By Paulo Reis and associates (*)
The CD issued by Ministerio Publico de Portimao in July 2008, contains a great deal of information on the mobile calls made and received by the “Tapas 9” but it is dispersed, difficult to retrieve and with important pages and charts missing. The main documents of interest from the CD are:
- A 3 page report by the Policia Judiaria (undated, but probably 4th May 2007) listing call records retrieved from the handsets of Mr and Mrs McCann
- A detailed (and excellent report) by Inspector Paulo Dias, Inspector of UNI-Sector de Análise, Lisbon, dated 9th November 2007
- Schedules provided by Vodafone on 14th December 2007 covering a period from 29th April 2007 for Gerald McCann, David Payne, Rachael Mampilly, broken into four separate sections for incoming and outgoing telephone calls, incoming and outgoing SMS traffic
- A second report by Inspector Dias dated 5th February 2008, containing time bars, link charts and maps pinpointing where the “Tapas 9’s” sets were when they activated antennae
- A third report by Inspector Dias dated 2nd June 2008 which includes details of activations of the Luz and other mobile antenna from 28th April 2007 to September 2007
- The Rogatory Letter requests and correspondence dated from 5th December 2007 to May 2007 and responses from the Home Office in April and May 2008
The PJ used a program, called the “Analyst’s Notebook” as well as “Excel” to handle what were very large datasets. Inspector Dias pointed out that “Excel” was far from ideal, because of its limited capacity and it seems that much of the data provided was paper based and had to be rekeyed. Also the main focus of the research was limited to the evening of Thursday 3rd May 2007. But, despite the problems, the PJ’s work is impressive, innovative and very detailed. For example, there is a brilliant analysis (which unfortunately led nowhere) based on the hypothesis of two abductors each working with mobiles in the Ocean Club area immediately before Madeleine was reported missing. There is another excellent piece of work which tracks down a misrouted call, from Swansea, to Kate McCann at 11.21 on Wednesday 2nd May 2007.
However, there are potentially serious omissions:
- The most important records were not available when Mr and Mrs McCann attended their “Arguido interviews” on 6th and 7th September 2007 and it is doubtful that they were ever reviewed by the very experienced analysts from the Leicestershire Police, whose team left the Algarve soon after the McCann’s return to the UK in September 2007
- There are no detailed call records from the mobile operators for Kate McCann, Russell O’Brien, Matthew Oldfield and Jane Tanner
- When the PJ obtained the McCann’s mobiles they do not appear to have retrieved deleted data or to extract their contact lists
- None of the telecom records show triangulation co-ordinates but are limited to identifying the single primary antenna on which calls were registered
- The details of over 50 UK subscribers contacted by the Tapas 9 in the critical period, as well as their onward local and international call records, was included in the Rogatory Letter request in December 2007. If this information was provided, it is not in the CD
- A critical link chart (Anexo 37) for Tuesday 1st May 2007 is missing from Inspector Dias’s report
These omissions make interpretation of the data difficult but what is available provides an interesting picture. First, it is obvious that the memories in the McCann’s mobiles were incomplete and, in Kate McCann’s case, selectively deleted.
Her mobile memory held details of 39 calls from 18.28 on Wednesday 25th April to 16.35 on 27th April 2007. After her arrival in Portugal on 28th April 2007, with the exception of one incoming call on Wednesday 2nd May 2007 at 11.21 (which, very interestingly, was the Swansea “wrong number”), and one call from her husband at 23.17 on Thursday 3rd May 2007, everything else has been “whoosh-clunked” from memory. These deletions could have been accidental, but a high degree of cunning could be implied. Why would she selectively delete everything up to Thursday 3rd May 2007 with the exception of one wrong number and what was her reason for deleting three of the four calls, between 23.14 and 23.17, from her husband on that critical night?. A possible answer is that she wished to avoid alerting the PJ to evidence that details of around 40 calls had been erased and she felt happier leaving something uncontroversial (or misleading) in memory for them to find. Another answer is that, unsurprisingly, she was under the most extreme stress imaginable following the disappearance of her daughter: but why, in that case, give priority to deleting anything. It is the last thing most parents would think about in the circumstances.
