Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Just Like That"
By Dr Martin Roberts
[size=7]22 March 2011

So there was Gerry McCann, at the computer, doing his Kojak impression, as the PJ were trying to interest him, somewhat unsuccessfully, in an apparent sighting of his daughter. Busy planning the marketing strategy no doubt. 'Like this and like that' (momentarily taking the lolipop from his mouth). Even the seemingly hapless illusionist prepares his performances. Who can forget the late lamented Tommy Cooper (a contemporary in 'variety' of Max Bygraves) and his hysterical 'Glass-bottle. Bottle-glass' routine, when he suddenly found himself unable to control the persistent emergence of concealed bottles from inside the same cylindrical container - 'just like that.' Kojak and Cooper each dealt in evidence; the one keen to establish what was true, the other to demonstrate what wasn't. While Gerry McCann may aspire to be some sort of Kojak, in reality he leans more toward Tommy Cooper.

'You can't prove a negative' said Gerry, once upon a time. There speaks the voice of experience. Although it wasn't for want of trying. Like the illusionist, Gerry set his stall out to convince the world of something that was not. Sky TV's Jon di Paolo, reporting live from the court in Lisbon in January of last year informed us:

12:24: The McCanns' lawyer makes the point that 'evidence' usually sightings – has suggested Madeleine is still alive.

12:25: He says that the McCanns are not responsible for generating any of this 'evidence' that their daughter is not dead.

(Quote) Now there's two things there (unquote). Evidence suggesting Madeleine is still alive usually takes the form of sightings, implying that, on occasion it might take some other form. Whatever form this 'evidence' may take however, the McCanns are not responsible for generating (i.e. fabricating) it - says the McCanns' lawyer, defending against a charge that has not even been made. No surprises then if one should inquire into the possibility, surely?

'Kate and I strongly believe Madeleine was alive when she was taken from the apartment.' That’s encouraging, although it's difficult to see why Madeleine should not have been alive at that time, whenever it was. She was left asleep after all. Yet every belief carries an element of uncertainty - it wouldn't be an act of faith otherwise, but a conviction based upon fact. Given the scenario so often outlined in the past, this indeterminate belief invites two questions simultaneously: Was Madeleine alive? Was Madeleine asleep? Since Kate and Gerry McCann themselves could not be absolutely positive, it stands to reason that they would have anticipated a degree of circumspection on the part of their audience also, and the best way of dispelling doubt is, of course, to offer evidence in support.

All together now: The McCanns are not responsible for generating any of this 'evidence' that their daughter is not dead.

They are not responsible for the sightings worldwide, discredited almost as quickly as they are put forward, nor, we are to understand, those reported in Portugal, Praia da Luz specifically, both before and after Madeleine was reported missing. These would include the 'evidence' attributable to Jane Tanner, the Smith family and, let us not forget, David Payne.

It is important to bear in mind that the McCanns and their friends put the seal on their incredibility very early on, in delivering up to the PJ a typed timeline that represented a statement made on behalf of a committee. It follows from this simple act of collusion, if nothing else, that the various statements made by these same individuals subsequently cannot in any way constitute 'independent' corroboration of anything at all.

So, should one decide to question the McCanns' 'belief' that Madeleine was alive at 9.05 p.m. that Thursday night, based on Gerry's claim to have seen her asleep, we cannot look to David Payne's reported last sighting of her for confirmation that she was in good health somewhat earlier that evening. Notwithstanding Payne's membership of the evidential 'committee' we have to consider the veracity of his account in the light of his claims to have seen Madeleine for the last time, twice - at 5.00 p.m. and later at around 6.40 p.m.! Thus there is no independent corroboration of Madeleine's being alive that Thursday night. We have only the McCanns' word for it, i.e. the word of a couple who, for the duration of the official inquiry, were considered suspects in their own daughter’s disappearance. Apparent sightings made later (e.g. those of Tanner and the Smiths) do not attest to the status of the child the witnesses may or may not have seen being carried through the streets. For one of the Smiths to have asked 'is she asleep?' confirms they did not know that to have been the case. Nor could Jane Tanner have gleaned as much from glimpsing a pair of dangling legs.

