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

Tag: Intertextuality (Page 1 of 2)

“I don’t believe Chris Watts’ First Confession. I do believe his Second Confession. Why would he lie about something so horrific…?” Here’s Why

When 21-year-old Nicholas Ninow was caught in flagrante delicto – covered in blood – after raping a 7-year-old child in the restroom of a restaurant, it made national news that horrified South Africans. Now, a year later Ninow is in court confessing what he did. He’s admitted in court that yes, he raped the little girl. So why shouldn’t we believe him?

Because there’s an even worse scenario, and it comes from the little girl herself.  But what could be worse than Ninow admitting to raping the girl? To ask this question in the context of true crime is naive – there is always a worse case scenario.

Ninow’s version, while appalling is that he spontaneously, impulsively saw the child while he was “innocently” snorting drugs, and “just snapped” in the sexual sense. He got off the toilet to let her urinate, and helped her undress so she could. In this scenario he sketches himself as a caregiver right until the moment he violates the little girl.

The little girl’s version provides an even more disturbing impression of what happened. Ninow followed the child into the restroom, like a predator, and carried out the attack in a premeditated fashion. The fact that he flushed her bloodied panties down the toilet confirms just how quickly Ninow recovered himself, and started to dispose of crucial evidence.

What is the clearest evidence of premeditation? It’s the where of the crime. It didn’t happen because the little girl got lost and walked into the men’s toilet, Ninow followed her into the ladies toilets. Ninow was where he shouldn’t have been, not the other way round. And if Ninow acted in a premeditated way, it’s possible this wasn’t the first time he’d acted as a pedophile predator, and the court [when it imposes sentence] ought to make sure it’s the last.

Dros rape: Child gives a different sequence of events to Ninow’s – News24

Interestingly, about 10 months ago when the child rapist first appeared in court, his defense argued “mental illness”.

The defense added that he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2013 and had spent time in rehab for substance abuse. The alleged rapist had attempted suicide several times due to depression caused by the bipolar disorder, said his defense.

Source: The Citizen

What is the opposite of mental illness, or “just snapping”. It’s making the calm, calculated decision to commit a crime, while having the self-possessed confidence that one might be able to escape the consequences.


Just like Ninow invents a fictitious scenario where he pretends himself in the role of the child’s guardian [even though in the same version he rapes her], Watts does the same. He has sex with Shan’ann before killing her. He has some tender moments with his children before killing them.

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Chris Watts’ latest versions  include him 1) “finding God”, 2) God extending forgiveness to him, 3) Shan’ann praying to God while he’s murdering her, and 4) taking his kids to the well site [because he had no idea what he was going to do] . All four of these fictions contrive to do the same thing. It’s an effort to minimize his crime. In the minds of many, perhaps most, he’s succeeded.



Packham: A Reference Case that sheds more light on Chris Watts

A regular reader of this blog and my books recently asked if I was aware of the current coverage of the Zahau case. My response was something long the lines of needing to maintain a single-minded focus on the Watts case.  Consistent laser focus and concentrated attention is necessary, naturally, in true crime.

Focus is vital to penetrate the many layers of deceit and misdirection, and figuring out who people really are when they’re purposefully hiding who they are, takes time and effort. But we have to be careful. There’s focus and there’s also the danger of becoming one-track minded. When we’re one-track minded we’re in our own echo chamber and nothing new gets in. When that happens we as individuals, and as a group apparently sharing the same ideas, risk taking the bus to Abeline.

This is where Intertextuality comes in. It’s an incredibly valuable tool in true crime, and useful in criminal trials where – come sentencing – lawyers argue how previous cases were decided on, or how previous felons in similar scenarios were dealt with. Intertextuality is a highway to insights. Through other cases we have a better idea of who and what we are dealing with.

The first time I was truly shaken by the insights of Intertextuality occurred in early June 2018, during the Jason Rohde trial. At the time I’d written about the Zahau case, and so the unusual scenario of a murder staged as a suicide was still fresh in my mind. Sitting in court watching Rohde, listening to the autopsy findings, seeing the crime scene pictures projected in court, and listening to him testify, I saw many of the patterns I’d noticed in the Zahau case come rushing back. In fact I was so transported by these insights I was moved to do something I wouldn’t normally do. During a recess I boldly approached the prosecutor, briefly introduced myself and communicated my intuitions. He wasn’t very receptive. Not at first.

I’m not sure how many people like to be approached like that and told how to do their jobs. A prosecutor instinctively shoots holes into people. So I felt a little like that on Day 1, but as the trial wore on we communicated more often and soon, some of my ideas were floated in court. When the judge delivered her judgment in late February 2019, some artifacts of those ideas were still circulating.

Watts + Packham

In the Watts case it’s easy to get stuck on the idea that Watts didn’t have a plan, and hence, didn’t have an explanation for what happened to Shan’ann. Conversely, if he didn’t have a good explanation, he couldn’t have a good plan. This is circular reasoning, and within the confines of the circle, yes it’s fairly compelling. When we look at the larger ecosystem of the Watts case, the mistress, the pregnancy, the finances, the evidence, the notion that Watts randomly and impulsively committed triple murder becomes absurd.

It’s tempting to conflate Watts’ social awkwardness and introversion with stupidity and lack of guile. What’s really going on is the opposite. His social awkwardness makes him more internalized, which makes him a thinker, a plot, a planner. He likes to be under the radar.

Watts himself said he had to think carefully about what he said to Shan’ann. He had to plan his answers.

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Over the course of a marriage, where one individual can’t be who they really are, they practice their deceits and soon misdirection becomes second nature. As the deceits become more elaborate, such as an affair, so does the strategy, plotting and planning around it. The affair is the first thing “he gets away with” and this gives him confidence that he’s good at getting away with things. But he has to become more sophisticated and so a plot is hatched. And with enough arrogance and frustration, mendacity graduates into murder.

When we look at Packham, we see a wealthy individual, and an intelligent businessman. Nothing like Chris Watts, right? Actually, besides the money, they’re not so very different.

Packham had been married to his wife for almost thirty one years, but the couple had been having marital problems because of his infidelities, before her disappearance on February 22, last year. She did not arrive for work at the usual time of 7.30am and her body was later found in the boot of her burnt-out BMW near the Diep River train station.

Steyn rejected Packham’s version that she could have been the victim of a random hijacking and instead found that Packham was “a crafty deceiver”, agreeing with the State that his conduct was “incomprehensible” and had been indicative of guilt. – The Citizen

Like the Watts Family Murders, Packham’s wife was made to disappear. But unlike the Watts Family Murders, Gill Packham’s disappearance wasn’t “invisible”. Instead of oil tanks her remains were burnt inside her vehicle near a train station in a derelict suburb far from their lush mansion in Constantia. The incineration of the vehicle was meant to conceal the blunt force injuries to her head, but also to destroy possible DNA evidence linking Packham to his wife’s corpse.

On paper, Packham’s explanation isn’t bad. Packham suggested that his wife had come to grief as a result of a random hijacking. This is fairly common in Cape Town, so why not? Well, one reason is hijackers seldom burn the vehicles they target. In this case it was a BMW, so why would a hijacker burn the vehicle and not just take it? Packham didn’t think it through because he didn’t think he needed to. Who knows the motives of random hijackers…?

We may look at that kind of simplistic thinking as daft, but we’re not seeing the full picture. We don’t know the underlying drivers and dynamics, and we don’t know about Packham’s relationships with others, including his children. [The same applies to Rohde].

Interestingly in both the Rohde trial and the Packham trial, the daughters of the accused immediately forgave their fathers, and despite the convictions for the murders of their mothers [respectively], they didn’t want their fathers to be sentenced too harshly.

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In the Watts case we see the same expression of clemency and forgiveness not only from his own parents, but from the Rzuceks as well. It’s as if he did the calculations beforehand and figured if they found out, they’d let him get away with it.

And what about the lack of remorse? Packham and Rohde also showed no remorse, but interestingly Rohde, when confronted with this, indicated that showing remorse would look like admitting guilt.

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Guilty murderers don’t seem to realize that even an innocent defendant would be concerned and traumatized by the death of someone so close to them, besides being emotional about being “wrongly implicated” in a crime. Instead the lack of emotion is meant to convey blamelessness. It works only in the mind of the one who is to blame, but it can work in the minds of those close to them as well.


He had not once mentioned that he missed his wife or felt sympathy for his children’s loss, and instead displayed a “dismissive attitude” in court that lacked empathy. Judge Steyn said Packham had not divulged a motive, but it appeared he killed his wife out of “anger and frustration”.

