Two years after the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, the little English girl that was allegedly abducted in Praia da Luz, the Polícia Judiciária still cannot find the ending for a story that continues to move two countries and whose actors and victims are, to this day, confronted with the facts and theories of the most media exposed case of Portuguese justice.
There is no evidence that Maddie is alive and all indications, whether public or under judicial secrecy, have been confirming the child’s death, but many continue to question themselves about the role that was played by each one of the actors in this case.
United in a veritable “pact of silence” against the Portuguese authorities, as Felícia Cabrita wrote, the nine English people from the Tapas Bar – as they ended up being known – are not a homogenous group anymore and few remain side by side with Kate and Gerry McCann.
The 43-year-old doctor is married to Fiona and the father of two: Lily and Scarlet, both aged between two and five. Two years on, the Payne couple stays at the side of Maddie’s parents and state that they share the idea of an abduction with them.
From the entire group, David and Fiona are the most faithful, and according to a source that is close to both couples, the recent allegations of paedophilia that have been advanced in Portugal, have only strengthened the friendship that exists since the time when Fiona worked with Kate.
The medic is actually one of the main actors in the Maddie case: it was David Payne who organised the holiday at the Mark Warner resort in Praia da Luz, and except for Kate and Gerry, he was the last person to see Maddie.
David Payne was accused by a couple of English doctors, members of the same circle of friends, of having made paedophile type gestures during a holiday in Mallorca, Spain.
David met Kate and Gerry through Fiona. The 36-year-old anaesthetist worked with Kate McCann, and out of the whole group, she is the one who maintains the most regular contact with Maddie’s mother.
Fiona accompanied Kate during the in vitro fertilisation from which Madeleine resulted, and she is also the one who accompanied the child’s mother most during the days that followed the disappearance in Praia da Luz.
In her statements to Leicestershire police, Fiona recognises that she didn’t see whether or not her husband was at the tennis court between 6 and 7 p.m. In her reply to the question that was asked by the police, Fiona was quite nervous but stated that her husband only passed by the McCanns’ apartment to help Kate with the children.
The Payne couple continues to live in the Leicester area, which is why they keep the same circle of friends as Maddie’s parents.
Jane Michelle Tanner, aged 38, is the other member of the Tapas Bar group with whom the McCanns keep regular contact. In 2007, on the night that Maddie disappeared, Jane stated that she saw a man carrying a child, but her testimony, which was altered several times, only launched more confusion into an investigation that was already affected by the interference of English diplomacy and authorities. Jane’s testimony, according to the PJ, delayed the evolution of the investigation and forced the inspectors to concentrate on an “endless” lead.
On the night of the disappearance, Jane didn’t participate in the searches and stayed at her apartment’s door, but on the following morning, it is her that contacts a GNR officer, Nelson da Costa, whom she told that she saw a “man” running and carrying a “child” that “clearly” wore a pyjama. She wasn’t able to describe the “man” because it was very dark.
Jane failed to justify to the GNR how she saw the child’s pyjama despite the darkness and her statements, made to the PJ and the British police, would end up being altered several times, “strangely” coinciding with the “schedule” that would later be described by Kate and Gerry McCann.
Jane Tanner was in Praia da Luz during the first week of April, where she arrived in the company of Gerry McCann to participate in the making of a new documentary that Channel 4 will broadcast on the 7th of May, and in which she will once more reinforce the abduction theory.
Friends increasingly distant
All the other members of the group that dined with Kate and Gerry McCann on the night that Madeleine disappeared (Dianne Webster, Fiona’s mother – Russell O’Brien, Jane Tanner’s partner – Matthew Oldfield and Rachael Mampilly) have distanced themselves from the couple, bit by bit.
According to a source that is close to the McCanns, the separation of the friends is merely due to the fact that “everyone has their own life that doesn’t always allow for meetings”, which is nevertheless not confirmed by all of the English people. Matthew Oldfield himself, despite having accompanied Gerry and Jane into Portugal, always kept a distance from the journalists and participated little in the filming.
“It’s been two years, we’re sad about Madeleine’s disappearance but there is little or nothing that we can do to help”, one of the English told 24horas, stressing that he wants to keep away from journalists and “get on with life” despite “hoping that the child’s disappearance can be clarified as quickly as possible”.
Despite the campaign that was developed by the McCann couple, with its peak matching the dates of the little girl’s disappearance, the union of the nine English people was never constant and for several times Clarence Mitchell, the couple’s spokesman, was forced to intervene, to reunite the group and to “match” versions.
In October 2007, two of the English people announced, through a lawyer, that they were willing to change their statements to the PJ, but the news is advanced by Spanish daily “El Mundo”, and Kate and Gerry McCann’s spokesman immediately contacts the members of the group and organises a meeting at a hotel, where fidelity to the “pact of silence” is ascertained once more, and the two witnesses end up abandoning their intentions.
Memories from a night
On the third of May 2007, according to Silvia Batista, the McCanns and their friends were all inside apartment 5A at the Ocean Club, and nobody was out searching for Maddie yet, when the GNR arrived.
The resort’s head of service and maintenance, now aged 47, remembers that Maddie’s father accompanied her to meet the GNR officers, whom he gave “postcard type photographs” of the child: “they were postcard sized photographs, and they all seemed similar to her”.
“Since the first moment, both Gerry and the other members of the group insisted on stating that Madeleine had been taken, using the word “abducted” instead of missing, and they all showed great interest in informing the press about the situation”, the witness told the PJ.
In the bedroom where Maddie allegedly slept that night, “the beds that were used by the babies were located in the middle of the bedroom and were aligned”, which Silvia found “strange” because, she said, if “someone had taken Madeleine out of the bed where she was sleeping, towards the window, there would be no space to get through”.
“None of the members of the group, including father and mother of the child, were busy searching for her”, Silvia recalled, explaining that Kate McCann remained sitting on the bed in the couple’s bedroom, the father stayed with the GNR officers, and the other members of the group walked in and out and spoke on the phone, “concerned with informing the press about what had happened”.