“Fightback” is the title of episode 5, but I think “Popularity Contest” is more apt. In a scenario where their daughter is missing, and a criminal investigation is underway, you’d think the fight back would involve fighting for more police resources, getting more detectives working the case, or getting out there themselves and searching, or making Madeleine’s DNA available to the authorities in Portugal using DNA from her clothing or bed or soft toys in Portugal, or investigating for themselves the possibility that Madeleine had died [had the abductor killed her]?
Instead, the fightback is a popularity contest fought in the media. And the prize is nothing more or less than the McCanns’ rehabilitating their own image. Of course there’s also a cash incentive to this. When they’re considered suspects, the “income” of the fund drops, when they’re able to court public sympathy, they “income” of the fund shoots up again. And this income isn’t to be sniffed at, it eventually balloons to millions upon millions of pounds. With this war chest the McCanns can invest in even more media coverage, reputation management, legal representation, legal suits and expert advice, more PR, merchandising and all the rest.
During one spiel in episode 5 Kate McCann emphasises that 99% of people support them, and only 1% are trolls. There’s also a nice scene where they show large boxes labelled “Support” compared to a small battered, mostly empty little box where “hate” mail is kept. What the McCanns seem to be saying is they’re winning the fightback because they have popular support. Far more people love them and support them compared to a tiny minority of detractors.
In a recent poll conducted on twitter, over 90% of over 3000 people who voted sided against the McCanns, blaming them either directly or indirectly for Madeleine’s death.
Then it’s Gerry’s turn to make the case against those who have “nasty” attitudes to them.
Gerry looks bemused here, rather than hurt or stung, doesn’t he? One might even say he looks a little smug.
He’s still smiling as he places the solitary smidgen of hate mail in its sad, sorry, mostly empty box.
For all their bravado, one of very, very few instances where Kate McCann appears emotional and vulnerable, even slightly tearful, is when she talks about “what people out there” say about whether or not she loved or cared for her eldest daughter.
The docuseries then spends a little time dealing with the notion – which came from the public – that Kate McCann especially didn’t appear to be grieving, and didn’t appear very emotional after the loss of her daughter. The image below, of a shirtless Gerry McCann jogging beside Kate was taken on May 16, 2007, less than two weeks after Madeleine’s disappearance.
In DOUBTI’ve made the case that running plays more than an incidental role to the McCann case, and as it happens, to solving it.
Watch at 2:21 in the video clip below, as Kate McCann addresses the camera, begging and pleading for the safe return of her daughter.
Unfortunately the most damning “evidence” against the McCanns – certainly in the court of public opinion – is the least damning in an actual court. As so often happens, the public cotton on to what they regard as inappropriate affect. They did with Chris Watts [and were proved right]. They did with Burke Ramsey [and the jury is still out, and probably will be till the cows come home]. And they did the same with Amanda Knox [and were apparently proved wrong].
The fact is, emotional affect is a powerful indicator in true crime, but it’s not necessarily evidence. One thing we can say, as human beings, is when we care about a victim more than the suspect [or imputed suspect], and when we feel grief more than we see them grieving [if at all], it’s only right that we raise our hands and ask about it.
It’s very difficult to cover up [which is a contrivance, and a way of masking authentic motives and feelings] and show genuine emotion at the same time. Covering up requires careful thinking and anticipating what the next question or move might be. It often happens in true crime that the suspect feels the best “face” to show to the crowd is nonchalance. They imagine grief will appear as guilt, but only a guilty person would think that way.
I love the way the docuseries has the McCanns PR person explain that the McCanns were “advised” not to show emotion, as this might be detrimental to their daughter. So imagine the abductor is sitting somewhere, with Madeleine in a cage, and he sees the parents looking unemotional. Is this going to encourage him to…do…what?
On the other hand, if the McCanns appear distraught and upset, this is going to make the abductor NOT want to return the child?
The reality is, whether the McCanns were instructed to be emotional or unemotional, there is a lot of inappropriate smiling going on, especially when they’re asked about whether she might be dead or not.
For all their posturing about the support, it’s clear the online vitriol [which continues today] is so severe, even newspaper editors felt they had to shut down the interactivity [the comments] of their coverage of the McCann case.
The docuseries neglects to mention that the McCanns felt so agitated and imperiled by negativity directed towards them, they elected to threaten British bloggers and social media users with lawsuits.
It’s also more than a little disingenuous of the Leicester Mercury to cry “neutrality” and editorial standards after the fact, when anyone who dared to criticize or accuse the McCanns were sued.
Of the first five episodes, I found the fifth the most troubling and upsetting by far. Probably the worst moment was when the Portuguese journalist Sandra Felgueiras expressed her feelings of disdain to the Portuguese cops for lying to her about DNA evidence.
