was all too neat, especially when the four members of the group who had absurdly claimed that the checking was every fifteen minutes — some whir of motion in the Tapas restaurant that would have been — in their May 4 statements began shading their claims towards the half-hour mark. Still, it was hard to disprove unless the police could find out whether such elaborate and conscientious planning had really taken place at the beginning of the holiday rather than afterwards. All nine in the group, however, refused or transparently affected not to remember who said what and when, repeating only that it was a "collective decision".

But why should the police, Portuguese or UK, be so concerned about possible neglect as to try and break down their story in view of the appalling disaster that the group had suffered? Did it really matter enough for the Leicester police still to be trying to find out the background to the decision in April 2008?

The answer is no, it didn't. What mattered — and here the size of the pit the Tapas 7 (not the 9) were digging for themselves begins to come clear — was something much more important: the group was clearly not telling the whole truth but was that simply to evade the dreaded neglect issue? If they weren't willing to come completely clean on that, even a year later, just how honest were they and could they be concealing something much more sinister?

question, with all its implications, remains open and unanswered to this day, prompting much debate on the internet and, no doubt, a number of open files in Leicester police headquarters. It is extremely thought-provoking — and here we see the size of that pit again — that apparently not one of the Tapas 7 has come forward after four years and said, in effect, to the UK police, "Look, we were troubled; of course the 'collective decision' thing was a stance but an understandable, not a sinister, one. Can't we start again and clear this up?"

Of course it is possible that one of them has done so; if so he hasn't told Kate McCann. Her contribution to dismissing baseless rumours in this section of Madeleine might sound slightly familiar:

"As the restaurant was so near we collectively decided to do our own child checking service"followed, without further detail, by an entire page of prolix and defensive self-justification, again familiar from her previous media interviews.

The David Payne Visit — Multiple Worlds?

The visit, the "last sighting" of Madeleine McCann by someone outside the family, remains highly controversial and has been the subject of exhaustive debate on the internet and elsewhere.

The questions about it arise at the very beginning since it was not mentioned by David Payne, Gerry or Kate McCann in their initial police statements, despite Kate McCann's repeated assertions in the book that she had told the police "everything". The first reference to it comes, oddly, not from either of the individuals involved but from Gerry McCann, in his May 10 statement:

"David went to visit Kate and the children and returned close to 19H00, trying to convince the deponent to continue to play tennis, which he refused."

Note the initial locution, "David went to visit Kate and the children": there is no mention of any reason for the visit. Unfortunately the PJ did not hear what the principals had to say: neither Payne nor Kate McCann were present for that second round of interviews. Kate had cried off with stress; quite how Payne avoided questioning is unclear. Whatever, the result was that the Portuguese police received no information about the claimed visit from one of the participants until Kate McCann was questioned over four months later, on September 6 2007. And they still had no statement from Payne; in fact they were unable to compare his account with that of Kate McCann until they listened in to his rogatory interview in April 2008.

Kate McCann's September 6 statement runs thus:

"While the children were eating and looking at some books, Kate had a shower which lasted around 5 minutes. After showering, at around 6:30/6:40 p.m. and while she was getting dry, she heard somebody knocking at the balcony door. She wrapped herself in a towel and went to see who was at the balcony door. This door was closed but not locked as Gerry had left through this door. She saw that it was David Payne, because he called out and had opened the door slightly."

She now departs from direct knowledge deriving from her own experience, as she often does on important matters, adding helpfully:

"David's visit was to help her to take the children to the recreation area. When David returned from the beach he was with Gerry at the tennis courts, and it was Gerry who asked him to help Kate with taking the children to the recreation area, which had been arranged but did not take place."

Then, reverting from hearsay to evidence, she concluded:

"David was at the apartment for around 30 seconds, he didn't even actually enter the flat, he remained at the balcony door. According to her he then left for the tennis courts where Gerry was. The time was around 6:30-6:40PM."

This was the first appearance of the "Gerry asked Payne..." story — after four months! — and it was followed some twenty four hours later by the same story from Gerry himself in his arguido interview.

Two weeks later, with the couple safely back in England and during that muffled and murky period when they and the lawyers were using the media to explore their vulnerabilities, a lengthy and carefully contrived leak was given to the London Times by Clarence Mitchell. The story purported to be about disagreements between the McCanns as to how far to co-operate with the PJ but buried half way into the story we find this:

"Last week, however, a senior police source told a Portuguese newspaper that officers were still suspicious about the McCanns' movements during the "missing six hours" before Madeleine's disappearance.

Sources close to the family [Clarence Mitchell] say that David Payne, one of the holiday party, saw Madeleine being put to bed when he visited the McCann apartment at 7PM. Previously the last confirmed sighting of Madeleine was at 2.29PM when a photograph of her and Gerry was taken at the swimming pool.

Kate and Gerry McCann believe Payne's testimony will be crucial in proving their innocence. They arrived at the tapas bar at 8.30PM, which would leave just an hour and a half in which they are supposed to have killed their daughter and disposed of the body.

A source close to the legal team [this was also Mitchell] said: 'If they were responsible for killing their daughter, how would they have done so and hidden the body in that time? There is a very limited window of opportunity.'"

So the story had developed even further. Note that Payne himself, after almost six months, has still told the Portuguese police absolutely nothing about the visit. The only reference to it that he ever seems to have made comes in a curiously unsatisfactory email from the Leicester police to their Portuguese counterparts accompanying some forwarded statements. Detective Constable Marshall wrote that Payne had stated informally:

"...that he saw Madeleine, for the last time, at 17H00 [probably an error for 7PM] on 3/5/07 in the McCann apartment. Also present there were Kate and Gerry. He did not indicate the motive for being there or what he was doing. He also cannot indicate how long he stayed."


The situation, therefore, was that Payne's version of this visit was still open and, as it were, up for grabs. But not yet and certainly not for grabbing via the newspapers by the McCanns and their spokesman. As we have seen from his ingenious defence of the "checking" Payne has an instinct for keeping his options open. The claims were left standing, without rebuttal, for several weeks and perhaps there was a hope somewhere that it reflected Payne's acquiescence in the story and the altered timescale. Not likely.

In late October, strangely enough on the same date that Detective Constable Marshall sent his email along with the Gaspar statements to Portugal, he made the extremely rare move of communicating via journalists himself, speaking effusively to the Daily Mail about Kate McCann and her lack of problems with her children [media code: no, she wasn't nutty or stressed-out enough to have whacked the child and accidentally killed her]. But 7PM was now firmly out: in that same article Mitchell and the McCanns had to reverse themselves, now stating "David Payne saw Madeleine at around 6.30pm." Point made.

In April 2008, just under a year after the child's disappearance, David Payne was finally compelled to talk about the visit, making a statement to Leicester police as part of the rogatory interviews. The Portuguese police representatives watched the televised proceedings from behind a screen. Whether Lusitanian guffaws of disbelief resounded from their vantage point is not disclosed but Payne and Kate McCann seemed to be not just on different visits but different planets.

Q: Okay, and it was at what point that Gerry said to you go and, would you mind checking at Kate?

DP: I had to go back to my room to you know change into stuff appropriate for playing tennis in, and err so he knew that I'd walk up that by and past so he said oh why don't you err, you know can you just pop in on the way, the way up...[fails to describe reason for visit]

KM again
: David's visit was to help her to take the children to the recreation area. When David returned from the beach he was with Gerry at the tennis courts, and it was Gerry who asked him to help Kate with taking the children to the recreation area,

Q: Did you open the door? Or was it already open?

DP: I think it was already open.

: This door was closed but not locked as Gerry had left through this door. She saw that it was David Payne, because he called out and had opened the door slightly.

Q: Did you actually go into the apartment?

DP: I did.

Q: Or did you do the conversation from the door?

DP: No, definitely was inside the apartment, you know whether it be two or three steps into the apartment or you know however many, but I was definitely in the apartment.

KM: He didn't even actually enter the flat; he remained at the balcony door.

Q: Okay, so now what I'm gonna try and ask you to recollect, what everybody was wearing.

DP: I'm afraid that is, you know I'm, I cannot recall at all. I know that's, you'd think that'd be an obvious thing to remember, I cannot remember. As I say the, from the children point of view predominantly I can remember the, you know, white, but I couldn't say exactly what they were wearing. Err…

Q: But could you remember what Kate was wearing for example?

DP: I can't, no.

KM: She wrapped herself in a towel and went to see who was at the balcony door.

Q: I'm gonna pin you down and ask you how long you think you were in there for.

DP: In their apartment, it, it, I'd say three minutes, five maximum.

David was at the apartment for around 30 seconds.

Q: When you finished ...did you say anything to Gerry about, about the fact that his family were fine?

DP: Yeah, err yeah, I haven't mentioned this before, but yes, yeah I'd certainly, when we met up I said oh yeah, you know everything's fine there, you know probably along the lines of you know you've got a bit more of a free pass you know you can carry on for a bit longer...[fails to give reason for visit]

KM: ...asked him to help Kate with taking the children to the recreation area.

What can one say? It doesn't corroborate and it doesn't tally: there might have been visits to apartment 5A by David Payne or other members of the group that day but the written evidence shows that the one described by Payne and the McCanns did not take place.

Dangerous waters! What does Kate have to say now? Very little. In the book she falls back on copying out her September 6 statement:

"At around six forty, as I was drying myself off, there was a knock on the patio doors and I heard David's voice calling me. Swiftly wrapping my towel around me I stepped into the sitting room."

But then she uses words that aren't in the statement: "David had popped his head round the patio doors looking for me," which quite cleverly attempts to resolve the open/closed doors discrepancy as well as shading another question — inside the doors or outside the doors? Neither! He is in the doorway, head popping.

Having dipped her toes she moves rapidly back to the much safer territory of what others had said:

"The others had met up with Gerry at the tennis courts and he'd mentioned we were thinking of bringing the kids to the play area. David had nipped up to see if he could give me a hand taking them down. As they were all ready for bed and seemed content with their books I decided they were probably past the stage of needing any more activity. So he went back to the tennis while I quickly dressed and sat down on the couch with the children."

One wonders which lawyers were involved in the "popping" paragraph because, by altering her statement, Kate McCann has provided internal evidence that she is covertly attempting to smooth away inconsistencies that are hazardous for her rather than trying to throw light on the truth as she vowed to do. Oh, and the bit about Payne only staying for thirty seconds has somehow gone missing.

Nine O'clock News

Finally to the evening of May 3. M/S McCann is certainly not going to linger here and events before 10PM are despatched in a two page deadpan recitation of her statement, beginning with, "Gerry left to do the first check just before 9.05 by his watch."

By his watch? So near the end and more pause for thought!

Gerry did not mention looking at his watch and noting 9.04 until the desperate hours of his September arguido statement, and for very good reason: it couldn't be true.

We know that he was actively involved in the preparation of the two "kid's book" timelines in apartment 5A on the night of May 3/4, a subject on which Kate is understandably silent. Not surprisingly the person who wrote these timelines down, Russell O'Brien, was almost equally coy about their preparation when interviewed by Leicester police, stating that he had forgotten their existence.

Nevertheless, under questioning, he began to remember and confirmed not only his own role but that of David Payne and Gerry McCann in their preparation – while the searching and hue and cry was taking place around them and all within a few feet of Kate. If Kate McCann, indeed, had happened to wonder why one of Madeleine's books had been ripped apart and glanced down at the timelines written on their covers she would have seen "9.20 Jane Tanner checks 5D, sees a stranger carrying a child." Apparently she didn't, not finding out about the sighting, so we are told, until very much later.

Maddie's sticker book, with timeline on inside cover

So where's 9.04?

O'Brien was vague and inconclusive about the exact role that each of the three played in their preparation but nevertheless it was established that Gerry McCann had been involved in both versions and that the second — marked "Gerald" so he could hardly deny it — included amendments from him.

Maddie's sticker book, with 2nd timeline on inside cover

Not here either

The first sheet that the trio prepared states that Gerry left to check at "9.10 -9.15". The second, corrected by Gerry, alters this to "9.15". There is no mention of 9.05, let alone 9.04. That the alteration was part of a process in which almost all checking times were systematically shifted by five minutes or so to accommodate the otherwise insoluble conflicts between Gerry McCann's presence in 5A and Jane Tanner's sighting directly outside, does not concern us here. What matters is the internal evidence of the documents as to the truth: McCann could not possibly have allowed either document to pass unamended if he had indeed looked at his watch at 9.04 as he left to check. The documents show that the claim about the watch, first made four months after the event, is an invention.

And so we arrive at Kate's 10 PM check, there to read the cold leftovers of her previous statements and interviews. With that the strained and artificially constructed narrative of this section can come to an end, to be replaced immediately – and almost with a sense of relief — by wild, fist-beating, screaming action.

This piece which purports to describe Madeleine's last known week is a sadly unworthy memorial to a small and unfortunate child. As a historical record Kate McCann's Madeleine is, as we have seen, self-serving and actively resistant to the truth. It is worthless.

Mystery, what mystery?, 18 July 2011
Mystery, what mystery? The Blacksmith Bureau

James, Elisabeth and Rupert Murdoch

By John Blacksmith
Monday, 18 July 2011 at 14:17

Ready for the vultures

First of all I had a few requests to comment on the News International stuff and its relevance to the McCann case. The affair has now mutated into a battle between the BBC/Guardian network, the real establishment of the UK, sharing both outlook and personnel, on one side and the Tory government, which has cut the BBC's income and is willing to allow the insolvent Guardian to go into liquidation, on the other. The Murdoch dynasty, that slowly dying creature, too weak to defend itself against vengeful enemies, is being bloodily dismembered in the greater struggle. In this somewhat frenzied situation the participants are also the communicators so we aren't going to get too much objective news, are we? And until events quieten down we won't be able to draw long-term conclusions about the future of the politics/media/public sandwich.

The fault lines in the UK media, which the McCann affair highlighted so mercilessly in 2007, remain. The newspaper industry of the last three decades with its flabby model of "serious" newspapers containing very little news but somehow running to dozens of pages of opinion slotted in between the advertising and the thoroughly crooked motor, travel and fashion sections is still in terminal decline.

The news agency feeds which the papers subscribe to and re-write/embroider according to their stance are now available, like hotel and airline booking pages, to all of us direct on our screens so we don't need them any more than we need travel agents. We read them for diversion now, not real information, and with one exception they aren't very entertaining. Only the cynical but brilliant Mail, something more than a tabloid in the strict sense, the first daily to make money from its increasingly integrated internet operation, has realised this and is in good health. The classical tabloids are now lumpen comics, smelling of beer, bad breath and dirty laundry. It is a great pleasure to see over two hundred News of the World staff made unemployed: no, they are not innocent victims, they were the paper.

I do not believe that Murdoch or Murdoch's papers in themselves have, in any way, protected the McCanns. That protection, as Kate McCann confirms, was sealed by the visits of the couple's criminal lawyers to all the main UK media editors in late 2007 during which the latter were told, correctly, that the McCanns were bound to win every libel case they bothered to pursue since the evidence did not exist for a defence based on truth.

The "it was the Sun what won it" consensus among all three parties that the media have to be continually cultivated, embraced and smooched because in a democracy it cannot be controlled or ignored, is finally breaking down and that has to be a good thing, despite the inevitable disappointment that it will bring to those who believe the politics/media interface can one day be permanently squeaky clean. It can't, but it can certainly be periodically washed down.

And the big question behind all the noise and fury remains. Are voters, consumers, readers and watchers a bovine herd who can be directed through the desired gate via a more subtle Sun and the techniques of news management, or not? Despite the disturbing evidence of the last general election when, in the first televised debate between the party leaders, a man with nothing to offer except the childish, if not Hitlerian, promise that "he would be different" was declared by the public the consistent winner, the question remains open.

The politicians, at least the more thoughtful of them, see a glimmer ahead: the same technology which has broken the stranglehold of the overground media on shared opinion also offers the possibility of a more direct link between Parliament and its debates and committees – which we can now get on our screens as easily as blogs – and the public.

Who knows where that one could lead? Would it weaken the industry of news management itself rather than the increasingly obsolescent power of the proprietors and channel owners? Would it change the tight machinery of newsfeed and presentation, information as product placement, practised by the revolting Mitchell and his like in the McCann case, replacing, to revert to the metaphor, the dodgy travel agent world and its associated bribery and corruption via the newspaper travel pages, with the more anarchic and slightly less easily manipulated world of Trip Advisor? Here's hoping.

Now what about this mystery? Ah yes, another post.

Ah, that mystery, 18 July 2011
Ah, that mystery The Blacksmith Bureau

By John Blacksmith
Monday, 18 July 2011 at 17:37

The eyes have it

Somebody who was criticising me years ago, a BBC man who went very silent when he realised his bosses might find out he was posting on the net, said that I regarded the McCann affair as a giant crossword puzzle – in contrast to his own rather BBC view that there were hidden hands and forces at work. Conspiracies, he lectured me, really do happen. Tell me about it. Anyway, I plead guilty as charged, except I would think Killer Sudoku is a better comparison.

The intermittent but obsessive wrestling with a problem which can make a two hour air flight pass in a matter of moments or can clean out the brain in intervals between real work or real-life challenges, was provided just as well by the McCann affair as a level-one-mind-bending Sudoku.

And now?

Where's the challenge? Ok, ok, we don't know how the body was got out of the apartment. Anything else? Not much, not since the latest candidate for the longest suicide note in history, Kate McCann's Madeleine, confirmed just about everything we had deduced and more.

Sure, the pair's fairy story has been unravelling steadily, starting with the deadly Lisbon hearings in January 2010, continuing with the appeal court judges' demolition of the absurd "exoneration" claim – via their endorsement of Amaral's theory as an interpretation of equal validity to that of the unfortunate prosecutor Menezes – and untangling further with the Wikileaks stuff. But the speed has now become dizzying.

Cops have feelings too

Kate McCann and Carlos Pinto de Abreu

Abreu - come, on, he knows, she knows, Amaral knows, we know

It is some six months since, in response to questions I had asked Goncalo Amaral, I was told that the parents' lawyer Abreu, had initiated the attempt to find the most favourable charges possible against his clients' at the McCanns' direct request.

This, by the way, was not based on panicky misunderstandings on September 6 but had been under exploration since the crucial August 8 police interview, the details of which have only been made partially public now, by Kate McCann.

There was no plea bargaining. Instead the police were willing to accept that Kate McCann was a sick woman, as Kate's description of their comments on August 8 illustrates. Incidentally their diagnosis of her as revealed in that interview stands up very well, and fairly, when compared with her revelation that for months in 2007 she suffered from feelings of disassociation and demonic possession that can only be described as psychotic. Where she and the PJ differ is that she suggests that the psychosis developed after 10 PM on May 3 while they believe it had begun before that. We've had four years to watch the woman while the PJ had three months: they did well.

Given what they believed to be her state of mind it was obvious that a punitive sentence was never going to be demanded by coppers with any insight and human decency – which these officers, despite the filth that the parents, their employees and their supporters have thrown at them – possess in plenty; the woman needed help, for Christ's sake, as she still does, not imprisonment.

It was the unanimous view of the three officers and Amaral that the parents and their lawyer left on the night of September 6 anxious to make a clean breast of the matter.

And months after the Portuguese messages along comes this desperately disturbed woman to confirm the broad picture. In the wild and emotional discussions with Abreu which accompanied their change of mind that night there were few claims that they might do so because of their innocence. Gerry McCann's collapse onto his knees, tearfully shouting that they were finished, that their lives were over, was not followed by any ringing peroration as he eventually rose to his feet that they were innocent or being framed. No, he spat out words more fitted to a Glasgow crook than to an innocent doctor - "they've got nothing".

Somebody help her

Michael Caplan QC and Angus McBride

Lawyers Caplan & McBride. Did they really help Kate McCann? Really?

I can't even be bothered any more to list the number of problems that we have the answers to now. What about that famous, if ignominious, argument in their favour, for instance, that no couple could have gone on behaving "normally" at the tapas table that night, knowing their child was dead. Really? Now read the August 8 stuff in Madeleine to see the state they were in and the incredible accusations that the police had put to them. Then check Gerry McCann's blogs and their interviews for any hint of what must have been churning away in their minds. That pair would act naturally if they'd been turned into pillars of salt.

Nah, there are details to wrap up but the challenge is gone. We know what happened. From now on it's just a question of whether they'll face criminal justice – can anyone really be bothered? – before Amaral eventually cleans them out in the libel courts. But that's just postscript.

Madeleine as a self-portrait of Kate McCann - III, 19 July 2011
Madeleine as a self-portrait of Kate McCann - III

Kate McCann

By John Blacksmith
Tuesday, 19 July 2011 at 22:41

Reading Madeleine is a weird experience.

For a start – unless, of course, you are one of those "realists" who think the book is just the simple story of an unfairly traduced and long suffering mother – it operates at as many levels as a French symbolist poem. "Choose your audience and write to it," say the agents in their guidance to celebrity clients but for Kate McCann this is no simple task. She knows how many people there are at her shoulder as she writes – Abreu, Amaral, her various police questioners in the PJ, Bob Small and Detective Sergeant de Freitas from the UK, David Payne, and others, all with their own knowledge of the events she describes.

She has the silent presence of her constituency of supporters to maintain as well, always searching for an approach that will keep them onside – did that sound too happy? Is my love for Madeleine coming across strongly enough? I mustn't sound too vain – as well as the note-takers on the skeleton crew still keeping the case open at Leicester police headquarters. All of them must somehow be satisfied.

The major chord, as it were, of the surface Readers' Digest narrative – the only one that will be perceived by some of her less sensitive fans – dominates this series of undertones, one for each individual or constituency. It is a performance on a colossal  scale, a high-wire act that must be petrifying her husband, evidence of an overpowering ego and an immensely strong will.

The cultural poverty that she and her husband share and which makes them describe – and, I think, experience – situations of extreme elemental drama in cheap soap-opera terms makes one hesitate before admitting that Shakespeare frequently comes to mind. Yet the sheer power and determination with which she sent hope and strength coursing back into her husband's limp, sobbing body on the night of September 6, for instance, is that of Lady Macbeth in its purest form. She is an extraordinary woman.

