Sunday, 16 January 2011

Those archived files – what was released and what was withheld?

By Honestbroker.

I don’t know whether the estimable pro McCann poster Sans Souci plays bridge. I don’t, personally, but I gather part of the skill of the game is in knowing when to stay your hand, or to play it, for best advantage. Virtually, (and metaphorically), Sans recently demonstrated this art to perfection on an anti board he regularly (and bravely) visits.

It all began with a sharp dispute over the meaning of the Gaspar statements (incidentally, not the central theme of this piece). Sans innocuously floated a polite request that, to settle arguments, posters might be allowed to see the original, English language, versions of their statements. The initial response was one of chipper confidence that that would be quite possible, as certain of the admin on that board hold the DVD of the case files. But in stages, confidence gave way to puzzlement, then anger, then denial, as the realization gradually dawned that, actually, they didn’t have the original English Language copies on DVD. Amid mayhem, a thread was moved to a part of the board not for general view and the claim made that the thread itself had been lost, while other threads were locked or moved and responses to questions became steadily more terse. It was at this point that Sans revealed his hand. He had never doubted that they wouldn’t be able to produce the original for a startlingly obvious reason: the statement had been translated in the first place, which would scarcely have been necessary had the original been available, and which brings us to the theme of this piece.

Why were the Gaspar statements ever released? In 2009 Leicestershire police released details of its strategy in putting information about the British side of the investigation into the public domain. That document is stored on the site gerrymccannsblog (nothing to do with Gerry):

If you scroll down a bit, you’ll come to various boxes with comments in boxes to the right about what, and under what circumstances, information will be released into the public domain. In the first section, among other categories, is interviews, which may be released after those responsible for Madeleine’s disappearance have been apprehended, convicted and after time for appeals to be heard has elapsed. We are (now) very far from that point. The Gaspar statements were made on English soil to Leicestershire police by English-speaking British citizens – and in accordance with the express wishes of Leicestershire police, ought never to have been released, either in English or Portuguese form. So why were they?

The mystery deepens. Stuart Prior is a policeman with Leicestershire Police force, and the officer who flew over to Faro to break the ‘bad’ news to Gocalo Amaral and his fellow officers that there was no incriminating forensic evidence against the McCanns. On the gerrymccannsblog (which carries by far the most extensive documentation of information from the police files anywhere on the net) you’ll find only anecdotal references to Stuart Prior (references in emails or witness statements, for example). There is nothing documented with his name attached. We are (for once!) obliged to Amaral for telling us in his book that Prior told the Portuguese police (PJ) the forensic results were not incriminating. That is precisely in accord with the insistence of Leicestershire police that the direction or strategy of the investigation (at least on their side) should not be revealed. Yet the work of Mark Harrison is very extensively recorded on the GerryMcCannsblog site.

Here, we need to be cautious. Mark Harrison is not a policeman with the Leicestershire force and, indeed, represents an organization that supports front line policing. But he describes himself as an official with the British Police who represents the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA). He was interviewed by Leicestershire police in a rogatory interview.

Here is his interview:

Notice, again, that this statement has been translated. And his report, extensively detailing his own investigations and explorations of theories, is also translated. Now, Mark Harrison will, of course, have compiled his report on Portuguese soil. But unless he is fluent in Portuguese (which he might be, I don’t know) he will have written his reports in English, meaning that they, like the Gaspar statements, will have been written in English, translated to Portuguese for the files, then re-translated back to English for Gerrymccannsblog, suggesting that the original English Language version produced by Harrison has, again, been withheld. And it seems exceedingly unlikely that what is operational working policy for Leicestershire police would be any different for UK police generally. So why is Harrison’s work extensively documented, but Prior’s, not at all?

Is part of the answer to be found in Truth of the lie? According to Amaral’s distorted interpretation of Harrison’s report, Harrison ‘confirmed their (Amaral and his fellow senior officers’) worst fears’, that Madeleine was very probably dead and died inside the apartment. In a book, now banned following action against it by the McCanns and the firm of libel solicitors Carter Ruck, one of Amaral’s principal aficionados, Tony Bennett, even said that Harrison recommended the PJ should proceed on the ‘working assumption’ that Madeleine died in apartment 5a. Indeed, if you cast a casual and superficial eye over that report, you might come away with that impression. But be warned. Read it properly and you’ll form a very different view. Harrison was handed his brief by the PJ and worked according to it. He effectively ruled out concealment of a body on the beach, and recommended that dogs be brought in to test the theory that Madeleine might be dead, not because that theory had already been confirmed. Indeed, as the files make plain, forensic analysis of indications by the dogs annulled the hypothesis that evidence might indicate Madeleine was dead. Had Harrison anticipated those results the way Amaral and Bennett both suggest, that would have been scandalous, and he never did. This, from the file and from Harrison’s report, makes plain that Harrison had no personal view on what might have happened to Madeleine:

This report considers solely the possibility that Madeleine McCann has been murdered and her body is concealed within the areas previously searched by Police in Zone 1 around Praia Da Luz. Other scenarios or possibilities may on request be considered and be subject of a further report

But the contrary is what Amaral wants the world to believe and, strangely, Harrison’s work emerged with the released files.

Meanwhile, Amaral confidently span a version of events in his book that he won Prior over to his own (deeply flawed) misunderstanding of the forensic result, including the aspersion against the British Forensic Science Service that they bottled out of facing up to (Amaral’s) ‘reality’ that Madeleine might have been carried dead in the Renault Scenic. Prior, apparently, rang the FSS to berate them on the subject of the PJ’s powers of arrest!

What is Prior’s version of Amaral’s extraordinary depiction of this sequence of events? Simply, we’ll never know because, well, Prior’s work is not documented in the released files … I guess Amaral was always confident that it wouldn’t be.

By Honestbroker.