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Did they expect me to confess to a crime they had made up'

Original Source: SUN: 09 MAY 2011
Published: 09 May 2011

KATE and Gerry McCann had been stunned to be named as suspects over their missing daughter Madeleine.

In this extract, edited and abridged by ANTONELLA LAZZERI and OLIVER HARVEY, Kate tells of her horror at learning Portuguese police were offering her a "deal" - if she confessed to hiding her daughter's body.

THE only conclusion I could draw was that we'd been framed, though this seemed completely implausible.

Faced with something like this, way beyond the sphere of your experience, it is natural to dismiss it as impossible, but that doesn't mean it is.

When I thought about all that had happened so far, maybe anything was possible.

In any event, it seemed we'd underestimated the magnitude of the fight we had on our hands. Then came the best bit. My lawyer Carlos Pinto de Abreu announced what 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.

Pardon' I really wasn't sure I could possibly have heard him correctly. 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'

And even more importantly, did they really expect me to confess to a crime they had made up, to falsely claim to the whole world that my daughter was dead, when the result would be that the whole world stopped looking for her'

"You need to think about it," Carlos insisted. "It would only be one of you. Gerry could go back to work." I was speechless.


The incentive to accept this "offer" seemed to be that if we didn't agree to it, the authorities could or would go after us for murder, and if we were found guilty, we might both receive life sentences.

Gerry was distraught now. He was on his knees, sobbing, his head hung low. "We're finished. Our life is over," he kept saying over and over again. It was excruciating to see him like this. I love him so much and he is usually so strong.

There was a phrase Carlos must have used about twenty times: "This is the point of no return." I could feel myself shaking. He was a man with three daughters of his own.

"Do you want me to lie' What would you do, Carlos'

"If one of your daughters was missing, and this happened to you, what would you do' Would you confess to a crime you hadn't committed, knowing full well it would mean everyone would stop searching for her'"

"I'd consider it, yes."

Heaven help us. My confidence in Carlos was evaporating almost as quickly as my faith in Portuguese justice. It was one thing to make us aware of the Polcia Judicicia's proposal, and perhaps Carlos was duty bound to do that.

It was quite another, however, to suggest we accept it. I was horrified, and told him so in no uncertain terms.

My anger and ferocious maternal instinct began to permeate Gerry's despair. He was regaining his composure, his powers of reason and fighting spirit. "They've got nothing!" he fired at Carlos. He began pointing out the many flaws in the PJ's "evidence" and the complete absence of logic.

We'd experienced many periods of despair since our beloved daughter had been taken away, but this one would take some beating. Our lives, our family, our whole future hung in the balance.

FRIDAY 7 SEPTEMBER. After a measly two hours' sleep we got up and braced ourselves for the day ahead. I vividly remember standing quietly for a few minutes in the sitting room. There were several thoughts scrolling through my mind.

There's going to be a riot when news of all this reaches people back in the UK.

There's no way our government will stand for this. (Four months down the line and still so naive!)

The PJ can beat me up and throw me in a prison cell but I will not lie . . . I will do everything I can to help Madeleine and to preserve our family . . . I know the truth and God knows the truth. Nothing else matters. It'll be OK.

Justine McGuinness, co-ordinator of the Find Madeleine Campaign, was going to drive me to Portimao. I needed to see the twins and hold them before I left Praia da Luz. After all, I had no idea whether I'd be coming back. Embracing them tightly, I told them, "I love you." Please God I'd be back doing the same that evening.

The street leading to the police station was again lined by huge crowds of press and onlookers.

I was suddenly boosted by a surge of adrenaline (must've been my Scouse fighting genes kicking in). I got out of the car and walked calmly towards the entrance, my head held high.

I felt strangely invincible. The police were not looking for Madeleine, I reminded myself. They hadn't been looking for my baby for weeks. The mere thought of that incensed me. There was no way I was going to let her down, too. Today Carlos had advised me not to answer any of the questions put to me. He explained that this was my right as an arguida and it was the safest option: any responses I gave might unintentionally implicate me in some way.

He knew the system better than I ever would, so it struck me as prudent to accept his guidance.

Then they started. What had I seen and heard after entering apartment 5A at 10pm on 3 May 2007' Who called the police' At what time' Who contacted the media'

It's actually quite difficult not to answer when someone asks you a question. The natural reaction is to reply, out of politeness if nothing else. And of course the urge to say what I thought about some of their vile and ridiculous insinuations was hard to suppress. On the other hand, I was very weary and at least repeating "No comment" didn't involve engaging my brain.

Liaison officer Ricardo Paiva played a more prominent role in the interrogation, which did nothing to maintain my equilibrium. This was the man who invited us to his home for dinner. Our children played with his son.

"The twins were restless in the UK so you sedated them'" he was saying. "In the UK you were trying to give Madeleine to a family member' You get stressed and frustrated with the kids'"

I knew exactly where this line of questioning was going and as much as it riled me, I refused to rise to it. Now Ricardo was giving me his spiel about the dogs. "These dogs have a 100 per cent success rate," he said, waving an A4 document in front of me.

"Two hundred cases and they've never failed. We have gone to the best laboratory in the world using low-copy DNA techniques."