Whether she is quite sane, in the commonly understood sense of the word, is another matter. When the PJ officers accused her of blacking out on May 3, of not being in control of her actions and feelings, they were, as I have written elsewhere, very close to the truth of what Kate McCann herself describes in Madeleine – months of believing that she was possessed by an alien force, "a demon", and an accompanying sense of seriously out-of-control fury, in other words psychotic, not neurotic, behaviour. But they clearly believed that such behaviour predated the evening of May 3.

Hers are qualities that inspire both admiration and pity. If only they were the whole story! For the record of the last four years shows a deeply unpleasant underside to her complex personality. It is not the evidence she provides in the book of her obvious human weaknesses — vanity amounting to self-obsession, a tendency to attack, sometimes physically, those who provoke her, an obvious pleasure in being indulged associated with a certain financial acquisitiveness: most of us share some of those characteristics and worse. No, it is much more serious: few people mean anything to her at all and those that cross her...

People who have helped or served her fare almost as badly as those who have given her trouble. The experienced GNR officers who first appeared on the scene to search for her daughter, less fortunate in their careers than she, men of peasant stock on a poor wage in a poor country, are treated with casual contempt by this erstwhile child of the Liverpool slums: "Tweedledum and Tweedledee", she describes them mockingly, "bewildered and out of their depth". The ghost of harmless old Mrs Fenn, who dared to be concerned for Madeleine's well-being, is invoked to receive a paragraph of gratuitous insult before being despatched back to her grave; Justine McGuinness, having failed Kate McCann's expectations in some obscure way, is tossed aside like a bunch of old flowers.

Isabel Duarte

Such nice people, lawyers

Goncalo Amaral, of course, stood squarely in her way. Having fed the UK rumour machine against him she watched, presumably with satisfaction, his career implode. Once his book threatened to bring the facts of the investigation to a British public almost completely unaware of them, she set out not just to silence but to destroy him, using the crone Duarte and the wealth at her disposal — none of it earned — to tie him up in Kafkaesque legal netting, his money seized, his freedom of speech gone, his family dependent on friends for financial support. It was a ruthless desire to hurt, not to defend, that is so clearly revealed in her pursuit of Amaral and his family, a campaign that almost succeeded when the police officer's wife broke down and begged her husband to seek a settlement with the pair.

It is notable, by the way, that Amaral's memoirs not only reveal a more cultivated individual than Kate McCann — he actually shows awareness of the history and culture of his own country and an aesthetic appreciation of its landscape — but a degree of humanity and warmth that is quite lacking in the icy heart at the centre of his adversary's book. Unfortunately he is also less devious: he underestimated Kate McCann when she was almost within his power and he is still struggling to overcome his error. That side of her personal ledger is almost enough to cancel out the pity one should feel for such a disturbed woman.

This brings us to the last, and most extraordinary, aspect of Madeleine. It is a strange and troubling example of a divided self, for while her fingers tap out the repeated evasions and justifications of the last four years, another part of her, through bravado, sickness, a damaged self or her fugitive Catholicism, is busy subverting her words from within.

"The style sings of hope," wrote a famous critic of the troubled author F Scott Fitzgerald's novels, "the message is despair." And something similar is happening throughout Madeleine. Kate McCann cannot bear to portray her daughter in the days before the child met her fate: she can only approach her with displaced memories from an earlier time as though, whenever she makes the attempt, she sees her own child’s face staring steadily back at her and she has to turn away.

She makes only a lacklustre effort at assembling a convincing narrative of that week, falling back instead on old cuttings as though she no longer has the psychic energy to put forward a sustained and convincing description. The Tapas 7, her supposed friends, walk the streets and sands of Praia da Luz like spectres, not real people. Her handling of the famous visit to her apartment by David Payne is riddled with fatalism. Only after 10PM on May 3 does the prose spring to agitated life— because now she is recalling real feelings of fear and turmoil. But whether those feelings resulted from the loss of her daughter to a stranger or something altogether more complicated but just as terrifying, is open to question.

There is fury – that word again – throughout her time in Portugal at what happens to her but it is as though she is shouting to convince herself. And when she turns to the events of August 2007 it is simply impossible to believe that she is really protesting her innocence; in the August 8 interview with the police and that dreadful episode in the apartment with Abreu and his assistant almost a month later, the truth breaks through once more and the token claims that they were being invited to plead guilty to something they hadn't done are simply overwhelmed by charged images that scream of guilt, most of all the one in which Gerry McCann gives up and sobs at her lap like a child.

When Kate McCann writes of guilt — the guilt she admits at not having protected the child, of the things she might have done differently, the declarations ring empty, with no accompanying sense at all that she really feels, or perhaps even understands, the true meaning of the word. When she writes of her own innocence, in contrast, the mood, the feel, the crucial scenes, deny her own words. The book is one long, unconscious, confession, a cry for help.

Things are going rather well, 02 August 2011
Things are going rather well The Blacksmith Bureau

By John Blacksmith
Tuesday, 2 August 2011 at 17:51

The phone-hacking affair offers much entertainment to the humble onlooker: the BBC's lofty pretence that it is an innocent party above the struggle, for example, rather than a lamed bureaucracy battling for its future against a more focused adversary; the pleasurable sight of the flames licking at the feet of oily fraudster Piers Morgan, ex-editor of the London Mirror; the sudden appearance of Queen Elizabeth I in her beloved parliament and, of course, the use of the words "shocked" and "shocking" by innumerable media hacks, as if they could be shocked by anything except their own redundancy notices.

Queen Elizabeth I

Queen Rebekah Brooks

But that doesn't alter the fact that good things are happening. The cosy relationship between the media and politicians rests on a simple foundation, one of considerable significance to web readers and McCann affair followers: democratic politicians believe they have to put forward a sanitised and infantilised version of themselves and their views, otherwise the media will ruin them one by one.

The result is a mild conspiracy against the public in which politicians have to pretend to share the childish and totally synthetic world-view of the rags, even though they reveal the truth about themselves by rubbing shoulders daily with the journalists who eat in the same restaurants and share the same private gossip-net. Their extra-marital affairs, past drug taking habits, politically incorrect after-dinner conversations, bitching about colleagues – weaknesses that the rest of us share – are all known to journalists, in accurate form or otherwise, and can be used by them at any time to whip up a dishonest and hysterical campaign aimed at their destruction – if, and only if, their proprietor agrees.  So all politicians keep in with the proprietors and attempt to bully the editors. Only the rest of us, the poor fucking public, are left out of this charade – because we're not mature enough, apparently, to be trusted with the truth.

Now all that's up in the air and nobody knows how the pieces will land. At the Bureau we're optimistic. The phone hacking affair gives the politicians the chance to distance themselves without retaliation, the expenditure cuts have led to the loss of hundreds of government press officers' jobs and there seems to be a real desire among politicians to change the relationship in their own and the public's interest. The losers are the overground media which now find themselves caught in a vice between politicians and the internet with the terrifying possibility that the good times are over. Isn't that great? And it's difficult to see the hateful influence peddlers of the PR business continuing in quite the same way in future: if Murdoch or the chairman of the BBC has to use the front entrance to 10 Downing Street once the committee of enquiry reports then so will the PR lobbyists. But we'll have to watch the bastards in case they try to turn the situation to their own advantage.

Finally, another good sign has been the reaction of the Bureau's current favourite Louise Mensch to an attempt to smear her following her comments about Piers Morgan in parliament. Once upon a time the "charges" against her, mailed to her party chairman by a so-called investigative journalist, would have been enough to get the media ruin machine running: past drug taking, drunken dancing "in front of a journalist" and writing her first novel on her employer's computers, thus nicking electricity. Shameful, we say, [machine cranks into action] MP ADMITS DRUG CHARGES, no, not just shameful, CALLS FOR MP TO RESIGN,[machine running nicely] SHAMED MP PLEADS FOR HER FUTURE, [engage brainwash gear] on page 14 why Louise should stay, Tony Parsons, not just shameful but – TEARFUL LOUISE GOES – shocking!

But Louise didn't deny the accusations or try to wriggle out of them: instead she dared to treat the public as adults and said, yes, the accusations were probably true, with the result that the machine wouldn't start. A small victory and a hopeful augury.

Even better

How appropriate that this clean-up of the stables is being accompanied by the disintegration of the lie machine called Team McCann, the latter epitomising the squalor into which relations between media, government and public had descended under Labour. Gordon Brown was a fine bully of editors but was terrified of what the proprietors could do to him, given the rumours about his inadequate paranoid personality and closet homosexuality.

Gordon Brown

Gordon Brown attempting to flex his anus and relax

When the overground media turned the McCanns into helpless martyrs Gordon joined the party, anxious to show that he was a human being with human sympathies rather than a tight-arsed, tight crutched, Scotch intriguer with a cucumber stuck up his rectum, well worthy of the therapist's couch. As usual his decision making was wrong, his insight into people zero: he not only backed a couple of lying chancers but he failed to see that the Madeleine affair – the so-called "biggest story of our times" – was in fact a death ride for the press and a tipping point for the rest of the overground media.

Whether you foolishly supported the McCanns like Brown, or saw through them like we did, it was all the same: the media had abused their power in a grotesque and disgusting manner, either by using their near monopoly position to push their fictional sob-story to the whole nation and drive some of us crazy (our view) or by libelling the couple with wicked stories (the foolish view). The House of Commons turned on them, if for the wrong reasons, and began a process of clipping their wings that continues today. Things will never be the same.

Keir Simmons

Guess what Keir, we're going to jeer at you

Quite what the impact will be on the media when the inevitable happens and the parents are unmasked – courtesy of Amaral and Leicester police – we do not know. Individually they will manage: neither Keir Simmons nor the rest will lose their jobs and others will simply slip by, hoping the public will forget what they once said or wrote. But the fact that their great rivals, the wicked people of the internet, the fantasists, the haters, were nearer to the truth than the supposed experts of the overground media, will deliver a nasty blow to their credibility, and hence their wallets, at roughly the same time as the new measures regarding relations with the government and the police are introduced.

Goodness, it will be such fun to mock them.

The exoneration question – one, 03 August 2011
The exoneration question – one The Blacksmith Bureau

Portuguese Attorney-General

It's magic: the Attorney-General commanding the McCanns to depart

By John Blacksmith
Wednesday, 3 August 2011 at 17:12

We all know that the McCanns' libel lawyers attempted unsuccessfully to use the statement of the unfortunate Portuguese Attorney-General about the McCanns as a judicial finding rather than the mere opinion of a law officer. And we know of the constant attempts by the couple's supporters to use this opinion as an "exoneration", by which they actually mean exculpation.

There is a certain sadness in the way that the opinion is brandished at every opportunity by those who are unable to confront the reality of the Madeleine McCann affair, but then what choice do they have? Since May 3 2007 not a single piece of evidence has emerged to support the claims of Gerry and Kate McCann that their daughter was abducted, nothing forensic, not a sighting, not a ransom demand, not even the possibility of a lead. Nada.

The movement has, of course, been all the other way. As the primary sources have gradually emerged so the abduction claim has looked more and more senseless and, indeed, absurd.

When two witnesses make a claim that is unsupported by any evidence except their own testimony then the first, most basic and ultimately decisive question has to be posed: how reliable are they? Do they give an impression of being truthful people? Can their word be depended on? Well, we've seen their performance over the past four years and there is no need to repeat the evidence which grows greater each time one of the pair speaks out. To summarise: the Portuguese prosecutor stated in open court in 2010 that the parents were not truthful witnesses; they had, he said, lied. They fail the veracity test.

And then, moving beyond the parents, we have their friends. It is an understatement to say that their actions have demonstrated a determination not to assist the police inquiry in any way: leaving Praia da Luz as soon as they could, loudly asserting that they would help the Portuguese whenever asked, meeting the parents secretly in late 2007 to discuss their evidence (as Clarence Mitchell so unwisely confirmed) and answering Rebelo's final, and very human, appeal for their help in tracing the child with childish and transparent excuses and refusals.

Payne, Tanner, Kate/Gerry McCann, Oldfield on morning of 04 May 2007

The group offering to tell all they know, May 4 2007

When they were finally questioned in spring 2008 the Leicester police, courteous and non-adversarial in their enquiries, time and again offered them the chance to be frank in their answers and show that they wished to help the search for the child. At the same time those apparently friendly officers, extremely well briefed on events in Portugal, compared their replies with the facts in their possession.

At every turn those of the seven whose Portuguese statements had suggested evasion or untruth failed the test of co-operation when offered the chance. David Payne demonstrated by his answers that his visit to apartment 5A, supposedly the last time Madeleine was seen alive by anyone except her parents, could never have taken place in the way he claimed; O'Brien, faced with difficult questions about the troublesome "timelines" he'd written down when he was meant to be searching for the child on the night of May 3, asserted that he'd completely forgotten their existence(!) Jane Tanner, having given a passable defence of her original sighting, then destroyed her credibility by attempting to dodge questions about what happened in the notorious surveillance van (something that she has clearly discussed with Kate McCann, who endeavoured to boost her version of the van incident three years later in her wretched book). And the wriggling when they were asked if they were willing to return for a reconstruction of events – with the honourable exception of Dianne Webster – was simply laughable.

Jane Tanner: Rogatory interview

The van? What van?

If there was one message that the Portuguese police officers watching this performance received, it was that the group had no intention of helping the investigation and were already using lawyers to fight any attempt to make them return to Portugal. Without that co-operation the enquiry had nowhere to go. Just as, without their participation, the Scotland Yard review has literally nowhere to go.

David Payne

I really, really want to help find Madeleine...but...

One needs to step back and take a deep breath here. Whatever the excuses and evasions that six of the seven came out with – that they didn't trust the PJ, that a reconstruction might falsely incriminate their friends the McCanns and so on – they were demonstrating,as the parents had demonstrated before them, that they they didn't want to know. But if they were as innocent of collusion as they claimed how could they possibly have been at risk if they had helped? Were they suggesting that the PJ might frame all nine of them? Really? And even if their dislike of the PJ could ever be justified was it too much to ask that they hold their noses and co-operate in the hope that it might do some good for the child that all of them had known?

Naturally the supporters of the parents have nothing of significance to say about these matters. They cannot deny the sworn statement of the prosecutor confirming their status as liars; they cannot deny the written record concerning the seven's evasions and non-co-operation: it's simply there. Stuck as they are in summer 2007, their views formed for them by the media, without a single piece of information since then to support their weird beliefs, they simply lash out like the media that fooled them. Lenin called such people "useful idiots".

Grime the dog handler gets it in the neck, as one would expect, a money-loving hustler who fibs about his qualifications. The dogs themselves cop it too although, despite the abuse, McCann supporters rather love them because, unlike the factual, and damning, evidence above, the dog stuff can be argued about in circles for ever. Amaral is a crook and a monster who beats up suspects and intimidates people – as if that could make any difference to what happened on May 3. Leaving aside that Amaral hardly appears in Kate McCann's version of events do these people have any idea of how investigations run? If they'd come out of their time-capsules and watched the dodgy Scotland Yard copper Andy Hayman defending himself before the Commons committee the other day they'd have heard his strongest defence against accusations of somehow having corrupted the phone hacking enquiry. "What could I have done?" he asked, "if I wanted to corrupt the case tell me how I'd have done it?"

Hayman knew what he was talking about: unlike in the movies, the Mail, and the minds of McCann sleepwalkers, no one policeman has the power to bend an investigation his way – there are too many other people involved. But no, Amaral/Moriarty did it all. Again, the time warp plays its role: events since 2010 don't seem to have happened – no Lisbon court case finally destroying the McCann story that Amaral was a lone rogue cop; no appeal court verdict devaluing the prosecutor's "exoneration" – parroted by the Attorney-General – as a mere interpretation; no foreign office cables confirming the British role in making the McCanns the chief suspects; no admissions by Kate McCann that her husband wanted to confess to disposing of Madeleine's body; nor that he felt the game was up to such an extent that he wanted to bundle the kids into a hire car and flee across the border – to Spain, she says, though it might have been Gibraltar; and no acknowledgement that Gerry McCann told his wife and his lawyer that he was changing his mind about confessing not because he was innocent but because the police evidence was too weak to convict him – "they've got nothing!"

It's all one way, isn't it? Against which we have what on the other side? Well, a helpful Attorney-General said nice things and...and...and...well, everyone who doesn't believe the McCanns is a hater. Or mad. Oh, and whatever you say there was no motive, means or opportunity, so there. And anyway...they were exonerated.

To which we will return.

An interlude, 05 August 2011
An interlude The Blacksmith Bureau

By John Blacksmith
Friday, 5 August 2011 at 16:46

John Blacksmith writes: Before returning to the exoneration question we need to spend more time on the critical meetings between the police, parents and their lawyer on the night of September 6 2007. Twenty four hours later Gerry McCann outlined a plan for he, his wife and their their children to flee across the border by car. What had happened?

Carlos Pinto de Abreu

Carlos Pinto de Abreu. He knows.

Something doesn't add up

Many readers have been puzzled by pages 240 – 245 of Kate's book which describe the meeting with their lawyer, Carlos Pinto de Abreu, and the police interviews which preceded it. Some have said that they can't make any sense of the meeting, others that there is something strange or "wrong" about the section. To sum up, the lawyer's supposed words and the McCanns' actions and emotions don't seem to match up.

The Bureau suggested that Gerry McCann had "wanted" to confess and that he changed his mind and argued instead that they should tough it out hoping that the evidence against them was too weak to gain a conviction. That is the only interpretation that appears to make sense of what we know; as a Lisbon judge might say, however, it is only an interpretation.

Deal or no deal?

But first of all, what, in essence is Kate McCann's claim? It was expressed by Philomena McCann when she contacted the news media under instructions from Kate McCann on September 7.

"They tried to get her to confess to having accidentally killed Madeleine by offering her a deal through her lawyer - 'if you say you killed Madeleine by accident and then hid her and disposed of the body, then we can guarantee you a two-year jail sentence or even less,'"

This was no vague media report: as Kate McCann describes on page 246 of her book she and her husband were on the phone for around two hours that morning "calling family and friends to make them aware of the situation and to give them the green light to voice their outrage and despair if they wanted to. Nobody needed a second invitation". Philomena McCann gave the same version to all the major news media.

And the official police version? They stated publicly and categorically that it was untrue: the Portuguese police do not make deals. There is a clear conflict therefore – once again – between the police version of events and the claims of the McCanns. Either the police version is untrue or that of the McCanns is untrue and there is no possibility of reconciling them. For those who believe the McCanns were the victims of a police conspiracy throughout the affair that is no problem; for the rest of us the claim needs to be looked at carefully.

The missing evening

According to Kate McCann's book she went into her police interview at 2.55 PM on September 6. Apart from a fifteen minute break at 5 PM the questioning went on until 7.50 that evening in an atmosphere that was "quite amenable". There was a break, following which, she writes, her lawyer "disappeared into a meeting" with several of the PJ officers, leaving her feeling "upset and frustrated". As you would if your lawyer had gone off without instructions or any warning and left you for over two hours. If.

"At last," says Kate McCann, "Carlos re-appeared." The time, therefore, would be just after ten. She then adds that the questioning finally finished as 12.40. What happened during those two and a half hours? Kate McCann has nothing whatever to say except for one ten second snippet – that in the corridor outside a room one of the officers, Paolo Ferreira, told her that she should listen very carefully to what her lawyer had to say since it was very important.

According to the police records of her statement:

"At this moment, and because it is late, 11 p.m., the interview was interrupted and will be continued the next morning. She says nothing further. Reads, confirms, ratifies and signs, as do the interpreter and the defence lawyer." Significantly,perhaps, the questioning had ended at this point:

"At 10 p.m. she got up from the table, as it was her turn after having been replaced by Matt. She entered the apartment by the balcony door which was closed, but as already said, not locked."

It should be clear by now that Kate McCann has deliberately made no attempt to describe what actually happened on that critical evening, in stark contrast to her descriptions of the August 8 interview, which cover pages 212 to 214 of her book. There is no description of the attitude or demeanour of the police so graphically described in the August 8 pages, almost none about her state of mind, almost nothing about her discussions with her lawyer; the only time she quotes a police officer – out of many hours of questioning – is the Ferreira comment above which just happens to fit in with her "deal" claim and which just happens to have taken place in a corridor away from the stenographers and witnesses.

Kate McCann and Carlos Pinto de Abreu

He won't testify. But he talks.

Crunch time

And so we come to the discussions in the villa later that night. To make any sense at all of Kate McCann's description the reader has to bear in mind that both the lawyer, who has a record of this discussion, and a second witness, his assistant, were present, thus putting certain constraints on what she can claim Abreu said. This is the reason for the apparent senselessness that so many readers have noticed in the section, as though the records of two different conversations have been mixed up. The chronology is quite unclear and the reader has to study the text very closely indeed to know just when Kate McCann is addressing Abreu (rarely) and when she is talking rhetorically and melodramatically to the reader.

First, Abreu's description of what the police had said, as mediated by Kate McCann in the book. Does it match what Kate McCann claims?

It does not. Here is Philomena with the authorised version again:

"They tried to get her to confess to having accidentally killed Madeleine by offering her a deal through her lawyer - 'if you say you killed Madeleine by accident and then hid her and disposed of the body, then we can guarantee you a two-year jail sentence or even less." [my italics]

We do not have a similar public record of what her lawyer actually said in quotes; we have Kate McCann's paraphrase of what he said:

  • If Kate McCann admitted that Madeleine had died in an accident in the apartment and
  • If she confessed to having hidden and disposed of her body then
  • The sentence she would receive would be much more lenient than if she was "charged" [sic] with homicide.
Well yes, it would be wouldn't it, for Christ's sake? What else could it be?

Nowhere does she quote Abreu – who as I say has a record of the conversation – as saying what Kate McCann claimed via her relative on September 7, "if you say you killed Madeleine by accident". That is an invention by Kate McCann passed on to Philomena McCann to be given to the media.

