Sunday, April 10, 2011


Madeleine: "Why didn't you come?" newspaper headlines

By Dr Martin Roberts
10 April 2011


The purpose of reinforcements, whether of the military variety or the literal/logical structures one might put in place to shore up a building, or bolster an argument, is to counteract an acknowledged weakness somewhere. There is nothing to be gained from further strengthening an already secure position. Military historians are of course as interested in the reasoning behind strategic manoeuvres as the steps actually taken to advance a campaign. Similarly, it is of interest to examine the reasons underlying the McCanns' decision to reinforce certain of their positions; not so much the obvious calls for assistance, such as to the anonymous member of their legal team who came up with the 'Kate visits the mortuary' fairytale, but several other situations, in which the move is made more on the blind side, i.e. only noticeable in retrospect and not clearly identifiable as reinforcing a position in isolation. Taken together however they appear less like ad hoc behaviour and suggest the existence of a strategy.

The first is by now well known - the story of Madeleine's nocturnal crying and her subsequent complaint over breakfast. We're all now familiar with Kate's protestation that such a 'passing remark' would not have been accorded any real significance 'if what happened hadn't happened.' We are supposed to believe that Madeleine's disappearance placed her 'Mummy why didn't you come...?' appeal in a particularly meaningful context, making it inevitable that both McCanns would bring the incident to the attention of the police during their initial interviews on 4 May. Concomitantly we might suppose that they would have attached no great significance to the remark otherwise. Except that it was important enough for Kate to have discussed it at dinner, with Fiona Payne, Rachael Oldfield and Jane Tanner, before Madeleine's absence had been discovered, apparently. And having doubly informed the police at the earliest opportunity they afterwards stressed to P.C. Markley the importance of making sure the P.J. had got the message.

The naïve interpretation of such incidents will naturally be that, given the circumstances of Madeleine's absence, these details were extremely important, and one should not be in the least surprised at the McCanns' desire to emphasize them. But we have already been told, by Kate McCann personally, that the 'passing remark' was worthy of complete dismissal until Madeleine was 'taken.' So why discuss it beforehand? Well, if nothing else - and there is nothing else because, given our current state of knowledge, no infants were reported to have cried conspicuously on the Wednesday night - the subject's having been raised by Madeleine over breakfast on Thursday, confirms that she was in a position to do so - on Thursday; a position which would obviously benefit from additional, third-party, reinforcement.

Send in the Old Guard. Step forward David Payne.

David Payne clearly did not turn his head and blush with embarrassment when Kate answered the door to him early on the Thursday evening wearing nothing more than a bath towel (was the vista familiar, one wonders?). Had he done so he might not have noticed, as he clearly did, all three children being already dressed for bed. It is no less curious that Kate herself has described having prepared only the twins for sleep that night. But the real significance of Payne's Rogatory Interview account rests in his reinforcement of the main proposition (Madeleine was present), accomplished with some reinforcement of his own. In accordance with the overall schema he noticeably emphasises, repeatedly, the presence of all three children.

'Well of course he would!' shout the apologists. Well would he, really?

Madeleine's disappearance was a serious matter, under active investigation by police forces from two countries in an impressive combination of skills and experience (to suggest otherwise would be both arrogant and pretentious). Neither at the time nor since would investigators have been impressed by, or for that matter even interested in, statements of the obvious. They knew from the outset that Madeleine was one of three children and would not need to be unnecessarily reminded of the fact by David Payne or anyone else later in the day. Payne's repeated emphasis of the 'threeness' he encountered whilst looking over Kate's bare shoulder is suspicious. Had he referred to four children, or two dressed for bed and one for a party, then there would clearly be grounds for further interest, but there is little merit in re-stating a basic premise. Unless, of course, it is this very premise which requires reinforcement. Without Payne's 'sighting' there is no corroboration of Madeleine's healthy presence in 5A that evening.

Jane Tanner is the epitome of the volunteer reservist. Overly enthusiastic to a fault, she not only sights the enemy over the horizon (where her one-eyed colleagues see absolutely nothing) but later, like an ageing brigadier at the regimental dinner, embellishes her story, to encompass a female child, assumed on the strength of a colourway she could not even have seen. Afterwards she inverts the assumption, taking the opportunity to reinforce the colour concept for the benefit of the listening Leicestershire P.C. The importance of the colour pink was not to be overlooked. Volunteer reservist she may have been, but Tanner was still to be numbered among the allied ranks and evidently marched to the same drum. The pink banner had been raised long before though.

