Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Paulo Sargento: "Public opinion has been manipulated in the Maddie case" Updated 23/01/09


(Updated: exclusive interview with Duarte Levy. Video available on the SOS Madeleine McCann web site. Images by Joana Morais.)

"It is most natural for people whose child has disappeared, to prefer to have around them the police and people who, technically, are going to help them find her and not to go looking, to give an example, for a priest, and immediately after that, an image consultant. It's a simple question...This preoccupation (of the McCanns) leads us to think of something fundamental: in addition to the possible disappearance, there were other incidental concerns and those have grown in importance (in relation to the possible disappearance)"

DL: In relation to the McCann case, what parallels can be drawn between these two cases? Two little girls who disappeared and parents who claim to be innocent.

PS: Categorically, we have two or three questions...the first is unequivocal. Two little girls disappear, don't reappear, no body is found.

Second question: in both cases, from the outset, they claim, let's say, the theory of kidnap. Such as in the case of Léonor Cipriano, such as in the case of Madeleine McCann. Well...and this kidnap is still claimed by the parents. So, the theory of kidnap has been given out by the parents from the start. There is, nevertheless, a huge difference. It is that in relation to the Léonor Cipriano case, the case of little Joana, the transition from innocence to suspicion is rapid.

Rapidly, in one or two weeks, Léonor Cipriano ceased being an innocent mother for whom the whole world felt sad during the previous two weeks, notably in television programmes, where the mother cried, presented the little girl's portrait and gave out this fact, that theory that the little girl had allegedly been taken by a paedophile or someone like that, but who, thereafter, began to be suspected, investigated and then imprisoned, while in the McCann case, that shift, let's say, of assertion of guilt was generally made much later.

And from a sociological point of view, there is, in criminological terms, a clash of social levels because Léonor Cipriano is a poor woman without, let's say, political protection, nobody, because she is a simple unknown from the Algarve region, who had already, in a way...she had a charge linked in a way, to the courts, because she was on file by the Commission for Minors as being a bad mother, etc etc, and rapidly the system is inverted. In comparison to the McCanns!! Because they are of a higher social class, foreigners with protection, by all accounts, at a higher political level. And this transition took longer. But that also means one thing.

The time has come that the truth cannot be hidden forever, however overdue, things are starting to take shape. But here, the question of social level also makes us rethink all the criteria of justice, in the sense that we can think that there are two kinds of justice, according to the social class the person fits into.

DL: With regards to public opinion in the two cases, to the extent that the reaction of public opinion, notably in Portugal, was different from one case to the other, and nowadays how can we explain, for example, that there were no appearances in Joana's case, but there were very emotional appearances in Madeleine McCann's case?

PS: That question is a very interesting one. That question leads us to think that public opinion is more sensitive, has been more sensitive also in the case, in the fact that it is foreign citizens, who are away from their home country, and we Portuguese, this question we have...this hospitality of being a friendly people, who like to be welcoming, with great social skill, this is....we very much like to help and do what needs to be done.In the first instance, that was one of the questions that helped others to make this case a media event.
Because there was interest for other reasons, and these were more secret concerns, which won't be easy to explain, which time will tell, which the investigation will explain. One basic reason is that the people joined in en masse. The people made Madeleine a kind of adopted daughter of Portugal which is an interesting thing. And from that perspective, this helped to create, almost a kind of popular search patrol. A kind of popular search militia which to a certain extent could have helped on the one hand, to confuse the police, and on the other hand to find other leads first. So, that is one of the questions.

With regard to the appearances, I always make the comparison with the Roswell case in the USA. The USA, 40 years after Roswell, has continued with almost daily appearances of UFOs and it is all the films that are made, the great sagas with aliens, by Stephen Spielberg and with the war of the worlds. However, there is something Plato said...a very simple thing about myths. Myths are something that attract a scam, a fabulous story, a lie, but it is astonishing how it also explains reality when reason escapes us.

And here, it is the same thing. As long as these appearances are kept up, this myth, the Maddie myth then, if it was the Middle ages, Maddie would have already been beatified and sanctified. Nowadays, she isn't. Because of this fact, fortunately, it is not a problem in our time. But the myth, the appearance, or rather, Maddie's appearances are similar to appearances of UFOs, maintaining....we know that she is no longer alive, but we maintain this theory in our imagination, we know that it doesn't exist, we have good evidence that extraterrestrial life doesn't exist, at least in the extremes, of the kind like Orson Wells wanted to show in the war, when he simulated the invasion by green Martians.