Nowhere does she quote Abreu as saying that the police said "then we can guarantee you a two-year jail sentence or even less." That is an invention by Kate McCann passed on to Philomena McCann to be given to the media.

And that's it. Kate McCann, four years later and now having to give a description of the "proposal" for the first time, has completely withdrawn her initial claims (in italics above). But without those claims what she describes is not a deal! It is a statement of fact. There is no carrot and stick: no reward is being offered to her on the one hand and no threat is being made on the other.

A pity it took four years for it to come out.

How dare they!

Following her lawyer's factual statement Kate McCann then goes off into transports of shock and indignation, how dare they, this tactic isn't going to work with me, blah, blah. Trouble is, there is no record that she actually said this to Abreu – who, I repeat, has a record of the conversation – rather than to the pages of Madeleine four years later.

And try as she might to take the couple of sentences she claims to be quoting from Abreu out of context and chronology to maintain the fiction of a proffered deal,with her earlier claims deleted they now make no sense. "You need to think about it," Abreu says at one point, though Kate McCann uses the word "insisted". Think about what? Since no deal has been offered he cannot be talking of acceptance of a deal. And, "it would be only one of you. Gerry could go back to work". Yes, he could. So what?

There is no point in going through the rest of this lamentable chapter to see the various ways in which Kate McCann has endeavoured to complete the impossible task of quoting Abreu more or less accurately when the original claims which justified it being called a deal have been deleted. The reader merely has to check. Her ringing  peroration, "do you want me to lie? What would you do, Carlos?" again makes no sense with the revised wording: the police haven't asked her to lie, her lawyer hasn't brought her a message asking her to lie. And nor does Gerry's tearful collapse and cries of "we're finished, our life is over" immediately following her description of the harmless non-proposal make any sense.

But of course it wasn't a reaction to a non-existent, gun to the head deal, was it? Because a page earlier, before the "deal" was mentioned, Kate McCann was writing, "I could see by this time that Gerry was beginning to crack". So what was it that made him first "crack" and then, eventually, collapse?

He began to crack, according to his wife, as his lawyer finished outlining the apparent strength of the case against them, given on the same page. That certainly does make sense and so does his eventual recovery from despair after he's thought the evidence through, recovered himself and made the judgement that, despite what his lawyer had told him, there was a good chance that if they hung on and admitted nothing the evidence might not be strong enough to convict either of them of anything.

Which is exactly what they did.

Doing what you know

In conclusion the reader may note what happened next, after they took the decision not to confess and Gerry asked their lawyer "whether he was up to the job" of defending them on the new basis.

On a previous occasion, the McCanns, having made up their mind about events, made desperate phone calls in the middle of the night seeking assistance from those they thought might help them, followed by calls to friends and family asking them to contact the media with their version of events ahead of that of the police.

That was on the night of May 3 and the morning of May 4 2007.

On the night of September 6 and the morning of September 7, Gerry McCann rang the British police officer Bob Small and desperately sought his help, after which both parents made calls to friends and family asking them to contact the media with their version of events ahead of that of the police.

Enough said. The evidence shows – and Abreu knows – that no deal was ever offered.

Exoneration 2, 15 August 2011
Exoneration 2 The Blacksmith Bureau

Richard Feynman

Richard Feynman

By John Blacksmith
Monday, 15 August 2011 at 19:08

The Nobel prize winning physicist Richard Feynman once introduced a new set of lectures with these words:

"What I'd like to talk about is a part of physics that is known, rather than a part that is unknown. People are always talking about the latest developments in the unification of this theory with that theory, and they don't give us a chance to tell them anything about one of the theories that we know pretty well. They always want to know things that we don't know. So, rather than confound you with a lot of half-cooked, partially analysed theories, I would like to tell you about a subject that has been very thoroughly analysed."

These words apply strongly to the McCann case. There are those on both sides of the fence who don't want to look close at the continuing affair of Madeleine McCann to see what has been established but are much happier concentrating on what might or might not have happened in PDL on May 3 2007.

This is perfectly understandable, whatever stance one takes about the disappearance, but there is no doubt which "side" gains most from the situation. As we said in Part One, the supporters of the parents who have studied the case are happiest when the concentration is on only two occasions, May 3 2007 and July 21 2008, the date of the parents' exoneration at the soothing hands of a Portuguese law officer.

As for the former date we are back in the wonderland territory of the media harpies who grew rich on the case. The front pages of their newspapers carried the latest leaks from Portugal, most of them, in the strangled vowels of Clarence Mitchell, "unhelpful" to the pair, while the centre page feature writers in the very same issues churned out non-factual, gushingly sentimental defences of the same couple. What a good cop, bad cop game, what a great scam!

The simpletons who believed those centre-page features never understood the way they were being manipulated. Weirdly, they actually believed that the writers were sincere, rather than working a front page/centre page game at the request of their editors. But enough of that: the harpies' mantra from the start was always the same: "Nobody knows what happened that night; the only certainty is that Madeleine McCann went missing from her bed at 10PM."

Some certainty that's turned out to be.

That time of temporary ignorance and rumour, where emotion was as important as fact, is still the chosen ground of the McCann supporters, despite their risible fibs that they "have all read the files" – yep, all those thousands of pages of text and charts in Portuguese – rather than a cherry-picked selection. Why?

Let's keep it complicated and messy

Because debate confined to May 3 can always be guaranteed to go round in circles, without resolution,which is what they want. On Amazon at the moment there is a lengthy debating section between supporters and critics of the pair and reading it is like being teleported. Round and round and round it goes, the supporters seizing on the wilder theories, which they can easily rebut, or on some of the more noxious and aggressive critics of the parents, so that the debate can be nicely personalised, or on minor inaccuracies which they can peck away at until the point of the original contribution has been forgotten. Then again they can wait for the "neglect" question to come up – manna from heaven! They did/they didn't/they did/they didn't.

As we said previously, in the four years since May 3 literally nothing has emerged to offer any factual strengthening of the parents' abduction claims, so the supporters are always – and we mean this in the most literal sense – in denial, denying the relevance, or the truth, or the validity, or the honesty of everything that comes out and fails to support their case, and that means virtually everything that comes out, period.

Anyone who doubts that this default position of denial and deliberate confusion is their only choice should have a look back to forums and social media from the past, showing their reactions to possible evidence supporting the pair as it occurred. It's all there still, if you look.

Confronted with one of the Team's latest gimmicks the responses of these supposedly hard-nosed "realists" are always the same: a new, devilish, drawing of a lurker in PDL four years ago, produced by Clarence out of a hat? Thank God, they write, for progress in this sad, sad case. The latest "sighting", be it on the slopes of Kilimanjaro or the other side of the moon? Oh, God, they post, let it be true. Another paedophile monster, usually and conveniently dead or dying, flagged up by the McCanns' deranged detectives? Ah, then all that stuff about "innocent until proven guilty" or "persecuting people" goes straight out of the window with hysterical screams of hatred – get that swine now! Remember how those defenders of the righteous suddenly became a lynch mob, urging on the despicable employees of the parents who pursued that poor emaciated sinner to his death from cancer in Germany?

No, the McCanns' supporters aren't deniers by nature, far from it: apart from the professional journalists, who are in it for the money and will write anything as long as the ackers keep coming in – wouldn't you say, Brunty? – they are quite exceptionally gullible. But  always, always, their early hopes are dashed, the sightings are fiction, the suspects are imaginary and the Portuguese courts, little by little, year by year, slowly assert the validity of the police team's theories, leaving them, once again, with nothing. Then it's back to the old methods – go on, have a look on Amazon.

But in that gap between May 3 and 2008 there is one subject that the parents themselves are not at all keen on but the supporters love – the dogs. They love them, because once again, any argument or discussion can be made to go round and round in circles, just like the "neglect" question. Since there is no crime of child neglect under Portuguese law, only of intentional or reckless abandonment, then all debate is and will always be a matter of mere opinion, ignorant or expert, incapable of factual resolution.

Since there is no forensic confirmation of the dogs' findings their indicative evidence will never be presented in court and, once again, questions of fact can be buried in the McCann supporters' favourite ground of unresolvable opinion, argument, insult and counter-insult. The sad and unpleasant fact is that, in the eternal absence of anything confirming the parents' claims, their supporters have slipped into the position of wanting the fate of the child to remain a matter of opinion, not of fact.

The Mad Hatter's tea party

Debate – McCann supporters' style

They need this stain removed from their characters as soon as possible – Clarence Mitchell.

And so to those famous words announcing:

"The archiving of the Process concerning Arguidos Gerald Patrick McCann and Kate Marie Healy, because there are no indications of the practise of any crime under the dispositions of article 277 number 1 of the Penal Process Code."

Or as The Times reported the next day, having discussed the matter with Clarence Mitchell:

"A statement released by his office confirmed that it had decided to 'close the file' on the investigation concerning the disappearance of the minor Madeleine McCann due to lack of evidence that any crime was committed by the persons placed under formal investigation".

Or as the Guardian, which doesn't appear to have discussed the matter with Mr Mitchell, reported on the same day:

"Portugal's attorney general, Fernando José Pinto Monteiro, said there was insufficient evidence to continue the police case."

And there you have it. Within 24 hours the action of the Attorney-General, the head of the Portuguese prosecution service, releasing the couple from arguido status "because there are no indications of the practise of any crime" (by the parents) has become, surprise, surprise, wait for it, a matter of opinion.

And not just a matter of opinion but a matter of factual misstatement. Close the file, eh? Not shelved then.

Insufficient evidence,
according to the Guardian. The statement doesn't say that, does it? But the Guardian, perfectly aware of the way the Team spin after a year of experiencing it, has spotted the ambiguity at the heart of the statement: "no indications of the practise of any crime" followed by shelving means that the evidence against the pair may be incomplete, whereas the same statement followed by closure would mean something very different. So they put their spin on it to suggest what they thought was the real meaning of the report.

And as it started so it continues – another circular battle of opinion. And who was responsible for that? The wretched McCanns and their spokesman, unable to let the simple action of the Attorney-General speak for itself but lined up on July 21 determined to brief and spin the media and the public world-wide the moment the news was official.

The only fact, as the harpies might say, is that the McCanns were no longer arguidos; around it, however, we can continue having a battle of words about what it really means, because the parents and their team are incapable of ever letting an event occur unspun. A moment's thought, of course, will demonstrate that an action surrounded by such ambiguity and vulnerability to spin can't be equated to a judicial verdict, which is what the parents, the supporters and Messrs Carter Ruck wanted and still want to suggest: imagine the media in such disagreement when reporting the end of a trial of the parents – the Guardian reporting conviction, the Times reporting acquittal and the Independent, no doubt, reporting a mistrial. But perhaps that's just our opinion.

A subject that has been very thoroughly analysed

Lastly back to the real world, the one that moves on rather than being stuck in time, and back to Richard Feynman: "they always want to know things that we don't know. So, rather than confound you with a lot of half-cooked, partially analysed theories, I would like to tell you about a subject that has been very thoroughly analysed."
  • The veracity or reliability of the McCanns as the witnesses testifying to an abduction of their child. We know, from unchallenged court evidence by the prosecutor in Lisbon, that the McCanns did not tell the truth in their accounts of May 3.
  • The reliability of the tapas group's statements offering support to the McCanns' claims, such as those of Mathew Oldfield and Jane Tanner. We know, from the request to the UK for rogatory assistance in 2007 when the prosecutors stated: "There is some inconsistency in the statements of the entire group in what concerns some details, which should be better clarified, with a view to determine rigorously the activity of the people that evening." And from the prosecutors' final report: "Taking into account that there were certain points in the arguidos' and witnesses' statements that revealed, apparently at least, contradiction or that lacked physical confirmation..."
  • The question of Amaral's role. Isolated rogue policeman out to get the McCanns, as claimed by the parents, or authentic voice of the whole investigation? We know the answer: Inspector Ricardo Paiva, Chief Inspector Tavares de Almeida, Luis Neves, the national director of the DCCB – the Portuguese equivalent of the British Serious Organised Crime Agency,Guilhermino Encarnacao, head of the Faro Policia Judiciaria, Inspector Paulo Ferreira and Inspector Joao Carlos – the absolute cream of the senior ranks of the PJ – were all in agreement with the focus of the investigation being on the McCanns as prime suspects. (Source, Lisbon court hearings, Kate McCann's own book).
  • The question of "the deal". The pair claimed in a media campaign that they were offered a deal involving a reduced sentence if Kate McCann admitted accidentally killing the child. If she did not confess to this untrue accusation a "homicide" or murder charge would result. We know that in Spring 2011 Kate McCann in the book "Madeleine" completely withdrew this claim, replacing it with a new form of words which made no mention of the above deal. According to her all she was told, via her lawyer, was the factual statement that if the child had died accidentally and she had hidden the body she would receive a lesser sentence than if she had killed the child. (Read it and see, page 243)
  • A new police team supposedly took over from Amaral, ending his line of enquiry and following a new line which excluded the McCanns as suspects and was reflected in the final report. We know that, on the contrary, Rebelo was in England in late 2007 (accompanied by an ex-member of Amaral's team) conferring with the FSS on the interpretation of the dog evidence (public record); that he and his team provided the questions in the rogatory interviews, via the prosecution department, following up the first team's line of enquiry focused on the McCanns; and that as late as April 2008 he was still attempting to get the Tapas 7 back for a reconstruction to test their evidence. (Rebelo's correspondence).

The Old Bailey

No, not a matter of opinion

These examples don't give us a grand unified theory of exactly what happened on May 3 2007. They do tell us a great deal about the facts, and the gradual destruction of the parents' claims in the face of revealed evidence and judicial process, a process that is still going on both publicly and privately. And when you take the disproved examples away, just how much exactly is left of the entire McCann narrative – you know, the one that led to their "exoneration"?

Dancing on graves, 19 August 2011
Dancing on graves The Blacksmith Bureau

Posted by John Blacksmith at 11:55
Friday, 19 August 2011

The Bureau is no friend of Mr Tony Bennett, for reasons that go a great deal deeper than personality clashes: in fact we strongly disagree with just about every action he has ever taken in the Madeleine McCann affair.

But a quick tour yesterday through the low-lying blog and forum marshland which the few dozen professional McCann believers so noisily inhabit was a saddening experience. The news that Mr Bennett is now being pursued for libel by Ed the Expunger and for contempt of court by the McCanns has been welcomed not with satisfaction so much as intense pleasure. The excited interchanges, indeed, about the time this old man might spend in prison – years, we hope! – or the prospect of him and his wife living rough for the rest of their days – wonderful! – remind one of the collective drooling of an S&M webporn ring.

Don't any of them have even a moment of doubt at what they are writing? It seems not.

The question of libel, 22 August 2011
The question of libel The Blacksmith Bureau

Ghislaine and Robert Maxwell
The greatest user of the libel courts – the greatest thief in UK history

By John Blacksmith
Monday, 22 August 2011 at 21:26

Why is the whole question of libel and defamation so central to the McCann affair four years on? Answer: there is a proven pattern of Kate and Gerry McCann restricting and distorting the information flow to the UK public until the Portuguese shelved the case in the summer of 2008. Since then the comments of the Portuguese Attorney-General which accompanied the archiving have been used by the parents to continue the denial of information process by the threat of libel actions against the overground media. It is this that underlies – and justifies – the constant internet attempts to inform the public of material that they were actively prevented from hearing at the time.
  • Because the parents immediately supplied their version of the disappearance to the British public via proxies and mouthpieces. (1)
  • They then established a media team to present managed & restricted news about the affair. (2)
  • They deliberately misled the UK public about the course of that enquiry, concealing the fact that they were under investigation by Portuguese police. (3)
  • They deliberately falsified the record of their pre-arguido interviews, instructing proxies to report to the UK media a supposed deal offered by the police. (4)
  • Afterwards they instructed their UK lawyers to give personal assurances to UK tabloid editors that there was no case against them and hence no defence to libel claims. (5)
  • Those assurances were based on their own assertions, not the evidence, and had no legal basis. (6)
  • The resulting media silence about the case against them was matched by television programmes giving air time, once again, to their story. (7)
  • And when the case files were finally released they put forward selected extracts giving a false impression of what the investigation revealed there. (8)
  • The intention and net effect of these measures was to enlist the support of the British public in their favour via a one-sided presentation of the case. After September 11 2007 that support had a legal significance regarding the preparation and execution of a European Arrest Warrant. (9)
Thus the alleged defamation of the couple by people like Mr Bennett is not primarily a matter of personal views or vendettas but an attempt, however fumbling, to help provide information to the public arena that has been deliberately hidden or misrepresented at the instigation of the parents.

Finally, in the only cases which have come to court so far, the various proceedings against Amaral and others in Portugal, the judicial findings to date have:
  • Brought significant information into the public arena confirming the truth of a number of the suppressed claims of the Portuguese police and refuting (not rebutting) the claims of the parents. (10)
  • Those confirmations and refutations offer suggestive evidence as to the likely veracity of other claims made by the parents. (11)
  • And have so far officially favoured the interpretation of the Portuguese case put forward by Goncalo Amaral which is in direct opposition to their version. (12)
  • And, most importantly, have only been available to the British public because the media reporting of court proceedings is protected against libel. (13)
  • So that, on the very first occasion since May 3 2007 when free reporting of the disappearance of Madeleine McCann to the British public took place, the picture that emerged – a factual courtroom picture – was in close accordance with the supposedly wild claims of the critics and not in agreement with the information provided under the media restrictions enabled and enforced by Kate & Gerry McCann. (14)
That is what prompts the continuing attempt to provide the full information to the public who were cheated of it, whether via the internet or the courts.

Notes & References

That's it. Many internet readers apparently want their pieces short and snappy, just like the tabloids, which means leaving out all that tedious stuff called evidence. That's great for the anonymous snappiness fans who want the "anti" equivalent of a tabloid piece, nice and easy to read and preferably entertaining. I wish those people would read elsewhere for their fun. It's the evidence that matters in a question of life and death and people's futures, not the bloody entertainment. Here it is.

(1) See our Cracked Mirror for full descriptions of the initial reporting and the way it was carried out by proxy. Rogatory interviews, particularly David Payne, on contact with the media.

(2) Woolfall et al, directly quoted statements by named McCann family members. Citation of Portuguese secrecy rules by McCanns and family when it suited them, breach of the rules via proxies when it suited them – Madeleine by Kate McCann, p246, for a glowing example. BBC news editors' blog on BBC website, our paraphrase: We determined to report the case from the parents' point of view.

(3) Media interviews and Gerry McCann's blogs provide numerous examples. Madeleine by Kate McCann, pp 211- 213 describing the police accusations against them and their belief that the McCanns were not telling them the truth etc. on 8/8/07 and KM's hysterical reactions. Cf Gerry McCann, 8/8/07 and his version of the interrogation and the experience undergone by his wife that day: "At our meeting with the Portuguese police today we reaffirmed that we have to believe Madeleine is alive until there is concrete evidence to the contrary." Madeleine p213 "...I was in no doubt now that they were trying to make me say I'd killed Madeleine or knew what had happened to her" and ibid p219, the dog evidence supposedly backing this claim given to her by the police 11/8/07; cf GM blogs 11/8/07 for his version for the UK public, "There was a statement from the Portuguese police today regarding the recent activity in the investigation and media speculation. They confirmed that there are new leads and that we are not suspects in Madeleine's disappearance". [!]

(4) Madeleine, p246, "the green light" instruction. The subsequent proxy claims,perhaps the biggest media headlines in the whole case, were relayed by Philomena McCann and others on September 7 onwards, reports with direct attribution still available on internet press records, see EMM News Observer for examples. In clear breach, once again, of the Portuguese secrecy rules when it suited them. The claim of a deal was specific: KM to confess to killing the child accidentally leading to short sentence to avoid the much more serious murder charge. The claim was totally false and has now been rescinded in Madeleine p243 by KM herself, primarily, no doubt, because there was an independent (the lawyer Abreu's assistant) witness to the supposedly offered deal.

Added: For the obtuse, the original claim by KM was that she should confess to killing the child accidentally to avoid a charge [sic] of "homicide" [sic]. Yawn. That claim has been rescinded and replaced on p243 with a supposed "deal" involving an admission that the child died in an accident in the apartment – no mention of dying at the hands of KM -- and that KM disposed of her body etc. The lawyers reading this know exactly the significance of the change.

(5) Madeleine, P264 et al. "On Tuesday September 11 we had an 8AM conference call with Michael Caplan, Angus McBride and Justine. It was decided that Justine and Angus would visit the editors of the main tabloid newspapers and Angus would explain to them that there was absolutely no evidence to support our involvement in Madeleine's disappearance".

(6) This claim, which was taken by the tabloids as a lawyer's confidential assurance based on his privileged access to the prosecution case, was misleading. On that date the defence team had not only not been presented with the prosecution case but forensic results were not complete so there was no basis except the parents' unsupported word for this "legal assurance" which has intimidated the media ever since.

(7) Public record, McCann Files etc. BBC's Panorama being the obvious example. Panorama was made with the full co-operation of the McCanns, at least one legal advisor and selected friends. It had the avowed aim of presenting the case in favour of the parents, not the whole picture – see E. Smethurst quote in the programme about "expunging" from the British public's mind any views incriminatory of the McCanns. See also BBC R4 documentary in Spring 2008 for unsupported claims by T7 member regarding the rogatory interviews, again in breach of the secrecy rules and unchallenged by the BBC. There may be other similar TV trash which we missed.

(8) See the briefings given by the McCanns and their team on the date of the shelving and their spokesman's dishonest spinning of the Archiving Summary, the best example being Associated Newspaper stories such as the London Evening Standard and the next day's Mail story . For example the parents, via Clarence Mitchell, dishonestly claimed that the prosecutors "mocked" and "ridiculed" their own police force and its investigation in that report, once again misleading a public who were not in possession of the evidence.

