Opinion: The Underlying Torrents of the Failed Investigation

Gonçalo Amaral is a troubled man. More so with the revelation that lawyers from the UK have been over to Portugal to lay out for the attorney office fundamental flaws in what was the investigation into Madeleine McCann.

In 2007 Madeleine disappeared from the family holiday apartment in the Algarve which was the beginning of a massive investigation into finding her that spanned continents. Over six years later the hunt has stepped up a gear as detectives from the Scotland Yard Operation Grange team have whittled down 195 issues in the original investigation to just 20 suspects or witnesses to follow up. Two of these leads first came to light from witness statements given within days of Madeleine disappearing one of which was never followed up after Portuguese Police visited the hotel where the witness was staying.

Scotland Yard have now completed the re-interviewing of witnesses in the UK and it is believed that there is compelling evidence that witnesses saw the abductor not only on the evening of the 3rd May but also the day after in a village along the coast. All this of course is nothing short of a mitigated disaster for Amaral who is desperately trying to settle a libel case with the McCanns following his book where he directly accuses Madeleine’s parents of covering up her disappearance. If Amaral’s investigation is proven, as it is suspected at this time to have been so critically flawed it allowed the kidnappers to escape with Madeleine across the Spanish border, his libel case would be very costly.

The Operation Grange team remain upbeat and have always maintained that Madeleine is findable despite their investigation flagging up a dangerous British convicted pedophile who is believed to have been living in the Algarve area illegally at the time Madeleine went missing. In early 2008 the suspect unexpectedly moved back to the United Kingdom leaving debts and a partner. In 2009 the suspect was convicted of child sex abuse and is held at Wakefield Prison. Information regarding this suspect was never followed up by the initial investigators which highlights further questions regarding why eye witnesses and statements were never followed up.

When the case was closed all this information resided in the police investigation files yet it appears that it was never followed up due to Amaral dismissing it as not relevant to the case simple because it wasn’t involving Madeleine’s parents or friends. What leads were investigated appear to have been down played or completely ignored in favor of the chief detectives theory that no one else was responsible for Madeleine’s disappearance other than her parents. Surely this is the single and most haunting aspect that Amaral has to come to terms with if he is capable of it. Regardless of the theories purported about why Amaral chose to stick to his theory the fact of the matter is that he remains closely connected to progress in the Madeleine review especially from the Portuguese side.

At what point was he made aware of the futility of challenging the McCanns in open court, was Amaral aware as soon as October 2012 that his investigation was under close scrutiny for the investigative failures that had become apparent. As early as 4th May 2007 there were two separate reports of suspected child traffickers operating in the Algarve, one of which was described in a witness statement that was then ignored as the description of an Eastern European person did not describe the investigators favored “suspects”.

Grange detectives have managed to acquire what are described as critical photographs taken by UK residents holidaying at the time Madeleine went missing, yet the initial investigation team never requested to see any photographs of this nature even though one witness, interviewed late at night in their hotel was able to show the police the image on a digital camera. Despite the witness making themselves available the next day to help with inquires, there was no follow up or copies made of the picture.

Even more remarkable is a witness statement that describes a sighting of Madeleine alive the morning of the 4th May. After giving an initial statement this lead was also never followed up until UK detectives re-interviewed the witness for Operation Grange.

The catalog of errors and failures seems to be endemic in the Portuguese investigation virtually giving the perpetrators of this crime ample time and space to disappear along with Madeleine. In a case that lacks forensic evidence, detectives fall back to first principles of investigation: eye witnesses. While Amaral and his team were leaking stories to the press to fortify his belief that Madeleine’s parents were covering something up, many witnesses were coming forward to make statements describing the same people who by their actions caught attention from local residents and other holidaymakers.

The investigation continues and Operation Grange detectives feel they are closer than ever to finding out what happened to Madeleine McCann.

With the case now reopened Madeleine has just been thrown a lifeline.

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