I’m undecided on whether to make this a series, or just a one off blog. As many will be aware I have itemised the entirety of Gerald McCann’s Portuguese call records, as provided by Vodafone in December 2007, to the best extent of my abilities/resources. In the process of doing so I have come across many names, some known, some unknown and some whose relevance I have yet to quantify.
The following calls I will present are very much names we know; and perhaps more importantly, are calls which the PJ did not know about at the time.
It’s well documented that Goncalo Amaral was removed from the case, elbowed out because his work didn’t suit certain people/agendas. Whilst re-reading through a translation of his book ‘The Truth of the Lie’, Chapter 18 piqued my interest, particularly the references to two English officers – Jose Freitas of Scotland Yard, and Stuart Prior of Leicestershire Constabulary. Their first mention here is of them being the trusted chain of communication, whilst results from forensics were pending;
‘Analyses of the residues collected following the visit by the dogs is entrusted to the English Forensic Science Service laboratory. To avoid any leaks of information, Stuart Prior, a senior officer with Leicestershire police, is responsible for liaison between the laboratory and José Freitas of Scotland Yard. The latter, who is with us, in Portimão, is passing on any relevant reports.’
(Goncalo Amaral, ‘Maddie, la verdad de la mentira’)
A position of trust indeed – not that it stopped supposed leaks that led to such incidents as Martin Brunt declaring a 100% DNA match. Note that these forensics all took place in August, and the CSI dogs went in at the beginning of August, on the recommendation of Mark Harrison (who arrived in Luz July 20th). To that end, we can safely assert that at this point in time (August 2007), both Freitas and Prior were trusted by the PJ.
As the chapter goes on, it becomes clear that Goncalo Amaral found Stuart Prior’s behaviour questionable, to the extent that he questioned his purpose in being there:
‘There is no doubt that somebody opened that window on the evening of May 3rd and the only fingerprints found on it were those of Kate Healy. The manager of the Ocean Club’s crèche, who went to the apartment after the alarm was raised, remarked that, “the window was partially open to the left,” confirming Kate’s earlier statement.
We prefer not to discuss this with Stuart Prior: we have the impression that he is only here to accompany the McCanns’ interrogations and to prevent their detention. His concern on that subject is obvious.’
Worsening as the arguida/o interrogations approached (early September):
Stuart expresses his disappointment over the test results. This is where the saga of the FSS reports begins.
‘As the date for the interrogations approached, Stuart became more and more nervous and he was a constant presence. He wanted to be kept up to date on the smallest details.’
It would later be reported in Correio de Manha that Stuart Prior ‘intimidated’ the PJ. The original article is glitched but Joana Morais’ blog has preserved the jist of the article:
‘The informal phone calls of this senior officer – who was accused at the time of protecting Kate and Gerry McCann – are interpreted by Judiciary Police sources as “an attempt of intimidation to stop future endeavours.”
The CM established that Stuart Prior, the head of the Leicestershire Police Constabulary (area where the McCanns live), called the PJ, giving an account of the couple’s ‘nuisance‘ regarding the suspicions over David Payne raised by Gonçalo Amaral. The former coordinator of the PJ in Portimão questioned the lack of explanations regarding ‘the bath given to the children on the day Maddie disappeared’.
Amaral, who was removed from coordinating the case precisely because he accused the English police of taking sides with Gerry and Kate, believes that ‘promiscuity continues between the couple and the British authorities’. According to the former police inspector ‘only very influential people can send send messages through the police’.’
So we have it clearly stated here that Prior had some kind of vested interest in making sure the parents and the Tapas members were not impugned in any way, and we see clear references to this both in 2007 and 2009, the latter being more than a year after the McCanns and anyone else in the group had left the country. No longer is it just a case of ‘minding the backs of the parents while in Portugal’.
Putting together a very brief timeline:
- July 20th Mark Harrison arrives
- Early August CSI dogs go in, samples are taken. Jose Freitas and Stuart Prior are trusted with handling the information.
- Late August Goncalo Amaral is critical and distrusting of Stuart Prior/his intentions.
- Early September Prior goes to Portimao to delegate FSS lab findings.
- September 4th Stuart Prior emails across the forensic results from the FSS, referred to as the ‘second preliminary report’, which throw doubt on any of the tested items originating from Madeleine (many articles have been written about this, so I wont expand). Goncalo Amaral has Prior call the lab asking ‘if they think they are stupid’, and Prior is heard saying “With a lot less than that, we would have already arrested someone in England.”
At this point you may wonder what relevance any of this has to Gerald’s call records. This is summed up in the following image:
June 21st Gerald initiates contact with Jose Freitas of NSY. That means that he, for whatever purpose, and by whatever means, already had his number. There are only ever two direct contacts between Gerald’s handset and Freitas’ number. The second is only 3 days later. The duration of both calls is incredibly short – 26 seconds, then 8 seconds. What can be achieved in such short calls?
There are five calls involving Stuart Prior. In each case the call was initiated by Stuart. They vary in length from 25 seconds (July 4th) to 7 mins 24 seconds (July 16th).
The final call, lasting exactly 6 minutes, occurs on July 19th – just a day before Mark Harrison arrived in Praia da Luz, on the recommendation of British police.
Perhaps the most significant thing to note is that the PJ would have been completely unaware of these calls, given that they didn’t get Gerald’s call records until December 14th, 2007.
So we have to ask a common sense question at this point: Given their pre-existing concerns, if the PJ had been aware that both officers entrusted with FSS laboratory liaison were already in direct contact with the soon to be arguidos, would they have requested different, verifiably objective intermediaries?
And another question raises its spectre over the issue: were the FSS results potentially tampered with?
These weren’t the only contacts Gerald had with officers – as another example, he twice directly called Chief Constable Meredydd Hughes, Martin Grime’s then boss (as well as ACPO member), 2 weeks after the dog searches. Whatever the content of those two calls, we have to wonder how Gerald was able to so directly contact the South Yorkshire Police boss.
Could it have been through the then ACPO Chief Ken Jones, who Gerry always dialled directly, and who was last contacted (after a 3 month break) the day after Prior’s second preliminary report email went to the PJ?
Or perhaps Leicester family liaison officer Steve Markley who, despite his role, only called Gerald once (May 6th)?
Was Goncalo Amaral right about Prior? Questions must be asked.