After Madeleine’s disappearance, the first English police officer whom we welcome to the Portimão Department of Criminal Investigation, on May 5th, is Glen Power, liaison officer to Portugal. The brief of this police official attached to his country’s embassy is to facilitate communication between police forces. This is one of a number of pivots on which international police collaboration relies.
I have known Glen Power for a long time. Martin Cox, who had held the job in Portugal for some years, came to the Algarve with Glen when the latter replaced him. I had worked with Glen on several cases of violent crime or linked to organised crime; I was aware of his skills, his great capacity for work, his kindness and his modesty. Our relationship went beyond that of a simple professional connection. I was a bit worried when he told me that he wouldn’t be around a few days later. He had a lot to do. He wanted to reassure me by telling me that the language of investigation was universal and that his colleagues would have no difficulty in integrating into the ongoing investigation. No doubt, but personalities are important, as is the information committed to memory, knowledge of the details, the cross-checks that allow us to be responsive to the slightest indications. It’s for that reason that, in general, the make-up of the team remains the same from start to finish of an investigation.
Two days later, English colleagues begin to arrive. The main idea was for the English police to place at our disposal two specialists in family supervision and support to be the link between the Portuguese investigators and the McCanns. The National Directorate of the PJ had authorised the arrival of these police officers in the context of international collaboration. Bob Small, an officer from the Leicestershire police, and one of his colleagues meet us to take stock of the situation and evaluate the needs of the investigation before making contact with the couple.
We insist on knowing what our English counterparts have come to Portugal to do. I assign one of my investigators to follow the English superintendent like a shadow and to keep me informed about his actions. I want to be informed of everything he learns, the names of the people he meets and the places he goes to.
Then the two police officers arrive who are assigned to psychological support and communication with the family. Little by little, the number of English police officers grows exponentially. We place at their disposal a room next to our crisis unit, Task Portugal. These are specialists from various police services, including Scotland Yard. Special surveillance teams as well as information and telecommunications technicians turn up with their laptops and various high-tech equipment. Others will come to join us, notably profilers: they will develop a profile of the alleged abductor from which a number of possible scenarios will be constructed. The analysts trace timelines and patterns of connections based on the witness statements gathered. They produce giant summary boards that cover the walls of the offices. They attend all our meetings and collaborate in decision-making. They are the intermediary through which requests for information are sent to Great Britain, and it is they who receive the responses and enquiries.
On May 14th, Kate Healy is indignant about the attitude of the liaison officer, who asks her where her daughter is. Neither she nor her husband accepts anyone doubting their word. The officer will be sent packing – and his colleague too – a week after his arrival. That attitude is, to say the least, shocking on the part of parents confronted by such a situation, that, what is more, is in a foreign country. Those two police officers, who distinguished themselves through long experience in the management of situations of kidnap and abduction, were, all the same, entirely at their disposal; they provided daily logistical and legal support, and afforded them all the help they could have needed.
Curiously, the English do not consider it expedient to disclose the incident and the PJ are not informed. Myself, I only learn of it indirectly. Finally, a solution is found quickly: the two men are replaced by a Portuguese man who speaks fluent English.
During this time, the Leicestershire police continue to receive a considerable number of enquiries that they have trouble sorting and analysing. On May 15th, inspector Ricardo Paiva is sent as reinforcement to the English, who, he says, welcome him warmly and feed him on tea and cakes. Most of the bits of information received from all over the world are of no interest; so, there is no reason for follow-up. People allegedly recognise Madeleine or claim to know exactly where she is, seers, clairvoyants send very confused messages to the police, some well-intentioned, others less so… Rapidly, the sophisticated computer system for managing calls is overloaded. So much effort and so much money spent financing the appeals in the press for witnesses leaves us wondering; we are not convinced of the pertinence of this method that consists of requesting help from the population to resolve a case.
On Tuesday June 12th, Bob Small and Chris Eyre, head of the Leicestershire area police, go to Faro for a meeting, which Guilhermino Encarnacão, Luis Neves and myself also attend. We have to make a point about cooperation between police forces and set out the latest requirements. Everything seems to go well. We are aware of the incident between Kate and the liaison officers, but it is not brought up. We have the impression that the politically correct hypothesis of abduction is still favoured, but that other possibilities are not being ruled out.
As time went by, we noticed that a certain number of the police officers sent to Portugal were poorly informed about the progress of the investigation. One of them who – like the majority – was coming to Portugal for the first time, was wearing a green and yellow rubber wrist band, bought for £2, which he played with nervously. The inscription read, “Look for Madeleine.” Some of his colleagues told him that he would soon get rid of it. As a matter of fact, he took it off as soon as he got properly into the investigation and he had learned about the evidence placing doubt on the theory of abduction.