The DNA narrative was a HUGE PR and legal victory for the McCanns, and turned the tide of popular, investigative and legal opinion back in their favor, and as result, this remains the official status quo today.
It’s pretty incredible, after the brief opening montage of cadaver dogs, that the PR person gives a voiceover “explanation” for the episode, summing it up as a “backlash”. Really? After three months of PR, when the dogs go in and find traces of a dead person, and this is the first evidence of what really happened to Madeleine, that’s a “backlash”?
Are dogs barking a backlash?
The fourth episode in the series, obscurely titled Heaven and Earth, is the best of the first four episodes which is another way of saying the most damning. A better title would be Backlash, or Putting a Nice Spin on the Cadaver Evidence.
Episode 4 is damning. Unfortunately many – especially in the media – don't understand that when cadaver odor comes into play there's no more wiggle room for a missing person. A cadaver means someone is dead, in an apartment, a cupboard, behind a couch, in garden, in car. #McCann
I suspect the 4th episode is the most damning of the entire series. I haven’t watched the entire series, but I suspect from here the narrative turns and builds back up to Madeleine being alive, the McCanns recast as a model of British moral decorum before defaulting to “there is always hope”.
Six Useful Insights from Episode 4
1. I liked that episode 4 kicked off straight to the point, with no muss, no fuss. It went straight to the dogs and provided a smidgen of extra archive footage of Grimes and the dogs at work than I’ve seen previously. But I thought it was a little tricksy to show the cadaver dog in the opening clip with no context, thus psychologically conflating Eddie’s alerts with Keela’s.
2. I liked that they provided an accurate representation of where the dogs alerted inside the apartment, even if it was slightly misleading by leaving out the important alert outside [in the garden below the balcony at the back entrance].In a later post I will explain why an additional alert in Madeleine’s bed should have been made [and would have had the cadaver dogs been brought in immediately] but wasn’t. It should be noted that some of the media graphics are incorrect and inaccurate not only in terms of the layout of the apartment, including the McCanns’ bed and closet configuration, but also what constituted the “front” and “back” entrance. This is somewhat confusing. The front entrance faces the road and car parking lot, while the back entrance faces the front of the hotel, and the balcony.
An updated diagram from 9News.co.au provides additional context for what is the front and back entrance.
The “front door” opens up into the area depicted below:
3. Keela [the blood dog] is shown giving a silent alert behind the sofa. That footage is fairly rare, and thus useful. Usually when one looks at the evidence of the dogs, we see Eddie jumping over the blue sofa [2:22 in the clip below] and barking loudly from behind the sofa as Eddie gives a strong and unambiguous alert.
I do think it’s interesting that the Netflix docuseries seemed to concentrate more on the blood dog alerting, which benefits the “Madeleine is still alive” narrative slightly, whereas the cadaver alerts certainly do not. Of all the dog alerts in and outside the apartment, there were more cadaver alerts than blood alerts, and yet the docuseries chose to focus on the single blood alert behind the sofa.
Interestingly, although the dogs went in on July 31st, three months after the incident, it was only reported in the media on August 15th, 2007. At the time, an updated picture of Kate McCann was published sitting on the rocky shoreline on the western side of Praia da Luz [i.e. on the side of the beach opposite to the monolithic Rocha Negra]. Thanks to the archive protocols of Getty Images, we know for a fact that this image was taken on the same day the press revealed the cadaver dog evidence [August 15th, 2007]. Even so Kate McCann can be seen smiling in photos and greeting well-wishers. Both her and her husband are dressed in matching white and khaki, and as usual, Kate is carrying her daughter’s pink cuddlecat toy.
4. In point #1 I mentioned the tricksy editing of showing Eddie barking with no context, and then explaining what Keela was doing. It’s interesting how Robbyn Swan, the co-author of Looking for Madeleine [there’s a 2019 update to her book] is pertinently quoted saying Keela was “not particularly interested” too. This falsely implies that the blood dog just like the cadaver dog was “not interested” or didn’t alert. But the blood dog is trained to only alert to human blood traces, and the cadaver dog to human cadaver traces. If anything it’s a credit to the incredible sensitivity of these animals that one dog alerted to one set of distinctive traces, while the other did not. It should also be remembered that the apartment was visited after three months of summer, when the potential for the evaporation and dispersion of liquids and odors were at a maximum.
Then, when the narrative flips over to the traces in the vehicle, the cadaver dog becomes the focus, while the PR person ridicules the idea that the car was only hired several weeks after the incident, so how could a dead body “magically appear” in the vehicle. This is ridiculous, and ludicrous, is the inference. Of course, the blood evidence inside the vehicle [found by Keela] ought to be the focus of the dogs, but instead the focus goes to the cadaver dog. Interestingly, no mention is made of cadaver traces also found on the key of the Renault Scenic.
