David James Smith
December 16, 2007
For six months David James Smith has examined the evidence surrounding the disappearance of Madeleine
McCann for The Sunday Times Magazine. In this, the most comprehensive — and authoritative — investigation yet,
he addresses the key issues facing Gerry and Kate as they prepare for Christmas without their daughter
That week in Praia da Luz, the week the McCanns were made suspects in their
own daughter's "death", I was out there talking to them and to family and friends. I was at the home of the Anglican vicar
Haynes Hubbard, sitting with him and his wife, Susan, while their own three children pottered around us. The Hubbards had
flown in from Canada three days after Madeleine’s disappearance to begin Haynes’s tour of duty as the vicar of
Praia da Luz. They had heard about Madeleine for the first time while changing planes at Lisbon airport, in a slightly unnerving
encounter with an elderly Portuguese woman who had seized Susan’s arm and told her to "hold on" to the baby she was
carrying, as a child had been taken.
The Hubbards had spent their first days at the resort fearing for their
own children's safety. Gradually they became friends with the McCanns, particularly Susan and Kate, drawn together at first
perhaps by the McCanns' need to find some comfort in religion. But mostly in Portugal the McCanns were enveloped by family
and friends from the UK.
The McCanns were flying home that Sunday and had been to a farewell dinner
that week at the Hubbards'. Susan told me that she and Kate had discussed how much one person could cope with. Kate seemed
close to the limits of human endurance. Haynes chimed in: "And I don’t think she’s looking forward to tomorrow
very much either." The thought was left hanging there: how much can one person take?
Kate was to go to the nearby town of Portimao the next day, Thursday, September 6, to be questioned by detectives from
the Policia Judiciaria (PJ). It would be Gerry's turn the day after. For the media this would be a shocking new twist to the
story – but not for the McCanns: the PJ had told them four weeks earlier they were going to be subjected to formal interviews
and the McCanns had stayed on, instead of going home at the end of August as originally planned, waiting for the interviews
to take place. Waiting. Waiting.
Finally, the PJ called. They told the McCanns they would be made official suspects – arguidos. The McCanns had
noted the change of mood in Portugal, especially among the PJ, and the increasing viciousness of the Portuguese press. Some
of the stories seemed so incredible and far-fetched – Kate, for instance, disposing of Madeleine’s body, or Madeleine’s
DNA being found in the car the McCanns had hired three weeks after Madeleine disappeared – that I at first assumed they
were the fanciful inventions of an unfettered press. I soon realised how well they reflected the thinking of the PJ. More
recently I have discovered the stories were being fed to the press by the PJ, from the highest ranks. So much for judicial
secrecy. One Portuguese journalist told me that segredo de justica – secrecy of justice – was like the speed limit.
Everyone knows the law; nobody keeps to it.
It seems important to make it clear right away that I do not suspect the McCanns harmed Madeleine, nor do I think they
disposed of their daughter’s body if, as the PJ believe, she died in an accident that night in their apartment.
This is not a mere prejudice on my part. I have spent a long time considering and examining every unpleasant scenario.
The McCanns are not my friends and I have no axe to grind with Portugal, its police or its media.
To me, the McCanns are genuine people in the grip of despair – the accusations against them are ludicrous and a
cruel distraction from the search for their daughter. That’s why I put the quotation marks around the word "death" at
the top of the article. Madeleine may be dead, it may even be more likely she is dead, but nobody knows for sure. Nobody,
not even the PJ, as we will see, can produce any persuasive evidence that she has come to harm.
That evening, Thursday, May 3, at just after 8pm, by their account, Kate and Gerry McCann were having a glass of wine
together in apartment 5a on the ground floor of Block 5 of the Waterside Village Gardens at the Ocean Club. Their three children
were asleep in the front bedroom overlooking the car park and, beyond it, the street. Madeleine was in the single bed nearest
the door. There was an empty bed against the opposite wall, beneath the window. Between the two beds were two travel cots
containing the twins: Sean and Amelie. Gerry had bought the wine at the Baptista supermarket, 200 yards down the hill. They
had lived and worked in New Zealand for a year and that particular bottle, Montana sauvignon blanc, was their favourite. It
was the sixth day of their week’s holiday in the Algarve and they were reflecting on the enjoyable time they’d
had, how surprisingly easy it had been with the children.
