Old Ploy, New Game: How the McCanns are using PR [again] to influence a legal outcome that affects THEM

Suddenly the McCanns are in the news again, and the news is ramping up. On September 19th, Tracey Kandohla’s piece popped up in The Sun admonishing critics that “Madeleine is priceless. You cannot put a price on her life.”

All people are priceless, but let’s face it, you can put a price on people’s lives. That’s why there are things like ransoms and salaries, life insurance and prison terms, minimum wages and tax brackets.

The law provides an excellent benchmark in how to deal with missing people. The gold standard is that after seven years with no evidence of a person, the law officially recognizes that person as deceased. Often the law is correct in this assessment but not always. Occasionally – but rarely – people do return from the dead, or some sort of oblivion.

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Madeleine has missing for eleven years. The fact that cadaver traces were found in early August [in the holiday apartment, in the garden below the balcony, in the rental vehicle hired weeks after her disappearance] all confirm the obvious. Madeleine is no longer alive, and so to continue looking for her isn’t about how much her life is worth, but using common sense.

If the legal status of Madeleine does change, and she’s recognized as deceased, then she’ll no longer be regarded as a missing child, but a dead child. Then, once again, one has to ponder: if she died, how did she die, and when.

For as long as the McCann case remains a missing person’s case, the McCanns themselves have a sort of invisible legal barrier protecting them. It’s like the Ramsey Ransom Note during the seven hour “kidnapping phase”. During these seven hours when the cops thought they were investigating a child kidnapping, while JonBenet was missing, the parents weren’t seen as suspects. Think of Madeleine like that, except that the kidnapping phase hasn’t been seven hours, but eleven years and counting [and with no Ransom Note].

As soon as JonBenet was found dead in the basement, the parents [and JonBenet’s older brother Burke] became suspects. So there’s a clear incentive for those closest to the victim to perpetuate the pageantry of a missing person’s case, as opposed to the daunting implications of a homicide case.

It’s an old ploy, but we’re now entering a new phase of the game. To see how this new phase fits into the old pattern, let’s dig for a moment into the origins of the game.

Madeleine’s Origin Story

On the 4th of August, 2008, just over ten years ago, there was a major breakthrough in the McCann case. Arguably it was the first and only genuine breakthrough. The Portuguese cops closed the case.


This meant the segredo de justiça or secrecy of justice legal prescription was lifted. As a result, 17 files released on Compact Discs spanning 11 223 pages were released.

In other words, after a year in which the McCann’s ruled the airwaves, appeared in endless television interviews and colonised the front pages of newspapers in Britain and in Portugal since their daughter’s disappearance, the opportunity finally came for an official answer to all the PR – the police evidence. 

This was the first chance for a proper rebuttal, but as important as it was, it came long after the McCanns had already seeded and infected the media narrative with their stories, their sympathy cards, their “evidence”.

Although the police file was voluminous, it was a drop in the ocean of the public’s mind compared to the wall-to-wall tabloid and media coverage that preceded it, effectively clouding and contaminating the public’s mind.

Let’s re-examine the highlights of that evidence now, the McCann’s predictable response to it, and how those ploys are playing into their current strategy – because there is one, and always will be.

Evidence Highlights – from the Polícia Judiciária

Via the Guardian’s coverage at the time:

The Portuguese police file on the disappearance of Madeleine McCann showed that a British scientist had warned that tests on DNA recovered from Kate and Gerry McCann’s hire car had been inconclusive days before the couple were formally named as suspects.global18

It also shows that during a subsequent interview with Portuguese police, Mrs McCann refused to answer 48 questions about her daughter, apparently fearing they were intended to implicate her in the girl’s disappearance.

Other notes showed that detectives told Mr McCann that Madeleine’s DNA had been found in their hire car. Although the questioning on September 7 was not recorded, an unidentified police officer took notes which were included in the dossier.

The officer wrote that Mr McCann was told his daughter’s DNA was discovered in the boot of the rented Renault Scenic and behind a sofa in the family’s holiday apartment. The notes said: “Confronted with the fact that Madeleine’s DNA was gathered from behind the sofa and from the boot of the vehicle, and analysed by a British laboratory, he said he could not explain why this would be.”

This contradicted the Forensic Science Service (FSS) expert’s opinion that the sample found in the car could not be definitively linked to the little girl.

Clarence Mitchell, spokesman for the 40-year-olds from Rothley, Leicestershire, said: “You have to ask what the police were trying to achieve by over-presenting evidence that they did not have, and clearly could not claim to have.”

Among other material released were photographs showing the room where Madeleine had been left by her parents when they went out to dine with friends nearby. 

In this short report we have a summary not only of the whole case and the merits of the case, but also the pattern of response from the McCanns.