In a story on page seven, Jornal de Noticias carried the headline: “Dogs detected scent of a corpse on the car keyof 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 directorsas is Mr McCann’s brother, 48-year-old pharmaceutical sales repJohn McCann, and Mrs McCann’s uncle Brian Kennedy, 68, a retired headteacher.
Retired hospital consultantPeter Hubner, 64, hospital director Douglas Skehan, 54, and former Leicestershire coroner Philip Tomlinson, 76, are the other directors of the fund, set up within two weeks of Madeleine’s disappearance on May 3.
Ms McVey said: “The McCanns very much know and are aware of how the money had come together. They know it’s from pensioners and kids in schools and they want it spent as carefully as possible.Because we’re a not-for-profit limited company they are very much aware that we abide by the best practice charity laws.”
The tone of the above article clearly shows to what extent the British press were both drinking the Kool-Aid and making it for mass consumption.
5. The archive of newspaper headlines shown in episode 4 include some I haven’t seen before.
6. The media footage of the McCanns driving the Renault Scenic, entering and exiting the villa, and fleeing to Faro airport as soon as the media tide turned [coinciding with an end to the deluge of public donations to the Find Madeleine Fund] is also useful.
In one clip, we see an army of waiting press, and each time the McCanns appear it’s an opportunity for them to manipulate and/or influence their image.
So we see them constantly holding hands in a show of solidarity. But the point isn’t the solidarity, it’s the show, and the showmanship within the context of missing – or more likely [in my view] – dead child.
That’s six, that’s enough.
It’s probably also worth noting six aspects that the docuseries left out of episode four.
1. Danie Krugel, the South African dude whose idea it was to do a cadaver search. [I’ll be writing about him separately in a follow-up post.]
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.
None of this was touched upon or even hinted at in episode four of the Netflix documentary. Obviously where there is a contention that Madeleine’s paternity might be in any doubt, this could potentially go to motive, and could possibly explain conflicting emotions and responses and a range of psychologies and dynamics to a particular child that is not the biological offspring of one of the parents, and who might also be difficult to raise or troublesome putting to sleep [conceived we know through IVF].
According to 24 Horas, Madeleine, who was conceived using IVF, was the child of his wife, Kate, and an unnamed sperm donor.The newspaper claimed that the four-year-old’s parentage meant her DNA could not be confused with that of two-year-old twins Sean and Amelie.
The supposed revelation would prove that bodily fluids found in the family’s hire car had come from Madeleine and not from her brother or sister, the tabloid said. Portuguese police are seeking evidence that the girl’s body was transported in the Renault Scenic, which was hired 25 days after she disappeared. The sperm donor story was dismissed as ‘unwarranted, unsubstantiated and totally inaccurate speculation’ by the family’s spokesman Clarence Mitchell.
In a strongly worded statement agreed by the couple and their lawyers, he said: ‘For the record Gerry McCann is the biological father of his daughter Madeleine.
Mr McCann’s mother Eileen, 67, from Glasgow, said: ‘To say Gerry is not Madeleine’s natural father is utterly ridiculous. Madeleine is my natural granddaughter. Her eyes and nose are the same as mine. These allegations are totally unfounded. They are pure speculation and a load of nonsense. Whatever will the Portuguese papers make up next?”
The McCanns underwent IVF treatment near their Leicestershire home before Madeleine was conceived. They had further IVF treatment to conceive their twins while they were living in Amsterdam. A friend said the 24 Horas report was published without any contact with the family.
The newspaper has run a series of articles this week which have all strongly denied by the McCanns.
Its co- editor, Luis Fontes, insisted he stood by the sperm donor story. He said it was confirmed by the Forensic Science Service in Birmingham, which has carried out analysis on samples taken from the McCanns’ apartment and hire car. The FSS denied it had made any comment on the case.
Mr Fontes said he was not aware of any threat of legal action from the McCanns over the article and added: “It is absolutely true. Our sources are rock solid.”
He added: “If they [the McCanns] think they can sue us, bring it on.”
Friends also denied claims in another Portuguese newspaper, Diario de Noticias, which said Mrs McCann, a 39-year-old GP, flew into a fit of rage after she was made a suspect in the case. She was said to have broken crockery, pictures and “anything she could get her hands on” in the couple’s hired villa in Praia da Luz.
Kate and Gerry were “horrified and devastated” by the latest “absolutely untrue” slurs in the Portuguese press claiming Madeleine’s DNA was different to that of her twin siblings – all three of whom were conceived by In-Vitro Fertilisation – because she has a different father.
The tabloid 24 Horas claimed British police visited a sperm bank the couple used and tracked down the four-year-old’s natural father to rule him out of any involvement in her abduction. But family spokesman Clarence Mitchell described the reports as “unwarranted, unsubstantiated and totally inaccurate”. He said that the couple planned to sue 24 Horas over the allegations about Madeleine’s paternity as soon as their official suspect status was lifted.
