Sunday, July 22, 2012

McCann: A Matter Of Trust by Dr. Martin Roberts.

Gerry returns to PDL with Clarence Mitchell

By Dr Martin Roberts
15 July 2012


The title of this piece is borrowed from Billy Joel, arguably one of the greatest songwriters of the last century, and a line from this very song will be used in conclusion. But first a quote from Kate McCann: "As a lawyer once said to me, apropos another matter, 'One coincidence, two coincidences – maybe they're still coincidences. Any more than that and it stops being coincidence.'" According to this reasoning, three or more coincidences within a given context are unlikely all to be chance occurrences. With this in mind, certain historical aspects of the McCann affair may perhaps be viewed with more than a hint of scepticism. To begin at the very beginning...

At 10.00 a.m. on the morning of May 4, 2007, the British Consul arrived in Praia da Luz from Portimao, less than twelve hours after Portuguese police had been alerted to the unexplained absence of Madeleine McCann from her holiday accommodation. Who, one wonders, made the suggestion (or issued the instruction), either late on Thursday night or early the following morning, that the Consul's presence at the scene would be a good idea? Perhaps the same source coincidentally prompted the arrival, also that morning, of Ambassador John Buck from Lisbon, considerably further away. Ambassador Buck himself announced to the assembled media on 8 May:

"Ladies and gentlemen, good evening. As you know I spent quite a lot of time with the McCann family on Friday and over the weekend..."

The Daily Mail once carried a report (the on-line version since deleted) of how an unnamed British diplomat expressed personal doubts about the McCann case directly to the Foreign Office, 'over four months before Gerry and Kate were named arguidos (suspects) on September 7.' Indeed, as the Mail recounted, 'The diplomat was sent to the holiday resort of Praia da Luz in the days following the four-year-old's disappearance and soon became concerned over "inconsistencies" in the testimonies by her parents and their friends.'

'Over four months' has to have been a date between May 4 and May 7.

'After visiting the McCanns, the unnamed diplomat sent a report to the Foreign Office in London, admitting his worries about "confused declarations" of the McCanns' movements on the night of May 3.'

It matters not at all whether the misgivings alluded to were expressed by Ambassador John Buck or Bill Henderson, then British Consul in the Algarve. Rather more interesting is that the diplomat responsible 'expressed his fears after receiving instruction from the Foreign Office to provide "all possible assistance to the McCann couple."' From which it becomes apparent that the Foreign office were extraordinarily quick off the mark in seizing the diplomatic initiative in this case, since the representative in question was sent to Praia da Luz and did not simply exercise personal initiative.

Far from the diplomat's being instructed 'in the days following the four-year-old's disappearance,' it appears that the wheels of officialdom turned within hours, before the news had even broken. Sky News carried the story in their 7.38 a.m. report, but Lisbon is a three-hour drive from the Algarve. Is it reasonable to suppose that the Foreign Office, having only just become aware of the situation, would immediately have instructed 'their men in Iberia' to get themselves to Praia da Luz with even greater immediacy? That certainly wasn't Kerry Needham's experience. Although Greece is a touch more distant than Portugal the telephones still work.

The Portuguese at the time requested answers from the British authorities to specific and highly pertinent questions in order to expedite their investigation. Certain information was required as a matter of urgency. It never materialised. Instead Praia da Luz was overrun with diplomats. The frustration underlying Gonacalo Amaral's published remark ('Who are these people?') is easy to see and to understand in such circumstances.

In the same period when Ambassador Buck was conveying the state position to the media, i.e. five days after the 'disappearance,' Cherie Blair, wife of the then Prime Minister, was in personal communication with Kate McCann. The latter has told us so (Madeleine, p.118). Question one: How did CB come to be in possession of Kate McCann's mobile phone number? Was it through: [a] 118 Directory Enquiries [b] A McCann family member who had the temerity to contact No.10 (that's certainly Auntie Philomena's style) [c] Kate McCann previously leaving a message on the Downing Street answerphone or [d] one or other diplomatic channel? Or did she just 'phone a friend?'

Public announcements of awareness and sympathy on the part of government representatives are all well and good, and largely expected nowadays, but a personal 'phone call from one of the Prime Minister's family...? Anyway, Kate was told at that time of a person who would become 'another valuable source of information;' a Blair contact by the name of Lady Catherine Meyer, 1999 founder of the charity PACT. Said charity's 'homepage' reads:

"PACT has been building and strengthening families across the Thames Valley since 1911."

Meanwhile Lady Meyer's earliest known portrait, housed in the loft somewhere, remains undiscovered. As does the nature of whatever advice she might have given Kate McCann concerning how to operate a charity to best advantage.

