Last night, approximately at 8pm GMT, in advance of the Crimewatch broadcast in the UK, two computer-based images, e-fits of the same man, one with an oval head shape and the other with a diamond shaped one, as provided by two witnesses accounts were disclosed on twitter by a young man. That was followed by what seemed to be a poor and illegible screenshot of some newspaper at the ‘official McCann campaign’ on twitter, an image that was reproduced one hour later at the ‘official McCann campaign’ page on facebook. It turned out to be screenshot taken from the Telegraph.
It didn't take long for the images to travel swiftly, while a broadcast went on at Sky News reviewing the newspapers front pages, simultaneously the cover pages themselves were being shared on social sites [#tomorrowspaperstoday]. A little before midnight, @metpoliceuk released the official images.
There was much expectation for those e-fits, but even more so for the digital replicas of the articles associated to them in view of the fact that the 'press review' by Sky News anchor Dermot Murnaghan and his two guests, sounded a bit imprecise, biased - yes, the old xenophobia - and frankly repetitive.
After reading the articles on Daily Mail 1, 2 and 3, Express, Telegraph, Guardian, the Sun, Daily Star and the Mirror it wasn't difficult to understand from where the e-fits came.
Nowhere in the news articles published today, as far as I could see, it is stated the provenance of the witnesses accounts used to create the e-fits, except, and surprisingly, in the Sun. It is in that tabloid that we have the assurance that the witnesses used to create today's e-fits had already been included in Portuguese Judiciary Police case files.
From the news articles we are given two accounts, one referring to a 'German connection', reason for which the programme is going to be aired in Germany and in the Netherlands in the next couple of days.
«Two e-fit pictures of the same man with a “German connection” were released yesterday in what is seen as a major development in the case. Scotland Yard detectives investigating the disappearance of the girl, who was then three, in Portugal six years ago want to trace the man urgently. They believe he may have been in the vicinity of the McCann family’s holiday apartment in Praia da Luz as the mystery unfolded. Officers think the man in the computer-generated images may be German-speaking and inquiries and appeals are set to be launched in Germany as well as Holland.»
«A number of other e-fits are expected to be released by police later today in an effort to identify further potential suspects. They will reportedly include images of two German-speaking men.»
The other, the Smith family sighting, when they saw a man carrying a child just before 10pm on the night of 3 May, 2007, in Praia da Luz, Algarve. And the two e-fits released today were, apparently, based on these witnesses descriptions.
«New images show the man an Irish family insist they saw carrying a girl like Madeleine McCann in the resort of Praia da Luz around the time she vanished. The two computer e-fits of the prime suspect were composed from statements and descriptions given by two members of the Smith family.
Martin Smith — holidaying with wife Mary, daughter Aoife, son Peter plus other family members — said the girl was three or four and in a deep sleep. The man was carrying her along the middle of a deserted side street in an uncomfortable position with her head slumped against him.
She had pale “typically British” skin, blonde shoulder-length hair and wore light coloured or pink pyjamas — like those Madeleine was wearing that night. Mr Smith, Aoife and Peter gave descriptions to Portuguese police two days later but no e-fits or sketches were produced.»
Some journalists and news anchors stated that nothing was done by the Portuguese Judiciary Police in relation to these witnesses statements. But is that the whole truth?
Let us not forget the serious implications contained in DCI's Andy Redwoods statement: “Our work to date has significantly changed the timeline and the accepted version of events that has been in the public domain to date.” Which as someone said, means, in no uncertain terms, “to present a version of events which goes against the facts contained in the Judiciary Police case files, obtained from sworn and signed witness statements and forensic evidence.” And all the inferences subsequently contained in that idea.
Let us not forget the numerous inconsistencies that lead the Portuguese Police appeal in 2008 for the Tapas 9 , the McCann couple and their group of friends, to attend a reconstruction so the investigation for Madeleine could continue. A reconstruction, the group refused to attend, allegedly because it wouldn't be of value if not broadcast as a Crimewatch show, among other reasons. The very same programme the McCanns (and the Tapas 7?) have now declined to take part on the grounds of being 'far too upsetting for them'.
