Madeleine McCann – Portugal – 2007

Maddie how she may look now – Photo Regressed to age 9

Madeleine McCann disappeared on the evening of Thursday, 3 May 2007. She was on holiday with her parents and twin siblings in the Algarve region of Portugal. The British girl went missing from an apartment, in the central area of the resort of Praia da Luz, a few days before her fourth birthday, and has still not been found. Madeleine’s parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, have said that they left the children unsupervised in a ground floor bedroom while they ate at a restaurant about 120 metres (130 yards) away


Madeleine disappeared from a ground floor apartment, where the family was staying, on the evening of 3 May 2007. The apartment had been rented by the holiday company Mark Warner for the summer season as part of its Ocean Club. The layout of the Ocean Club may have contributed to the disappearance of Madeleine as its buildings are spread out across the village, such that anyone can wander in and out of the holiday areas.

Her parents reported to the police that they had taken Madeleine to their holiday apartment at 18:00 Western European Summer Time, to prepare Madeleine and her two-year-old twin siblings for bed. Then they left at 20:30, leaving the apartment unlocked, to dine with friends approximately 130 yards (120 metres) away at a tapas bar within the Mark Warner Ocean Summer Club. The McCanns said that they were taking turns checking on their children. At 20:55, one of the McCanns’ dinner companions, Matthew Oldfield, approached the bedroom window of the children to check if he could hear any noise in the room and at approximately 21:05/21:15 Gerry checked on the children. At 21:20 Jane Tanner noticed a man carrying a child going down the road next to the apartment of the McCanns. Slightly further down the road, Gerry was chatting to Jeremy Wilkins, whom he had met at the resort, and neither noticed Tanner as she walked past them to join the rest of the group at the tapas restaurant. At 21:30 Matthew Oldfield went to check the children but saw only the twins through the open bedroom door.

At around 22:00, Kate returned to check on the children and found Madeleine’s bed empty and the bedroom window open. An Ocean Club nanny, Charlotte Pennington, who was one of the first people to arrive at the apartment, said that Kate screamed both “They’ve taken her, they’ve taken her!” and “Madeleine’s gone!”. Kate said that the police were called within 10 minutes of finding her daughter gone. Gerry said it was one of their friends who alerted the resort manager and the police.

The GNR’s spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Costa Cabral, said that the first call to the police (PJ) was at 23:50. According to the Portuguese police’s missing person notice, the disappearance had occurred “by 22:40”. The police stated that officers arrived within 10 minutes of being alerted, and an investigation unit began work within 30 minutes. Staff and guests at the complex searched until 04:30 while police on the Spanish border and all airports in Portugal and Spain were notified

Madeleine McCann’s right eye

Early stages

Following the disappearance, police carried out a search of the surrounding area with sniffer dogs, but it was called off on 11 May having produced no results. The Portuguese police Polícia Judiciária (PJ) said they were unsure whether Madeleine was still alive. They also examined photographs taken by holidaymakers to see if any suspects could be identified. The Maritime Police searched the coast including the caves. In the countryside, possible places of concealment were explored. The City Council helped the investigation by searching sewers and waterways. On 6 May it was revealed that the PJ had asked for the help of the SIS, the Portuguese secret service. On 7 May, it was reported that the PJ was looking for a 1.7-metre tall man with short brown hair and wearing a blue coat with a whitish collar.

The Portuguese media reported that the PJ were pursuing two lines of investigation: an abduction by an international paedophile network or an abduction by an adoption network. On 18 October 2007, British forensic scientist Professor David Barclay of Robert Gordon University was reported as saying the layout of the complex made it ‘a pervert’s paradise’.

On 17 June, after Madeleine was found to be missing, Chief Inspector Olegário de Sousa said that the presence of so many people in the apartment from which she disappeared, had complicated the work of the scientific team. He added that this could have destroyed all the evidence and could prove to be fatal to the investigation.

