by João Paulo Costa and Marisa Rodrigues
The process of Madeleine McCann's disappearance will only be reopened “if there are new facts, credible and relevant and not mere hypotheses or speculations”. That was the reaction of the Procuradoria-Geral da República [Attorney General's Office] that emerged, this Thursday, after the theory of a South African businessman became known, according to which the body of the child is buried in the garden of the house of the former arguido Robert Murat in Praia da Luz, Lagos.
What was reported as a “new lead” is not being understood by the authorities as sufficiently strong to advance with any kind of diligences [steps/work] on the ground. “That information is being regarded as all others that have arrived to the process” said to JN, the national director of the Judiciary Police (PJ), Pedro do Carmo.
To the “Expresso” [link to video] the real estate businessman guarantees to have found Maddie's body in the garden of the house where Murat lived at the time when the girl disappeared, on the 3 of May of 2007. Casa Liliana where currently only Robert's 80 year-old mother, Jenny, lives is just a few meters from the Ocean Club, the resort where the McCanns were staying in their holidays.
Between the 16th and the 28th of June, Stephen Birch, 47 years-old, states that he monitored the house and that during night time he invaded [illegally trespassed] the property in order to examine the terrain with a georadar that signals subsoil variations. Without further explanations, Birch is convinced that it is the girl's body.
Fernando Almeida, the expert in Geophysics and professor at the University of Aveiro that participated in the investigations done with georadar to Murat's house back in 2007, says that the signal that was detected may correspond to objects, debris, rock fragments, supply pipes, etc... and he explains that “this method always requires confirmation by excavation, otherwise the interpretations are only hypotheses”.
Department of Geosciences at the University of Aveiro. Specialized in Geophysics.
What was your involvement in the investigation to the Maddie Case?
In August 2007 I joined an international team, among which was the English investigator Mark Harrison, to perform georadar surveys in Murat's residence. The work was exhausting, lasted two days and involved over 20 people.
Could that work be done in the same way today?
At that moment only two or three months had gone by since the disappearance; the possible turning of the terrain and vegetation at that time allowed to perform a rigorous work that after all these years would no longer be that easy. It is a terrain constituted by limestone with terra rossa [reddish-brown soil] and for that reason it would be much more difficult due to the natural compaction of the soil. I admit that the work done now (by the South African) may have detected anomalies, possibly even some that we detected at the time. From what emerged, it was a work done with many difficulties, not comparable, due to the elapsed time, with the work done by the team that I joined, especially regarding the degree of certainty in the interpretations.
What kind of methodology was employed?
It was a scientific research methodology based on the division of the space into sectors of the residence - indoors and outdoors - each sector was examined with various georadars at different depths, depending on the request of the criminal investigators. The geophysical anomalies identified as suspicious were interpreted by sector. Upon determination of the depth of the targets, they were subject to verification by excavation.
Gonçalo Amaral, former PJ coordinator, recalls that the garden of Robert Murat's house was inspected using a ground-penetrating radar as well as sensors and that “nothing related with the disappearance was detected”. Excavations were also made.
About Roman villa
Casa Liliana is just over 100 meters from the Ocean Club. The resort, surrounding houses and accesses were built upon the ruins of a Roman villa; to detect traces in the subsoil when infrastructure works are done is frequent.
Jornal de Notícias, July 6, 2012, paper edition, page. 14