Analyses of the residues collected following the visit by the dogs is entrusted to the English Forensic Science Service laboratory. To avoid any leaks of information, Stuart Prior, a senior officer with Leicestershire police, is responsible for liaison between the laboratory and José Freitas of Scotland Yard. The latter, who is with us, in Portimão, is passing on any relevant reports.
We confidently wait for the evaluation reports from FSS. A few days after the samples are sent, we are informed that the DNA of the blood found in the boot of the McCanns’ car shows a significant match – 50% – with Gerald’s, which means that it is definitely the blood of one of his children. We telephone the public minister to pass on this initial result and wait for the follow-up to the analyses and definite conclusions But the laboratory takes its time.
At the beginning of September, shortly before the McCann couple are placed under investigation, Superintendent Stuart Prior travels to Portimão to present the first of the two preliminary reports from the laboratory and to discuss the progress of the investigation.
At a meeting in our office, with the Portuguese and the English investigation team, Stuart expresses his disappointment over the test results. This is where the saga of the FSS reports begins. We read the part of the report dealing with the traces of blood lifted from the floor of apartment 5A, from behind the sofa and in the boot of the McCanns’ car and we don’t agree with Stuart’s disappointment We talk about blood traces because the CSI dog is trained to find only that bodily fluid. The reports that support that decision are clear: the CSI dog was used to detect human blood. Low Copy Number, the technique used to determine the DNA of the samples, does not identify the nature of the bodily fluid they are derived from. But we know it’s definitely traces of blood and not other bodily fluids since the CSI dog is trained to detect only human blood.
In the first case, the laboratory considers that the result of the analysis is inconclusive because the samples gathered provide very little information when the DNA comes from more than one person. But all the confirmed DNA components match with the corresponding components in Madeleine’s DNA profile!.
As for the second case, after an explanation about the DNA components in Madeleine’s genetic profile, it concludes that 15 out of 19 markers in Madeleine’s profile are present in the sample examined. Only 4 short of 100% reliability. The FSS specialists qualify the results as, “complex,” and state that these 15 markers are not enough to conclude with certainty that it’s definitely Madeleine’s DNA profile, especially as Low Copy Number picked out a total of 37 in the sample. That means that at least three individuals contributed to this result.
But there was more in this first preliminary report. In the same report, the scientist went further and explained that in the profiles of many of the lab experts, elements from the DNA profile of Madeleine are present. This means that a major part of the DNA profile of any given person can be built by three donors. That is understandable. Two questions arose immediately. The first one: what good is a DNA profile in terms of criminal evidence, if it can be the combination of three or more donors? Another question was simple: why did the DNA profile from those three donors contribute to Madeleine’s DNA profile and not to that of any other person, like the scientist who carried out the test? But the surprises from the preliminary reports were not to end there.
On the very day that interrogation of the McCann couple starts, a second preliminary report reaches us. Contrary to the first report, it accords more importance to the DNA profile of the blood lifted from the floor of the apartment. In that sample, the DNA came from more than one donor, but the confirmed DNA components match the corresponding components of Madeleine’s DNA profile.
As for the samples lifted from the boot of the car, there is no further mention of the 15 markers, as if they had never existed.
Suddenly, light was starting to be cast on the issue:either this LCN technique is not reliable or it’s simply much easier to explain the presence of Madeleine’s DNA in the apartment than in the boot of a car hired 24 days after her disappearance.
At our insistence, Stuart contacts the FSS and asks them if they think the Portuguese are idiots. We hear him saying: “With a lot less than that, we would have already arrested someone in England.” I look at my colleagues and see that they are as stupified as I am. In fact, in Portugal, it’s not so easy to arrest someone. We explain to Stuart that the McCanns interrogations would not result in detention. According to Portuguese law, the crimes of concealment of a corpse and simulating an abduction are not liable to remanding in custody.
WHAT THE LABORATORY REPORTS BRING TO LIGHT
The preliminary results from FSS were enlightening in a way, and confirmed the information given by the EVRD (Enhanced Victim Recovery Dog) and the CSI dog.
– The CSI dog, Keela, signaled the presence of human blood where Eddie, the EVRD dog, marked the presence of cadaver odour – on the floor tiles behind the sofa in the lounge, on the key and in the boot of the Renault Scenic that was used by the McCanns from May 27th onwards.
– the bodily fluids, according to the FSS, contain markers from Madeleine’s DNA profile.