Of course once again we have a case where after all is said and done, the guilty man is convicted, but no one can say why.  The crime is ultimately dismissed as a crime executed in anger. He’s angry but he’s a sociopath who shows no remorse. Really? Is he? Was it random frustration on a random day or was it cold, premeditated and merciless?

Which is worse?

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Intertextuality: If Chris Watts was a typical Annihilator, he would have done this…

One critical component is missing from the Watts Family Murders. It’s this missing link that makes the crime atypical, and Watts himself such an enigma. Intertextuality provides us with some clues to what fits the criminal psychology, and what doesn’t.

The Manrique Family Tragedy played out in a suburb of Sydney, Australia on Monday, October 17, 2016:

A Sydney father who is suspected of pumping lethal amounts of carbon monoxide into his home as the family slept resulting in the deaths of his wife and two children, made multiple trips to a Bunnings store before the deaths, an inquest has heard.

In the days leading up to family’s deaths, Fernando Manrique, 44, visited the store in Belrose in Sydney’s north shore to buy equipment that police believe was used to set up an elaborate mechanism to channel the deadly gas from a garden shed, through the roof and into the house.

Manrique, his wife Maria Lutz, 43, and their two children, Elisa and Martin, were found dead inside their family home on Monday, October 17, 2016.The inquest into the four deaths, which began today, also heard Manrique had been having an affair with a teenager he met in a bar in the Philippines.

Superficially we see more than a few consistencies:

  1. The murders [and suicide] were carefully planned – that is premeditated – over a few days prior to tragedy.
  2. The premeditation wasn’t simple.
  3. The father was having an affair while married, and in spite of being a father to two small children [aged 11 and 12]

But between the parallels there are a few inconsistencies too:

Maria had not been replying to text messages the weekend before and hadn’t dropped her kids at school on the Monday morning. On the morning of October 17, police conducted a welfare check at the home after Ms Lutz’s friend Nichole Brimble noticed the devoted mother had failed to turn up to her volunteer shift at the school canteen, and learnt the children were not at school. Police attended the single-storey home in the leafy northern beaches suburb of Davidson. While officers initially thought nothing was amiss, they soon made the grim discovery of Maria’s body through an open window.

Her daughter Elisa, 12, was beside her in bed, her husband was slumped in a hall while 11-year-old Martin’s body was found in another bedroom. The family dog, Tequila, was also dead lying on the floor close to Martin.

Asked if there was evidence to suggest Maria had a role in her children’s deaths, he said: “She wasn’t involved at all or had any knowledge. Going through phone records no indication with any person of anything like that.” Counsel assisting Adam Casselden said it was likely the family died sometime between 11am on the Sunday and 11am on the Monday, most likely as the mother and her two children slept in the early hours of Monday morning.

A neighbour said they distinctly remembered the barking of a dog from the house at 2.30am.

The couple were childhood sweethearts from their home in Bogota, Colombia. They emigrated to Australia and gave birth to their daughter in 2005 and son in 2006. Both were diagnosed with autism. “Caring for Martin and Elisa was no doubt challenging,” Mr Casselden said. Despite the challenges the care of the children posed, Judge Truscott said there was no indication Maria was involved in her children’s deaths.The inquest heard that, initial speculation that Ms Lutz was aware of Mr Manrique’s fatal plan, would be dispelled by the steps he took to hide it from her, and because of her happiness at securing $50,000 in government funding to help with the care of Elisa and Martin. Ms Truscott said it was clear from the evidence of Ms Lutz’s large network of friends that “Maria loved her life, loved her children and had every intention of continuing a very loving, giving and productive life with her children”.

Indeed, he said the relationship between Maria and Manrique had broken down. “There was very little conversationwith her husband and with conversations with friends she said she has ‘had enough of him’,” Det Sgt Pooley said.

Maria, who used to be a lawyer in Colombia, had given up work to care for her children while her husband had been made redundant. That had seen his income fall dramatically as he helped set up another company, which led him to frequently visit the Philippines. Detective Sergeant Pooley said the couple had just $6 in a family trust, had credit card debts of $28,000, only a few thousand dollars in a savings account and two mortgages, which Manrique had reduced his repayment amounts on.

“I’d say that he was in dire straits and had massive tax issues,” the detective said. Mr Casselden said the couple had a debt to the Australian Tax Office of about $15,000 in September 2016. Despite this, shortly before the family died Manrique wired several thousand dollars to a lover in the Philippines that he met while travelling for work. Mr Casselden said Manrique had met a 17-year-old called Jamielyn in a bar in the Philippines in 2016.

“He confided in a friend his marriage had become strained and he was seeing other women in the Philippines,” he said. Manrique would “hook up” with other women and had been seeing Jamielyn for at least four months on his trip abroad prior to the family’s deaths. (Manrique) said he would buy her a property but never did so. She recalled that he was particularly stressed on a final trip in September 2016.”

“Manrique told [his business partner] Mr McKenzie that he was struggling to hold everything together and said ‘I just need to slow down’,” Mr Casselden said. In the weeks before the family’s deaths, Manrique had left the Davidson home but had returned in early September for a temporary period, he told his wife, while he found somewhere else to live.

Usually distant, Manrique seemed to be a changed man. Maria confided in a friend that “if he had been like this throughout the marriage, I would never have told him to go”.

“Maria described him as ‘father of the year’ during that week,” Mr Casselden said.

The biggest difference?

More: ‘A horrific thing’: the death of the Manrique-Lutz family – Sydney Morning Herald

More Intertextuality: The controversial case of Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald

The Jeffrey MacDonald case is an interesting reference case to the Chris Watts case. MacDonald, from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, was convicted in 1979 of murdering his pregnant wife and two daughters in February 1970. The decade between the murders and the arrest, trial, conviction and incarceration provides a theoretical premise for a man who – at least temporarily – got away with murder.

The Two Faces of Jeffrey MacDonald – Raleigh’s National Murder Case – CandidSlice

MacDonald’s version of events turned out to be a whopper, as the clip with Larry King below illustrates. The important thing is MacDonald [a medical doctor] thought it was believable and credible, which is why he thought he would get away with what he did.

And this idea was part of the psychological ether floating around Fort Bragg in the early 80’s. Chris Watts was born into that ether on May 16, 1985. The distance between the Watts home in Spring Lake and Fort Bragg is less than 12 miles.

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Who Were the Suspects that Jeffrey MacDonald Says Murdered His Family? – People

When military police officer Ken Mica arrived at Jeffrey MacDonald’s Fort Bragg, North Carolina apartment on Feb. 17, 1970, he saw MacDonald in the master bedroom, lying on his stomach next to his bloodied wife, Colette.

“I see he’s still alive and I lean down next to him and say, ‘Who did this?’ ” Mica tells PEOPLE. “And he starts describing three guys and a woman.”

The woman he described — long blonde hair or wig, a floppy hat and knee-high boots — resembled a woman Mica had passed on the way to the apartment belonging to MacDonald, a Green Beret surgeon. Mica says it was unusual to see a woman alone at that hour at Fort Bragg.

He told his lieutenant to send a police car, but no car was ever sent.

The Devil and Jeffrey MacDonald – Vanity Fair


During the first day of the trial, Dupree allowed the prosecution to admit into evidence the 1970 copy of Esquire magazine, found in the MacDonald house, part of which contained the lengthy article about the Manson Family murders of August 1969. Prosecutors James Blackburn and Brian Murtagh wanted to introduce the magazine and suggest that this is where MacDonald got the idea of blaming a hippie gang for the murders.

Is there anyone out there worse than Chris Watts? Actually…

How do we measure criminal culpability? Do we do so by body count, lack of remorse, age of the victims, murder weapon, malicious intent, the brutality of the actual crimes, scale and scope of the cover-up or is motive the key determining factor?

As shocking as the Watts case is, in many respects, if we’re serious about comparing apples with apples [annihilators with annihilators], then Watts isn’t nearly as distinctive or unique as we may think. Adam Lanza is probably one of the worst family annihilators in history. We don’t think of him that way because he murdered dozens of schoolchildren at Sandy Hook Elementary, but the fact is his first victim was his mother. And Lanza ended the slaughter by taking his own life.

Two fairly recently examples in South Africa of annihilators who wiped out their families but not themselves are triple axe murderer Henri van Breda [20-years-old at the time] and Don Steenkamp [15-years-old at the time]. Van Breda’s body count was almost as high as Watts’. He would have matched it, except his sister Marli miraculously survived the axe bludgeoning and the severing of one of her jugular one side. Interestingly in both cases, the younger sons stood to inherit millions of Rands if found innocent. At the time of the murders there appeared to be serious, escalating estrangement within the family.