6. The Last Photo controversy is not highlighted in episode 4, although, curiously, it makes a few appearances, including inside the church in Praia da Luz. The tip of Gerry’s left elbow is strangely missing from the image.
There are many more insights and omissions to highlight, but for me one of the aspects that stood out the most were the PR people skulking around in the background, and featured so prominently as important narrators in the docuseries.
There seems to be something patently unsavoury about characters whose job it was to provide publicity protection of a sort to the official suspects, and who later emerge as virtual self-styled celebrities, once again cast in the role of the shaper of the narrative.
Is there an image more symbolic than Justine McGuinness repeatedly pawing microphones, pushing them away, as a metaphor for trying to push the media narrative in a particular direction, especially when the police narrative became unfavourable, as depicted in episode four?
The title of the third episode refers to the infamous “Pact of Silence”. It’s an allegation that the McCanns and their friends [the Tapas 7] who they dined with on the night of May 3th, 2007 when Madeleine McCann disappeared weren’t being completely forthcoming to the cops, or the media.
On June 30th, two months after the incident, it took a Portuguese journalist to raise this allegation for the first time in a 3000-word article published in Sol. Since it was written in Portuguese, that’s where the idea was planted first – in Portugal.
June 30, 2007 by Felícia Cabrita and Margarida Davim
Madeleine’s parents and the friends with whom they spent their holidays in Praia da Luz are suspects in the inquiry.There are contradictory versions about the night of the kidnapping, and an assumed pact of silence in the group.
Four long months later, the British press seemed to finally cotton onto this “rumour” and meekly questioned the McCanns about it. Their response, ironically through a PR “spokesman” was to “categorically deny” any secrecy.
Alleged discrepancies in the friends’ versions of events, as well as their refusal to comment on what happened that night, sparked frenzied speculation in Portugal, with reports claiming they agreed to keep quiet to protect the McCanns who remain official suspects in the case.
News that the Portuguese police wanted to re-interviewsome of those on holiday with the McCanns was seen by the Portuguese media as further confirmation of this theory.
But the seven friends – Russell O’Brien and his partner Jane Tanner, Rachael and Matthew Oldfield, Fiona and David Payne, and Mrs Payne’s mother Dianne Webster – have made a public statement to insist they had nothing to hide.
“We wish to state that there is categorically no ‘pact of silence’ or indeed anything secretive between us – just the desire to assist the search for Madeleine,” they said in a joint statement, released by the McCanns’ spokesman Clarence Mitchell.
“From day one, the police in Portugal told us not to discuss our statements. “It is incredibly frustrating for us that the fact we have done as we were asked to by the Portuguese police is still being looked upon as suspicious.“Everything we have done, and continue to do, has been to help with the search for Madeleine and to end this nightmare for Gerry and Kate.”
The denial from the group, known together with the McCanns as the Tapas Nine, came as a source confirmed 39-year-old Mr McCann will return to his work as a consultant cardiologist this Thursday, just a few days before the six-month anniversary of Madeleine’s disappearance….Mrs McCann, also 39, has said she will not return to work as a part-time GP.
But the mindfuckery of the Netflix documentary is to dedicate the first half-hour of episode three to ridiculing, undermining and criticizing the Portuguese police. Let’s be clear: for half an hour prior to introducing the “Pact of silence” as a concept, the Portuguese police are taken through the washer, accused of being fat, lazy, drunk and incompetent.
Once that narrative is in place then the connivance moves on to dealing with their accusations of the McCanns and well, since we know where they’re coming from…treat them with contempt, right?
One of the primary narrators of episode two is the other PR spokesperson for the McCann’s, Justine McGuinness. This is her.
If you’re wondering how or why the McCann case became a media sensation, this is who was behind the PR, at least in the beginning, before ex-BBC reporter Clarence Mitchell took over. And Mitchell took over shortly after the McCanns were named official suspects by the Portuguese. A week after the McCanns were named official suspects in the investigation, McGuinness resigned as their PR representative.
On 12 May 2008 McGuinness was questioned by the Portuguese police on the nature of her relationship with the McCanns. McGuinness said at the time that it was purely professional, and that she worked for them for only 89 days, and hadn’t known them previously.
When asked by the media why she was quitting, McGuinness stated that:
…one reason Ms McGuinness has given to journalists for her departure is that the McCanns have been ordered to remain silent because of the changing nature of the investigation and she feels she cannot help them further…But it is now thought that the McCanns are looking for a different kind of PR advice after they became suspects in the inquiry into their daughter’s disappearance and media coverage has become more negative.
