With an odd choice of words, British police have announced “a substantial stage of operational activity” in the Algarve-based hunt for seven-years-missing Madeleine McCann, although they affirm they want to “keep expectations down”.
Announcing the stepping-up of the high-profile police search, Assistant Police Commissioner Mark Rowley told reporters: “You shouldn’t read into this that this is necessarily an end game or about to be a breakthrough or anything like that.”
What it does indicate, nonetheless, is that Portuguese and British police forces are now working in tandem, on the understanding that the Met doesn’t unwittingly encourage wild UK press speculation.
According to UK tabloid Daily Mirror – one of the ‘worst offenders’ when it comes to reporting sensationalist aspects of this long-running mystery – the police plan to quiz suspects and start “digging for clues” in Praia da Luz “within weeks”.
But Correio da Manhã reported on Wednesday that the first excavations would be taking place next week and last “between four and six days”.
They will be carried out by British police, writes CM, with Portuguese counterparts simply standing by.
“The renting of JCBs and other necessary digging equipment” is now being dealt with, says the paper, as well as the securing of permissions needed to dig on private land.
Detectives are said to be “focussing on three areas near the apartment where the McCanns stayed”.
As newspapers reported earlier this month, Met officers have already taken a series of aerial photographs of sites around the village from which three-year-old Madeleine went missing in May of 2007. But the police statement that preceded the Mirror’s story spared this kind of detail. It followed warnings from Portuguese counterparts that any information given out to the press could cause PJ police efforts on behalf of the Met to cease altogether.
“We have made it clear to colleagues in Portugal that we will not be giving operational updates,” Assistant Commissioner Rowley told reporters. “I appreciate this will be frustrating to you (the media) … However, if this was an investigation in London, I would not be making public details of operational investigative activity that we were planning or how it might link in to the investigation.”
AC Rowley announced the news last Thursday in New Scotland Yard in front of media representatives from all over the world.
CM confirmed the Mirror’s theory that police would be using geo-radar and interviewing “people of interest”, but added that they would also be “analysing mobile phone records and financial information”.
“There are various lines of investigation and we are working on all of them,” AC Rowley told CM.
‘Dig up the lies, not Luz’
Meantime, in Praia da Luz, residents’ discontent over renewed activity in the village seven years down the line – particularly when expectations appear to be muted – has caused one local to resort to her paint pots.
Creating a banner with the message “Dig up the lies, not Luz”, the resident – who asked not to be named – claims police should be grilling the mystery’s main protagonists, and not digging holes in ground that is “so hard you couldn’t bury a teapot”.
“It is the same story every year. Just as the season starts, this ghastly nonsense returns. Luz has had enough of it! It is time to move on,” she told the Resident. N.D.