The continuing investigation into missing Madeleine McCann stepped up this week when Scotland Yard officers joined their Portuguese counterparts to begin searching areas of the Algarve. Using ground penetrating radar, sniffer dogs and hi tech mini cameras, the joint investigation team appear to be closing in on further evidence in the case. Although the search teams are highly visible at the resort the reasons for them being there remains shrouded in mystery as neither the Portuguese nor Scotland Yard officers are wanting to give the press “a running commentary” as one senior office stated.
Speculation in the UK tabloids has been high yet again that the areas being searched are a result of several witness statements given to the initial Portuguese investigation that were dismissed as irrelevant. Although the teams appear upbeat in their searches there is an underlying feeling that there is a potentially gruesome side to all this. The press have just about stopped short of speculating that they are looking for a body, and following the findings from the Leveson inquiry this is probably a very good thing.
As with anything Madeleine related there’s always an ugly side and the start of the searching was certainly no exception when a rather large and clearly embittered elderly woman waddled up to the police tape hurling abuse at Madeleine’s parents as if they were stood there. Perhaps in her addled mind she thought they were. Clearly obsessed by Gerry and especially Kate McCann the woman shouted slogans about the Portuguese Police needing to investigate the “lies” and not the “land”. Before being moved away from the bemused press pack she hurled a chilling warning to anyone who would listen to her rambling that Praia de Luz knew the truth about what happened to Madeleine and everyone in the resort hated Madeleine’s parents. Suffice to say it was another conspiracy theorist wanting her ten seconds of fame on the back of Madeleine McCann.
It was an interesting statement though. The whole of Praia de Luz hated the McCanns? The reality is far more mundane I’m afraid. Contrary to the wizened old woman’s words, the locals do not hate Madeleine’s parents however they are confused and somewhat bewildered at the Grange task force officers searching the area yet again. Also to bear in mind is that they have business to run and have concerns that the police presence in the area will deter the tourists. A gentleman sat outside in the afternoon sun voiced similar concerns as he sipped on his coffee. “Can’t understand why they are scratching around that ground” he said. “When the little girl went missing that area and the other one they are going to dig up had many a footfall over that night and the next day. She isn’t there that’s for sure”
A hotelier was quick to express concern about the high visibility of the police searches stating that she had already taken room cancellations due to the increased activity. Whether or not this was stated as the reason for the cancellations remains to be seen but I find it hard to believe as did those in ear shot. Nor was anyone particularly impressed with similar comments made by the elderly heckler at the police tape when she shouted that Madeleine was a curse upon the resort. At times I am still staggered at the contempt people show for the young life of a child. Certainly such thoughts are not common place nor greatly shared among the friendly people of Praia de Luz, as is always the way with Madeleine’s case, it attracts a great number crazy people and no doubt will continue to do so.
So what has Redwood’s Grange team come across that warrants the joint search of these areas? The majority of Madeleine forums, whether they be good or bad are wildly speculating that it’s her body. The actual truth is “a potential crime scene” we have been told. Now that could entail a great many things including remains. The teams are using ground radar and sniffer dogs so it’s not a great leap in concluding they suspect a body maybe interred.
“We aren’t specifically looking for any human remains”. The investigation team are remaining tight lipped over what exactly they are expecting to find. What is known however is the reasons why these areas are being searched primarily because of two witnesses coming forward describing what they believe was a person acting suspiciously prior to and following Madeleine’s disappearance. A certain tabloid in the UK went as far as to say that this suspicious person was carrying what looked like a sleeping child, was there any mention of this with the investigating teams on the ground? Not a one. The person they identified was just acting suspiciously, there was no mention of a child being present at this time.
Reading between the lines as so many hacks do it’s not hard to see what has brought the police search teams back to Praia de Luz. Without doubt there is an air of building anticipation in the press pack that turns up each morning at the cordons trying to get some comment from the teams as they turn up to continue the search. Many internet sleuths and armchair detectives are already excitedly bouncing up and down shouting “Its Gerry” or “Its Kate” do so without comprehension of what is taking place. Stands to reason though as they have never let the facts of this case get in the way of a really ignorant conspiracy theory. It gets to a point with these assorted people when reasoning becomes so futile it is far more entertaining to watch them run around accusing Madeleine’s parents purely based on the “timing of the searches fall in line with a Masonic celebration” or “the colour of the soil where they are digging is ‘exactly’ the same as the earth in the foot wells of the hired car…wasn’t it? Yes it was!”
The conspiracy merry-go-round continues to spin out of control with all sorts of apparent clandestine groups or individuals turning up to add deeper hues and shades to ridiculous theories. Whilst casually surfing the internet in the warmer part of the days I was actually astonished by a forum website that seriously entertained the unbelievable “fact” that Madeleine’s father was seen disguised as a Portuguese Police officer in a published photo and that he was there to guide the investigation away from the designated search areas. The fact of the matter is in both my experience and my colleagues, people who have invested seven years of baseless hatred at Madeleine’s parents really are unhinged and come up with these theories purely for their own macabre entertainment.
The initial searches are scheduled to conclude today. The search teams have explored every sink hole, drain and areas of designated interest. The sniffer dogs have been out this morning covering newly taped off areas yet no one returns to the shade of the tents or vans looking in anyway disappointed or frustrated. Many evidence bags have been carried back to the vans for forensic analysis and a tent that has been erected over a corrugated covered sink hole still remains. The search will continue for another week as other areas of interest all within five minutes walking distance of the holiday apartment Madeleine went missing from are scheduled to be investigated.
Grange lead Chief Inspector Redwood remains pensive when carefully assessing evidence bags as they are brought back to the vans. Evidence like clothing and what look like toys are sent for forensic DNA testing. So far the Chief Inspector has revealed very little and remains tight lipped when questions from the press pack are shouted across to him. Despite the lack of updates one thing is for sure, Redwood does not look like a detective who is ill at ease. Whatever it is that brought the teams to this place has clearly paid off. Quite possibly the old gentleman at the café was wrong, there was something there after all.
Further Reading on what they are looking for: