True Crime Analysis, Breakthroughs, Insights & Discussions Hosted by Bestselling Author Nick van der Leek

Barking = Backlash? Netflix Doccie on Madeleine McCann – Episode 4 Review & Analysis

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”?

Fullscreen capture 20190319 174235Fullscreen capture 20190319 174238

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].Fullscreen capture 20190319 164220In 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.mccanns apartment cadaver scent found and blood

An updated diagram from provides additional context for what is the front and back entrance.

Fullscreen capture 20190319 171411

The “front door” opens up into the area depicted below:

hole 2dscf0119

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.

Fullscreen capture 20190319 170224

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.Fullscreen capture 20190319 173713

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.

Fullscreen capture 20190319 175124

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:

Fullscreen capture 20190319 180235

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.

Fullscreen capture 20190318 155126Fullscreen capture 20190318 155129

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 McCann, Ernie Allen

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.

Fullscreen capture 20190319 191504

Police review criminal DNA cases [February 2007] – BBC

Fullscreen capture 20190319 192232

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].


‘I AM Madeleine’s dad’: Gerry McCann rejects claims sperm donor was used for IVF – Evening Standard

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.

McCanns deny reports that Gerry is not Madeleine’s father [October 2007] – Telegraph

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.

Fullscreen capture 20190318 164652Fullscreen capture 20190318 164659

What to make of the “Last Photo” of Madeleine McCann?

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.

Fullscreen capture 20190319 202212

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.

Fullscreen capture 20190319 202501

Fullscreen capture 20190319 203535

Fullscreen capture 20190319 203237

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?

Fullscreen capture 20190318 154348Fullscreen capture 20190318 164256


  1. Sylvester

    Whatever happened to Madeleine I don’t think the twins saw anything. Too young to say much but not too young to have seen something and been disturbed by it. But there is no mention of anyone asking the twins anything. Also Eddie alerted on a pair of Kate’s pants – but was Eddie allowed to sniff any clothing Gerry would have had on that night? It is likely Gerry who did all of the body moving, from place to place.

    Also I get an impression of a sexy Kate – with her male friends. It’s just a feeling I get. There you have Matt Oldfield touching her and appearing in quite a few photographs when it’s usually women who go to other women and comfort them in their time of grief, mother-to-mother, and David Payne said he went to the apartment when Kate came to the patio door from the shower wearing a towel. Might Gerry and Kate been having problems prior to this vacation, or during? I also do think Gerry might have viewed Madeleine a little differently from the other two children, especially if he wasn’t the biological father. There might have been some resentment not only toward Madeleine, but also toward sexy Kate.

    • Ralph Oscar

      “Also I get an impression of a sexy Kate – with her male friends. It’s just a feeling I get.”

      I made a comment on this a few days ago – there’s a still of Kate and she’s got her right hand by the side of her head, her fingers in her hair and her palm facing out. That is a “flirt” gesture – in normal interactions, people almost never show their palms. But when a woman is flirting, the palms come out, to the point of covering a cough with the *back* of the hand. If she’s making that flirt gesture to another woman, it’s likely to build intimacy, rapport, and sympathy. It’s a nonverbal way of drawing someone closer to you without them realizing you’re doing it.

      Also, if Kate is making this flirt gesture under *these* circumstances, it’s likely second nature for her – she’s likely a born manipulator, in other words.

