British ambassador's reported comments to US counterpart offer insight into role of UK police in 2007 investigation
by Ben Quinn
British police helped to "develop evidence" against Madeleine McCann's parents as they were investigated by Portuguese police as formal suspects in the disappearance of their daughter, the US ambassador to Portugal was told by his British counterpart in September 2007.
The meeting between US ambassador Al Hoffman and the British ambassador, Alexander Wykeham Ellis, took place a fortnight after Kate and Gerry McCann were formally declared arguidos, or suspects, by Portuguese police.
In a diplomatic cable marked confidential, the US ambassador reported: "Without delving into the details of the case, Ellis admitted that the British police had developed the current evidence against the McCann parents, and he stressed that authorities from both countries were working co-operatively."
The comments attributed to the ambassador appear to contradict the widespread perception at the time that Portuguese investigators were the driving force behind the treatment of the McCanns as suspects in the case.
The disclosure comes as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange returns to court in an attempt to secure bail following his arrest last week at the request of Swedish authorities who want to interview him over allegations of sexual assault. A number of other cables released by the whistleblowers' website shed new light on aspects of the financial crisis. Revelations include:
• RBS chairman Sir Philip Hampton said the board of the bank breached their "fiduciary responsibilities" by allowing the takeover of the Dutch bank ABN Amro.
• The Bank of England governor, Mervyn King, was so worried about the health of the banks that he proposed a secret international fund to recapitalise them six months before the collapse of Lehman Brothers.
• US officials expressed doubts in October 2008 over whether Ireland appreciated how much trouble its banks were in.
In one of two cables referring to the McCann case, the US ambassador notes: "Madeleine McCann's disappearance in the south of Portugal in May 2007 has generated international media attention with controversy surrounding the Portuguese-led police investigation and the actions of Madeleine's parents."
He reported that his British counterpart thought "that the media frenzy was to be expected and was acceptable as long as government officials keep their comments behind closed doors".
It was not until 21 July 2008 that the Portuguese authorities shelved their investigation and lifted the arguido status of the McCanns. Responding to the contents of the cable, a spokesman for the McCanns told the Guardian: "This is an entirely historic note that is more than three years old. Subsequently, Kate and Gerry had their arguido status lifted, with the Portuguese authorities making it perfectly clear that there was absolutely no evidence to implicate them in Madeleine's disappearance whatsoever.
"To this day, they continue to work tirelessly on the search for their daughter, co-operating when appropriate with both the Portuguese and British authorities."
British authorities had substantial involvement in the investigation launched after Madeleine disappeared in May 2007 from the holiday apartment where the McCanns had left their three children in bed before joining friends at a nearby restaurant in the Algarve village of Praia da Luz.
At least one British sniffer dog was used in the investigation and, according to reports, was said to have picked up the scent of a dead body in the apartment.
In 2008, when a dossier detailing investigations by the Portuguese police was made public, it emerged that British scientists had warned that DNA tests on a sample from the McCanns' holiday hire car were inconclusive days before they were made suspects. It is known that the Forensic Science Service analysed material sent to Britain by Portuguese police.
A spokesman for Leicestershire police said that their involvement in the investigation was limited to co-ordinating UK-based inquiries on behalf of the Portuguese authorities.