There might be another possibility, but we always have the mistrust that it perhaps exists. Now another curious myth is that there remains and this is a polarisation of human thought, which persists in fact, to preserve the mistake, which is, the appearances which were more negative, more consequential, which were those in Morocco, those were the ones which, for a long time, were the most credible for a certain mass media. People swore on these appearances when we were of the opposite opinion. If I have had three negative appearances, I must immediately think that it's personal, it's about the people, the population is more susceptible, is more open to suggestion and so, there are going to be more things where they don't exist, but that curiously serves, putting this in quotations marks, "to feed," the press and maintain the theory of kidnap going around with no basis whatsoever. So, if there are appearances, it is because, yes, people put this aside and continue to believe that effectively it is a kidnap.

DL: In cases of kidnap which have been proven, where sometimes the body is not found, we always talk of grieving. The necessity for parents to find the body to grieve. In Madeleine McCann's case, to what extent does public opinion need to grieve in this case?

PS: There is a need, and that, it's a fundamental question even for, let's say, closing the case. As long as we do not know truly what happened, there is still a remnant of mistrust. Grieving helps us to compensate for a loss. That means, if we want a quick definition of grief, it is: how I succeed in filling a gap?

How do I succeed at least, in making up for the often devastating effects, from the emotional point of view that this loss has caused? And as a general rule, there must be markers. It is no coincidence that we have cemeteries. We, purely and simply, could mourn, allowing bodies to decompose naturally as nature intends and nothing more.

But no. We have symbols. Symbols which are going to help us be sure that he is there, that this happened, that it is over, and this symbol allows us a transition from the one who was real, who existed, for a memory that is another kind of reality which is proven. And as long as that doesn't happen, as long as there isn't concrete proof, the ambivalence continues and thus the appearances, because as long as we don't know that she is dead, it is possible that she is alive.

So, and it is those, I say, who have a certain interest in a certain press and in a certain type of movement of information around this case who maintain the appearances, at strategic times and circumstances, as a form of information to avoid the grief. That is to say...if we were to think about another case, the Castelo de Paiva case, where, as we all know, 4/5 years ago, a bus with many people outing...fell...where many people died where the bodies didn't reappear.

We understand that people from the families of the bodies that did not reappear had the greatest difficulty in closing that chapter of their lives. From a sociological point of view, we are going to have great difficulty in closing this event, the Maddie chapter, as long as we don't know what truly happened, as long as we don't have, let's say, the obvious proof. As long as we succeed in giving a nocravo e na ferradura *, this phenomenon will, for that reason, not end. Never....It is as if we may never again be at peace, never be at peace with Maddie as long as we effectively don't know, black on white: the little girl is dead. That's what happened and it's over. She will always be in limbo between truth and lie. She will always be a kind of phantom who is going to haunt Portugal and England and the relationship between the two nations.

* I don't know what this means! Sorry! It looks idiomatic to me. So, maybe if there is a Portuguese speaker here, we can be offered a translation. Thank you!

DL: But....and concerning the couple? Concerning Kate and Gerry McCann, from the known images, from the couple's attitude, can we conclude that they have already grieved?

PS: No, no, I wouldn't come to that conclusion. I would conclude otherwise. All of us alive, all living human beings, have pacts. Things happen, more or less terrible, according to our value system and to the relative severity around the events and the way in which we live intensely and the way we make pacts. What is common here, to both, in the circumstances of couples, for example, who have lost a child, in one way or another, and here we are not discussing the problem of whether there is or is not responsibility, for the obvious fact that they have lost their child.

It is basically...this is described in psychological research, having break-ups. Marital break-ups happen sometimes after these events occur. And Why? Simply because we mustn't think that two people grieve for a shared situation at the same time. This is a key point in perceiving the phenomenon. As luck would have it, one of them will do it before the other. And the one who does it before the other, at a given moment stops having a fixation; for example, with the death or loss of a child, starts to have a so-called normal life. Starts to smile again, starts to go out again, starts to go out to dinner again, starts to....well, life is for living! Because he has reached a resolution, he has already repaired the devastating emotional effects and the other has not! And here, the conflict begins.

Who will be like, "how can you want to go out to dinner when it's hardly two years since our child died?" So, there, those who work from a clinical point of view, with families, perceive this clearly. But this happened a year and a few months ago, in the Maddie McCann case, and there is no visible crisis between the couple. That doesn't mean that it will always be like that, but there would have to be some kind of sign. The only sign we keep seeing is one of a superficial nature, which tallies with the image, naturally they have image advisers, which is elsewhere a social marker of great harmony, for example: from the way in which Gerry writes in his blog, now at least after having started to write's like: "Kate and I are too busy to do that..." which means, trying to always give the idea of normalcy, of someone who is getting on with this search, united with the same goal. But united in the same goal and at the same time they say that they haven't succeeded, let's say, in finding yet. This is something they also lack for grieving about the situation.

