“Jane Tanner gave the Portuguese authorities a version of the fateful night that was very different from what she later told the English authorities”
In 2007, after Gonçalo Amaral left the coordination of the Polícia Judiciária’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in Portimão, on the day of his birthday – October the 2nd – many diligences were still possible within the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, but few or almost none were carried out.
Despite the fact that all the English people of the so-called “Tapas Group” were officially summoned to return, to participate in the reconstitution of what happened on the night that Maddie disappeared, none did so and the Portuguese authorities accepted that fact as if they were expecting it from the start. Another diligence, the questioning that was carried out in England, ended up revealing further contradictions in the statements but were regrettably sabotaged both by the English police and by the PJ.
Like Gonçalo Amaral had denounced already, the authorities in England didn’t cooperate at the level that was expected from them and the diplomatic interferences – that have become more than evident now – had produced their purpose: the head of the investigation was removed and replaced by someone more “malleable”, and the case was prepared to be archived.
With two versions of the same night, now recreated in documentaries that have been produced for television – one in Portugal under the guidance of Gonçalo Amaral and another, an English one, by the McCanns – 24horas has gone back over the witness statement of Jane Tanner, who is one of the key “characters”of a real case in which the victim remains solely one: Maddie.
Strangely, according to the videos and transcriptions of their interrogations, to which 24horas had access, all the English witnesses – David Payne, Fiona Payne, Dianne Webster, Jane Tanner, Russell O’Brien, Matthew Oldfield, Rachael Mampilly – were given, by the English police, the possibility to consult what they had already told the PJ directors earlier on.
Some of the English people – as was the case of Jane Tanner, among others – were also given the opportunity to read the others’ witness statements and to change their final statements. Despite this abnormal behaviour by the Leicestershire police, at least two video recordings of the questionings never arrived in Portugal, and given the fact that the PJ inspectors who travelled to England, following orders from Paulo Rebelo, were not present, their contents might be lost, if it wasn’t for so-called information “leaks”.
The alleged abductor as described by Jane Tanner
Jane Tanner, who is without doubt one of the key characters of the case and in both documentaries, described, in Portugal, a person, the alleged abductor, “who couldn’t be a tourist” because – as she says – “he was too heavily dressed”. The man would be between 35 and 40 years old, with very dark hair, thin and approximately 1,70m tall. Despite the distance, Jane tells the Portuguese inspectors that the suspect was wearing beige or gold-coloured trousers, a “duffy” type of jacket (but as thick) and black, classical shoes.
According to Jane’s first statement, the suspect walked hurriedly and carried a child lying in his arms, that “looked larger than a baby”. About the child, Jane only added in May 2007 that she “only saw the legs” but that she was wearing a pyjama that resembled pink cotton where she had the “feeling” of seeing a flowery print.
Back in England, the same man is described by Jane Tanner as “a father who was carrying his own child” whose description doesn’t exactly match the one that was given to the PJ: the man now wears dark, wide clothes that were not “the kind of clothes of a person on holidays at a Mark Warner resort”.
A detail that Jane Tanner stresses to the investigators, and that was used as the basis for the English documentary that the witness has recently supervised in Praia da Luz, was that the alleged abductor’s clothes “don’t seem to be from Britain but rather bought in Portugal”: Tanner never explained to the investigators why she made such a statement, instead merely clarifying that this was what the group had pointed out “not to forget” and to prepare for the PJ’s questioning.
While in Portimão, Jane said that she “had no doubts that it was” Madeleine because through a conversation that she held with Fiona Payne, in which she described to her the pyjama that the little girl was wearing that night, she saw that everything matched what she had seen.
Back in England, Tanner’s memory changes once more and the pyjama is only light-coloured and she no longer recalls the conversation that she held with Fiona.
In all the interrogations, Tanner, who says she walked the longer route to go from the Tapas to her apartment, says she passed Gerry McCann and Jeremy Wilkins in front of the stairs that lead up to 5A, but the two men state they didn’t see her. Neither her nor the alleged abductor.