In the interview below, where McGuinness is asked in early September 2007 why Kate McCann is being questioned by the cops, the reporter repeatedly tries to get a straight answer to the question on whether the cops consider Kate as primarily responsible, and Gerry as a sort of secondary figure.
The McCanns were asked asked directly by their suspicious behavior by Sabine Mueller, a German radio reporter on June 6th, 2007. This was during another PR “roadshow”, this time in Berlin. Kate McCann’s response was to refer to the popular vote. That according to her most people believe and support them. That’s how innocence works though, isn’t it? As long as most people believe you, you’re innocent. She then referred to her behaviour as a parent, specifically how often “we were checking on them” on the night in question, to rationalise her/their behaviour.
Yet technically Kate herself never checked on the children prior to something happening to Madeleine on May 3rd, an aspect which she curiously doesn’t seem to express any guilt or remorse over.
Afterwards Miss Mueller, 35, who has worked for German Radio for 14 years, said her question was justified. “I was aware it was a difficult question but I felt it was a question that needed to be asked. I don’t suspect the McCanns of being involved. I know it has been seen as a hard question but I do not think it was improper. If they had walked out I would have been sorry. They are putting themselves out there a lot and if they keep staging press conferences they have to expect uncomfortable questions. I was doing my job as a journalist.”
The McCanns also responded to wider criticism of their campaign to raise awareness of Madeleine’s disappearance. They said they were not on a “tour” and reiterated that the sole motivation of their trips to four European countries in the past week was to get Madeleine back. Mr McCann said the alternative was to lock themselves away and wait in despair.
The McCann family is launching a wristband to raise cash and awareness for the missing girl. It will carry the international Crimestoppers number and the “Look” logo designed for the family’s campaign. The family is speaking to a supermarket chain about distributing the bands, for which people will be asked to make a minimum £1 donation.
The notion that Kate is more culpable is interesting. As mentioned above, when it was her turn to check on the children, she didn’t, Matt Oldfield supposedly did.
During the first of dozens of press conferences, Gerry did all of the talking in front of the apartment. Look at Kate’s face and body language.
The DOUBT series explores in-depth the events leading up to Madeleine’s disappearance on May 3rd, and provides a unique scenario for the route of the abduction, as well as the destination. Available at Amazon.co.uk at this link.
True Crime Intertexuality is a valuable tool for understanding one case through the known circumstances of another. It does require more than a little expertise in true crime to understand how a reference case matches up, and how it doesn’t. Obviously if one’s understanding of either case is flawed, biased or bogus, then the reference itself is flawed, biased or bogus.
In the misleadingly titled Netflix Documentary THE DISAPPEARANCE OF MADELEINE MCCANN two American reference cases are cited: firstly, the disappearance of Etan Patz [in 1972, in Soho Lower Manhattan], and secondly the murder of Adam Walsh [in 1981 from a mall in Hollywood, Florida].
The expert prognosticating on these references is the head of a large missing person’s organisation in America. An expert in missing persons may seem like an expert in true crime and criminal psychology, but alas, true crime isn’t nearly as simple or obvious as it seems.
The obvious similarities between the abduction-sex-trafficker scenario punted by the makers of the Madeleine McCann documentary vis-à-vis the two American boys [the reference cases] are in four extremely broad, basic areas:
All three scenarios involve young children.
All three scenarios involve young children disappearing.
Two scenarios strongly suggest the children were abducted because of a sexual motive.
In all three scenarios the bodies of the missing children were never found.
That’s really where the similarities or “references” end. A proper true crime analysis reveals not so much an overlap between the Patz and Walsh cases to the McCann case, but in fact why the cases are distinctively different to what happened to Madeleine.
Although no bodies were found in all three cases, in both the Patz case and the Walsh case it is generally assumed that both boys are dead, both boys were murdered and the identities of their murderers isn’t mysterious or unknown.
In the Walsh case the boy’s decapitated head was found within a few weeks, however his body has never been recovered.
It should be noted that when it comes to children abducted by sexual predators who are strangers, the children must be disposed of quickly or else the perpetrators face a real risk of alerting family members or passersby to the taboo of an adult keeping a small unrelated child in their possession and raising suspicions. The same situation doesn’t apply when the predators are family, familiar or otherwise trusted by the victims.
The destruction of their little bodies is meant to completely conceal the circumstances surrounding their final moments, and death, from the public’s view. In a scenario where the children become famous in the media, the necessity to dispose of them, and destroy their bodies completely is even more urgent. It’s vital for the predator to make sure no connection can ever be made between the eviscerated corpse and himself.
In a genuine abduction scenario, a case can clearly be made not to alert the media and to alert the authorities discreetly, in order not to provoke, alarm, aggravate or frighten the abductor into doing something rash.
The Ramsey Ransom Note alludes to this cliche, and does so because it’s so typical.
