Monday, 31 October 2016

Forensic Science Service closes, leaving a legacy of mass failures.

Some time ago I read an article in The Guardian, dated 22nd February 2007. The article in question related to a huge number of failures from the Forensic Science Service (FSS); the Government run UK lab who, along with many others, dealt with forensics from the McCann case.

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2007/feb/22/topstories3.ukcrime?0p19G=c

It is important to note that whilst this article predated the disappearance of Madeleine McCann by 10 weeks, the revelations dealt a devastating blow to the reputation of the FSS, and could well be part of the problems that led to the incomplete, and with regards to some samples that were tested, a total lack of DNA found.

The discovery that an estimated 2,500 samples taken from serious crime scenes, including murder, rape, and sexual assault, had been botched by the FSS, only came to light during the review into the murder of Rachel Nickell. Rachel was murdered, and sexually assaulted on Wimbledon common on 15th July 1992. The only witness to the crime was Rachel's two year old son; Alexander Nickell. Tragically, the toddler was found holding onto his mother's blood soaked body by a passer by. Alexander had even placed pieces of paper over the lifeless Rachel's wounds after she had been brutally stabbed to death in front of him.

The investigation into finding Rachel Nickell's killer was confounded by controversy. Without any real leads, and a complete lack of identifiable DNA from the FSS, police focused their investigation on a local man, Colin Stagg, who often walked his dog on the common. At this point police enlisted the services of criminal psychologist, Paul Britton, who, upon their request, created a profile of the killer; the profile, according to police, matched that of Stagg, and a plan to trap the suspect began.

With Britton's assistance, the Met briefed one of their undercover female officers. Adopting the name 'Lizzie James', the officer from SO10 began to form a staged relationship with the unsuspecting Colin Stagg. During the 5 month operation, 'James' attempted to gain information from Stagg, by discussing sexual fantasies, either by letter, through telephone conversations, or face to face. Discussions, instigated by 'James', progressed to those of a more violent nature, Stagg became worried that his new 'love' would end the 'relationship', going as far to say 'Please explain, as I live a quiet life. If I have disappointed you, please don't dump me. Nothing like this has happened to me before.'

As the pressure grew upon Stagg to fulfil the expectations of his fake lover's fantasies, he made a stupid confession. The suspect claimed he had murdered a woman in New Forest. Like the relationship though, this 'confession' was totally false. Frustrated the undercover officer 'Lizzie James' was instructed to go for broke:

'LJ' - "If only you had done the Wimbledon Common murder, if only you had killed her, it would be all right"

CS - "I'm terribly sorry, but I haven't."

Despite no forensic evidence, no confession, and no formal identification, the CPS agreed with the police, and on the 17th August 1993 arrested, and charged Colin Stagg.

The trial collapsed, and for good reason. The defence claimed the 'evidence' of Paul Britton was speculative, but worse for the police, their covert operation was slammed by the judge. Justice Ognall ruled that the 'honey trap' had been 'a blatant attempt to incriminate a suspect by positive and deceptive conduct of the grossest kind'. The prosecution admitted defeat, and on 14th September 1994 Colin Stagg was acquitted of murder.

As a side note, the acquittal sparked a massive debate as to whether judges could, or should, be relied upon to decide whether 'entrapment' had taken place. The reason for this was that by definition, entrapment is the act of inducing a person to commit an offence, that otherwise they would have had no intention to commit. Due to the fact the murder of Rachel Nickell had already happened, then it could have been argued that entrapment didn't take place, and therefore under another judge, the actions of the police could well have been deemed perfectly sound.

True to form however, I digress.

During a second inquiry of the case in 2002, the FSS retested items found at the murder scene. Once again the lab failed to identify tiny amounts of DNA taken from the body, and underwear of Rachel Nickell. The lab used a technique known as Low Copy Number DNA analysis; the very same technique they used to test a great number of the samples sent from Portugal during the McCann investigation.