When their old friend Dave Payne had invited them on a group holiday, it had seemed too good to resist. Dave and Fiona
Payne had been on another Mark Warner holiday the year before, to Greece with Matt and Rachael Oldfield. The Algarve group
would be completed by Russell O’Brien, Jane Tanner and Fiona’s mother, Dianne Webster. Six of the group were doctors.
Gerry was a consultant cardiologist and had worked before with Matt and Russell. Kate had been an anaesthetist and was now
a part-time GP.
The group first spent time together at Dave and Fiona’s wedding in Italy in 2003. Now they had eight children between
them. Madeleine was the oldest, her fourth birthday a week after they would return from the Algarve. One of the attractions
was that there were children for their own to play with. And the adults were a sporty group, a speciality of Mark Warner holidays;
tennis had dominated the activities that week.
That might all sound very cosy and middle class, but that did not mean their lives had been easy or free of suffering
– especially with the struggle to have children, eventually managed through IVF – or that they had been born into
an advantaged world. Kate came from a modest Liverpool background and Gerry, the youngest of five, had been brought up in
a tenement building on the south side of Glasgow.
The terms of the holiday were half-board, breakfast and evening meal, and the McCanns paid about £1,500. There had been
some reduction when they had discovered that, unlike most Mark Warner resorts, the Ocean Club did not offer a baby-listening
service. Instead, the group had asked for apartments close together, so they were all assigned to Block 5. The Paynes were
on the floor above, the only couple with a functioning baby monitor. Russell O’Brien and Jane Tanner had brought a monitor
too, but theirs wasn’t getting much of a signal from the Tapas restaurant 50 yards away.
The Ocean Club was not a gated, enclosed resort in the usual style of Mark Warner, but a sprawling complex open to the
village of Luz and scattered over such a wide distance that shuttle buses were used.
Even though the resort was open to the village, it felt safe and secure, and in early May it was still very quiet. Gerry
never saw a soul, except once, on the last night, on his evening checks, going back and forth between Tapas and the apartment,
an even-paced walk of just under a minute.
As the McCanns endlessly repeated afterwards, if they had thought it was wrong or even risky, they would never have left
their children. With hindsight, of course, they would never have done it and now they are riven with guilt, but we can all
be wise after the event, and so many of us have taken similar chances at times, in search of a bit of respite from our children.
Gerry had knocked up at the start of the 4.30pm tennis-drills session, but had decided not to exacerbate an injury to
his Achilles tendon, so had dropped out and waited around by the courts until the children came back from the kids’
clubs at 5pm for tea. That had been one of the most enjoyable times of the holiday, all the children together for tea, then
the adults playing with them afterwards.
Gerry was in his apartment at 7pm, had a glass of water, then a beer, while the children sat with Kate on the couch having
stories with a snack. The children were clearly shattered – the last thing any of them needed was a sedative and, anyway,
it was not something the McCanns ever did. They put them to bed after a last story. The twins were asleep virtually the moment
they lay down, Madeleine not far behind them.
These days it was rare for Madeleine to wake up at all once she was in bed. If she did, she’d normally wander into
her parents’ bed, whether they were there or not. At home in Rothley, sometime earlier, they had begun a star chart
for Madeleine staying in her own bed. The chart, still on display in the kitchen, was full of stars. At about 7.30pm, Kate
and Gerry showered and changed and sat down to have a quiet glass of the sauvignon blanc. They were first to the table at
the restaurant at 8.35 and spent some minutes talking to a couple from Hertfordshire – two more tennis players –
at the next table, who were eating with their young children. As they chatted, Gerry thought how lucky he was, his children
asleep nearby, he and Kate free to come and enjoy some adult time at the restaurant and not have to sit with their children,
as this couple were.