(9) Note, once more, the "expunging" statement: why should there be a need for any expunging in regard to a factual investigation by a legal team member? In the absence so far of the subpoenaing of the McCanns' and the BBC's non-legal records of why they co-operated in the programme we are left with inference but there can be no reasonable doubt as to the strategy. Note the way in which the EAW for the alleged rapist and nutcase Assange has been held up by the "human shield" of public support and celebrity finance. In theory the EAW is almost unchallengeable except on extremely narrow grounds compared with non-EU extradition processes but in the Assange case, whatever the final verdict, such support has done its job. A further point to note is that subjective public disgust or disapprobation could shame suspects into returning to co-operate voluntarily with an overseas investigation – and, conversely, expunging any vestige of it would work the other way.

(10) Witness testimony of Prosecutor Menezes in Lisbon 2010: "the parents did not tell the truth". Witness testimony of assorted PJ officers disproving the McCanns' "lone rogue cop" version of Goncalo Amaral.

(11) Self-evidently: the first time the case had ever come to court for proper examination of the facts rather than media junk or out-of-court-settlement these bombshells resulted.

(12) Findings of the judges in the McCann versus Amaral and others case in the appeal. Specifically the critical question of whether the conclusions of the archiving report were a "finding" of the case or an "interpretation" of the investigation. Their judgement was that they were an interpretation only and, on the evidence so far presented to the courts, one of no greater strength than the interpretation put forward by Amaral. The forthcoming hearings of the related full libel trial will throw much more light onto the affair.

(13) The law of privilege.

(14) Self-evident.

Wheeling & dealing, 23 August 2011
Wheeling & dealing The Blacksmith Bureau

The Defence Attorney

By John Blacksmith
Tuesday, 23 August 2011 at 15:42

It is slightly unfortunate that the references I gave in my piece yesterday resulted in much attention to just one of them, The Deal That Never Was. This meant that the rest of the piece concerning the solid evidence supporting my argument that the McCanns have distorted and rationed the truth has been left to wither.

Blacksmith produces violin and soapbox

Some preliminary points which, I'm afraid, need repetition. I have no opinion or theory or belief as to what happened to the child on May 2007; I have no wish for the McCanns to be "brought to justice" for anything they might be alleged to have done that night; I believe Kate McCann needs help and support, not punishment; I do not feel that they got away with neglecting their children; I do not campaign for the child Madeleine any more than I involve myself in the fate of all the other children who disappeared or died somewhere on earth that night – any child's uncertain fate, to paraphrase John Donne, diminishes me, for we are part of the same whole. But that is not why I write about the affair.

The reasons are summarised in yesterday's piece. My own interests are in the continuing struggle to protect free speech against its many enemies and, in particular, the constant attempts to manipulate public opinion via the media, whether by politicians, media owners and journalists or the professional liars and lobbyists of the PR business.

Anyone with those interests at heart had to accept the challenge thrown down by Kate & Gerry McCann when they brought – unasked – their one sided version of events to the British public and then used the very funds provided by that public to employ specialists in misinformation and the law to build a truth-rationing machine without precedent in the UK.

Robert Murat, the third arguido, never assaulted the public in this way. It is for that reason that I respected his privacy and have never even looked at the case files regarding his supposed actions: they do not concern me. The actions of the McCanns do.

Inventions 'r' us

Next, the claims of "invention", made by both critics and supporters of the McCann family. This is not the first time that people have simply missed what is laid out before them – the knowns, as I boringly call them, not the unknowns. In the past I've spent considerable unpaid time pointing out that Jane Tanner, in her rogatory interview with the Leicester police, neither confirmed nor denied identifying Robert Murat, for very good reasons of her own, even though she was offered the chance to do so. The evidence is there but still people, preoccupied with prior theories, miss what is staring them in the face.

Kate McCann, who reads the Bureau, knows very well the significance of that evasion both for Tanner and herself, which is why she has spent pages 134 to 136 of her book Madeleine attempting to bolster her friend's version of the surveillance van episode.

Then, a few weeks ago, I was described as a liar and fantasist, again by both critics and supporters of the family, for stating as a fact that Kate McCann had described in Madeleine how her husband had seriously considered sneaking his family into a car and fleeing across Portugal's border to Spain as fugitives immediately after the pair were made arguidos.

But there it is on page 254. How extraordinary for people to claim to be experts on a case, fail to read the most important primary source to have emerged about it since The Truth of the Lie – and then make accusations of lies and invention based on their own lazy ignorance. What happened on the internet to thoughtfulness and good manners? Certainly I speculated that Gibraltar might have been their eventual destination – for obvious reasons of jurisdiction – but that is not what the accusations were about.

And now we have the latest example of failure to read followed by abuse. I wrote yesterday that "They deliberately falsified the record of their pre-arguido interviews, instructing proxies to report to the UK media a supposed deal offered by the police." And as evidence for my assertion I cited in footnote (4):

"(4) Madeleine, p246, "the green light" instruction. The subsequent proxy claims, perhaps the biggest media headlines in the whole case, were relayed by Philomena McCann and others on September 7 onwards, reports with direct attribution still available on internet press records, see EMM News Observer for examples. In clear breach, once again, of the Portuguese secrecy rules when it suited them. The claim of a deal was specific: KM to confess to killing the child accidentally leading to short sentence to avoid the much more serious murder charge. The claim was totally false and has now been rescinded in Madeleine p243 by KM herself, primarily, no doubt, because there was an independent (the lawyer Abreu's assistant) witness to the supposedly offered deal."

Birth of a legend

Philomena McCann

The sweet voice of truth

So let us turn to the chain of evidence, boring and unexciting no doubt but necessary to turn assertions into factual statements.

Page 246 contains the following passage:

"Friday 7 September. After a measly two hours sleep we got up and braced ourselves for the day ahead. I remained calm. For a good couple of hours we were on the phone, calling family and friends to make them aware of the situation and to give them the green light to voice their outrage and despair if they wanted to."

Despite the usual dishonest nature of the prose the meaning of this passage is quite unambiguous. Kate McCann, in clear breach of the secrecy requirements which she and her husband constantly claimed prevented them from speaking as freely as they would like, was passing on a version of her September 6 interviews and consultations and giving her family the green light to make that version known to the world's media.

(That, of course, is exactly what she did during the night of May 3/4 regarding the disappearance of the child and the shutters nonsense but we will leave that aside.)

The media were contacted and the version was passed on.

And there it is during the next twenty four hours, for example, in the London Evening Standard, a favourite leak spot for the McCanns and their team:

'"Madeleine's aunt, Philomena McCann, says today the police "offered to do a deal if she confessed to accidentally killing Madeleine".

She said: "They tried to get her to confess to having accidentally killed Madeleine by offering her a deal through her lawyer - 'if you say you killed Madeleine by accident and then hid her and disposed of the body, then we can guarantee you a two-year jail sentence or even less'".'

In the Daily Mail:

"Mrs McCann's lawyer told her that police would offer her a two-year sentence if she pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of her daughter."

And in the Guardian and Sky news:

'Philomena McCann, Mr McCann's sister, said the police claims were "ludicrous". "They are suggesting that Kate was somehow responsible for accidentally killing Madeleine and kept the body and then got rid of it. I have never heard anything so absolutely ludicrous in my life," she told Sky News.'

And in the Telegraph,under the heading, Madeleine McCann's family accuse police:

'"The McCanns were both named as "arguidos", or formal suspects, on Friday after two days of police interviews during which Mrs McCann was offered a "deal" of a suspended prison sentence if she admitted to "accidentally" killing her daughter and told police where the body was."'

It should be clear, I think, that the claim was specific. The deal revolved around Kate McCann admitting that she had killed the child accidentally. And the implication was also clear: that if she didn't so confess to killing the child under these circumstances then the possibility of a more serious charge – killing the child intentionally, i.e murder – might result.

To rescind: verb. To make void; repeal or annul.

Finally we turn to Kate's book, page 243. Where is the above claim? It is not there.

"Carlos announced what the police had proposed. If we, or rather I, admitted that Madeleine had died in an accident in the apartment , and confessed to having hidden and disposed of her body , the sentence I'd receive would be much more lenient: only two years, he said, as opposed to what I'd be looking at if I ended up being charged with homicide."

I ask again: where is the claim that Kate McCann was asked to admit to killing her child accidentally?

It has been rescinded.

To cut from the laborious evidential chain for a moment, the nub of the matter was expressed by a sharp-minded forum member who can read this morning:

"The important part of the issue is what Kate writes about her lawyer's advice [in the book JB] which included no mention of Kate killing Madeleine. What Kate wants the public to believe he meant is irrelevant."

The claim stands and, as I wrote in an addendum to footnote (4) yesterday, the lawyers who read this blog know exactly what the significance of the change is.

So much for the evidence.

This bit has nothing to do with yesterday's post and today's elaboration

Of course I have my own opinion on why Kate McCann misled the public and is now misleading them again and exactly what did happen that night, based on what I am told the interviewing officers reported to Amaral. But that is just opinion, fun to read, no doubt, but based on so far unconfirmed sources. I was writing about fact.

But for those who are actually interested in the techniques used by Kate McCann and her advisors in telling her story I recommend a close reading of the paragraph following the one quoted above and page 240 in which she supposedly describes the police interviews. As for the latter you have to read it very carefully to see that Gerry McCann was also in discussion with the police that night and equally carefully to note that Kate McCann was questioned in detail about events after the supposed consultation between police and lawyer containing the "offered deal." She doesn't have much to say about that period, does she?

And the former is a classic, beginning "Pardon? I really wasn't sure if I could possibly have heard him correctly?" The entire paragraph is meant to suggest that all the rhetoric – "my incredulity turned to rage", "how dare they suggest I lie", "how dare they expect me to live with such a charge against my name" – consists of her responses to Abreu's "offer" , after which "he insisted" that she needed to think about it.

Nope. Read it again, folks. Nowhere does Kate McCann state that she addressed these words to her lawyer or that they were part of a conversation between them. That is because they weren't. I repeat, read it again.

Meanwhile the accusations I made against the McCanns yesterday stand.

Deprivation symptoms, 08 September 2011
Deprivation symptoms The Blacksmith Bureau

Bare cupboards

Cheap, flimsy & empty

By John Blacksmith
Thursday, 8 September 2011 at 16:42

Special Freight

In a few weeks time a cupboard labelled Evidence Supporting the Parents' Claims since 2007 will be delivered to a Lisbon court, there to sit making its own silent statement. A thin and angry M/S Isabel Duarte will attempt to get it draped with grey cloth in order, she will shout, "not to distract the court". Having failed to do so she will refer to its bulging contents throughout the rest of the libel trial but will be unable to find a way of opening it.

After that the cupboard will be air-freighted to Scotland Yard to be inspected at intervals by the forty five or so officers undertaking a case review. The review will end with the cupboard still empty and the officers retracing the PJ's steps since there are, literally, no other tracks to follow.

Special Diet

It is the lack of sustenance on the cupboard shelves that is slowly but surely turning the activist supporters of the parents to the edge of hysteria, as a glance at their blogs, social postings and forum contributions will easily confirm: starvation rations always end up having that effect. Most of their postings now avoid any pretence of dealing with factual matters concerning the loss of the child, concentrating instead on a stream of invective against anyone who doesn't share their obsessions. The rants, threats and evasions, together with the increasing use of shouting text like THIS (a symptom of the loss of an argument) communicate a toxic mix of perverted joy at the punishments awaiting Bennett, Amaral et al (they list them in drooling detail) and a curious sense of fragile edginess. What are they worried about and why do they seem to sense coming pain?

As Gerry McCann might say, "ask them": the Blacksmith Bureau doesn't do counselling. The only reason they matter is that they are reflecting reality – the reality of the parents' increasingly desperate situation and the dreadful fact of the ever-empty cupboard. The same sense of unbalanced aggression to enemies entwined with suppressed pessimism – or in her case actual foreboding about her future – is to be found in Kate McCann's Madeleine.

Enter the big brains

Still, a little way back from the toad-filled cauldron, we have the more "intellectual" of the supporters attempting to make some sort of case for the pair, although the same neurotic note is present. In the absence of anything factual to counter the rising din against the parents they have turned to the last-ditch "they couldn't be guilty of anything because..." hand book, digging up stuff from the past – what other source do they have? – and laying it out yet again, perhaps in the hope that, like my daughter, if they say something often enough and loudly enough it will come true. Two of these threadbare claims are worth examining for how they stand up to the evidence, particularly the evidence from that four- -and-a-half-year-in-the-filling comfort box labelled The Other Cupboard.

The first such claim is that little wonder, "nobody could have carried on acting naturally if they had..." As well as being put forward extensively by commentators in 2007 it has the final imprimatur of the demon prosecutor himself, Menezes, where he states in the archiving summary that their non-involvement in any criminal activity was demonstrated by, among things, "the normal behaviour that they adopted until the disappearance and afterwards, as can be amply concluded from the witness statements."

In other words if the parents had been involved in some dreadful event early in the evening of May 3 then they would have been quite unable to mask the emotions which one would expect to result from such a situation.

What, one wonders, might legal counsel in a libel case, say, make of this claim?

Full pantry

Classy, full, healthy – and ours

He simply reaches into the overflowing cupboard, pats his tummy comfortably and begins.
  • There is primary source evidence that when required or considered to be necessary the parents, particularly Kate McCann, are extremely skilled at masking their real feelings very successfully even when under enormous emotional and other stress. (Footnote 1)
  • This ability to mask, or deaden, the emotional response to the loss of their daughter, on request,was the subject of widespread remark by commentators and observers of the case who had watched their performances on television.(2)
  • Had the parents been incapable of masking their emotions effectively then they would have been unable, by definition, to follow the advice they were given.So they have a proven and recorded ability to do so. (3)
  • The previously unknown primary source evidence provided by Kate McCann in Madeleine regarding events on August 8 provides a second, quite separate, series of examples of the parents coolly misinforming the media and the public – lying – about their situation while giving no clues in their demeanour to the enormous stress the police had already placed them under and which, away from the public and the cameras, was resulting in despair and hysteria. (4).
  • Finally, the parents behaviour after the disappearance cannot be slotted into this defence, although poor Mr Menezes didn't notice. There is no normal template for behaviour in such circumstances that would distinguish it either from acting or from genuine emotional distress at events unknown to us.(5)
Clearly, the lawyer would conclude, the Menezes claim cannot be used in their defence in the way he suggested: the couple can fairly be described as expert at disguising their true feelings, however great the stress.

And down goes another

The second claim is that the parents, by keeping themselves at the centre of public attention, have behaved in a way that is quite counter to the expected behaviour of people with something to hide. Had the latter been the case, the claim runs, then they would surely have sought privacy in the hope that their notoriety and hence their suspected actions would be forgotten. Instead they stand proudly in the public eye.

In which case it is down to the advocates of this view to demonstrate just when the parents have ever been free to withdraw from the limelight. In summer 2007? Nope, they tried and failed. (6) In autumn and winter of that year? No, again – their defence team shut the newspapers up while they hid behind those awful Rothley redbrick walls, certainly, but they saw it as essential for the pair to stay in the lights to propagandize as part of Project Expunge, the counter to an EAW. (7)

In the first half of 2008? What, when they made their absurd Eurostar trip with accompanying photographs to try and counter the fall-out from the rogatory interviews? (8) Or later, when they span the archiving report to the UK media so dementedly to try and strengthen the so-called exoneration? (9) Or when the media caught them out using confidential Family Court proceedings to get at the Leicester police evidence?

And that's it, because shortly thereafter the Truth of the Lie was published and with it went any chance of the McCanns retreating from the lights as long as Amaral remained alive: silence in the face of his claims would have been treated as acceptance and thus they had to sue. Ever since then Amaral has given them no choice but to remain in the news, either defending themselves against the increasingly convincing claims being made against them in court or by fund raising to maintain the litigation effort.

The claim doesn't stand up when the record, rather than the hope, is examined. The fact is that since May 3 2007 the couple have held a wolf by the ears: passive silence and withdrawal has never been an option.

Isabel Duarte

The louder they shout the thinner they get

Notes, reference, evidence (the boring bit)

(1) The claims by the parents that they were advised to try and conceal their feelings in public are well attested. See Oprah transcript:

'Four days after Madeleine's disappearance, the McCanns held another press conference pleading for their daughter's safe return. Kate remained calm as she spoke, but the tabloids would use her appearance against her, saying her lack of emotion implied guilt. "I'd spent 72 hours crying, and you suddenly almost feel a little bit numb," Kate says. She'd also spoken with a behavioural expert who'd given specific advice on how to act at the press conference, Kate says. "They said, 'It's quite important that you don't show any emotion, because the abductor could get some kind of adverse kick out of it,'" she says. "When you get the feeling that if you do [something] it could be detrimental in some way to your daughter, there's a huge pressure on you to do well."

Though it may have done more harm than good, Kate says she doesn't regret taking the behavioural expert's advice. "It was advice given with the best intention," she says.'

And from Madeleine, page 112:

'In fact I would soon be advised by British police experts to try and stay as calm as possible and not to show any emotion in public, so it was probably no bad thing that my feelings seemed to be temporarily on holiday that day. The thinking behind this advice was that Madeleine's abductor might get some kind of perverted kick pout of my distress and perhaps change his behaviour in some way.'

She adds: 'Of course we were terrified by the implications of this theory. It meant that quite natural actions or expressions of emotion caught on camera could potentially jeopardise Madeleine's safety.'

(2) We don't cite news reporters as authorities on the BB. Googling the subject will produce numerous newspaper examples of how successful their dissimulation was. So successful, indeed, that she was accused of being "emotionless".

(3) Self-evidently they could only have been witnessed dissimulating after advice if they had the innate ability to do so. By (2) above they have it in spades. Clearly it was already there, not grown overnight – and present on May 3 2007.

(4) On pages 210 – 214 of Madeleine Kate McCann describes the events of August 8, which we have cited before. Two days previously their car had been seized by the police. During the interviews the police told Kate McCann outright that they didn't believe her and made serious accusations about her behaviour on May 3 which left her hysterical. To Gerry McCann it was made quite clear that further meetings with them would no longer be as parents of the child but as potential suspects.

Since M/S McCann maintains that until that time she had not seen warning signs of such accusations the shock must have been immense. Yet examination of the television interviews of the period shows the couple effortlessly dissimulating about their situation for a full week after August 8. Leaving aside the point that we now know that their comments that week, like those on the GM blog at the same time (see Gerry McCann's blogs website), are thoroughly dishonest and intentionally misleading without any Portuguese secrecy claims to justify them, they also betray few or no signs of the events in which they had been involved, behaviour startlingly akin to their conduct on and after May 3. In other words they are not just capable of concealing their feelings and acting normally after trauma but demonstrably expert at it.

(5) Self-evidently except to Mr Menezes, the behaviour of the couple after 10PM on May 3 is to be sharply distinguished in its implications. Rolling on the floor and screaming, punching walls, throwing themselves to the ground when the police appear etc. – leaving aside the "masking" effect which such loud and unusual conduct might possess, is not evidence of "normal" behaviour at the hands of an abductor nor does it say anything either way about a person's ability to deceive or dissimulate. And it could result from very different events. Drawing up timelines doesn't strike the Blacksmith Bureau as strictly normal under the circumstances either, but that's another story.

(6) Madeleine, page 190, "We had made a strategic decision to signal to the media that we would be withdrawing from the spotlight."

Gerry McCann STV interview August 24 2007, "We could not avoid the publicity; we never asked for it, we never wished we were in this situation. What we've done is to try and use it in a positive way to affect the outcome. In terms of the campaign, we said 60 or 70 days ago that we would be stepping back from it, and we've done very very little offensive media in terms of us coming out to campaign for Madeleine."

(7) Project Expunge, Smethurst on BBC Panorama transcript, winter 2007. See Assange extradition proceedings for examples of how, despite the theoretical limitations on the right to challenge a European Arrest Warrant, public opinion can be used to pressure or delay a verdict up to cabinet level.

(8) High level media spin for the Eurostar Brussels trip complete with photographs of KM on the railway platform before departing. "It just so happened," writes KM in Madeleine, page 298, "that the PJ's trip to the UK [for the rogatory interviews] coincided with our visit to Brussels." Indeed.

Connoisseurs of McCann-speak will relish KM's description of the origin of those interviews. Rather than the culmination of a lengthy and complex stage in the investigation into the two arguidos, prepared over months by the Portuguese prosecutors' department and established under international treaty agreements, we have her breezy version of how they really came about earlier on the same page 298:

"You'll recall that, back in October, we had supplied the Portuguese public prosecutor with a list of people whom we felt statements should have been taken. In response the Portuguese police had decided to come to Leicester to be present while the British police interviewed Fiona... [and the others]. The questions to be asked were those Gerry and I had suggested to the prosecutor (obvious and pertinent ones, I hasten to add) with a few additions from the PJ."

(9) McCann Files et al.Various synchronised newspaper reports mocking the PJ and strengthening the "exoneration" in July 2008 previously cited in the BB.

Our Guest Analyst, 09 September 2011
Our Guest Analyst The Blacksmith Bureau

Posted by John Blacksmith at 18:12
Friday, 9 September 2011

Six Wild Propositions

May be an interview with our guest Dr Eugene Heffer [not, for a number of reasons, his real name] formerly of Cambridge University, MIT and the Jerusalem Centre for Advanced Study. He is an expert on information theory and a consultant to a number of intelligence services. Dr Heffer is forty three and lives in London and Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Thanks. I think this could be interesting: they think I'm nuts, or permanently stoned or something. Wait till they hear you.

: Here we go. Let me read these out, they're kind of formal.

1) Kate McCann's book Madeleine is either a truthful account of the last four and a half years or it is not. If it is then it represents one more stage in their slow and agonizing attempt to discover the fate of their daughter.

(2) If it isn't then her opening words about her motivation for writing the book, "My reason for writing it is simple: to give an account of the truth", can't be accurate either.

(3) Reviews and analyses of the book have pointed out so much misleading stuff and actual untruths that it's impossible to accept Kate's opening claim, impossible.