Amid all this counselling and consular effort there emerges another 'operative' - Special Agent Clarence Mitchell. Like the origin of life on earth, Mitchell's introduction into the process of barricading the McCanns is something of a mystery in its own right.

According to Kate McCann (Madeleine, p.148), Gerry first came into contact with Clarence Mitchell late on Monday 21 May:

"On Sunday 20 May, Gerry left for the UK...At Monday's meeting with the British police, Gerry was told about plans to launch an appeal in the UK aimed at holidaymakers who had been in the Algarve in the weeks leading up to Madeleine's abduction...It was later the same day that Gerry met Clarence Mitchell for the first time."

Gerry McCann's schedule, according to BBC News (21 May) was as follows:

"Mr McCann arrived at East Midlands Airport in the early hours of Monday morning...Mr McCann will return to Portugal on Tuesday morning."

Kate places Mitchell's introduction in-between these events. However, Hannah Marriott, writing for P.R. Week (28.11.07) gives a somewhat different account:

"Mitchell was first sent to meet Gerry McCann at East Midlands airport two weeks after Madeleine's disappearance. The pair flew back together to Portugal."

Notice that "Mitchell was sent" to meet Gerry at the airport, which can only have been to greet him from the plane very early on the Monday or join him for the Portugal bound flight on the Tuesday. Neither possibility is accommodated by Kate McCann's version. Kate continues:

"Clarence, a former BBC news correspondent working for the Civil Service was the director of the Media Monitoring Unit attached to 10 Downing Street...he was seconded to the Foreign Office to come out to Portugal to handle our media liaison as part of their consular support for us."

A bit heavy on the 'consular support' don't you think, given that Tony Blair had previously and personally dispatched Sheree Dodd to Portugal for the very same purpose. And just how instantaneous are such 'secondments' anyway? Who oversees the cuttings office while the editor-in-chief is en vacance? Decisions with respect to Mitchell's enforced shift in allegiance, the identity of his understudy, to say nothing of his own personal concerns as to how big a bag he should pack, had to be taken in advance of his meeting Gerry McCann and boarding the plane. The Portuguese investigation had been on-going barely a fortnight, if that. Nevertheless, Mitchell, who at a given point in time is attached to No.10, is seconded to the Foreign Office (not by them) at the instigation, one presumes, of the 'club' that still held his registration, i.e. No.10. So Cherie Blair and Kate McCann have a convivial tete-a-tete on the 8/9 May and Mitchell is filtered into the mix at Downing Street's behest shortly thereafter.

Marriott further informs us that, once in Portugal, Mitchell "spent an intense month of fifteen-hour days with the family."

What! To explain that your daughter's been seized by a person or persons unknown and that you're 'sorry you weren't there at that minute' would not take fifteen minutes, let alone a month of fifteen-hour days. Forgive me. I'm trivialising the fact that Madeleine McCann was, for some reason yet to be discovered, the most important child on planet earth, who happened to be a British citizen requiring state back-up that stopped just short of mobilising the armed forces, as Mitchell himself goes on to reveal (within Marriott's account):

"He had to return to his government role, and others handled the McCann PR. But even then, he says, the family still called him for advice in his own time...'But I couldn't help them beyond the odd 'phone call, because officially the government couldn't be seen to be involved.'"

And unofficially?

If this isn't Mitchell simply 'bigging up' his early role in the affair, then further scrutiny of this remark is definitely called for. The catalogue of Mitchell's manoeuvers since on behalf of his clients the McCanns is sufficiently extensive to warrant examination of its own.

No sooner had the McCanns become associated with Mitchell (May 21/22), through the intervention of No.10, than they were in telephone contact with the man-next-door, Gordon Brown (May 23). And then someone turned the kaleidoscope. The pieces remained the same but shifted into different places. On June 27, a month after the introduction of the pink catalyst, the Blairs were suddenly obliged to leave Downing Street so that Gordon Brown could have their apartment, having just been given Tony's old job.

At the spearhead of 'New Labour' throughout their ultimately successful election campaign, Gordon Brown was a true 'conviction politician,' long on strength of belief and short on prudence. In his first speech to The Labour Party as Leader, on 24 September 2007, he declared, "I stand for a Britain that defends its citizens and both punishes crime and prevents it by dealing with the root cause." It's not at all difficult to see how the new Prime Minister's position would be somewhat compromised were he to be faced with a situation in which these very principles were found to be in conflict.