As briefly as I can:

LCN testing is a form of LTDNA (low template DNA), testing, and was first introduced by the FSS in 1999.

The benefit of LCN testing, when done correctly, is that DNA can be identified from samples deemed to be too microscopic for previous testing methods (SGM+), to yield results.

The way this is done is to increase the number of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) cycles.

Whereas standard testing used 28 cycles, LCN testing used 34.

The short video below explains PCR cycles, and how they copy DNA:

https://www.dnalc.org/view/15475-The-cycles-of-the-polymerase-chain-reaction-PCR-3D-animation.html

With that in mind, the disadvantages of LCN testing are:

Because the samples are being reproduced more, they are more prone to contamination, as well as the risk of mixed profiles being produced (ring any bells?).

Back to the Rachel Nickell inquiry now, and as I stated earlier, the tests carried out by the FSS failed to find tiny amounts of DNA. Had a DNA match been found, it would surely have snared Rachel's killer. The case may still have been unsolved to this day, had it not been for Scotland Yard sending the samples to a private lab. The change of lab proved pivotal; as well as Rachel Nickell's DNA a male sample belonging to Robert Napper was found. The match probability of this result, was approximately 1 in 12 million. At the time of the discovery, Napper, a paranoid schizophrenic, was being held in Broadmoor for the murder of Samantha Bisset, as well as the murder and sexual assault of Bisset's 4 year old daughter. Tragically, the attack on the young mother and daughter took place 16 months after the murder of Rachel Nickell. Had the police been looking at the right man, instead of following a wild goose chase, Samantha Bisset and her daughter may have still be alive today.

In 2005 Tony Lake, chief constable of Lincolnshire police and the Association of Chief Police Officers' spokesman on forensic issues, was given the task of reviewing exactly what went wrong, why the FSS failed the victims of Napper. When Lake made the shocking discovery that the FSS had made a mess of over 2,500 samples, he, and many other police forces were furious. Lake had this to say:

"This is about not getting results when it might be expected that there was DNA, rather than getting a result that was wrong. This type of DNA analysis of tiny amounts of DNA is carried out normally in the most serious crimes. We were not best pleased. We were not impressed. We rely on our forensic providers to have the highest standards."

Lake contacted every chief constable in the country, asking that all forces check their files between the years 2000 and 2005; in particular the forces were to report back any negative results from samples sent to the FSS, where a positive result had been expected. Tony Blair's government and the police kept the massive faillings secret for as long as they could, prompting David Davis, the shadow Home secretary to accuse Blair and his government of a cover up. This was strenuously denied of course; Blair never was a man to admit his lies.

Despite the findings, the FSS continued to handle forensic evidence, and in 2007, were used to test all samples from the McCann case. We all know how that went:

DNA NOT found from samples it was expected to have been found in.

Mixed samples.

Incomplete samples.

http://www.mccannpjfiles.co.uk/PJ/JOHN_LOWE.htm

With the form the FSS had, is it possible the lab made a pigs ear of the testing again?

To further add to the FSS' problems, in December 2007 LCN testing was suspended, after Justice Weir expressed concerns the FSS had botched samples from the 'real IRA' bombing in Omagh.

Not exactly covering themselves in glory were they.

In December 2010, the government announced that they were to close the FSS down; the reason for this was said to be purely financial. In light of the lab's dreadful track record, could it be that money wasn't the only reason, (if it was a reason at all), for it's closure. Or could it be that the staggering amount of failures, had brought the government to a position where the FSS was fast reaching an untenable position.

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmsctech/855/85508.htm

According to the article o the link below, the estimated cost of the FSS closure, was between £300 - £350 million. That's not pocket change, and given the laboratory's multiple failures, the question has to be asked...

What was the real reason for the closure of the FSS?

Some useful reading:

National Police Improvement Agency; homicide and major incident investigation:

http://library.college.police.uk/docs/J_Homicide_MII/J_Homicide_6.1.pdf



Offender Profiling in the Courtroom: The Use and Abuse of Expert Witness; by Norbert Ebisike














Saturday, 29 October 2016

Kate McCann's Freudian slip.