Three family annihilations in Australia are worthy of note:

1. Father of murdered Margaret River family reveals suicide note – SBS

The father of the four children killed in a suspected family murder-suicide has opened up on what led his father-in-law to pull the trigger, and revealed the suicide note that he left behind.

Aaron Cockman, who was estranged from the family, told Seven Network’s Sunday Night program he believes Peter Miles killed his family as he had wanted to kill himself but did not want them to suffer.

Mr Miles, 61, his 58-year-old wife Cynda, their daughter Katrina, 35, and her four children – daughter Taye, 13, and sons Rylan, 12, Arye, 10, and Kadyn, eight – were found dead at Forever Dreaming Farm in Osmington, near Margaret River, on May 11.

Three guns licensed to Mr Miles were found at the hobby farm and the family all suffered gunshot wounds. Mr Cockman said the deaths came after a two-year custody dispute over the kids, which resulted in court orders, including over where the kids should live. The father told Sunday Night he believed the costly and lengthy custody dispute helped push Mr Miles over the edge.

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2. Bedford mass murder: Man charged with killing five members of family including three children – ABCNews

A 24-year-old father has appeared in Perth Magistrates Court charged with murdering his three daughters, aged under four, as well as his wife, before killing the children’s grandmother the following day. He is accused of murdering Ms Harvey’s mother, the children’s grandmother, 73-year-old Beverley Ann Quinn, in the same house the next day.

WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said police would allege a blunt instrument and knives were used in the crimes, but no firearms were involved. He said the bodies of Ms Harvey and Ms Quinn were found in the kitchen of the house, with the children’s bodies found in other rooms. Barefoot, bearded and wearing a dark grey t-shirt and jeans, he showed little emotion during the hearing and as the charges and names of his wife and children were read out to the court.

Ms Harvey is believed to have worked in the Pilbara some years ago, and land title records show she bought the brick-and-tile home on Coode Street back in 2008. Neighbours said an older woman visited regularly to help with the children.

A neighbour, who asked for just his first name “Alfie” to be used, said he didn’t know the family well, but never heard any conflict at the home. “I always waved at them and the two twins were always dressed the same, beautiful little kids,” he said. “You could hear them all day there in the back, running around. “There were never fights, arguments there, never ever.” He said Ms Quinn was always at the house helping her daughter. Alfie witnessed police jump the fence of the property on Sunday and said he thought there had been a robbery. “They were hammering on that back door, then others went in by the front,” he said. He said police took footage from his CCTV cameras, which were only activated at night.

A separate article in the Daily Mail refers to financial problems:

Another neighbour, Alfie Cambos said they were ‘just a normal family’ and were always playing in the backyard. ‘There were never fights or arguments,’ he told Perth Now.

‘They were just beautiful little kids. We used to hear them playing in the backyard.’ Professor of criminology, Guy Hall of Murdoch University, said that the recent incidents occurred in a pattern such as a ‘copycat phenomenon’ and the two main motives behind these atrocities is revenge and depression.

‘Family killings are very strongly related with depression, unable to cope, can’t see a future, a sense of hopelessness,’ Mr Hall told WA Today. ‘They then act out their frustration and anger…men will kill their own children just to teach their partner a lesson, while it’s very rare for women to kill their own children as revenge on their partners.

The children’s father, Mr Harvey, who ran a Jim’s Mowing franchise with his wife Mara, told a neighbour he was struggling financially and felt under pressure to work even when sick to keep the business afloat. The couple ran the business in Morley, north-east Perth, after previously working for a Sino Steel Pilbara mine.

3. Brenda Lin, the only surviving Lin family member, breaks her silence –

In the early hours of 18 July 2009 in North Epping, New South Wales, newsagent proprietor Min Lin, age 45; his wife, Yun Lin, 43; their sons, Henry (12) and Terry (9); and Yun Lin’s sister, Irene Lin, 39, were bludgeoned to death.Police investigators noted the blood spatter from floor to ceiling, and the faces of the victims were so disfigured that forensics had to be used to identify them Forensics also determined that the killings had been started with a hammer-like object, alleged at trial to have been bought from a $2 store, and four of the five victims had signs of asphyxia.

The massacre was one of the most brutal in Australian history. Ms Lin, the eldest child of Min and Lily Lin, told the NSW Supreme Court trial Xie sexually assaulted her on a number of occasions when she moved in with his family after the murders. She also gave evidence of instances of inappropriate touching before the killings. One of the motives advanced by the Crown was that Xie would be able to continue to offend against Ms Lin with her family gone and with her living under his roof.

“He was someone that I trusted…As a person who isn’t a murderer. And also know what he has done,” Ms Lin said in a Sunday Night promotion. “I’d give anything to have my family back.”

Ms Lin spoke of her harrowing ordeal in her victim impact statement read to her uncle’s sentencing hearing. She was on a trip to New Caledonia when the murders occurred. “I do not even know how to begin to express how the murder of my immediate family have impacted my life — there are not enough words to describe the pain and suffering caused me and those around me.” The second motive was Xie’s perception that he did not have equal status within the family — and his jealousy of how highly regarded Min Lin was.

Xie’s sentencing heard about the bloody mess found inside the tidy, two-storey family home. The amount of blood in the bedrooms was not only an “immediate and graphic” illustration of the “murderous assault” which killed them, it also revealed they were killed in the rooms — and in the case of the adults — in their “blood soaked” beds.

Blood was smeared up the walls and across the floor. Of all five victims, young Terry Lin was the only one not killed instantly, such was the severity of the injuries each family member received to their heads and faces. A distinct pattern was visible on their battered faces, with a forensic pathologist later determining a hammer-like object was used as the murder weapon. Justice Fullerton said the murders were “heinous in the extreme” and were “a single episode of brutal and calculated murderous violence”.

She was satisfied Xie killed the family with a hammer like object with a rope attached “most likely so he didn’t lose control” of it and also to maximise “the degree of force to ensure he killed with speed and efficiency”.


She believed Xie used a key that was cut for his wife Kathy — Min Lin’s sister — and used his knowledge of the home he gained as a “trusted family member” to carry out the murders. Xie showed no emotion when the sentence was passed and he learned he would spend the rest of his life in jail.

More: Lin Family Murders

Court Releases CCTV Footage Used as Evidence in Robert Xie Murder Trial May 07 – WeeklyTimesNow

Robert Xie guilty of Lin family murders -Herald Sun

Just how “Intertextual” is the Joana Cipriano Case to Madeleine McCann? A Focused Interrogation of a Key Aspect Highlighted in Episode 6 of the Netflix Doccie

For those new to TCRS and perhaps those who have not read a Rocket Science book, “Intertextuality” [with a capital “T”] is a TCRS-ism that refers to the relationship between crimes, criminals and potentially the fate of the victims. In some circumstances it can also refer to the possibility that one crime leads to, inspires, or informs another crime either further down the line or contemporaneously.

If that sounds confusing, don’t worry, it’s easier to understand Intertextuality by feeling our way through practical real-life examples than pontificating with definitions and semantics. So let’s get started.

The Joana Cipriano case predates the Madeleine McCann case by less than three years. The geographic distance between the two crimes is just eleven kilometres [seven miles].

The circumstances of 8-year-old Joana’s “disappearance” are as follows, according to the generic version on Wikipedia:

Joana Cipriano, eight years old at the time, was last seen at around 8 pm on the evening she disappeared, after being sent to buy milk and a tin of tuna from a local store. A neighbour saw her around 200 yards from her house, walking back from the store. Her mother, Leonor Cipriano, launched a local campaign to find her daughter, distributing posters around the neighbourhood. 

The prosecution argued that Joana was killed because she had seen her mother and João Cipriano, her mother’s brother, having [incestuous]  sex. Leonor confessed to killing her daughter after nearly 48 hours of continuous interrogation. Her brother confessed to having assaulted Joana, and said he had cut her body into small pieces and placed her inside a refrigerator, which was put inside an old car that was taken to Spain to be crushed and burned. When he was asked if he had sexually abused Joana, he said, “I did not harm her – I only killed her.”

