News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 14th October 2013

Scotland Yard Police reveal pre-planned abduction theory of Madeleine McCann in 2007


Det Ch Insp Andy Redwood above left said Madeleine could have been abducted later than first thought

Police say one reading of Madeleine McCann’s disappearance in Portugal in 2007 is that it has “all the hallmarks of a pre-planned abduction”.

Scotland Yard detectives have also said they are looking at burglaries and charity collectors in the area.

Earlier, detectives released two e-fits of a man seen carrying a child towards the beach in Praia da Luz on the night Madeleine went missing.

But they have ruled out a previous sighting of another man by a friend.

Madeleine was three years old when she disappeared from her parents’ holiday apartment on 3 May 2007.

Police have been revealing their latest findings in the search for her on BBC One’s Crimewatch programme.

Det Ch Insp Andy Redwood, the senior Metropolitan Police investigating officer, said a number of men had been seen by witnesses in the area on the day Madeleine vanished and one theory was they could have been carrying out reconnaissance.

He said they wanted to track down men seen “lurking suspiciously” near the McCanns’ apartment block.

Inquiry: the Key dates,

  • 3 May 2007: Madeleine disappears from apartment at Ocean Club, Praia da Luz. Police notify border police and airports and hundreds join a search for her
  • 15 May 2007: British-born Robert Murat is made an official suspect or “arguido”
  • 26 May 2007: Police issue description of man seen carrying what could have been a child the night Madeleine went missing
  • 7 Sept 2007: Detectives make Mr and Mrs McCann “arguidos”
  • 19 March 2008: McCanns accept £550,000 libel damages from Express newspapers over allegations they were responsible for Madeleine’s death
  • 15 July 2008: Mr Murat settles for £600,000 in damages from UK newspapers which alleged he was involved in disappearance
  • 21 July 2008: Portuguese shelve investigation and lift “arguido” status of the McCanns and Mr Murat
  • 13 May 2011: UK PM David Cameron writes to McCanns announcing “new action” by Met Police
  • 4 July 2013: The Met Police launch a formal investigation and say they are investigating 38 “persons of interest”
  • 14 Oct 2013: Police reveal new details of the investigation on Crimewatch

Map showing key locations in Praia da Luz  20:30 Kate and Gerry McCann leave their apartment to have dinner at a Tapas bar

  • 21:05 Gerry McCann checks on Madeleine and her siblings
  • 22:00 A man is seen carrying a child wearing pyjamas heading towards the ocean
  • 22:00 Kate McCann raises the alarm that Madeleine has gone missing

DCI Redwood said it was a “revelation moment” when police discovered that the man seen by McCanns’ friend Jane Tanner at 9.15pm was almost certainly an innocent British holiday-maker collecting his two-year-old daughter from a nearby creche.

He said: “Our focus in terms of understanding what happened on the night of 3 May has now given us a shift of emphasis. We are almost certain that the man seen by Jane Tanner is not Madeleine’s abductor.

“It takes us through to a position at 10pm when we see another man who is walking towards the ocean, close by to the apartment, with a young child in his arms.”

‘Overwhelming response’ :Madeleine’s parents Kate and Gerry told Crimewatch they were “hopeful and optimistic” after police made a fresh appeal for information.

Mrs McCann said: “We’re not the ones that have done something wrong here. It’s the person who’s gone into that apartment and taken a little girl away from her family.”

In a Crimewatch update, DCI Redwood said there had been an “overwhelming response” to the programme with hundreds of calls.

He said: “We have had a number of calls from people who were in the resort at the time, which confirms to me the value of what we’re doing.”

Earlier, detectives releasing two e-fit images of a man said a family had seen him with a blond-haired child of three or four, possibly wearing pyjamas, heading away from the McCanns’ holiday apartment.

The witnesses said the man was white, 20 to 40 years old and of medium build. He had short brown hair, was clean-shaven and of medium height, they added.

DCI Redwood said he could be the man who took Madeleine – but there could be an innocent explanation.

He said there had been a four-fold increase in the number of burglaries in the area between January and May 2007 and one possible scenario was that Madeleine had disturbed a burglar.

“Windows were a feature, as well as burglaries taking place in the evening,” he said.

Two incidents had occurred in the McCanns’ block – one attempted burglary and one actual burglary – in the 17 days before Madeleine went missing, he said.

There had also been an intruder in a property within the holiday complex where a British family with two children were staying the year before, he added.

Detailed reconstruction: Police are also looking at possible bogus charity collectors operating in the area at the time and have released two e-fit images of Portuguese men they would like to identify.

One is of a man aged 40 to 45, who knocked on the door of the apartment where the McCanns were due to stay on 25 April or 26 April between 2.30pm and 3pm, saying he was a charity collector.