A cursory analysis reveals that:

  1. The McCanns [plural] were initially named as suspects by the Polícia Judiciária.
  2. Kate McCann in particular was subjected to tough questioning. She refused to answer any of 48 questions posed to her.  Some questions were as benign as “who contacted the police?”, “did you manage to sleep” and “what was Madeleine’s behavior like?” and as damning as “did you ask for a priest?” or “Did you contact Sky News?” or “Did you consider handing over custody of Madeleine [while she was still alive and in England] to a relative?”
  3. Madeleine’s DNA was found in a rental vehicle that had been ventilated overnight because it smelled of rotting meat.
  4. Madeleine’s DNA was found behind the sofa in Apartment 5A and in the boot of the Renault scenic. The car was hired 25 days after Madeleine disappeared. So for Madeleine’s DNA to appear in the trunk space, and leading to alerts by cadaver dogs, is very damning indeed.95e6df4fdc6d3e2e2c032208dc11dd1006d8b9cd2b6a5cc877da97400e8a207e_3943139
  5. Gerry McCann, when he was a suspect and when he was interrogated, had no explanation for why Madeleine’s DNA/cadaver odor was behind the couch in the apartment, and also in the car. [The article doesn’t mention that cadaver odor was also found in the cupboard in the hotel bedroom, opposite the bed of the McCanns, or that one of the 48 questions posed to Kate referred to the cadaver alerts in their hotel bedroom].
  6. The police report is “contradicted” by the FSS report, a forensic report commissioned by the McCann’s themselves in the sense that they were involved in a parallel investigation [into themselves effectively] and their using the British authorities and a British lab. Fullscreen capture 20180920 190320Fullscreen capture 20180920 190332The DNA used was supposedly from Madeleine’s hairbrush, except the brush was given to South African DNA hunter Danie Krugel in July 2007. Other sources claim the DNA came from Madeleine’s pillow at her home in Rothley, from an item only her parents could have provided.
  7. The contradiction of the police report the moment it’s released is useful for McCann PR purposes. Because they’ve been running a parallel investigation while the Portuguese investigation has been kept private, they were able to appear to debunk evidence against them out of hand the moment it appeared.
  8. The FSS is a dodgy lab that closed down in 2012. It developed a reputation for failing to deliver evidence that it was asked to deliver, including in another high-profile child death – that of ten-year old Damilolah Taylor.
  9. The McCann’s spokesman scoffed at the evidence presented against them, ironically accusing the Portuguese cops of “over-presenting evidence”, and also, offering evidence  that they did not have. This was ironic, because the McCanns had been “over-presenting” their own evidence in wall to wall tabloid coverage all along, one example amongst hundreds [perhaps thousands] being the bogus Tanner sighting.
  10. It’s not important to know the finer details in the foregoing nine points. What’s important is to see and be able to recognize the mechanism that’s being used to neutralize the investigation. It’s fairly simple: one the one side is a real investigation, and real evidence, on the other side is a pseudo investigation bankrolled by the suspects, and backed by a massive PR campaign [the PR naturally edifying and defending the suspects and the pseudo investigation at every turn]. Clearly where you have one investigation + zero PR and very little information VS another investigation with unlimited media leaks and a highly funded million-pound strong PR campaign, it’s obvious which narrative is going to have the edge on the other. And that’s really what’s going on – controlling the narrative.Fullscreen capture 20180920 184848

I’m not going to deal with the libel cases launched by the McCann’s and the Tapas 7, or the libel suits against them, except to provide a few snippet and screengrabs to gloss through. These show the real war that’s been going on for the past eleven years. A high stakes narrative war with lots of money on the cards for the winners, and lots to lose too.

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Now we jump to 2018.

Is the McCann narrative still being controlled 11 years later? One easy but not necessarily accurate way to answer this question is to look at Twitter. The relentless #McCann hashtag never trends. This isn’t necessarily a Twitter conspiracy, it’s simply how Twitter works. Old hashtags tend to wither and die whether or not they achieve new wuthering heights after the fact.  In this respect McCann case fantatics wishing to be visible on social media are better advised to begin a new hashtag, such as #McCann2018 or #McCannShakedown.

Twitter is also a very useful barometer of the public’s response [controlled and uncontrolled, influenced and random] to the McCann story. There is some organised trolling on both sides, but clearly, also a lot of ordinary folk who are critical of current events on both sides.

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What’s more interesting and more sinister than the social media narrative, is the media narrative. Let’s examine that now in the context of current events, but bearing in mind the old ploys referred to in the ten points above.