Tower of London Raven

There’s a lot to take out of these two brief paragraphs. In sum:

  1. Joana was eight-years-old [twice as old as Madeleine].
  2. Last seen in the evening at around 20:00 [this corresponds roughly to the time Madeleine was last seen, in the relatively early evening].
  3. A neighbour was an important eyewitness [ditto Mrs Fenn and her niece Carol Tranmer  in the McCann case].
  4. Joanna was last seen walking back to her home, not away [Tannerman was alleged to have been walking towards Murat’s home carrying a child, but in fact Dr. Julian Totman was walking in the other direction, towards Block 4.]
  5. One of the main suspects launched a campaign for her child, but was later charged with her murder and contriving to make it appear as if her daughter had disappeared without her mother’s knowledge.
  6. One of the main features of the misinformation campaign was putting up posters all over the neighborhood. One might scoff at the trickery involved, but each poster proclaiming the child as missing was essentially an advertisement proclaiming the myth that a) she was still alive and b) that the mother wasn’t implicated. Since the child was dead, and the remains taken care of, there was no need to be concerned that someone might actually come forward with information.
  7. The prosecution didn’t argue for an accidental death, or an abduction, or a disappearance, but murder.
  8. The mother ultimately confessed to killing her child, but did so under duress.
  9. The girl’s uncle admitted to assaulting the child and dismembering her body. In the concealing, covering up and destruction of the child’s body, both parties appeared to have an equal or substantial “stake”.
  10. A refrigerator is noted as a temporary storage device for human remains. [Joana was killed in mid-September, when it’s still relatively warm in the Algarve].
  11. After a limited period, the body was transferred from the refrigerator to an old vehicle.
  12. The remains were then removed from the area entirely.
  13. The prime suspect made an ironic remark that he “only killed her” but didn’t harm her.

It’s tempting to want to sticky-tape many if not all of the idiosyncrasies of the Cipriano case onto the McCann case, particularly the vivid scenarios involving the refrigerator and the secret movement of the little girl’s remains to Spain.  But we need to be careful how we apply what we know in one case to another. Certainly, some areas have Intertextual Criminal overlaps, and some aspects of the whole crime feel generally very Intertextual, don’t they?

But it requires specialized True Crime Rocket Science to know what to apply and what not to. Netflix provides some useful information but it shouldn’t be treated as gospel, nor dismissed entirely as bunkum. Reality lives somewhere in-between.

Let’s start our analysis with Goncalo Amaral.

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I like Amaral. He’s a solid dude [despite the aspersions cast in the documentary, Amaral wasn’t present at the time of the alleged beating]. And he has some snazzy insights into the McCann case.

He’s entitled to his opinion, of course, that the Cipriano case and McCann case aren’t similar. It’s possible that he sees a distinction in the fact that Joana was murdered, and because there was an incestuous spiel playing out he believes these shouldn’t be conflated with the McCann case. Point taken senhor Amaral.

The Rocket Science position is different. Yes, agreed, Madeleine wasn’t murdered – not by either of the parents. There was no direct intent or Dolus as the legal term is applied. As for some kind of sexual spiel, there does seem to be the possibility at least of a paternity issue. I don’t want to say sexual issues are irrelevant, though I can understand why Amaral excludes them. I don’t want to conflate this sexual miasma with anything as overt as pedophile gangs or traffickers, however.

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Rocket Science is content to aver that the sexual dimension in the McCann case is somewhat unknown, and if we invoke merely the IVF scenario, we can see there is some idiosyncrasy hiding in plain sight. What more than that? Well, there is more to say but this post is about Intertextuality, so let’s stick to our brief.

The area that Amaral is missing – to my mind – isn’t even highlighted in the bullets above. And this area is a key Psychological Intertextuality – an overlap – between the two cases. I don’t want to be too on-the-chin about it, but the motive in the Cipriano case is the covering up of a taboo. We know from an eyewitness that the child was seen walking home relatively late in the evening, and perhaps arrived home either unexpectedly or earlier than expected.

It’s also possible the uncle was abusing the little girl if he was having sexual relations with her mother, and the bloody dismemberment of her corpse suggests a kind of rough familiarity with body parts. I’ll expand on what I mean by that in a moment.

It may seem a giant leap, and perhaps it is a giant leap, but it’s possible a similar taboo exists in the McCann dynamic. Now, the circumstances are clearly different in a scenario of accidental or negligent death. In that case [if that is the case] the child’s death is a triggering factor, leading to a reaction. In the Cipriano case, the incestual act isn’t the triggering factor, but rather the child witnessing it. 


So the question of Intertexuality then is in a situation where Madeleine was found to have died, was the taboo triggered by a sense of being imperiled by who might witness what they did [effectively] to their child?

We see in the Cipriano siblings and the McCann parents a shared sense of symbolic and biological connection to the victim. They are both directly responsible for the care and safety and guardianship of the child, and yet their own status in some way interferes with this guardianship.

I also want to come back to the issue of the sexual miasma. Clearly in a scenario where the siblings were involved in a taboo act, both adults don’t have an identical blood relationship to the child. One adult is the biological mother, it is true, but the other is less-the-parent to the child. This mismatch in affiliation appears to be psychologically significant, and plays into the criminal psychology of both parties – apparently. The question then arises – to what extent can these mismatches be applied to the McCanns in this hypothesis, if at all? Is one adult more biologically connected to the child than the other? What actually happened, what lengths did the parents go to, during their efforts to produce a viable IVF result?

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We can also potentially extend the taboo aspect to others in the group of seven, four on whom were doctors: Dr. Gerald Payne. Dr. Fiona Payne. Dr. Matthew Oldfield. Dr. Russell ‘O Brien. Of the remaining three Jane Tanner [O’Brien’s partner] was a marketing manager, and Oldfield’s wife Rachael was a lawyer.  If we add the McCann couple to the Tapas Seven there are six doctors in the group, in total.

There’s plenty more to say on the subject, but I want to stick to the brief and move on to another possible Intertextual aspect, the refrigerator.

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The docuseries seems focused in episode six on maligning Amaral. He’s portrayed as a corrupt cop at best, and a brutish thug at worst. They hold up the absurdity of the refrigerator scenario as the reason Amaral’s investigative nous is off.

The Rocket Science position is that it’s not as simple or straightforward as the Netflix folks would like us to believe. On the one hand, yes, certainly, the eight-year-old’s body was probably not going to fit into the confined space of a small refrigerator very easily. If the Chris Watts case is worth invoking here, for just a single Intertextual aspect, it was found that two children [three-years-old and four respectively] were stuffed through an orifice eight inches wide.

Although the experts “predicted” the hole was too small to fit the bodies of the poor little girls, they were wrong. Somehow they did fit.

That’s not to say Amaral is right, or wrong, just that when it comes to fitting human bodies into small spaces, there’s no “expert” truth.

In the Courtney Pieters case, the three-year-old victim was sexually assaulted and stored in the perpetrator’s refrigerator, in his room.

The Refrigerator Theory has led to an unfortunate conspiracy theory, which is that Madeleine actually died a week earlier and was kept in a neighbor’s refrigerator during this time, and disposed of at leisure [not necessarily when the alarm was raised on the night of May 3rd]. I won’t attempt to address those concerns here, except to note it’s not the position of TCRS.

Some of those who subscribe to the Refrigerator Theory in the McCann case also conflate this conspiracy with a pedophile theory, feeling that a group cover-up would have made it possible to pull of moving the girl’s remains to a refrigerator in some other location.

What I will say is there’s reason to suspect Madeleine’s remains were in Praia da Luz for some weeks before they were transferred somewhere else. So some arrangement had to have been made to “manage her remains” if that makes sense. The foremost concern [assuming this contention is true] would have been odor. A refrigerator would address that problem, but I nevertheless don’t consider it a viable theory.

In the Casey Anthony case Caylee’s skeletonised remains were discovered after being gone for six months, and when they were found, they weren’t recovered by smell but by sight.

So what did happen to poor eight-year-old Joana?

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As mentioned above, episode six of the documentary appeared to be focused on character- assassinating Amaral. Whether Amaral threw a suspect down stairs or not, whether he did naked cartwheels on a beach, whether he caught a marlin once upon a time in Tahiti, none of these anecdotes should distract us from the facts of the case.

Amaral certainly didn’t kill or abduct Madeleine, so we shouldn’t make an investigation into Madeleine McCann an investigation into the lead detective. The fact is, Amaral’s scenario in the McCann case is basically cogent, except for the refrigerator business.

Probably, unfortunately, poor Joana’s remains never made it to Spain. Her killers were poor, and simple-minded. Their methods, similarly, were simple, even trashy.

The little girl’s remains were probably eaten by pigs. Unfortunately there is Intertextuality for this too, and in the same Intertextual reference case there is also a mismatch between the biology of the parents of the seven-year-old child, Adrian Jones.

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We may ask why Joana’s killers “confessed” they put her body into a car and transported it to Spain if it wasn’t true? Why confess to a lie when you’ve been found guilty anyway? Well, even murderers have pride, and honor. Admitting to moving remains somewhere by car minimises the more monstrous alternative – feeding the flesh of one’s one child to hungry pigs in a farmyard pigsty.

