I can see this, the world can see this; but somehow this observation is seemingly lost to David Cameron, Theresa May, Bernard Hogan-Howe, and not least, Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood.
I say seemingly because it seems that way. It seems that DCI Redwood and his however many team of detectives, have trouble seeing things, not just the way we see things, but the way things actually are; the parents did it, plain and simple.
So I too shall keep it simple, other than leaving extremely germane links at the bottom of the page, I shall hand you over to the ever detailed analysis of Dr Martin Roberts, in what I might describe as, exclusive to this blog.
In the annals of spectacularly successful reviews, there are to be numbered, the Great Durbar of 1911, the Grand Fleet at Spithead 1914 and….Operation Grange (ongoing).
Operation Grange, spectacular? (£8 million buys a lot of fireworks) Successful? Well that does rather depend upon one’s vantage point.
Once upon a time the McCanns, who showed little or no genuine interest in reviving the Portuguese police investigation into their daughter Madeleine’s disappearance, were simultaneously hinting, via the media and in the direction of the UK authorities, that what was needed was an ‘independent review’. Having passed up the opportunity to demonstrate their innocence while in Portugal, they obviously realised that to re-awaken the stalled investigation would simply move the train on to the original terminus, when they desperately needed a change of destination in order finally to exonerate themselves before the great British public. A mechanism was required to ‘demonstrate their innocence’, and said mechanism was most unlikely to be of Portuguese origin.
Enter Rebekah Brooks, former editor of The Sun, former editor of the News of the World, then CEO of News International, Rapunzel of Thomas More Square and visiting member of the Chipping Norton set, who shouted on the McCanns’ behalf, loudly and publicly into the ear of Prime Minister David Cameron, that a review of their case was overdue. No sooner the word than the deed. In May 2011 Scotland Yard, having been approached by the Home Secretary (and given a promise of immediate public funding), very quickly determined its feasibility and just as quickly announced their readiness to undertake the review as suggested.
So much for background. But what was this review intended to accomplish exactly?
In academia a literature review is usually undertaken within the context and constraints of a specific topic area and often conducted so as to marshal the evidence for or against some hypothesis or other. Whilst evaluating the arguments in favour of either (a) or (b), the ‘dark horse’ potential of (c), and its need to be accounted for, can sometimes emerge. Further research work should then clarify the situation, and allow another PhD to join the ranks.
Policing professionals would no doubt best understand their own situation when instructed to conduct a case review, but I should imagine their task to have more in common with an air crash investigation, insofar as they are required to formulate a coherent picture of events from widely dispersed evidence. Simplistically, air crashes also boil down to a choice, usually, between two conflicting hypotheses: mechanical failure vs. pilot error, the latter being a disturbingly common cause. Notably, however, the cause is not (nor can it be) considered until all the evidence is in. Unlike the ivory tower experience, where evidence is often gathered in connection with a theory postulated in advance, air crash investigators must keep an open mind.
And so to Operation Grange, the equivalent Metropolitan Police study of an air crash in Praia da Luz, Portugal. DCI Redwood, in charge of day to day proceedings, enthusiastically announced at the outset how his team was in the unique position of being able to draw together evidence from a variety of sources. Hence we witnessed them going about their duty with a very public display of confiscation, as the Barcelona arm wheeled boxes across the street and away from the offices of Metodo 3. Other sources will have included the Policia Judiciaria, responsible for the first official investigation on Portuguese soil, and, of course, Leicestershire Police, who had been invited to participate in that instance. Everyone, whatever their persuasion, had high hopes, not least the McCanns, who no doubt reasoned that without further (and dramatic) material evidence beyond what was already enshrined in the available data, the likelihood that a review of procedure would expose a glaringly unexplored avenue of inquiry would be remote in the extreme.
And there, at the very beginning, we see signs of irregularity in the process.
I don’t know if a case review conducted by any police force requires a proscriptive remit beyond the self-explanatory. Nevertheless, Operation Grange was given one, and by a committee whose membership has never properly been determined by those inquisitive enough to ask. It was to ‘examine the case and seek to determine, (as if the abduction occurred in the UK) what additional, new investigative approaches we would take and which can assist the Portuguese authorities in progressing the matter’.