Whilst gathering some information for another post, and getting lost down a rabbit hole (no pun intended), I came across a quote that I just couldn't leave.

The following exchange took place at the trial McCann V Amaral, 8th July 2014:

Judge Maria Emília de Melo e Castro - "Do you recall an  interview that Mr. Amaral gave to Correio da Manhã on 24th July 2008 called Cadaver was frozen or kept in the cold."

Kate Healy (McCann) - "He gave several interviews but I do recall one in particular which was exaggerated. Where he said that Madeleine's body had been kept frozen and then taken inside the boot of the car we had rented seven weeks later [sic, car was rented 24 days later]."

"Exaggerated", not lied, not fabricated, but "exaggerated".

An example of exaggeration is provided within Kate's reply, when she states Goncalo Amaral claimed Madeleine's body was "taken inside the boot of the car we had rented seven weeks later"

Snr. Amaral actually said "twenty something days after"

In that instance, a foundation of fact is present (car we had rented), but the length of time (seven weeks later), is "exaggerated" by Kate.

Snr. Amaral's claim consists of two elements:

"...the cadaver was frozen or preserved in the cold"

"Everything indicated that the body, after having been at a certain location, was moved into another location by car"

Of those two elements, I wonder, which does Kate believe was the factual foundation, and which went on to "exaggerate" the fact?




Kate McCann - guilty of sabotaging her own claims.

I'd like to tackle a delicate subject that has bothered me for two years. Ever since the damages trial at Lisbon in July 2014, I have played one particular part over and over in my head. To explain my thoughts properly, I will start at the beginning, the moment Kate and Gerry began this particular litigation against Goncalo Amaral.

In 2009, a 36 page writ detailing the McCanns' reasons for suing Goncalo Amaral was handed to The Sunday People. The accurately translated documents, revealed claims from the McCanns that the couple suffered from:

"permanent anxiety, insomnia, lack of appetite, irritability and an indefinable fear".

It also stated that Kate was:

"steeped in a deep and serious depression".

During the trial, we first see the subject of the McCanns' state of mind being questioned, on day 1 of the trial, 12th September 2013.

Susan Hubbard, the wife of Father Haynes Hubbard, an Anglican priest who was said to have consoled Kate and Gerry during their time in Portugal, was asked:

"Did they feel ashamed, anxious?"

Mrs Hubbard refused to answer the question.

Day 3 of the trial, 19th September 2013; Alan Pike, a Clinical Partner & Trauma Consultant at The Centre for Crisis Psychology, is called to give evidence. When questioned about Kate's Mental health, he states that:

"In the summer of 2009 Kate was not well at all as a direct result of reactions to the documentary."

Now before I go any further, let's just add some spice. Alan Pike has become a close friend of the McCanns. He first met the family on the 5th May 2007, after Mark Warner requested he come to Portugal, to offer the McCanns support. It's true that he's a clinical partner at The Centre for Crisis Psychology. All sounds very swish doesn't it. You would imagine he's a psychologist...right?

Pike claimed, in court, that Kate McCann suffered secondary trauma as a result of Goncalo Amaral's book.

In the following quote Pike gives his opinion on how Kate's mental health had been affected:

"The secondary trauma is sometimes more violent, more rooted and more extreme than the original trauma (Madeleine's disappearance). It is more difficult to cope with."

Poor Kate. Seemingly it WAS the book that caused the ambassador to become "steeped in a deep and serious depression".

I mean it had to be, Mr Pike, a credible witness, a psychologist, a...wait, are we sure Pike was a psychologist? Are we sure he was in a position to give a diagnosis? Let's pick up the questioning from the lawyers for Guerra & Paz (the publishers of 'The Truth of The Lie')

GP - "What exactly is your profession?"

AP - answers he is a Crisis Counsellor.

GP - asks whether he is a psychologist?

AP - says he has some competences in psychology (psychology was one of the elements in his degree).