Murat and Malinka

At 07:00 WEST on the morning of 14 May 2007, searches began at Casa Liliana, a villa owned by Jennifer Murat, a British citizen, near the apartment where Madeleine disappeared. Police and scientific teams sealed off the house, and at 16:00 the swimming pool was drained.

Three people, including Jennifer Murat’s son Robert Murat, were questioned at the main police station in nearby Portimão. Robert Murat, a frequent visitor to the villa who has dual British-Portuguese nationality, had drawn the suspicion of Lori Campbell, a Sunday Mirror journalist, who informed the police. Murat’s former classmate Gaynor de Jesus said: “I do know that he has been the official translator for the police.” Murat had said that he was deeply concerned about the case because he had recently lost custody of his own three-year-old daughter, who looked like Madeleine.Subsequently, speaking at a Cambridge Union debate on 5 March 2009, Murat accused a journalist of trying to convince the Portuguese police that he was acting suspiciously, in order to break the story.

Robert Murat was given arguido (suspect) status on 15 May; before being given this status people are treated as witnesses. It was not clear if Murat or the police asked for the arguido status which gave extra rights such as the right to remain silent. However, a factor in Murat being made a suspect was three members of the Tapas Seven, Rachael Oldfield, Russell O’Brien, and Fiona Payne, saying that they saw him in the Praia da Luz complex during the evening Madeleine disappeared. Chief Inspector Olegário de Sousa told a news conference that an unnamed 33-year-old (believed to be Murat) had been interrogated, but not enough evidence was found to justify arresting him. Sousa said police had searched five houses on Monday and seized “various materials” from the properties which were being subjected to scientific tests and had questioned two other unnamed people as witnesses. Murat stated that he was being made a scapegoat so that the police could be seen to have found a suspect.

It was reported on 16 May that two cars used by the Murats had been examined, and computers, mobile phones and several video tapes were taken from their villa. It also emerged that a British architect, who built the villa in 1993, was ignored when he called police about a hidden basement within the property.

The police were understood to have taken in for questioning Sergey Malinka, 22, a man of Russian origin, from whose property officers also took away a laptop computer and two hard drives. Malinka had set up a website for Murat and the two exchanged frequent phone calls since Madeleine’s disappearance – the reason the authorities started suspecting him. Chief Police Inspector Olegário de Sousa reiterated there was insufficient evidence to make any arrests. Police said that Malinka had been questioned as a witness for approximately five hours, which did not, having regard to the “dynamic” nature of the investigation, mean that he could not become a suspect.

Malinka spoke negatively of the coverage of the case in the Portuguese media, which had alleged that he was a convicted sexual offender. He denied he had contacted Murat, and said he was “completely innocent”. Inconsistencies in his account of his relationship with Robert Murat emerged: he had said he had not contacted Murat in a year but Murat’s mobile phone records allegedly show he called Malinka at 23:40 on the night Madeleine vanished. On 19 May, Portuguese detectives flew to England to interview Dawn Murat, the estranged wife of Robert Murat, and detectives re-interviewed other witnesses connected with Murat.

Murat was interviewed for a second and third time on 10 July and 11 July to clarify what detectives described as details and possible contradictions from his previous statement in the light of new information.On the second day detectives from the Polícia Judiciária questioned three friends of the McCanns who were dining with them at the time of the disappearance, Rachael Oldfield, Russell O’Brien and Fiona Payne, “to go over their accounts of events on 3 May”. The three were also brought face to face with Murat. As a result of the interviews, police examined discrepancies between statements from the three friends and that from Murat, in particular claims from the friends that they saw Murat outside the holiday complex on the night of the disappearance when he had stated that he was at home with his mother.Murat’s mother, Jenny, subsequently corroborated his alibi.

Police, including British detectives, resumed searching Casa Liliana on 4 August.Vegetation was cleared and the grounds were searched but despite the use of hi-tech scanning equipment and a British sniffer dog, no evidence was found that linked Murat with Madeleine.