This is why in kidnapping cases the kidnappers insist that the authorities are not contacted, and that if they are, the victim will be killed. The situation for the kidnapper becomes untenable if the victim becomes a public figure. The same applies to an abductor, except there is less incentive to return the victim [now a potential witness] to the custody of the family and/or authorities.
When I researched the JonBenet Ramsey case I was surprised at the persistence of the pedophile narrative in that case. Sure, pedophiles exist. They’re a scourge in our society. But pedophiles more often tend to lurk INSIDE families.
Where family members prey on family members this is especially true when the victim is much younger and more vulnerable. The custody and trust situation of the guardian relative to the child is what is abused, and is both a smokescreen for the crime and the cover-up [which can often go on for years, even an entire lifetime].
JonBenet was abused, but she was a six-year-old beauty queen. Madeleine McCann was three-years-old when she “disappeared”, but there is no forensic evidence of abuse. The closest symptom to anything approximating a molesting scenario is that she had difficulty sleeping. [JonBenet Ramsey also struggled with insomnia and chronic bedwetting, according to the housekeeper Linda Hoffman-Pugh]. Well, so do many three-year-olds.
The notion that a criminal would target a three-year-old child for sexual purposes as a typical scenario is absurd in the extreme. Although – tragically – grooming of young children for sex-trafficking is not completely unheard of in our society, if the child is abducted as a toddler this means the child has to be adopted and raised [fed, housed etc.] for several years, a scenario well beyond the scope of most if not all pedophiles or traffickers.
In a high-profile scenario, the costs to prevent or avoid discovery of the groomed victim skyrockets, making the “investment” worthless. Madeleine McCann is world famous, the most famous missing child in history by a substantial margin. So, even following the theoretical concept to its conclusion [and assuming she’s still alive], the likelihood of any transaction with such a high-profile-high-risk candidate is untenable, to put it mildly.
Back to the reference cases.
Both children in the reference cases were boys, and both were twice the age of Madeleine when they were abducted. Both boys were also cute kids, which is why they were targeted both by the men [probably closet homosexuals] who abducted them, and by the media who covered them.
Those men who abducted these boys didn’t traffic them – the abuse was very brief and intended for discreet, private consumption.
But the area I want to emphasise cuts to the specific circumstances of both theses cases that are pertinently NOT similar to those in the McCann case.
Both boys were abducted opportunistically, that is to say randomly in public areas. The children weren’t studied or stalked, they were encountered by chance. There was no premeditation of the specific victim. Although the execution may have been planned, and the crime a fantasy, the identity of the specific victim was random. In the McCann case the apartment was supposedly targeted, that is to say, not random and not opportunistic.
Patz was abducted by a store keeper with the lure of a soda, and Walsh [it was theorised] through the lure of toys and candy. Walsh was in a toy store, or the toy section of a store, when he was lured into a van. In Madeleine’s case there was no lure, and apparently she [and her siblings] slept through the abduction.
Both boys were murdered shortly after their respective abductions, Patz on the very same day, and Walsh within two weeks of his abduction. Despite their ages, there was virtually no attempt to accommodate, feed or raise them. There is no reason to believe if Madeleine survived her “disappearance”, that she would have been kept alive for any extended length of time, let alone twelve years, given the ongoing risk her life presented to her supposed abductor/guardian/trafficker.
It took Patz’ parents several hours to raise the alarm. Patz disappeared in the morning, and his parents only alerted the authorities in the evening. In Walsch’s case, the boy’s mother spent more than 90 minutes searching fruitlessly through and around the store. They also used public-address system. Only when these measures failed did Revé Walsch finally call the Hollywood Police [at 13:55]. In the McCann case, however, both parents knew instantly Madeleine had been taken, and were scornful of the notion that she might have wandered off, or gotten herself lost. They were also contemptuous of the “slow pace” of the Portuguese cops to arrive, when in fact the police response was normal given the situation.
The McCanns’ absolute conviction so early in the investigation knowing exactly what happened is a lot more sinister when juxtaposed alongside the responses of parents in genuine abduction scenarios. [Incidentally, Patsy Ramsey shared the same absolute certainty during her 911 call, although the bogus Ransom Note provided some reinforcement to her certainty. JonBenet’s body meanwhile was lying in the basement of the house all along. In other words, Patsy’s “certainty” was misleading, and arguably more than that – misdirection.]
Although Patz was “missing” for decades, and declared legally dead as late as 2001, 22 years after his abduction, the mystery of what happened to him was finally solved after 33 years even in the absence of recovering his remains. In other words, even though no body was recovered, there’s no doubt that the child is deceased. As such, is the Patz case really an approximate reference case for Madeleine McCann?