The first call found in Gerald’s mobile memory was timed at 00.30 on Friday 4th May 2007. Again matching antenna records to memory suggests that by the time he gave the handset to the PJ the records of 24 calls or SMSs had been erased, including the one from him found on his wife’s handset and timed at 23.17 on Thursday 3rd May 2007. It appears that he had deleted details of the four calls he made to her that night and she deleted just three. It was this simple discrepancy that first led the PJ to suspect interference with the handsets.
If the deletions were deliberate (and it is an “if”) it implies the McCann’s were both “forensically aware” and crafty and wanted to hide something from the PJ. For this reason, it is important to explore the call record data and to match it against other evidence.
On Saturday 28th April 2007, after their arrival in Luz, Kate McCann’s mobile triggered the antenna 9 times. It is not possible to say, from the available records, whether these were incoming or outgoing calls or SMSs or for how long they lasted. The last activations were at 20.55 and 20.59 when (based on their statements) the Tapas 9 returned for an early night after eating at the Millennium Restaurant with their children. All of these records were erased from the memory of Kate McCann’s mobile. Gerald McCann’s mobile did not activate any of the Luz antennae that day.
On Sunday 29th April 2007, the first activation of Kate McCann’s mobile was at 9.23, but again there are no Vodafone logs or time bars to provide further detail. However, by internally matching the antenna records it appears that she called her husband at 12.26 and 17.02.
The crèche records indicate that he collected Madeleine at 12.15. He also picked up the twins around 17.00 but mistakenly recorded the time as “12.30”. Chances are that the calls from Kate McCann were to check that he had picked up the kids. At 10.13 Gerald McCann received a call from a UK mobile xxxxx3899. The last activation by Kate McCann’s mobile was at 19.30 and Gerald’s at 17.02.
A pattern on this sheet (and it applies to all of the Tapas 9) is that no activations took place at any time during the week while they were at dinner. So maybe Clarence Mitchell was right, after all, and that they were so “into each other” that they didn’t want to be disturbed while sardine munching and left their mobiles in their rooms. They were never specifically asked this question, but it is very important and the point will be addressed later.
On Monday 30th April 2007, neither of the McCann’s telephones activated the Luz transmitters. This looks very odd, especially as they were around the Ocean Club to shuffle the kids to and from the crèches. On this afternoon, Madeleine remained in the crèche for only 15 minutes and was picked up by her mother at 15.30. We do not know what Madeleine did for the rest of the day, but it is possible she was being fractious. Interestingly, a friend of Mrs and Mr McCann supposedly told the “Dispatches” team that made a TV program on the tragedy, that “Madeleine was a screamer”. This could be interpreted in one of two ways, but any use of the past tense in referring to Madeleine would be very significant. It was such a past tense referral, to her supposedly living children, that alerted the FBI to their murder by Susan Smith, their mother.
On Tuesday 1st May 2007, Gerald McCann’s handset was silent all day. Kate McCann’s mobile first activated the Luz antenna at 10.16, but all details of the day’s calls have been deleted from the handset and there is no nothing in the CD from her mobile provider. Another activation took place at 12.17. The crèche records show that Gerald McCann picked up Madeleine at 12.20 (a bit earlier than usual) but Kate McCann’s call at 12.17 does not appear to have been to him, (because his mobile was not activated at all that day). Kate McCann dealt with her last call before leaving for the Tapas Bar at 20.35.
At around 8.45pm on Tuesday 1st May 2007, Miss Nejoua Chekeya, the Ocean Club’s busty Aerobics Instructor, held a “Quiz Night” and was later invited, allegedly by Gerald McCann, to join his table which she did sometime between 9.30pm and 9.50pm. She did not say how long she had remained with them, but she is not the sort of woman men would wish see to leave too quickly. Miss Chekeya stated that one dinner setting was unused and that she could not remember seeing Kate McCann.