So the nature of the beast had been decided before DCI Redwood had even loaded his DVD copy of the Portuguese files and, in consequence of what was to be an ‘investigative review’, the Portuguese were to be offered a little something new in exchange for Aladdin’s lamp. The altered designation of the activity ought not to have worried the McCanns either. Like the last song aboard Titanic, although the melody might differ here and there the chorus would remain the same.
Perhaps that’s reading too much into the situation. No reading was required however when the very Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police stated publicly, in relation to Operation Grange: "There will be a point at which we and the Government will want to make a decision about what the likely outcome is".
The ‘separation of powers’ is as fundamental to the British Constitution as the Fifth Amendment is to the Americans. Except in this case.
No police force should be expected to divulge their methods or detail the progress of an investigation to the general public. On those occasions when senior members have seen fit to ‘go public’, either during or after an inquiry, they are typically circumspect, confining themselves to statements almost inert in their significance. It would have been well for representatives of Operation Grange to have done likewise. Better yet, to have said nothing at all.
One might counter that a couple of years and a few million pounds later, DCI Redwood and his colleagues felt under some obligation to present a justification or two. That would be understandable. However, Grange was a very public show from the off. Hence we have all come to learn of the parade of suspects, the visits to Portugal, the excavations, etc. Lately the flow of information has been sparse and attributable largely to vain attempts on the part of the media to construct a story or two in the absence of one. Nevertheless there is a veritable raft of ‘back issues’ unquestionably owing to Scotland Yard, and these give rise to some rather serious questions.
Once the police have opted for public pronouncement, however guarded, then said public has every right to expect that they be accurately informed. The function of the police is not to mislead in the course of their duties (except perhaps in ‘selling a dummy’ or two to their prime suspect). Yet DCI Redwood, on behalf of Operation Grange, seems to have been of an altogether different persuasion.
The glaring discrepancy between one-time suspect Euclides Monteiro and the British team’s favoured e-fits is one quizzical instance of dubious information, the re-appearance of an anonymous holiday-maker from 2007, together with a seven-year-old pair of his child’s pyjamas another (small wonder that, after a pause for thought, the McCanns chose to ignore it). And that’s not all.
DCI Redwood (4.7.2013): “Well, as we have worked carefully over the last sort of two years, through that review process, we have now processed some 30,000 documents”.
DCI Redwood (three months later, 4.10.2103): “The total number of documents we have to go through is 39,148, of which we have processed 21,614 so far”.
In other words, the review was proceeding backwards!
Ten days later we had the Crimewatch ‘special’, a collaboration between Scotland Yard and the BBC which featured DCI Redwood in person. His ‘revelatory moment’ (in the shape of ‘Tannerman’, as he has come to be known), has already been Identified as dubious. However, one or two other observations (or lack thereof) within this very programme deserve the same epithet, specifically scenes of Madeleine McCann (it is supposed) being carried back-to-front, and in the wrong direction (according to the previous statements of witness Jane Tanner and the newly recognised, though never to be identified, child-carrying holiday-maker). There is also the conspicuous absence from the filmed reconstruction of any character representative of Dr David Payne (the ‘extra’ initially booked for that role must have been well pleased). Accuracy, it seems, was unimportant here.
That was barely a year ago; a year during which we have witnessed visits by Operation Grange personnel to Portugal strangely coincident with developments in the damages trial involving the McCanns and former PJ co-ordinator Goncalo Amaral. So co-incident, in fact, that despite there being no apparent legal connection between them, progress in the civil affair has become almost as accurate a predictor of Operation Grange activity overseas as the Antikythera mechanism.
Among this activity of course has been the spectacle of an airborne survey of the local terrain (DCI Redwood ‘eyeballing’ PdL from inside a helicopter) and concomitant excavations afterwards conducted in the glare of publicity. The precise objectives of this work went unstated, hence the media and others were left to speculate as to its true purpose. One thing was abundantly clear however, even to the lay observer. If the Grange team were looking for a body, they were clearly looking in areas where someone abducting a child from apartment 5A of the Ocean Club would not have deposited one. On the other hand, the innocent victim of an unplanned homicide (killed by a panicking burglar, for instance) would simply have been left behind at the scene of the crime.