The McCanns sat down after a few minutes and then ordered some wine. The Oldfields were next to arrive, then Russell
O’Brien and Jane Tanner and, finally, always last, Dave and Fiona Payne with Dianne Webster.
That night their group ordered six bottles in total and two were still untouched on the table at 10pm. No more than half
a bottle of wine each. The Portuguese magazine Sol reported that the group had drunk 14 bottles. Another Portuguese journalist
told me a local GNR (national republican guard) police officer had described one of the group as being so drunk later that
evening, they could barely stand.
They had just ordered starters when the routine of checking began. Matt Oldfield went first at 8.55 to check his own
apartment and to hurry up the Paynes, who had still not arrived.
He was followed by Gerry, who entered his apartment at about 9.05 through the patio doors to the lounge. Earlier that
week the McCanns had used a key to go in through the front door next to the children’s bedroom but, worrying the noise
might wake the children, they began using the patio doors, leaving them unlocked.
When he entered the apartment, Gerry immediately saw that the children’s bedroom door, which they always left just
ajar, was now open to 45 degrees. He thought that was odd, and glanced in his own bedroom to see if Madeleine had gone into
her parents’ bed. But no, she and the twins were all still fast asleep.
Gerry paused over Madeleine, who – a typical doctor’s observation, this – was lying almost in “the
recovery position” with Cuddle Cat, the toy her godfather, John Corner, had bought her, and her comfort blanket up near
her head, and Gerry thought how gorgeous, how lovely-looking she was and how lucky he was. Putting the door back to five degrees,
he went to the loo and left to return to the restaurant. That, of course, was the last time he would see his daughter.
As he walked down the hill, Gerry saw Jes Wilkins on the opposite side of the road pushing a child in a buggy. Gerry
called hello and crossed over to talk. Wilkins and his partner were eating in their own apartment that night, but their youngest
still wouldn’t settle. It reminded Gerry of the fraught time he and Kate used to have with Madeleine when she was a
baby. In his memory, they could never eat a meal together when they went out, as she was always disturbing them and needing
to be wheeled off to sleep.
As Jane Tanner walked up the hill, she saw Gerry talking to Jes and, as she passed them, she saw ahead of her a man walking
quickly across the top of the road in front of her, going away from the apartment block, heading to the outer road of the
resort complex. The man was carrying a little girl who was hanging limply from his open arms. The sighting was odd, but hardly
exceptional in a holiday resort.
Her daughter fine, Jane returned to the table. At 9.30, Kate got up to make the next check on her children, but Matt
Oldfield was checking too, as was Russell O’Brien, and Matt offered to do Kate’s check for her, which she accepted.
Gerry teased that she would not be excused her turn at the next check.
In the McCanns’ apartment, Oldfield noticed the children’s bedroom door was again open, but that meant nothing
to him, so he merely observed all was quiet and made a cursory glance inside the room, seeing the twins in their cots but,
agonisingly, not directly seeing Madeleine’s bed from the angle at which he stood. Afterwards, he could not say for
sure if she had been there or not. Nor could he say if the window and shutter had been open.
He would get a hard time from the police because of this, during his interviews not long afterwards, being aggressively
accused of taking Madeleine – you passed her out of the window, didn’t you! – being suspected because he
had offered to take Kate’s turn.
Jane Tanner, too, would be accused of fabricating or misremembering her sighting of this stranger with a child. There
could be no answer to such an accusation – except that she was an ordinary, honest person who knew what she had seen.
Sometime after 10pm, Rachael Oldfield would go to Jane’s apartment to tell her Madeleine had been taken and Jane would
say: “Oh my God. I saw a man carrying a girl.”
