By Alexandra Serôdio, Marisa Rodrigues e Nuno Miguel Maia
Every week the process of the disappearance of Madeleine McCann increases in volume.
Since it was archived, on the 21st of July last year, there are already more than 700 pages with denouncements – identified and anonymous – new alleged sightings and even clairvoyants’ hunches. And every month there is a request to reopen the investigation, made by a Spanish lawyer. After all, many are those who question the decision to archive the process so soon, given other cases, without an explanation for the strange disappearance in Praia da Luz, Lagos, Algarve, which completes two years today.
Does the persistence of the need to do diligences give reason to those who argued that the process should not have been archived, or does it not? Should the investigation have been concluded as if there was nothing more there to investigate, or should it not?
Sources close to the process explained to JN that the investigation, held by the Public Ministry of Portimão and by a deputy attorney general placed at the District Attorney General of Évora, had no alternative but to opt for the archiving since the moment when Pinto Monteiro, the Attorney General of the Republic, stated publicly that up to a certain day, the "Maddie case" should have "a solution".
Thus, given the existing data in the process, on the date the decision took place, could only mean the archiving. This outcome, as suggested by sources close to the case – like the former coordinator of the PJ, Gonçalo Amaral (see this post) - may be understood as a way to exculpate the couple Kate and Gerry McCann and also Robert Murat (the first to be made arguido by the Judiciary Police), in a context of tensions in the diplomatic relations between Portugal and England.
For the various parts involved, the end of the maximum period in which the process could be kept under the secrecy of Justice would not impede, by itself that the investigation, on its own initiative, continued to explore new avenues and possibilities for the resolution of the case. Furthermore, other investigations to disappearances of children even now remain open for years and years. An example of that is the case of Rui Pedro Teixeira Mendonça, of Paredes. It was initiated 11 years ago (March 4th, 1998) and only recently it was suggested the possibility of archival, by the Public Ministry, after years of efforts abroad. Still, there is no final dispatch. “The investigations are still ongoing. The case is not closed”, confirms, to JN, Ricardo Sá Fernandes, the lawyer of Rui’s family, who should now be 22 years old.
There are, however, those who consider totally irrelevant the shelving of criminal investigations in the cases of missing persons. Therefore, stresses, to JN, a renowned expert in the phenomenon of children disappearances, an archival does not have, before the current criminal law framework, the meaning of the “death” of the process. This means that any new fact which invalidates the arguments of the archival is sufficient to cause a reopening of the inquest.
For the same expert, the most important is that there is a continuous search for the missing, while keeping the standard procedures for divulgation. This because, for the search of missing people, is neither necessary nor required the opening of a formal investigation; in view of the fact that, generally, the disappearance of a person is not always motivated by a crime. Clearly demonstrating this reality is that, while some 700 disappearances of persons are registered annually by the authorities in Portugal, the number of registered processes is not equal [lower] in number.
In these circumstances, it should not be surprising the archival of Maddie’s case. “The investigation should continue as long as there are steps to be taken. If there is nothing of useful, there’s no need to keep the investigation open. If new evidences come up, then reopen it.” However, what can be questioned is whether, after two years, an investigation is able to sustain the same initial vigour. And then, explains the same source, the answer may be negative.
In a context for the maintenance of the continuation of the distribution of requests for information made by the police authorities, it will be important, as the years advance, the “update of the image” of Madeleine McCann. This concern has been raised in some cases of media relevance – not in all.
There is, however, a fact that at this time can be considered as certain. From moment the case was archived, the Public Ministry and the Judiciary Police no longer had self-initiative to look into new evidences and avenues. On the contrary, they began waiting for new evidences to appear, under external initiative and impulse.
From a proactive attitude, they went to a passive posture. From the search they moved to waiting. That is, the authorities consider that is not justified to commit more resources or imagine other forms of investigation and of approaches to the case.
Like at the ‘hottest’ stage of the investigation, when someone – namely the British investigators - remembered to summon the dogs “Eddie” and “Keela” to examine, in strategic locations, cadaver odours and traces of blood or other biological fluids.
Or when the Public Ministry requested to the criminal investigating judge [Pedro Frias], that besides the traffic data and billing details of the mobile phones used by the group of nine English persons in determined days, the telephone operators were as well asked for the contents of short messages (SMS) sent and exchanged by those people during the ‘hottest’ days.
In the first case, the arrival of the animals brought new impetus to the case. It was discovered “marks” of cadaverine odour in the couple’s bedroom, behind a sofa near a window in a room of the apartment, in the clothes of Madeleine’s mother and – oddly enough - in the boot of a car rented by the couple more than 20 days after the disappearance. And as well biological traces substantially at the same places, which in the final report of a categorized British forensic laboratory [FSS], would be revealed as inconclusive, from the complete identity of Madeleine, to the doubts regarding what kind of fluids were involved. In addition, still, the fact that the marks signalled by the dogs can not, by in itself alone, constitute evidence.
In the second case, the judge Pedro Frias ultimately denied access to the text messages, considering that in practice that would allow telephone interceptions with a retroactive effect to a date when there was no judicial authorization. The decision was upheld by the appellate judges of the Court of Appeal in Évora, thus the knowledge of the contents of such informations was barred, which could have revealed important clues for the investigation.
Being the process archived, any initiative of this kind will only be possible if the case is reopened in the sequence of an external impulse that justifies it. What, until now, was not the case.
At the time of the archival, the process consisted of 17 main volumes and several attachments. Today, almost a year since the conclusion of the case - and two years after the last day that the English girl was last seen - the files have now two more volumes and two attachments, which means more than 700 pages. In total, the main files (excluding the attachments) have more than five thousand pages.
Each time that new information arrives to the Judiciary Police or to the Attorney General's Office, the docket ends up at the hands of one of the main investigators of the case. Ricardo Paiva then proceeds to with inquires considered to be relevant, and sends e-mail messages to foreign police authorities and, invariably, has prepared informations directed to the district attorney of Portimão, Magalhães de Menezes, guaranteeing that they bring nothing new to the case. The JN knows that, this magistrate keeps, even today, two volumes of the process in his office.
Several denunciations have already reported that Maddie was seen in Minas Gerais (Brazil), Corsica (Italy), Sweden, Poland or in Mexico. There is even a clairvoyant of Amsterdam (Netherlands) which states that the English child inserted a pen in an electric socket at the Ocean Club apartment in Praia da Luz, Lagos, and that she eventually died electrocuted. Then, she was placed in a trash site, located at one kilometre of the site. For the investigators, after the summary proceedings, none of this has any consistency.
Apparent antagonists regarding the investigation and the alleged “pressures”, made by the Portuguese and English governments, there is a common point that both the former national director of the PJ, Alípio Ribeiro, and the former coordinator of the investigation, Gonçalo Amaral, are, curiously in agreement. Those two protagonists of the case have already stated that the archival was premature, since everything is still left to be explained. But even with the process archived, will we ever know what really happened?
Source: Jornal de Notícias