What were they up to?
A reasonable assumption is that the zones earmarked for excavation had some possible relevance to one or other individual already suspected of having ‘abducted’ Madeleine. But that is really not the nub of the issue.
As we know from its published remit, the Operation Grange review was to embrace every aspect of the original inquiry; an inquiry that involved British as well as Portuguese law enforcement agencies. Among the expertise we British exported to the scene was that of Mark Harrison, a highly regarded search specialist with notable experience of missing persons cases. After studying the situation in detail, Harrison produced a report recommending appropriate investigative actions to be undertaken by forces on the ground. This included searching specific areas determined by different crime scenarios. The recommendations were made with an eye to cost-efficiency, awareness of which was written into the very remit under which DCI Redwood and co. are supposedly operating:
“Whilst ordinarily a review has no investigative remit whatsoever- the scale and extent of this enquiry cannot permit for such an approach. It will take too long to progress to any “action stage” if activity is given wholly and solely to a review process”.
So, armed with Harrison’s report (among the 30,000 or so documents they will by then have read), how many of the Operation Grange excavations took place within terrain identified by the said specialist? (Think of a whole number between 0 and 1, not including the first positive integer).
What really makes the undertaking questionable though is that aspect of its remit just observed:
“Whilst ordinarily a review has no investigative remit whatsoever….”
Clearly this was never going to be an ‘ordinary’ review. But why the urgency to proceed to ‘investigation’ of a case over which no British police authority had any jurisdiction? The disclaimer that the Portuguese were, and would remain, the lead agency, as if Grange were to provide some kind of battery charge to the case overseas, was quickly exposed by the Portuguese themselves, when they re-opened their own investigation, introducing Euclides Monteiro to the world with a two-fingered gesture that Scotland Yard mistakenly took to be Churchillian.
It really doesn’t take much imagination to appreciate the perceived difference between, ‘We have reviewed the process and found it to be thorough/lackadaisical (delete as appropriate) and ‘We have investigated the abduction and found no evidence that the McCanns were involved’. There is every indication that the purpose of Operation Grange was never to endorse or further the original investigation, but to supplant it.
It’s all very well DCI Redwood announcing that neither the McCanns nor any of their friends were to be considered ‘persons of interest’, as if cueing up the operation’s primary purpose (to investigate abduction) but that investigation itself was to be pursuant upon a review of an extant, even if dormant, case, and investigators involved in that case had already arrived at certain mutually agreed conclusions. Had the honest intention of Operation Grange been to assist the Portuguese in getting to the bottom of things, they would have picked up where the first investigation left off. That they have not done so speaks for itself.
There are those who hold to the view that Scotland Yard are playing the ‘long game’ and that they must eventually examine the behaviour of the McCanns and their friends that Thursday night, May 3, 2007. Even after three years it is difficult to be certain, but if a criminal investigation is genuine in its purpose, there can be no reason why its leadership should not play with a straight bat toward a public encouraged to assist them.
With the impending retirement of DCI Redwood, the optimists among us will no doubt view his passing the baton onto an accomplished homicide detective as a positive sign, Redwood having literally done the spade work. His is not an ignominious withdrawal but a smart move. He has not ‘failed’ to solve the case. He never expected to do so in the first place. The intention was merely to find an acceptable ‘resolution’ if at all possible. Should that accomplishment fall to his successor, Redwood will be seen to have been thwarted by time alone. On the other hand, should the long-term outcome of Operation Grange remain indeterminate, DCI Redwood will have been long out of the cross-hairs.
Even if DCI Wall should surprise everyone on both sides of the McCann fence, with a valid conclusion, built towards via the seemingly unending dismissal of ‘likely ones’, the question will remain as to why, given the Yard’s emphasis on expediency, the truth was not arrived at until several years had elapsed and more millions been spent.
In any event the Metropolitan Police will be happy to pursue their inquiry all the while the special grants keep rolling in. In reality, cessation is no more than the closure of a cheque book away. It would only take one swingeing budget cut on behalf of this or the next government to see to that.
Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood An Open Letter
Madeleine McCann Was Not Abducted Definitive rebuttal against abduction.