McCann remains the key in the hunt to find her
daughter, Portuguese police said as they began work on a
minute-by-minute reconstruction of her movements.
Detectives want to double-check her every step on the night
Madeleine disappeared in
Praia da Luz,
newspaper 24 Horas said.
Police are interested in an alleged 90-minute gap when they
believe Mrs McCann was alone with her children in the holiday
of the McCanns said they had not been contacted to give any
further information about the night of May 3. The focus on Mrs
McCann comes as an assessment by five British criminal
investigation experts raised unsettling new questions about the
case. Here, we present their findings:
It is 168 days since
Madeleine McCann vanished, and
the fog of conflicting conspiracy theories continues to grow.
Will we ever find Maddy? Expert Dave Canter says she
was most likely abducted
Only one fact remains undisputed: the alarm was raised by Kate
McCann just after 10pm on May 3. Beyond that, it is impossible
to tell fact from fiction.
Uncertainty reigns because we know so little: the Portuguese
secrecy laws forbid the police and the official suspects -
and Gerry McCann
- from talking
about the case.
Speculation based on unofficial leaks is all the media have to
Unfounded and uncorroborated, too many of these rumours are as
far-fetched as they are malicious.
So to help provide some firmer ground amid the conflicting
reports, Channel 4's Dispatches sent
in criminal investigation to Praia da
Luz to assess the state of the inquiry. Between them, they have
134 years of experience in dealing with serious crimes, such as
abduction, murder and paedophilia.
Their aim was to shed light on each area of the case that was
controversial and confusing: the handling of forensic evidence,
the search for a likely abductor and the possibility that the
family might be involved in Madeleine's disappearance.
They visited the key locations, reviewed all the evidence in the
public domain and drew on their previous cases as well as
statistical probabilities to assess what might have taken place
The experts give their view: Search expert Gary Lig
(left) asks whether the Portuguese police searched
the sewers in Praia da Luz, while media handler Matt
Tapp says Portuguese secrecy laws hampered the
Mistakes: Experts (from left to right) David Canter,
David Barclay and Chris Stevenson explain where the
Portuguese police have been going wrong
Their work threw up revelations that are as intriguing as they
The first stage of their investigation began with a review of
the three basic theories about how Madeleine could have
disappeared. First: could she have wandered off by herself?
Second: was she abducted? And last: could something have
happened to Madeleine in the apartment itself?
The first theory is perhaps the simplest to deal with, say our
experts - and the easiest to dispel.
Professor David Canter, Director of Investigative Psychology at
Liverpool University, is one of Britain's foremost behavioural
profilers. After visiting the McCanns'
he is insistent that if Madeleine had woken
up and wandered outside, she would not have gone far.
The apartment patio has steps down to the road, but Madeleine
would have been used to walking towards the pool, where her
parents were dining.
To get there, she'd have been in an area lit by street lights,
and would have been drawn to the welcoming reception area.
If that had been the case, she was bound to have been spotted
and rescued by one of the adults out and about that night.
Lost or abducted? Madeleine wouldn't have walked
away alone without someone seeing her, our experts
The second theory - that Madeleine was abducted - is more
Her parents immediately reported that she had been snatched.
Kate is quoted as saying 'They've taken her. She's gone' the
moment she realised that Madeleine was missing.
Two other witnesses reported Gerry as saying on the night that
an intruder had broken in through the shutters in the children's
Our experts were more cautious, pointing out that no one has yet
asked why Madeleine had been targeted.
They were troubled by what kind of person would have selected a
four-year-old girl, asleep next to her infant
David Canter reviewed the range of possibilities - from a local
oddball, to an organised gang of traffickers or paedophiles.
'If we think about an organised criminal network abducting
children to traffic them in some way, then they would not have
gone to an area such as Praia da Luz,' he concluded. 'There are
so many adults around.'
Mark Warner, which operates the Ocean Club, had a creche and
and there were too many adults working or staying at the
'Unfortunately, there are all sorts of opportunities to abduct
children from Eastern Europe,' said Canter.
'If a gang wanted a blonde child, like Madeleine, then the
orphanages in Croatia are full of them.'
So who would have taken Madeleine, and ignored her brother and
sister? A paedophile, perhaps?
Our team included Professor Dave Barclay, a leading forensic
scientist who has worked on 215 'cold case' murders in the past
six years. In his view, the layout of the complex made it 'a
Praia da Luz: Prof Dave Barclay described the
complex where the McCanns were staying as a
Some of the apartments overlook the pool and give an unobserved
vantage point to anyone wanting to watch children by the pool.
Portugal has many more paedophiles than it cares to admit, and
an odd attitude towards underage sex. Under Portuguese law, the
age of consent (between couples of the same age) is 13.
Our experts also noted that when children are found to have been
abused, the victim is taken into care, while the abuser is often
Not before time, Portuguese police last week raided 80 people's
homes and seized computers, hoping to find pictures of Madeleine
on their hard disks. It's been another dead end.
So if it wasn't a paedophile or child-trafficker, who could have
Prof David Canter applied his experience to come up with more
refined possibilities about likely abductors.
'A mother who is very disturbed and trying to abduct a child to
replace her own dead baby wouldn't have gone for Madeleine. She
would have gone for one of the twins who, being that much
younger, could have been absorbed into her family.'
Moreover, he feels that four years old is an odd age for any
child victim to be abducted - too young to be of interest to
most paedophiles, too old to be trafficked or stolen as a
But then if Madeleine did not wander off, and was not abducted,
that leaves only the third possible scenario: that her parents
were involved in her disappearance.
