It’s pretty incredible, after the brief opening montage of cadaver dogs, that the PR person gives a voiceover “explanation” for the episode, summing it up as a “backlash”. Really? After three months of PR, when the dogs go in and find traces of a dead person, and this is the first evidence of what really happened to Madeleine, that’s a “backlash”?
Are dogs barking a backlash?
The fourth episode in the series, obscurely titled Heaven and Earth, is the best of the first four episodes which is another way of saying the most damning. A better title would be Backlash, or Putting a Nice Spin on the Cadaver Evidence.
I suspect the 4th episode is the most damning of the entire series. I haven’t watched the entire series, but I suspect from here the narrative turns and builds back up to Madeleine being alive, the McCanns recast as a model of British moral decorum before defaulting to “there is always hope”.
Six Useful Insights from Episode 4
1. I liked that episode 4 kicked off straight to the point, with no muss, no fuss. It went straight to the dogs and provided a smidgen of extra archive footage of Grimes and the dogs at work than I’ve seen previously. But I thought it was a little tricksy to show the cadaver dog in the opening clip with no context, thus psychologically conflating Eddie’s alerts with Keela’s.
2. I liked that they provided an accurate representation of where the dogs alerted inside the apartment, even if it was slightly misleading by leaving out the important alert outside [in the garden below the balcony at the back entrance].In a later post I will explain why an additional alert in Madeleine’s bed should have been made [and would have had the cadaver dogs been brought in immediately] but wasn’t. It should be noted that some of the media graphics are incorrect and inaccurate not only in terms of the layout of the apartment, including the McCanns’ bed and closet configuration, but also what constituted the “front” and “back” entrance. This is somewhat confusing. The front entrance faces the road and car parking lot, while the back entrance faces the front of the hotel, and the balcony.
An updated diagram from 9News.co.au provides additional context for what is the front and back entrance.
The “front door” opens up into the area depicted below:
3. Keela [the blood dog] is shown giving a silent alert behind the sofa. That footage is fairly rare, and thus useful. Usually when one looks at the evidence of the dogs, we see Eddie jumping over the blue sofa [2:22 in the clip below] and barking loudly from behind the sofa as Eddie gives a strong and unambiguous alert.
I do think it’s interesting that the Netflix docuseries seemed to concentrate more on the blood dog alerting, which benefits the “Madeleine is still alive” narrative slightly, whereas the cadaver alerts certainly do not. Of all the dog alerts in and outside the apartment, there were more cadaver alerts than blood alerts, and yet the docuseries chose to focus on the single blood alert behind the sofa.
Interestingly, although the dogs went in on July 31st, three months after the incident, it was only reported in the media on August 15th, 2007. At the time, an updated picture of Kate McCann was published sitting on the rocky shoreline on the western side of Praia da Luz [i.e. on the side of the beach opposite to the monolithic Rocha Negra]. Thanks to the archive protocols of Getty Images, we know for a fact that this image was taken on the same day the press revealed the cadaver dog evidence [August 15th, 2007]. Even so Kate McCann can be seen smiling in photos and greeting well-wishers. Both her and her husband are dressed in matching white and khaki, and as usual, Kate is carrying her daughter’s pink cuddlecat toy.
4. In point #1 I mentioned the tricksy editing of showing Eddie barking with no context, and then explaining what Keela was doing. It’s interesting how Robbyn Swan, the co-author of Looking for Madeleine [there’s a 2019 update to her book] is pertinently quoted saying Keela was “not particularly interested” too. This falsely implies that the blood dog just like the cadaver dog was “not interested” or didn’t alert. But the blood dog is trained to only alert to human blood traces, and the cadaver dog to human cadaver traces. If anything it’s a credit to the incredible sensitivity of these animals that one dog alerted to one set of distinctive traces, while the other did not. It should also be remembered that the apartment was visited after three months of summer, when the potential for the evaporation and dispersion of liquids and odors were at a maximum.
Then, when the narrative flips over to the traces in the vehicle, the cadaver dog becomes the focus, while the PR person ridicules the idea that the car was only hired several weeks after the incident, so how could a dead body “magically appear” in the vehicle. This is ridiculous, and ludicrous, is the inference. Of course, the blood evidence inside the vehicle [found by Keela] ought to be the focus of the dogs, but instead the focus goes to the cadaver dog. Interestingly, no mention is made of cadaver traces also found on the key of the Renault Scenic.
From Joana Morais’ blog:
More: Madeleine: Now Portuguese press claims scent of corpse was found on McCann’s keys – Evening Standard
In a story on page seven, Jornal de Noticias carried the headline: “Dogs detected scent of a corpse on the car key of Madeleine’s parents.” The following sub-headline read: “Policia Judiciaira suspects transportation of a corpse.”
The article – which is not attributed to anyone, not even unnamed police sources – added: “English dogs helping the Policia Judiciaria in the investigation of the McCann case detected a strong scent of a corpse on the key of the McCann couple.”The animals also detected a sample of blood in the boot of the Renault Scenic which was examined along with other cars belonging to the McCanns’ friends.”