  2. John

    As someone who worked at the FSS for many years and continues to work in the area of forensic science, I would like to counter some of the points.
    Firstly – you mention the closure of the FSS and seem to intimate that bad practices had something to do with this. The FSS was closed due to government cost cutting exercises and was nothing to do with the quality of the work (the crash of 2008 and undercutting by private labs drive this). Interestingly enough, most of the private labs you express admiration for are actually staffed by many ex FSS staff. The FSS was the first provider of DNA services in the world and as someone who now works in the US after the closure, so many labs worldwide express dismay that the FSS is closed. The FSS was processing DNA casework for over 25 years before the closure and for many years was the only provider. Since the closure of the FSS many issues have come to light in the private forensic market – I would suggest you do your research on the reports from the Forensic regulator.
    Moving to answer the article you raised from 2007. The FSS technique of Low Copy Number was investigated after certain cases gave no result but on rework generated a result. The issue was found to be linked to the lack of quantification of the DNA in the process. In the standard DNA process DNA is quantified to ensure the correct amount is taken forward (as too much DNA can inhibit the process). In LCN techniques the samples are expected to be much lower and therefore all the DNA is added. In these cases it’s an everything or nothing sort of approach. The challenge to the FSS was adding a quant step to LCN. The technique was very much still valid. It actually generated many results in the case.
    To the results reported and why no result cannot be considered an issue. Many of the samples gave a result, but they were a mix of 3 or more people. This could potentially be separated in standard cases but depends on several factors – like the concentration of each donor present. To throw a big spammer in the works – you inherit your DNA from your parents, so you can share 50% of your DNA with them. Good luck picking out the child if the two parents are in there.
    Finally – low level DNA samples tend to show far more background e.g. other people’s DNA. You take a sample from a car and you can pick up previous occupants of the car. Depends on how long ago and how much DNA they ‘shed’ at the time, differing amounts could still be there. This is why labs get great results from blood, saliva, cig butts etc but the so called touch samples can have many contributors. They become unsafe to call. Could you try and say and say Madeleine was in some of these touch samples? Probably, but you could also say most of the population was also in there as we share a lot of similar DNA. Forensic science is a tool to assist the investigation, and sometimes it’s not a black and white or binary if you prefer.

    • nickvdl

      Thanks for your comment John. Any thoughts on this article published on the FSS today in Australia?

      The FSS analysed the samples but struggled to untangle and decipher the potentially explosive evidence.

      “[The FSS testing] failed in this case 10 years ago,” the DNA scientist said.

      “If a lab can produce informative data, even if it is complex and mixed, but they can’t interpret it then you can have tremendous injustice – of guilty people not being convicted, or innocent people staying in prison. What is needed is an objective and accurate interpretation that can scientifically resolve the DNA.”The inconclusive DNA results from the FSS appeared to cast serious doubt over the earlier work of the cadaver dogs that had searched the potential crime scenes.In 2007, the now-closed British lab, the FSS, was forced to undertake a massive review of up to 2000 cases of violent crime, including rape and murder. There were concerns that the DNA tests relating to these criminal cases had failed to detect minute traces of DNA that could potentially have identified guilty parties.