These elements do not constitute concrete proof but simply clues to be added to those we already possess. In itself, the definition of a DNA profile from LCN is not considered as evidence in a criminal investigation. In his report, the English scientist says that he cannot give answers to the following questions: when was the DNA deposited? In what way? What bodily fluid does the DNA come from? Has a crime been committed?
The scientific evidence is not enough and it has to be accompanied by other types of material, documented and testimonial evidence. It is only in this way that the entire puzzle can be reconstructed and certainties can be achieved, for the material truth to be established.
The FSS has still not provided the result of the technical analysis of the hair found in the boot of the car. Once more, Stuart has to contact the laboratory. Nothing has been done. We want to know two things: if the hair is indeed Madeleine’s, and if it comes from a living or a dead person. The FSS can only answer the first question. English colleagues present at the meeting raise the possibility of the hair being sent to other European laboratories which have the resources to clear up the second point for us: hair from a living or a dead person. But the FSS does not seem to want to part with the hair. They claim that using a colour comparison test they can establish if the hair belongs to Madeleine and in a second stage, identify the DNA profile. None of that will happen. We never find out if the hair was Madeleine’s or her parents’ or her brother’s or her sister’s, even though the laboratory has the DNA profiles of each member of the family.
Let’s remember: it is totally logical to find Madeleine’s DNA in the home, but absolutely not in a car rented more than twenty days after her disappearance.
FINGERPRINTS ON THE WINDOW
One afternoon, we drive to apartment 5A at the Ocean Club. I am accompanied by Guilhermino Encarnação, the indefatigable Polícia Judiciária Director from Faro, who is following every step of the investigation, with daily trips to Portimão. José Freitas of Scotland Yard is accompanied by Stuart Prior, to whom we explain the theory of an accident. According to Encarnação, the child’s death must have resulted from a fall behind the sofa, where the dogs marked the odours of cadaver and blood. The theory is simple and based on evidence in our possession. The parents would have pushed the sofa away from the window as a safety precaution because the window opened easily and it was situated, remember, three metres above the outside pavement. When Gerald went to the apartment at around 9pm to check on his children, used the toilet and then left, Madeleine might have woken up. Hearing her father’s voice coming from the street outside, she may have tried to reach the window by climbing on the sofa and could have fallen behind it. Stuart indicates that he understands and agrees with the possibility. He takes this opportunity to ask if any fingerprints were found on that window or on any others, particularly on the one in Madeleine’s bedroom.
Initially, we don’t understand why he is asking this question, since he has seen our report. He should know that fingerprints were discovered with the lophoscopic* analysis carried out on the night of May 3rd and the following day. The results are in the report. Why is he asking about them now? We respond evasively, “Nothing conclusive.”
However, on the glass, on the handle and on the right-hand frame of Madeleine’s bedroom window, we had lifted five fingerprints – three from a middle finger and two from an index finger – all from a left hand, identified as belonging to Kate McCann.
The technicians who examined the apartment did not place any great importance on the identification of the fingerprints. In fact, in the absence of obvious signs of assault or of a crime – like signs of a struggle, traces of blood or the presence of a corpse -, the technicians proceed to the kind of examination that is carried out in a burglary case. They forget that fingerprints discovered in a particular place, even if they belong to an occupant of the premises, can be of fundamental importance for the progress of the investigation and constitute valuable evidence, even material proof.
The window in question is the one that Kate Healy states she found open to the left, with the curtains fluttering, when she discovered that her daughter was missing. On the window, there were no signs of a break-in or of gloves. It had been cleaned the day before, May 2nd, by an Ocean Club employee, and the only fingerprints found were Kate’s. The position of the fingerprints indicate that the window had been opened to the left, as Kate Healy stated: “the window was fully open to the left.” There is no doubt that somebody opened that window on the evening of May 3rd and the only fingerprints found on it were those of Kate Healy. The manager of the Ocean Club’s crèche, who went to the apartment after the alarm was raised, remarked that, “the window was partially open to the left,” confirming Kate’s earlier statement.
We prefer not to discuss this with Stuart Prior: we have the impression that he is only here to accompany the McCanns’ interrogations and to prevent their detention. His concern on that subject is obvious.
Two pieces of information reach us, which we interpret as diversionary tactics with the obvious purpose of diverting suspicion from the McCanns. The first concerns the couple’s active involvement in a campaign to set up an international alert system for missing children. The Policia Judiciaria is approached indirectly through the Department of Criminal Investigation in Portimão and the Directorate in Faro to participate and support the launch of the campaign. We tell the messenger that we are not the appropriate recipients of this enquiry, that the request should be sent to a higher authority, the National Director of the PJ or the Portuguese government.
