Madeleine McCann vanished in May 2007
Private detectives leading the hunt for Madeleine
McCann faced questions last night after a Mail on Sunday investigation
revealed apparent shortcomings in chasing a ‘strong lead’.
The detectives failed to make even rudimentary
inquiries before announcing a ‘significant’ development in the worldwide
search for the six-year-old.
At a Press conference in London, lead investigator
David Edgar appealed for help in finding a ‘bit of a Victoria Beckham
lookalike’ whom a British tourist saw looking agitated outside a
dockside restaurant in Barcelona three days after Madeleine disappeared.
Retired Cheshire Detective Inspector Mr Edgar said
it was possible that Madeleine had been smuggled into the Spanish port
by yacht from the Portuguese resort of Praia da Luz, where she vanished
on May 3, 2007.
The agitated woman, thought to be Australian, made
a remark to the tourist which suggested she was waiting for the arrival
of a child.
Mr Edgar, 52, told the 50 journalists from several
countries: ‘It’s a strong lead. Madeleine could have been in Barcelona
by this point. The fact the conversation took place near the marina
could be significant.’
a result of his appeal for information and the issuing of an e-fit image
of the woman, the search switched to Australia, where a woman in Sydney
made a statement to police claiming to know the identity of the mystery
female seen in Barcelona, although this apparently came to nothing.
Mail on Sunday, however, has established that members of Mr Edgar’s team
who had visited Barcelona:
Failed to speak to anyone working at the seafood
restaurant near where the agitated woman was seen at 2am.
Failed to ask the port authority about movement of
boats around the time Madeleine disappeared.
Failed to ask if the mystery woman had been filmed
Knew nothing about the arrival of an Australian
luxury yacht just after Madeleine vanished until told by British
journalists, who gave them the captain’s mobile phone number.
Failed to interview anyone at a nearby dockside bar
where, according to Mr Edgar, the mystery woman was later seen drinking.
Failed to ask British diplomats in Spain for advice
before or during the visit.
Also, Spanish police could not confirm that they
had been contacted by the British investigators.
Last night Mr Edgar said: ‘We are not above
criticism and I take responsibility for any shortcomings. If somebody
has not done what they should have done, that’s my job to deal with
Conversation: The bar belonging to Jose Luiz Lopez where the
key conversation between a tourist and an Australian woman
allegedly took place
He was hired by Kate and Gerry McCann after
Portuguese authorities shelved their investigation last year.
According to the Find Madeleine Fund website, ‘the
majority of the fund money has been and continues to be spent on
investigative work to help to find Madeleine’.
The McCanns, doctors living in Rothley,
Leicestershire, originally hired Barcelona-based detective agency Metodo
3 to look for Madeleine in 2007 as they were convinced that Portuguese
police had given up the search.
Metodo 3 reportedly charged £50,000-a-month and its
director, Francisco Marco, was criticised after making a series of
boasts about his team’s ability to find Madeleine.
In December 2007, he caused a sensation by claiming
he knew who had kidnapped her and hoped to have her home by Christmas.
Metodo 3’s six-month contract ran out in January
2008, although it has continued to help with the search.
The Mail on Sunday’s inquiry by a Spanish-speaking
reporter in Barcelona last week has exposed worrying gaps in the British
detectives’ strategy, including failure to question several people who
might have vital information.
Clarence Mitchell, left, and David Edgar with their e-fit of
the 'Victoria Beckham lookalike'
Jose Luis Lopez, owner of the El Rey de la Gamba restaurant where the
mystery woman was seen, said: ‘The private detectives did not make any
enquiries at my restaurant.
‘I am almost always here when the restaurant is
open and my staff would have informed me if anyone had approached them
about such an important matter. You are the first person to ask about
this Australian woman.’
The manager of the bar next door, Kennedy’s Irish
Sailing Club, where the woman was later seen drinking, said: ‘You are
the first person to ask about this Australian woman or the Madeleine
case. If someone came into the bar asking questions about Madeleine, I
would hear about it very quickly.’
