With the news of human remains being found in Aljezur, I was reminded of this topic. I had previously intended to write about it, but got sidetracked with developments.
Firstly, as these remains go, my first inclination was to think that the remains may relate to the young German boy Renè Hasèe, who disappeared from an Aljezur beach in 1996. If not him then likely an adult, the remains being older. According to Google Earth there are several ruined farmhouses in the Forno do Cal area (thank you to Isabelle McFadden for helping me isolate the specific area). These buildings were all ruins in the oldest afforded images (2004).
Various derelict farmhouses around Aljezur (2015)
Certainly, it has not crossed my mind that they are related to Madeleine. This is because there are no solid links with Aljezur in the case whatsoever. All we have are;
- The Russell O’Brien ping on which this blog will expand
- An impossible (errant) ping from Fiona Payne’s phone:
There follow records made at 10:49:57 and 10:50:11 on the repeater installed in the [parish] of Aljezur, municipal area of Aljezur, district of Faro.
Given the existing records before these last [two], in Aljezur, there seems to have occurred an error in the records remitted by the operator Optimus, considering that, according to the computer program Microsoft AutoRoute 2007, Lagos is a distance, in a straight line, of about 26 km from Aljezur, and closer to 34 km by road. To cover this distance in about two and a half minutes one would have to travel at a speed of 816 km/h, which is impossible to be achieved in any terrestrial vehicle produced up to this time.
The listing of activations of mobile phone (44)779-627-2586 end with the last record in Aljezur.
- A phone contact of Robert Murat’s who owns ruins in Aljezur (‘Paul A’) Source
- A ‘sighting’ in an Aljezur garden which turned out to be the child of the owners. Source
So, to Russell’s Aljezur ping. The files have this to say on the trip:
…only at 14:07:44 on 7th does one
observe a record outside that locality. That record occurs on the antenna
installed in the [parish] of Aljezur, municipal area of Aljezur, district of
The records return to the antennae of Luz at 14:24:00.
Curiously, on this day only Russell and Matthew activate other antennae outside
Luz. The first activates the antenna referred to before, while the second
activates “Budens 1”. If on the one hand the movement of Matthew to Budens is
acceptable, then the trip of Russell to Aljezur in these first days so soon after
the disappearance is somewhat strange, it not being that, once more to the
picture of Fiona Payne on 12 July, there exists an error in the data that the
operator Optimus remitted to the Police. There is an hypothesis of him having
made that journey, there being sufficient time for him to cover the distance that separates Luz from Aljezur (68 km.) at an average [speed] of 130 km/h.
Despite there being no other records from the mobile phones of the other members
of the group outside the antennae of Luz, there exist gaps in the times [of the
records] that make it possible for one of them to have accompanied him.
Therefore, accepting that Russell was effectively in the coverage area of that
antenna, then on this date the members of the group would already have had
access to a motor vehicle.
The above qualifications by the PJ assume direct transit between the two villages. That is to say, the direct route between Praia da Luz and Aljezur, which is presently (according to google maps) 35.5km each way, which is approximately 33 mins each way, assuming the speed limit. The PJ have above hypothesised that the distance could be covered if he travelled at 130km/h. It should be noted, the speed limit on motorways (which the A22 is not) is 120km/h. Trunk roads, the limit is 100km/h.
Consider also that this is an a to b to a calculation. It does not accomodate time spent in Aljezur.
Importantly, the report has specified that Aljezur PARISH was pinged.
Thus, the PJ have not included their calculations so as to say ‘this explains the ping’, they have simply included an accurate calculation on how literal transit to Aljezur and back would be possible. What we need to do, when looking deeper, is locate the requisite towers, their coverage areas, and the real distance required to ‘ping Aljezur Parish’, rather than ‘be in Aljezur’. I have done so in the following image:
(As inevitably this image will be resized by wordpress, please click here to view the picture in proper size)
It should also be noted that Gerry called Russell at 22:34 the same day he made this journey. This seems like an oddity given they were only a few doors away, though it is not isolated (there was a 58 second call from Russ to Gerry on the 5th, and several calls involving David Payne early on).
However if we are taking this Aljezur drive/ping as suspicious, things like this call become more important. Unfortunately Russell’s phone records are not itemised in the files, outside the 2nd-4th (also records from the start of the holiday exist in Anexo 37 but this was not released). The intimation, though, would be that either Russell was scouting the area he drove in, or was disposing of something.
