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A Debate about the Enigma - The 3rd of May in Portimão

Reporting on a debate about the Madeleine McCann case, marking the first anniversary of the disappearance

On the evening of Saturday, the 3rd of May 2008, a debate was held in Portimão’s Municipal Library, hosted by Frederico Duarte Carvalho, a journalist for news magazine ‘Focus’, author of the book ‘The Enigma of Praia da Luz’ and the host of a well-known Portuguese blog, paramimtantofaz.blogspot.com, and Paulo Pereira Cristóvão, a former PJ inspector who is the author of the books ‘The Star of Joana’ and ‘The Star of Madeleine’.

The subject of the debate was precisely the ‘enigma’ of Praia da Luz. Frederico Carvalho was the first host to open the evening with his introduction, followed by Paulo Cristóvão, and then there was ample time for a discussion between the two authors and the public.

Generally, both authors agree that the McCanns are most likely to be hiding something. Mr Cristóvão has repeatedly stated that he believes in an accidental death, which was followed by a cover-up by the parents, probably with the aid of one or more of their friends – the concealment of the cadaver, which could have been carried out either in the scrublands in and around Luz, or into the sea. This was followed by an attempt to force the abduction theory both on the police and on the media, further supported by political and economical interferences from the United Kingdom.

Mr Cristóvão stressed that he finds the reconstitution very important, and that he defended, in the early days of the case, that such an event would be very revealing.

He also referred to the lack of support that the men and women in the PJ, the ‘foot soldiers’ on location, felt from the PJ’s national directory. Mr Cristóvão mentioned that something like one hundred agents were sent into the Algarve at the beginning of the case, and unprecedented means were employed in the search for the child – means that would ultimately reveal themselves as unnecessary in their scope.

The abduction theory was imposed on the Portuguese policemen – the very same policemen that would become the target of the British media’s attacks. Mr Cristóvão mentioned that he was, at some point, offered 2500 euros for every afternoon that he would spend with Sky reporters, telling them bad things about the PJ. These reporters would offer 20-euro-notes to passers-by, in Luz, if they were prepared to say something negative about the PJ.

The level of political interference reached one of its peaks, when the McCanns, already under arguido status, were allowed to leave the country, and even received VIP treatment to do so.

Frederico Carvalho then told us about the House of the Pyramid, a curiosity that is not very well-known to the public, although the journalists who covered the McCann case in Praia da Luz visited the house. This is a villa that is located on the opposite direction of Mr Murat’s house, when taking apartment 5A as a starting point. The owners of the villa, a German couple, built a Pyramid in their garden. A pyramid is primarily a funerary object. And the villa’s name is Casa Niobe – Niobe being the Greek goddess of grief.

Mr Carvalho also added some episodes that gave us an insight into what was the life of a journalist, covering the Madeleine case in Praia da Luz, especially in the early days. He recounted many hours spent in the company of reporters from all over the world, sitting in the sun in front of apartment 5A, doing absolutely nothing, while some of the British tv stations were broadcasting live every half hour, desperately trying to conceal that there was absolutely nothing to report in the first place.

Mr Cristóvão considered that the media focus was deliberately brought onto the case by the McCanns, as a form of protection – hiding in plain sight, so to speak, protected by money and power. He is convinced that the McCanns will never set foot in Portugal again.

The author of ‘The Star of Madeleine’ reminded us that the arguido status that was imposed on the McCanns had the approval of Alipio Ribeiro, the national director of the PJ. Months later, Mr Ribeiro would generate a turmoil by stating that, according to his opinion, there had been ‘precipitation’ in constituting the McCanns as arguidos. On this issue, Paulo Cristóvão stressed that it would have been illegal not to give the McCanns arguido status, considering the evidence that had been collected, by mid-August.

One of the issues that received considerable attention was the British police dogs, Eddie and Keela. These dogs were confronted with seven cars, but only reacted to one of them. Similarly, they were conducted into several apartments and houses, but only detected the presence of a cadaver inside one of them.

Regarding the DNA evidence, which is said to have produced matches of 15 markers out of 19, Mr Cristóvão informed us that there are people in prison, in Portugal, due to DNA evidenced that resulted from of 15-16 markers (out of 19). He added that he is convinced that it was not the body that was transported in the car, but rather something that had been in contact with the corpse. He further confirmed that there is, indeed, a blue sports bag missing – a sports bag that belongs to Gerry McCann.

Paulo Cristóvão also explained that these dogs do not make mistakes. They either detect nothing, therefore do not react, or they detect something, and react accordingly. There is not a factor of ‘reacting to please their handler’.

Cadaver odour has further been detected by the dogs on the child’s mother’s trousers, the car key, and on Cuddle Cat.

Another issue that was largely discussed was that the British secret services were present, in Praia da Luz, from the early hours of the 4th of May. Secret service agents have a permanent presence in all embassies, all over the world. They often occupy merely symbolic posts, like secretaries to the ambassador, or cultural aides. The surveillance of Mr Amaral was not made by journalists, but rather by secret service agents, which became evident by the accuracy with which his movements were tracked, and later reported through the media.

Frederico Carvalho spent some time analyzing the political interferences, and the wider political connections in the case. He pointed out that it has been no secret that the McCanns have had direct contact with Mr Gordon Brown since the beginning of the story, and that the support that was provided by the British government was unprecedented in a case of this nature. Mr Carvalho said that he had the opportunity to interview a person who knows the British prime minister very well, and that he is considered to be an intrinsically honest man. An honest man who offered his help, with the best of intentions, but who was later caught in a situation from which he could not possibly backtrack.