There is an arresting (pun intended) video on YouTube which poses a number of very germane questions regarding the McCanns' behaviour throughout the investigation into their daughter's disappearance. It concludes with the question of why, when a convincing sighting of Madeleine was reported from Belgium, the McCanns' reaction was to visit Huelva, in Spain. Strangely, this type of counter-intuitive behaviour is not unique to the McCanns.

Later in his party address as PM, Gordon Brown stated: "Two thirds of deaths from gun crime occur in just four cities. In the last few weeks Jacqui Smith and I have focussed on the specific areas in these cities..."

In the year 2006 - 2007 just over half of all firearm offences occurred in areas covered by just three major forces - the Metropolitan Police in London, Greater Manchester and West Midlands. The situation remained unchanged two years later, as noted by The Independent of 8 January, 2009 which reported, "Most of the 42 gun-related deaths last year took place in London, the West Midlands Manchester or Merseyside. There were six deaths in the West Midlands, four each in Manchester and Merseyside and two each in Kent, Shropshire and West Yorkshire. Other deaths were recorded in Cornwall, Derbyshire, Glasgow, Hertfordshire, Humberside, Northumberland and South Yorkshire."

This was 2008 don't forget. But 2007, the year in which the Brown possee visited areas in each of the four most fatal cities, must have seen the statistical ice-berg topple over, for on 12 September 2007, no doubt as a feature on their crime-prevention itinerary, Brown and Smith visited a police station in - Beaumont Leys, a suburb of Leicester.

This is the same Gordon Brown, who the following month was dutifully advised that Goncalo Amaral had been removed from his role as co-ordinator of the 'Maddie' investigation in Portugal, before even Amaral himself was notified. There has to be some explanation as to why the then Prime Minister should have maintained a personal level of involvement in the McCann case once the parents' had returned home as suspects in their own daughter's disappearance. After all, the government had apparently ordained that Civil Servant Clarence Mitchell could no longer speak for them for that very reason, according to Kate McCann (Madeleine, p.255). Defence of the citizenry overseas is scarcely appropriate when the subjects are safely on British soil. And he needn't have entertained thoughts of pre-empting extradition. The McCanns took care of that aspect themselves with their 'appointment' of Michael Caplan Q.C. Or did they?

Joshua Rozenberg, the Daily Telegraph's legal editor, commented for BBC News Magazine on 14 September, 2007, "When he (Michael Caplan) went to see the McCanns last Sunday, he went in through the front door." Whilst he might not have been waiting at the foot of the aircraft steps like Clarence Mitchell, Caplan clearly did not have to wait for an invitation from the McCanns. According to BBC News Magazine, he was waiting for them on arrival. 'As Kate and Gerry McCann headed back to their Leicestershire home for the first time since their daughter Madeleine disappeared, they were visited by a man few recognised.' On this account he as good as followed them home from the airport!

It is undeniably tempting to speculate as to whether the Brown-Smith excursion to Beaumont-Leys three days later afforded the opportunity for someone to ask, en route and personally, "How did you get on with Michael?" Of course Kate McCann has an alternative explanation for the sudden introduction of Michael Caplan Q.C.

"Saturday 8 September. We were on tenterhooks all day, waiting to hear whether we would be allowed to go home. Rachael had found a couple of criminal lawyers in London she was sure could help us...Gerry gave them a call. They discussed Madeleine's case in detail, what had happened so far and how Kingsley Napley might be able to assist us." (Madeleine, p. 254).

Things need to be put into some kind of perspective at this point. On Saturday, September 8, Gerry decides, on the spur of the moment almost, to 'phone a pair of London based lawyers from Portugal and, after discussing Madeleine's case in detail, what had happened so far etc., etc., by phone, a deal is struck. So Messrs. Caplan and McBride were able to assimilate over the 'phone the detail of five months in a matter of minutes, whereas it had taken Clarence Mitchell face-to-face interaction for a month of fifteen-hour days to get to grips with the history of a fortnight?

Rachael - former corporate tax lawyer now working as a recruitment consultant - Oldfield, was not of course in evidence at the time of the McCanns' panic 'phone call. (Make no mistake, the pair who were made arguidos on September 7 and who 'resisted the temptation to flee' across the Spanish boarder on the Friday night, only to catch an early flight back to the UK on the Sunday, were in a hurry).

This is Chapter 17 and Rachael who had found the two lawyers (quite fortuitously it would seem) had previously gone home (Chapter 9) briefly to return to Portugal on Thursday 11 July (Chapter 13) in order to meet the PJ's request for further questioning. She did not stay on until September 8, meaning that if she had been responsible for identifying the suitability of Kingsley Napley, incorporating extradition supremo Michael Caplan, she discovered them through diligence, not by chance, and weeks (if not months) earlier. And yet Gerry McCann waits for the car to crash before he tests the brakes?