Valley View through the eye of a Raven

The Media Narrative Now

Earlier this month, on September 9th, Matt Drake from The Expess wrote a bizarre story about police in Portugal making “secret” vitits to follow leads. In one of the most public true crime cases in history [if not the most public], one wonders why anything in this case still needs to be kept secret.  But let’s have a look anyway:

Freedom of Information requests have revealed that five flights were booked to the country [Portugal] in the last financial year, where the toddler from Leicestershire disappeared in 2007. The air tickets cost £1,240 for two separate trips, according to the Metropolitan Police. Senior investigating officer, Detective Chief Inspector Nicola Wall, also claimed £811 for accommodation and £80 on taxis to and from UK airports.

Along with DCI Wall, three detective constables and one detective sergeant are in the Operation Grange Investigating team – which is dedicated to finding the missing child.

If it’s a secret investigation, why do we know about it, and why do we know about it now? Also, the key aspect of the whole report is the most obvious – the investigators are searching for “a missing child”. Did they somehow overlook the cadaver traces in the apartment, the cadaver traces in the garden, the cadaver traces on the toy, the cadaver traces on the car and on Kate’s clothes? But then The Express throws in another juicy bone to chew on:

Netflix is set to be releasing a brand new true-crime documentary series about the disappearance. There are set to be eight episodes in the new documentary series, which comes a year after the one-off Amanda Knox special.

However, Gerry and Kate McCann will not be in the upcoming programme on the streaming giant.

The couple reportedly declined to take part in the series because of the Metropolitan Police’s ongoing investigation – Operation Grange – into their daughter’s disappearance, according to the MailOnline.

Wow, that’s strange. This 8-part documentary series has been in the offing since October 2017, when The Express reported on Gerry and Kate “snubbing” it. So if they’re snubbing it then, and snubbing it now, how is it news? And why is it news now?

And what does an 8 part documentary have to do with a secret investigation that’s not secret at all?

Now let’s examine that earlier report from The Express, from October 2007, on the same subject.

The so-called Tapas Seven, friends of the McCanns who holidayed with them at Praia da Luz, Portugal, when Madeleine disappeared 10 years ago, have also snubbed the venture commissioned by Netflix and Paramount.

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Despite the rejection of co-operation by parents Gerry and Kate McCann, Pulse Films has put together a team, including producers and researchers, to keep the project on track. They are working on a “treatment” which will form the basis of the series, which could cost £20 million.

Last week an executive working for the London-based firm visited Rothley, Leicestershire, where the McCanns live and spent hours interviewing journalists who have chronicled the story.

The assistant producer, who has expertise in undercover filming, later flew to Portugal where he has already established links with people closely involved with the story. Another executive has also visited residents near the home. It is thought producers want to involve former Portuguese police chief Goncalo Amaral, who has been involved in bitter legal action with the McCanns. Dramatic reconstructions will be made of key events, including the night of May 3, 2007, when Madeleine, aged three, disappeared.

Clarence Mitchell, spokesman for the McCanns, has confirmed Pulse Films wrote to Kate and Gerry asking them to co-operate. He said: “Gerry said they did not want to get involved and that is also the view of their friends.”

Netflix is hoping to screen the series next spring, but a spokesman for Pulse Films declined to comment. The company has more than 100 million subscribers with more than half of them living outside the United States.Scotland Yard and Portuguese police continue to investigate the case but they have not made a breakthrough. 

A television insider said: “This documentary series could provide the McCanns with an opportunity to appeal to a vast global audience of possibly 50 million for help, but they may see it as exploitative and too painful.pdl (5)_smallWithout seeing the Netflix documentary, it’s difficult to say what it intends to do. Or is it? The McCanns and Tapas 7 snubbing may be because the documentary is “authentic” [or inauthentic as they see it], and so, may cast suspicion on them. On the other hand, look at the timing, and the libel actions. If the McCanns need good PR, and good PR pressure, then what better time is there than when the case is being heard by the European Court? The legal folks may or may not watch the series, but you can bet your bottom dollar media around the world will report exhaustively on it. And what has been the same message beating the media drum [for the most part] since day 1? Apologia.

On the ten year anniversary, the Aussie documentary with its lankmark breakthrough [what was it again – I’ve forgotten], was also Apologia. In a media landscape where anyone who criticizes or accuses the McCanns is sued, what are the chances Netflix are going to provide genuine analysis here?

There’s also a good reason for the McCanns not to be directly involved in the Netflix show. Anything they say now can and may be used against them in court. This raises another possibility. Are they indirectly involved?

Now let’s go to The Sun to get some of the latest spin, and see if we can answer this question. On April 27th, Tracey Kadohla, the unofficial McCann scribe penned a piece about why the McCann’s [on the 11 year anniversary] won’t be talking to the media. Bare in mind they have written a book, given countless interviews, done innumerable anniversary type fundraiser awareness events, but this year they want to maintain a respectful silence.  Why? Is it because they want to be silent or because they have to be?