      • John

        For some strange reason, I had replied to this, but it didn’t appear on the page. Strike 2! 🙂 To the points raised by Mark Perlman of Cybergenetics and the creator of True Allele. We have to first understand that Mark is in a competitive market and selling his software against other softwares, such as STR mix by ESR (New Zealand forensic lab), and other open source softwares. As such, there is always a slight spin applied to the discussion. Ignoring this aspect for now. In 2007 the FSS were manually designating DNA profiles and Mark is correct, humans have limits when compared with software. The probabilistic softwares were not in place in 2007, so using this kind of software was not an option . In those days a human would work some 3 person mixes (depended on how close the peaks were and how low level they were). They would definitely not touch a 4 person or above. In 2007, the FSS was using SGM+, a chemistry with 11 so called loci, which generated either 22 peaks for a male or 21 for a female. Another important fact is that the probability of another person matching your SGM+ DNA profile was 1 in a billion. This means its possible that 6 other people on the planet would have a matching DNA profile at the markers chosen. Now consider that you are not now unique in the world (at these markers), you also share a large number of similarities with other people you don’t completely match.The more peaks present, the harder it is to state someone is definitely present. The True Allele software will not categorically tell you, she was in there or not. It runs the process as a probability and quotes a stat of 1 in x number of likelihood. This is a very complex calculation as it has to know many factors like population genetics e.g. at one of the loci in SGM+ how much variation in a population is there. So if you are a 14, how likely is it most of the population could also be a 14 (if its very common, the stats show this). Take this across 11 loci and a possible 22 markers and you get an idea why software is the key to this issue. In addition to this: LCN stands for low copy number. What does this truly mean? Well standard processing in 2007 was PCR amplification at 28 cycles. It means DNA gets doubled every cycle it goes through. LCN processing was 34 cycles, so received 6 more doubling effects. The issue when you apply more PCR cycles to very low levels of DNA. Firstly you get whats called drop-out. This is caused by a phenomenon known as stochastic effects – you have very few molecules from one person in the sample and when you take from the tube, you don’t always pick up the same number of molecules. There is also whats called drop-in. DNA is everywhere in the environment, if you go low enough, you get environmental contamination. This often shows up as a random one peak appearing (with no link to anything). As such, the LCN process involves duplication. If a peak is not present in both of the results, you cannot use it. So all the results that were labeled LCN, are essentially duplicate results.
        Is Mark correct that more could be gauged from the 2007 data? yes and no. His software would have to be calibrated to the chemistry to allow it to be processed through. Most software would not cope with LCN type data due to the duplication element (as there is human involvement to remove peaks), they work better with the classic 28 cycle data. This is not to say they could not be taught to accept this data. It is however speculation to say the silver bullet awaits on running through the software (and appears more of a sales pitch). Its routine for UK and world labs to review cold cases. DNA techniques both chemistry and software have continued to evolve since the first use in the mid 80’s, and continue to this day. 12 years is a LONG time in forensics. I would be amazed if the police force involved has not reviewed this case for a cold case review. They would look at the results and consider if a new chemistry instead of the old SGM+ could help. The new kits that came into use around 2012 contained 22 loci, so 44 markers for male and 41 for female. If the samples were re-run through this, the stats might look better (more markers means more chance to separate individuals). In addition, TrueAllele and STR Mix are better than they were when they first came out and can certainly do more than a very talented forensic scientist in 2007. There have also been improvements to sensitivity of extraction techniques and other methods in the lab. However, do any swabs, or materials remain from the original case? Do they still have extracted DNA they could work from (sometimes it can be used up in the original process – one hit to get best result or two for duplicate PCR). So to summarize, Mark is correct, we have better ways to separate profiles now with the use of software. There are even techniques to better identify body fluids that were not available in 2007. Like your cell phone, tv etc, technology moves on, but it does not discredit the work of 2007 or for many years before. We routinely review old cases to see if things could be improved. DNA cannot answer all questions and is just a tool to assist in the investigation. In this case, the best it sounds like there will ever be is a stat on inclusion or exclusion in the samples processed (that were previously uninterpretable).

        • nickvdl

          Were you at FSS when the McCann DNA samples were tested in September 2007?

          • John

            Yes I worked at the FSS from 2000 till the closure in 2012. I was based out of the Birmingham lab (Trident Court and before that Priory House) for all but 3 years of my time. This sort of case, like the Suffolk strangler a year before were worked by the LCN team. Only the most experienced and best scientists worked on the highest profile cases. Just to confirm, I know John Lowe (the lead scientist), but I am not John Lowe! 🙂

          • nickvdl

            Did you have any direct interactions with the folks involved in the testing? If so would be good to get your bird’s-eye-view memories of that particular period. I’m sure many people would be interested in an insider’s perspective.

    • nickvdl

      To throw a big spammer in the works – you inherit your DNA from your parents, so you can share 50% of your DNA with them. Good luck picking out the child if the two parents are in there.>>>It was reported in Horas24 at the time that a source at the FSS had leaked information that a) the copy number was sufficient and b) that there was no difficulty confusing the DNA of siblings because Madeleine’s DNA apparently had another parent. She, like the twins, was conceived after IVF.

      And in SOL:

      A senior official at the National Institute for Forensic Medicine who was contacted by 24Horas confirms that “concerning the twins there is an absolute certainty that they are from Gerry. The same cannot be said of Madeleine McCann, because the alleles that were found do not allow for a precise determination of who the real biological father is”.

      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.