GP - asks again "are you a psychologist?"

AP - says no.

So Pike, isn't a psychologist after all. He is in no position to diagnose depression, and in no position to give an evaluation of Kate's mental health prior to Madeleine's disappearance, after which, any pre-existing mental health problems would be masked by what a stranger could easily put down to (what Pike continually describes) as an 'abduction'.

Let's give Mr Pike credit though, he's clearly not some wide-eyed, gullible, man...

AP – They were surprised with the book because the final Report said they were innocent.

GP – Have you read the final report?

AP says "no".

GP – How do you know then what its conclusions are?

AP says the McCanns told him.

...oh he is. The final report didn't state the McCanns were innocent at all.

Next up, was the star witness (sarcasm), for the prosecution. The one and only Michael Wright, self confessed media monitor, and husband of Kate McCann's cousin..

Day 4, 20th September 2013:

Wright is questioned as to the effects of the book upon the McCanns.

"The fact that people in Praia da Luz believed the conclusions of the book was terrible for them because they were already depressed. It was a time of great anger and sadness. During the week-end we talked about the effect of the book."

Gradually Judge Maria Emília de Melo e Castro, is being given a picture that backs the McCanns' claims within the writ, that Kate is "steeped in a deep and serious depression".

Isabel Duarte, the McCanns' lawyer, is keen to push the matter further, as she questions Michael Wright:

"Is Kate depressed?"

At this point the plan was blatantly obvious; Wright would answer yes, and the depression angle would be firmly cemented.

However, at this point something happens that in my opinion, alters the entire case.

Judge Maria Emília de Melo e Castro, overrules the question, and states that this is only something that can be confirmed by Kate's doctor.

Depression isn't mentioned again by either lawyer until day 12, July 8th 2014. I had the privilege of being sat in the gallery during this hearing. I heard the Judge ask Kate McCann if she suffered from depression, this question was translated to Kate, who then answered. Kate floundered, seemingly excusing the severity of anything she may have been feeling. She began by saying:

"Depression can come in many forms"

An odd reply, given that the McCanns had based a huge part of the case upon Kate being "steeped in a deep and serious depression".

The judge then asked:

"Were you diagnosed with a clinical depression?"

Kate replied:

"No. Depression is over-diagnosed, over used term to diagnose those who feel a bit down, clinically I wasn't depressed."

Say what now?

With that one reply, Kate destroyed one of the couple's main reasons for their claim.

Question is (I know I took a while getting there, and I thank you for sticking with this), why did Kate effectively sabotage her own case?

It's obvious from the writ, from Alan Pike, and from Michael Wright's testimony, that the plan was to push the depression element. That was, until a doctor was mentioned.

Being diagnosed with depression from a qualified doctor, would have been one of the easiest things for Kate to achieve. So why didn't she do so? Given the circumstances, a doctor would have had to take what Kate said (regarding the disappearance of Madeleine), at face value. Let's be honest, given her occupation, she wouldn't be struggling to find a sympathetic GP.

With half a million big ones at stake, a trip to the doctors would be the first thing the McCanns would have done. Given that both would have undoubtedly attended court cases in the line of their work before, they would know how the system worked.

I ask again, why didn't they secure their claims?

Would it be beyond the realms of possibility that if medical records had been requested, to prove or disprove the presence of depression, that further mental health issues would be revealed; issues that pre-dated the disappearance of Madeleine. Issues, that if read out in court, could pour more suspicion upon Kate McCann. The records would be useless as evidence had they not gone back to a time prior to May 2007, as determining when the depression started would have been paramount to the case.

With thanks to Anne Guedes, Joana Morais, and the Pamalam blog for court translations, and for avoiding the screaming banshee outside the Palacio Justiça Lisboa :D

Transcripts from the trial can be read here:

http://www.gerrymccannsblogs.co.uk/AnneGuedes.htm





































Tuesday, 18 October 2016

The McCanns and the media...