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On September 11, Kandohla was at it again, this time in the Daily Mail.

Police officers on the scaled down Operation Grange inquiry have secretly continued to visit the Algarve searching for possible clues to Maddie’s whereabouts but are believed not to be any step closer to finding an abductor.

The source added: ‘Kate and Gerry are grateful to the Metropolitan Police for everything they have done over the years and hope of course that the inquiry into their daughter’s abduction will continue if more funds are requested and made available.’


Although the McCanns keep appealing for more money, and more police help, they don’t seem to do much searching themselves. They snub documentaries [apparently] but are enthusiastic about taking their detractors to court – those investigations and legal mechanisms they have a tireless appetite for.  Kandohla continues:

The Portuguese investigation of Madeleine’s disappearance was criticised by the British authorities as being not fit for purpose. Detectives believe she was stolen by child traffickers, sex fiends or during a burglary gone wrong.

Which detectives believe this? Referring to the police report at the top of this post, didn’t it highlight the parents as unco-operative prime suspects? So where do the child traffickers, sex fiends and burglars come from? Is it a Polícia Judiciária theory, a British police theory, or a McCann’s detective’s theory?

Inevitably, these news reports from Kandohla are littered with sappy sentimental sympathy cards, like this:

In May, her parents posted a poignant tribute to mark their daughter’s 15th birthday – telling her: ‘We love you and we’re waiting for you and we’re never going to give up.’ Gerry and his wife Kate wrote ‘Happy 15th Birthday Madeleine!’ on the official Find Madeleine Campaign Facebook page. The message accompanied a cherished last photo of her as a three-year-old, smiling under a wide-brimmed sun hat and is posted alongside a green and yellow ribbon symbolising hope, strength and solidarity. 

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If the McCanns are invested and visible on anniversary day, and on Madeleine’s birthday, where are they during the rest of the year? A single Facebook tribute seems like a minimal effort to look for someone that’s so precious, and so worthy of more and more money.

On September 16th, just a few days after her last media blast, Kandohla’s at it again. This time the sympathy jerk-off is a lot less subtle.

Gerry McCann will speak candidly about his own struggles in a bid to help other men facing unimaginable loss and grief cope with their issues. The eminent cardiologist – whose daughter Maddie vanished nearly eleven and a half years ago during a family holiday in Portugal – will open up about the once taboo subject of males talking frankly about their emotions.

Wow. Is this really first time in eleven years Gerry has spoken “candidly” about his feelings? And when he has he doesn’t seem to be “coping with unimaginable loss” but quite the opposite, he seems smug.

Mr McCann, 50, will discuss his own agony in ‘honest, personal and sometimes painful terms’ for the BBC Radio 4 special show.

He said: ‘I decided it was a good opportunity to say something about the special bond between fathers and daughters, thinking that speaking openly might help other men in similar positions. It feels like the right time.’ 

Kandohla then really turns up the volume, invoking Kate’s unfulfilled desire to take her own life. It’s difficult to reconcile the suicidal image of Kate with the Kate seen jogging around Praia da Luz after Madeleine’s disappearance, and then running marathons.

This is also very bizarre given the “police orders” that they remain silent, an article written by Kandohla herself less than five months before this one. Kandohla cleverly links Gerry’s newfound mental health campaigning now with Prince Harry’s in 2017. Maybe Prince Harry can offer them some support, like the Pope did circa mid-2007. Kandohla also gets that in – that the McCanns are devout Roman Catholics, and that Gerry is a “world renowned doctor”. Is he world renowned because of his medical fame?

On September 18th, the Daily Mail breathlessly reports that the McCann fund could be WIPED OUT at any moment [even though it’s been funding an investigation non stop for eleven years]. In a clever use of semantics, the article implies that the fund will be used to pay Goncalo Amaral in the event he wins the libel contest. In other words, for suing him, if the McCanns lose, the public foots the bill.

If they lose the case the pair will be forced to pay Goncalo Amaral £750,000, after he made a bid to sue them for compensation. The couple will face Amaral in the European Court, as public money which was funding the search for Madeleine is about to dry up.

It is believed that Kate and Gerry have had to take money from the fund in the past to cover costs of previous hearings. Retired Det Chief Insp Mick Neville, who last year investigated the case, said: ‘It is tragic that funds to try to find her could be lost because of this legal action.

In other words, isn’t it a shame that the McCann’s should spend money out of the fund on these frivolous hearings when it could go to a really good cause – searching for Madeleine. What Amaral is effectively doing then [so the psychology goes] is stealing money from Madeleine, and stealing her chances of ever being found. No matter the detective lost his job and livelihood because of pressure exerted on him – Madeleine’s life is of inestimable value. Detective Amaral’s – pah!

