The Secret Visits of the McCanns to the Church of Luz
Announced visits and other secret, keys provided against the wishes of the Bishop, the priest wife agitated, finished constructions and searches never made. What is it that the church of Praia da Luz has?
by Hernâni Carvalho
On the night of their daughter's disappearance, the McCann couple asked for a priest. The priest of the Luz church, José Pacheco, did not respond. The couple knew, even before they had gone to Praia da Luz, that the Anglican priest Haynes Hubbard celebrated masses there and lived with his wife. He had a friendship with McCann's family members. It was with him whom they spoke with. Some days later, Gerry and Kate received the church keys, and since then they were able to enter and leave at any time. A situation that was criticized by the Bishop of the Algarve at the time. When questioned on this discretionary act, the priest José Pacheco said: "Do I decide that?!"
McCanns visited the church in secret
"Although our pain feels much rawer here, it is comforting at the same time since we feel closer to Madeleine - we can read in a press statement sent to Lusa news agency in 12th December 2009, by the McCann's Portuguese PR, in connection to the couple's visit to the church. During the day, the visits were announced and followed by the media. The exception was made in the early hours of January 14, 2010 [issues with date/see references bellow]. At 5am they were seen and photographed leaving the church from a side door. In the afternoon they gave a press conference.
Wife of Priest worried
The forensic psychologist Paulo Sargento asked the bishop of the Algarve Dom Manuel Quintas, if any catholic can go to the church at any time.
Hernâni Carvalho - How did you get to talk with the bishop?
Paulo Sargento - I sent a registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt early on, in January 2010. Since I got no reply, about a month later, I sent an e-mail with the questions that I had. Four days later, it was the Bishop himself who replied, also by e-mail, apologizing for the delay in the answer. A hearing was scheduled for two or three days later.
Hernâni Carvalho - And you felt clarified?
Paulo Sargento - The hearing took place in February, at the episcopal see of Faro. The Bishop received me kindly. We talked about an hour. I had already been informed about a McCann visit to the church in the early hours and wondered if the Bishop was aware of that and I also wished to understand if any other catholic could do the same. Dom Manuel Quintas confirmed the McCanns had indeed been in the church on that day at 5am, that the person who had given them the key that night was Susan Hubbard, the wife of the Anglican priest, who had a key to the church at all times since her husband celebrated the Anglican mass there. Susan assured the Bishop the McCanns wanted to pray without being harassed by the media. However, the Bishop told me: “I don't understand, that day at 17pm there was a mass where they went, surrounded by the media”. Dom Manuel Quintas also added that when Susan Hubbard found out about my hearing request, she got scared and inclusively, sought him, very worried. The Bishop told me that he answered her queries saying that she should not be so worried if nothing unusual or wrong had happened.
Hernâni Carvalho - Did the Bishop avoid discussing any issues?
Paulo Sargento - No. I'm not going to give you details, but the Bishop was very open and did not flinch at anything I asked to him. He was willing, even, to resume contact for further questions or more information I needed. Interestingly, in that summer (2010), Kate spent a week vacation in Canada, in the house of a family member of Susan Hubbard, the wife of the priest.
Back in 2007, the public area of the Village of Luz had been for months undergoing sanitation improvements and road works. Behind the church there were ongoing construction works. Being a place of worship, various legal issues hampered a search there. At the time, PJ sources admitted to the possibility that the girl's body could have passed through that location, or even, to have been buried in the deactivated cemetery.
End of page 98
The Big Bluff
The British police came to Portugal to investigate the Maddie case. They dug and went into the sewers looking for a dead girl or clues that could lead to her whereabouts. The PJ had said the very same and had done those searches seven years ago.
“A movie for the English to see”, said an elderly lady, mockingly, to CMTV recently. One and a half year ago the English police announced that they would find the girl in a few days. So far nothing. Scotland Yard's work in Portugal is discussed by all in a very critical way. “They haven't done anything that our PJ hasn't done years ago”, stated a Portuguese in the same area. The searches are causing discontent among tourists and locals as they consider them detrimental to tourism, now that the peak season begins.
