Author Topic: "The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann? What Really Happened' by Chelsea Hoffman  (Read 4159 times)

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Offline Aletheias footsteps

The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann? What Really Happened

A Review of a new book of that name written by Chelsea Hoffman

Firstly, what are my qualifications for writing a critique of a non-fiction book? - Well, in another life I published several peer-reviewed articles in professional journals and I also contributed several chapters to a medical textbook which was published in 2000. In recent years I have studied various writings about the Madeleine McCann case, including the published PJ Files and several books on the subject. The latter have included Goncalo Amaral's book, "The Truth of the Lie", Kate McCann's book "Madeleine", as well as Criminal Profiler Pat Brown's book about the case "Profile of the Disappearance of Madeleine McCann". In addition I have watched all the McCann media interviews.

What are the qualities necessary for a successful non-fiction work? Well I would suggest that the main ones (in no particular order) are grammatical English, well researched and referenced subject matter, correctly described and verifiable data, and conclusions/arguments that are supported within the text and references.

1. Grammatical English - this work pays poor attention to rules of grammar, and lacks logical structure and progression in the underlying story.

2. Well researched/structured subject matter - sad to say that I could find very little evidence of a well searched subject. In fact quite the opposite with numerous factual errors.
Example 1:  the author repeatedly refers to it being "nearly 10 years' since Madeleine was declared missing ..... it is actually barely 9 years and 3 months at the time of publication.

Example 2: The author claims that the Tapas group all traveled together to Praia da Luz .... whereas they traveled in two separate groups, each group from separate airports. This information is easily found in the Police Files.

Example 3: "Each of the families had their own Rental Villa" .... the accommodation was in 4 separate apartments within one building.

3. Similarly one expects correctly described and verifiable data
Example 1: According to the author the group ate at the Tapas Bar which she describes as having a ''courtyard'' between their table and their apartments. This "Courtyard" is mentioned several times. There was no courtyard ... but there was a large SWIMMING POOL, gardens plus a walled walkway between the restaurant and where the group were sitting (not mentioned)! One would expect that the layout of the apartments, the Tapas bar and all things in between would be known to the author.

Example 2: The author talks about the McCanns first public statement being made on 5th May with Gerry McCann beginning "We cannot describe ....." Wrong on TWO counts ... the statement was read out on 4th May and began "Words cannot describe ...." It is not unreasonable to expect the author to be able to quote something so important correctly, especially when easily accessed on video online.

Example 3: The author suggests that on hearing Kate report that Madeleine had disappeared Jane Tanner IMMEDIATELY made the remark ''Oh my God, I saw a man carrying a girl". However, when exactly Jane revealed to anyone that she had seen 'a man carrying a girl' , or 'a man carrying a child' or 'a bundle which might have been a child', is open to argument as it is variously reported within the statements in the PJ Files. But it is certainly not a matter of certainty or record that she revealed this immediately Madeleine's disappearance was discovered.

Example 4: The author states unequivocally that Kate McCann was offered a DEAL by the PJ. This is not a matter of fact or of official record and is not reported in the PJ Files or their Final Report.

But it has to be said that by far most irresponsible claims made in this book are with regard to the dogs and the DNA results. It is obvious from the writing about Eddie and Keela that the author is not aware how these dogs were deployed in their searches, i.e. Eddie deployed first and if he alerted to the presence of cadaver odour then Keela would be deployed afterwards to search for blood. She writes as if the dogs were used in tandem.

The author states that "samples collected from areas detected by Grime's sniffer dogs all tested closely familiar to Madeleine McCann". Not true. The author also states that "What's most disturbing is the fact the DNA found in the rental car trunk was found to be a positive match to Madeleine McCann." Also not true. Then a bit later she says "Furthermore, DNA samples taken from points in the rental apartment were also found to be positively matched to Madeleine McCann. Kate and Gerry have famously claimed that the twin siblings of their missing child could have attributed (sic) to the DNA match. Furthermore, samples taken from the trunk of human cadaverine and blood could have only come from a body being transported the body of Madeleine McCann."

REALLY? THIS IS FACT? No it isn't (much as one might wish otherwise), - the Forensic Science Service (FSS) was unable to report any DEFINITE or FULL match to Madeleine's DNA because it was stated that the samples were variously 'incomplete', 'mixed' or 'too complex for meaningful analysis'.

Let's move on briefly ... the author suggests that Kate's "diary" MAY have been created AFTER Madeleine disappeared. Well I am sorry but the most basic research would have told the author that Kate McCann did indeed start writing her diary retrospectively as a form of therapy. No mystery ... that is what happened.

There is also one strange passage about the behaviour of the McCanns' friend David Payne, in the initial hours following the disappearance, which is difficult to match up to any bona fide reports. Perhaps it refers to the British social worker who tried to approach Kate but this is not stated. It is possible that she confuses David Payne's behaviour with that of Robert Murat's early in the investigation.

The author also suggests that tracker dogs should have been used early on ...... for the record, tracker dogs were used for the first time during the early hours of the morning on 4th May and again later that same day (i.e. within 12 hours of the child being declared missing). Again this information is available in the PJ Files ... even down to the names of the dogs involved.

Skipping over the remainder of the book, which includes ramblings about Tweeter Brenda Leyland, Internet trolls, and an interview with Stephen Birch where he claims that the Portuguese Police " planted DNA in the hire car" (and with which she seems to concur), our author concludes that Scotland Yard have "ignored" the forensic evidence! While it is true that the cadaver dog, Eddie, and the blood dog, Keela, alerted to places and items connected only to the McCanns, it is also the case that such alerts are not admissible as evidence without the addition of positive forensic results. As explained previously none of the samples taken produced definite DNA matches. Sadly we have no way of knowing whether or not Scotland Yard are "ignoring" the dog alerts.

My conclusions: As a serious commentary on Madeleine's disappearance and its investigation the book falls far short of a well-researched piece of writing in my view, and I find it hard to believe that the author has ever sourced the PJ files or Amaral's book. It has been argued elsewhere that flagging up the issues surrounding this case to those who know nothing of it is, of itself, a good thing.  My own view is that this only holds true if a book is a serious attempt to describe and explain issues with due reference to official sources and/or verifiable data ..... sadly that is not the case here.


Offline G-Unit

It would be interesting to see a book which was well researched and followed the facts. One day perhaps....
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Offline Aletheias footsteps

Yes indeed it would, G Unit. There is always the one by Summers and Swan to fall back on, of course!  8(0(*