Source: The Guardian
US embassy cables: British police 'developed evidence' against McCanns, Washington told
Friday, 28 September 2007, 15:36
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 LISBON 002527
STATE FOR XXXXXXXXXXXX
EO 12958 DECL: 09/25/2017
TAGS PGOV, PREL, OFDP">OFDP, PO">PO">PO
SUBJECT: PORTUGAL: UK AMBASSADOR ON ENERGY SECURITY,
RUSSIA, EU-AFRICA SUMMIT, AND MCCANN CASE
Classified By: XXXXXXXXXXXX FOR REASONS 1.4 (B),(D)
1. (C) On September 21, newly-arrived British Ambassador Alexander Wykeham Ellis informed Ambassador Hoffman that European concerns over Russia's aggressive energy policies and the need for market competition were the driving forces behind the third EU energy liberalization package. He suggested that Russia's position with its neighbors was guided by a self-proclaimed right to do "what it wants, when it wants" in its own neighborhood. Regarding Robert Mugabe's participation in the proposed EU-Africa Summit, Ellis said the UK would not discourage other member states from participating if PM Brown stayed away. He doubted, however, if the Dutch, Irish, or Swedish would attend in Brown's absence. Ellis also noted that it was the British police that developed the current evidence against Madeleine McCann's parents in the high-profile case that has captured international attention. He informed the Ambassador that former British Ambassador John Buck had accepted a private-sector position at a UK gas company and that his departure had nothing to do with bilateral issues. END SUMMARY
RUSSIA'S ENERGY GAME IS COMING TO AN END
2. (C) According to Ellis, European concerns over Russia's aggressive energy policies and the need for increased market competition were the driving forces behind the third EU energy liberalization package. He called Russia the greatest threat to European energy security and described its energy policies as a "game that's coming to an end." He argued that Gazprom's sustainability depends on the European distribution network and that Putin, who is "always trying to make a point to Europe," knew and understood this reality. Quoting a statement he had heard elsewhere, Ellis described Russia as "too strong, too weak"; suggesting that it was a bipolar society divided by feelings of strength and empowerment and internal fears of national failure.
RUSSIA, THE BIG BAD NEIGHBOR
3. (C) When questioned about Kosovo and Russia's relationship with its neighbors, Ellis suggested that Russia's position (on Kosovo) was driven by a self-proclaimed right to do "what it wants, when it wants" in its own neighborhood. Ellis did not believe that Russia had high regard for Serbia or any of its other neighbors, but rather it feared outside influences in the region. Reflecting on his position as Director of the EU Enlargement Team in London (2001-2003), Ellis noted that completing the 2004 EU enlargement phase had been difficult, and hypothesized that if the Russia of now were the Russia of then, the process would have been nearly impossible.
MUGABE...AND THE OTHER BAD GUYS
4. (C) According to Ellis, the UK's position on Zimbabwe has not changed; if Robert Mugabe showed up, then Gordon Brown would not. However, he could not confirm if the British government would send any representatives. While he claimed that the UK had steered away from discouraging other member stated from attending, he noted the possibility that the Dutch, Irish, and Swedish leaders may follow Brown's lead. Regarding Chavez and Ahmadinejad, Ellis commented that Portugal's approach was centered on "engagement" -- even with the so-called bad guys. Ambassador Hoffman countered that "irrational people cannot be expected to behave rationally." While acknowledging that the US position was justifiable, Ellis responded that there were sensitivities at play for Portugal, especially regarding Venezuela. (Note: There are approximately a half-million Portuguese living in Venezuela. End Note)
6. (SBU) Ellis, a former school teacher, joined Britain's
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Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1990 and moved progressively up the chain to Ambassador. Lisbon was his first foreign tour as a diplomat, followed by postings in Brussels, Madrid and London. He has also served as Director of the EU Enlargement Team in London (2001-2003) and as adviser on energy policies and trade issues (2005-2007) under EC President Jose Barroso. XXXXXXXXXXXX Ellis informed Ambassador Hoffman that former British Ambassador John Buck had accepted a private-sector position with a British gas company and that his abrupt departure in August 2007 had nothing to do with bilateral issues.
Source: The Guardian
US embassy cables: Madeleine McCann case pushes EU to act on child abductions
Thursday, 11 October 2007, 13:48
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 LISBON 002605
EO 12958 N/A
TAGS KJUS, MOPS, PO">PO">PO, PREL, PTER, EUN
SUBJECT: EU JHA INFORMAL MINISTERIAL
1. Summary. EU Justice and Home Affairs ministers met informally in Lisbon October 1-2. An embassy officer attended to follow discussion of such topics as the elimination of land and sea travel barriers in December, the establishment of a counternarcotics analysis and operations center, the submission of a package of counterterrorism proposals by Vice President Frattini in November, the submission of a package of border control proposals by Frattini in February, and the establishment of a missing children alert system based on the U.S. Amber Alert. End summary.
Justice and Home Affairs Informal Ministerial
2. European Union Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Ministers held an informal ministerial in Lisbon October 1-2, chaired by Portuguese Minister of Internal Administration Rui Pereira and Minister for Justice Alberto Costa. Representatives from relevant EU institutions, Vice President of the European Commission Franco Frattini, and the Turkish Minister for Justice Mehmet Ali Sahin also participated. An embassy officer attended the proceedings to hear public statements first-hand and to engage attendees on the margins.