There’s some [very slim] reason to believe that the outcome of the imminent trial may be firstly in Amaral’s favor, and secondly that the “secret” investigation may well be legitimate. Did the change in the Home Secretary have anything to do with the McCann’s possible reversal of fortune?

It could be too much to wish for, but things are certainly afoot in the McCann’s PR universe in a way they haven’t been for some years. And the ravens are circling.


17 thoughts on “Old Ploy, New Game: How the McCanns are using PR [again] to influence a legal outcome that affects THEM

    • Woke up this morning to several messages from Joana Morais, almost all critical and error-checking of the above blog. You could swear the real criminal in this case is the guy writing about it who disagrees with her. The real crimes here are a spelling mistake here, and a comma there.

      Joana’s first comment was to indicate that she hadn’t yet read the whole post but, for now, she’d found X, Y, and Z errors. For example, it wasn’t CD’s that were released, but DVD’s. That sort of vital information.

      Please, if you’re going to go to the trouble to fact check, read the whole post. I’ve gone to the trouble – over the course of an entire day – to research and write it. Do me the honor of reading it for five minutes of your day before you jump in and jump all over it.

      Now, I like to allow free speech, dissenting views, and constructive debate. I’m all for healthy discussion, factual contributions etc but I don’t tolerate trolling, or concerted efforts to purposefully undermine my work under the guise of “accuracy”.

      If you want to address real points, address them. As such I’ve left behind the one useful comment of several posted by Joanna – it refers to another blog post published on September 21st, after this blog was written, but I can’t find the original source. Probably written in Portuguese then, and has yet to find its way into the English media if it ever does. I went through the rest, looked for anything useful or constructive, then deleted them one by one and then banned Joana.

      While I’m on the subject of calculated attempts to undermine, block, criticize and invalidate my work on this particular case:

      I believe at one stage, for a short while – a few days – I was part of a large Facebook group dealing with the McCann case, until my research on the case [based on a trilogy of books] was seen as a threat to the narrative of admins, and I was subsequently booted off. I can see why that happens. Admins, just like the McCanns themselves, want to control the narrative. As long as they’re in control, it’s fine. As such, on social media they need to be the authors of what stands and what doesn’t. So to be contradicted in public, they feel, diminishes the power and credibility of their site.

      This is a cynical view. Instead of trying to freely figure out the case, they censor any view that too strongly criticizes their narrative. Ironically, that’s what this blog post is all about. The McCann’s libel suits are all about intimidating their detractors into towing a line sympathetic to them.

      I’ve also noticed a concerted effort from a number of McCann case followers to try to discredit my work, as if I have some sinister agenda. My efforts to promote my work in the Portugal Resident, for example, were also rebuffed by Natasha Donn. At the time Doubt was #2 bestseller in the United Kingdom’s True Crime category on Amazon, and for several weeks outsold Kate McCann’s book during the anniversary period.
      That takes some doing.
      I’ve written dozens of true crime books and Doubt was undoubtedly one of the most popular, if not the bestselling of the Shakedown cannon. And yet in her wisdom, Natasha Donn felt it didn’t quite cut it as far as she was concerned.

      Subsequently I noticed Natasha Donn tried to promote an attempt to write a book by an obscure Russian somehow affiliated with the McCanns, a guy who can’t speak or write English. She was promoting a book that wasn’t even published.


      Has this book even materialized almost a year later?

      Double standards?

      There is also a sizable group on twitter who are dead set on the idea that a three-year-old girl was the centrepiece of a high stakes pedophile ring run by the McCanns and endorsed by elite people in the government. These are some of the loudest and most consistent voices on social media. They believe a few tiny breadcrumbs are their evidence that a three-year-old child was being trafficked for sex by a pair of British doctors. Were their younger children next to be served up to this voracious sexual intrigue? At what age would they be ready? 2? 2 and a half? 3? A photo of Madeleine wearing make-up is their Holy Grail of evidence. Is the idea that Madeleine was naked and several adults had sexual intercourse with her several times?

      But why stop there? Weren’t the Tapas 7 also trafficking their children? So was the Ocean Club like a huge sex orgy with children? So are all the Tapas 7 also pedophiles? Were the Ocean Club staff also in on it? Wow, so *everyone* are pedophiles!

      It’s odd that in the 48 questions posed to Kate McCann, pedophiles or anything similar doesn’t come up once. Surely in the first chance the cops had to question the McCanns, they’d use this opportunity, especially since Robert Murat had been a prime suspect by then.

      Oh right, the police are also in on the conspiracy, they’re also pedophiles.

