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Madeleine by Kate McCann - II

Madeleine by Kate McCann Part 1 Madeleine by Kate McCann Part 2 Madeleine by Kate McCann Part 3
Original Source:  BLACKSMITH BUREAU : 30 JUNE 2011
By John Blacksmith
Thursday, 30 June 2011 at 12:43

Madeleine 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 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."

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 everybody.

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,
felt them.

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 shout, '
My mummy!," as 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 Luz:

"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 almost nothing.

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
construct, 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 strangely revisited.

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?

question, 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 interviews.

The David Payne Visit ? Multiple Worlds?

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 refused."

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 take place."

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 around 6:30-6:40PM."

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 swimming pool.

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 informally:

"...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.

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]

KM again
: 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 apartment?

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.

KM: 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?

But could you remember what Kate was wearing for example?

DP: I can't, no.

KM: She wrapped herself in a towel and went to see who was at the balcony door.

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

So where's 9.04?

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.

Not here either

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
Madeleine is, as we have seen, self-serving and actively resistant to the truth. It is worthless.


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