For the purposes of immediate comparison, and perhaps to achieve what photographers would describe as the 'third' effect, reference to instructions concerning the pink pyjamas will be preceded here by the relevant detail of Officer Stephen Markley's witness statement, made on 25 April, 2008, in relation to his activities as family communication officer while working in Portugal with the McCanns.

"At about 20.00 on Saturday 5th May 2007, I arrived at the apartment where Kate and Gerry were staying, with other officers. During the meeting Gerald and Kate had a number of questions to which they wanted follow up and responses from the PJ.

"One of these questions was that they wanted the PJ to be aware of was Madeleine's revelation about Wednesday night, when she said that she was left alone during the night. She told Kate and Gerry that she remembered the twins crying and that she wanted to know why neither her mother nor her father had gone to the room to see what was happening."

Notice that the McCanns were not requesting that Officer Markley remind the PJ of anything. They wished to be sure that the PJ were aware of Madeleine's 'revelation about Wednesday night...'

How could the PJ not have been aware, already, of Madeleine's revelation, when barely 24hrs earlier the McCanns had each told exactly the same story in that regard, verbatim almost? Did they suppose that all of the interviewing police suffered from chronic memory loss or, if they did, that they could not refer to the transcript of witness statements they themselves had recorded? This is tantamount to reinforcing a secure position. Unless, of course, the position were weaker than one might suppose. Nor was P.C. Markley the only runner charged with carrying the message to the Light Brigade.

The BBC, that very bastion of broadcasting probity, was recruited into the campaign within days. In The Editors of 10 May 2007 the statement is made that

"We passed on the accurate details of Madeleine's pyjamas, at the family's request, correcting the police's initial description."

There are two things to note here (that McCannism again).

First, it is the parents who request/instigate the passing of 'accurate details' to the PJ. The second point to note however is their objective, as announced by the BBC (on 10 May, don't forget), i.e. to 'correct the police's initial description.'

Turning to the Telegraph of two days earlier (8 May, 200) one reads confirmation that the police were not guilty of promoting any erroneous initial description at all:

"Madeleine was apparently wearing white pyjamas, possibly with an Eeyore motif, but this detail has not been confirmed by police."

In point of fact the police made no public reference to Madeleine's pyjamas until a press conference on 10 May (the same date as the Editors piece, which already refers to the passing on of details and 'initial descriptions' as past events) when they collaborated in the issuing of an official photograph to the media. The police had said 'No media!' from the word go remember, an instruction which the McCanns and their entourage studiously ignored, as they would others to follow. It was the McCanns themselves who promulgated descriptions of Madeleine's pyjamas, beginning, again in duplicate, with their own statements to the PJ on 4 May. Had the police then disseminated these details they would have been in possession of the full and correct description, according to the McCanns, of Madeleine's pink pyjamas. Initial descriptions, however questionable, were owing to misconceptions on the part of the media following contact with the McCanns, not the police.

Once again we are entitled to put the question 'why?' Why should the McCanns have been so concerned, from the outset, to ensure that the exact nature of Madeleine's pyjamas that Thursday evening be known far and wide? It’s no doubt 'obvious' to McCann acolytes. 'So that everyone would know what to look for.' Well, as is evident from the cross-posting behaviour of commentators on diverse internet forums, whereas we may control what we say on the internet, we have no control whatsoever over who reads it. So, having told the abductor exactly what Madeleine's distinguishing features were, the parents were equally desperate to tell him (or her) that their pursuers all knew what she was wearing. Hence, in their own interest, a change of clothes for the child should be pretty high on the kidnapper's agenda. And, from the seeker's perspective, who, in those early days, would have ignored a tiny out-of-place blonde child, resembling Madeleine, alive or otherwise, simply because she was dressed in something other than 'Disney' pyjamas? The spate of spurious 'sightings' from around the world is sufficient to confirm that this is not what people would do. So why the noticeable insistence on pink pyjamas?

In the absence of an intelligent reason for trumpeting this particular theme in the first instance, as well as its reprise by Jane Tanner, one is drawn to the conclusion that this too was the reinforcement of a weakness in the main proposition; one which the McCanns were again in a position to correct and direct. Madeleine was most definitely wearing pink short-sleeved pyjamas, as confirmed by the one eye witness who could not even see the pyjama top worn by the child, presumed female, carried in a man's arms, and in complete contradistinction to the claim of another eye witness who reported a girl being carried along the street at night, again by a man, but in completely the opposite direction and dressed in white with long sleeves. The phrase 'proving a negative' lurches inexorably forward at this point.

For adherents of the Kate McCann 'It was abduction because I say so' school of reasoning, these repetitive observations by the McCanns, Payne, Tanner et al. no doubt fall naturally into place. For others of us they also fall naturally, into a rather different place.