      Similar theories bedevil the JonBenet Ramsey case, and I think say more about the purveyors of these theories, than about the case itself. It makes me wonder, for how long did these trial followers ever actually contemplate the case in silence. Reacting to tweets with one’s reptilian brain isn’t thinking. It’s not analysis.

      In the Chris Watts case, a few hysterical trial watchers are now breathlessly suggesting that “maybe Chris Watts molested his little girls too!”

      In terms of the McCanns, the pedophile theory group – also – cannot abide anyone who has the temerity to suggest that their conspiracy is anything besides that, and they will quote as sources other conspiracy theorists etc. One reason the McCann case is such a confused and chaotic mess, is because there are so many people screaming and recycling the same garbage information.

      So in the interests of trying to maintain a clear signal, and clearing the smoke from the room, I don’t have any qualms about banning Joana from commenting on this site.

      My work in true crime – in every case, always – is to try to send out as clear and as uncluttered a signal as I can. The suspects in any criminal case do so much to obscure, to create smoke and mirrors, to confuse, so I see it as my mission to blow away the smoke. Conspiracies do the opposite. They blow all the smoke back into the room.

      The clearest way to test the veracity of a conspiracy is to ask for a succinct theory. No ifs, no buts, what’s the theory that ties all the pieces together. Do you actually have one? Usually a conspiracy works because it has a kernel of truth, but does it align with the whole, and does it make sense in the real world?

      A conspiracy may be valid if it sheds light and helps to narrow down the reality of a case. In other words, if it provides an explanation, a solution, at the end of the day. It’s inevitably invalid if it does the opposite – if it throws open infinite possibilities. Just as the McCann’s abductor narrative makes for a potentially limitless number of sightings and suspects, the pedophile theory does the same. It doesn’t bring the case to any kind of denouement, it simply throws around question marks everywhere. That’s not helpful.

      Decent true crime funnels the information down to a cogent solution. It finds answers.

      But to the conspiracy nuts, finding answers apparently means there must be an agenda involved. Perhaps I work for the McCanns? Jeepers, I’ve written about a dozen or so high-profile cases, and I bring the same true crime tools to each case. Why would I have an agenda with this case?


  1. Wow. I just came here because I had an email warning that an article had been linked from my blog, I have no idea who you are nor whatever has happened to you in fb groups, I don’t belong to any and like you I find the people on twitter and on fb spreading more lies, conspiracies than anything else. I actually thought it was a good article, had just waken up and pointed out 3 basic errors that jumped at me: the McCanns did not comission the FSS report, the cops didn’t close the case it was archived by the Public Ministry, and the release of the process was by DVD. Later in a second comnent I pointed out that the Daily Mail article was full of fabrications, no criticism of you at all, explained why it was wrong, and so you could add more up to date information to your article I went to look for an article by one of the first Portuguese journalists that wrote about this case who spoke to Amaral about the allegations that he was suing the McCanns, which he refutes. Funny that you’re here trying to debunk lies, spin, misinformation, but yet you rant and ban someone correcting and trying to help you. I won’t be commenting here again, good luck.


    • Ah, see I missed the part where you were trying to be helpful. The wow and the good luck in this comment really convey the true spirit, once again, behind the nitpicking. It’s disrespectful.

      “I have no idea who you are…”

      Really? You have no idea I’ve written three books on the case?

      Your first comment – which I deleted starts: “A few errors here…I’ll read the rest later when I have time” and then goes on to list them. Then you left more comments listing more corrections. Now you’re here again, listing errors.

      The news article cited says the cops closed the case. Whether it was closed or archived, is the case actually active? Was it investigated further? If it wasn’t, if the investigation into the McCanns has been suspended indefinitely, isn’t the case closed? Should we spend a few minutes arguing about semantics, or should we try to accept the obvious – and the obvious point was once the investigation was closed, Portuguese law kicked in allowing for the release of documents. How could those documents be released if the case was still sort of open but not quite. Use your common sense!

      You seem to be missing how convenient the FSS report was to the McCanns – it basically blew up the Portuguese side of the case. Then once the damage was done, shortly after the lab folded. I referenced other dodgy dealings by the same lab. Are you really so naive to think that was just bad luck, and that the FSS was just randomly assigned – a British lab to test evidence in a Portuguese investigation? According to you, this is an error. How do you know?

      Like I said in my response, Amaral refuting the claims isn’t available online in English, and if it was published, it was published after the blog was published. The way it reads, where you list one error after another, it suggests another error.

      Did you find anything of merit, or just errors?

      Do you have any comment about the global shift in the McCann case as a whole, or is your comment restricted to reptilian error checking?