It perhaps needs to be stated openly that all these timings and details, the way in which they weave and dovetail together,
are based on witness accounts – corroborated not just by the McCann group but by others, such as Jes Wilkins –
and that, despite suggestions to the contrary, there are no obvious contradictions or differences between them. Nor has any
of the McCann group, at any time since, said they wanted to retract or change their statement.
That suggestion too is a lie.
Russell O’Brien checked his own daughter at 9.30 and found she had been sick. Jane returned to the apartment to
be with her daughter, and Russell went back to the table. Russell would later fall under suspicion too, because of those few
minutes he spent away from the table.
Finally, at 10pm, it was Kate’s turn to check the apartment. She only became alarmed when she reached out to the
children’s bedroom door and it blew shut. Inside the room the window was open, the shutter was up and Madeleine’s
bed was empty. Kate quickly searched everywhere and ran back down the hill and into the restaurant: “Madeleine’s
gone, somebody’s taken her” or “Madeleine’s gone, someone’s taken her.”
Gerry stood up. “She can’t be gone.” “I’m telling you she’s gone, someone’s
It was reported that Kate had said “They’ve taken her,” as if it was someone that she knew. She did
use those words, but only later, back in the apartment, in her despair, as she said: “We’ve let her down. They’ve
Matt went down to the 24-hour reception at the bottom of the hill to raise the alarm. The call to the police went in
at 10.15. They arrived 55 minutes later. It is widely believed among the Portuguese media, and perhaps the police too, even
now, that the McCanns called Sky News before they called the police. For the record, Sky News picked up the story from GMTV
breakfast television, at around 7.30am the following day.
There was a latch lock on the sliding glass window, and the McCanns thought, but could not be sure, that they had locked
it at the start of the holiday. They would later discover it was common for cleaners to open the shutters and windows to give
the rooms an airing, so there was no way of knowing whether the window was locked that night or not and no forensic trace
to indicate where and how an abductor had gone in and out. They could easily have used the front door, perhaps even had access
to a key.
In the McCanns’ minds now, there is no doubt Jane Tanner saw their daughter being taken, but there was so little
time to talk in the first few days that it was not until Jane saw the description of Madeleine’s pyjamas in the media,
around Monday or Tuesday of the following week, that she told them the little girl she had seen was wearing the same design:
pink top and white bottoms with a floral design.
While searches began, Gerry was worried about Kate, as she was so distraught and kept talking about paedophiles, saying
Madeleine would be dead. He tried to be reassuring, but of course he was thinking the same things.
It all came pouring out of him at 23.40 – from his phone records – when he called his sister Trish in Scotland
ranting and raving semi-coherently on the phone about Madeleine being taken, and Trish kept trying to get him to calm down.
A sharp contrast with the way he would be later, particularly in public, once he had regained his self-control.
The detectives from PJ arrived at about 1am. By 3.30am they had gone and there was no police action at all, or none visible
to the McCanns.
Four times that night they put in calls via the British consul; four times the message came back from the PJ, a message
that the McCanns would never forget: “Everything that can be done is being done.”
One of the PJ officers had put on surgical gloves and begun trying to dust down the bedroom, but his powder was not working
properly. He tried to take the McCanns’ fingerprints for elimination, but that didn’t work either. It all had
to be done again the next day.
The twins slept on like logs, just as they always did at home, though even their parents were fleetingly worried –
had they been sedated by an abductor? – that they should be quite so comatose. The Ocean Club gave them another apartment,
but the McCanns did not want to be alone, so the twins were taken to the Paynes’ apartment, and Kate and Gerry went
there later too, to try to rest.
They got up at first light and went to search alone on the open scrubland beyond the resort, wandering around, calling
Madeleine’s name. It was cold and lonely – there was no answer.
Gerry had asked the departing PJ detectives at half three about contacting the media to make an appeal. One of the officers
had reacted with surprising agitation, waving his hand emphatically: “No journalists! No journalists!” That, of
course, was not quite how it worked out.