Remember, though it took months to come out in any detail, Russell admits to washing sheets on the night of May 3rd (claiming his daughter had vomitted on them). The detail of this is inconsistent, as is the tale of what time he and Matt got up/came back.
By one timeline, for instance, Russ gets up with Matt just ten minutes after Jane returns from her check, with Matt and himself saying they would check on the McCann children, but both decide to check their own apartments first, despite passing the McCann apartment on the way, and despite the fact Russ’s child was only checked 10 minutes prior. Jane comments in her rogatory that on her check both her daughters were ‘quiet’, but apparently in 10 minutes she has vomitted and sheets need washing (as Russ said – they had a washing machine, ‘it wasnt a third world country’). Possible, of course, but questionable.
Russ does, however, place himself inside the McCann apartment checking on indeterminate previous night(s).
‘I listened at the MC CANN’S apartment and believe that this was around 23:00hours, on all occasions the children were ok. During the week I checked on some occasions and listened at others.’
This would appear to be a retrofit, but why? Any forensic trace of him could’ve been explained away as contamination when people were going in and out after the alarm was raised. Is it possible he was washing soiled sheets from 5A? If he was in possession of an item like that, getting rid of it would be a necessary move.
Looking at the crossover coverage areas, Bensafrim is covered, as well as Odiaxere and the Barragem da Bravura (including the main road up to it).
Barragem da Bravura, photo by Brian Bould
We know that later on the Arade (around 30km from Bravura) was searched, but under suspicious circumstances (many doubted the search and the odd fact that the animal bones recovered were handed to Metodo 3 rather than the PJ for identification).
Interestingly, Bravura was topically searched – on the 8th of May:
45. Given the number of days that had passed since the disappearance of Madeleine McCann it was considered appropriate to request help from the Lagos Voluntary Firemen who took part in the operations, and on this day carried out searches as the Bravura dam, situated to the north of Odeaxere, using their aquatic equipment, considering that a body that has fallen or been thrown into water tends to surface after 72 hours, this team searched all the branches of the dam using an outboard motor and found nothing suspicious.
This was the day after Russell’s Aljezur ping.
In Bensafrim, an ‘Alisuper bag’ was handed in by a British lady on June 16th, containing;
…various items of clothing, namely one (01) checkered shirt, two (02) pairs of trousers and three (03) empty and torn bin bags.
And in Funchal (small village East of Luz) a bag was found (undated). Source (both)
Note that if you were to take the A22 to Aljezur, you would pass through both Funchal and Bensafrim. Could either of these bags have been deposited by Russ? While it seems unlikely he would be driving and effectively ‘littering’, the possibility remains. If, as the PJ asserted when the process was shelved, there was an obfuscation of Madeleine’s body, it makes sense that physical evidence would remain, and said evidence would need to be disposed of.
While trash would seem more logical (Gerry McCann and Michael Wright were known, for instance, to use at least 4 different refuse sites in a radius around the villa, including the bins outside cemetery), this assumes that it would not be of benefit for any evidence to be found. Evidence in an obscure rural location would actually strengthen the narrative of an abductor.
To this end I want to finish by revisiting the De Telegraaf saga. A letter to a Dutch newspaper led to a search at Arao – North of Odiaxere – on June 13th. This was barely a month after Russell pinged in the area, and was just 7 days after the McCanns were in Amsterdam. Gerry maintained contact with old colleagues at vUMC Amsterdam (Beek and Nijdveldt), especially on those dates.
Location of Arao, only just outside tower range for both Aljezur and Luz
This search was called off after just 3-4 hours, and it was publically dismissed by the lead detectives involved. Nevertheless there is the well known photo of an ‘Aztec rug’ being removed, and press reports circulated at the time saying that Madeleine’s dna had been found there. If nothing else, it fit the narrative.
1 blanket in a poor state of conservation, pink on one side and orange on the other.
Observations: From indications written to a Dutch newspaper.
The press reports came far too early to be taken seriously, so the truth about this blanket remains unknown to us. Despite being doctors, the findings in 5A and the Scenic prove that nothing is perfectly, clinically washed away, even by the most able. If an item was left to be found, and still held partial traces of Madeleine, it follows that someone else’s dna would likely be present too. This could perhaps, then, be another candidate for the piece of ‘stand alone evidence’ referred to by Paulo Rebelo (along with evidence of decomposition or sedation in hairs, cctv and so on).
The blanket recovered in Arao search
It is futile to guess or assume, but there are questions which must be asked.
As always I welcome corrections/feedback.