      Overall, do you think this clarifies anything about the McCanns, or just clarifies how you feel about my work? This is what I resent – is the time wasting nitpicking that doesn’t do anything to move the narrative forward.


  2. Extremely well thought out, planned and executed article.
    I would however ask you, in the earlier part, to correct the word ”hotel’ it never was a hotel it was an apartment, left unlocked with public access. (gives the reader the wrong impression)
    The conclusion at the end could be more rounded, in that the final legal battle taken to the ECHR is against the Portuguese Legal system and not GA. Equally any monies now (although believed paid) are for legal and court costs INCURRED by the McCanns.


  3. Thanks. Quite funny that – correct Ocean Club from hotel to whatever you’d prefer to call it.

    Amaral represented the Portuguese case, largely, and certainly the best parts of the Portguese case. And the McCanns sued Amaral. It was a lawsuit claiming he’d libeled them. So to claim the case isn’t about Amaral is also quite funny, and misleading.


  4. I think Joana and others are offering some valid criticism here. I came here from twitter because on there you mentioned something like you thought this article would have got more interest.
    There do seem to be some errors in your research but what strikes me most is that the article is just way too long and that is going to put people off. Who is your audience? If it’s people who know about the case then they don’t really need an ‘origin story’ of Madeleine.
    I think it would be better overall to be more concise and probably split such articles up into smaller ones, I offer this as well meant criticism as I write myself.
    On the subject of child abuse theories, I haven’t come across the view that Madeleine was ‘trafficked’ by her parents. Most abuse takes part in families and by people known to the family. Children are often abused when young and drugged, images and videos made and sold to other abusers. In my opinion the ‘child trafficking’ is a media myth in this case. Poor children from Africa and the middle east are routinely trafficked into Europe but hardly ever the other way round. These places already have a huge supply of kids to abuse.


    • Hi Emily. Thanks for the feedback. This blog is a promotional tool for books. Not sure if you’re aware of that. So there is the assumption that people who are capable of reading books are capable of reading blogs, even long ones. I’m going to assume you’ve not read any of my work, hope you don’t mind.

      As a former fulltime magazine journalist, believe me, I’m painfully aware of short attention spans, and the ideal length of online articles. This is MEANT to be a meaty analysis in order to go beyond the fragmented coverage over the past few days and weeks. It’s also meant to set something else up, which so far has passed over everyone’s heads. Because we’re so busy nitpicking between tree roots there’s no chance of seeing the woods.

      What seems to happen a lot in true crime is this overly anal focus on accuracy. So the errors highlighted here are, for example, DVDs instead of CDs etc. Okay, let’s spend a few minutes discussing why that’s important. We can say a CD records images and and perhaps sound, whereas DVDs have more space to record moving images.

      What I can tell you out of my personal experience as an accredited journalist and accredited photographer, and someone who often handed over documents and files to clients, was that virtually 100% of the time I used CD’s to convey this information. So I can see why the police would do the same.

      Did they?

      Not only based on research, but based on instinct and experience, I can tell you that CDs are used to store digital files, especially PDF type documents. That’s what I do, and it make sense. DVD’s tend to store moving images, video and very large files. They’re also more expensive.

      But did the Portguese police use CDs? Or did they use DVDs?

      A cursory search – which takes approximately 20 seconds – shows the following:

      Compact discs containing 17 files running to 11,223 pages were released by court officials in the town of Portimão, near to where the child vanished, after a period of segredo de justiça, or secrecy of justice, was lifted following the decision to close the case.

      That’s from the Guardian website. As far as I know compact discs are CDs. Is that a typo by the Guardian?


      This is from the BBC:

      The documents, released to journalists on Monday as a CD-Rom, contain 11,223 pages of witness statements, photographs, e-mails and expert testimony.On their own, the myriad potential sightings of Madeleine – from Spain to Serbia, Mexico to Indonesia – take up a 14-volume annexe, stretching to 2,550 pages


      And so on. We can continue debating whether CDs or DVDs were used, whether it’s a translation error, or whether CD ROMS are actually DVDS.

      Or we can move along and focus on the gist of what’s being discussed.

      As someone who writes true crime all day every day, the part that I resent is the focus on criticism, when the criticism is not only irrelevant, it’s wrong. All that is achieved by it is confusion, contaminating the original message and diluting the effort to simply make a statement. When this is happening by those interested in this case and apparently informed, how the hell are the public meant to get any clue about what’s going on?

      Obviously, if a member of the public happens to stray onto this site, and the first responses are criticisms about accuracy, that’s clearly a criticism on me, and my approach as a true crime researcher to accuracy. I’m not sure if folks like you or Joana are completely, blissfully unaware of that.