However, both Jane Tanner and Russell O’Brien have stated that he did not go to the Tapas Bar on the “Quiz Night” (ie Tuesday 1st May 2007), but had stayed in their room looking after his sick daughter. Jane Tanner took his dinner to the room; thus explaining the unused plate setting. Russell O’Brien was not asked by either the Policia Judiciaria or Leicestershire Police whether he had heard Madeleine crying!
Kate McCann’s mobile was next activated six times, in rapid fire, between 22.16 and 22.27, after she had returned to Apartment 5A after dinner. The antenna traffic proves that these calls were not made to any of the “Tapas 9”.
The evidence from the call logs gives the strongest clue that the “Tapas 9” left their telephones in their rooms when they went to dinner. Clarence Mitchell, the McCann’s spokesperson, confirmed this. In an interview, reported on 6th April 2008 by Ned Temko of “The Guardian”, Mr Mitchell said: “You had nine people in a bar without watches on, without mobile phones and absolute panic set in when they realised what had happened…. We would say that, if the police had a perfect time line across nine people, that would be a damn sight more suspicious than the fractured, illogical, composite statements they might have got”
Mrs Fenn, the McCann’s neighbour, reported that Madeleine had cried for her father between 22.30 and 23.45. The evidence shows that Kate McCann was in Apartment 5A 14 minutes before Madeleine started crying. Tuesday 1st May 2007 is the only night (except, of course, for Thursday 3rd May 2007) that either of the McCanns or any of their friends made calls after dinner.
Mrs McCann volunteered to the PJ that on the night of Wednesday 2nd May 2007, she had slept in the spare bed in her children’s room because her husband had not paid her enough attention over dinner. Or put another way, does she mean the amorous Scot was paying someone else (like Miss Chekeya) too much attention, causing her to stomp out of the Tapas Bar before him: ultimately leading to the spare bed in a strop? Gerald McCann said he thought the reason his wife had slept in the children’s bedroom was because of his snoring and that he did not even bother asking her the following morning what the problem was.
Could it be that their timings are wrong by 24 hours and that Kate McCann’s nocturnal shenanigans took place on the night of Tuesday 1st May 2007? It would fit, but why be untruthful about it? A possible reason is that they wanted to conceal both Kate McCann’s state of mind and the fact that she had returned to Apartment 5A, just before Madeleine’s cried for help.
On Wednesday 2nd May 2007, Kate McCann called her friend “Amanda” at 7.36.41 and again at 7.36.45. This was around two hours earlier than any of mobile activations on any other morning: so Kate McCann was “up with the larks”. Amanda returned the calls at 7.50. There is no record of how long any of these calls lasted or whether they were SMSs. They were all deleted from memory.
At 8.07 Gerald McCann received a call from the SMS message centre (447818520047), but does not appear to have responded. At 8.50 Kate McCann received a call from a UK mobile xxxxx27010 and returned it at 8.53, before going to play tennis. Gerald McCann received a series of calls from his SMS message centre between 9.10 and 10.47, again without response.
At 11.21 Kate received a call from what appears to be a landline in Swansea ( xxxxx0023). The report by Inspector Dias researched this call in detail (Page 21 in his report of 9th November 2007) and discovered that it had not activated any of the Luz antennae. But digging deeper, he found that another UK mobile (xxxxx 1583) had triggered the Luz antenna when connecting to the same Swansea number at 14.01. He dug even deeper, tracked all of the calls made from Luz by xxxx1583 and established it had no connection whatsoever with any of the “Tapas 9”. The Swansea call to Kate McCann was simply a “wrong number”, misrouted and thus not logged by the Luz antennae.
What Inspector Dias did not realise was that the Swansea call had become so special to Kate McCann that, when deleting all of the other Portuguese call records from memory, she decided to leave this one intact.