In the Jones Case there’s also an extensive pattern and prolonged period of neglect and abuse to take note of, from the boy child’s own stepmother, including anecdotes of torture posted onto Facebook. In other words, the neglect isn’t incidental or accidental, it’s systematic and it builds up to murder. In this respect the death of the child isn’t random or unexpected but an entirely predictable psychological spiral into ultimately the complete destruction not only of a living child, but even of their remains.

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“There was no evidence to show that Madeleine was the source of the DNA”

By far the most disturbing “takeout” from the Netflix docuseries on Madeleine McCann is this contention [stated as fact]: that there’s no evidence linking the DNA in the blood traces found in the rented Renault Scenic and apartment 5A to Madeleine McCann.

Is that a fact?

You may remember that the advent of the dogs alerting in the apartment, the car, the villa and on Cuddle Cat led to the widespread belief that Madeleine was dead, and that she died in the apartment on May 3rd. But take away the DNA evidence and suddenly Madeleine is alive again, scuttling off in the streets somewhere in the great beyond, beyond apartment 5A anyway.


In this scenario one might as well look at the footage of the dogs and turn the volume off. They’re barking at nothing, right? They’re unreliable, right?

The notion fielded in episode five is not disturbing so much because there’s no evidence, but because I believe there is. It’s not disturbing because the media believe Madeleine McCann is alive, it’s disturbing because as a result of the twisting of this particular evidence, there’s now “proof” that she’s not dead.

Wow, what a mind job!

Going by the Netflix docuseries, it’s not surprising public perception around a complicated forensic issue would be as simple and straightforward as it’s presented in this article by Digital Spy by editor Laura Jane Turner:

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Well, let’s start with the first issue here.

It’s not true that the docuseries provides an “exhaustive timeline”. The docuseries provides a little information in fairly large increments between 20:30 and 22:00 on the night of May 3rd, 2007. So the timeline aspect relating to the incident can basically summarised in a paragraph no longer than this one.

An exhaustive timeline would at the very least include the diary of the McCanns starting from their arrival in Praia da Luz on Saturday, April 28th, 2007, and meticulously examining and comparing what they did each day, day to day, and how this pattern of behaviour compared to those on the day and night night in question.

The docuseries makes absolutely no provision for the events earlier in the day of May 3rd. Nothing about the weather or the movements of the family from the moment they woke until they retired to wash-up and prepare for dinner. There’s zero mention of David Payne disputed visit in the late afternoon, supposedly catching Kate McCann in the shower or getting out of it.

We also don’t get a similar orientation around the activities of the Tapas 7. Who hung out with who, typically what did they do each day, where, how and when? What time did all of them typically go to sleep each night? What were the rituals regarding the children of the Tapas 7 like? Were there any incidents, accidents or illnesses among their children during the break?

So no, the timeline is hardly exhaustive; instead it’s skeletal, and not just skeletal, a few spare, bare bones skeletal.

Now to the dogs and the DNA.

The Digital Spy article highlights the “infamous footage” of the cadaver dogs, and rightly notes the entry of the dogs into the narrative “spurred a shift” in the narrative.

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I think it’s a little slippery to say the shift that occurred in the investigation after the dogs was in terms of how the case was handled. The writer seems to think the dog evidence led to the case being handled worse than it had been, until that point, or mishandled. Really? By looking at the parents as suspects for the first time the case wasn’t handled properly?

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There’s no explanation from Digital Spy for what the dogs were alerting to, if the evidence that was tested as a result of the dogs proved it wasn’t Madeleine.

Let me be clear about it. A dog trained to trace human blood found human blood, and it was sent to a British lab for testing. A dog trained to trace human cadavers found it, and here too more evidence was collected and sent to the lab. Then the lab returned with a verdict: the substances tested were human [well done dogs!], but they weren’t Madeleine.

So this raises two obvious questions:

  1. If the evidence traces wasn’t Madeleine’s blood or body fluids in the apartment and the Renault Scenic, whose was it? [The argument seems to be it was everyone else’s blood, or it could have been everyone else’s blood, it just wasn’t Madeleine’s blood].
  2. Cadaver traces were found in the apartment and the car. So if a human being died, and traces were found, who was it? Who died? [The argument seems to be that either the dogs made a mistake, or if not, then the human traces weren’t Madeleine but some anonymous interloper who coincidentally did in the apartment and used the same rental car as the McCanns].

There also seems to be some circular reasoning going on here. If the blood can’t be proved to be Madeleine’s, then there’s no proof she’s dead. Also, if a cadaver odor is found and it can’t be proved that it’s Madeleine, then it’s not necessarily proof that anyone died, including Madeleine.

I’m purposefully avoiding a more technical discussion for the moment, simply for reasons of  brevity and to express the absurdity of the argument. I will deal with the scientific argument, and the sneaky way the evidence was processed at the FSS labs, in a follow-up post.

It should be noted in the meantime, though, that precisely the same sneaky scenario played out in the JonBenet Ramsey case. First there was no DNA evidence linking the family to her cadaver, and then 20 years later there was. In that case the DNA testing was handled by a company called Bode Labs.

From the Daily Camera [2018]:

“From my own experience, there is no case that is just a DNA case,” Dougherty said. “You could have a sexual assault or a murder and develop a full profile, but that full profile does not necessarily mean that the person who has that DNA was the perpetrator of the crime.”

In a case where the DNA evidence is inconclusive, that inconclusivity cannot be raised as a flag to claim “no evidence” exists. One can merely say the case needs to be investigated using other avenues, such as witness statements, circumstantial evidence, forensic accounting etc. I personally don’t think the DNA evidence in the McCann case or the Ramsey case is inconclusive, although the evidence was clearly difficult to come by. I do think the “inconclusive” aspect is a clever charade of smoke and mirrors.

To illustrate this, one ought to look at the DNA narrative of the Van Breda triple murder case. It’s difficult to imagine a crime scene more doused in blood than that one.

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When I sat in court and listened to the defence case, it started off with the DNA expect running through a long list of all the hundreds of inconclusive DNA results. Never mind the hundreds more DNA traces that were valid and confirmed, the DNA fixated on arguing about all the traces that weren’t 100% conclusive. They were trying to argue that some uncertainty and doubt existed around whose blood belonged to whom, where. Within a crime scene bloodbath described by one witness as “a waterfall of blood flowing down the stairs…”

The DNA expert was roundly lambasted during her extremely lengthy and tedious testimony by the Judge, who accused and chastised for manipulating the data and then criticised again during the Judge’s summation of the case.

From TimesLive:

On Tuesday‚ Judge Siraj Desai raised the issue of Olckers scouring through piles of documents “merely to poke holes in the state’s defence” rather than doing an “independent analysis” [on the DNA evidence] which could inform her expert opinion.

It turned out the DNA expert had never worked in a forensic crime lab before.

For an indefensible case, Van Breda’s defence strategy was clearly to seize on the DNA narrative as a way to claim “no evidence” or that evidence was uncertain. All it required was for an expert to “conjure” on the evidence, thus recasting reality with a flick of the expert’s wand. Again, never mind the accused had the blood of the victims all over himself. The Judge also made the point that even if all the DNA evidence were omitted from the trial, Van Breda would still have been found guilty. But that’s how anal and fickle the DNA narrative can sometimes become when dealt with by experts in a court of law.

Of course the best “spokesperson” for the “no evidence narrative” [specifically no DNA evidence] is Gerry McCann himself. Below Gerry addresses the prospect of Madeleine no longer being alive:

“We just don’t have any evidence…that the child’s dead…”

Gerry seems to talk about the lack of evidence with a certain glee, doesn’t he?

When the McCann’s sued Goncalo Amaral, who speculated based on his investigation that Madeleine had died on May 3rd, they repeated the same narrative to the media milling around the court.

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It can and should be argued that if there is little evidence that Madeleine is dead, how much evidence is there that she’s alive? I suppose one could argue that 10 000 sightings worldwide constitute “possible” evidence, but anything is possible. These possibilities ought to be weighed against the “possibility” of those blood and cadaver traces belonging to Madeleine – perhaps not possible to verify scientifically, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible that they are traces of Madeleine.

