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
[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
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,
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
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
"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
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
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
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?
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?
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
The David Payne Visit ?
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
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
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
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
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
"...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]
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
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.
He didn't even actually enter the flat; he remained at the balcony door.
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.
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
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.
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
is, as we have seen, self-serving and actively
resistant to the truth. It is worthless.