In September, that is what Portuguese police started to believe
is a serious possibility.
Suspects: This picture was taken only 11 days into
the investigation when Maddy's parents were still
witnesses. It was not until months later that they
became suspects. Soham detective Chris Stevenson
says 'you have to look at the family first'
The statistics are compelling. Chris Stevenson was the Detective
Chief Superintendent who caught Ian Huntley in the hunt for the
murderer of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, and was our team
'You have to look at the family first,' he says. 'Three out of
four child deaths are at the hands of their family.'
In Britain, he says, the family would have been the very first
to be interviewed, and the crime scene combed for evidence to
corroborate their story.
Yet in Madeleine's investigation, the forensics have apparently
become central to the case only belatedly.
Our experts believe that if this is the case, it raises serious
questions about the Portuguese police's priorities.
Prof Dave Barclay, our forensics expert, feels strongly that the
apartment should have been sealed off immediately when Madeleine
was reported missing, and subjected to proper combing for
Moreover, he regards the speculation about the DNA results that
have been found in the apartment and the McCanns' hire car as
'interesting', but potentially no more than that.
As Madeleine was known to have cut her knee during the holiday,
it would not be unusual to find traces of her DNA in the
apartment and on her clothing, which could have been transferred
onto other items.
'Forensic science is not just about a single test result,' says
Barclay. 'It's about setting it in context.'
He is particularly sceptical about the reported presence of
bodily fluids found in the McCanns'
'You've got to work out where the body has been and how it got
transported in the car that wasn't hired until 25 days after
Madeleine disappeared,' he says.
'It's almost incomprehensible. So we should just wait and see
what the results show before leaping to any conclusions. It's
not beyond the bounds of possibility that they will exonerate
Indeed, the whole way the investigation has been run by
Portuguese police is of deep concern for our experts.
The time immediately following a child going missing is known as
the 'Golden Hour'. It's when the victim is most likely to be
As the hours pass, that chance diminishes. Above all, search
parties need to be carefully briefed and organised with military
precision. In Madeleine's case, there are grave doubts among our
panel of experts that this is what took place.
As soon as Kate McCann raised the alarm, at 10.10pm, Mark Warner
staff fanned out across the resort, and local residents
volunteered to explore the surrounding streets and houses, and
then the nearby beach.
But how well managed was it? What skills would be needed to find
her, if she was hidden?
Search expert Gary Lig, previously from West Yorkshire Police,
has advised on search plans in more than 100 murders and
disappearances. He argues: 'Even trained police officers may
miss crucial signs. I know a case where they searched a house
three or four times before finding a body.'
Visiting Praia da Luz for our review, he was particularly
concerned to discover, from local maps, that a network of giant
sewers runs under the town. Were they searched? If so, how
The Portuguese police declined to respond to our questions, but
we were told the volunteers were guiding themselves much of the
time that night - and for several days after.
Even more worryingly, this hit-or-miss approach appears to have
applied to the giant rubbish bins scattered around Praia da Luz.
Charlotte Pennington, a Mark Warner nanny, says: 'We were told
to search everywhere, including the bins. I saw the police
searching, but didn't see them looking in the bins. I don't
think we looked in every bin.'
Incredibly, even with an active hunt for a missing child going
on, we discovered that the bins were emptied in their usual
fashion. Moreover, no one seems to have checked the landfill
site to which they were taken.
For Professor Barclay, this represents a major oversight of a
potential hiding place - if not for Madeleine's body, then for
vital evidence such as the pyjamas she was wearing.
'What are you going to do with the body of a four-year-old?' he
'You can take it somewhere in a car, but you risk being stopped
and caught with a body. Or you can dispose of it locally - in
one of the bins, in which case it's taken away and never found.'
Detective Chief Superintendent Stevenson agrees that the bins
could have yielded vital clues.
'Ideally you would secure all the bins in the area and make sure
the local authority don't dispose of the contents until the
search team has gone through them all.'
The search for Madeleine was further hampered by the fact that
the Portuguese police were unprepared both for the need to act
quickly and the media firestorm that followed.
They've had only two cases of child abduction in 15 years.
Meanwhile, the British police have had so many cases that they
have learned painfully from their mistakes, and have updated
their training manuals and protocols.
In Britain if such an alarm were raised, they would swing into
action at once - with search teams, an incident room, media
notification of key identifying details, border and airport
controls and so on.
But in Portugal, the search for Madeleine took place amid an
information vacuum that, said our experts, would have
significantly decreased the chances of locating Madeleine within
those first few days.
'When a crime has happened, you need as much accurate
intelligence as possible. We're used to securing that
information partly through media appeals,' explains our final
expert, police media specialist Matt Tapp, who handled the media
for the Soham murder inquiry.
'None of that happened with Madeleine because the police say
their laws of secrecy meant they were legally bound to say
He is impatient about the conflicting stories that are still
published daily. 'It's what you can expect when police choose or
are not allowed to fill the void. Others fill it in their
In the meantime, the hunt for Madeleine goes on, with each day
bringing fresh claims.
Was Madeleine abducted? Did her parents kill her? There is an
even more haunting possibility: that the investigation has been
so poorly handled that we may
never know what
took place that night.
'I still feel abduction is the most likely possibility,'
concludes forensic psychologist David Canter.
But he's pessimistic about finding the truth amid all the
'The trails may have gone so cold over the passage of time that
even finding a body would not explain what really happened. We
may still be talking about this case in 20 or even 50 years'
And still wondering: What happened to Madeleine?
? Roger Graef is executive producer of Searching For Madeleine:
A Dispatches Special on Channel 4 Thursday night at 9pm.