Reports in the Portuguese press suggested that Murat had met Gerry whilst the latter was campaigning for the Labour Party. Murat denied this on 13 September, describing the reports as “absolutely ridiculous” and saying “I’ve never met the man before”. Murat had his computers and other possessions returned to him by the police in late March 2008. He was cleared of any involvement in the disappearance, and his arguido status was lifted on 21 July.

McCanns as suspects

The Polícia Judiciária (PJ), on 6 September, officially interviewed Kate for a second time, at the police station in Portimão with the McCanns’ Portuguese lawyer, Carlos Pinto de Abreu, present. The family’s spokeswoman Justine McGuinness said, “Kate will answer every question put to her – she has nothing to hide.” Pinto de Abreu made a formal application for the couple’s status to be changed from ‘witness’ to ‘assistant’ in the investigation. This is a technical move which would allow the McCanns to have more information about the progress of the investigation.When Pinto de Abreu emerged with Kate from the police station in the early hours of 7 September, after more than 10 hours of questioning, he said Kate “was interviewed as a witness and she still remains a witness. The investigation is ongoing and we cannot say any more.

Kate returned for further interview later on 7 September and was formally declared a suspect by the Portuguese police. During this interview Kate used her right to remain silent. After questioning, Kate was released from the police station just before 16:00 without being charged. Gerry was interviewed at the same police station during the afternoon and evening of 7 September and afterwards Pinto de Abreu announced that Gerry had also been named as a formal suspect.Before she became a suspect Kate said “The police don’t want a murder in Portugal and all the publicity about them not having paedophile laws here, so they’re blaming us,” and Gerry said “We are being absolutely stitched up.” Pinto de Abreu said that claims by relatives that police had offered Kate a plea bargain if she admitted to accidentally killing her child were wrong and the result of “a misunderstanding”.

The UK Foreign Office is providing the McCanns with assistance. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said on 9 September “I am clear that the Portuguese police have the objective of solving this crime, and most importantly finding Madeleine, and that is what we in our support of the McCanns have tried to do as well.” The McCanns flew home on 9 September via Faro and East Midlands airports.

During the evening of 10 September, Sky News crime correspondent Martin Brunt, commenting on the analysis of samples returned from the Forensic Science Service, said that “According to police, it shows the presence of Madeleine’s body in the boot of the family’s hire car five weeks after she disappeared.”[71] Shortly afterwards, however, the national director of the Polícia Judiciária, Alípio Ribeiro, cautioned that the tests had not been conclusive and forensic science experts pointed to the dangers of contamination. Earlier, McGuinness had said that Kate told detectives there was “no way” Madeleine’s blood could have been found inside the car, which they had hired some 25 days after the disappearance, and continued to protest her innocence.To enable the McCanns to carry out independent scientific tests, the car was being kept in the garage of tycoon John Geraghty at his villa near Praia da Luz.

Sousa stated that at the end of the investigation the case file would be handed to the public prosecutor. The papers were given to the local prosecutor, José Cunha de Magalhães e Meneses, on 11 September. Meneses decided that there was sufficient evidence to pass the case to a judge, who had the power to approve any charges and also decide, within 10 days, on other actions that could have included placing the McCanns under house arrest in the Algarve, ordering further interrogations and authorising further searches.The judge appointed was Pedro Miguel dos Anjos Frias, Portimão‘s ‘juiz de instrução criminal’.

In addition to Meneses, a district prosecutor, Luis Bilro Verão, was appointed on 11 September 2007 to oversee the investigation. On 12 September Attorney General Fernando José Pinto Monteiro said that further police action was necessary after which there could be a reassessment of possible bail conditions for the suspects.

Anjos Frias authorised, on 12 September, the seizure of Kate’s diary and Gerry’s laptop, thought to be at the McCanns’ Rothley home, and other items. Leicestershire Police are expected to visit the McCanns, to attempt to implement this warrant. Social workers visited the McCanns on 13 September, at their request. Anjos Frias ruled on 19 September that the McCanns would not be reinterviewed for the time being.