At Faro airport, on his way to court the point Gerry wanted to emphasise was the same “no evidence” catchphrase.Fullscreen capture 20190322 125144Fullscreen capture 20190322 125409Fullscreen capture 20190322 125653

In the infamous interview when he was asked if he killed his daughter, Gerry also refers to the notion of “no evidence” when he says cryptically:

“There’s nothing to suggest anything…”

We get a darker sense of the utility of the “no DNA evidence” as a potential PR tool when we look at the Intertextual aspect.  At 46 seconds in the clip below, Amanda Knox explains why she can’t possibly be the murderer of Meredith Kercher. Of course the first thing she does after being asked the question is she fails to hold back a DELIGHTED smile.

The weird thing about Knox’s argument is that one moment she’s arguing “my DNA wasn’t there, no trace of me was there…I wasn’t there” but she actually lived in the villa where Kercher was killed.  So why isn’t she there? If her DNA’s not there, didn’t she live there?

A moment later at 1:12 when reference is made to DNA traces mixed with Meredith’s blood in the hallway, then it becomes “of course my DNA was there, I lived there!” So Knox’s argument is simultaneous “my DNA wasn’t there…I wasn’t there” and “of course my DNA I was there…I lived there!”

When Dr. Phil interviewed Burke Ramsey in mid-September 2016, he asked JonBenent’s  29-year-old older sibling:

There still are people that believe that you killed your sister? What do you say to that?

At 0:03 Burke replies smiling openly:

Look at the evidence, or lack thereof.

So if there’s no evidence to prove something happened, it didn’t happen?

There’s a difference between a lack of evidence and no evidence, also a critical difference between incomplete evidence, or evidence that wouldn’t hold up in court and the notion of “no evidence”.

Fact is, evidence was found in the McCann case [and in all the other cases cited above including Knox and Ramsey], but the “lack” was that so little blood traces were found it wasn’t possible to definitively link the DNA that was found to Madeleine [or in the Knox case, herself to the victim, in Burke’s case, himself to the victim]. In the Knox and Ramsey cases it wasn’t possible to definitively link their DNA to the cadaver/crime scene, but in both cases a lot other evidence did seem to link them – circumstantially – to the victim.

In Knox’s case there was some reason to believe in a DNA link. Both Knox’s DNA and Meredith’s DNA were found on a knife believed to be the murder weapon [located in Sollecito’s apartment]. Well, Meredith Kercher had never been to his apartment. Also, Sollecito’s DNA was found on a bra clasp under Kercher’s body in her room. How did that happen? Oh, it was a contaminated sample which also contained Knox’s DNA. After several appeals Knox and Sollecito were able to finally convince the court that the DNA evidence wasn’t definitive, and so this was the basis of her “exoneration”.

In the Ramsey case Burke’s prints were found on a bowl of pineapple in the kitchen, casting doubt on the notion that he went straight to bed that night, and indeed, whether JonBenet did. The Ramsey case is an extraordinary example of massive crime scene contamination, a scenario that replicated itself in the moments after Madeleine’s disappearance. The miracle isn’t that no DNA evidence was recovered three months after the incident, it’s that any was.

Curiously, the FSS lab in the McCann case originally said the sample was small but sufficient, and also that there was no way Madeleine’s DNA could be confused with that of either of her siblings.

Madeleine McCann DNA ‘an accurate match’ – Telegraph

The McCanns have vowed to fight to clear their names, and hired two of the country’s leading solicitors, Michael Caplan QC and Angus McBride, to advise them. 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. Forensic experts in the UK have pointed out that if the samples found in the car were hair or skin they would be of little evidential value as they could have rubbed off Madeleine’s toys or clothing.

But there were fresh reports claiming that both samples were blood, and one source close to the inquiry told The Daily Telegraph that the nature of the samples led police to believe that they had come from Madeleine’s body being placed in the car.

The Portuguese police’s theory is apparently that Madeleine was killed by accident by one or both of her parents, and that her body was hidden before being disposed of a month later using the hire car. DNA samples that are a “100 per cent match” to Madeleine McCann have been found in her parents’ hire car and holiday apartment, it has been claimed.

Ultimately that narrative did a U-turn – the sample was subsequently judged too small and could thus be the DNA of Madeleine’s siblings Sean or Amelie. And an 80% match was judged to be “not-definitive”. And thus, through the miracle of science, the barking of cadaver dogs was silenced and Madeleine was resurrected into a pedophile sex-trafficking plot. Her inexplicable absence has a handy explanation, however. According to Netflix, Madeleine was taken by inexplicable shadows, and there’s every reason to hope she’s still very much alive somewhere out there…

Spot the Differences: Another Exercise in Intertextuality

Think the Watts Family Murders are bad? How about a quadruple murder involving a brother stabbing his brother’s wife and children to death, shooting his brother multiple times in the back and head before setting his brother’s house on fire.
The Watts case and the Caneiro case are nothing alike, right?
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From the Daily Beast:

Outside the mansion, Keith’s body was found on the front lawn, with a gunshot wound on his lower back and “four shots into his head.” Jennifer Caneiro, who was found inside on the stairs leading to the basement, also sustained a gunshot wound to the head as well as “multiple stab wounds to her torso.” Sophia was found on the stairs leading to the second floor, while her brother’s body was in the kitchen. Both sustained fatal stab wounds.  “This one is the most brutal cases that I’ve seen in my experience here,” Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni said in a press conference at the time.

It takes a little digging to get to some of the basics, such as that an email was the trigger and the fact that the crime was executed at night. From

Keith forwarded that email to a relative about 7 p.m. the night before he was found dead with his family, according to the affidavit.

About seven hours later [approximately 02:00], neighbors’ surveillance cameras captured headlights and a white colored SUV, believed to be a Porsche, leaving Paul Caneiro’s Ocean Township home and arriving back two hours later at about 04:00. Authorities allege that’s the night Paul Caneiro, 52, traveled to Willow Brook Road in Colts Neck where he killed his brother and his brother’s family and left the secluded mansion ablaze.

So our ballpark figure for when this crime happened is around midnight to 01:00. Agreed? So we have two parents and two young children [Jesse, 11 and Sophia, 8] inside the house when they were attacked. And it’s late at night. Were any of them murdered in their beds? I can guarantee you the perpetrator would like you to think so.
Without even looking at the merits of the case, we can see a similar defense emerging as the one Watts used. How was Caneiro involved? Why he was at the house trying to save the family! [Just as Watts was innocently heading up the stairs when he saw Shan’ann murdering his brood, and he only killed her to “save” them.]
And sure enough, Googling “Paul Caneiro save” you get this, from

Family members of Paul J. Caneiro may describe for a judge his efforts to save them from the fire he is accused of setting at their Ocean Township home just hours before his brother and his family were found murdered at their Colts Neck mansion, his attorney said.

Defense attorney Robert A. Honecker Jr. said he plans to meet with his client’s wife and two daughters either Monday or Tuesday to discuss the possibility of their testifying at a detention hearing designed to determine whether Caneiro will remain in jail without bail to await trial.

“If they do testify, it’s anticipated they will describe the events that they observed in the early morning hours of Nov. 20,” Honecker said. “It’s anticipated they will describe his efforts to save his family from the fire.”

Authorities have not yet released the cause of death of the wife and two children, and Honecker said he hasn’t learned anything more about how they died.”His arrest was related solely to the alleged arson at his residence.”

Whereas Watts concealed his family in oil and dust, Paul Caneiro used flames. Like Watts, Caneiro was initially charged with suspected of a lesser crime at first. But there’s something else glaringly obvious that these two crimes have in common. Do you see it?
You don’t even have to look closely.
Below are two images of two houses. Anything about them that’s sort of similar? That’s true crime intertextuality for you.
More: Bullets, money trouble and a bloody glove: Affidavit lays out Colts Neck quadruple homicide
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Patrick Frazee arrested on charge of murdering his fiance Kelsey Berreth – what we know so far, and how much of it relates to the Chris Watts case

Time. That’s the main difference between the Frazee case and Watts case. Just three days after Chris Watts was sentenced to life in imprisonment in Greeley, 29-year-old Colorado pilot Kelsey Berreth was last seen seen at a Safeway grocery store in Woodland Park, Teller County. CCTV recorded Kelsey shopping with her daughter from 12:05 to 12:27 on Wednesday, November 22nd.


While the cops were alerted to Shan’ann’s disappearance at about noon on August 13th, or within about ten hours after she was last seen by Nickole Atkinson, Kelsey was reported missing at noon on December 2nd by her mother Cheryl Berreth, ten days after she disappeared. Like Shan’ann, Kelsey was described as “not the kind that runs off.”

While it’s not relevant, strictly speaking, where the Watts home was relative to the Berreth’s home, for those unfamiliar with this case, and with Colorado, this map provides the basic geographic context.

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Frazee lawyered up. It’s not clear precisely when Frazee lawyered up, but Jeremy Loew, his attorney features in the timeline on December 12th, 22 days after Kelsey’s disappearance. Watts, of course, never lawyered up.