For many weeks, the McCanns enjoyed a good relationship with the Portuguese police and were treated to regular updates
and a flow of information via the family-liaison officers sent out by Leicestershire police. The problem with the three Leicester
officers was that they didn’t have a word of Portuguese between them.
The first public indication of police thinking came at the end of June when the magazine Sol published a story about
the McCann group, casting doubts on their evidence and claiming they had undertaken a pact of silence. It was the first time
the McCanns’ friends had been named in public, but Sol’s journalist Felicia Cabrita had their names and phone
numbers and details from their witness statements. She had called them all, and at least one other witness, Jes Wilkins.
The information had been handed to Cabrita by the police – she says she acquired the material through good journalism,
which in a sense it was – and her source is widely believed by her colleagues to have been the former head of the inquiry,
The PJ appointed an official spokesman, Olegario Sousa. He was apparently plucked from his day job – he was a chief
inspector on the art-robbery squad – because he was the only one who spoke decent English. He was never directly involved
in the investigation and was rarely told much of what was really going on.
Initial suspicion focused on Robert Murat, who made himself busy with police and journalists from the first day, offering
his services as an interpreter, as he spoke both languages and lived across the road from the Ocean Club with his mother at
the villa Casa Liliana. In fact, the man Jane Tanner had seen carrying a child was walking straight towards the Murat villa.
Murat later said to me that he told the PJ the press were suspicious of him, and they told him not to worry and to keep
away from the press and work for them instead. He had signed papers to become an official interpreter and even sat in during
the witness interview of Rachael Oldfield.
Leaving the police station in Portimao one evening, a week after becoming an official police interpreter, Murat became
aware he was being followed. Shortly after that he was arrested and interviewed himself and made an arguido.
Murat always denied he was out the night Madeleine disappeared, but three of the McCann group claimed at the time they
had seen him and still insist they were right. I was told there was at least one new independent sighting of Murat out on
the night of May 3.
Bizarrely, the McCanns believe they were inadvertently responsible for encouraging the PJ to take them seriously as potential
suspects, as it was them bringing in a South African “body finder”, Danie Krugel, that led to search dogs being
used. The PJ agreed to work with Krugel, and an officer from the UK National Policing Improvement Agency was called in to
advise on a search based on Krugel’s findings. It was agreed the British would supply some specialist equipment for
spotting disturbed soil and also some search dogs, including one trained in human-remains detection (HRD) and one trained
to detect the scent of blood.
Ultimately, only those who were there and involved know exactly what happened, but the McCanns wonder just how the search
dogs were presented to the PJ and what claims were made for their success rate and infallibility.
All British policing techniques are meant to be practised uniformly by every force across the country and defined in
written policy created by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO). But the ACPO was unable to produce for me any policy
relating to search dogs.
Gerry was initially optimistic at the prospect of the searches by these supposedly elite British dogs and techniques.
The dogs then went on to search the apartments of the McCanns and their friends. A line-up of cars were also called in by
the police, including the cars owned or used by Murat and the Renault the McCanns had been using, which they had hired on
Those who told me about the dogs’ searches say they involved little objective science. It has been suggested that
the HRD dog was treated differently in the McCanns’ apartment than in the others. The dog kept sniffing and running
off and it was called back on several occasions. Eventually it “alerted”, meaning it went stiff and stayed still.
Then the blood dog was called in and directed to the area where the other dog had alerted. Eventually this dog alerted
in the same place – behind the sofa in the lounge, which is where the trace of blood was supposedly found.