Barcelona port director Joan Guitart said: ‘Nobody has been here asking
questions about Madeleine or this Australian woman. This is the first I
have heard about any possible link to the port. We would be happy to
help the investigation in any way possible
|Riddle: Was Madeleine
taken to Barcelona marina?
A senior port authority worker added: ‘There are
several security cameras monitoring the port but we have not been
approached about footage from the night in question.
‘The footage is not available, as it was over two
years ago that this conversation is said to have taken place. But I
would have expected anyone carrying out the investigation to at least
have asked about it.’
A source at the British Embassy in Madrid said:
‘The detectives did not inform us or the consulate in Barcelona that
they were coming to Spain, nor request any assistance in their
Jewellery designer Hannah Tait, 35, from London,
who lives on a 34ft yacht yards from El Rey de la Gamba, said: ‘This
place is like a small village so news travels very fast.
Nobody has been here asking about Madeleine or the
‘The first I heard was when I read about this on
the internet. If someone had been investigating something so important
here in the port, I would have heard about it.’
A Barcelona-based private detective with more than
20 years’ experience of missing persons cases said: ‘I cannot understand
why the Madeleine detectives would have released this story and e-fit to
the public without first making their own investigation in the port.
‘It beggars belief that they did not even speak to
the owner of the restaurant or the port authorities.’
|Identified: The Mail on
Sunday discovered Rhonda Wyllie's yacht Willpower was in the
marina at the vital time in 2007
One of the most significant pieces of information
about a possible Barcelona connection to Madeleine’s disappearance was
uncovered by British journalists.
Later, The Mail on Sunday gained access to port
records for the key dates of May 6 and 7, 2007.
They revealed that nine boats arrived in the marina
in the 48-hour period, only one of which was unfamiliar to harbour
It was the £6million Sunseeker powerboat Willpower,
owned by the Australian multi-millionairess Rhonda Wyllie.
When the then captain of the boat was eventually
found, he said he had not been approached by any British detectives.
Although he has since been contacted by Mr Edgar’s
team, the investigators are in the embarrassing position of having to
explain why it was left to reporters to discover the boat’s presence in
Barcelona and trace its former captain.
There is no suggestion that Mrs Wyllie, widow of
property tycoon Bill Wyllie, is connected in any way with Madeleine’s
The Barcelona stage of the inquiry was led by Mr
Edgar’s assistant, former Merseyside Detective Sergeant Arthur Cowley,
and an interpreter.
Mr Cowley, 57, is sole director of Alpha
Investigation Group, based in Flintshire, North Wales.
He declined to discuss the details of his visit to
Asked last night why Mr Cowley and his colleague
had not spoken to the port authorities, Mr Edgar said: ‘My instructions
were that they couldn’t get through security at the marina at the time.
I’ve got to take that at face value. We are a small team. We are dealing
with finite resources and will have to manage with that.’
He said Mr Cowley’s company had no connection with
the Madeleine investigation.
‘I am employed by the McCann family and I pick my staff,’ he added.
Madeleine was nearly four when she disappeared from
a holiday flat while her parents dined with friends in a nearby
Last night the McCanns’ spokesman Clarence
Mitchell said: ‘The private investigation into Madeleine’s
disappearance is being conducted entirely professionally and thoroughly
under the direction of Dave Edgar.
dark: Jose Luiz Lopez, the bar owner who was not spoken to
by private detectives
‘However, not all of the bars were open during the
investigators’ visit. Because of the transient nature of bar work, it
was also found that many of the workers who were spoken to were not
present at the marina in May 2007.
'Other relevant personnel in the area were also
interviewed, although we will not
discuss the detail of who was spoken to for operational reasons.
‘The information, once gathered, including
photographs, was brought back to the UK for witness confirmation. Both
British and Portuguese police were kept fully informed of the
investigators’ visit to Spain.
‘The news conference was then held for the simple
reason that public assistance was needed once the e-fit had been drawn
up from the witness account. The public appeal does not preclude further
enquiries being conducted in Barcelona as appropriate.’
He declined to say how much the private detectives
were being paid, adding: ‘We will not discuss contractual matters
concerning the investigation costs nor the investigator remuneration.’