The second piece of information comes to us from further afield: Beirut, capital of The Lebanon. Imagine this: an Arab shiekh possessed a video of an orgy by other shiekhs on which Madeleine was allegedly recognisable. He would be prepared to hand over this recording to the British Ambassador in exchange for a sum of money to be sent to his lawyer. Once again, we are stupified.
– Can you believe it? A sheikh ready to denounce his mates for a few sous…Arab royalty is so strapped for cash?
– I don’t understand: haven’t all of our English colleagues who have been working with us already concluded that Madeleine may have died in the apartment?
– What more does Stuart need?
– I don’t know what he needs. In any case, it was him who told us he had arrested people in England for a lot less.
After the interrogations, I had the opportunity to ask an English colleague about the outcome of the story. Did that video exist? What was on it? He responded that it had come to him in February or March 2007, well before Madeleine’s disappearance…It would be interesting to know who, deliberately and with the sole object of scuppering the investigation, went and unearthed a video from before Madeleine’s disappearance, to make people believe she was still alive…
THE McCANNS’ INTERROGATIONS
THE NERVOUS ENGLISH POLICE
As the date for the interrogations approached, Stuart became more and more nervous and he was a constant presence. He wanted to be kept up to date on the smallest details. We explain to him what is going to happen, notably the sending of a rogatory letter to the English authorities to request specialist dog team examinations of the homes of the McCanns and their holiday friends, in Great Britain, to check if any object or piece of clothing retained any cadaver odour or blood. We ask Stuart to request that these examinations be carried out by the specialist dog team that we already know, with the same EVRD and CSI dogs, Eddie and Keela and with Stuart’s agreement, we send him the letter.
We don’t know what clothes the McCann couple and their friends were wearing on the evening of May 3rd. At the start of the investigation, we had requested all photos and videos from that day and from the other days, but all we received were daytime photos; it was as if in the evenings and during the now famous “Tapas,” dinners, no photos had been taken despite the fact that some of the diners had cameras with them. The lack of night time photos was something we have never understood. Within the rogatory letter, we ask the English authorities to seize photos and videos taken throughout the holiday at the Ocean Club.
In the McCanns’ home, we would like to check a medical monitoring chart recording Madeleine’s problems with sleeping. This chart had been mentioned by Kate and according to her mother, it was only used until April 2006, when Madeleine regained a regular sleep pattern and slept right through every night without interruption. We also wish to pick up the diary that Kate started to keep from May 3rd. Finally, we would like to question the group of friends again, to confront them about their contradictions concerning their system for checking the children during the evening dinners at the Ocean Club.
At the same time, we hope to obtain a response to our request to the British authorities, made through the liaison officer in Portugal on the first day of the investigation, for information on the McCann family and their friends. Given the fact that we have, so far, received no response to this enquiry, we will make the request for the desired information through the rogatory letter. We ask Stuart about this matter and he says that, “they are in the process of gathering that information.”
However, a preliminary response comes to us about the McCanns’ financial situation: astonishingly, there are no records of the McCanns holding any credit or debit cards.
– That’s quite simply not possible!
– They don’t have credit cards? However, we know that they hold at least two: one which they used to pay for the flights, and a second which was used for the hire of the Renault Scénic.
– The English need to sort themselves out. We need the McCanns’ financial statements from the start of their holiday in Portugal.
It’s obvious we’re going to have a hard time getting the required details: with such information, it would not be difficult to follow the McCanns’ trail, to know about their expenses, their movements, and to draw conclusions from what came up. Meanwhile, Stuart makes another request. He says it would be a good idea to send two rogatory letters: one for the friends and another for the McCann couple. We don’t understand this one.
FRAUD OR ABUSE OF TRUST?
During a more relaxed moment at one of these meetings, I come out with an ill-judged comment. Inopportune or undiplomatic, but this is my reasoning: thinking about the kinds of crime that may have been committed if the McCanns were involved in their daughter’s disappearance, something occurs to me. If they were involved in one way or another, then a crime of fraud or abuse of trust is a possibility concerning the fund that was set up to finance the search for Madeleine. Donations have reached nearly 3 million Euros.
If such a crime exists, Portugal would not have jurisdiction to investigate and try it. The fund being legally registered in England, it would be our English colleagues who would deal with the case. Our English colleagues then realise a hard reality: the strong possibility that they would have a crime to investigate in their own country, with the McCAnn couple as the main suspects: a prospect that does not seem to appeal to them. I notice a sudden pallor in the faces of those British people present.
(*Note: analysis of difficult latent prints – latent from the Latin latere, to hide, to lie.)