On December 12th, Frazee handed over his cellphone and a cheek swab for DNA. That’s very late compared to what happened in the Watts case, where Shan’ann’s cell phone was seized on the afternoon of August 13 [Day 1], while Watts’s phone was confiscated at 21:00 on August 14th [Day 2].

Human remains. Shan’ann’s remains were found and exhumed approximately 67 hours after her murder. When Frazee was finally arrested on December 21, one day short of a month after Kelsey’s murder, it wasn’t clear whether her body had been recovered. What is clear [at the time of writing], that while it took less than three days to find Shan’ann’s body, Kelsey’s cadaver was missing for 696 hours, or four weeks and one day.

Frazee didn’t live with Kelsey. Frazee was based in Florissant, about 15 miles West from Kelsey’s home. The geographical distance between the couple could mean there was space for a third party to be involved as we saw in the Watts case. Since Kelsey was a young mother, the likelihood is greater that Frazee was cheating on her, than the other away round [assuming infidelity is even a factor].

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Kelsey’s phone wasn’t found at her home, but eventually tracked to Gooding, Idaho, about 35 miles north of Twin Falls, almost 800 miles [1 290 kilometers] north west of Kelsey’s home. Shan’ann’s phone was found in the loft lounge, under some cushions on the couch. It is possible Watts took her phone with him, and returned it, or put it in the Lexus and retrieved it from there when he entered the garage. Fullscreen capture 20181222 024000

Kelsey was a strong Christian, who wanted the same qualities in her partner.


Frazee didn’t participate in a press conference set up to find Kelsey. Lesson learned from Chris Watts’ catastrophic Sermon on the Porch.

Frazee did not agree to an in-person interview with law enforcement. Watts did and was arrested within three days of committing the crime.

Kaylee Berreth, the couple’s 1-year-old daughter, survived the murder of her mother.

Now for the similarities between the Frazee case and the Watts case:

  1. Authorities have declined to provide a motive for Kelsey’s death.
  2. Authorities have not – thus far – disclosed how they believe Kelsey was killed. Due to the length of time her remains have likely been out there, we may never know. A similar uncertainty exists around time of death and precisely how or where the Watts family were killed.
  3. Frazee was the last person to see Kelsey alive. Watts was the last to see his family alive.
  4. Frazee appears to co-operate with law enforcement, though he’s less co-operative than Watts when one looks at the media aspect and the Frazee having a lawyer speak on his behalf. Nevertheless media were told he was co-operating. As a result of these shenanigans, Frazee appeared less plausibly a suspect -arguably – than Watts did.
  5. Frazee is charged with premeditated murder. This tends to support the supposition that a third party may have been in involved. The third party may refer to the “solicitation” charge.
  6. Cellphone data [and “other data”] proved to be instrumental in both cases.
  7. Certain aspects of the cell phone data appeared to be a ruse, contrived and calculated to create the impression Kelsey was alive when she wasn’t. Watts also made a call and texted Shan’ann hours after she was already dead. Fullscreen capture 20181222 023403-001Fullscreen capture 20181222 023423Unlike Watts, however, Frazee travelled a long distance to reinforce the impression that Kelsey was somewhere else. As mentioned above, Kelsey’s phone was recovered from Idaho. Since she was a pilot, it was somewhat conceivable that she’d flown somewhere. The cellphone is key. Police said the only signs of Berreth after Thanksgiving were some text messages and that location data suggested the phone by November 25 was near Gooding, Idaho, 800 miles (1,290 kilometers) from her house.abc77467852-6499519-image-a-31_1544901494086
  8. The crime appeared to be committed inside Kelsey’s home [which implies Kaylee was present].
  9. Frazee was described as a “gentle soul” would never hurt anyone. From CNN: Sonja Oliver, who says she has known Frazee for five years, told Inside Edition, “I’ve always considered him to be a gentle soul. Soft spoken and just really down to Earth and practical.” Oliver says she “couldn’t imagine him doing anything that would harm anyone.” When asked by Inside Edition if she believes he had anything to do with Berreth’s disappearance, Oliver again stated, “I just can’t imagine Patrick doing anything like that.” This echoes the multiple early character references for Chris Watts – including from teachers, high school friends, co-workers, the Thayers, from his pal Jeremy Lindstrom, and from his parents. Nickole Atkinson and Cassie Rosenberg, who had the inside track into Shan’ann’s world, knew better, however.
  10. The initial searches of the respective residences didn’t turn up anything. This suggests Frazee also covered up extensively, just as Watts cleaned up his crime scene. The digital deception suggests a real world parallel.

That’s ten similarities, that’s enough. Now for the Rocket Science treatment on what we don’t know. Please note these speculations are made hours after Frazee’s arrest and need to be seen in the light of extremely limited or non-existent information [check the date this blog was published].

Rocket Science’s Early Assessment of Kelsey Berreth Slaying

1. Why was Frazee arrested?

According to abc7 the cops believe Frazee killed his fiance, but either they don’t know how, when or why, or they know and they’re not telling, or they’re sure of only a limited fraction of information.

“As you can tell from the arrest, sadly, we do not believe that Kelsey is still alive,” De Young said. Authorities also declined to elaborate on the solicitation of murder charge, how they believe Berreth was killed or any other aspect of the investigation.

The easy answer is that Frazee has been arrested because the cops don’t believe Kelsey is alive. The harder question to figure out is why don’t they believe she’s alive. The answer probably has something to do with the cadaver dogs.

There’s a big insight into the mind of law enforcement via the release to the press that Kelsey likely died at homeat her home. 

Investigators who went to Berreth’s home found cinnamon rolls in the kitchen and both of her cars outside. De Young said the company where Berreth worked as a flight instructor, Doss Aviation, had accounted for all their planes and that police had no reason to believe she used someone else’s plane for a flight.

This makes sense, because Kelsey was last seen at a shopping center near her home, and was expecting Frazee to arrive later that afternoon to pick up their daughter. The fact that it was Thanksgiving, and he was coming to pick-up their child and take her with him, points to the possibility that they were either on the verge of breaking up, or in the process of it, but had not announced the end of their engagement to the public [which rings many similar bells to those in the Watts case, doesn’t it?]*

…the search and arrest affidavits will stay sealed for now. “There are a lot of investigative leads that need to be done,” May said. Authorities said as many as 30 FBI agents are participating in the investigation in several states.

Kelsey’s cars in the garage, and the sealing of the investigative reports, both echo what happened in the Watts case. It’s clear once the cops were able to confirm the flight logs with Doss Aviation that Kelsey hadn’t flown anywhere, her vehicles at her house and the CCTV footage started to sketch a mosaic that she was probably home.

A cadaver dog search [and reports indicate they searched for her above and below ground] would have confirmed or provided some potential confirmation that her remains, or part of her remains, were in and/or near the residence.

But just as we find in the Watts case, there’s a possibility that Kelsey’s body was transported back to Frazee’s ranch [an area he was as familiar with as Watts was with CERVI 319, and what’s more, could exert access control to] for burial.

According to the Daily Mail:

Deputies arrived and cut the lock on the gate that leads onto Frazee’s property, according to ABC News Correspondent Clayton Sandell.  


Frazee was present when they arrived and later left the house with his daughter in the back of a sheriff’s vehicle, according to ABC News.  

Several law enforcement vehicles – including a K9 search dog unit and an FBI pick up with a wheelbarrow in the back- were seen driving up the dirt road towards the farm where Frazee keeps cattle and horses.  Later a convoy of search personal from Teller County Search and Rescue drove up. Greg Couch, Sheriff’s Office PIO at the scene, told Daily ‘We’re just giving him a courtesy ride off the property.


The excavations below on Frazee’s 35-acre ranch [left] were made by the cops. It’s unknown why they chose to dig in that area. But clearly there is excavation, and probably something was discovered [even a scent] on or under that disturbed earth that provided confirmation that Kelsey was dead.

Fullscreen capture 20181222 034808


‘He just left in one of those two cars. We’re just giving him a ride, I don’t know where he’s en route to but he was on the property when we got here.  ‘When we do a search warrant we remove everyone so he’s gone.’. 

Frazee, a farrier (horse shoer) and cattle rancher, also lives with his mother Sheila police confirmed [she] has also left the farm. 