The McCanns have been quoted as believing that their phones have been tapped from fairly early in the investigation. Clarence Mitchell, on 17 September, resigned as director of the Central Office of Information‘s media monitoring unit to become the McCanns’ media spokesman. In his first media appearance, the following day, he said that there was an innocent explanation for any potentially incriminating evidence the police may have found.Then Gerry said that he believed his daughter’s kidnapper had been hiding behind a door in their holiday apartment as he checked on his children.

In an effort to rebut accusations that she was on medication at the time of the disappearance, hair from Kate was tested in November. Toxicology tests showed no evidence that she had taken drugs in the past eight months. The twins were also tested for sedatives. No traces of sedatives were recorded. A team of four Portuguese detectives and scientists were briefed by the Forensic Science Service, at Leicestershire Police headquarters in Enderby on 29 November, about the forensic tests that the Birmingham laboratory had carried out. The results were understood to be inconclusive. In early February 2008, Alípio Ribeiro, the national director of the PJ, said that there “perhaps should have been another assessment” before the McCanns were declared arguidos.

It was reported on 10 April that parts of the McCanns’ interviews with the Portuguese police had been leaked. These were reported to include a statement that Madeleine had remonstrated with her mother for leaving the children unattended when they had been crying the previous night. Clarence Mitchell said that the leak was a “deliberate smear” and commented that it was curious that this should emerge on the day that the McCanns were in Brussels promoting a child welfareinitiative. The Polícia Judiciária said that it was entirely false that the contents of the report included material from the inquiry. They also regretted Clarence Mitchell’s “unfounded comments”.

In the judgement from the Tribunal da Relação de Évora, by Judge Fernando Ribeiro Cardoso on 29 April, it was revealed that the McCanns were being investigated for allegedly neglecting their daughter and that the police inquiry covered the possibilities of homicide, abandonment, concealment of a corpse and abduction. A judge in Portugal, on 15 May, extended the secrecy on the prosecution files for a further three months.The McCanns were cleared of any involvement in the disappearance, on 21 July, and their arguido status was lifted “due to lack of evidence that any crime was committed by the persons placed under formal investigation”.

Other suspects

The Portuguese police disclosed information, on 25 May 2007, about another possible suspect: this was a reference to a middle-build Caucasian, approximately 178 cm (5 ft 10 in) tall. However, the height of the man was subsequently corrected to that given on the Portuguese press release as 170 cm (5 ft 7 in). The man, aged between 35 and 40, was seen at 21:30 on 3 May, by a close friend of the McCanns, but this information was only made public two and half weeks later.According to Chief Police Officer Olegário de Sousa, the man was carrying a child, or something which might have resembled a child. He fitted the description of a suspect being hunted by Spanish police for the kidnappings of Sara Morales, 14, and 7-year-old Yeremi Vargas, in the Canary Islands.

Detectives tried to trace a British man who left the harbour in his yacht shortly after the disappearance, after having moored there for two years. A witness reported seeing a man carrying a child in his arms down to the marina, hours after Madeleine disappeared. On 29 May, detectives questioned four boat owners, three of them English, whose vessels were moored at the marina in Lagos, a town about five miles (8 km) from Praia da Luz.

A trace of DNA was found, on 1 June, in the bedroom from where Madeleine disappeared. The DNA did not match that of the McCanns, their three children nor that of Murat. The PJ handed the sample over to the national forensic science laboratories, the Instituto Nacional de Medicina Legal, and stated that there is a new suspect.In early August there was a suggested link with Urs Hans Von Aesch who had been on holiday in the area around the time that Madeleine disappeared. Von Aesch, a resident of Benimantell, Spain, who was implicated by Swiss police with the disappearance of five-year-old Ylenia Lenhard from Appenzell, Switzerland, had recently committed suicide.

