The McCann couple return to Great Britain after more than four months spent in the Algarve. It’s an almost triumphant return. The media coverage is such that you’d think you were witnessing the liberation of hostages held for years in a far-off country. Gerald McCann is shown on television carrying his son, as he descends from the plane. The child’s head is against Gerald’s left shoulder and his arms dangling by his sides. Gerald walks across the tarmac, still holding his son closely against himself.
In Ireland, the Smiths are watching the BBC news, which is broadcasting the event. For them, it’s a shock: that person, they recognise him. That way of carrying his child, that way of walking…It’s the man they saw at around 10pm on May 3rd, with a little girl, who seemed to be deeply asleep, in his arms.
This image, brings back with a jolt, that of the man they encountered in the streets of Vila da Luz, on the evening of Madeleine’s disappearance. It’s as if the scene is repeating itself ….Mr Smith thinking he’s hallucinating, sees the same report on other channels, ITV and Sky News. From that moment, he is sure: the man they came across that night was Gerald McCann. Of that there is very little doubt. Upset by the implications of this discovery, he alerts the police and waits to be called back by those in charge of the investigation.
When we receive this information, at the end of September, we think we finally have the piece that will allow us to complete the puzzle. Because of this, we may be able to reconstruct the course of events on that cold night of May 3rd in Vila da Luz. We have a better understanding of why Jane Tanner, “sent,” the alleged abductor in the opposite direction to that taken by the man seen by the Smith family. Suspicion had to be diverted from Gerald who – if he was the guilty party – would have taken this route: leaving apartment 5A, the individual who was carrying the child, did not go east, towards Murat’s house, but west in the direction of the beach.
We decide to get the Smiths back to the Algarve, for a formal identification of Gerry McCann – by means of televised images, certainly – direct confrontation being impossible – and possibly proceed to a reconstruction of the events of the night of May 3rd. The National Director of the Judiciary police agrees, the process is set in motion, all the details are sorted out; all that remains is to choose the hotel where they will be put up. But the Smiths were never to come back to Portugal. After my departure, the PJ were to change their minds. They asked the Irish police to proceed with interviewing the witness. That decision was to seriously delay the process since the Smiths were not interviewed until several months later. Meanwhile, rumours were to circulate and people not involved with the investigation would be made aware of the existence of this witness; someone allegedly even sought out contact with the family, without its being known to what end.