His emphasis suggested this was the gold standard. I just stared at him, unable to hide my contempt. These dogs had never been used in Portugal before, and he knew little more about them than I did.

Ricardo started the video player. I saw the dogs going into apartment 5A, one at a time, with the handler, PC Martin Grime (then of the South Yorkshire police, later self-employed).

Each dog ran around the apartment, jumping over beds, into the wardrobe, generally having a good sniff.

At one point, the handler directed the dogs to a spot behind the couch in the sitting room, close to the curtains. He called the dogs over to him to investigate this site.

The dogs ultimately "alerted". I felt myself relax a little. This was not what I'd call an exact science. In footage of the apartment next door to ours, one of the dogs began to root in the corner of a room near a piece of furniture

PC Grime summoned the dog and they left the flat.

The film show continued. Now we were in an underground garage where eight or so cars were parked, including our rented Renault Scenic.

It was hard to miss: the windows were plastered with pictures of Madeleine. In medicine we would call this an "unblinded" study, one that is susceptible to bias.

One of the dogs ran straight past our car, nose in the air, heading towards the next vehicle.

The handler stopped next to the Renault and called the dog. It obeyed; returning to him, but then ran off again. Staying by the car, PC Grime instructed the dog to come back several times and directed it to certain parts of the vehicle before it eventually supplied an alert by barking.

Each time a dog gave a signal, Ricardo would pause the video and inform me that blood had been found in this site and that the DNA from the sample matched Madeleine's.

He would stare at me intently and ask me to explain this. These were the only times I didn't respond with a "No comment."

Instead I said I couldn't explain it, but neither could he. I remember feeling disdain for Ricardo.

What was he doing' I thought. Just following orders' Under my breath, I found myself whispering, "F****** tosser, f***** tosser." This quiet chant somehow kept me strong, kept me in control. This man did not deserve my respect. "F****** tosser."

When researching the validity of sniffer-dog evidence later, Gerry would discover that false alerts can be attributable to the conscious or unconscious signals of the handler. We would later learn that in his written report, PC Grime had emphasised that such alerts cannot be relied upon without corroborating evidence.

Towards the end of my interrogation, I walked over to Ricardo and asked why he' d asked us over to dinner that night. Had it been a strategic invitation' He looked a little uncomfortable. "Like everyone else, we trusted you," he said.

Good God in heaven. I think if anyone was justified in having problems trusting others, it was Gerry and me, not the PJ.

As I walked out of the interview room at 3.15pm, Gerry was on his way to Portim' for his interrogation. Carlos told me it looked as if we could be up in court on Monday. For the moment I would not be permitted to leave the country.

I was tired and desperate to see my children. As I squeezed my beautiful babies tightly, pressing my nose against them to inhale their sweet scent, not wanting to let them go, a sense of wellbeing and warmth swept over me.

This was what was important. This was why we needed to keep battling: our family; our children.

I went to bed. Kate McCann, the arguida. Publicly suspected of killing my precious daughter or at least of disposing of her body. The mere idea made me want to vomit.

The world was not only cruel, it was mad. Gerry wasn't back from his interrogation until 1.30am. Like me, he was officially declared an arguido at the start of the proceedings.


Ricardo had told him, too, that they had recovered Madeleine's DNA from inside the hire car, using the "best forensic scientists in the world".

When Gerry asked to see the DNA report, Ricardo became quite flustered, waving PC Grime's document in the air and saying, "It is the dogs that are important!"

At that point Gerry began to feel a lot better. He realised that no one could have planted forensic evidence to implicate us because - despite what we had been led to believe by the PJ and the newspaper headlines - there wasn't any such evidence.

They had no proof that Madeleine was dead. All they actually had was the signal of a dog trying to please its instructor in an apartment from which Madeleine had been taken three months earlier.

As we now know, the chemicals believed to create the "odour of death", putrescence and cadaverine, last no longer than 30 days. There were no decaying body parts for the dog to find. It was simply wrong.

It would be eleven months before we learned the truth from the released PJ files: the full report from the UK Forensic Science Service, sent to them before they interrogated us, had concluded that the DNA results were "too complex for meaningful interpretation".

There was no evidence whatsoever that Madeleine was dead. The search had to go on.

On the drive home from the police station it had become clear to Gerry that Carlos believed charges were likely and that we might have to stay in Portugal.

The preparation of a case like this could take years. If the charge was murder, rather than the lesser crime of hiding a body, we might even be remanded in custody for all that time. The prospect of being separated from Sean and Amelie, holed up in jail unable to prepare our defence properly, was terrifying. Gerry was seriously considering sneaking us into a car and driving us all across the border to Spain. It would have been crazy. The whole world would have thought we were guilty, and maybe that was what the police were hoping we'd do.

Most people find it hard to comprehend how innocent people can confess to crimes they haven't committed. Gerry and I don't.

Not now. The monumental psychological duress we were under can easily lead to bad, irrational decision-making. Thankfully, we resisted the urge to flee.

When we left Portugal, it would be with the blessing of the PJ and our heads held high.

SATURDAY 8 SEPTEMBER. We were notified by Liz Dow, the British consul in Lisbon, that Lu' Neves and Guilhermino Encarna'o had declared us "free" to leave the country whenever we wished.


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