The other, aged 25 to 30, approached a property on the Rua do Ramalhete, near the Ocean Club, at around 4pm on 3 May.

Police have also released e-fit images of two men seen in the area around the time that Madeleine disappeared. Two are of fair-haired men who fit similar descriptions.

One is of a man who was seen twice by the same witness near the flat where the McCanns were staying. He was 30 to 35, thin, with short hair, shaving spots on his face and was wearing a black leather jacket.

The Crimewatch appeal also featured a detailed reconstruction lasting close to 25 minutes and covering events leading up to and surrounding Madeleine’s disappearance.

In the programme, Mrs McCann described the moment that “panic kicked in” after returning to the apartment to find her daughter missing.

The Portuguese police who were originally investigating Madeleine’s disappearance shelved their inquiry in 2008.

Scotland Yard began a review of the case in May 2011 and opened a formal investigation in July this year.

As a result, according to the Met police, the timeline and “accepted version of events” surrounding Madeleine’s disappearance have significantly changed.

Madeleine and her brother and sister were left in the apartment at 8.30pm while her parents dined with friends at a nearby restaurant. Mr McCann checked on them at 9.05pm and Mrs McCann raised the alarm at 10pm.

DCI Redwood said he would travel to the Netherlands, Germany and Ireland to seek public support there and would repeat the appeals in Portugal – “a key country for us to trace any outstanding witnesses”.

In Germany, a special edition of the crime programme Aktenzeichen XY – Ungeloest, which is translated as “File XY – Unsolved”, will be aired on Wednesday night and will feature an appeal for information from Mr and Mrs McCann.

Irish Government’s plan for free under 5’s GP care criticised as a political stunt by IMO


IMO union says plan not covered by agreements currently in place

The IMO has described the plan to give free GP care to all under 5s as a ‘political stunt’.

The Government’s planned move to introduce free GP care for all children under the age of five smacks of a “political stunt”, the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has said.

The doctors’ trade union also said that the planned new service for young children was not covered by existing agreements and would have to be the subject of negotiations.

The chairman of the organisation’s GP committee Dr Ray Walley said the Government “is presiding over the widespread rationing of discretionary medical cards for people with long term illnesses and real medical needs and now it’s engaging in a stunt by extending these cards to tens of thousands of children in relatively wealthy families who by any measure do not need them”.

Dr Walley said that there was no medical evidence to back up the extension of medical cards to a wide category of the population.

“Income criteria remains the most effective way to capture needy groups and we believe this is a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul.

“The contrast between the harrowing experience of people having their discretionary medical cards withdrawn and young, healthy children from relatively well off families being given free medical care at GPs is striking.

“Where is our sense of morality gone that this stroke can be described as progress?”

Dr Walley also said the Government had not made anycontact with GPs about the provision of the planned new service.

“This move is not covered by any existing contract between GPs and the HSE and will require negotiation yet no effort has been made to seek the views of those GPs who will be expected to deliver the service.”

Currently young children who are not covered by the medical card or the GP card schemes are considered asprivate patients.

The plan by the Government to offer free GP cards to children under the age of 5, which is expected to be announced in the Budget on Tuesday, would impact on existing private practice income for many family doctors.

The prospect of a deal between the Government and the IMO on the planned new free GP scheme for young children is complicated by the position of the Department of Health and the HSE that it cannot negotiate with the trade union on fees to apply for GPs under competition law.

GPs are not employees of the health service but rather are independent contractors.

Savita Halappanavar death a disaster for obstetrician’s in Galway

Dr Denis Evoy, president of IHCA , addressing the association’s annual conference in Maynooth on Saturday. Photograph: Dave Meehan 

Dr Denis Evoy, president of IHCA , addressing the association’s annual conference in Maynooth on Saturday.

All doctors fear being called before Medical Council, says IHCA president

The death of Savita Halappanavar was a great disaster not only for her family but also for the obstetrician who treated her, according to the president of the Irish Hospital Consultants’ Association.

Dr Denis Evoy said he accepted the finding of last week’s Hiqa report into Ms Halappanavar’s death that her obstetrician, Dr Katherine Astbury, was ultimately responsible for what happened. The report said “ultimate clinical accountability rested with the consultant obstetrician who was leading Savita Halappanavar’s care”. But he said the problems that emerged in the report and that needed to be addressed were multi-factorial in nature.

‘Great disaster’

“It’s a great tragedy. We’re all fearful of ending up at theMedical Council, your life is destroyed. It’s a great disaster for the family but it’s also a great disaster for that poor obstetrician. Her grief pales into insignificance compared to that of the family but you say a prayer that it’s not you.”

In a recent meeting with the Medical Council, he said, the association expressed the view that insufficient resources and poor organisation and recruitment could lead to these problems occurring. “And then it’s the doctor who’s ultimately responsible, with the courts and the Medical Council.”

