A MAN WITH A CHILD IN HIS ARMS
May 3rd, after 9.27pm, Dolphin restaurant, Vila da Luz
The Smiths, from Ireland, are spending their holiday in Praia da Luz. After having dinner at the restaurant, they go to Kelly’s bar, 50 metres away. They leave there at around 9.55pm to go back to their apartment in Estrela da Luz, west of the Ocean Club, 300 metres further on. They don’t stay late because the next morning one of them has to go back to Ireland. It’s a big family, of four adults and five children: the father, aged 58, retired, and his wife; their 12 year-old daughter; their two grand-children aged 10 and 4 (their mother stayed in Ireland); their son accompanied by his wife – who is pregnant – and their two children aged 13 and 6.
They go in a northerly direction, the group spreading out; the children are never far away from the adults. There’s nobody about. They climb a few steps to reach 25 de Abril street, cross it and turn left into 1 de Maio street, that runs along the west side of the Ocean Club. They haven’t gone 30 metres when they come across a man walking up the middle of the road. He is carrying a child in his arms, head resting on his left shoulder. The Smiths don’t see the face of the little girl, whose arms hang by her sides. She is dressed in pale-coloured, maybe pink, pyjamas; her feet are bare, she is white and she has blonde hair that covers her neck. The individual’s appearance gives the impression that he is not a tourist. He is wearing cream-coloured or beige trousers, classic in style, perhaps linen or cotton. He is a white man, aged around 30 to 35, with no other distinguishing features: he is between 1.70m and 1.80m tall, is visibly in good physical condition; his brown hair is cut short, his face is tanned.
At this time, images of Robert Murat – considered to be the main suspect – begin to be circulated all over the world. After they return to Ireland, the Smiths continue to follow the case. They learn that, according to Jane Tanner’s statements, Murat is definitely the man encountered on the night of the abduction. Mr Smith then gets in touch with the Irish police to relate what he saw on the night of May 3rd. He insists, categorically, that the man they came across with the little girl in his arms was not Robert Murat. He is sure of it because he knows him. With hindsight, he is utterly convinced that the little girl was definitely Madeleine. We secretly organise for the Smiths to come to Portugal. On May 26th, in the offices of the Department of Criminal Investigation in Portimão, we interview the father and his son. What they say seems credible. However, because of the dim street lighting, they say they would have a hard time formally recognising the man who was carrying the child. On the other hand, they describe very clearly how the man was holding the little girl and how he was walking. That scene is indelibly printed in their memory. After their interview, they went back to the scene, accompanied by investigators. They indicate the precise place where they came across the man.
Their coming to Portugal as well as their statements are kept secret. Within a few days, they go back to Ireland, but contact is maintained: they undertake to let us have any further details they remember. We finally have credible witness statements about that stranger who, on the night of May 3rd, was walking in the streets of Vila da Luz with a child in his arms.
MAJORCA, SEPTEMBER 2005
Madeleine McCann is two and a half years old and the twins just a few months when they go on holiday to Majorca with their parents. Three couples and their children go with them: David and Fiona Payne with their one-year-old daughter (Fiona is pregnant with their second child); S. and T., with their two children aged 1 and 3; finally S.G. and K.G., who have a one and a half year old daughter, E. (K.G., is also expecting a child). The trip was organised by David Payne. The latter rented a villa big enough to accommodate all of them.
S.G. got to know Madeleine’s mother at university in Dundee, between 1987 and 1992. K.G. met Gerry McCann for the first time at his wedding to Kate in 1998. They become good friends, see each other regularly, spend weekends together and phone each other often.
After dinner on the third or fourth evening in Majorca, the friends are all settled on the patio. They are having a drink and chatting when K.G. witnesses a scene which flabbergasts her and makes her fear for the safety of her daughter and the other children. She is sitting between Gerry McCann and David Payne when she hears the latter ask if she – probably Madeleine – did “that”: he then puts a finger in his mouth and begins sucking it while putting it in and out – the sexual connotation is obvious – while with the other hand, he traces small small circles around his nipple in an explicitly provocative way. While K.G., stupefied, regards Gerry and David, an uneasy silences settles around the table. Then they all start chatting again as if nothing happened. K.G. starts to distrust the way David Payne relates to the little ones. On another occasion, she sees David Payne making the same gestures while speaking about his own daughter. At this time, it’s the fathers who give the children their baths, but K.G. no longer lets Payne near her daughter. After the holiday, K.G. will only meet the Paynes on one occasion, and she will not speak to them. Over the next two years, relations between K.G., S.G. and the McCanns becomes distanced; they will only see each other now at children’s birthday parties.
This witness statement from the couple, S.G. and K.G., is taken by the English police on May 16th, thirteen days after Madeleine’s disappearance. That information, very important for the progress of the investigation, was never sent to the Portuguese police. When the Portuguese investigators learn about similar events that allegedly took place during a holiday in Greece – without, however, obtaining reliable witness statements -, they tell the English police, who, even at this point, refrain from revealing what they know on the subject.
It will only be after my removal from the investigation, in October 2007, that this statement will finally be sent to the Portuguese police. Why did the British keep it secret for more than six months? It is all the more surprising that David Payne, who had planned the trip to Majorca – of whom it was known that his behaviour towards the children was, to say the least, questionable -, is the same person who organised the holiday in Portugal, that he is one of those closest to Madeleine and that he is the first friend of the family to have been seen with Kate McCann just after the disappearance (we will talk further about this). He was still present in Vila da Luz when the English police received that witness statement: why wasn’t he interviewed immediately? Without doubt, the Portuguese police could have made progress with the investigation thanks to that lead: such behaviour would merit close attention. Were we looking in the right direction? Might we have established a link with the events of May 3rd? It is difficult to seriously doubt these witnesses.