Sunday, 18 October 2009

Madeleine McCann: information requested by the Portuguese police and how the FOI Act was used to deny it.


Sunday Express October 18th 2009

By James Murray

"HOME Secretary Alan Johnson is prepared to ask US spy chiefs for satellite images which may show the face of Madeleine McCann’s kidnapper, following intervention by the Sunday Express."

"Hope of new progress came after it emerged Leicestershire Police never made a formal request to the Home Office for views of Praia da Luz on Portugal’s Algarve at the time the little girl vanished in May 2007."

Yet, further on in the Express article, we are told that the Portuguese police had actually asked Leicestershire police to make a formal request for this information. A senior Portuguese police source said:

"We hoped spy images may have captured the kidnapper watching the apartment prior to the event or even on the day itself. Obviously, having a picture would have speeded up the apprehension of the offender.”

"Yet more than two years after Madeleine was snatched no help has been forthcoming, despite early requests from senior Portuguese detectives."

"The Portuguese source explained: “This was fully discussed with Leicestershire Police and officials with the British Government.

“We were confident of getting progress because of Gordon Brown’s interest in the case and this apparent special relationship between Britain and the United States.

“Your ambassador to Portugal even visited our officers soon after the kidnap.

“The bad news for us is that we got nowhere with this avenue of inquiry, which was both frustrating and infuriating.”

For, despite all the talk, nothing appears to have been done officially with the British government and the formal requests were never made."
It seems that if Leicestershire police received the request, they did not pass it on and we need to ask why.


Early on in the investigation, the Portuguese police asked the British authorities for information about the McCanns and their friends with whom they went on holiday to Praia da Luz. That information never came. Specifically information about bank accounts was requested. This was part of the reply:

""No record of a current bank account is held," said the English about Madeleine's father, adding that "there is no record of credit cards or loans."

The request for this information was repeated in the rogatory letter sent in November 2007 to England. The British authorities refused the request and simply said, as a justification, that they would not provide financial information on the couple. And the information never arrived.

In January this year, when British journalists tried to clarify the situation, this was the response from the Home Office:

"The Home Office (British Ministry of Foreign Affairs) cannot confirm or deny" that the McCanns have had bank accounts between the 25 of April 2007 and 12 September 2008."

The complete Home Office response can be read on the McCann Files web site. This is an extract from that response:

"Your request for information has been considered under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act) and we are now able to provide you with a substantive response to your request.
Section 1 of the Act places two duties on public authorities when handling requests. The first of these duties, provided at s1(1)(a) is to confirm or deny whether the information requested is actually held by that authority. The second duty is for that information to be disclosed where it has been confirmed that it exists. This is provided under s1(1)(b).
The Home Office can neither confirm nor deny that we hold information relevant to your request as our duty under s1(1)(a) does not apply by virtue of the following provisions of the Act:
* Section 27(4) – prejudice to International Relations;
* Section 31(3) – prejudice to Law Enforcement activities; and
* Section 38(2) – endangering Health & Safety.
This letter therefore also serves as a refusal notice under s17(1) of the Act.

(The above information was published by Correio da Manha in February 2009 and translated by Joana Morais.)


"A Magical Mystery Tour," the McCann Files, October 17th 2009.

"On March 19 this year the FOI News reported thus:

'Sensitive e-mails concerning the hunt for missing child Madeleine McCann will remain secret for fear of offending the Portuguese authorities who were tasked with finding her.

'A request for the disclosure of 13 e-mails and one letter, which were written in the two months after Madeleine went missing, was refused by the Information Commissioner.'...........

............"'He went on to say: "...even now, to disclose full information about the then ambassador's communications with the Portuguese authorities then, on a balance of probabilities, substantial damage to the international relationship would result."

Read the full text of the article here: The McCann Files

So, there appears to be quite a lot of evidence here that the British authorities did not wish to assist the police of another EU sovereign state in their investigation into the disappearance of a British child.

* Information on bank accounts - not forthcoming.
* Request for communication between the British ambassador and the Portuguese authorities under the FOI Act, refused.
* Request for satellite imaging information: never formally passed on by the Leicestershire police.

Further, an early request to the British authorities for Madeleine McCann's medical records was refused. Why?

Putting all these requests together with these facts: that there were 48 questions Kate McCann refused to answer when questioned by the Portuguese police; the McCanns did a quick flit from Portugal immediately after being made arguidos and later refused to return to participate in a reconstruction of the events; the many inconsistencies and contradictions in the witness statements from the "Tapas Nine," it is no wonder the Portuguese police decided to archive this case. When banging one's head against a brick wall, it must be wonderful when you stop!

The Sunday Express has made significant moves towards the re-opening of the Madeleine McCann case. Perhaps it's time for other UK newspapers to take up the baton.

After the Carter Ruck/Trafigura fiasco, perhaps a few journalists need to be asking why Madeleine's parents needed to use Carter Ruck to attempt to silence the Madeleine Foundation, who were publishing information already in the public domain. Letters from Carter Ruck to the Madeleine Foundation can be viewed here.
The Madeleine Foundation: the site the McCanns want to ban. (With the heavyweight help of Messrs Carter Ruck.)