To the Portuguese investigators, she said, in May 2007, that she didn’t recall the positions that Jeremy and Gerry occupied on the road. Almost a year later, Tanner was able to precise where they were standing.
In front of the PJ and when confronted with information that the dogs had smelled trails that supposedly indicated that Madeleine never passed by the crossing where she said she saw the man who carried a child, but rather into an opposite direction – which actually matches the Smith family’s statement – Tanner was adamant and defended that she was not lying, sticking to her initial version. Despite the importance of this issue, which even could be an indication that an alleged abductor might have walked a different path for his getaway, neither Tanner nor the English police approached this matter again.
In Portugal, facing the Portuguese and English policemen who followed the questioning and the first diligences, Tanner points at Robert Murat as being the man who she allegedly saw carrying a child, but during the interrogations in England, she completely changes her version and says that when Bob Small took her into a van from where she could observe Murat without being seen, “there was a car that passed at that moment and then two persons walked by”, which allegedly disturbed her and led her to identify the Anglo-British man by mistake.
The reading of Jane Tanner’s interrogations in England, without the need to compare it with her previous statements to the PJ, reveals by itself her lot of contradictions: while explaining the manner in which she cooperated with the Portuguese police in the identification of Murat, Tanner first says that when she met Bob Small she didn’t know who he was and asked her partner, Russell O’Brien, to write down the license plate of the car in which the policeman rode. During the same questioning session, Tanner says that at the time she took her collaboration with the authorities “very seriously” and that she didn’t even tell her partner that she was meeting Bob Small and why.
The importance of phone calls
The extensive analysis that is carried out on all telephone communications that were made by the nine English people during their entire stay in Portugal is an important detail of the official investigation into Maddie’s disappearance.
It is Jane Tanner who reveals to the English police that David and Fiona Payne used a Portuguese mobile phone at the time when Madeleine disappeared, a situation that was not even unique given the fact that Kate and Gerry McCann also had phones with a Portuguese chip at their disposal, some of which were never known to the PJ.
When questioned in England about her own phone communications, Jane Tanner identifies all of the correspondents as being friends or relatives, yet fails to identify the owner of a Portuguese mobile phone whom she calls and sends text messages after Maddie’s disappearance. The question would never be clarified.
Another important detail that none of the documentaries – the Portuguese one, based on Gonçalo Amaral’s book and the English one under the “direction” of Gerry McCann – explains is the contradiction between the various witnesses, concerning Kate McCann’s movements.
To the Leicestershire Police, Jane Tanner, when questioned about that matter, says that she didn’t see whether or not Kate left the table during dinner because she “was back in her room at that moment” and only saw her again after the disappearance, “when she (Kate) was running near our apartment with Fiona Payne”.
Reconstitution or documentary
Jane Tanner, who is pointed out in the documentary that Channel Four will transmit on the seventh of May as one of the most important witnesses of the case, explains to the English police, in her last questioning, why she refused to participate in the PJ’s reconstitution.
According to her testimony, “I’d be on a plane tomorrow if I thought that it might help find Madeleine” but that the fear of facing the media and the fact that the diligence was explained to her as “just another occasion to incriminate us” and not focusing on discovering what happened and where Madeleine is, led her to refuse the Portuguese authorities’ request. Now, almost two years after Madeleine’s disappearance, Jane Tanner was precisely one of the witnesses who returned to Praia da Luz to face the media and to help in the filming of a reconstitution that doesn’t comply with the official inquiry at all.
“I really need to understand that it’s worth doing and not simply a way to close the inquiry”, said Tanner, adding that “from the media’s point of view and from a psychological point of view, the thought of walking up that road again and having to relive it all, it would be exactly terrible”. That was precisely what Tanner did earlier this month and 24horas followed on location.
Translated by Astro from Joana Morais blog.