(4) [added by JB with EH agreement] Rejecting that claim on the evidence doesn't mean that that the parents were involved in her disappearance. [end addition] It leads inexorably to the conclusion that the true motive for writing Madeleine must lie elsewhere.

(5) Information theory postulates that whatever that motive may be there will be expressions of it in the book.

(6) That in turn leads to the final conclusion of this line of reasoning: there is a "hidden text" within the main one.

Thank you. Logic is a funny thing.

It is indeed, John, and I can see why you're looking a little bemused –

It's hot in here.

Is that why you're wiping your brow? Or is it the implications?

Well, I can see why it's called Wild Theory.

John, you don't have to tell me what a weird place this leads us to, I know it. I cannot see any alternative to the above reasoning – either we accept Kate's words or we must end up with proposition 6.

And proposition 6 –

Proposition 6 is fucking crazy! It takes us right into Hollywood movie territory, we've got this woman, this physician, she's lost her kid, she's become world famous because of what she went through, she's been blessed by the Pope, cleared by the prosecutors –

I don't know about cleared –

 - and now proposition 6 is saying, [laughs] I mean, the woman's been sitting at a keyboard on her own, knowing what's she’s doing, knowing the risks, they must have begged her not to do it, and she's sending fucking hidden messages out and yelling catch me if you can at the whole world can while her husband is in bed rolling his eyes. I mean, what? That's not even Hitchcock, it's more like Stephen King.

Or the Coen brothers maybe. I haven't read Stephen King.

Nobody reads Stephen King, it's just a phrase – Coen brothers? Yeah, maybe. I knew the guy they based Burn After Reading on, he was an analyst too, ended up in the Potomac with an axe in his head. But that's another story and I don't think it's as weird as this one. [sighs] It takes us into Crazyland but I still can't see any alternative. I mean once you can accept it then what follows isn't so strange, it kind of makes sense, but accepting it is screwy. Thank Christ they took the pair off the Vatican website otherwise we’re taking on the Pope as well. Screwy!

All right, all right, I understand that. I've never been down that road but sometimes you sit thinking about the case and one way or another it really is very strange.

Face it, it's creepy.

You get people who talk about Gordon Brown and things and conspiracies and how it's a vast power network and all the rest of it but I think in many ways it's not real belief, more like a game – otherwise they wouldn't be able to sleep at night. And then sometimes I think that all that stuff isn't just lazy fantasy but a kind of protection mechanism –

: How do you mean?

– against... I don't know, people sense something in the case they don't really want to get any closer to...

Oh yeah?

That it's easier, maybe, to, to go for melodrama stuff than confront things that are really... look, this is your stuff, your interview, not mine.

Well I hear what you're saying.

Anyway, now you've crossed into Crazyland where does it go?

: How much time have I got?

People don't read long stuff well on screens.

: I know, print is different.

They'll forgive me if we split it up into more than one issue, so carry on.

The professionals, 16 September 2011
The professionals The Blacksmith Bureau

Conny Fuchs

Conny Fuchs researching the "pantyhose" question

By John Blacksmith
Friday, 16 September 2011 at 13:03

The rather de haut en bas reply from Cornelia Fuchs, the Der Stern journalist, to a forum member querying the media treatment of Kate & Gerry McCann is an entertaining example of "real media versus internet amateurs", as immortalised by Keir "Batman" Simmons, whose square jaw and Rudolph Hess eyes now protrude unpleasantly from beside the newscaster on ITN's execrable News At Ten – a programme about as serious and authoritative as one of Signor Berlusconi's pet news outlets. Suits him, sir.

M/S Fuchs writes a gossipy and easy-to-read column about the UK for Stern. It's not a bad column, if one likes that kind of clichéd superficiality – the British are always singing Rule Britannia and can't wait to get the appropriate "picnic blanket" out of their council-flat cupboards so they can sit mit dem guten alten Sommer-Drink "Pimm's" on England's verdant lawns. And, naturally, she is obsessed with HM the Queen. You'll look in vain, however, for any signs of a person genuinely thinking for herself. And, despite the email, you won't see her doing any real research either.

She is, in short, a German equivalent of the grotesquely overpaid "columnists" on the UK Mail, Observer and elsewhere who made such hay in 2007 while the money was good but who are now being culled, thank God, as the great days end – as you can read in the next Blacksmith Bureau post.

Think of those centre-page experts who began shrieking in the McCanns' defence in spring 2007 (before they had any access to the facts) and you have M/S Fuchs. The comparison is exact, for she writes in her email: "The McCanns have said again and again in many interviews that they have made a mistake, as they left their children alone in the apartment to sleep. They regret this deeply. They have to live with this guilt." Weird, isn't it, how the very same sentences come out as though something's been injected into their brains? After four and a half years you'd think that they could at least rephrase this Schmaltz.

So what are the skills and information sources that distinguish her from the poor little forum posters?

Conjure up a picture of the vast Der Stern database centre, a humming, glass-walled, grey carpeted repository of primary research twenty four storeys above the neat streets – and then chuck it away: M/S Fuchs does her "research" on the despised internet. And guess what? She "reads the forums."

But the resources and credentials of Der Stern are still behind her. Why, she says, "Many times over the years a colleague has driven in this case to Portugal." Note that she clearly hasn't been there herself, on expenses or otherwise. Still, her hearsay informant colleague has actually, "spoken on the ground with several Portuguese investigators, as well as with participants in Praia da Luz." Gosh!

Coy, isn't she, by the way? Doesn't actually say Portuguese police, but only "investigators".

Finally her summary of what this massive professional research and analysis effort has uncovered: "Neither the Portuguese investigators nor Scotland Yard think that the parents are involved in her disappearance in any way whatsoever."

The second part of the sentence, as tends to happen with journalists, is an outright lie. Scotland Yard has never, at any time, given their thinking on the case to anyone, let alone an overseas gossip columnist whose most recent research concerned the choice of "pantyhose" or otherwise at a royal garden party.

It's all rather as you would expect, don't you think?

A squalid industry that deserves to die, 16 September 2011
A squalid industry that deserves to die The Blacksmith Bureau

Northcliffe, Maxwell, Murdoch

Some typical owners: mad Northcliffe, thief Maxwell,
megalomaniac Murdoch

By John Blacksmith
Friday, 16 September 2011 at 17:55

The email from M/S Conny Fuchs, implicitly propounding the worth and value of the media industry, gives us a chance to disagree. Not with the German media, we hasten to add, about which we know little save that an independent German press has rarely existed, but with the UK press. This week the London Evening Standard's media analyst, "Professor" Roy Greenslade, gave us some statistics and analysis regarding its health.

Greenslade, like so many other UK journalists, did rather well out of Madeleine McCann, joining enthusiastically in the UK press Death Ride and raising his public profile sharply by joining the parents' paid mouthpiece shoulder to shoulder on a debating platform. He was yet another of the worthies who presume to pontificate about the case without any real knowledge of it, finding the parents very hard done by indeed before writing a column in which he expressed his exasperation about the mysterious Tapas group and asking if somebody could please tell him whether it contained seven members or nine?

As usual the statistics tell the same story of unrelenting decline in both the numbers and the profitability of the print news media; Sunday newspaper readership, for example, has dropped from 16.2 million readers in 1991 to just 8.3 million by this August. Greenslade wonders whether the trend can be reversed. The answer's no, Roy, for both Sundays and Dailies: the public have stopped buying your products and your industry is on the way to joining UK motorbikes, UK coal and the rest in the dustbin and along with it the careers of you and your colleagues.

The professor himself offers some pop sociological analysis of the factors that might be causing this catastrophe – the usual stuff about leisure changes and increased television watching – before turning portentously to one of the elephants in the room with these words. "And what, you may well ask, about the internet?"

Unfortunately this promising beginning is answered by "What indeed?" and then a mere two incoherent sentences about not knowing when people tune into it, whatever that may mean. Oh, dear.

Roy shouldn't need to be told how bad the situation is – he's sitting in the middle of it. The Evening Standard itself, only a couple of decades ago one of the most influential voices in the British press with a bright house style, good guest writers, political influence and packed advertising pages, is these days a tawdry freesheet, sold to a Russian adventurer for a pound and now given away at tube stations for free, like the beggar's paper The Big Issue, which it increasingly resembles. Nearly all its decent journalists are gone and the classified ads section long ago migrated to the net. An undignified but well deserved end: the print news media in microcosm.

Naturally perhaps, Mr Greenslade never suggests that there might be another reason for the decline – that the product itself is rotten, as rotten as stinking fish, and that a very large proportion of the people working with the product are just as rotten themselves, corrupted by the monopoly position in information that they retained for so long. Nor does it occur to him that the internet didn't cause the industry problems – it just happened to provide, for the very first time, a real alternative to the stinking fish monopoly: people couldn't run fast enough once there was somewhere else to go.

It was the printers who were the first to pay with their jobs for the dishonesty and corruption which infests the press. Being thick as well as greedy the print unions set up a crazed and self-destructive monopoly within the monopoly, ensuring the papers were printed on hundred year old hot metal presses, censoring the stories they didn't like, instituting a system of unstoppable perks and bonuses and, finally, establishing an organized income tax evasion plan in which the management silently colluded.

Those newspaper printers are now gone as completely as Manchester mill weavers. But what was their justification for their suicidal money grabbing? Their answer, and by no means an inaccurate one, was they're all at it, why shouldn't we join in? They saw the crooks and chancers who owned the papers, the journalists with their "expenses" which dwarfed what MPs could get away with and all the other perquisites which monopolies can enjoy at the consumers' expense. And the censorship? Listen, said the printers, have you ever seen any of the bosses' families or friends written about? We're just doing the same thing. It was rather worse than that: on top of the financial corruption and theft there was the increasing corruption of the news itself as PR men, politicians and advertisers bought their way into the pages so that it was no longer possible to know what was real news anymore, what was invented and what was planted for a reason.

As reality began to catch up and sales to turn down at the turn of the century the players, perhaps sensing the end of the good times ahead, grew even more reckless and cynical. Such was the situation when Madeleine McCann went missing, bringing cries of relief from the industry at the size of the approaching bonanza.

We'll have a look at just a small part of that Death Ride and see whether it matches the exalted claims made on behalf of the merits and ability of the "professionals" by Conny Keir and her like – the Mirror Group, Lori Campbell and the McCanns.

What a cess pit!, 17 September 2011
What a cess pit! The Blacksmith Bureau

Lori Campbell

Lori Campbell, role model for the trade

By John Blacksmith
Saturday, 17 September 2011 at 15:56

Have you read the libel writ which the McCanns issued against Goncalo Amaral and which is now winding its way through the Portuguese justice system?

No, thought not. Nor have we. The Mirror group has, though, because the McCanns gave it to them. They won't publish it as a whole so that we can see its contents for ourselves – oh, no, no, just the bits they feel that we should read. Nor will they ever put in print why they accepted it or who exactly discussed it with them and what terms were agreed for its use and who chose the bits to highlight and the bits to leave out. That's the sort of stuff that we, the people who pay them, are not allowed to know.

This is the same Mirror group which employed the nasty little snitch Lori Campbell, whose denunciation of Robert Murat – for all the world like some horrible Soviet grass sending a Kulak to the camps under Stalin – diverted the Portuguese police effort when it might have been successfully concentrating on certain more likely suspects. The same Lori Campbell who helped Kate McCann secretly spread a pack of lies to the world not just about the police investigation in August 2007 but the scene of the disappearance itself on the night of May 3; the same Lori Campbell whose husband, an exceptionally murky figure behind his aliases, has been arrested on suspicion of major involvement in the hacking scandal. One wonders how lovable Lori would like it if people started going on television now and, instead of respecting her husband's legal rights, tell the world what a suspiciously dodgy bastard he obviously is, as she did to Murat. Lori Campbell and her husband are not bad apples: no, they are quintessentially typical examples of what the the modern tabloid journalist has become.

How did we ever allow information to be rationed and manipulated in this way? And how did the Mirror, once supposedly a socialist voice for the British working man, come to this – secretly at the service of a couple of Portuguese police suspects? How had a supposed newspaper fallen into the game of withholding the news from its readers, as in the case of the libel writ, rather than providing it? What happened to the idealism that was claimed to drive it – Forward with the People! was its motto – after World War II?

The answer is that the Mirror's idealism was a cynical invention. Like its sister the Sun it was always a con on its readers, utterly contemptuous of their tastes and abilities and treating them like a giant flock of sheep. For more than forty years after the war the paper pretended to be a sort of working-class rallying sheet, writing soulfully of the miners and their whippets and homing pigeons, of the struggle for a Socialist Britain that they would one day help bring into being, an Anglo version of the Russian utopia that union official Peter Sellers mused upon so soulfully in the film I'm All right, Jack – "all them cornfields and ballet in the evenings".

What a fraud, what bullshit! There wasn't a single working man among the journalists or management which was packed, as usual, with well-paid graduates, cheque book "socialists" from the upper classes and relatives of the owners, all pretending to have the tastes and outlook of bus drivers and factory hands and all, like present day "socialist" Peter Mandelson, likely to mistake mushy peas for guacamole. But it served its purpose as the sheep were herded through the various gates – making money, making the careers of numberless Labour windbags climbing the greasy pole and giving the directors plenty of oomph with government as they decided which voting gate to send their thicko sheep readership through. By 1967, on the back of this fraudulent misrepresentation, this enormous con, the Mirror was the biggest selling paper in the world. The best you can say about it is that at that time its journalists were only lying hypocrites rather than the crooks of today.

Cecil King

Working man Cecil King, left. Completely mad but nobody noticed

Paper of the working man? The Mirror absolutely despised, hated, the working classes, so much so that when the sheep actually showed signs of getting frisky and demanding via the strike weapon some of the pickings that their betters had cornered for years, the bosses of the paper freaked out and Cecil King, managing director during its time of supremacy, started preparing an armed coup against the state to put them back in their box!

David Stirling, founder of the SAS, enthusiastic wartime killer, hopelessly compulsive gambler and mercenary, was recruited in White's club to organise the muscle. Lord Mountbatten, who is remembered firstly for his ceaseless intrigues at court and secondly for answering a question concerning the whereabouts of his wife with the startling reply, "at home, fucking that n-----r", agreed to be a figurehead. King, of course, as his actions show, was quite insane, probably a victim of the same brain-rotting syphilis that killed his ancestor Northcliffe, but in the crazed and corrupt world of the late twentieth century British press who was going to notice the boss was mad?

Then Rupert Murdoch turned up in the UK with his dad's money and bought the Sun, which until then had also leaned to the Left. The mass press, which Northcliffe had invented at the beginning of the twentieth century and which was destined for slow death at the beginning of the twenty first, now reached its ultimate form. The Murdoch vision, which the Mirror felt it had to follow, was the Lavatory Paper vision. Forget the lowest wedge of the working classes – they didn't know how to vote, they were on dole or incapacity benefit now so they couldn't afford the stuff in the adverts and, besides, most of them weren't learning to read anymore. No, the target was the guy – not the gal – on the production line or in the warehouse, with its all-purpose reading room, the lavatory, natural home of the tabloids.

Murdoch's was a total package based on his view of the known needs and interests of what he saw as the lower masses: sport, gambling, inferior sex, celebrity stories, crude jingoism. In the long plastic rows of factory lavatory cubicles all the workers' needs would be met in easy baby prose while their trousers sagged around their ankles: football results, betting tips, celebrity news and suitable headlines like Gotcha! – after an Argentinian warship took two hundred fearful young conscripts to the bottom of the Atlantic. What could be better to round off this rich diet than some furtive masturbation amid the miasma over the naked girls so helpfully supplied by the Boss on page 3. Yep, Mr Murdoch's package was the future and the Mirror was quick to follow.

It is only when the lavatorial squalor and nastiness of the UK press is laid out in this way – truthfully – that the reader can see that the McCann affair was not an aberration at all but a profound expression of just what that industry, with its monopoly on the packaging and control of written information for its own ends, had become as it started to rot and decline. And now we are beginning to find out the true extent of the criminality – not just the Murdoch press but across the industry – which we began to suspect in 2007: it is a racket, a corrupt industry. What sort of people would ever want a career anymore in such a horrible, crooked environment? People like Lori Campbell. And her husband, Ross Hall, who by the way, as well as being a typical journalist has a second, parallel career in Clarence Mitchell's speciality, Crisis Management PR – that is, the paid protection of people like Pinochet and the McCanns via the secret use of the Lavatory Media that they know so well. Thank the Lord a fair number of these people are going to jail and thank the Lord that the loss of their news monopoly means that the UK news racket in its present form is on the way out.

Sometimes we accept things in front of our eyes without asking ourselves, does it have to be this way? Because the press had a reasonable, if not very honourable, record up until World War II two generations watched it slowly turning into a racket without really asking themselves that question. And the politicians, transfixed by the racketeers' reputed power to make their careers with carefully guided sheep votes, or wreck them with carefully aimed sheep shit, were terrified to do anything. Then, finally, the internet opened our eyes.

News of the World journalists

2011 and journalists mourn the closure of their tabloid.
One down, more to go...

Many years ago another of the mad Harmsworths, one of Lord Northcliffe's brothers, brought the Perrier water spring and business. It is an intriguing exercise to compare the things we grew used to in the news industry with a business like that. Would we be willing, for example, to buy Perrier water if the owners of the company couldn't be trusted to put what they claimed in the bottle? Would we be happy if creatures like Clarence Mitchell were secretly allowed by the management to add their own ingredients to the liquid? Or that half the people in the bottling plant were criminals? Or that the owners were nuts and might mess with the water out of whim or for gain but we had no choice but to accept them because we couldn't get water elsewhere? Or that when we wanted to bottle water for ourselves we were told no, you're not professional enough – you drink what we give you.

That's the sort of pigsty industry that we allowed the UK press to become.

Review news, 20 September 2011

Clarence Mitchell

Clarence "Discharge" Mitchell discharging. Hello again.

By John Blacksmith
Tuesday, 20 September 2011 at 17:43


So we have our review off the ground with the news that three Scotland Yard officers – not the ridiculous "thirty" that some of our reliable overground media claimed – were in Portugal in August.

And what's that gushing sound we can hear? The noise is, according to the good old Express, coming from "a source close to the couple". Close to where? Top? Bottom? Wait a minute, is this a private, coded, reference to the Bureau's last essay concerning cess pits, or septic tanks as they’re known to the newly respectable? It could be. A sewer pipe is apparently "a waste product conduit issuing from the bottom...of a building." From the tasteful McCann Rothley mansion? By golly, it could be, couldn't it?

Anyway this source close to the bottom has spouted, "They are relieved. Things are finally being done and Kate and Gerry are being kept informed of every move."

Really? Every move? Some time later a further batch of waste product rumbles through the salt-glaze pipe. "Kate and Gerry," it glugs, "have had several meetings with police reviewing their daughter's case."

And finally, "They have been told that if something has been missed they will find it. They are relieved that something is finally happening."

And indeed it is, according, once more, to the Express: "The team is currently sifting through 20,000 pages of evidence assembled by Portuguese detectives. They will review witness statements, make a fresh appeal for information and carefully re-check alibis."

A "police source" added: "They will be looking for something that has been overlooked or not developed which could lead to a fresh line of inquiry – a sighting, a tip-off, something that didn't ring bells at the time but could be vital."

Well, that won't take long, will it? And then what? What are the alternatives?

There are only two. Scenario One has them stretching out the job of "going through the files" for months, chatting to the Portuguese, looking in the Leicester police files and then going to the home secretary and saying, "we've found nothing." Scenario Two has them doing the same thing but going to the home secretary rather sooner and saying "we've found nothing; it looks like we need a serious talk with you-know-who and their friends."

"Hang on hater," cry the Sad People, "you're distorting the facts again. What about the third option, that the police find new leads?"

Not a chance. Not even a tiny, tiny chance. Don't believe us? Think we're wrong? Let's watch the police press statements over the coming months together, shall we?

Movements offstage, 22 September 2011
Movements offstage The Blacksmith Bureau

By John Blacksmith
Thursday, 22 September 2011 at 15:20

Anyone who reads the occasional stories put out by the Express about Kate and Gerry McCann over the past year or two finds an increasingly curious lack of pattern. Oh, Clarence Mitchell's latest discharges are always allowed to flow sluggishly through its pages unimpeded but at other times there are oddities: stories blindly supportive of the McCanns, no surprise there, but also taking their ineffable detective Edgar seriously. Now Edgar, as the video cameras reveal, only has to flex his giant goatherd wrists or open his Wallace & Gromit lookalike mouth to have the press conference hacks giggling manically – so what was going on?

Some readers suspected post-modernist irony in the Express's loving embrace of Edgar's preposterous claims, claims which Edgar himself, like a tramp in the street with a hard-luck story, always offers with an expression of glum resignation that they won't be believed. Just putting them in print so uncritically, indeed, seemed to make their worthlessness more noticeable, not less. Was it some kind of in-joke?

Clarence Mitchell and Dave Edgar (right)

Where's Madeleine, Dave?

Then there was that strange interview with Goncalo Amaral amid the side streets of Praia da Luz. Nobody knew what to make of that. It was the first time that Amaral had appeared in UK tabloid pages without the usual words from the McCann prompt-book – "disgraced" "fat" "sacked" etc. – pinned to his back. And the reporter, James Murray, treated him with polite respect, something quite unheard of in the UK media.

But then what was Goncalo Amaral doing telling James Murray about an "abductor"? The Sad People on the forums, the love forums, that is, not the hate forums, were reduced to flummoxed debate. Was Amaral back pedalling to get out of the libel case? Or what was he up to?

And now they are reporting the Scotland Yard review at some length. As they would.

The owner of the Express has invested a great deal in the McCanns and their friends and not by choice but through gritted teeth after his lawyers told him he had no option but to settle his libel case. Mr Desmond, as anyone who checks his career will discover, just hates to lose and he particularly hates losing money.