If Madeleine's physical condition that Thursday evening remains open to question, so too does her somnolence. 'We believe' is clearly not enough to alleviate all suspicion. But what to do about it? Well, if she were taken at night from her bedroom then she should, by rights, have been asleep. And if she were asleep she'd have been dressed appropriately, i.e. in pyjamas of some description. So, describing the pyjamas should go some way toward firming up the account, shouldn't it? Madeleine missing in these pyjamas paints, especially for an emotionally primed audience, an altogether more convincing picture of nocturnal kidnap.

First mention of Madeleine's distinctive pyjamas comes from the McCanns, during their respective witness statements of 4 May. For her part, the suggestible Jane Tanner quickly exhibits what can only be described as progressive enhanced recall, jumping through the gears like a car with a defective clutch; from man carrying something, through carrying a child in pyjamas, to carrying what is presumed to be a little girl, on the basis of a 'pinky' top, which is completely obscured from view despite an 'orangey' street light. She was equally determined the interviewing police officer should 'think pink' during her Rogatory Interview with Leicestershire Constabulary a year later.

Jane Tanner (Member of the evidence committee don't forget) sustains the story of the pink pyjamas after 9.05 but, for some reason known only to himself, David Payne fails to pinpoint this same detail. He'd like us to believe that Madeleine was perfectly well in the McCanns' apartment earlier that evening. In his Rogatory Interview he mentions having seen all the children, but dressed in 'night attire,' and predominantly white at that. Categorically pink pyjamas were there none. Interestingly Kate too declines to clarify what Madeleine was wearing at this time. In her own statement of 6 September 2007, she describes what she herself was wearing (a green long-sleeved t-shirt, blue denim trousers, sports shoes and white socks) as well as 'putting pyjamas and nappies on the twins,' but she does not reveal how, exactly, Madeleine was dressed.

Hence, once again, we have only one serious claim to the observance of a very significant detail. And once again it is attributable to the McCanns, who 'are not responsible for generating any of this 'evidence' that their daughter is not dead.'

Leaving aside the issue of whether Madeleine McCann was actually abducted on the Thursday night, there really is no evidence, in the shape of independent corroboration, that she was in good health earlier that same evening, or removed from the apartment while asleep, as the insistent reference to her pyjamas would have us suppose. And if you should think this is flying a kite, then do please recall to mind another of Kate McCann's notoriously ungrammatical banana skins:

"I know that what happened is not due to the fact of us leaving the children asleep."

"I know it happened under other circumstances."

The crux of this particular verbal contortion is that 'circumstances', in this instance, are not themselves causal. To leave a child asleep is not necessarily to commit an act of contributory negligence which brings about an undesired outcome. Parents do it all the time when they go to bed themselves (leave their children asleep, that is). Kate McCann clearly compares 'leaving the children asleep' to 'other circumstances.' Whatever 'happened' was independent of either. What she tells us, quite categorically, is that it did not happen while the children were left asleep. And if the children were not asleep when 'it happened' then Madeleine may well not have been wearing pyjamas either.

But the sightings...the sightings!

Very well then. The sighting (Jane Tanner's we can consign to the realm of Hans Christian Andersen). The only remotely credible reference to a very young girl seen out in the streets of Praia da Luz that Thursday night, May 3, 2007, is that provided by the various members of the Smith family who, for entirely selfless motives, anxiously contacted the Portuguese police regarding their collective experience, of which they gave a full account in due course - on 26 May 2007. Here are the three most pertinent statements concerning the little girl they saw being carried along at around 9.55 p.m.

Martin Smith

• She was wearing light-coloured pyjamas. He cannot state with certainty the colour.
Aiofe Smith

• She was wearing light trousers, white or light-pink, that may have been pyjamas. She does not remember if they were patterned as it was dark. The material was light and could have been cotton.
• She also had a light top, with long sleeves. She did not see well because the individual had his arms around the child. She is not sure if the child's top was the same colour as her trousers but the trousers were light.

Peter Daniel Smith

• He does not remember her clothing very well but believes it was light summer clothing, light in colour.

It would be bold, and frankly speculative, to conclude that the little girl seen by the Smiths in the dark was wearing pyjamas even, never mind pink ones, and much less pink ones resembling those supposed to have been Madeleine's, which, as the authorised press releases of the day reveal had short sleeves.

Was Madeleine alive when she was 'taken'? The McCanns believed so. Was she asleep when 'taken'? The McCanns have told us she was. Is there unequivocal confirmation from any independent quarter as regards either detail? No. Just like that.

With thanks to