The cars were lined up, not in a controlled environment, but in the underground public car park opposite Portimao police
station. Again the dog was led quickly from one car to the next until he reached a Renault with “Find Madeleine”
stickers all over it. The dog sniffed and moved on to the next car, but was called back. The dog was taken around the McCanns’
car for about a minute, as opposed to the few seconds devoted to the other cars. Then the dog went rigid, an “alert”,
and the doors and the boot were opened. It was this that led to the recovery of some body fluids that the PJ suspected would
contain traces of Madeleine’s DNA, and which led to the supposed revelation that her body must have been carried in
The role of such dogs is normally intended to find a body or remains. Without any subsequent discovery the alerts amount
to little more than an indication – or worse: in one recent case in Wisconsin a judge concluded that similarly trained
dogs were “no more reliable than the flip of a coin”, after hearing evidence that they were wrong far more often
than they were right. The McCanns’ lawyers are in touch with the defence lawyers in that case. The PJ had never attempted
to obtain a “control sample” of Madeleine’s DNA. That had been left to the McCanns, who had found traces
of her saliva on the pillow of her bed at home in Rothley and provided that DNA sample to the Portuguese police.
Whatever the public’s perception – based on a slew of news stories – at this stage there is no published
evidence that Madeleine’s DNA, or any trace of her blood, has been recovered from the apartment or the car. Any suggestion
to the contrary appears to be misinformation from the PJ. Some Portuguese journalists and, apparently, some members of the
PJ believed the UK’s Forensic Science Service (FSS), based in Birmingham, had been deliberately delaying the tests.
There are some who suspect the involvement of the British secret services.
In fact, both the PJ’s national director, Alipio Ribeiro, and another PJ official, Carlos Anjos, have both said
openly that the police have failed to establish a perfect match. The PJ found several specks of what they believe to be blood
in apartment 5a, including one sample that someone had apparently tried to wash off.
They found a trace of body fluid – that is, not blood – in the boot of the Renault and a tiny trace of blood
in the Renault’s key fob. Some forensic tests were carried out at the PJ’s own laboratories in Lisbon, where tests
on samples related to Robert Murat were also made. The tests on the traces that were potentially the most significant came
to the FSS. One sample was said to have produced DNA that was similar to Madeleine’s. An exact match would be 20 out
of 20 bands, this sample was said to be similar in 15 out of 20 bands. But in reality, that result was meaningless, as any
family member could produce the same match.
Some journalists were told that more advanced tests were being carried out on the smallest blood traces – tests
called low copy number profiling, which could produce DNA findings in the slightest of samples. They were a slow process,
but did not normally take more than two weeks.
In late November, PJ officers and forensic experts came to meet police and FSS experts in the UK, amid claims the PJ
were still waiting for further results. Leicestershire police have apparently paid for all the forensic tests being carried
out in the case by the FSS – they are the client in the case, not the Portuguese. The PJ have used this as evidence
that the British are suspicious of the McCanns too – even the McCanns think the British police doubted them for a while,
until the forensic results emerged – but you might think the PJ would have wanted to be in control of their own forensic
I heard that a PJ officer had been surprised to find a member of MI5 at a UK meeting about the case, and this made him
suspicious that shadowy forces could be at work. The Sol journalist Felicia Cabrita mentioned the “mysterious Clarence”
– Clarence Mitchell, the former government PR officer turned McCann spokesman – and I was told there was suspicion
too about another government official, Sheree Dodd, who had acted as a PR officer for the McCanns briefly in the early days
– had she come out from MI6 to help dispose of the body?
These theories might seem preposterous, but for those involved in the case in Portugal, they fitted a pattern in which
the Portuguese government and in turn the PJ had felt the heavy weight of diplomatic pressure from the UK – a pressure
that the police and the journalists very much resented, with its implication that the police were not doing their job properly.
This could be one reason why the PJ were so ready to suspect the McCanns.
There seemed to be no doubt that the PJ really did think the McCanns had done it. I was outlined a scenario in which
Kate had come back to the apartment and found that Madeleine had fallen from the sofa and hit her head – hence the blood
– and cleaned up and hid the body somewhere in the apartment, and perhaps had not even told Gerry until the next day.
The police could not answer all the questions, of course. They were almost as unanswerable as they were unimaginable.
Where would they have hidden the body? How would they have got it into the car 24 days later, and where would they have taken
it? What kind of people would they have to be – what borderline personality disorders must they both share – to
keep that to themselves for six months, maintain a facade in front of everyone they knew, and at the same time not hiding
away but going out to ask the world to help find Madeleine?