A New Jersey man was arrested in the killing of Etan Patz, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly announced on Thursday, an extraordinary moment in a case that has gripped New York City’s psyche ever since the 6-year-old boy vanished in SoHo on his way to school in 1979. The man, Pedro Hernandez, told investigators that he lured Etan to the basement of a bodega where Mr. Hernandez worked at the time with the promise of a soda, Mr. Kelly said. Once Etan was inside, Mr. Hernandez choked him, stuffed his body into a bag and took the bag about a block and a half away, where he left it out in the open with trash, Mr. Kelly said.
…It is unclear whether investigators have been able to corroborate the account Mr. Hernandez has provided. Without any trace of human remains or other forensic evidence, any possible prosecution of him would face significant evidentiary hurdles.
…Mr. Hernandez, who was 18 at the time Etan vanished, worked as a stockboy in a bodega at 448 West Broadway that is now an eyeglass store, Mr. Kelly said. Etan disappeared on the first morning his parents allowed him to walk alone from the family’s home on Prince Street to a school bus stop on West Broadway.
Mr. Hernandez was working in the basement, which had a separate door to the street, Mr. Kelly said. Etan was at the bus stop when Mr. Hernandez led him away and to the basement, Mr. Kelly said…Mr. Hernandez’s name was mentioned in a 1979 detective’s report as part of the investigation into Etan’s disappearance, Mr. Kelly said. The report listed him as an employee of the bodega, but Mr. Hernandez was never questioned by investigators, Mr. Kelly said.
“I can’t tell you why, 33 years ago, he wasn’t questioned,” he said. “We know that other people in the bodega were questioned.”
A woman interviewed by The New York Times last month who ran a playgroup in SoHo at the time Etan disappeared recalled seeing mounds of garbage bags in the days after the boy vanished, which included Memorial Day weekend. “I always thought there were so many garbage bags out and why did they not search them,” said the woman, Judy Reichler, who now lives in New Paltz, N.Y. “For three days everyone piled bags on the street and then they got picked up.”
British detectives open new investigation after reviewing all evidence into disappearance of three-year-old from Portugal
Redwood said none of the individuals was connected to Madeleine’s family or friends who were with her parents on holiday at the time. The Met team’s work leads them to believe Madeleine was abducted in a criminal act by a stranger.
The Guardian has given the new Netflix documentary a 1 star rating, a described it as a “blatant cash-in” and “a rehash”. I’m not sure that’s all it is though, especially since – by the end of the same article – the reporter’s sympathies are clearly with the McCanns. In fact the Netflix documentary isn’t simply a rehash, even if it does a lot of rehashing. Much of the rehashing purports a particular narrative. TCRS regards that narrative as bogus [the sex-trafficking spiel which indirectly resurrects the little girl into imputed sexual slavery]. But to dismiss the entire documentary as a greedy, thoughtless cash-grab is simplistic and false as well.
The documentary has a sly intent, which is to gradually manipulate audiences and plant the seed that somewhere out there, Madeleine is moving around and living out her life, and that there is always hope. This pitch starts from the very first frame, and the first false facts [broken shutters etc] follow in short shrift shortly thereafter.
A few general observations from Episode 1: BENEATH THE TRUTH
Aerial drone footage provides some refreshing spatial context to the greater crime scene of Praia da Luz. One of the opening sounds, ironically – given the use of the raven motif in DOUBT – is the cawing of birds over the Ocean Club crime scene.
A random family with children is seemingly selected to “voyeur” through the sights and sounds of Praia da Luz to get a feel for what it was like to be there when the McCanns were holidaying in May 2007. The family featured in the documentary happened to be in Luz when the incident around Madeleine McCann occurred, as well.
Despite Gerry and Kate not participating in the documentary, within the first few minutes we see familiar footage of their faces. The very first view of Gerry is very early on where he is doing his rounds as a respectable doctor in a hospital in Leicester.
A pair of journalists are also selected who know the story “inside out”. Initially they’re not identified.
We’re told ahead of time that this case is a confusing jumble, and a lot of different faces are quickly implied as suspects – a Russian, a neighbor etc.
Kate McCann’s voice provides voice over as the camera pans over Praia da Luz. She sounds like a normal mother who wanted to have a nice, fun holiday with her children. They can have fun [separately] and so can the adults [somewhere else].
There’s a nice little clip of the kids heading up the stairs onto the plane – which is from old, grainy cell phone footage. When Madeleine stumbles a voice can be heard saying kindly, protectively, “Oopsie daisy”. Is it Gerry’s voice? Neither parents are anywhere in sight during this footage.
In another clip of Gerry on the bus by the same cameraman, it’s cut off in the documentary right at the point where Gerry moans on camera that’s he’s not on holiday. The cameraman actually points out on camera in the original footage that Gerry – sitting beside a row of kids – appears to be sulking and needs to “cheer up”. This nifty editing is the first clear indication that the documentary means to distort footage so as to present the McCanns in a misleadingly flattering light.
