By Jason Michael
In the earliest reports of the abduction of “Maddie” McCann her parents said that the shutters and window to her room had been forced open. After forensic investigation this was found not to have been the case. How can this discrepancy be explained?
At the Ocean Summer Club resort on the Portuguese Algarve on the chilly windless evening of Thursday 3 May 2007 a three year old girl was reported missing from apartment 5A by her parents Gerry and Kate McCann. Madeleine had been left sleeping in her bedroom, along with her siblings – twins – Amelie and Sean, from about half past eight in the evening until ten while Gerry and Kate enjoyed an evening meal with friends a short distance away at the resort’s Tapas Restaurant. Close to ten o’clock that night Kate returned to the apartment alone to check on her children. On discovering that “Maddie” was not in her bed, Kate claims to have searched the two-bedroom apartment before alerting her husband and friends at the restaurant that her daughter was missing.
We know, from the account of the resort manager John Hill, that the police were called from the reception and that many residents came together to conduct a search around the resort for the missing child. At this point in the story everything seems quite normal. We have a distraught mother looking for her young daughter, a call to the police, and other concerned holiday makers offering their help to look for the missing girl. But rather quickly the story begins to get confused. Kate and Gerry’s versions of events change in significant detail over the first twenty-four hours, ultimately raising the suspicions of the Portuguese authorities. The entire case now amounts to a huge corpus of evidence; books, and newspaper articles, but for the moment we will focus on the initial report.
On the night before giving her first formal statement to the police – the Polícia Judiciária – the following morning (Friday 5 May 2007) Kate, quite naturally, made a telephone call to her father, Brian Healy, back in England. According to a report in the Guardian newspaper (5 May 2007) Gerry McCann explained to his father-in-law during this conversation what had happened. “The shutters to the room had been broken,” Mr. Healy recalls Gerry telling him, “they were jemmied up and [Madeleine] was gone.”
A person or persons unknown had used some implement to crowbar open the external aluminium blackout blinds and forced open the window to the children’s room at apartment 5A before climbing in to snatch the sleeping toddler from her bed. This is a significant piece of information, and one which was repeated to at least three other people that same night; Gerry McCann’s sister Trisha Cameron, Madeleine’s godfather Jon Corner, and Kate McCann’s friend Gill Renwick. Each of these people stated this version of events to the British media the following morning.
During an interview with the BBC Trish Cameron said that “the front door was lying open, the windows had been tampered with, the shutters had been jemmied open… and Madeleine was missing.” Gill Renwick, on a phone in to GMTV, gave the same details, as did Jon Corner in his interviews with the Independent and the Mirror newspapers. It is safe to say that this was the version of events first reported by the McCanns on the night that their daughter was taken. With one seemingly minor difference this was the same account Gerry gave to the Polícia Judiciária in his 11.15 statement the next morning.
In this interview Gerry, who was interviewed alone, told the Portuguese police that his wife – Kate McCann – had opened the front door with a key; contradicting the report that the front door was lying open. He went on to state that she found that “the door to the children’s bedroom was completely open, the window was also open, the blinds were raised and the curtains were drawn open.” There was no mention in this interview that the front door was wide open, and what might appear here to be a simple confusion becomes, over the next few days, to be the first alteration in the significant details of the discovery that Madeleine was missing. All that remains consistent in Gerry and Kate’s testimony from that night to this is the singular fact that their daughter was missing.
Gerry, in a strange concession, was allowed to remain in the interview room while his wife was being interviewed. She remarks in her book that he placed his hand on her shoulder from time to time and gave her hand the odd reassuring squeeze. Considering that both would later be made “Arguidos” or suspects in the case, this is a truly extraordinary allowance on the part of the investigators. In this interview Kate was adamant that the windows and curtains in the room were closed and that the shutters were fully down and locked.
It was John Hill, the manager of the Ocean Summer Club, who first commented that “there was no sign” of a forced entry. From what he could see there was no damage to the exterior shutters and that the windows had not been forced open. According to him there was no damage whatsoever. The police and the forensic experts came to the same conclusion. Chief Inspector Olegario Sousa determined that the window locking mechanism made it almost impossible for them to be opened from the outside without causing considerable damage, and that there was no damage to the window or the lock. After inspecting the shutters he agreed with the manager’s assessment that no one had tampered with them. Even the British forensic investigator, Professor David Barclay, concluded that this was impossible and that no forensic evidence was found on them or the windows.
In their second interviews with the Polícia Judiciária the details presented by Gerry and Kate would be completely different from those given during their first interviews and the accounts they had first relayed back to family and friends in the UK. Without more evidence it is not easy to explain these discrepancies, but that they exist is reason enough to look more closely at the events of the night of the disappearance. We must be critical of the accounts of the McCanns and pay more attention to the statements given by their friends at the time.
One Year Later, McCanns Renew Appeal
Author: Jason Michael (@Jeggit)