I know the McCanns believe the PJ were oversold the value of the dogs. It was after the dogs came out that the PJ’s
attitude towards the McCanns changed and it became harder for the McCanns to obtain a briefing meeting. They were disturbed
when the press began reporting that the PJ knew Madeleine was dead. Finally, after pressing for a meeting, one was arranged
for Wednesday, August 8, three days before the 100-day point after Madeleine’s disappearance.
When they arrived at the station in Portimao the couple were separated and both interrogated. Kate especially was given
“the third degree”. Gerry broke down and cried, pleading with the PJ to share any evidence that Madeleine was
dead. “It’s coming, it’s coming,” he was told.
The interviews caused the couple “incredible emotional distress”. But they agreed, if they had been guilty,
they probably would have cracked and confessed at that point. The police said there would be no more briefings. The next time
they saw the McCanns it would be across the table, for formal interviews.
What was doubly dispiriting, of course, was that while the PJ treated them as suspects, they were no longer looking for
Madeleine. I was told the PJ had “abandoned the abduction theory”. It was open season now on the McCanns. The
publicity was wretched.
The British press were not blameless either, often lazily repeating allegations and sometimes repeating them despite
emphatic denials from the McCann camp. If you read the blog sites on the internet you would discover an even darker, nastier
tone. The McCanns and their holiday friends were swingers, apparently. That allegation was even made on the Portuguese equivalent
of the BBC by a former PJ detective, Jose Barra da Costa. When I checked with him, he said he had been told by a friend in
the UK who happened to be a police officer. No doubt that officer had plucked it from the internet. It is not true.
During Kate’s interviews with the PJ in September, just before she was declared an arguido, she was separated from
her lawyer, and he was presented with a long list of factors pointing to her guilt, including entries from her entirely innocuous
diary and a passage they believed she had marked in a Bible (which in fact had been given to her and marked by the original
The PJ also told the lawyer there was a 100% DNA match with Madeleine in the car and showed him a document that appeared
to prove it. Possibly, this was the document showing Madeleine’s control sample of DNA. The McCanns feared even their
own lawyer thought they were guilty. Kate was asked by the PJ to explain the dog alerts by her car. “You’re the
police,” she said. “You tell me.” Kate asked the PJ: “Are you trying to destroy our family altogether?”
Gerry was asked the same questions the next day but could not answer. (Sometime earlier a Leicestershire officer had
said to him, just stick to what you know.) Why did the dogs only alert next to material belonging to the McCanns? The officer
was brandishing the dog-handler’s report. And then: “Your daughter’s DNA, your daughter Madeleine McCann,
how do you explain that?” “Show me that report,” Gerry asked. “No. This is the report that matters
– with the dog.” Of course, they could not produce a DNA match because there wasn’t one.
The McCanns took heart when Goncalo Amaral was forced to step down after making public criticisms of them and the Leicestershire
police – he had made the criticisms in a phone call to a journalist contact, not suggesting the comments were private
or off the record.
The McCanns hope that Amaral’s replacement, Paulo Rebelo, a more sober, conservative character, will take a wide
view of the inquiry. He is said to have stopped leaks to the press, and has been locked away on the upper floors of the station
in Portimao reviewing the evidence with a team of officers.
Meanwhile, the McCanns are back home trying to recover some kind of normality. How long can you put your life on hold?
They have the twins to think of. Gerry has gone back to work half-days, and has finally told the British Heart Foundation
he plans to go ahead with the research fellowship they awarded him, a week before he was accused of being involved in his
daughter’s death. He had told me, weeks ago, about the six-figure grant and how it meant almost nothing in terms of
professional advancement, but might one day help in the prevention and treatment of heart disease.
He had prepared the application in his own time, working evenings and weekends.
In other circumstances it would have meant the world to him but, right now, he had other things on his mind.