An American woman’s voice continues to narrate the set-up at the Ocean Club, which the subtitle of the documentary identities as Robbyn. Robbyn Swan is the co-author – with Anthony Summers – of a neither-here-nor-there investigation into Madeleine McCann’s disappearance. The description of the book Looking for Madeleine clearly matches the broader arc of the documentary, which is an investigation into the disappearance as some sort of sex-trafficking spiel. The same book [rated 2.8 out of 5 on Amazon.com and 2.7 on Amazon.co.uk] also maligns the Portuguese investigation into the McCanns, just as the McCanns’ themselves have done.
Next the babysitting facilities of the Ocean Club are criticized as being inadequate. The McCanns felt it didn’t suit them, as they had to put them down too early and pick them up too late. So of course the McCanns elected to take care of the babysitting and putting to bed themselves, which apparently involved each one – Kate and Gerry – doing an ongoing relay every half hour to check on them, along with the Tapas 7 as well. Not that that was any inconvenience. One can say with some certainty, had the McCanns made use of the babysitting services that every other family seemed to be using, Madeleine would not have been abducted, wandered off, killed, sedated – pick your scenario.
In my first analysis of the documentary I noted how AFTER Madeleine’s disappearance the McCanns were only too happy to use the Kids’ Club Creche facility. The photos of them taking them there first thing each morning to drop them off [after the disappearance] was after all how the paparazzi got their daily photo op with the couple.
The authors then contextualise the various parts of the original crime scene. I like that they refer to the distance from the Tapas Bar to apart 5A as 60 yards “as the crow flies”.
The authors rationalize how the McCanns setup a relay team with the Tapas 7 where some of the parents would leave the restaurant midway through dinner and listen in on the various children in the various apartments. This is described as a “better” system than having all the kids together in a creche, looked after by one person, and thus allowing the couple to holiday the way most normal parents would. [Of course the doctors argue that their system is more normal and more sensible, which is why Madeleine was completely safe and nothing happened to her…].
The backstory of the crime is glossed over, in the sense that the crucial days leading up to May 3rd aren’t covered, nor any of the incidents that took place in this week. Nothing is mentioned [at this point] about the controversial “last photo” either [taken on the first day of the holiday]. Instead the coverage deals with the afternoon of May 3rd and the kids being “particularly” tired that day. They were particularly tired so they would have slept particularly well that night, is the obvious but misleading inference.
That’s fifteen observations of roughly the first ten to fifteen minutes of episode one. That’s enough.
It should be clear that much of the first episode is broadly supportive of the McCanns, and even sympathetic to them. By green lighting their babysitting approach, the way is paved for some outsider, some shadowy interloper to spoil the perfect fairy tale of perfect parenting.
Of course, in a scenario where someone has to get up every 20 minutes, leave the restaurant and run around the apartments, we also have a scenario for one of the group disappearing for several minutes, with or without a child in their arms…and no one being any the wiser.
Tomorrow TCRS will be doing a similar analysis and review of episode two.
In POST TRUTH, the 100th True Crime Rocket Science [TCRS] title, the world’s most prolific true crime author Nick van der Leek demonstrates how much we still don’t know in the Watts case. In the final chapter of the SILVER FOX trilogy the author provides a sly twist in a tale that has spanned 12 TCRS books to date. The result may shock or leave you with even more questions.
SILVER FOX III available now in paperback!
“If you are at all curious about what really happened in the Watts case, then buy this book, buy every one he has written and you will get as close as humanly possible to understanding the killer and his victims.”- Kathleen Hewtson. Purchase the very highly rated and reviewed SILVER TRILOGY – POST TRUTH COMING SOON.
TCRS MERCH available now – just in time for Christmas!
Book 5 – ALL NEW! “I have thoroughly enjoyed this audiobook…” – Connie Lukens. Drilling Through Discovery Complete Audiobook
Read the entire 9-Part TWO FACE series, the most definitive book series covering the Chris Watts Case
Visit the TCRS Archive of 100 Books dealing with all the world’s most high-profile true crime cases.
Join the TCRS Community on Patreon for as little as $1 per month. Multiple daily posts, interesting discussions, amazing audiobooks narrated by the author, ongoing series and powerful, informative weekly podcasts.
Subscribe to the Growing TCRS YouTube Channel
Book 4 in the TWO FACE series, one of the best reviewed, is available now in paperback!
“Book 4 in the K9 series is a must read for those who enjoy well researched and detailed crime narratives. The author does a remarkable job of bringing to life the cold dark horror that is Chris Watts throughout the narrative but especially on the morning in the aftermath of the murders. Chris’s actions are connected by Nick van der Leek’s eloquent use of a timeline to reveal a motive.”