      >>>Strangely the alleged biological father was said to be located in Birmingham, which is also the location of the FSS–t2318.html

      The source claimed that two DNA samples found in the McCanns’ hire car – one apparently a full match to Madeleine and one partial – were of a type that suggested they had come directly from her body, rather than from clothes she had worn.Sources close to the investigation revealed that the DNA evidence – analysed by the Forensic Science Service in Britain – was regarded by Portuguese police as crucial.

      A sample that was a full match to Madeleine’s DNA was allegedly found on the windowsill of the McCanns’ apartment at the Ocean Club in Praia da Luz. Although the nature of the sample was not disclosed, previous reports claimed that blood had been found by sniffer dogs.

      One Portuguese newspaper claimed that “biological fluids” with an 80 per cent match to Madeleine were found under the carpet in the boot of the McCanns’ hire car, which was rented 25 days after she disappeared.

      • John

        In response to Mark Perlman from Cybergenetics (the owner and developer of True Allele). If we look at the history of DNA forensics we see a progression with technology, both in chemistry terms and software terms. In 2007 the FSS, like all labs in the U.K. was using a chemistry called SGM+. It produced a DNA profile with 11 markers (22 if it was a male and 21 fir a female – as XX compared to XY). The stats on this were roughly 1 in a billion. So that is to say that there was a chance that 6 other people (non related) on the planet could have an identical profile to you. So even if you had a lovely single source (no additional peaks) profile, you still had to quote that probability. So you then get to the stage of adding other people in – you add more different peaks and as it’s LCN, you also lose some peaks (it’s called dropout and can be attributed to stochastic effects – essentially you have very few molecules of a contributors DNA, and when you sample from it, sometimes you pick up the molecules and sometimes you don’t). Then you get a process called drop-in. Where peaks can appear but are not reproducible. This is the reason why, unlike standard casework, LCN samples were run in duplicate. If a peak was not in both of the results, it was not safe to use. So to the point – there may have been a contributor in the result at the required template levels, but it certainly doesn’t mean all the peaks present from different contributors were above this level.
        So taking that information on. Mark correctly states that software can do what humans cannot. In 2007 the software that Mark discusses was not available (something being available does not mean it is validated for use – it can take a year or more to validate a software . That is to say test it and ensure results are reproducible and then train 100’s of scientists). I believe it’s first appearance in court was probably two years later. 12 years on pretty much every forensic lab is using either True Allele or STR mix. These so called probabilistic softwares will attempt to pull out contributors to a mix. In most cases, depending on the data, they can pull out 4 contributors (some may now go as far as 5) . When I say pull out contributors, they essentially provide a statistic on the probability of a person being present. The less of a contributor, the lower the probability. In 2007, two person mixtures were manually analysed and interpreted and depending on the level of contribution, 3 person mixtures could be considered (but a lot were not possible to review as you were looking way too low level and it became unsafe). Anything above 3 person mixtures were not attempted as they were too complicated. So yes you could probably go back and run a newer chemistry. Kits now contain more markers, up to 44 for male and 43 for female. More markers mean more chance of separating individuals and giving a better probability of inclusion or exclusion. However, in low level samples you will still lose and gain peaks the lower the DNA amounts. You could also run through True Allele. You could probably even concentrate the original DNA results (as lab techniques have improved). All of these improvements in 12 years might help, but without seeing the data, you could still end up with a poor probability due to the number of contributors. So to summarize – the results in 2007 are likely at the limits of the technology of the time. If you question the validity of those, you would have to go do for many other cares run across the whole world (as all good labs followed the same practices). Could we do more now with the software etc? Possibly, but it’s difficukt today for sure without seeing the actual results. If there is general consensus on this, and thoughts of improving results, this should be dealt with by a cold case team. In these cases, results are reviewed and it’s determined that more modern techniques could assist. As previously mentioned, the use of newer kits with more markers, concentration steps or different extraction techniques and the use of probabilistic software. DNA science has come very far since the first case in the mid 80’s and it’s alwats possible that new techniques could help. However, every cold case needs to be reviewed by experts to see if improvements are possible.

        • Ralph Oscar

          Fascinating. Thank you for your input.

  3. Skye Kerrigan

    This made very interesting reading, thank you

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *