IN May 2017 the BBC broadcast a special edition of Panorama to mark 10 years after the reported disappearance of three-year-old British girl Madeleine McCann.
If you either didn’t watch it or don’t remember anything from it, you haven’t missed anything.
Our state broadcaster produced almost 90 minutes of cut and paste journalism. No new leads, no new theories just an excruciatingly boring recap of a narrative we were already very familiar with.
All I can recall are very uninformative interviews with former staff from the resort where Madeleine allegedly went missing – and they made it clear they didn’t really want to speak.
But one potentially golden nugget of information was included – and deliberately downgraded, so it could immediately be discarded.
The Beeb reported that an Irish family claimed to have seen an adult carrying a young girl – who fitted the description of Madeleine – both close to the scene of the drama and the time it was reported.
But, the reporter added, a member of the family had subsequently withdrawn his police statement.
That has been disproven by Irish investigative journalist Gemma O’Doherty who, unlike the Beeb, took the time and trouble to track down and speak with the Smith family.
In this video speaking with Sarah Westall, O’Doherty explains the potential importance of that sighting which flies in the face of the official narrative promoted by the BBC and other mainstream media since May 3, 2007.
For Martin Smith’s initial statement to the police included his suspicion that the man walking urgently away from the holiday complex in Portugal and towards the sea was none other than Madeleine’s father Gerry McCann.
Members of the family noted that the girl in question appeared to be either asleep or unconscious as she was being carried on the shoulder of the man.
The girl was described as about four years old and of a pale complexion. Mr Smith believed this girl was Madeleine.
One member of the family made a passing comment to the man about the girl’s condition which the man ignored as he continued, head down, on his way.
The Smiths returned to Ireland following their holiday, but a second police statement was made after seeing footage of the McCanns coming off the plane following their enforced extended stay in Portugal. This was at the time when they were officially reported as suspects by the local police.
Mr Smith said that watching Gerry McCann come off the plane with his young son ‘triggered’ his memory of the original incident. He described it as an ‘action replay’ and told police once again that he believed he had seen both Mr McCann and his daughter on May 3.
Later detectives, working on behalf of the McCanns, interviewed the family and a photo fit image was produced for the police. It is not thought, however, that this was taken seriously.
In the interview with Westall, O’Doherty explains how her own thoughts about what happened in Portugal have changed over the years – and particularly since speaking with the Smiths.
Soon after the alleged abduction, O’Doherty was sent to Madeleine’s ‘home town’ – which is infact the village of Rothley in Leicestershire – to file an article.
She reports that local journalists briefed her off-the-record giving a different version to the official McCanns story – but she was initially unimpressed and wrote about the alleged abduction and the tragedy of parents and a missing child.
Now however she has changed her mind after doing the kind of investigative reporting that the BBC, with all its resources, has failed to do.
She asked Mr Smith face-to-face if he had withdrawn his police statement and the answer was ‘absolutely not’.
She then contacted the BBC on the family’s behalf and says the corporation admitted to an ‘error or judgement’ but was not keen on retracting the statement for fears that reporters would turn up to O’Doherty’s door.
O’Doherty tells Westall she now believes the abduction story is a ‘massive cover up’ and urges truth seekers to view You Tube videos which she thinks give more credible information on what happened.
She points out in an article on the same subject that the man seen by the Smiths has not come forward to rule himself out of the investigation.
She is also unhappy that Operation Grange, which according to Home Office figures released in September 2018 had cost £11.6m, had not included interviews with either Madeleine’s parents, Gerry and Kate McCann, or members of the so-called Tapas 8, the family’s friends who accompanied them on the fateful holiday.
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