Genre- Nonfiction, True Crime, Mystery
Blurb- What really happened to Madeleine Beth McCann in Praia da Luz, Portugal in 2007? Was she abducted as the Gerry and Kate have claimed or did something happen to Madeleine on May 3 in the vacation apartment and the incident covered up? Criminal Profiler Pat Brown analyzes the evidence and takes the readers through the steps of profiling, developing a theory that is intriguing and controversial.
Review- This book is quite short, more like an essay in some ways, but it manages to bring together, in an easily digestible form, much of the available evidence concerning the McCann case, which remains unsolved and deeply troubling even after 7 years.
Pat Brown’s analysis of the case yields several important insights, and in general her approach is more objective than that of Goncalo Amaral in his book “The Truth of the Lie”, which has yet to be published in English. Amaral has a hypothesis, and could be right, but he also has a reputation to defend and the Portuguese investigation team made serious mistakes. So he could be biased.
The first half of this essay is more impressive than the second, where I felt that the author was too quick to reject the abduction theory, with the clear implication that there was parental involvement. Brown points out, correctly, that the parents are implicated in about 85% of missing children cases. However, in almost every other case I have read about, one or both parents were involved. Here, we are asked to belive that a larger group of 7 other adults were also somehow involved in an after-the-event cover-up. This I find this very difficult to accept for a number of reasons.
The possibility that the sniffer dogs were wrong can, I think, be safely discounted. The statistical probability of both (British) dogs mistakenly alerting to the presence of a violent crime scene inside apartment 5A is miniscule (though not absolutely impossible). In any case, a separate group of (Portuguese) sniffer dogs, trained to detect the scent of living persons, had already failed to find any forensic evidence of Madeleine being abducted alive in any direction away from the apartment. From this, it can be safely concluded that death must have occurred in the apartment. This should be the starting point for any fresh investigation.
However, like Amaral, Pat Brown seems to assume that the forensic evidence discovered by the dogs fatally undermines the abduction theory. We should ask if this is really the case. Perhaps there was a bungled robbery, or a failed abduction attempt, which led to violence in the apartment. In which case, it would have been a stranger who removed the body from the apartment. Brown expresses puzzlement over Gerry McCann’s repeated use of the word “taken” to describe Madeleine’s removal from the apartment. But perhaps he was simply acknowledging the possibility that Madeleine was not taken alive (as you wouldn’t normally use the term ‘kidnapping’ or abduction’ in these circumstances). However, if there was evidence of the apartment being cleaned up afterwards to remove forensic traces, this would tend to argue against the involvement of would-be abductors, as they simply wouldn’t have had the time to do it.
The possibility that Madeleine may have been removed in order to conceal evidence because a crime (burglary, abduction) had gone wrong needs to be more fully investigated, because in some ways it is the simplest explanation consistent with the facts.
Why do I say this? Well, first of all there are serious problems with the hypothesis of parental involvement. To discover that a tragic accident had taken place, and then arrange for the removal and hiding of the body in an unfamiliar location, would have required tremendous composure and presence of mind, totally at odds with the behaviours observed on the night. The window of opportunity would also have been extremely tight – possibly half an hour or even less, depending on what you believe about witness testimony concerning the father’s whereabouts.
But there is an even more serious problem. Those who reject the abduction theory in effect allege a conspiracy involving nine adults. Some of these people were admittedly close friends, but this was not true of everyone in the group. Persuading everyone to tell the same (false) story about what happened would have presented a formidable challenge, and all of this was supposed to be happening at a time when there was a body to dispose of in a strange environment! Pat Brown seems to have no difficulty accepting this hypothesis, but I find it very implausible unless the Tapas 9 all had something to hide e.g. the methods they used to get their children off to sleep in the evening. In this case, no conspiracy would have been required, as there would have been a very strong shared interest in promoting the abduction theory.
For all these reasons, I find the arguments more finely balanced than this book suggests. On the one hand, it is hard to see why the McCanns would be so dismissive of the sniffer dogs’ evidence, if they genuinely wanted to find their daughter. Surely they would take an intense interest in the findings and want the police to leave no stone unturned to find out what the evidence signified? On the other hand, the timelines and the degree of planning required for a cover-up to work lend strong prima facie support for the abduction theory. Cover-ups also tend to break down over time, as distance from the event increases and conscience starts to bite. This has not happened (yet).
Eventually the truth will come out about what happened in this tragic and mysterious case, and it is in the public interest for all the possibilities to be investigated and debated. It is not helpful in this respect that books like this, and the one by Amaral, are effectively banned in the UK.