And in these circumstances it seems to me that it is nothing to do with having or not having grieved, but above all there is a pact between the two of them on that question, at least from an emotional point of view from what we can see, because they are very formal, and let's say, present, from the point of view of public debate and social behaviour, pointers that suggest making this type of pact, in a ?????? (prélineaire?) and advised strategy to maintain the fact of this endless search, yet from a contradictory point of view.

Why contradictory? Because they are interested in keeping the case in the spotlight, they have been very silent. We can also recognise the idea "well, we have been silent because we are looking for leads....etc..." But these changes, let's say of opinion, people need to know this too, because this case, Madeleine McCann , has ceased to be one which only interests the couple, this interests the whole world, because we can't offer support and subsequently the willingness. So, I would say that it's not about grieving, they have or have not done it, but I find that that's not the problem we should be addressing, but to what extent a kind of pact, formed by strategic circumstances from a social point of view: how long is this going to last?

As long as they can stand the pressure? What is also very strange is how, I don't know if they have psychiatric or psychological or psycho therapeutic support or not, and people have different levels of resistance to stress, but for those who are not... who were not public figures, who were used to the stress of being permanently before the cameras, they were obviously, from an emotional point of view, very good. Strangely good, I would say.

DL: Going back to the Madeleine McCann case, videos that were made a while back by Paulo Sargento....what is the idea behind these videos? I am talking about, for example, in the video where we see the route taken by a car leaving the Ocean Club.

PS: OK. So, in that video where not just one but three alternative routes are drawn, what we were looking to show at that time was a car allegedly leaving from outside the back bedroom window, let's say, of the apartment where theMcCann couple were staying. The car leaving by the road that goes behind the Ocean Club to the church, or by the road that runs in front of the Ocean Club to the church, taking around 27/28 seconds to travel this route at a speed of 50km/h. This would be the maximum speed permitted in a residential area. So, that was the calculation made. In one of these routes, the car would have two advantages in taking the route. Let's say that there is someone taking the little girl in a car, alive or dead, whatever, to the point from which they can go off on another tack, notably by sea or wherever.

This route takes 26 seconds and if it's along the ring road, let's say, on the right of the Ocean Club where it doesn't pass very close to the door, that route is practically straight. It is a route with no obstacles. There are few people because it is disused land. I don't know if it still is, but at that time there was disused land of around two hectares which was off-limits to the public because of works. So, there weren't a lot of people present and so this would be a route that a car would travel in under 30 seconds to get to the church, and let's imagine that there were was a third person, an accomplice could take the little girl and take her to another place from that point.

Then there is another route that takes, perhaps a second less, but there are more turns, there are usually more people around there. It is above all a question: it goes past the door of the Ocean Club. Let's imagine that it is someone known to the group of 9, who is taking this route with the little girl, he would be noticed by many. Whatever the route, that shows one thing. It shows the possibility that in less than 5 minutes, someone could leave the table at the Ocean Club, having taken the little girl in a car, go as far as the church, come back and in 5 minutes be chatting with his friends. That's a clear demonstration.

DL: So far, we know that there were gaps in the information. We know more or less the amount of time that was available to the couple, to certain of their friends for being away from dinner at Ocean Club and in the first news that appeared, a space of time of 12 minutes was mentioned. 12 minutes then, would be enough time to get a body out of an apartment?

PS: Half that time would be more than enough, comfortably enough.

DL: In relation to the Madeleine McCann case, those Identikit portraits that appeared one after the other, up to what point can credibility be given either to the witnesses who created the Identikit pictures or the Identikit pictures themselves, because there are big differences between them?

PS: Yes, they are different. I find those Identikit portraits a complete deception and there are mistakes at all levels, the first of which is with the photo. The Identikit portrait is a product, let's say, created as a general rule by an artist or a police technician from a witness statement. So, the first question we have to ask ourselves is if the witness statement is credible. In two situations the witness statement was from a lady called Jane Tanner, who belonged to the Tapas group, didn't she? And this lady, as can be checked, in the questionable things she produced for the police, there are modifications. That is more than enough reason for us to be cautious.

When we look at the Identikit picture, then the sketch by the police artist is the result of an attempt to transform the result of a creation, let's say, questionable, from a person who is constantly in the process of modifying her witness statement. To give an example of that, in the first sketch, we have something like having seen a man carrying something in his arms, something that looked like a child wrapped in a blanket. And in the second it was Maddie who was in the arms of that person so that in the Identikit picture we see a drawing of a little girl being carried in the arms, in a very strange way, because no human being carries carries like that...thus, it is simply in very special circumstances unless she was obviously dead but I don't see anybody out in the street with a dead child, showing her to the public.

Yet, this is deception.