As early as 23rd October 2007, The Daily Mirror's Chief Crime Correspondent, Jeff Edwards, had this to say:

"I get pissed off with columnists who say the parents can't have had anything to do with it. All the murder squad people I know say 'don't talk to me about certain things being impossible'. There's been a certain amount of unconscious racism here about the Portuguese police. Actually, it's not a third world country."

"They may not have our level of competence but they are not stupid and they are limited by their own constitution. Whatever is said about that inquiry, everything they've done has been driven by something such as significant inconsistencies between the McCanns and their friends."

So why do our press have a phobia of writing balanced articles on the McCann case?

On October 2nd 2014, two days before the death of Brenda Leyland, Gerry McCann gave a tale of self pity, woe, and sorrow to The Guardian:

"Nearly three years ago my wife, Kate, and I appeared before the Leveson inquiry to talk about the campaign of lies that was waged against us after our daughter Madeleine went missing. We described how our lives had been turned into a soap opera so that newspapers could make money, with no regard for truth, for the distress they were inflicting, or for the damage caused to the search for Madeleine. We asked Lord Justice Leveson to ensure that in future things would be different and that nobody would ever again have to endure the dishonest reporting we experienced, or at least that there would be some quick, effective way of correcting false reports in newspapers.

Nothing has changed since then. Big newspaper companies continue to put sales and profit before truth. The protection for ordinary people is as feeble as it always was.

A year ago, when Kate and I were experiencing a time of renewed hope as the Metropolitan police stepped up its new investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance, we received an email late on a Thursday night from the Sunday Times. Its reporter asked us to comment on information he planned to publish. This turned out to be a claim that for five years Kate, I and the directors of Madeleine’s Fund withheld crucial evidence about Madeleine’s disappearance. We rushed to meet his deadline for a response. In the vain hope that the Sunday Times would not publish such a clearly damaging and untrue story, we sent a statement to the newspaper. We denied the main tenet of the story and emphasised that since Madeleine’s disappearance we had fully cooperated with the police and that the directors of Madeleine’s Fund had always acted in her best interest.

However, the Sunday Times went ahead and published the report on its front page, largely ignoring our statement. We tried to settle this matter quickly and without legal action. I wrote to the editor asking for a correction, but all we got in response was an offer to publish a “clarification” and tweak a few lines of the article – but still to continue to publish it on the newspaper’s website. Indeed, further correspondence from the paper only aggravated the distress the original article had caused, created a huge volume of work and forced us to issue a formal complaint to get redress through our lawyers.

Eventually, two months after the article was published, a correction was printed, retracting all the allegations and apologising. But even then – and despite the grotesque nature of what it had falsely alleged on its front page – the apology was on an inside page and the word “apology” was absent from the headline. Since then, it has taken 11 months and the filing of a legal claim to get the Sunday Times to agree to damages, all of which we are donating to charity, and to get our right to tell the public that we had won the case. But the cost to the paper is peanuts – the fee for a single advertisement will probably cover it. And there will be no consequences for anyone working there. Nothing will be done to ensure that in future reporters and editors try harder to get things right. And so the same people will do something similar, soon, to some other unfortunate family – who will probably not have our hard-earned experience of dealing with these things and who will probably never succeed in getting a correction or an apology."

The rest of Gerry's paradoxical piffle can be read on the link below:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/oct/02/leveson-gerry-mccann-media-stories-before-truth

Apart from the obvious, and blatant hypocrisy from Gerry McCann, who has never once condemned the press for their blatant smearing of Goncalo Amaral, Brenda Leyland, or indeed Euclides Monteiro, the article above was littered with lies.

The Times didn't retract all of the accusations against the McCanns, and rightly so. Yes, the two journalists who wrote the article got some facts wrong, but not as entirely as Gerry would have us believe. In fact his own report was far more misleading than the original.