Let us not also forget about the timing of tonight's appeal, e-fits and crimewatch programme that has been in production for several months, and the sudden urgency of broadcasting it with international fanfare at a time when coincidentally there is an ongoing libel case in Lisbon, an action taken by the McCann couple against a former Judiciary Police inspector, a TV channel, a production company and a publisher, where at question, regardless of what the claims are, will be Freedom of Expression and of Opinion. The BBC crimewatch surely wasn't that urgent, since we have been waiting since the 6th of October, being drip-fed trailers, press releases, outtakes, production photos, of a prototypical blockbuster. We're just lacking the merchandising and the popcorns. But that too can be arranged.
After two years of investigation, the Scotland Yard, having in their hands the mammoth task of cross checking the Judiciary Police case files, with eight private detectives companies files, and data gathered, I imagine, by the Leicestershire Police Constabulary, and other English authorities that worked in cooperation with the Judiciary Police, became aware of “the significance of the man” depicted in today's e-fit. DCI Andy Redwood said, “Whilst this man may or may not be the key to unlocking this investigation, tracing and speaking to him is of vital importance to us. We have witnesses placing him in the resort area around the time of Madeleine's disappearance.”
A vital information that led the Judiciary Police, under Gonçalo Amaral's coordination, to perform a series of investigative steps and contacts with their counterparts in the UK, between May 2007 and January 2008 was the information provided by Mr. Smith.
What I fail to understand is how the most significant piece of information provided by Mr. Smith, who saw a man carrying a child in his arms on the night of 3 May, 2007, which according to today's news reports lead to the creation of one of the e-fits, was suppressed.
Additional statement by Martin Smith, 30 January 2008
Re – Investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann
I took an additional statement from Mr Smith as requested. His wife does not want to make another statement. I showed him the video clip and he stated that it was not the clip that alerted him but the BBC news at 10 PM on 9th September 2007.
He has been contacted by numerous tabloid press looking for stories. He has been contacted by Mr Brian Kennedy who is supporting the McCann family to take part in a photo fit exercise. He has given no stories or helped in any photo fits. He sent a solicitor’s letter to six papers in relation material that was printed that was misquoted. The Evening Herald paid his solicitor's fees and all papers printed an apology. His photograph appeared in another tabloid paper and this matter is being pursued at the moment.
I do not believe that Martin Smith is courting the press and my view his is a genuine person. He is known locally and is a very decent person.
Additional statement by Martin Smith, 30 January 2008
I hereby declare that this statement is true to the best of my knowledge and belief and that I make it knowing that if it is tendered in evidence I will be liable to prosecution if I state in it anything which I know to be false or do not believe to be true.
I would like to state that the statement I made on 26th May 2007 in Portugal is correct. The description of the individual that I saw on 3rd May 2007 carrying a child is as follows. He was average build, 5 foot 10” in height, brown hair cut short, aged 40 years approximately. Wearing beige trousers and darkish top maybe a jacket or blazer. He had a full head of hair with a tight cut. This individual was alone. I saw Gerard McCann (sic) going down the plane stairs carrying one of his children on 9th September 2007 BBC news at 10 PM, I have been shown the video clip by Sergeant Hogan which I recognise. A clip I have seen before on the Internet. In relation to the video clips of Gerard McCann and the person I saw on 3rd May 2007 when I saw the BBC news at 10 PM on 9th September 2007 something struck me that it could have been the same person. It was the way Gerard McCann turned his head down which was similar to what the individual did on 3rd May 2007 when we met him. It may have been the way he was carrying the child either. I would be 60-80% sure that it was Gerard McCann that I met that night carrying a child. I am basing that on his mannerism in the way he carried the child off the plane. After seeing the BBC news at 10 PM, footage on the 9th September 2007 I contacted Leicestershire police with this information. During that time I spoke to all my family members who were with me on the night of 3rd May 2007 about this and the only one who felt the same way as me was my wife. She had seen the video clip of Gerard McCann walking down the stairs of the plane earlier that day. We did not discuss this until some days later. This statement has been read over to me and is correct.
Full statements, Judiciary Police investigation, news articles and further context here and here