Perhaps that explains the appearance of Mr Murray in Portugal, where he went out of his way to establish contact with Amaral's circle. Since then he has been back quite a few times and the lines of communication remain very open indeed. Desmond likes playing games and being both wooed and distrusted by both sides – after all, that's why you become a newspaper owner, innit? Still, the McCanns can sleep as easy as they ever do because a "most unhelpful", as Clarence might describe it, bid by an outsider to get the Express to do a series on those celebrities the Tapas 7 has come to nothing. So far.

The Question of Proxies, 25 September 2011
The Question of Proxies The Blacksmith Bureau

Posted by John Blacksmith
Sunday, 25 September 2011 at 15:19

Proxies in the news media are people acting as a disguised channel of information in the interests of another party. As internet usage warns us they are intimately connected with subterfuge because the sole intention behind them is to protect the original source from accountability for the claims.

Proxies have sprouted crazily over the last forty years or so in the rich, well manured undergrowth which surrounds that proud and lofty trunk, the modern newspaper – and newspaper it is, for the broadcast media are not vulnerable to the pest in quite the same way as the press.

A government source was quoted as saying...

In politics, where it all began, correspondents now deal primarily with the press offices instead of the politicians themselves. An elaborate dance is played out in which both partners know and perform the appropriate steps: the spokesman signals that he is speaking with the authority of the appropriate minister on a specific matter but will not name him; the journalist accepts the stuff offered to him knowing that if public reaction is bad then another spokesman will claim that "it was an unfounded rumour". If he doesn't accept the rules then the dance stops and he won't get any more information.

Alongside this process of agreed deception, the only way so far that media and democratic politics have found to co-exist, we have the grotesque, fungus-like growth of the PR and lobbying industries, whose job is to use the same techniques as the politicians but with much, much murkier objectives.

A company spokesperson said...

Every significant newspaper story, without exception, is the arena for a struggle to control the words on the page, a struggle of which the average reader is astonishingly unaware, for any news incident has potential consequences. Take an apparently trivial, uncomplicated and "factual" one, a road accident, say, a petrol tanker rolling over without exploding perhaps, with property damage and some injuries but no fatalities.

The reader may have an image of a newsman rushing to the site to ask witnesses what happened. Perhaps. But by the time the story hits the page the PR department of oil company Greaseball PLC will have been alerted and will discuss with a director what "stance" they should take. And if the possibility arises that the driver might be at fault in some way – that he might have exceeded his legal hours, for example, or had perhaps taken drugs – then a struggle begins, carried out by proxies for the management.

They will soon be on the blower to try and "balance" the reporting. If the going gets tough a PR person will soon be rubbishing the credentials of difficult witnesses such as a witness claiming to have seen the driver smoking skunk, for much is then at stake: the company's image most of all but also its employment and training methods, the financial implications of insurance claims and associated court cases. For every formal statement that the company puts out about the incident there will have been numerous phone calls and off-the-record briefings attempting to skew the story. That's how the game works.

A company source insisted...

Now every company has the right to defend itself against unfair claims. But where decades ago a formal press statement giving Greaseball PLC's side of the story would have been sufficient, the game has now changed: a company's reputation, its "brand", is capitalised via its share price and has to be protected in exactly the same way that its computers, oil tankers and other assets are protected. As a result a court judgement of liability in an incident such as our road crash is financially dwarfed by the potential effect of public loss of confidence: the arena for defending the brand now is the media not the court and the target is the mind of the public, not a jury. Any civil court proceedings and judgements are an unimportant footnote.

But how can a media "judgement" be "won" by a company? The same way a politician wins it, silly! Get your version out via proxies and hidden news management so it looks neutral and objective and keep it there by repetition and spin, financed by what the politicians haven't got, loadsa money to throw around. Unfortunately for that same public others, less constrained than public companies, have learned that the game works for them too – entrepreneurs and scam artists, thieves like the Natwest Three, brand-value celebrities like footballers, golfers like Tiger Woods. And, of course, fugitives from justice facing potential extradition.

A source close to the family said...

So now when stuff gets really serious Greaseball PLC PR department hands the job over to outside agencies, the so-called Crisis Management PR gangs who first came to public attention in the Pinochet case, and who have since grown not just like fungi but giant and revolting teratomas. These offer the priceless asset of complete separation from the original principals, in this case the oil company directors, who can, like politicians, disavow their activities at any time – that's part of the deal.

The result is a thoroughly disreputable industry of deception and influence-purchase employing or contracting litigation and libel lawyers, journalists, private investigators with their associated pond-scum of dodgy policemen and villains, and finally the smooth marketing types who present their public face. A "result" is one in which the original event is smothered in a thick overlay of planted and disguised press stories which by constant repetition gain unjustified credibility – backed up with legal threats to deter attempts at unravelling the scheme.

This industry exists in ill-defined legal territory, like a growth in an unlit crack. The use of the system diffuses responsibility too widely to hold individuals to account; it constantly pushes at the boundaries of contempt of court laws; and the distinction between influence purchase and actual corruption by threat or bribery is vague indeed. In fact the whole process described above is in essence one large, distributed bribe to purchase an edge.

Remind you of anybody?

But the witness, Mr Menezes, stated...

The greatest enemy of the PR/lobby industry, like daylight falling on Dracula, is the court room: there, under the light of evidence, oath and cross examination, all their apparent strengths become weaknesses. So they don't appear. Instead the lawyers take over and if it is a civil case either the facts are established or the principals withdraw the action, as in the Trafigura dispute and numberless others. But the proxy industry has still served its purpose – Trafigura, for instance, won't have to answer to the courts for their manipulation because they didn't do it: their proxies did and the proxies, existing in their ill-defined legal territory, are not in court for they were only "professional agents of the principals". So, the costs and damages are paid but nobody is held accountable because the public itself, as yet, has no defender. And the industry is out the next day spinning the verdict. Isn't it cute?

So where exactly do the McCanns fit in to this charming business?

A simple question: why?, 26 September 2011
A simple question: why? The Blacksmith Bureau

Posted by John Blacksmith
Monday, 26 September 2011 at 01:33

As Roy "Count the Tapas" Greenslade, official commentator to the state funeral of the UK press might ask, "Why indeed?"

What were the McCanns doing when they got involved – right up to the hilt – with this nauseating industry? Why did the parents of a missing child who claimed from day one that they wanted to provide the widest possible knowledge of what had happened to Madeleine McCann almost immediately turn to the personnel, address book and methods of outfits designed for exactly the opposite purpose – the secret limitation and distortion of information about events? It is, quite frankly, inexplicable.

Or is it?

Reporting for the kiddies

Of course we have the Authorised Version put forward in the pair's interests, a kind of repeated mantra: unforeseen crowds of media people after return from Portimao – flee them or work with them – all pulling together for Mudeleine – nice Alex Woolfall teaches how to deal with all these media people – Sheree Wood sent by the government to help – Justine blah blah – Clarence blah blah – gradually they helped get the message of hope for Madeleine across in the most effective way blah blah.

It isn't very pleasant reading that garbage now, not in the light of what we know. Starting on May 4 the parents used unpaid proxies, friends and family whose role we'll examine, to get information into the media that had nothing whatever to do with any "search for Madeleine" but already included purely defensive information in the parents' own interests, not the child's, as the evidence proves.

And after this first, amateurish but successful attempt to use unpaid proxies they immediately started working with Alex Woolfall, not the media itself. Woolfall is the recipient of glowing testimonials from the McCanns for his expertise; rather less often do they mention that his expertise was in the very "Crisis Management PR" that Greaseball Oil turned to.

Oh, how we boast

Have a look at a current puff by Bell Pottinger the CMPR specialists that Woolfall was representing from May 4 on. As successful examples of their services their website gives:

Eurostar Independent Inquiry: providing communications support for the publication of the independent inquiry [our italics] into Eurostar trains trapped in the Channel Tunnel during bad weather.

McLaren: supporting the CEO and senior management of McLaren during the FIA investigation into allegations of theft of technical information.

Mark Warner: providing 24/7 crisis management support following the disappearance of Madeleine McCann from a Mark Warner resort in Portugal.

You can see why Eurostar would want their services after having left two thousand passengers shivering under the Channel for 16 hours, an experience described fervently, if unoriginally, as "a complete nightmare" by one victim. Another complained " proper organisation. There is water but people are hungry. Staff are pleasant but have no idea. I'm exhausted and also angry at being treated so badly." Pretty minor really – but note the italicised bit: "support for the publication of the independent inquiry". In other words Eurostar were worried that an independent report would hammer them so Bell Pottinger were paid to stop the reader getting the words of the findings by placing distorted versions of them in the media. Not much point in having independent enquiries really then, is there?

But that was trivial stuff: with Maclaren you're getting into proper CMPR territory – theft allegations with millions in sponsorship at stake as well as a possible finger on the collar. Get busy fibbers!

Mark Warner, whose reputation was very much word of mouth, wanted to make sure that their USP didn't become "Stay with us and return one short" after May 3. Fair enough. They failed, unfortunately for them and their future, because the McCann frenzy was too big to handle and their take on things – "no evidence of a break in" – was drowned, if that is the appropriate word, by the abduction claim.

No use to Mark Warner but great for Gerry

So what were the parents doing sitting at Woolfall's feet while he taught them his methods? Was it his experience in fund raising, or raising awareness of lost tots that they were soaking up? Not according to his CV:

"His experience covers product contamination and sabotage; death and serious injury in the workplace; redundancy, administration and Chapter 11 announcements; regulatory breaches and fines; sex discrimination and whistle-blowing cases; fraud and theft; pension fund deficits; use of child labour; medical negligence and a wide range of other controversial issues."

And "covers" doesn't mean fighting against these horrors, so that you could argue his expertise might be valuable in the equal horror of a child kidnapping, say. Not at all – it means protecting the interests of those accused of them! With a record like that the guy would be a great, a superb, choice to work for the abductor – but for the victim's parents? Why?

Kate McCann confirms in her book that "we came to rely on Alex Woolfall as our de facto media liaison officer. It was he who guided us early on, giving us simple advice that has served us in good stead since." You can say that again, Kate. Woolfall's advice was utterly and completely cynical, comparing the media, as Kate indiscreetly recounts, to Pavlov's dogs slavering at the prospect of reward. All they needed, he told Kate, continuing the laboratory animal analogy which came naturally to him, was to be fed something to keep them happy: that way they were yours.

More reporting for the kiddies

Not at all the Authorised Version that found its way into the media that summer in the quality dailies, is it? That tale of amateur but enthusiastic family members and friends beavering away at do-it-yourself searching and campaigning, with "young Calum" putting together a website, ol' uncle Alex smiling benevolently and everyone pulling together like a hick chorus line from a Hollywood musical. No, there wasn't much mention of throwing meat to the dribbling media dogs then.

Why were they in the business of throwing meat at the dribblers in the first place? Kate McCann again: "He told us to ask ourselves the following two questions before giving anything to anyone [our italics] in the press: what was our objective and how was it going to help?"

Kate speaks the truth!

She speaks truly and conclusively, in this instance at least. That sentence describes perfectly the times when they step out from behind the protection of paid liars: every interview they have ever given shows the same cold, cynical calculation in using the media for their own aims only. No interest in informing the public, no frankness about themselves, no sincerity, only example after monotonous example of steadfastly, rigidly, following the Woolfall Crisis Management method – only ever speak to the public via the media to get what you want.

And indeed if what they wanted was merely to "search for the child" and get a campaign going in her interest in spring 2007, arguing perhaps that they would sup with the devil if that would help them in that objective, how is it that the record doesn't support them? For at the time when, as Kate herself states, the searching had temporarily come to a halt because of "other distractions", that is the period after they returned to England – how was it that their CMPR effort only then began to reach its peak? Even as they landed yet another CMPR specialist, Hanover Communications, was engaged and ready to go, as the Bureau wrote nearly two years ago when we published its boast:

"We helped the McCann family deal with the media storm which surrounded them on their return from Portugal in September 2007. From scratch, we created a comprehensive media handling package within six hours which enabled us to handle 850 media calls in the first week. By giving journalists positive stories to report, coverage turned from hostility to the McCanns to sympathy about their ordeal. This campaign won the crisis communication category at the 2008 CIPR awards."

Not much mention of Madeleine McCann there.

You know, when a couple immerse themselves so deeply in the techniques and practices used almost exclusively by those facing the possibility of financial catastrophe, disgrace or, particularly, prosecution then the old saying comes irresistibly to mind: if it walks like a duck and looks like a duck...

Crisis, what crisis?, 28 September 2011
Crisis, what crisis? The Blacksmith Bureau

"Crisis management public relations expert Glenn Selig, founder of the PR firm The Publicity Agency, talks about the fallout from the Casey Anthony case, the money that may be made and defending clients in the court of public opinion..." "By giving journalists positive stories to report, coverage turned from hostility to the McCanns to sympathy about their ordeal. This campaign won the crisis communication category at the 2008 CIPR awards."

Philomena McCann, Clarence Mitchell, Casey Anthony

By John Blacksmith
Wednesday, 28 September 2011 at 18:11

Success Story

On the whole the McCanns' use of proxies has protected them – in the public arena, that is, and among people who have not studied the case. But there is a problem: Madeleine McCann herself.

The whole point of proxies is disguise – disguising,obviously, the true source of the proxies' information and, just as important, disguising the trail itself, the methods used by the true source to effect the disguise.

CMPR is almost always a short-term operation to influence or deceive the public; it was designed to be used by businesses defending corporate actions where individual guilt and punishment does not, except in the case of corporate manslaughter, arise. Protecting the share price of a company protects the jobs of those who work in it and the defensive effort can therefore be seen as socially benign rather than a conspiracy to protect guilty individuals. Should the attempt fail then the defeat is merely a regulatory one or a fine which, however large, is paid by the company, that is, ultimately, the customer. The CMPR companies that manage the defence-of-reputation effort are never investigated for deception.

With the adoption of CMPR by individuals, not corporate bodies, the game changes but the techniques of delegated disguise and deception still remain beyond the reach of the law, win or lose for, as we said previously, in this context at least the public has no defender. Once Pinochet was back on the plane to Chile there was no point in anyone examining the methods that had got him there; once the Natwest 3 had lost their battle and been extradited, convicted and sentenced the case was closed.


But the McCann affair is very different, as is the more recent Dewani case. Both are, literally, life and death matters in which public arena victories and defeats, however temporarily eye-catching, are strictly secondary to the criminal investigation process seeking the perpetrators of a crime. As long as the fate of Madeleine McCann is unknown the investigation can never be closed; and as long as the investigation continues the actions of all possible suspects, both before and since May 3, will remain under scrutiny and analysis.

That analysis, whether by the Portuguese PJ, Leicester police or Scotland Yard, has to include the use of the public arena by the parents of the child, otherwise it is not an investigation worthy of the name. What motivated it? Misplaced fear? Worry about neglect accusations? Or other reasons?

The examination of those questions means throwing an unwelcome light on the the mechanics of media deception and the techniques of disguise, particularly in two crucial areas, the bookends of the case, so to speak: the claims made by the family proxies on May 4, chiefly regarding forced entry to apartment 5A and the accusations of a "frame up" and a "deal" made by the same proxies on September 7.

This potential vulnerability can be heard rumbling in the background, like distant artillery fire, in the pages of Kate McCann's Madeleine. She writes "At some point that morning [May 4] we'd become aware that friends and family were appearing on television expressing our concern about the lack of police activity overnight...we were quite surprised that people were giving interviews but it was understandable. After all we'd been on the phone half the night to our friends and relatives, sobbing that nothing was being done and begging for their help." But she avoids the subject of jemmied shutters like the plague.

And it is difficult to see how her description can account for the sheer amount of information – favourable to the parents, not the child – that Michael Wright had amassed on the morning of May 4 about matters other than "the need for help". In the London Standard that day he was quoted thus:

"Michael Healy [Michael Wright], the missing girl's uncle, added: "There has been some negative spin put on this, [there had been no spin at that time, negative or otherwise] with people criticising them for leaving the kids and going on the tear." Mr Healy added, "But it's nonsense, they were close by and were eating within sight of where the children were and checking on them. Other members of the group were checking on her as well. No one was rip-roaring drunk."

On page 130 there is a description of their initial "assumptions" as to how the abductor had entered and exited the apartment but the well-known claims of forced entry are again missing from the record.

As for the other bookend we have seen in previous articles how Kate McCann has tried to dig her way out of the sizeable pit of the September 7 proxy claims while slowly sinking deeper into the mire, her strangulated prose on page 243 reflecting the ghostly presence over her shoulder of both the police readers and her own defence lawyer.

Can we help?

Still, all these little misunderstandings can be cleared up by the review. The various relatives can tell the police how they all independently got the forced entry stuff; Michael Wright can tell them how the parents, between their tears, were able to give him so much data about their parenting habits and, naturally, all of them can answer simple questions like "did Kate and Gerry ask you to speak to the media?"

The answers should help them clear their names of the unjustified slurs which have stuck to them for the past few years and allow the police to concentrate their efforts elsewhere. Equally Kate can clear up the little matter of the "deal" to plead guilty to accidentally killing the child and why she has now withdrawn it and substituted a New Deal of which Roosevelt would be proud; and what exactly she meant by the words "green light" on page 246; and whether it was her sick father or herself who invented the "frame up" claim. Kate McCann, in particular, having got somehow diverted from clarifying all these matters in Madeleine, must be greatly looking forward to the review team's questions so that she can provide the answers that will take her, finally, Beyond The Smears.

Meanwhile mere members of the public like us, who were force-fed their versions of events by proxies and who can't ask follow-up questions, and others like Goncalo Amaral – plus anyone else who might face the McCanns in the libel courts some day – have to do what we can without the straight answers that others may be able to coax.

Never sue for libel

David Irving

Back in 1996 the well known English historian David Irving sued academic Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin books for libel over accusations that his work revealed him as a "holocaust denier" who had misrepresented the evidence in a number of his books, effectively making excuses for Hitler's conduct in the terrible persecution and murder of the Jews.

The defendants, fortunately as well-funded as Gerry and Kate McCann, decided to fight and four years later the two sides came to a long and costly trial.

It was a tricky case. Irving had a reputation as a successful historian with a mastery of sources, many of which he had unearthed himself. History is a matter of interpretation and the idea that historians could end up in court over their interpretations was troubling. Nevertheless the defence, led by the brilliant Richard Rampton QC, maintained that Irving's interpretation – where have we heard that word before? – was biased in Hitler's favour more than the facts could justify and that his work was littered with errors.

The defence had commissioned two leading historians to go through his books line by line. Irving, financially successful and with a home in Mayfair, conducted his own case with dashing enthusiasm. Handsome in a thick set way, grey haired, he began with confident aplomb, gently mocking Lipstadt for her refusal to give evidence and portraying himself as an outsider to a historical establishment which hated him for his success, his writing ability and his willingness to face uncomfortable truths.

Gradually his somewhat flashy defence of interpretation gained in strength and credibility. But in the later stages of the trial Rampton began to clamp a stranglehold on Irving as he developed the other prong of his defence. The historian seemed to shrink visibly over subsequent days as Rampton, with remorseless logic and copious examples, pushed home his case. Irving's method, he said, was to admit that he had made mistakes, as anyone can, and that factual errors or "inconsistencies" – where have we heard that word before? – were just that.

Each individual inconsistency was trivial on its own, Rampton told the court, and each error was impossible to categorise as a deliberate attempt to mislead. But, he said, you had to look at the examples as a whole. If you did so each of the trivialities, inconclusive in isolation, gradually built up and formed a most significant pattern, a pattern that was irreconcilable with probability. The historian, he said, had failed to correct numerous mistakes in reference to documents strengthening his own theories of a maligned Hitler let down by the wicked actions of his subordinates, as the evidence had shown. Very well. But where were the mistakes on the other side, the errors which weakened his theories? There weren't any! The only conclusion that could be drawn was that Irving wasn't error prone at all: his mistakes were part of a deliberate pattern of misrepresentation. He had betrayed his profession and deceived the public.

Now the subject matter of the case is irrelevant here. What does matter is that Rampton's words above, which, like the rest of the case, were concerned with that universal subject, the nature and establishment of truth, could be used of Kate & Gerry McCann, as well as their supporters.

Many of their claims are hard to pin down as outright lies rather than subjective opinions or errors, yet they remain unsupported by outside evidence; alternatives to their theories, such as abduction, are dismissed on the basis of inside or privileged information which, when examined after the passage of years, is found to be non-existent; outright and proven lying, as in Gerry McCann's blogs claiming they are not under suspicion when they are in fact reeling from the police accusations recently made against them, can be finessed by arguing that what they were "really" saying was that they were not arguidos; the court evidence of prosecutor Menendez about their lying can be dismissed as a harsh way of characterising trivial inconsistencies; an admitted lie to the public, such as on page 206 of Madeleine and in Gerry McCann's corresponding blog entry, can be justified, somehow, by judicial secrecy; finally,their mysterious and obsessive use of proxies, paid and unpaid, which cast an enormous cloud of darkness and confusion over their true motives, can perhaps be excused by the need for help with the uninvited media.

None of these examples point to any crime on their part. Each of them can be argued over, as they often are on internet forums, and a defence of their conduct made. But the sheer volume of them, one after another after another, is gradually overwhelming. And taken as a whole, like David Irving's mistakes, they always show the same pattern, always point in one direction – in their case that of constant and single minded self-exculpation. But what is it that they are trying to exculpate themselves from?

David Irving lost his case, the appeal, his fortune and his reputation.

High stakes, 16 November 2011

Goncalo Amaral

Posted by John Blacksmith
Wednesday, 16 November 2011 at 18:25

So the libel case resumes in February. One doesn't have to be a pessimist to wonder whether it will really take us any closer to the truth. That a (democratic) criminal trial is dedicated to establishing the truth about an event is neither myth nor pretence, as anyone who has served on a jury should know. But a libel trial is a rather different matter in which truth takes very much second place. Not only is it not one of the jewels in justice's crown, it is in fact the pits, whether in the UK, Kazakhstan or just about anywhere you name.