      I’ll allow this comment to stand on its own to demonstrate my own personal standards to research and data collection, compared to the other so-called experts out there who haven’t written or researched a book in their lives, let alone 3 on this case.


  5. “So there is the assumption that people who are capable of reading books are capable of reading blogs, even long ones.” ….. “I’m not sure if folks like you or Joana are completely, blissfully unaware of that.”

    Your attitude seems a tad dismissive to say the least and shows condescension to your readers. I’ve written books and I am aware of the need to edit and the importance of clarity and conciseness, it is not about people being unable to read properly, it’s about your writing lacking focus. Even in your answer to me you go off on tangents about other things that I didn’t raise. You also seen any criticisms of accuracy in research as personal even though you said in another reply you took a whole day to research and write this piece. That is a very short time to thoroughly research, write and edit something this long. If that’s what you want to do good look to you but you can’t really complain about the reviews you get on amazon and elsewhere.


      • No, I appreciate criticism – as long as it’s valid. An example of a valid criticism is a correction or an inaccuracy I’m unaware of.

        I’m not sure what’s wrong with the reviews you say I’m getting on Amazon. The overwhelming majority are positive, and I wouldn’t be able to work full-time in true crime if the books were as bad as you’re assuming them to be.

        Amazon.co.uk is a much smaller market for me than the US, and the reviews fewer and yes, often poorer. You may or may not care that the trolls have been fairly effective on Amazon.co.uk for this reason. Two trolls, C.T. Brown and Zarla have left dozens of 1 star reviews, and it does create the impression of an extremely poor work ethic. You’d think I’d have learned my lesson by now and actually sorted out those typos, lack of research etc wouldn’t you? But is the writing really so poor, or are these reviewers [Brown and Zarla] dishonest and waging their own little PR campaign?

        In your comment you seem to be saying that I’m taking things personally when no insult is intended, but the overall point of the comment is to convey your negative impression. The fact is, because I do this full-time and work so hard to be as accurate and authoritative as possible, when I’m at the receiving end of cheap criticism [factually incorrect] then it is personal. And I do wonder why I took a day out of my other work to spend on this.

        Writing lacking focus… Shucks, I’ve used each comment to address the fact that I’m trying to send out a clear signal, but it’s being muddied and muddled by pointless debates about CDs vs DVDs and closed vs archived – are you sure it’s me who lacks focus?

        I think you can see based on the comments I’ve written, and the blog itself, that there are arguably no errors. You can say there are, and you have, but I’m satisfied that there aren’t. So the question becomes, whose standards of work and accuracy are higher, yours or mine? It’s a serious question.

        If you’re going to highlight errors and you can’t prove they are, and I disprove your criticism, then what does that say about you? If you say the writing isn’t worth reading because it’s long and dull, well you have every right to say that. Can’t please everyone, and I don’t claim to be everyone’s cup of tea.

        I notice you don’t even respond to my correcting of your [plural] correcting of my error. Just don’t care about it, and don’t care enough to apologise either.

        You say one day to write and research isn’t long. After writing three books, I have a lot of the “research” already in my head, and stored and available on my computer. So it took a day not to find the information, but to organise and present it. Certain specific images, I think, probably took the bulk of time to source. I also crowdsourced a particular article when it took longer than an hour to trace online.

        I won’t go into my work process and how many words I write per day, or how many books per year, because you probably wouldn’t believe me if I told you. And I see I’m being criticized in some quarters for that too, for writing too much or too quickly. That’s by those not reading the books of course.

        Just in terms of going off on tangents. You accused me of lacking accuracy, and so I addressed a particular reference to it. Did you miss that? In other comments I addressed the 2nd criticism, that the investigation wasn’t closed but archived, and I argued it basically means the same thing. Elsewhere I also addressed the third criticism, that the McCanns had nothing to do with sending DNA evidence to FSS. That incidentally is a valid criticism, but my response is – they got away with whatever they got away with, largely thanks to FSS. So I wonder whether they didn’t make sure it went to a dodgy lab. The same thing happened with the Ramsey case – in terms of Bode Labs. It took years to undo the DNA mess in that instance, but it was eventually undone.


        In the Amanda Knox case there was also a dodgy lab used by the defense. [When writing for American readers I gravitate to US spelling, sorry]. Oops, I seem to have gone off on a tangent to actually reinforce my argument.


  6. Hi
    To be fair I thought your article was pretty good reading, I don’t know why but this case has recently taken my attention, and I have read a few articles on the case, however from memory when the mccanns got back to England I seem to remember seeing Gerry and Kate attend a church service with Kate holding a freshly cleaned comfort toy that Madeleine had used at the time she dissapeared, am I right in this memory? having known somebody who lost there child there is no way they would have done this as it retains there smell,


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