The British police wanted the searches to be accompanied by the media but the PJ refused. Since the 2nd of June, Praia da Luz in Lagos has a large team of policemen, geologists, archaeologists, cutting edge technology and also sniffer dogs. They all come from England “under the supervision of PJ and the Public Prosecutor Office”. In addition there are PJ inspectors, GNR military officers on foot and horseback and Portuguese forest sappers. A setting worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster movie.
Stones, socks and bottles
The searches and excavations of the English police in Luz highlights the acknowledgement that they are looking for a body. The PJ had reached that same conclusion seven years ago. The English police began by excavating a field near Rua 25 de Abril, 600 meters away from the apartment from where the girl disappeared. An area equal to three football fields, a slope hill, which belongs to the Belmiro de Azevedo Group [SONAE] and is frequented by locals and tourists for leisurely walks. They collected animal bones, two cannabis plants, stones, soil samples, a sock and bottles and kept everything in boxes.
There are no findings to sustain the theory of the British authorities. They argue that Maddie's body is in that place or that there are clues that may lead to her whereabouts. They also claim that they have a group of eight suspects(?). Explaining that they have extended the searches because they have concluded (only now?) that the terrain is more difficult to analyse than predicted. These places had already been thoroughly searched by the Portuguese police immediately after the disappearance of the girl. In fact, until September 11, 2007, the PJ had investigated over 2500 false leads.
Millions of Euros
The 37 officers of the London Metropolitan Police investigating the disappearance of Madeleine have cost the British Crown about 6 million pounds (7.4 million euros). Besides the first investigation, Portugal has had a team of six inspectors of the PJ in Faro, for months, just to carry out the the steps requested by the British and another team of inspectors from the Northern Directorate of PJ, doing a review of the first investigation for the last two years. No one has, so far, established the total cost to our country. The McCanns moved in early July 2007 for the Villa Vista Mar. At the average values of the property market at the time, the total rent was calculated to have surpassed 6000 euros. The Renault Scénic where biological traces were found, allegedly belonging to Maddie, was rented for 113 days, at the list price it costed 7990 euros.
3 May 2007
In Praia da Luz in the Algarve, the parents of Madeleine, who would be four years old just a few days later, cried "abduction" when they noticed Maddie had disappeared from the apartment where they had left her alone with her younger twin siblings. "Homicide", said the PJ a few days later. After a lot of press, suspects, searches, investigations to everyone's taste and seven years later, there is nothing.
in TVMais magazine, Nº1117, 13 to 19 June 2014, paper edition, pages 98 & 99 - with many thanks to Maria
En Español en el blog de Mercedes
Em Português no blogue da Maria
«This was no longer the peaceful tourist town the couple remembered from a previous visit when Haynes temporarily filled the role of Anglican chaplain in the former fishing village.»
«The Hubbards now believe Madeleine's disappearance is the reason they were "called" to Portugal. Susan remembers the moment it hit her.»
«In fact, Susan says, it was the McCanns who helped the Hubbards settle in to their new parish. Susan has visited the McCanns since their return to England last September, and the two women keep in close touch through text messages and e-mail.»
in CBC News, Missing Madeleine, 02 May 2008
«Kate McCann must have got up at an unearthly hour to ensure her emotional return to Praia da Luz went unnoticed.
We missed her and so did the fishermen who were on the beach long before dawn.
Apparently she and Gerry were there at 5.30am to wander the deserted seafront and visit the nearby church which became their sanctuary in the weeks after Madeleine's disappearance.
So, they managed to keep the trip private, as they intended - but it must have taken some determination.
It also meant they avoided bumping into any of the locals who don't share the sympathy others have towards the couple.
As Kate said in a statement:: "For the rest of the day we are planning to catch up with some very good friends."»
in Life of Crime, Sky News, 12 December 2009 - Martin Brunt
McCanns Pressure and Harass Ocean Club Employee
McCann Case: 'The British Priest Staged Everything'
Standing Firm Beside The McCanns
'I was deceived' says the Portuguese priest who comforted Gerry and Kate McCann
Interview with Father Haynes Hubbard (video)