The occupants of the flat above that from which Madeleine disappeared reported an intruder who apparently had entered with a key. There had been a similar burglary in the complex some weeks earlier. On 17 August, search warrants were signed for the home of a new suspect.

Briton Raymond Hewlett, who had been jailed for sexual offences against young girls, was, in May 2009, a person of interest. Hewlett denied any involvement in Madeleine’s disappearance and agreed to meet investigators working for the McCanns. Subsequently, he claimed to have seen Madeleine before her disappearance but required payment if he was to help the investigators. He did, though, voluntarily give police in Germany a DNA sample. Hewlett died, of natural causes, in December 2009.

In August 2009 it emerged that, 72 hours after Madeleine disappeared, two British men were approached, in Barcelona, by a woman who reportedly asked “Are you here to deliver my new daughter?” The woman, who was described as a ‘Victoria Beckham lookalike’, had an Australian accent and spoke fluent Spanish or Catalan.An E-fit picture was released showing a woman with short, spiky hair.Two detectives from the Metropolitan Police flew to Spain, in November 2011, it is thought to investigate that incident.

In February 2011, a private investigator said he had identified two key suspects in the Madeleine disappearance and believed she had possibly been taken to the United States.A 36-year-old man told a newspaper that he had informed police that McCann was taken by a Portuguese paedophile ring that hunts children in the Algarve region then proceeds to smuggle them out of the country.McCann family spokesman Clarence Mitchell told media that the paedophile ring lead had to be taken with caution.

Other aspects of the investigation

On 7 June, 2007, Spanish police received a phone call from a man claiming to know the whereabouts of Madeleine, using a mobile phone registered in Argentina. The call was described as “credible”.

In June, Spanish investigative journalist Antonio Toscano claimed that the four-year-old was abducted by a French sex offender, as part of a Europe-wide paedophile network. Then, on 28 June, Toscano claimed that Madeleine was alive and well in Europe but Madeleine’s parents refused to meet with him. Determined to leave no stone unturned, police also examined hundreds of reports from psychics and clairvoyants claiming to know the location of Madeleine. The police said that they decided to check them all in case they might contain a message from the kidnapper.

The investigation was thrown into confusion on 10 June when the detective coordinating the hunt, Gonçalo Amaral, head of the regional Polícia Judiciária, and four other Portuguese police officers, were charged with alleged offences relating to the inquiry into the disappearance of Joana Cipriano, from a village seven miles (11 km) from where Madeleine disappeared.

The Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, on 13 June, received a letter that suggested that Madeleine was buried on a hillside, near Arão, nine miles (14 km) north-east from Praia da Luz. After a search of the area, however, the Portuguese police abandoned this lead on 15 June.

In early August, the British police team brought in to assist found microscopic traces of blood on the wall of the apartment from which Madeleine disappeared and that had not been detected by the Portuguese police. Using specially trainedsniffer dogs and ultraviolet technology they discovered the blood despite the apartment having been cleaned and reoccupied.Samples of blood, hair, and fibres were sent to the UK Forensic Science Service in Birmingham for DNA analysis. Examination of the scientific evidential material is continuing and initial findings, described as “significant”, were sent to Portugal around 4 September.

Following the publicising of the discovery of the blood spots, Sousa stated “The family are not suspects. This is the official position.” Then on 11 August, Sousa added that new evidence had given “intensity” to the possibility Madeleine had been killed. Sousa confirmed on 15 August that the sniffer dogs, which could only pick up the scent of a body which had been in situ for more than two hours, had detected the scent of a dead body. John Barrett, a former Scotland Yard dog handler, said that the dogs used to detect a ‘death smell’ on Kate’s Bible and clothes were brought in too long after Madeleine vanished since the crucial scent lasts for no longer than a month.

