Back to basics

The summary of the case by the Portuguese police for the prosecutors runs to just over 56 pages. It is the last official word on the affair and the summation of their findings and, as such, an extremely important document. The English translation available is a poor one and its windiness and lack of clarity have done its conclusions no favours. In the extract below I have re-translated the document with minor alterations to the grammar and sense. For those who wish to compare my version with the indigestible existing translation the latter can be consulted on numerous sites, the McCann Files being one of them.

The concluding pages (54-57) run thus:

"We turn now to the question of the "reconstruction" (Article 150º of the Penal Process Code),which was not performed due to the refusal of some of the members of the holiday group to return to our country, as documented in the Inquiry.

The reconstruction, at the actual location where the events took place, would have provided due clarification of the following extremely important details, amongst others:

  • The relative distances between JANE TANNER,GERALD McCANN and JEREMY WILKINS at the moment when the former passed them which coincided with the sighting of the supposed suspect carrying a child. We find it unusual that neither GERALD McCANN nor JEREMY WILKINS saw her nor the alleged abductor, despite the restricted area.
  • Matters concerning the window of the bedroom where MADELEINE slept with the twins, which was open according to KATE. Clarification as to whether there could have been a draught causing movement of the curtains and pressure under the bedroom door, as described by the witness.
  • Establishing a timeline which includes the checking of the children left inside the apartments, given that if the checking was as tight as the witnesses and the arguidos describe, it would be to say the least, very difficult under such conditions for an abductor to enter the residence and leave with the child through a window of limited dimensions. We would add that the supposed abductor could only pass that window holding the child in a different position (vertical) from the one that was described by witness JANE TANNER (horizontal).
  • What happened during the interval between 5.30 p.m. (the time at which MADELEINE was seen for the last time by anyone other than her family and the time at which the disappearance was reported by KATE HEALY (at around 10 p.m.)
The requested assistance and investigation from the British authorities mentioned above, despite the fact that it was almost completely carried out, added nothing new to the investigation. The questioning of the holiday group merely corroborated what had already been established during the investigation, without providing any additional significant detail.
In conclusion, despite the efforts that were made and the exploration of all lines of investigation, it is not possible to obtain a solid and objective conclusion about what really happened that night, nor about the present location of the missing child. It should be remembered, however, that this investigation took place under conditions of exceptional media exposure, with the publication of much “news” of imprecise, inexact or even false content. This did not help in the discovery of the truth and frequently created a climate of unusual commotion and lack of calm.
Therefore, as we do not currently envision the pursuit of any other line of enquiry within the process that might produce any useful result I submit our findings for your consideration, for you to determine and decide accordingly.

Portimão, 20th of June 2008"

It is a notable summary and while the strangulated prose of the original testifies to the bitter experience of confessing failure its conclusions are significant. Reading from the final sentence back:
  • They state that they are pursuing no new lines of enquiry and nor do they envision any.
  • That their investigation was hampered by unprecedented media exposure and "commotion".
  • That the UK "rogatory letter" interviewees, principally the "Tapas 7" , provided no additional information.
  • That they are still lacking information about what happened within the holiday group between 5.30 & 10PM on May 3.
  • That the "timeline" provided by the holiday group makes it "at the least very difficult" for an abductor to have entered and left.
  • That the information (provided by Kate McCann) that a draught had alerted her to a previously unopened window needed clarification or replication.
  • That the circumstances of the Jane Tanner sighting were hard to reconcile with the geography of the location and the close proximity of others.
  • And that clarification of these and other matters could not be obtained due to the "refusal" of members of the holiday group to return to Portugal for the necessary reconstruction of events.
Readers will note that these are the only constraints on the investigation described in these final pages: no reference is made to any burdens or problems involved in getting at the truth of events outside the holiday group itself, save for a reference to media coverage. There is no mention of any other witness inadequacies outside the holiday circle affecting the outcome of the investigation.
Leaving aside the extreme reserve with which the parents are treated in this document, when an investigating team states that it has no plans to pursue new lines of enquiry,adds that there are "very important" aspects of the investigation still unresolved, names the witnesses who could help resolve them and states that a number of them - walking around freely in the UK - have "refused" to come back to do so, then it is hardly surprising that many people agree with the Portuguese police that there are urgent questions surrounding the holiday group still requiring an answer. And that is whether one believes in the possibility of an abduction - as I do - or not.