Dr Fergal McGoldrick, a consultant in private practice, said a core problem was that nurse training had gone from being hands-on to a situation where nurses were “too posh to wash”.

The drop in standards of nursing care and a transfer of responsibilities from nurses to healthcare assistants lacking the required standards had led to a slow deterioration over the past 15 years.

Royal College of Surgeons president Prof Paddy Broe said it was very appropriate that nurses were now trained in degree courses but the suggestion that nurses spend more time on hospital wards was a good one.

Mr Evoy said he “disowned” any criticism of nurses and it was not true to say nurses weren’t as active on wards as they used to be.

Lack of regular bed-times can cause problems for children


Lack of regular bed-time disrupts circadian rhythms, while sleep deprivation slows brain development

Children who switched to a more regular bed-time had clear improvements in their behaviour, according to the research published today in the medical journal Paediatrics.

Late or irregular bed-times for children can induce symptoms similar to jet lag as well as behavioural problems and slower development, a British survey has found.

Some 10,000 children born between September 2000 and January 2002 were checked by researchers from University College London (UCL) at ages three, five and seven.

Children with late, or irregular bed-times displayed more hyperactivity and conduct problems and problems with peers as well as emotional difficulties the older they got. The results are particularly striking because the research team deliberately excluded from their study all children who were known to have ADHD, autism or Asperger syndrome.

“Disruptions to sleep, especially if they occur at key times in development, could have important lifelong impacts on health,” said Yvonne Kelly of UCL’s Epidemiology & Public Health department.

In the study one-tenth of seven-year-olds were in bed before 7.30pm; a quarter between then and 8pm; a third between 8pm and 8.30pm, one in seven between 8.30pm and 9pm, while 9 per cent were in bed after 9pm.

Children who switched to a more regular bed-time had clear improvements in their behaviour, according to the research published today in the medical journalPaediatrics.

Researchers believe that the lack of a regular bed-time disrupts the body’s circadian rhythms, while sleep deprivation slows brain development. “Not having fixed bed-times, accompanied by a constant sense of flux, induces a state of body and mind akin to jet lag and this matters for healthy development and daily functioning,” Prof Kelly said.

Children with late or irregular bed-times are more likely to come from poorer homes, to skip breakfast, and to have a TV in their bedrooms, the researchers found.

However, habits can be changed: “Our findings suggest theeffects are reversible. For example, children who change from not having to having regular bedtimes show improvements.”

However, the UCL researchers acknowledged the difficulties faced by parents: “Routines can be difficult to maintain when [both] are working long, and potentially unsociable hours.”

Mosquito fossils found with 46 million year old blood


It wasn’t amber that housed them, but shale, nevertheless scientists have a first: an intact blood meal found in a fossil. Yeah, it sounds real Jurassic Park but no one is putting up raptor fences quite yet. Nope. The DNA in the blood is most likely degraded. Score one to reality.

A team of scientists at Washington DC’s US National Museum of Natural History reported the discovery of a mosquito fossil with traces of blood still accessible in its stomach. Lead by Dale Greenwalt, the team was surprised, very surprised, to find that the blood had not disintegrated before fossilization set in. The chances of this discovery occurring were very, very small.

They also confirm of the claims of Mary Schweitzer, a paleontologist at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina, who had said in a Scientific American article:

Peering through the microscope at the thin slice of fossilized bone, I stared in disbelief at the small red spheres a colleague had just pointed out to me. The tiny structures lay in a blood vessel channel that wound through the pale yellow hard tissue. Each had a dark center resembling a cell nucleus. In fact, the spheres looked just like the blood cells in reptiles, birds and all other vertebrates alive today except mammals, whose circulating blood cells lack a nucleus. They couldn’t be cells, I told myself. The bone slice was from a dinosaur that a team from the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Mont., had recently uncovered—a Tyrannosaurus rex that died some 67 million years ago—and everyone knew organic material was far too delicate to persist for such a vast stretch of time.

The fossils were found in shale sediments in Montana. It wasn’t amber and there is no word whether if, in fact, it had been amber, the DNA in the blood would have been usable to build a T-Rex. Because, scientists have not cottoned on to the awesome power of Steven Spielberg and are caught up in empirical knowledge and crap like that.

The actual discovery of blood was made by showing that the mosquito stomachs contained iron and something called porphyrin — a molecule – and that combination are both found in haemoglobin, which carries oxygen in blood. The presence of these molecules is only in female mosquito fossils because males don’t suck blood.

What do you think this is? An Anne Rice novel?

Between Schweitzer’s findings and that Greenwalt’s team, new opportunities in scientific exploration are bound to open up reaching into the heart of our dinosaur ancestors.


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