Nor are the reasons hard to find: no country has found a way of establishing equality between the two sides so that both cases can be presented in equal strength and detail, and few have bothered to try. The odds on Mr Putin losing a libel case in his own country are roughly the same as the odds on a hugely wealthy litigant in the UK losing to a Big Issue seller: such are the realities of power.

Where does the balance of power lie in McCanns versus Amaral? The answer is less obvious than it might seem. The financial power of the parents, like almost every other aspect of their lives, derives from others, not their own resources. And the "others", whether millionaires with an interest or a supportive public, will only cough up on a big scale as long as nothing untoward occurs to dent their sanctity.

Unlike them Amaral has little to fear financially from unpleasant revelations since enough mud to dam the river Tagus has already been smeared all over him. So while his current wealth and earning power are effectively zero they are potentially much greater than that of the McCanns: should the gradual movement in his favour from the judges continue towards a vindication then future world-wide book sales would dwarf the rewards from both The Truth of the Lie and Kate McCann's lamentable opus.

There is also an asymmetry in the risks both parties run. Amaral, frankly, has little to offer the pair should they win and has spent two years learning how to cope with ruin: how much worse can it get for him? The parents, however, should they lose face a frightening future.

Unfortunately such high stakes don't guarantee new insights. The prolonged and profound research in the Irving vs. Lipstadt case which we mentioned previously dramatically altered our knowledge of decades-old events; there is little reason to suspect anything comparable in February.

The location of the proceedings and the legal system under which they have been taken are not ideal.Whatever one's feelings of friendship for the Portuguese people the performance of its young legal system throughout the whole Madeleine McCann affair has left a sad impression. It is one of an alien judicial system, seriously compromised by fashionable but troublingly flexible human rights concepts, imported and badly bolted on, post-Salazar, to a rickety existing structure, one which lacks transparency and predictability and which does not seem politically independent. Perhaps that accounts for the profound lack of faith in it shown by educated Portuguese in their discussions with The Bureau.

Most shocking of all, more shocking even than the intellectual inadequacies and political compromises of the prosecutors' report from within the criminal justice system, was the outcome of the McCanns' initial assault on Amaral in the civil courts. The viciousness of the parents'  attack was predictable —after all we know what sort of people they are—but the extreme result and the reaction to it were not. The fact that human rights concepts could be perverted to strip and humiliate Amaral in virtual secrecy, reminiscent not just of a Salazar victim but of some doomed litigant from the seventeenth century, seemed to come as a complete surprise not only to most lay Portuguese, who clearly don't expect to understand their own laws, but to the legal profession itself. A number of the latter said that they did not know that Amaral's fate was legally possible. What sort of system does that reveal?

Nor did the Lisbon hearings, under a twenty eight year old judge, do anything to rectify this Alice-in-Kafkaland impression. Only when the appeal court judges gave their ruling did we finally seem to be reading the words of normal people looking at the evidence. But what a time to wait! And which way, given the social strains induced by recession and the approaching end of the Euro, will the judicial future go?

It was presumably the McCanns' status as putative martyrs which accounted for the lower courts' otherwise baffling acceptance of the more infantile claims made by the pair, which should have been thrown out with contempt and derision. The claim that "the search for Madeleine would be damaged" by Amaral's book and television programme is one of the most risibly childish ever put before a civil court, resting on a subjective psychological, not fact-based, hypothesis incapable of proof or disproof and only arguable in terms of counterfactuals: i.e. not a matter that can ever be determined by a court. But in this case, under the glare of international publicity and political uncertainty, the courts themselves seemed to lose their bearings and sense of proportion.

Admittedly, and under similar crazed media pressure—initiated, we should never forget, by the McCanns—the UK courts have shown signs of being infected by that same triumph of sentimentality over reality, witness Hogg's comments in the important case of McCanns vs. Leicester police. But the latter came harmlessly in the judgement, after the police, via their counsel, had ruthlessly brushed the schmaltz aside, denying the sacred couple—Oh unforgiveable!—what they demanded on the basis of the facts, something the Portuguese lower courts, unfortunately, were incapable of doing.

Presumably Isabel "Gorgon" Duarte will attempt to keep things on the same sentimental fantasy level when she appears in court in February. What else can she do? The evidence for the conclusive exoneration which the pair crave and which would demonstrate that Amaral's claims must be untrue or malicious isn't there, as those Leicester police have reminded us by word and deed since 2008. Turning Menezes's shoddy little document into a fair summation of the case is probably beyond her if—and it's a big if—Amaral's defence team have analysed it and the circumstances which produced it in proper depth. Judging from her performance in Lisbon, where she seemed to be hawking smelly quayside fish rather than examining the witnesses, Duarte lacks the necessary restraint and focus to go calmly and forensically for Amaral's weak points.

On his side, to add to this cloud of unreality which surrounds the judges, Amaral has shown no sign of relinquishing his misguided attempts to blame the UK government for the collapse of the case against the pair. One must hope that Duarte will go on hawking her fish rather than calmly inviting Goncalo to provide the evidence for such a claim and when he fails to do so—because there isn't any—invite the court to decide that a man who can thus convince himself of this theory without evidence might have done exactly the same thing with the McCanns.

So there's a kind of crazed symmetry to the case, with the McCanns on one side still maintaining that the child was abducted without a shred of supporting evidence except their own statements, and their opponent maintaining that the pair were saved by the UK government without a shred of supporting evidence save his own beliefs. Finding truth and reality in the gap between these two slightly unreal positions is no easy task.

Still, one remembers the day of the appeal court verdict when all the falsity and garbage fell away for a moment and we heard normal people, people like us, speaking realistically and sensibly from the bench and drawing the self-evident conclusions that we'd despaired of ever hearing in the weird, shadowy world of the McCann case. Then one's faith in the Portuguese system and the possibility of getting at the truth was, despite the obvious weaknesses, restored. It could happen again.

Appearances can be deceptive, Part One, 26 November 2011
Appearances can be deceptive, Part One The Blacksmith Bureau

Posted by John Blacksmith
Saturday, 26 November 2011 at 15:31

The Issue

The twin problem at the heart of the Madeleine McCann affair remains: almost everyone who investigates or studies the case in detail is troubled by the parents' attitude to the truth. Yet, given their innocence of involvement in the disappearance of the child, what possible motive could they have for lying?

The parents are the only two people who saw, and bore witness to, the unmistakable evidence of intrusion into their apartment— the disturbed shutters which no three year old would have been capable of lifting from inside. Accept their word and abduction must have occurred.

Why don't they believe us?

But from the beginning of the investigation the parents' words failed to convince. The first officers on the scene, while not suspicious of the pair, were unable to share the self-evident certainty of an abduction that the parents, sometimes impatiently, sometimes hysterically, pressed on them. Both the written statements of the parents and their friends and the printed timeline which they offered to the police, a document in which weird and disturbing exactitude about the nine adults' own movements was combined with a void about the child herself, created a sense of unease amongst the investigators. While the parents, as befitted their special role, were not immediately challenged, we now know that as early as May 10 the police had switched from suspicion to active disbelief of the group version of events, for Gerry McCann overheard Oldfield's sobs in the face of shouted claims that he was lying.

From then until September the parents were somehow incapable of convincing the police that they were truthful and reliable witnesses. That may be because Portuguese policemen are unintelligent monsters who only believe a story when it is beaten out of the unfortunate victim with clubs. But the evidence suggests otherwise, for their increasingly frequent, and heavily structured, broadcast interviews seemed to provoke the same scepticism in some of the public as it had in the original investigators; even some of their supporters noticed the strangled caution with which they expressed themselves and a certain tension that was hard to put down purely to grief at the loss of their daughter.

Just what is it about them?

Critics were troubled, and with good reason. Even when they were safely back in England, even after the investigation was shelved, their interviews continued to give the impression of wriggling away from anything resembling free discussion, much more like modern politicians caught up in some queasy scandal, trying to fend off questions rather than answer them while simultaneously searching for answers that wouldn't be used against them in the future.

Always there was a sense of an agenda, sometimes obvious, sometimes, it seems, known to them alone. Invariably they seemed incapable of  narrating a simple rounded version of events rather than a partial, and self-serving one. Whatever the subject, whether they were describing the "checking", the fund, the Portuguese authorities, the future, not only did their answers need retrieving from beneath a dense and deadening blanket of sentimentality, apparently capable of being called up or discarded at will, but once found they were almost always strangely devoid of that human necessity, a sense of proportion.

So we grew used to the awful predictability of their appearances and the evolution of those familiar, dispiriting voices. There was Kate McCann's practised and exaggerated Scouser drone, impenetrable guardian of her real feelings and reactions, capable of provoking instant fury at her evasions before gradually numbing us into submission, like smoke puffed onto angry bees. And Gerry McCann's all-purpose Glasgow street chippiness—picture that chin and nose thrust upwards, the neck stretched, the eyes narrowing—a studio version of, "do ye no fockin' believe me, eh?" always ready to burst free, like a special-effects Hollywood alien elbowing its way out of its Respectable Doctor container. Whew!

Naturally while we sat helpless at our screens shouting just answer the question there were voices explaining to us the reasons for their weird performances. Of course they weren't at ease, they'd lost a child! Of course they couldn't speak freely, there were the secrecy rules, or the mysterious and sepulchral "operational reasons" quoted so self-importantly by Clarence Mitchell. And of course Mitchell wasn't a repulsive Uriah Heap helping them evade the truth, why he protected them from countless demands on their time. If your daughter had been taken then you'd be different too!

If we knew we wouldn't tell you

And then, in May 2011, Madeleine was published and, astonishingly, blew the gaff and turned our suspicions into facts. Kate McCann showed clearly that in Portugal they really had been lying to us, and the evidence remains in print and on the Net. Their claims to the public, as expressed in their interviews and in Gerry McCann's so-called blogs were an outright exercise in deception: the blogs, which, remember, nobody forced them to write and which addressed people directly without the contaminating influence of the professional media, show how Gerry kept up the deadpan pretence that they were not "subjects of interest" to the investigation for months. Even when they were left with only the clothes on their backs, the rest having been seized for forensic examination, and even as his wife was hysterically denying to her police accusers—just like Oldfield, way back on May 10—that she was lying about the disappearance, Gerry was reassuring the world that there was no reason whatever to believe that the police suspected them.

Worse, and one cannot over-emphasize the significance of this admission, the book showed (on pages 205/6) that they are willing to tell calculated lies—Kate's word—to prevent the public from knowing anything about police investigations into their own role in the disappearance, and she gave a flagrant example of them doing so.

She appears to have no understanding of the implications of what she has written—that she and her husband will be the judges of when to tell the truth about police inquiries into themselves and when they will choose to lie and deceive. From the book the motive is clear: denying the existence of any facts that might sully their consciously created image of wounded innocence and weaken public support, their most valuable defensive asset. How often have they acted on these calculations and lied to us about police inquiries since that occasion on August 2 2007? We cannot know, except that she does not claim that it was the only time. Have they lied about, say, similar inquiries or forensic investigations by Leicester police? Again we don't know: we only know, since Kate McCann, told us, that that is the way they operate. As Gerry McCann once sniggered to an interviewer in a different context, "if we knew we wouldn't tell you," and now we know that, for once, he was telling us the truth.

Given what Kate McCann has revealed about their modus operandi in Madeleine, one theory, always unlikely but a sort of refuge for Bureau people anxious to avoid drawing the grim but obvious inference of their untruthfulness, now seems untenable: the remote possibility that a joint psychological weakness in communication, some congenital incapacity for handling the truth, lies at the root of all their troubles, making them look guiltier than they are and arousing a false certainty in everyone from Amaral onwards that the innocents are deliberately lying. Pages 205/6 knock that theory on the head.

Accordingly it would have been pretty unrealistic to expect a sudden conversion to vivid frankness in their latest public outing: much more likely was a repeat of Gerry McCann's performance in front of the Media, Culture and Sport Committee, with the street-fighter firmly packed away back into Special Effects while its owner, Dr McCann, gave us the benefit of his weighty views. Still, it would be worth a look, if only to see if anything had changed.

Part Two follows later today. [see below]

Appearances can be deceptive, Part Two, 27 November 2011
Appearances can be deceptive, Part Two The Blacksmith Bureau

Kate and Gerry McCann - Leveson Inquiry

Posted by John Blacksmith
Sunday, 27 November 2011 at 15:10

It's a family affair

And so to the Leveson inquiry, which the McCanns, not having been hacked, have invited themselves into. It is primarily a show business affair and one's main impression is that, with the exception of the Dowlers and their like, and leaving the McCanns aside for the moment, both sides are equally repulsive and deserve each other. Both are locked into a continuing private game: once the inquiry is finished, perhaps even before the comical denunciations are complete, the symbiotic relationships will resume, for showbiz can't exist without cheap media to promote it, and the more down-market the celebrity the more down- market the promotional means required.

Perhaps another paper may close, some hackers will go to jail and the dredge end of the market will see abuses tightened up regarding the Dowlers and others. But the real action in the media crisis involves transparency between media groups and governments, the so-called "back door or front door at number 10?" question, and its resolution will involve serious negotiations between serious players—not the question of the "persecution" by the paparazzi of paunchy showbiz figures stumbling out of nightclubs at four in the morning, with coke still sticking to their nostrils.

What a gallery, what a procession of dreadful, gungy celebrities have been parading before the lawyers and the "lay assessors" alongside: Big breasts, big hair, big claims, big ego—and that was just Steve Coogan.

Most of the celebs, of course, can bring down their righteous fury on the media knowing that it won't really damage established relationships, or more importantly incomes, in the slightest, for all of them, Hugh Grant included, have agents and it's the agents who will be picking up the phone...Hi, how are you?...I know, I know, these things get said...these are sensitive people, face it, and some of your guys ...what?...of course! Anyway Sol, life goes on...yeah, it's out next I offering you an interview? I certainly am...sure, sure...and photo ops...of course he wants it, he's said his piece but he knows the score, I said to him what do you want, retirement? A desert island? No! he wants a living ,man, like we all do. So he'll do the interview, don't worry. How's Claudine?

It's good to talk

But now Kate and Gerry McCann, who appear to have wandered in from a different plot, are behind the microphone. Four and a half years and family genes have transformed Kate McCann from the svelte figure overcoming her grief to pose wistfully for the paparazzi on the Praia da Luz rocks, into a dead ringer for an ageing waitress in a Liverpool chippie, waiting to go out and snatch a fag. Some of this is irrevocable, some, knowing the McCanns, may be down to Kate, devoid of make-up, wanting to create the appropriate ruined image for the occasion. Whatever, she doesn't have to try very hard. A quietly bizarre note is struck by her left hand which vanishes beneath the desk, presumably hanging on to one of Gerry's fleshly body parts, a curious, gauche, lapse into immodesty not usually seen in formal daytime company.

Both of them have shocking complexions, greyish pink, more reminiscent of over-worked night-shift immigrants than provincial doctors. Gerry McCann's eyes flicker continuously from side to side as he speaks; below them are two chestnut shaped lumps, one moment hardly noticeable, next, as his cheeks tighten, appearing to swell visibly with tension or suppressed fury. She sits, drooping, at his side while he does the talking, telling the assembly the now familiar story of the nightmare they have endured at the hands of the media, chiefly the press, and, less familiarly, what he wants done about it.

The voice itself is quiet and largely reasonable but as the subject turns to retribution his face speaks more loudly than words: this is something more than his nose-in-the-air chippiness. The more you watch his features as he develops his theme, the more stretched they become until, at times, the skin at the bottom of his chin is actually tugged upwards towards his bitterly narrow mouth. Extraordinarily, the man goes through virtually the whole of the session like that, absolutely consumed by anger and resentment, and the intensity of the body language produces a stir of perceptible, perhaps surprised, concern in the room. At times Leveson, not a notably gentle person, looks almost uneasy on their behalf.

Counsel takes Gerry through the multiple examples of wild and untruthful tabloid story lines. What, like "the shutters had been jemmied and the door was hanging off"? No, no, no. Ah, you mean, "Portuguese police try to frame tot's parents?" No, they don't include that one either: most of them, in fact, are the excremental output of the Desmond factory, once his staff  had  grown sure that the supposed forensic evidence would send the McCanns down and leave them unable to sue.

As Gerry's calls for retribution for this stuff, however politely expressed, continue undiminished, one is reminded, with a start, that the bent figure beside him was responsible for the analogous scream of anger which echoes through the pages of Madeleine: the craving for vengeance on Amaral and others who have wronged her is now on full view in her husband. Asked why he is present, he offers no nonsense about being there for Mudelin'. He wants, he says, action, processes put in place to protect "ordinary people". Against what, exactly? Why, activity which would fall well below the "standards that I would deem acceptable".

Such as descending on his apartment to discover that his clothes and car have been seized by the police, as described on page 205 of Madeleine? Sorry, that's us asking, not the inquiry. But Gerry, never strong on either magnanimity or legal details, certainly wishes that the inquiry's powers stretched over the Portuguese border, for he urges that its resources should be used to track down the Portuguese person who might have leaked his wife's misbegotten diary, so they can face proceedings for "contempt of court".

A late episode in his testimony took us straight into Alice in Wonderland and the Red Queen, whose solutions always involved executions all round. Gerry's calls for condign punishment for "repeat offenders"—journalists guilty of repeated inaccuracies— led to the intervention of the judge himself on behalf of the media! In response to Dr McCann's mad demand that such repeat offenders should be banned from working at all, Leveson stirred in his seat and tried to bring him back to reality.

"I understand exactly why you're saying that," said Leveson soothingly, "but just let me share with you the difficulty, that what journalists do is exercise the right of free speech..."

"Sure," was the Red King's brisk answer and then he was off again, the chestnut lumps above his cheeks standing forth once more, dealing with his beloved subject of appropriate punishment for his enemies.

"Yes," said the judge as the end of this peroration, adding, "I wasn't criticising you at all."

What's the score?

So much for the passions. How did he score on the truth index? Any improvement? The essence of Gerry McCanns' account of their Portuguese experiences followed closely the story first outlined in his Edinburgh Festival interviews and then developed to the Commons select committee.
  • The media had "descended", arrived out of the blue, confronting him on his return from Portimao police headquarters.
  • They were supportive and accurate at first. Then, as news died down and the parents decided to withdraw from their media campaign on behalf of their daughter, the media had to invent stories to satisfy the insatiable demands of their employers.
  • Most of the inventions were wild and offensive accusations that the parents were guilty of involvement in the death of their child, or even, for example, had "sold her", much of the stuff being taken from the Portuguese media. These continued until they returned to the UK.
  • Because of the draconian Portuguese judicial secrecy rules they were unable to counter these monstrous fantasies.
None of this is true.

Media arrival

As all of us outside parliament and inquiry hearings know the media were contacted on a very wide scale during the night of May 3/4 by people working on their behalf and with their consent. With judicial secrecy plus the explicit instruction from the PJ "no media" in place it could not have been the Portuguese who alerted the media, let alone turned an "incident", potentially liable to be resolved by daybreak like other missing children events, into a huge United Kingdom story. It was only possible for the media to have descended in their hundreds if they had been deliberately alerted en masse by agents of the parents.

For Gerry McCann, though, everything begins not with the group alerting the media, contrary to police instructions, during the night of May 3, but with the sudden appearance of the media crowd on the afternoon of May 4. As he told the commons committee:

"The first impressions really started on day one when we came back to Praia da Luz having spent the day in Portimao at the police station. Clearly, there was a huge media presence there already."

But perhaps Dr McCann has been reading the demolition of this claim in the Blacksmith Bureau, along with other websites which he tells the inquiry—chestnuts swelling?—he will deal with "going forward". For he has altered his position just a little, even though, of course, he can't contradict his previous claims. Now he has added in his written evidence to the inquiry:

"Jon Corner, a good friend and godparent to the twins used his media experience to release a number of pictures of Madeleine to the whole of the UK media in the early hours of the 4 May 2007 to publicise her image."

So, a tiny change. Yes, but leaving aside all the other emails and phone calls made during the night of May 3, was Jon Corner doing this at the parents' request?

No. McCann adds in his verbal evidence:

"... a very good friend of ours [Corner] who we spoke to in the early hours of 4 May took it upon himself [our italics] to issue photographs of Madeleine to all the major media outlets in the UK."

Took it upon himself.
That's clear for the future then.

The change in media reporting

Websites such as the computer generated EMM news tracker listing Madeleine McCann stories certainly show a slackening of new information in July. But there is no correlation with the claims by the pair that they wished to take a lower profile: interviews with the couple in the media are shown not only to have continued unabated but to have increased in length and intensity as they began to defend themselves, rather than concentrating on "the search for Maddie". The argument that there was a vacuum due to their attempted withdrawal which required filling by invented stories is clearly false.

The new stories

The new stories dating from July were not inventions of the media. Indeed an argument can be made—remember Oldfield crying on May 10—that for the very first time the media were reporting truthfully on the affair: that almost from the beginning, and certainly since May 10 the "search for Madeleine", stripped of Team McCann/ Alex Woolfall inspired camouflage, consisted of investigation into the Tapas 9's claims. That was the story but the early reporting, so much approved of, and inspired by, the McCanns, never reflected the reality of what was actually going on.

Both in the House of Commons and in the Leveson inquiry the McCanns have distorted history by deliberately conflating the mad and disgusting inventions of the Express and other gutter papers reaching into September, with the truthful reports starting in July that they were the subject of police investigation themselves, reports which the parents did everything they could to deny or suppress, as Madeleine and Part One of this piece describe.

All along, again exemplified by Gerry McCann's interviews in Scotland during the Edinburgh Festival, questions about why rumours of their investigation for possible involvement were appearing in both the Portuguese and UK media were met with the repeated response from the pair that it was a "mystery" why the stuff was being printed. But it wasn't a mystery at all: the McCanns knew perfectly well why. And none of that had anything to do with the later mad and vicious nonsense about "selling Madeleine" and the rest.

That, from early July onwards, the police were deliberately leaking to the Portuguese press while overrating the strength of their evidence is irrelevant to the issue of why the UK were printing stuff suggesting that they were potential suspects: rightly or wrongly they were potential suspects, the media knew it and the parents knew it but chose to deny it.