The paper went on to claim that the person who hired the car the McCanns is also being investigated before speculating that the corpse scent on the key could have come from contimination with another item which had been in contact with a dead body.
It also reported that another British police dog scented blood in the car’s boot, which ‘precisely indicates that a corpse could have been in that boot’.
In a further sign that the Portuguese media are not letting up in their attacks on the McCanns, Diario de Noticias carried an article by a former director of the Policia Judiciaria, Francisco Moita Flores, alleging that British police have been ‘manipulating’ the Portuguese investigation and that there had been political and diplomatic interference from the UK authorities to protect the McCanns.
The latest outrageous claims in Portugal come after Mr McCann was forced to respond to claims that he and his wife accidentally killed Madeleine with an overdose of sedatives. A spokeswoman for the couple said last night: “This is just another example of the wild, unfounded speculation in the media which Kate and Gerry find very unhelpful.”
Police spokesman Olegario Sousa was unavailable to comment on the latest allegations. Meanwhile, Mr and Mrs McCann are becoming increasingly frustrated at the way the Find Madeleine Fund is being administered. During their 16-week stay in Portugal, the couple have been paying much of the cost of maintaining awareness of their missing daughter from their own pockets, with cash from the £1million fund being released to them on a piecemeal basis.
A friend of the family said: ‘They’re remarkably patient and know people are trying to protect their interests but it’s very different when you’re in Portugal from when you’re in the UK. “The people operating the fund clearly think they have to protect the fund because they don’t know how long it’s going to last but Gerry thinks now is the time to be spending money because this is the time when it’s going to be most effective.”
Although the fund is mostly run by friends and family of the couple, they are keeping a tight rein on how the money is spent and have released just £70,000 from the £1,005,000 donated.
This has gone towards setting up a Find Madeleine website, producing wristbands, posters and T-shirts bearing the ‘Look for Madeleine’ motto, the cost of a campaign manager as well as legal fees.
They are finding it increasingly difficult to cover the cost of staying in Portugal while paying the mortgage and bills on their home in Rothley, Leics, while effectively being out of work. This is thought to have prompted Mr McCann to declare last week that he will soon be returning to work.
The fund, which was set up with four specific objectives – one of which is to ‘provide support, including financial assistance, to Madeleine’s family’ – has been established as a limited company rather than a registered charity because it does not have any public benefit. It is run by six directors.
Former GMTV presenter Esther McVey, who runs her own PR consultancy and is the Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate for Wirral West, is among the directors as is Mr McCann’s brother, 48-year-old pharmaceutical sales rep John McCann, and Mrs McCann’s uncle Brian Kennedy, 68, a retired headteacher.
Retired hospital consultant Peter Hubner, 64, hospital director Douglas Skehan, 54, and former Leicestershire coroner Philip Tomlinson, 76, are the other directors of the fund, set up within two weeks of Madeleine’s disappearance on May 3.
Ms McVey said: “The McCanns very much know and are aware of how the money had come together. They know it’s from pensioners and kids in schools and they want it spent as carefully as possible. Because we’re a not-for-profit limited company they are very much aware that we abide by the best practice charity laws.”
The tone of the above article clearly shows to what extent the British press were both drinking the Kool-Aid and making it for mass consumption.
5. The archive of newspaper headlines shown in episode 4 include some I haven’t seen before.
6. The media footage of the McCanns driving the Renault Scenic, entering and exiting the villa, and fleeing to Faro airport as soon as the media tide turned [coinciding with an end to the deluge of public donations to the Find Madeleine Fund] is also useful.
In one clip, we see an army of waiting press, and each time the McCanns appear it’s an opportunity for them to manipulate and/or influence their image.
So we see them constantly holding hands in a show of solidarity. But the point isn’t the solidarity, it’s the show, and the showmanship within the context of missing – or more likely [in my view] – dead child.
That’s six, that’s enough.
It’s probably also worth noting six aspects that the docuseries left out of episode four.
1. Danie Krugel, the South African dude whose idea it was to do a cadaver search. [I’ll be writing about him separately in a follow-up post.]
2. Gerry McCann’s 4-day trip to America in July.
Gerry’s USA Trip – Gerry McCann’s Blog Archives
Madeleine McCann’s father visits the US – Telegraph
Gerry McCann is in the US on a four-day fact-finding visit to learn about the work of specialist agencies in preventing child trafficking and sexual abuse. He and his wife Kate have mounted a vigorous campaign to find four-year-old Madeleine since she disappeared from a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal, on May 3.
Mr McCann, who flew to the US yesterday, will spend most of the day in talks with American child protection bodies. Accompanied by the family’s campaign manager, Justine McGuinness, he will discuss tackling child abduction with experts from the National and International Centres for Missing and Exploited Children.
Tomorrow Mr McCann and Ms McGuinness have meetings scheduled with US senators, congressmen and a senior member of First Lady Laura Bush’s staff. Mr McCann said in a statement: “We hope our efforts will help make the world a little bit safer for all children. Kate and I believe there is a strong, public feeling that crimes against children, wherever they may occur, are totally unacceptable.”
