Friday, 13 July 2012

Stephen Birch - Genius or Fraud?

By Honestbroker.

South African sleuth, Stephen Birch, certainly caused a blaze, if not with the UK media (where he has been largely ignored), then elsewhere.

Birch asserts, with apparent conviction, that he has found the final resting-place of young Madeleine, described weeks before by Scotland Yard as quite possibly alive and findable.

To take Birch seriously, we must suspend a great deal of evidence which points powerfully against his apparent findings.

Whilst, in other articles, I have expressed reservations about the way cadaver dog Eddie was deployed in Praia da Luz, I've never had the slightest doubt about his ability to find a cadaver. Eddie was a part of the team that searched the Murats' back yard and he didn't alert. But even if we assume (I do not!) that Eddie somehow missed a cadaver, he needn't blush.

Mrs Murat has two guard dogs, although never trained as cadaver dogs, no doubt perfectly capable of detecting a scent, particularly of a body (according to Birch) buried less than 2 feet (500 milllimetres) down.

But that isn't all. Ground penetrating radar of exactly the type Birch claims to have used was actually used in the original investigation and in the search of the Murats' back yard.

From UK investigator Mark Harrison's report:

On 04-08-07 and 05-08-07 a search warrant was executed at the villa and gardens belonging to the PJ suspect Robert Murat. This search involved both PJ and GNR personnel supported by civil defence, geophysical equipment operators and a canine handler.

Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR)

This consists of a radar antenna transmitting electromagnetic energy in pulse form at frequencies between 25 MHz and 1 GHz. The pulses are partially reflected by the sub-surface geological structures, picked up by a receiving antenna and plotted as a continuous two-way travel time record, which is displayed as a pseudo-geological record section. The vertical depth scale of this section can be calibrated from the measures two-way travel times of the reflected events either by the use of the appropriate velocity values of electromagnetic pulse through the ground.

The depth of penetration achieved by the radar pulse is a function of both its frequency and the conductivity of the ground.

The equipment benefits in use by detecting anomalies in the ground and is particularly effective through sand and concrete. However, it is limited in undulating terrain or areas where it is an anomaly rich environment such as a wooded area.

This equipment whilst readily available in the commercial surveying industry and university geophysics departments requires expert interpretation of the imagery for grave detection.

If Birch is to be believed, two dogs of Mrs Murat's and one trained to find cadavers, as well as operators of exactly the same equipment Birch claims to have used, which requires specialist expertise for use in grave detection, all missed what Birch found. How clever is our man Stephen Birch? His genius, apparently, extends further.

In (by his own admission) trespassing on the Murats' property, Birch and his team somehow evaded Mrs Murat's two guard dogs, Estrelas, a Portuguese breed of dog, soft and gentle with humans it is familiar with and recognises; ferocious with strangers.

But others, sharper-eyed than me, have poured over video footage of Birch's you-tube releases and are satisfied that it was, indeed, taken in the Murats' back yard.

It is a fact that the Portuguese authorities have distributed material from the process, including rogatory interviews to fraudster Levy, offically never released, into the public domain.

What happened to the official video of the search as part of the official investigation in the Murats' back yard?