By: Ruth Sharpe
The Resident speaks exclusively to a former Scotland Yard commander who is working with the Portuguese authorities investigating Madeleine’s disappearance.
IT’S RARE for a case on a missing child to spark so much theory and speculation. In the absence of major pieces of evidence and reports of several different police leads, an air of ambiguity surrounds Madeleine’s disappearance.
The Resident discovered a clearer and different insight into the police investigation when speaking with former Scotland Yard commander, John O’Connor, who firmly believes that Madeleine is still in the Algarve.
“It’s a very unusual case,” said O’Connor who spent over 30 years working in Scotland Yard, the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police in London.
O’ Connor is certain that there was no forced entry into the apartment which leaves only three scenarios of how Madeleine could have escaped: someone had obtained a key to the apartment and let themselves in, Madeleine had let herself out and wandered off, or the house was not left securely locked. Whatever the case may be, O’ Connor is adamant that Madeleine will still be within, or in close proximity to, Praia da Luz.
“Abductions like this only ever happen in quiet and remote places,” said O’Connor, referring to the Soham murders in 2002. O’Connor described how he believes that if Madeleine had been abducted, the likelihood that her abductor would travel out of the country is very unlikely in these circumstances. “It’s more likely that her abductor has her in quarters very close to the crime and cannot escape due to the high profile and activity surrounding her disappearance,” he said.
Speaking about the role of Scotland Yard and British investigators in this case, O’Connor said that they will only be supplying information and intelligence about previous offenders and highlighting common behaviour patterns of these people.
He also pointed out that there is still no certainty that Madeleine was in fact taken by someone and the fact that no one knows the exact time of her disappearance further complicates matters.
“There is no trace to follow and no CCTV in the area,” said O’Connor. “The dogs picked up a scent down the road, which then stopped, suggesting that at this point she could have been taken away in a car, however, this scent could easily be from previous days.”
The former commander stated that looking in remote places is ineffective. If Madeleine is abandoned somewhere, it will be in an area of easy access such as next to a road, therefore giving the abductor a quick and easy escape.
“The police will now have a list of offenders and will be eliminating them one by one, however there is always the possibility that this is a first time offender,” stated O’Connor. He further emphasised that the first 48 hours of an investigation are crucial and the chances of a successful outcome do diminish after this period.
Despite this, O’Connor spoke of the high quality detective work in Portugal and believes that they will solve this case. He spoke of the competency and professionalism of the Portuguese police, dismissing any accusations they have faced. He outlined that they were initially responding to a missing child and not a crime and, therefore, did not think that their initial response should be criticised.
“The UK has far more crime, therefore has contingency plans in place to deal with such circumstances. Although this is not the case in Portugal, O’Connor does not believe that the police were too slow to put the borders on alert. “It is not possible to control the border such as the one between Portugal and Spain.” He also dismissed any claims that a member of the McCann family was a suspect.
“In the absence of major information, they have many lines of enquiry and leads that they must follow up. Small pieces of evidence become considered major leads,” said the former Scotland Yard commander.