2. How could the cops be reasonably sure Kelsey didn’t go on a trip?

In both cases, there’s a psychology of the spouse or mother “running away” and disappearing. Ironically, this seems to be precisely what the murderer/s is/are doing. Watts wanted to “run away” with Kessinger, and so his motive is imputed – mirrored – onto Shan’ann as her going to an anonymous friend. When Watts was confronted with his affair, he was adamant that he didn’t want to identify Kessinger, which proves the mirroring was clearly in effect. The same scenario appears to be playing out in the Frazee case.

What Frazee couldn’t have anticipated was the Nickole Atkinson-factor.

According to the Daily Mail:

Kelsey’s brother Clint Berreth had earlier revealed he went to her home shortly after realizing she was missing and is adamant she didn’t pack to go anywhere. Her luggage and makeup remained untouched, and her two vehicles were still at her home.

If Frazee was hoping Kelsey’s disappearance wouldn’t be noticed, well, he seriously miscalculated in terms of Kelsey’s brother Clint, just as Watts underestimated Nickole – and Nicolas.

3. The big question is whether Frazee was aware of, and attempted to learn from the “mistakes” of the Watts case. In TWO FACE ANNIHILATION, the 6th book in the K9 series, I will address this aspect. There is a very clear indicator for this being not merely possible, but probable. Can you see what it is?

*Kelsey’s mother disputes the idea that the engagement was crumbling.

Daily Mail:

Cherly said she spoke with Kelsey twice on the phone on the day of her disappearance. Asked what they talked about she told Today: ‘it was just small things, initially she needed a recipe. ‘Her voice was fine, it was a normal day for her’. Cheryl said while the couple did not live together, their bond was strong. She added: ‘The relationship has been good, they are loving’. 

It may be that it wasn’t, or more likely in my view, that Kelsey herself wasn’t fully aware of a dalliance.



What does a tattoo and a song reveal about the REAL Chris Watts?

There’s an easy way to read someone’s mind. It’s so easy, a kindergarten kid could do it. In a few moments, if you’re patient, you’re going to be doing it too. No degree in psychology needed. There is one requirement though. If it’s so easy that we can look on with the mind of a child, we nevertheless have to listen intently to what the suspect is listening to. Agreed?

Before we get to Chris Watts’ favorite song, let’s be explicit in what we’re getting at. Does a criminal’s favorite song say much about him, or the crime he committed? Does it say anything? Does a tattoo say much about someone, or their criminal capacity?

The easy way to answer this question is off-the-top of one’s head. Does your favorite song – current or in the past – say much about you, the you you are now or the you you once were? It has to, it resonates with you for a reason. The ethos of the song matches your interiority at a particular time. The song, for all intents of purposes, is the slippery thing that’s someone else’s interiority.

Further Reading: Understanding Interiority – and how it applies to the Watts Family

My favorite song at the moment – don’t judge me – is this one.

But of course we do judge. We can’t help it. What we like when it comes to music says plenty about not only who we are and the kind of person we are, but what we’re feeling.

The other aspect to interiority is how these sights and sounds allow us to read the criminal mind. Just as writing is telepathy, my words are talking inside your mind right now, music is  the same.  They’re also words and ideas talking to and about who we are.

To the extent that we’re caught up in it, those words are our interior monologue. It allows us not only to read the mind of the murderer, but to look at his heart and soul too.


Before we get to the tattoo, let me clear. In every true crime case I’ve researched it takes time for the character of the suspect to emerge. That time lag isn’t because the suspect has no character, quite the contrary, but because like all strangers, it takes time to get to know them, especially when they’re doing their damnedest to hide who they really are from us.

One of the questions we ask people we don’t know is “what’s your favorite music”? We do this to gauge their vibe, who they are, how they see themselves and  to we see how relatable they are to us, and we to them.

What’s your favorite music?

Doesn’t it make sense, then, to ask Chris Watts this question?

Down the Alley of Criminal Intertexuality

[To skip this section, scroll down to What Does Chris Watts Tattoo Say About him?]

To understand why music may be important, and just how deeply it allows us to penetrate into the psychology of a case, let’s examine this issue through another case first.

Many people don’t know, for example, that in the Amanda Knox case, someone was listening to music at about 05:44 on the day Meredith Kercher’s body turned up with her throat slit.

The music was played on Knox’s boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito’s MacBook computer, but he was an Italian who could barely speak English. So who was listening to American music [see timestamped playlist below] that morning? Who could it be besides Knox?


What the above playlist seems to show is that 1) Knox was awake and listening to music four hours earlier than she said she was on the morning after the murder and 2) through the music we begin to intuit the type of person Knox is. 

The type of person is really the question the criminal trial – and all of us, the media, the public – are trying to fathom. Is this type of person capable of murder? What type of person is this person? Did this type of person really get along with the type of person the victim was?

And what about Meredith Kercher, the murder victim – did her music tastes matter? Why would they? What did a university student’s music preferences have to do with murder? Well, more than you might think.

220px-Mtvema2007logomunichOn the night of the murder the MTV Eurovision awards were broadcast, at approximately 21:00. One of the reasons the British girls departed when they did was so one of them, Sophie Purton, could catch the awards. Well, didn’t Amanda Knox – Amanda Knox who was strumming Beatles songs in her room and always singing – also want to watch them?

Music, especially for young impressionable university students, is one of the important ways they identify themselves to each other. Meredith Kercher, a few weeks before arriving in Italy, appeared in a music video, thus giving her massive social credit as a happening young woman.

Could this, and Meredith’s popularity with the girls and boys, have been a source of burning envy for the younger and not-so-popular American living in the same house?

Another example, this time looking at cinema choices, in the Van Breda case, the axe murderer was a fan [like Raffaele Sollecito – Knox’s boyfriend] of violent anime. In both cases they claimed to be watching anime on the night of the murders.

In the Henri Van Breda case it transpired after the trial that he was also into gratuitous violence porn in movies like Hardcore Henri. See trailer below:

Often television or a movie is given as an alibi for what the suspect was doing at the time of the murder. That’s the case with Knox and Van Breda. What we tend to miss while trying to disprove the “alibi” is the person these movies and music points to and describes. By their own admission, the suspects in these crimes identify the sights and sounds that were filling their heads at the time terrible crimes were committed. Almost no one actually tests this media to see what it was actually saying to and about these criminal characters.

What Does Chris Watts Tattoo Say About him?

I can’t take any credit for joining the dots regarding Chris Watts’ tattoo. Credit goes to Paula Neal Mooney, who put a lot of it together in this thread.

And Mooney is right, that tattoo on his back is the Metallica logo:

Fullscreen capture 20181027 015943Fullscreen capture 20181027 015741Fullscreen capture 20181027 021626

For Chris Watts’ 32nd birthday, Shan’ann gave him a Metallica shirt. Doesn’t he seem more delighted here about a shirt and concert tickets than he was about finding out his wife his pregnant?

The joy is written all over his face, isn’t it?

Fullscreen capture 20181027 014816

Metallica was clearly a very big deal to Chris Watts. He more than identified with the band, he branded himself with it. He identified himself with them. The words in Metallica’s biggest hit The Unforgiven are – as Mooney mentioned in her tweet – very, very haunting.

This whipping boy done wrong, Deprived of all his thoughts…

Think of just those words in the context of what was going on in the Watts home. Him, an introvert, her an extrovert having him perform in her Thrive-inspired spiels.  And then the pregnancy itself, did that really happen the way her words contrived it – something he wanted?

What I’ve felt
What I’ve known
Never shined through in what I’ve shown
Never be
Never see
Won’t see what might have been
What I’ve felt
What I’ve known
Never shined through in what I’ve shown
Never free
Never me
So I dub thee unforgiven

Besides the words of this song, the iconography of Metallica is also worth noting. Given the gruesome body count in this particular crime, the skulls and death symbolism suggests a man who may not have been as uncomfortable with corpses and skulls [and dismemberment] as we first imagined.

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In 2011, while Amanda Knox was in prison, she co-wrote a script for a music video. According to

U.S. student Amanda Knox, convicted in Italy for the murder of her British roommate, has written a music video script for a band based near her prison.

Amanda Knox has “always had a passion for music and poetry” said the band, Hands of Time, ANSA reported Friday.

Knox reportedly sent the script in English and Italian to the band via mail. Hands of Time said the script showed “considerable artistic quality” and decided to use it for their song “The Mistral Blows.”

Knox, 24, is currently in the process of appealing her case in Perugia.

When the music video was released, it bore weird similarities not only to Knox’s personal story, but also to the original music video in which Meredith Kercher appeared.

Settling of scores?

Kercher’s video has remained a lot more popular based on YouTube views. The Mistral Blows has been viewed only 313 times. Some Say has been viewed over 230 000 times. The music business is like the murder business in one vital aspect – it is at its core a popularity contest.

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