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Police leaks, gossip and a clash of cultures close in on McCanns

Original Source: TIMES: 16 SEPTEMBER 2007
From The Sunday Times
September 16, 2007
Christina Lamb
Portuguese hostility towards the McCanns grows with every twist, reports Christina Lamb in Praia da Luz

THE two men in dark suits coming out of the Portimao restaurant adjusted their ties and jackets after what had clearly been a satisfying Friday lunch.

Guilhermino Encarnacao and his deputy Goncalo Amaral are the two Portuguese detectives heading the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann more than four months ago.

But their relaxed appearance belies the weight of international scrutiny their investigation is under - and the role their team has played in contributing to a propaganda war, with Gerry and Kate McCann in their sights. Officially, Encarnacao was quick to condemn the press coverage. “There’s been far too much speculation in the press,” he said.

However, Jose Manuel Oliveira, who has covered the case since the beginning for the respected daily Diario de Noticias, said: “Who is responsible for all the information and counter-information? It’s the police themselves.”

Under Portuguese secrecy laws, police are forbidden from revealing details of an investigation. Yet, as they struggle to cope with the whirlwind generated by “Caso Maddie”, they have used a series of daily leaks to Portuguese journalists about supposed forensic evidence, diary extracts and tapped phone calls to insinuate that the couple were involved in the disappearance of their own daughter. Yesterday the police spokesman Olegario de Sousa quit in dismay at such activity.

Some have suspected from the start that Madeleine died accidentally, possibly after being sedated by Kate, and that the couple somehow hid the body despite not having a car at that time.

Last week The Sunday Times spoke to a detective from the Guarda Nacional Republicana (GNR), the local police, who was called to the apartment on the night Madeleine disappeared. “What we found did not seem to be the scene of a kidnapping,” he said.

“There were no signs of forced entry, the shutters had not been forced from outside and the apartment had clearly not been broken into.” This, he said, was why they did not seal it off. However, the McCanns have always said the french windows to the apartment were left unlocked.

“The thing we found really weird was the twins not waking up,” he continued. “We couldn’t believe it, there were maybe 20 people coming in and out of the apartment, there was crying and lights going on and off. We kept looking at them. They must have been sedated.”

Police suspicions were heightened by discrepancies in interviews with friends with whom the McCanns were dining on the evening of Madeleine’s disappearance.

These concerns led the police in late July to review the whole case and bring in the British cadaver dogs, focusing on the McCanns for the first time as possible suspects rather than victims. The police also began tapping the phones of the McCanns and their friends and told journalists they had suspicions about their conversations referring to the night of May 3.

Bodily fluid and hair reportedly matched to Madeleine were found in the family’s hire car and traces of blood were allegedly discovered on the walls of the apartment.

But there is a lack of precision in the data yield by the forensics and there has been no plausible explanation of how the parents, who did not have the car at the time of the disappearance, could have hidden a body in the time available before dinner.

At the same time, Encarnacao and Amaral, the men from Portugal’s crime squad, the Policia Judiciaria (PJ), are under pressure to justify their decision to treat the McCanns as suspects. They have already been criticised for being slow to seal off the apartment, and for the delays in searching for DNA before those carried out on the McCanns’ apartment and car last month.

On top of this, Amaral is facing criminal charges for an alleged cover-up in a previous case of a disappearance of a nine-year-old girl called Joana on the same stretch of coast three years ago. No body was found and Joana’s mother Leonor Cipriano was convicted of murder after what she claimed was a forced confession obtained by torture.

One person unsurprised by the direction the McCann case has taken is Cipriano’s lawyer, Joao Grade. Photographs of Cipriano after questioning show her with two black eyes and heavy bruising - the police say she tried to commit suicide; she says she was tortured.

Not only have five detectives including Amaral been charged by the public prosecutor over the case but Grade has filed a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights for the case to be reopened.

“It’s like in the movies, if they have nothing else, they must have a confession - and it’s normal for the PJ to try to get one however they can,” said Grade.

“The difference is that with Joana’s mother Leonor there was no BBC, no money, she was illiterate with only two or three years’ schooling, she had six children by different fathers, so if she ‘fell down the stairs’ in the police station and ended up in hospital, having confessed, no one was going to ask any questions. Kate is very different.”

In Portugal, however, the police suspicions fall on ready ears. England and Portugal are the world’s oldest allies but there are some things the two cultures find hard to understand in each other.

This is a country where people eat late and take their children with them. “We can’t imagine that anyone would put their children to bed so early, particularly when on holiday, nor that they would just leave them behind,” said Maria de Carmo, a shop assistant in Portimao.

A leading Portuguese television journalist went further. “If the McCanns were Portuguese parents they would have been charged with abandono - negligence of their children.”

The family-loving Portuguese find it hard to understand that working parents who see little of their children at home would come on holiday then send their children to the Ocean Club crèche every day.

Some Portuguese criticise Kate McCann for maintaining her perfect grooming throughout the ordeal and have suggested that she has not behaved as a bereft mother. It is said the police started psychologically profiling the couple, egged on by their wives’ comments.

“The way that the parents are dealing with this situation has left all of us, me and my colleagues, perplexed,” Maria Jose Goncalves, a child psychiatrist, told the newspaper Publico.

Maria do Sameiro Oliveira, a psychologist who does criminal profiling for the police, said she found it strange “how they function so much as a unit, always holding hands rigidly” and pointed out that normally in cases of child disappearances, “the mother and father start to diverge, one wants to continue the search, the other not”. She added: “They show little evidence of suffering. They are very formal.”

One of the questions asked by the police was why Kate washed Madeleine’s favourite toy, Cuddle Cat, with its precious smell of her lost child.

But under a cool examination, many of these doubts fall apart. One of the leaked reports last week was of extracts from Kate McCann’s diary in which she had allegedly admitted she struggled to manage Madeleine’s “hyperactivity”, and complained that her husband was little help.

But Jose Manuel Oliveira, to whom it was leaked, was told by police the next day that it was untrue. This did not stop the British newspapers, some of whose correspondents rarely venture out of Hugo Beaty internet cafe in Luz, picking it up and running with it a day later without checking with Oliveira.

The absurdity of this disinformation campaign is epitomised by the picturesque church outside which new yellow flowers had been placed yesterday for Madeleine and to which the McCanns had a key.

For the past week television cameras have been stationed outside, waiting for rumoured digging for a body after the cadaver dogs scented death inside. “Of course they scented death,” said the GNR detective. “The church is used for funerals.”

“The papers are reporting that our catacombs will be dug up and the church doesn’t even have catacombs,” said Father Haynes Hubbard, the Anglican priest who took over the parish the Sunday after Madeleine’s disappearance and got to know the couple well.

He describes the accusations as “ludicrous”, particularly over their lack of grief. “I’ve seen them cry and I know they cry. The fact that they don’t cry for the cameras means nothing.” A father of three young children, and wearing a yellow Find Maddy wristband, he says: “I don’t recognise the people the press are speculating about.

“What I know is a man the same age as me and a woman who spent the past four months asking the world to bring back their little girl, who go home and weep, who tell their children Sean and Amelie to pray for Maddy and whose days are unbearably empty, who came as family of five and left as four.”


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