As the parents of Missing Madeleine claim their innocence on Spanish TV, the Olive Press’ Jon Clarke – the first British newspaper journalist on the scene – analyses why the McCanns did not do it
OF course, the best whodunnits are complex and far-fetched. But for a couple of loving parents to murder their daughter, bury and cover all traces in the space of an hour while on holiday is stretching it a bit far.
The fact that they are educated doctors with not a blemish on their names.
The fact that they were on holiday with two other families.
The fact that they invited the world’s press to help with not one speck of real dirt sticking to them.
These are just some of the reasons why I am convinced the McCanns did not kill their daughter Madeleine, 4.
Increasingly, a whispering campaign has become a titillating news item that has become a deluge of news reports about why and how they murdered their daughter.
Not just in the United Kingdom. Even more so in Spain, Portugal, even France and the United States are throwing in their top reporters and crime analysts to try and solve the mystery that is Missing Maddie.
But, as a journalist who has four times been to Praia de Luz to cover the story and as the first British newspaper reporter on the scene on that fated morning in May this year, I am certain, Kate and Gerry McCann did not kill their daughter.
It is perhaps all too obvious that eventually the finger would point at the parents. After all, they say that in cases of child molesting and abduction half the time it is the nearest and dearest who is to blame.
This however, is perhaps more to do with the ineptitude of the Portuguese police investigation that has been ragged, eccentric at best.
That it took them three months to invite in specialists to pick up the vital strands of DNA evidence strewn around the flat.
That they seized the hire car of the McCann’s, found so-called “key, crucial DNA evidence on the back seat,” then allowed them to have it back to drive around.
That they allowed dozens of local people, including one of the main suspects to wander around the crime scene.
That they did not shut the border with Spain till practically the next day.
From the word go, they did not take this crime seriously.
And, in a way, who can blame them?
Praia de Luz sits in the sleepy south west corner of Europe, just short of Sagres. There had been no kidnappings, murders, or any serious crime reported for three years, as it turned out.
The Mark Warner holiday club that charged thousands to parents like the McCanns, did not even have security cameras, or secure premises.
There was no suggestion of putting families on higher floors. Like numerous housing developments up and down the Costa del Sol and the Algarve, you could walk straight in through a small gate.
All the more perfect for a predatory paedophile who lived in the area.
I am not going to claim to be able to solve the mystery, but I am convinced that Maddie was snatched by a local paedophile, who had been watching the family’s movements.
It was coming to the end of their holiday. The fifth night they had put their children to bed and wondered down to have dinner with their friends, all doctors bar one.
The apartment door was shut, but within easy reach of the road. In any case it is almost certain that the plastic shutters on the apartment were used to get out, perhaps in too.
The small village had apparently very little crime . . . until you scratched the surface. While there had only been one murder of any substance for nearly three years in the area, there was, it turned out, a seedy underworld inhabited by numerous expatriates. One woman told me how she had been the victim of an attempted snatch at midnight in nearby Lagos a month or two earlier. A long term English couple, who lived in the small nearby village where suspect Robert Murat grew up, told me there were “half a dozen” paedophiles living in their village alone.
It was sketchy and unsubstantiated, but there was no doubt, as in any place where northern European expatriates drift in their hundreds, there were quite a number of bad eggs amongst them.
Then, there was the Russian connection. Robert Murat’s friend Sergei, a handsome young man.
Either way, I do not see how the McCanns could have done it. That is if the police and press had been doing only half the job they should have been doing.
Much has been made of the missing hour-and-a-half window between 7pm and 8.30pm between Madeleine being put to bed and the parents coming down to dinner.
While Gerry was seen playing tennis, Kate was apparently in the flat . . . she must be guilty then? Not really. She was probably relaxing, having a bath, putting on her make up for the evening.
The latest report in one of the salacious Portuguese tabloids, Kate apparently killed Maddie and then hid the body in the fridge of their apartment before “passing it through various locations” and finally moving it in a hire car, perhaps on a “suspicious” trip to Huelva three weeks later.
But given that the apartment fridges are tiny, they would have had to chop her up first. Would they have then calmly sat at dinner with their friends at 8.30pm, showing no sign of a struggle or the anguish of murdering their daughter?
Surely one of the so-called Tapas Nine would have spotted something?
On top of this, Portuguese police had their finest detectives flown in from Lisbon the following day.
Is not likely they would have checked the fridge, and more crucially monitored their movements three weeks later on their publicity tour around Europe?
One other thing, if they had killed Madeleine and then somehow driven her body away in the tiny time scale that evening, they would have needed to have gone more than 25 miles – the distance from the resort sniffer dogs and police searched. That would mean driving for at least half an hour on the poor windy backroads inland from the Algarve. They did not know the back roads, nor a good spot to hide the body. How would they have hidden the body? Using a shovel? Hold on, would not there then be a shop somewhere that sold them a shovel? Is anyone missing a shovel? If so, please call the Olive Press newsdesk.
It is all so far fetched it is quite ridiculous. There is only one slight niggle. That of Harold Shipman. Britain’s most prolific serial killer to date. He was a GP near Manchester who got away with the murder of dozens of vulnerable elderly people in a sick craving for power. Could Kate and Gerry be in the same league?
Now you are really talking fantasy football.