The McCanns didn't hide the efit from the police for 5 years, it was actually 11 months (still this was hardly with any urgency). They did hide it from the public for 5 years though. Scotland Yard went as far as to make it the centrepiece on Crimewatch in October 2013, describing their findings as "a revelation moment". It was hardly that, given that the efits were handed to the McCanns in November 2008, (5 years previous to Crimewatch) So we begin to see where the confusion arose. Even after the Crimewatch episode the McCanns weren't quick out of the blocks to splash this newly released efit onto their Official Find Madeleine Page.

So despite claims to the contrary (and not for the first time), Kate and Gerry McCann did suppress vital evidence. Yet, eventually, the newspaper rolled over (albeit half heartedly), handing Gerry McCann the opportunity to write his own article, telling the public how everything The Times wrote, was unfair, and untrue.

The following extract is from The Press Gazette Journalism Today, and is in relation to the above story:

"They said that the story led to them having “suffered serious damage to their reputations and severe embarrassment and distress.

They also claimed that the paper's Insight team, which wrote the story, had not told their spokesman the full extent of the allegations which were to be made against them.

The McCanns also said that the story did not include several points made to Insight by their spokesman. They said this denied them "a proper opportunity to inform the readers of The Sunday Times of the falsity of the allegations against them".

http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/sunday-times-sued-mccanns-over-story-which-wrongly-claimed-evidence-was-withheld-police/

Unless the McCanns had another spokesman we don't know about, it is safe to assume that the person in question, was none other than the mendacious manipulator, Clarence Mitchell. It is clear from  the report above, that the McCanns had become accustomed to being told the foundations of a story, and would then be allowed to tweak the story to better suit themselves; something Mitchell in his pomp, admitted to in the past.

On October 18th 2007, Mitchell made a speech at Coventry University. The slippery eel talked with great bravado of how he "fed" the media stories, and of how, when the press quoted him or the McCanns in an unfavourable light he would "pull journalists to one side and say, look, if you want further co operation, this is what we said, and this is what we meant" in other words manipulating the press to favour the McCanns, in exchange for stories.

http://coventryuniversity.podbean.com/e/speaking-for-the-mccanns-clarence-mitchell/

Of course, this story is just one example, but when linked with many others, illustrates the working relationship the McCanns have enjoyed with the press.

It is no secret that the McCanns paid £500,000 to Bell Pottinger. In exchange for that cash from the fund, it was agreed they would be kept on the front pages of the UK's national papers, and painted in a favourable light. Which brings me nicely onto another example of how the McCanns manipulated the media.

June 2011, and as part of another European tour, the McCanns were in Amsterdam promoting Kate's book. The Daily Express ran an article with the headline:

"AT LAST, SAD KATE McCANN CAN SMILE AGAIN"

http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/254636/At-last-sad-Kate-McCann-can-smile-again

The article was in no way derogatory, but accompanying it, was a picture of Kate and Gerry with broad smiles. In fact, so broad was Kate's smile, that it wouldn't have looked out of place spread across the face of the Cheshire cat (and not a side-splittingly funny balloon in sight).

It was this photograph that the McCanns took exception to. The couple contacted The Express, and the offending photograph was removed.

During a phone call, the sub editor of The Express was reported as saying, "...no papers will print anything regarded as unfavourable regarding the McCanns, and that the couple's "office" had complained that a picture of them laughing was unfavourable as it is a "misrepresentation" of how they feel, which was why they insisted it should be removed."

A misrepresentation of how they feel?

Do the McCanns have a medical condition that causes them to look ecstatic, whilst actually being steeped in deep depression?

Was the grin photoshopped?

Was it perhaps the effects of elation Amsterdam is famous for?

Did the article suggest that?

That would be an "emphatic no" on all counts...as far as I know.

No, it was merely a picture of Kate McCann stood with her husband, both of whom were happy, both of whom knew it, and both of whom forgot not to show it.

Clarence Mitchell once described his work on the McCann case as, "The perfect PR campaign". With Madeleine McCann still missing, and her parents controlling what is said about them in the press, you have to ask yourself; perfect for who?