They escape nevertheless.

"On the advice of the lawyers, we decided to get out as soon as possible. We would go the next day rather than leaving it until Monday." (Madeleine, p.254).

We are clearly expected to believe that this was a minor adjustment to new circumstances. ("Finally, and very reluctantly, I agreed to set a date for our departure. Monday 10 September it would have to be." Kate decides - two chapters earlier). But - "Then it was all hands on deck to pack everything up and clear the villa. Michael volunteered to stay on for a couple of days to organize the cleaning, hand back the keys and arrange for our remaining belongings to be shipped home by a removal company." (p.254-5). Isn't that leaving things a tad late if the departure date has been decided for weeks already?

Back to reality (following touchdown at East Midlands Airport).

"For us, it was straight down to business. Michael Caplan and Angus McBride arrived that afternoon for a thorough discussion of our situation." Clearly Gerry's anxious call the day before had not quite covered all the details. Then - "On Tuesday 11 September we had an 8.00 a.m. conference call with Michael Caplan, Angus McBride and Justine."

Let’s summarise at this point.

Early May, 2007: A channel with No.10 is opened, and maintained thereafter.

September 7: The McCanns are officially made 'persons of interest' in connection with the disappearance of their own daughter by Portuguese authorities.

September 8: Gerry McCann, 'phoning from Portugal apparently, discusses their situation with Angus McBride and Michael Caplan Q.C., without knowing whether Portuguese authorities will even allow the McCanns to leave the country. They are cleared to depart later that afternoon and, on the advice of the (same) lawyers, elect to leave the following day.

September 9: The McCanns return to their home in Rothley, Leicestershire, where they meet with Michael Caplan Q.C., having spoken with him by 'phone little more than 24 hours earlier. (Fortunately for them he works Saturdays and is happy to give up his Sundays for the cause also).

September 11: An 8.00 a.m. 'conference,' again involving Michael Caplan Q.C.

September 12: Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Home Secretary Jacqui Smith visit Leicester - definitely not one of the more dangerous cities in the UK if assessed in terms of gun-related deaths.

October: Prime Minister Brown is given the news of Amaral's removal.

Five years and the 'stonewalling' of many an FOI request later, the crime balance sheet for the McCann account is not at all encouraging. Millions of pounds sterling have been spent by the exchequer, directly or indirectly (on top of the Portuguese millions in euros), with nothing whatsoever to show for it. No child recovered, alive or dead, no culprit prosecuted, or even apprehended. And while UK limited has seen the loss of significant assets in the form of important forensic expertise (specialist dog-handler Martin Grime and his expert canines are now in the USA working for the FBI and the Forensic Science Service is closed for business), the only books to show a healthy inward cash flow are those belonging to the McCanns, until some rather extraordinary expenses outweighed the donations that is. Of course the case review, since placed in the lap of Scotland Yard, remains incomplete. But with an interim dividend amounting to a heap of dead-end reasons why the Portuguese should waste yet more of their time and money pursuing illusory abductors, the long-term projection seems equally un-profitable. The Labour government's inaugural commitment to being 'tough on crime and the causes of crime' has not since, unfortunately, included 'getting to the bottom of crime,' certainly as far as the disappearance of Madeleine McCann is concerned.

As Billy Joel insightfully put it:

"When you've heard lie upon lie, there can hardly be a question of 'why.'"

See also:

Some love is just a lie of the heart
The cold remains of what began with a passionate start
And they may not want it to end
But it will it's just a question of when
I've lived long enough to have learned
The closer you get to the fire the more you get burned
But that won't happen to us
Because it's always been a matter of trust

I know you're an emotional girl
It took a lot for you to not lose your faith in this world
I can't offer you proof
But you're going to face a moment of truth
It's hard when you're always afraid
You just recover when another belief is betrayed
So break my heart if you must
It's a matter of trust

You can't go the distance
With too much resistance
I know you have doubts
But for God's sake don't shut me out

This time you've got nothing to lose
You can take it, you can leave it
Whatever you choose
I won't hold back anything
And I'll walk a way a fool or a king
Some love is just a lie of the mind
It's make believe until its only a matter of time
And some might have learned to adjust
But then it never was a matter of trust

I'm sure you're aware love
We've both had our share of
Believing too long
When the whole situation was wrong

Some love is just a lie of the soul
A constant battle for the ultimate state of control
After you've heard lie upon lie
There can hardly be a question of why
Some love is just a lie of the heart
The cold remains of what began with a passionate start
But that can't happen to us
Because it's always been a matter of trust