The position of the police was clarified on 16 August by Alípio Ribeiro, national director of the Polícia Judiciária, who said that although there was a strong hypothesis that Madeleine was dead, this could not be confirmed and the investigation was nowhere near a breakthrough.António Cluny, president of Portugal’s public prosecutor’s service, said on 24 September that “Without the little girl’s body everything is extremely complicated”. He went on to stress that all options from abduction to Madeleine’s death were still open.

The Portuguese police investigation team was reduced in October 2007. Following the removal of Gonçalo Amaral as investigation coordinator, other departures decreased the number of people working on the case from a peak of 200 to just six detectives which, with holidays, could mean as few as three working on the case at any one time.Paulo Rebelo, an assistant national director of the Polícia Judiciária, took over responsibility for the case on 8 October.

Ribeiro confirmed, during October, that Portuguese police officers were planning to fly to the United Kingdom to assist in the re-interviewing of the friends who dined with the McCanns at the time of the disappearance. To prepare for the re-interviewing, Joannes Thuy, a spokesman for the Portuguese public prosecutor, said on 15 January 2008 that Eurojust had been asked to be the go-between for the Portuguese and the UK authorities. As part of the preparations, Detective Superintendent Stuart Prior, of Leicestershire Police, flew to Portugal for discussions with his counterparts, in early March.The interviews, carried out by Leicestershire Police and attended by the Portuguese Police, began on 8 April.

Alberto Costa, Portugal’s Minister of Justice, told a parliamentary committee hearing in Lisbon, on 13 February, that Portuguese police were “at a stage now where we are approaching the conclusion of the process.” Luis Antonio, theestranged husband of Murat’s girlfriend Michaela Walczuch, was questioned by police for a second time in early February.

The Portuguese police planned to hold a reconstruction, of the events of the night of Madeleine’s disappearance, in May 2008. They asked the McCanns, their friends, and holidaymakers to attend. However, the reconstruction was cancelled after the friends declined to participate

Alípio Ribeiro resigned as the national director of the PJ on 7 May, citing media pressure. His replacement was José Maria Almeida Rodrigues, a senior detective based in Coimbra.

Criticism of the parents

The parents have been criticised for leaving their children alone while they ate at a nearby restaurant despite the availability of a babysitting service and a creche. There has also been criticism of the parents in the Portuguese media.Diário de Notícias insisted that the McCanns were suspects and claimed that on the night Madeleine disappeared they had not checked on the children, contrary to what they told police.The Daily Telegraph has reported “Portugal has been stung by suggestions that the investigation has been handled ineptly, and while there is much sympathy locally for the McCanns they have also been criticised for leaving their children alone.”

Police questioned the couple on 10 May 2007 about why the three children were left alone in an apartment, with the patio doors unlocked, while they dined at the restaurant. In an interview with the BBC on 25 May, the McCanns acknowledged the criticism, and spoke of the guilt they felt. In reply to questions posed to them on 6 June at a press conference in Germany, when radio reporter Sabina Müller suggested that their behaviour was not normal for people whose child had been abducted, they denied involvement in any abduction of their daughter.

On the 10 Downing Street website a petition to the Prime Minister was started on 12 June 2007 requesting that Leicestershire Social Services fulfil their statutory obligation to investigate the circumstances which led to Madeleine and her siblings being left unattended in an unlocked, ground floor hotel room. In response, Leicestershire County Council said it was “discharging [its] duties in… a full and professional manner” but the family has declined to comment on the petition.The petition was rapidly rejected, with the reason given being the language it contained.

Following criticism in the Portuguese media of the behaviour of the McCanns, on 21 July 2007, the Crown Prosecution Service lawyers held “informal discussions” to consider whether any offence may have been committed under the Children and Young Persons Act 1933, which deals with ill-treatment, cruelty, neglect and abandonment of children under 16. The family said the calls to prosecute the McCanns were hurtful and unhelpful.

The lawyer of Robert Murat, Francisco Pagarete, criticised the McCanns in late November. He said that they “deserve to be cursed” for leaving their children alone