What astonishes me is that an experienced artist, for example a forensic police officer, can make such a basic mistake as that and about the details, the proportions, of a three year-old child. The proportion she confers on the person carrying her, is badly reproduced in the sense that the legs are purely and simply too long in comparison with anthropometric guidelines, which I repeat, a forensic artist has an obligation to know and to work in that way. This is the reason that it's totally misleading.

But there is another very interesting question. It is that this picture is definitely produced with pyjamas, which were only presented in public, the image of those pyjamas...after Jane Tanner had produced the first story. In the second, she modified them. So, a first Identikit portrait agreeing with the witness statement. Then this is according to the technical skills which a forensic artist must have in her training and clearly she cannot make basic errors like that. And then an Identikit picture nearly always claims to identify what is most identifiable about human beings and we know that we are more identifiable. Babies look at a special part of our bodies, our face, the triangle of eyes, nose, mouth and every person having seen another person, instinctively where does she look? It's the face.

And if someone saw somebody and he suspects this somebody of taking that little girl, it is somewhat astonishing how he notices the classic shoes, the beige trousers, the browncoat , the beige shirt, the qualities of the colours so difficult to see at night and also is also attentive to details and retains them for a long time and he has no idea about the face.
Well, that's not an Identikit portrait.

In finishing and most important from my point of view, and what effectively reflects the willingness to maintain the theory of kidnap at all costs, through gross errors like those which I have just been talking about and I say again; good, but look. It's a portrait created by a forensic artist with FBI training. But what do we have here? The clear imposition of an authoritative argument in favour of the authority of the argument. If the argument is good it doesn't matter whether it's made by the FBI or made by whoever else, or all the institutions known to be competent, who have 100% competent people. So, this is an absolutely extraordinary error and it is on that basis that we are trying to show that video, purely and simply to say that this Identikit portrait is a deception and further, the third to appear, a sketch of a bearded person and, as has very often been said jokingly, very like the ex-Beatle, the shy George Harrison. It was produced not by the witness Jane Tanner as we are led to believe, but by an English citizen, British, who was not in Praia da Luz at the time when the little girl disappeared, but it was around a month after she saw a man with those characteristics and it was based on those characteristics after a few discussions, she had said that it was someone who looked Mediterranean, who reproduced this third Identikit portrait.

Which's too much of a coincidence that the guy stays there, after having kidnapped, nearly a month and that this lady should see the same guy. Now, this was good for a detective agency working for theMcCanns, finding in Altura in the Algarve, near Vila Real de Sao Antonio, a guy who also had a beard, with quite long hair, who by chance, also had a brown shirt and who was there in Altura, which is half-way, for example, between Praia da Luz and Huelva where had also been, at the same time, as if that wasn't enough, a little girl had been abducted at the time, when it was discovered she had been abducted and murdered by a paedophile.

Only at that time, that wasn't known and probably this set up a guy, which is clearly demonstrated, by facial comparison using anthropometric reconstruction, let's say, the facial proportions, which have nothing to do with the Identikit portrait, and who, in addition is a citizen who has mental health problems.

That was useful for maintaining, for a while, an Identikit portrait which was itself a misleading portrait and constructed, I would hazard and I would say, artificially, because purely and simply the arch of the eyebrows and the lower part of the face don't coincide in proportion and we are in the process of creating an ambiguous type of human being, because the upper part is typically masculine as far as the eyebrow characteristics while over accentuating the features....his cranial prominences were more distinct and he looked nasty. When we would like to, for example.....even in the cinema when we want to cast an actor to play a criminal, we are not going to cast an actor with delicate features. A more rough and ready type is cast. That Neanderthal eyebrow prominence creates fear, doesn't it?

This upper part is like that, but this lower part is more like the citizen, for example more Anglo-Saxon, while the upper part looks like a North African. But, whether what we have here is a hybrid kind of person, what we need to know is if this is another incompetence by the artist or if it is something more dangerous than that, a forgery to create an ancestral criminal stereotype.

DL: One last question, perhaps, concerning the campaign that was created around the case. From a psychological point of view to what extent can we consider the use of Cuddle Cat, the walks by the sea, their going to church, to what extent can we explain that in terms of manipulating the public?

PS: I believe that.... the actions themselves are evidence of manipulating public opinion because normally when a child disappears, with the loss of a child, we should look at the more common human behaviour, which doesn't mean that being more common, there aren't other people who behave differently without their becoming suspects or whatever and being accused. But the most natural is that people whose child has disappeared, a loved one, whoever it may be, prefer to be surrounded by the police and people who help them technically to find and don't as, for example, on the first night, a priest was sought and soon afterward an image consultant.

(To be continued as I carry on translating this lengthy piece!)

Entrevue exclusive par Duarte Levy. Image par Joana Morais. 2008/2009 ©Tous droits réservés.

Video of Paulo Sargento's interview is available on the SOS Madeleine McCann web site.

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