Unlike him, the Vatican could – and did – remove any connections to the McCanns, as soon as the first suspicions started to be raised.

The possibility that there could have been an abduction, after all, was discussed by both authors. It was once again pointed out that there is no single piece of evidence to sustain this theory, apart from Ms Tanner’s testimony; a testimony that did not only change over time, but which also seems dubious, at best, when duly analyzed.

Concerning Mr Murat, Mr Cristóvão expressed the opinion that the PJ followed a lead that later proved to be false, but that procedures were correct, i.e. that arguido status was appropriately given to him, because there were witnesses that identified him as a suspect. Paulo Cristóvão added that Mr Murat was probably the victim of an over-zealous reporter, and then the McCanns and their friends took advantage of the situation, and ‘provided’ the rest of the context under which Mr Murat was led into his condition as an arguido.

Some considerable emphasis was given to Mr Amaral’s book, which will not be published until the judicial secrecy is raised. Even after that, Mr Cristóvão expressed his doubts that Mr Amaral will be allowed to publish his book in Portugal, but that problem will be easily solved by publishing in Spain. This book will expose many details that will not only clarify some misconceptions about the investigation itself and the McCanns’ behavior, but also why and by whom the PJ’s agents were let down, and how there have been attempts to condition the investigation, to avoid certain questions being asked and certain actions being taken.

When asked about where they think the body of Madeleine may have been hidden, the authors mentioned that the sea provides a good hiding place, but also that he does not believe that the terrain, within a radius of 15 kms around Praia da Luz, was searched thoroughly enough to assure that there is not a possibility that the corpse is buried somewhere, not far from the Ocean Club.

One of the participants asked whether Mr Cristóvão did not believe that there was a possibility of a crime of revenge, which prompted the author of ‘The Star of Madeleine’ to explain why he does neither believe in the intervention of a sexual predator in this case – because sexual predators are extremely careful to reduce the risks to a minimum, studying their target for weeks, which is a part of the action that they enjoy and spend considerable amounts of time on – or that there was a revenge issue at the heart of this disappearance – the key to the mystery, he repeated, lies within the group.

He guaranteed that the police has exhausted all the other theories, as this is their job. There are no pieces of evidence, no indices, no clues left, that have not been thoroughly studied and investigated. The last hypothesis that was left standing, was that this group of people is responsible for the disappearance of Madeleine.

After the debate was concluded, we had the opportunity to exchange some informal words with both hosts. Among other details, mostly about the Joana case, Mr Cristóvão told us that the police are usually months ahead of the newspapers. Leads that were reported in June and July, or even later, had already been investigated and dismissed in the early days, as was the case of a certain sailboat, or the taxi driver in Vila Real de Santo António.

It was also discussed whether the negative coverage that has been made of the PJ’s work by the British media, has had any effect whatsoever on this investigation. Mr Cristóvão stressed that the inspectors do not pay the media much attention, and that they work without being ‘hurt’ by bad press, in any way. Mr Carvalho added that the question could also be made the other way around – in what manner the media have been affected by the way that the police work, as there is scarce information being made available, but there is an editorial need to satisfy the public’s curiosity.

All in all, for those who have been following the case, and for those who have read the books or the summaries that have been posted online, there were no major surprises, but rather a serene confirmation of many of our suspicions. Mr Cristóvão made an appeal of sorts – that the public, while careful about the information that is being published, and careful not to read too much into every single detail that is in the media, should be prepared for the possibility that this case ends up being archived. Not because the police have not done their job as best they could, but because the level of political interference has been very intense – an aspect that was strongly corroborated by Francisco Carvalho, throughout the evening. But Mr Cristóvão left a note of hope, that the truth may be revealed in many (even unexpected) ways, that Madeleine deserves not to be forgotten, and that her memory deserves justice.


  1. Reading the above article has left me feeling sick, yes i already knew it all, but to read that there is indeed a missing sports bag belonging to Gerry has reinforced the horriblenss of this crime, a beautiful little girl, her whole lifa ahead of her dead and her body transported and dumped without ceremony or care.
    It would be interesting to know just what the McCanns know or possess that makes them able to have high placed people of authority dancing to their tune..Such as Gordon Brown.
    What was the purpose of the secret agents being in PDl the day afetr? And why would they want to follow the officers investigating?..The whole thing stinks of corruption. I pray the last sentence proves to be correct...But Mr Cristóvão left a note of hope, "that the truth may be revealed in many (even unexpected) ways, that Madeleine deserves not to be forgotten, and that her memory deserves justice."

  2. The gall of these shameless parents never cease to amaze me. When asked why they left their children alone, it's the same old, same old, "we thought it was safe, we were naive, we were 50 yards away.

    Kate keeps harping on about hindsight which is a useful tool to excuse bad decision making.

    What about the potential risks from within the apartment/home, wasn't this considered?

    As doctors they should have foreseen the dangers when young children are left alone eg becoming ill during the night, sick, choking on vomit, wondering around the apartment, climbing onto furture and falling. All of this before the obvious threats beyond the front door.

    Madeline and one of the twins did wake up, both crying. When Madeline asked her mummy why she didn't go to them. If Kate is to believe Madeline said it as a "passing comment" but nevertheless it was said. The parents still chose to leave them again that evening.

    I'm not taken in by the McCanns documentary, it's all too staged.

    The McCanns justification for leaving their kids is pathetic and flip.

    Their true colours came to light on 3rd May, and Madeline paid the price.

    They took a gamble with young lives and lost.

  3. Well, that's one way to prove you're involved in sacrificing you're own kid to satan... just throw yourself down on the ground in front of a press crew and start worshipping a monument built by Nazi's!


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