No motive for Maddie McCann's parents to murder her, detective rubbishes cover-up claim
Motive, opportunity, preparation and execution. These are the four elements detective Dave Edgar looks at in any missing person case when weighing up suspects.
He insists there is zero evidence linking Kate and Gerry McCann to any of these areas. “There was no opportunity for the parents to do it,” he says. “And there was no motive. What motive could there be for parents to kill their child?”
Others not as close to the case as Dave have not been as certain of the McCanns’ innocence. From the moment Maddie disappeared, her parents hoped publicity would bring the truth. Instead, it brought them anguish and made them the subject of hatred and suspicion.
Early in the case, the McCanns were berated for not having been in Apartment 5A in Praia da Luz’s Ocean Village when Madeleine vanished.
This was despite friends saying the couple were the “most strict” of the so-called tapas seven about checking on their children every 15 or 20 minutes.
As recently as this year, members of the public called on the McCanns to be charged with neglect, with one petition gaining more than 130,000 signatures.
Also this year, someone posted a note online purporting to have been written by one of the couple’s twins, saying the McCanns left Madeleine’s body “to rot”.
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In 2014, a dossier stretching to 80 pages was handed to Scotland Yard, showing the extent of the trolling.
It contained a message saying the husband and wife should “burn in hell”, with another troll offering to supply the petrol, and another telling how they wanted to see them “smashed up the back of a bus or trampled by horses”.
Perhaps the hardest moment for the McCanns came on September 7, 2007, the day Portuguese police declared them ‘arguidos’, or official suspects.
The announcement came after sniffer dogs trained to detect dead bodies and blood alerted handlers to potential traces in Apartment 5A and in a car the McCanns hired three weeks after Madeleine disappeared.
The samples were sent to the UK Forensic Science Service in Birmingham, where expert John Lowe found that while there were components of Maddie’s DNA in two of them, they were not unique to the girl. The Portuguese police’s summary of the report omitted this fact.
As a result, the McCanns were interrogated for hours amid leaks to the Press that the investigation was “centred on the McCann family and their group”.
Soon, a narrative emerged. It claimed the McCanns sedated their children so they could party with their friends. When they returned to find Maddie dead, they hid her body while gripped with fear their twins would be taken from them if they confessed. They then hid their daughter’s body in the spare wheel compartment of their rented car, later burying it somewhere else.
Portuguese police were reported to be planning to search the Our Lady of the Light church in Praia da Luz, where the McCanns prayed regularly and to which they were given the keys. Detectives were said to be set on digging up an area where roadworks were under way when Madeleine disappeared.
It’s a theory Dave Edgar rejects — and he holds no stock in the work of the sniffer dogs. “There was no evidence to support the theory the McCanns were involved in the disappearance,” he says.
“I know the Portuguese police ... made a big play about the dogs, but I’ve been involved in cases in England and Northern Ireland where the dogs got it wrong. Plus, I’ve yet to meet a dog that will stand up in court and give evidence.”
Plenty of people agree with Dave. The theory that the McCanns concealed Madeleine’s body begins to unravel when certain questions are asked. For instance, how could two people under scrutiny have hidden their daughter’s body without being seen? If, as some claim, they had concealed a corpse in their car, wouldn’t the smell have been obvious?
Were the McCanns capable of carrying out their plan alone, or persuasive enough to silence others who may have suspected them? And how could two people unfamiliar with the landscape have found a hiding place that would months later remain undiscovered? Is anybody really so calculating to maintain a front of grief and sustain a global lie for more than 10 years?
As someone who has handled cases involving parents murdering children, Dave is well-placed to answer such questions.
“Many of those type of cases involve high emotion, but there is none of that evident with Madeleine,” he says.
Eventually, in mid-2008, the McCanns’ ‘arguido’ status was lifted, but every day the abuse continues despite there being no evidence that Madeleine’s parents were in any way responsible for her disappearance and despite the fact that neither British nor Portuguese police no longer consider them suspects.
“What you have is two parents simply very strong in their commitment to get Madeleine back,” Dave says. “It’s been 10 years, but they’re still really resolute about getting Madeleine back.”
Belfast Telegraph Digital