Mrs McCann will remain in Portugal with the couple’s two-year-old twins, Sean and Amelie. Meanwhile, posters of Madeleine are being displayed at booksellers in more than 200 countries around the world thanks to Harry Potter author JK Rowling, whose final instalment of the boy wizard’s adventures was published on Saturday.
3. None of Madeleine’s DNA was ever found in Portugal. In order to find a reference sample, Madeleine’s DNA had to be sourced from her pillow in Rothley.
4. The docuseries makes no mention that the British lab which did the DNA testing was later closed down. It’s more than a little tricksy for the docuseries to interrogate the trustworthiness and prognosticate on the processes of the Portuguese police, but not do the same due diligence on a dodgy British lab which handled a critical aspect of the McCann case, and was subsequently shut down.
5. Madeleine’s paternity was called into question following the release of DNA results. Such heresy! The publication that printed this allegation was later sued, weren’t they? And the FSS could theoretically be cited as a contradictory scientific source “proving” the allegations of paternity were unfounded, couldn’t they?
None of this was touched upon or even hinted at in episode four of the Netflix documentary. Obviously where there is a contention that Madeleine’s paternity might be in any doubt, this could potentially go to motive, and could possibly explain conflicting emotions and responses and a range of psychologies and dynamics to a particular child that is not the biological offspring of one of the parents, and who might also be difficult to raise or troublesome putting to sleep [conceived we know through IVF].
According to 24 Horas, Madeleine, who was conceived using IVF, was the child of his wife, Kate, and an unnamed sperm donor. The newspaper claimed that the four-year-old’s parentage meant her DNA could not be confused with that of two-year-old twins Sean and Amelie.
The supposed revelation would prove that bodily fluids found in the family’s hire car had come from Madeleine and not from her brother or sister, the tabloid said. Portuguese police are seeking evidence that the girl’s body was transported in the Renault Scenic, which was hired 25 days after she disappeared. The sperm donor story was dismissed as ‘unwarranted, unsubstantiated and totally inaccurate speculation’ by the family’s spokesman Clarence Mitchell.
In a strongly worded statement agreed by the couple and their lawyers, he said: ‘For the record Gerry McCann is the biological father of his daughter Madeleine.
Mr McCann’s mother Eileen, 67, from Glasgow, said: ‘To say Gerry is not Madeleine’s natural father is utterly ridiculous. Madeleine is my natural granddaughter. Her eyes and nose are the same as mine. These allegations are totally unfounded. They are pure speculation and a load of nonsense. Whatever will the Portuguese papers make up next?”
The McCanns underwent IVF treatment near their Leicestershire home before Madeleine was conceived. They had further IVF treatment to conceive their twins while they were living in Amsterdam. A friend said the 24 Horas report was published without any contact with the family.
The newspaper has run a series of articles this week which have all strongly denied by the McCanns.
Its co- editor, Luis Fontes, insisted he stood by the sperm donor story. He said it was confirmed by the Forensic Science Service in Birmingham, which has carried out analysis on samples taken from the McCanns’ apartment and hire car. The FSS denied it had made any comment on the case.
Mr Fontes said he was not aware of any threat of legal action from the McCanns over the article and added: “It is absolutely true. Our sources are rock solid.”
He added: “If they [the McCanns] think they can sue us, bring it on.”
Friends also denied claims in another Portuguese newspaper, Diario de Noticias, which said Mrs McCann, a 39-year-old GP, flew into a fit of rage after she was made a suspect in the case. She was said to have broken crockery, pictures and “anything she could get her hands on” in the couple’s hired villa in Praia da Luz.
Kate and Gerry were “horrified and devastated” by the latest “absolutely untrue” slurs in the Portuguese press claiming Madeleine’s DNA was different to that of her twin siblings – all three of whom were conceived by In-Vitro Fertilisation – because she has a different father.
The tabloid 24 Horas claimed British police visited a sperm bank the couple used and tracked down the four-year-old’s natural father to rule him out of any involvement in her abduction. But family spokesman Clarence Mitchell described the reports as “unwarranted, unsubstantiated and totally inaccurate”. He said that the couple planned to sue 24 Horas over the allegations about Madeleine’s paternity as soon as their official suspect status was lifted.
It appears the McCans didn’t sue 24 Horas.
6. The Last Photo controversy is not highlighted in episode 4, although, curiously, it makes a few appearances, including inside the church in Praia da Luz. The tip of Gerry’s left elbow is strangely missing from the image.
There are many more insights and omissions to highlight, but for me one of the aspects that stood out the most were the PR people skulking around in the background, and featured so prominently as important narrators in the docuseries.
There seems to be something patently unsavoury about characters whose job it was to provide publicity protection of a sort to the official suspects, and who later emerge as virtual self-styled celebrities, once again cast in the role of the shaper of the narrative.
Is there an image more symbolic than Justine McGuinness repeatedly pawing microphones, pushing them away, as a metaphor for trying to push the media narrative in a particular direction, especially when the police narrative became unfavourable, as depicted in episode four?