Hostages to judicial secrecy

Finally, the parents maintained to the inquiry, as before, that they were constrained from answering their critics by the threat of two years imprisonment under the judicial secrecy rules, a quite extraordinary fib in the light of Kate McCann's revelations in her book of how the pair had time and again successfully evaded the rules using family, friends and allied journalists. This is one example of how the parents ignored that law any time it suited them in the crucial war for the support of the UK public.

Lori Campbell In Praia Da Luz, Sunday Mirror
, 12 August: "There is also further "concrete evidence" that Madeleine was still ALIVE when she left the holiday apartment. Her kidnapper had a window of just five minutes to strike - from when dad Gerry last checked on the children until family friend Jane Tanner saw a man carrying away a child she is sure was Madeleine wrapped in a blanket...The new revelations rubbish reports in Portuguese newspapers this week that she was murdered or died in an accident inside the villa. And they come as local police Chief Inspector Olegario Sousa ruled Gerry and Kate out of the inquiry - and admitted for the first time Madeleine could be dead. Now, the Sunday Mirror can give a true picture of what happened when Kate found her daughter missing."

The information was provided to Lori Campbell by Kate McCann. For a further strong example see the very important "Beyond the Smears" in the Times. The journalist in that story has admitted in writing that he was fed confidential information that had never appeared elsewhere by Gerry McCann. There are many other examples.

And we have:

Page 246, September 7: "For a good couple of hours we were on the phone calling family and friends to make them aware of the situation and to give them the green light [our italics] to voice their outrage and despair [to the media] if they wanted to."

Page 246, September 7: "[Justine] was ringing selected newspaper editors in the UK. We knew only too well how we would be portrayed in Portugal that morning and Justine wanted to give the British media a broad outline of what was really going on..."

Gerry McCann answers questions under oath!…

As you can see, the evidence offered by this group of witnesses under the rules of the inquiry is being accepted without close examination for veracity, a procedure which rather suits Kate and Gerry McCann. Nevertheless there was one incident which gives us a very faint hint of how the McCanns might perform under real cross examination, rather than the easy ride provided both here and in the sycophantic commons committee hearings. In his written statement for the Leveson inquiry Gerry McCann wrote:

"When I gave evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport select committee in 2009 a number of questions were [sic] raised as to the presence or otherwise of the PCC during this period and their willingness to get involved. Whilst we understand that the PCC have said they tried to contact us through the British Embassy in Portugal in May 2007 the first we were aware of it was when the PCC gave evidence to the Committee in 2009....however when it came to the reporting of articles both defamatory and otherwise the PCC did nothing that we are aware of. The PCC did nothing proactive before our libel complaint. We did approach the PCC about these articles but the then chairman, Sir Christopher Meyer, explicitly told us that it would be better if we were to seek redress through the courts. I found it amazing that the press regulator could do nothing to regulate the press."

Now just about every word in this paragraph was a serious misrepresentation of the facts, only this time they didn't get away with it. It almost certainly came about because, in preparing his written statement for Leveson, McCann had copied out his original stuff for the Commons committee, completely forgetting that he was copying one of his own, er, mistakes. And the Commons committee had checked it out against another witness, Sir Christopher himself, and found it wanting, as one of their reports demonstrated.

The point was that, leaving aside the claim that the PCC had never contacted them, Gerry McCann was saying that Sir Christopher, on behalf of the PCC, was telling him that they didn't want to know about the false stories and told him to sue instead. Sir Christopher's version was very different. Which was true?

It appears that Sir Christopher, who clearly has his own views on the truthfulness or otherwise of Gerry McCann, wasn't willing to leave to chance which version would be accepted by the inquiry. Did he approach Leveson legal staff? Someone, certainly, had drawn the inquiry's attention to the facts as described in the commons committee report before the McCanns appeared.

…and gets stuffed

Counsel for the Leveson inquiry:
There's a whole section [of the report of the commons committee] that goes to that [the PCC] issue. The position I think is—I'm back in your statement, paragraph 101— the PCC's position is that at an early stage they put a message out that they were ready, willing and able to assist you. This was in May 2007. Do you follow me?


I think your evidence is, well, you never got that message. Was that right?

[waffling] If I did, it was lost in the time when we were obviously dealing with lots of things, and I would say probably similar to Mrs Gascoigne who gave evidence earlier this morning, that I was only vaguely aware of the PCC at that time....[continues to waffle]

But counsel took him not just through that rather dodgy answer but to the other issue: who had told the truth about the PCC's attitude, he or Sir Christopher Meyer?

The general thrust of what you were told by Sir Christopher Meyer during the course of an informal that if you wanted to deal with the issue of libel, well, then the route was legal recourse, legal action. But if you wanted to deal with it in some other way, then the PCC might be able to help?

: Yes.

That, of course, was Sir Christopher's version, not his. Counsel for the inquiry then wanted to be quite clear for the record.

: Does that capture the sense of that meeting?

But McCann wouldn't say yes or no. Instead he launched into a ludicrously long piece of damage limitation and flannel. Bored readers can ignore it but it gives a flavour of how Dr McCann is likely to deal with issues of the truth in future judicial settings, whether involving libel or other matters. Forget the flannel and remember the simple question: will he now confirm that it was Sir Christopher's version that is correct, not his own?

It's probably fair to put in there that I had a number of conversations with Sir Christopher, primarily because we became friendly with his wife, Lady Catherine, through her work with PACT, so on that first occasion I met Sir Christopher and he broadly asked, "How are the media treating you?" and we were very open and at that point we said, "Considering the interest, not too bad”, and we didn't really have too much in the way of specific complaints. I did have further informal conversations and they also dealt with correspondence from Kingsley Napley over the period, but the gist of the conversations, and most of my dialogue with him, informal rather than written, was that we agreed with our legal advice and we took the best legal advice we could get, that the way to stop this was to take legal action and not to go to the PCC and I think Sir Christopher agreed with that.

If you search underneath that garbage you will detect the answer, "yes": Sir Christopher was correct. He had never told McCann to sue rather than dealing with matters through the PCC; Gerry McCann, on the contrary, had told him, that that was what he was going to do.

Tedious, we know, but just for once we have seen Gerry McCann's veracity being tested in a legal tribunal concerned with facts, rather than in staged interviews from which he can withdraw, or stalk out of the studio, at any time. For some of us the result is exactly what we would expect.

As for the rest there was a predictable conflict between the McCanns' initial and written assertions of being innocent victims of the media, like Mrs Gascoigne perhaps, and the weighty evidence that the two sides were, and remain, as thick as thieves, negotiating, arguing, shouting, dealing, suing and settling right up into 2011, just like the cheap celebs and their agents. Not quite Mr and Mrs Dowler, somehow. But we knew that anyway, didn't we?

So, the mixture as many times before. After four and a half years they continue to serve up evidence of why we can't believe what they say. And each time the evidence grows a little stronger. Meanwhile the evidence for abduction...

Spinning in the wind, 11 December 2011
Spinning in the wind The Blacksmith Bureau

Posted by John Blacksmith
Sunday, 11 December 2011 at 19:47

The shovels and pulleys came out in the middle of the night, Kate McCann grasped her crucifix tight to her chest and Lo! The Coffin is among ye. Team McCann, flyblown and rotted, silent for so many months, climbs out of the grave and crawls into behind-the-scenes action.

Now Scotland Yard are not going to talk to anyone about the details of the review, any more than Leicester police have after four and a half years; travel details and numbers, yes, but operational stuff, not a chance. So the stuff from Brunt and others was fiction and if the police didn't give them a nod or a steer - and, we repeat, they didn't - then it could only have been the Team.

And this is where it gets interesting. The only way we're going to know which way the review is heading is via the parents. Sooner or later they will get what they think is reliable information about the inquiry's direction and they'll start to spin pre-emptively - smily spin and "looking forward to the conclusions" and we'll assume they're home and dry; otherwise we'll watch them wriggle while their lawyers attempt to negotiate. But that should be a long way down the road, shouldn't it? Not while the Yard are still doing the fieldwork.

But the Team came out spinning about the police trips to Spain this month, and there wasn't a smile to be seen. Two hundred and forty three Google entries showing that the stuff had been planted pre-emptively all over the place, all because the word Barcelona had been mentioned. And, just in case anyone thinks it was a one off, back they came with further supposed detail a few days ago, this time bringing in Goatherd Edgar. Why is it so important to provide a fictitious reason for the Yard's presence in Spain?

Unlike 2007, when so many of the melodramatic features of the case emerged from the parents' weird and distorted imaginations, Gerry really is in the shadows now and doesn't know who the Team can trust. James Murray of the Express, who helped to embroider the latest version of the Spanish trip, is as close to Amaral as he is to the parents and his unpredictable master hasn't forgotten that half a million libel settlement. And - "sooner or later they will get what they think is reliable information" - did someone at the Yard deliberately tempt the McCanns, to see, just like us, which way they would spin in the wind?

Plenty more jockeying for position to come.

Not spinning but dangling, 14 December 2011
Not spinning but dangling The Blacksmith Bureau

Franceso Marco
Franceso Marco

Posted by John Blacksmith
Wednesday, 14 December 2011 at 19:19

Let's recap.

News came out that Scotland Yard had been in Barcelona recently. At this point, as we wrote the other day, the freshly dug-up Mitchell and Team began spinning with a loud whizzing noise, planting their version of events all over Keirland, otherwise known as the overground media. The story was that Scotland Yard had come to the city to follow up perhaps the most risible of all the "sightings", the crazed "yacht lady" incident. Suppressing our giggles and taking it seriously for a microsecond, what could they follow up? The source of the story doesn't live in Barcelona but in Britain and the supposed woman isn't Spanish. Come on.

The obvious reason for the Yard's presence was to talk to Barcelona-based Metodo, and so it has transpired. Yet the Team hadn't mentioned them once until yesterday, leaving us all to conclude - correctly - that they were deliberately attempting to mislead and take the focus away from the "detectives".

Today we know that their efforts to conceal the real target failed: the Yard have been talking to Metodo and have taken possession of a large number of documents - thirty boxes, according to Metodo's boss, Francisco Marco. Marco, who just happened to appear on Spanish TV this morning, said that they had "provided the Yard with all the documents and information we have collated worldwide about Madeleine's disappearance so they can continue the investigations we carried out in Spain, Morocco and the rest of the world".

So there we are. If you live in Keirland you're at liberty to believe that the Yard sent four detectives to Barcelona to collect thirty boxes of "sightings", none of which were part of the investigation that the Yard are reviewing.

If you live in the real world you'll be more interested in exactly what Gerry McCann instructed Metodo to do, both in Portugal and elsewhere, and any evidence that shows how those instructions were carried out. And the detectives live in the real world, not Keirland.

The dangers of celebrity, 19 December 2011
The dangers of celebrity The Blacksmith Bureau

Gerry and Kate McCann

Posted by John Blacksmith
Monday, 19 December 2011 at 00:39

Why won't they just shut up? Or, to put it more delicately, why are they just as intent now on getting stories into the media as they were, say, in the far off days of November 2007? What's going on?

A campaign?

Yes, absolutely. Not the diary nonsense - that wasn't part of any plan, only Mitchell aiming a fire extinguisher at the flames ignited in the Leveson inquiry. For the rest, just look at the evidence.

The McCann stories over the last month have been invented and offered to the media, not sought out by them, and they are all linked. Equally they haven't been provided transparently in the normal manner - by media conferences or press releases - but by a news management team using the usual tricks: anonymity, source material restrictions, contact with favoured journalists, "false dialogues" (in which one of the media team pretends to be responding to a story which they have in fact provided) and a definite "line". All the kind of stuff which isn't far from phone hacking in its conscious duplicity and which has helped to land the press in its present miserable state.

The material about Scotland Yard, about Metodo and about the latest "abduction" claim has all been provided using these tricks and the parents are clearly the source. Ah, the supporters of the parents might say, this is all part of the never-ending "search for Maddie".

No. The first Scotland Yard story speculating about the Barcelona sighting does not appeal for further information but actively misleads; the second Scotland Yard-related piece about Metodo does not seek information about the child; the latest story about "police accept abduction theory" is concerned only with the veracity of the parents' version of events and does not involve Madeleine McCann at all.

Who gains?

So it's not about the child. What is it about? The obvious answer is ask the parents. But it says something about their weird and unassailable place in society that the mere idea of asking them such a question, let alone getting an answer, is literally incredible. In the absence of any openness from the pair we can only say that it looks like they are seeking somehow to influence the news.

As in November 2007? But they were suspects then! Skulking in Rothley while their agents looked to thwart a European Arrest Warrant by "expunging" doubt and cementing vital public support. Now they've been exonerated. They have their review. There isn't a word of criticism in the media and their privacy is respected. They have their own detectives checking for any possible sightings of the child. They are, by dint of the fund which directly benefits them, rich. And they have the ear of virtually anyone they wish to meet, from the archbishop of Canterbury to the home secretary. Left alone to get on with their work the British and Portuguese police may even find their daughter. So what's wrong?


Given the circumstances there can only be two answers. The first is that the parents have lost it. There is the darkness surrounding the disappearance of their daughter, a darkness that can never be shared; and their subsequent fame brought with it the threat to identity chronicled in numberless celebrity break-downs and suicides. Kate McCann, indeed, that veteran of the Oprah Winfrey show, can remind one of the grotesque star of Sunset Boulevard in her consuming need for public approbation and belief. And Gerry McCann seems quite unable to communicate without simultaneously, perhaps unconsciously, burnishing the image which he believes that same public have of him. Perhaps their compulsive leaking and spinning is a symptom, not a vice.


The only other interpretation that would fit all the facts is that, while both may be unwell, their latest campaign has a certain rationality: just as in November 2007 they are attempting to use the media, and therefore the public, as a human shield. Only this time we cannot yet see the threat which they fear will engulf them.

Some thoughts on the libel trial, 21 December 2011
Some thoughts on the libel trial The Blacksmith Bureau

Lord Justice Leveson

Posted by John Blacksmith
Wednesday, 21 December 2011 at 20:09

We have heard from the Daily Express journalists today and there is little in their evidence that will come as a surprise. There are, however, issues that some people in Portugal, chiefly those surrounding Goncalo Amaral, might need to think about.

Not us, because we don't claim that the McCanns disposed of their daughter's body. Our position has been clear all along: that Gerry and Kate McCann are documented liars whose conduct has thrown a pall of defensive misinformation and confusion over the disappearance of their daughter and who have attempted by both fair means and foul to restrict the information about the case that reaches the British public.

McCanns make judge talk nonsense

As if on cue a typical example of that confusion occurred on Wednesday when Lord Leveson highlighted the fact that many of the wild Express stories came after September 7 when the pair were made arguidos. He invited the journalist Pilditch to see the parallels with contempt of court in the UK context, that is, once a person is charged with an offence then all potentially prejudicial comment must cease. Once the pair had been made arguidos, he said to Mr Pilditch, then surely you should have thought it was now time to be silent or coldly factual about them.

But Lord Leveson had forgotten, for the moment, the McCanns' courtroom redefinition of the word arguido. According to them, and contrary to most English definitions of the Portuguese term until now, it didn't mean "suspect" at all! So if it didn't mean suspect then it couldn't possibly have any parallels with the English contempt of court question, and Lord Leveson's point was inaccurate and meaningless.

That is what we mean by "a pall of defensive misinformation and confusion", in this case under oath, and it confused and misled Lord Leveson.

But then his lordship speaks the truth

Mr Pilditch clearly believed, and still believes, that his information - not necessarily his reports - accurately reflected the thinking of "senior officers of the Portuguese police", the so-called "Tal y Qual" question. He claimed, indeed, that the case papers (and, he later added, Amaral's book and the Lisbon hearings) demonstrated that the PJ clearly had been thinking that way.

Counsel for all the celebrity victims, quite clearly recently briefed by solicitors for the McCanns, did not accept this, being very anxious to challenge Pilditch's interpretation of the case files with three examples of his own.

It is Lord Leveson's response to Sherborne's point that is of significance. Leveson is neutral; there are no clouds surrounding him; he is not Judge Eady. So his comments are a good guide to how a fair-minded European judicial figure without deep knowledge of the affair responds to what he is told is the PJ case against Kate & Gerry McCann. He stressed these unarguable points.

• The PJ had provided no evidence at all to support any of the "tittle-tattle" about the McCanns' supposed guilt that the journalists had reported.

• The journalists themselves now accepted that it was second-hand "tittle-tattle" and was not based on firm evidence.

• The case papers provided no evidence in support of the PJ claims, which the journalists clearly implied came from Amaral.

• From the legal point of view, therefore, all of it is fiction.

These are the views of a judge on what he had heard. There was no dissent from counsel for the newspapers or from the witnesses; the hearings were in public; we heard what the witnesses said and it is impossible to disagree with the judge's conclusions.

The implications for Goncalo Amaral

It is no use people assuming that Leveson's comments are irrelevant because he doesn't know the case in detail or, worse, because of some paranoid fantasy that he is part of a McCann-protecting British establishment: these are agreed facts and the parents defence team will lead with them at the forthcoming libel trial. The onus is on S. Amaral to provide convincing evidence of his own in refutation.

Now S. Amaral has claimed that he was "about to" get convincing evidence implicating the pair when he was pulled from the case. We think that is the most dangerous route that he can possibly embark on, for it is exactly what the McCanns' defence team expect, and want, him to do. It is a counter-factual, an unprovable hypothesis. Moreover it fits in with the picture they wish to paint of someone who guesses first and looks for evidence afterwards and then makes excuses when none turns up. Just listen to it in your head: "you thought you would have got the evidence if you hadn't been unfairly taken off the case at the instigation of the UK?" Yes. "In the way you thought you would get evidence confirming the dog's activities?" No answer. "In the way you thought you would get evidence that her body had been buried and hidden?" No answer. "In the way you thought you would get evidence for us today that Gordon Brown had got you removed?" No answer.

The claim that he was pulled from the case under UK pressure makes the hole deeper. The McCanns will call witnesses, including Alipio Ribeiro, to show that S. Amaral's removal from the case was in no way prompted by UK intrigues in support of the McCanns and S. Amaral will be totally unable to refute such evidence - because it is true.

Goncalo Amaral needs to understand that the UK interference claim will never be accepted judicially and that making it in February will be fatal. He should, even at this late stage, abandon it. Yes, yes, we know, we're only the little Bureau and are ignorant about Portugal blah-blah - but one can only speak as one sees: S. Amaral, whom we still support, has admitted before that he was shocked by the surprise violence of the McCanns' successful assault on him; it might be wise to ensure that he is not shocked and surprised again.

Firstly, we think he is going to have to provide evidence explaining systematically and comprehensively what the grounds were that led the team of officers, of which he was a part, to focus on the parents. If it is convincing and backed up by other police officers then it will weigh with a Portuguese court.

Secondly, he will have to demonstrate why the absence of evidence incriminating the parents did not lead to the PJ immediately dropping its interest in them and looking elsewhere. Was it reasonable to persevere? Or was it irrational? What, exactly, was the view of the man in charge of the case, Alipio Ribeiro?

Thirdly there is the evidence of exactly what happened on the night of September 6 2007. S. Amaral has claimed to friends of ours that Kate McCann wanted to make admissions about the circumstances of the child's disappearance. Her chronology of events that night, like the rest of her account of September 6, is not convincing and the latter includes both contemporaneous and current claims of police misbehaviour, including the so-called and much modified "deal" assertions. He has to provide, somehow, evidence of what the actual sequence of events at police headquarters was that evening.

Lastly, the prosecutors asserted in their final report that there was "no evidence" of the commission of any crime by the McCanns in the investigation case files; in the same report they noted that the investigation was incomplete by virtue of the McCanns and their friends failing to co-operate with the inquiry (on the question of reconstructing their movements and clarifying anomalies in their statements). At no point does the report state that their absence was merely marginal or unimportant.

Examining and drawing out the implications of these two statements in the report is likely to be of crucial significance. "No evidence of the commission of any crime" means explicitly and unarguably "no evidence of the commission of any crime in the files submitted to us of this incomplete investigation." At some stage Menezes and his colleague have to tell the court exactly how they reconcile this apparent contradiction and exactly what they meant when they wrote that the parents "lost the chance to demonstrate their innocence".

Paolo Rebelo, who is likely to be called, should have to testify as to why he attempted so forcefully to get the friends back for the reconstruction. That he was doing so as late as April 2008 speaks of the importance that he, and his post-Amaral phase of the investigation, attached to their participation. Why did he then decide to curtail the investigation without such important evidence and without asking the prosecutors for further time?

It can be done

We believe that a properly marshalled defence by S. Amaral's team covering these points can win him the case: the Portuguese appeal court judges have already accepted that the prosecutors' report was an "interpretation" and that S. Amaral's alternative interpretation was valid. But time has passed: now he has to show the flesh and bones of his interpretation.

He does not have to provide evidence proving the McCanns guilty of a crime involving their child, only that the investigation of which he was a part had good reasons for focusing on them, acted in good faith to establish the facts of the disappearance and had evidence to suggest that a "complete" rather than admittedly "incomplete" investigation would lead to different conclusions than those non-judicially expressed in the prosecutors' report. Nor does admitting that he systematically leaked to two journalists invalidate in any way the direction the police inquiry under him and Ribeiro took. All that will assuredly lose it for him will be a reliance on matters that he cannot substantiate.

The McCann lawyers know the score

It is clear from Mr Sherborne's questions today that, unlike Lord Leveson, whose knowledge of the case depends only on the newspapers and what he has heard in an inquiry of which the McCanns are only a part, and unlike also the family's ignorant supporters, the McCann defence team knows what the parents' vulnerabilities are and knows that its job is very much unfinished. The book Madeleine, when closely read, makes this even clearer. But while that has great significance for all of us in the future, it will not help S. Amaral in February: then he will have to present an evidence-based defence to the claims against him.

With thanks to Nigel at McCann Files


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