3. As a lead-in to the meetings, on September 30 participating member states formally signed the protocol to establish the Maritime Analysis and Operations Center - Narcotics (MAOC-N). Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Ireland, Netherlands, and the United Kingdom founded the center to share intelligence and coordinate counternarcotics efforts. The U.S., though not formally a member, has liaison officers assigned to the MAOC.
4. Also on the agenda but in advance of the informal ministerial meetings, the Spanish and Portuguese Interior Ministers held a bilateral meeting in which they established a task force to coordinate counterterrorism investigations and prosecutions. Pereira noted that although bilateral cooperation had long existed, the task force was established to be more proactive in regard to investigations and cooperation. During the proceedings, Portugal also signed a bilateral agreement with Malta to resettle refugees in Portugal that are currently resident in Malta.
Home Affairs - Prevention of Terrorism and Border Management
5. SIS/VIS: Frattini and Pereira both noted that by Christmas, all land and sea barriers in the Schengen area will be removed for nine participating Schengen states, Cyprus having requested an extension. Air travel barriers, he said, would be removed in March. Noting that the Schengen Information System (SIS) has succeeded in its testing phase, Frattini suggested that the formal decision to implement the new rules will be taken in November. Frattini also suggested that the EU must have an entry-exit register complete with biometric identifiers. This would, he opined, help manage overstays as well as be a useful data source for security services. Additionally, he noted that various databases and security systems need to be integrated and expanded to include travelers without visas. Moreover, such a European surveillance system must be accessible to local law enforcement. An aide to Frattini said that this package of proposals would be submitted to the college of Commissioners in February.
6. PNR/ETA: Frattini said he would submit a terrorism package to the Commissioners November 6 that includes a proposal to establish formally an EU-wide Passenger Name Recognition (PNR) system. He noted that the requirements demanded by U.S. negotiators convinced him that the European security services should have access to the same kind of information. Pereira and German Minister Schauble suggested that, in addition to the intelligence value, a PNR system would allow the EU to negotiate with the U.S. on an equal footing and would allow for balanced cooperation. Pereira said he would also support a PNR for intra-European flights. Schauble said further discussion on that point would be needed. Frattini and Schauble both noted that electronic travel authorizations (ETA) are useful not just for improving security, but also improving the customer service at airports. With ever increasing crowds at airports, Schauble noted that it is in a traveler's interest to participate in a voluntary ETA program.
7. Internet: Frattini will also submit a proposal to punish misuse of the internet. This will not, he stressed, be a limit on the freedom of expression. Pereira noted that the proposal would be limited to taking down sites that specifically incite terrorism or provide instruction in how
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to commit terrorist acts. Indeed, added Frattini, the EU already has a regulation that prohibits transfer of illegal data on the internet, without causing concerns of limitation of freedom of speech. This proposal, he continued, would only add the specific mention of terrorism. Such an update, he opined, is a good example of why the EU needs regularly to review and update its bodies of law.
8. Conspiracy: Pereira noted that Italian Minister Amato suggested that the ministers consider developing an EU agreement to incorporate conspiracy statutes into existing law. Current legislation is directed towards formal terrorist organizations, which does not adequately address current realities. Italy, and a few other states, punish conspiracy without being part of a formal organization; Pereira and Frattini each enthusiastically supported the idea that the EU consider the question.
9. Pruhm Treaty: Slovenian Interior Minister Dragutin Mate suggested that, agreement being reached, it was incumbent on Slovenia to develop the technical handbooks for implementation.
10. e-Justice Portal: Costa issued a statement that ministers agreed that the EU should have an information technology system to facilitate access to member states' judicial systems and registry systems. Member states will compile best practices on IT and regularly review performance.
12. Child Protection: Costa also noted that the ministers agreed to expand the role of the European Mediator for international child abductions and to support the strengthening and implementation of laws related to child protection. Hoffman
Source: The Guardian
Related: 'Caso Madeleine': La policía británica apuntó a los padres published by El País - translated at 'Madeleine Case': British Police indicated the parents