Gerald received five further calls from the SMS message centre and at 15.50 called 91121, probably to collect his messages. He received further calls from the centre at 17.49 and 19.49. The records provided by Vodafone show these calls but that they originate from a different mobile number (0xxxx014310)
At 20.08 Kate McCann received two calls from a UK mobile xxxx7624 and six minutes late Gerald McCann called 91121: again to collect messages before he left for the Tapas Bar. This was the last activation of the day by either of the McCanns; probably confirming that their mobiles remained in Apartment 5A when they went to dinner.
On Thursday 3rd May 2007 (the critical day) at 8.23 and 8.24 Kate McCann’s mobile activated the antenna to call xxxx7624. There is nothing in file to indicate the owner of this mobile but it does not appear to be any of the McCann family or friends.
At 12.24 Gerald McCann received a call from a UK Mobile xxxx1746. Again there is no clue in the file to the subscriber’s name. At 12.31 Kate McCann received a call (or SMS) from her mother’s mobile and responded an hour later.
Neither of the McCanns appears to have had any further activity on their telephones until after Madeleine was reported missing when Gerald McCann called his wife four times between 23.14 and 23.52. At 23.40 he called his sister – Trish Cameron and at 23.52 -Janet Kennedy.
The batch of SMS messages received by Gerald McCann on Wednesday 2nd May 2007 seems to have caused him some anxiety. Although the number “07818520047” is in a block allocated to Vodafone, the company has no record of the subscriber’s name. When the number is dialed, connection is made to a recorded message which explains that changes have been made to the way customers can access their mailboxes and that they can now dial “121” from their handset or “07836121121” from any other telephone.
Thus the number appears to be a message box for Gerald McCann that sends him an SMS when his mobile is unable to accept a call (because it is out of range or turned off). However, when he was asked by “Expresso TV” on 6th September 2008 about the “sixteen SMS messages” received, he flustered:
“No one has ever asked to see any of my text messages. There is no way that there 16 messages on that day or even the day after, you know. You know, the day after, you know that we got…” Kate McCann came to his rescue and interrupted; “Gerry hardly ever sends text messages until the day after, the day after Madeleine was taken”. Gerald McCann continued: “so you know that it is actually rubbish”
Their McCann’s denials were, of course, technically true although perhaps disingenuous – because there were only 14 messages received on the day before they reported Madeleine missing and two on the day after.
There were 16 SMS messages, in total, so why prevaricate and deny an allegation that was never made. The question was about received messages, not those sent, and on the day before not on 3rd May 2007 or the day after! In the field of forensic linguistics you must always concentrate on the precise wording of denials and especially on those of allegations not made. The denials made by the McCanns are suspicious. However, Mrs McCann’s statement about her husband not sending SMS messages, until after Madeleine’s disappearance, is confirmed by Vodafone’s records.
Mr and Mrs McCann were never closely questioned by the PJ about the detail of their calls, but Gerald McCann excused the deletions by saying that his telephone’s memory only retained details of the last ten calls made. This obvious inaccuracy (It already had retained details of 17 calls) does not appear to have been challenged by the PJ and it does not in anyway explain the selective deletions from his wife’s handset.
So the bottom line is that Kate McCann was in Apartment 5A when Madeleine cried for her father between 22.30 and 23.45 on Tuesday 1st May 2007, leading to a unique flurry of late night calls and to unique calls very early the following morning. A forensic examination of the records of Madeleine’s attendance at the “Lobsters” crèche on Wednesday 2nd and Thursday 3rd May 2007 is critically important because if they have been falsified, to establish she was there when she was not, this case takes on an entirely new dimension and sets different search parameters.
Secondly, if the memories of the mobile telephones were deleted in way suspected, a level of cunning is implied that would be capable of conceiving plan to deliberately delay reporting Madeleine’s “disappearance”; if for no other reason than to disassociate it from the crying incident on Tuesday 1st May 2007.
Of course, this is speculation and it is entirely possible that further investigation and the much awaited transparency by Mr and Mrs McCann will totally exonerate them. But why don’t they simply produce the SMS messages and explain why call details were deleted?
(*) This report is a result of cooperation with a leading international investigative firm that is in the closing stages of an 18 month intensive investigation that is expected to reopen the case in Portugal and to start new proceedings in the UK.