Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Body of Evidence Tells the Story

by Vanessa Leggett

We have all seen this face. The image is of little Madeleine McCann, the British toddler who disappeared while on a family vacation a year ago last month. What we haven't seen, and, in all likelihood, never will, is the body of Madeleine McCann.

Without a body, I doubt we will ever know for sure why she disappeared without a trace the night of May 3, 2007. I believe an autopsy of Madeleine's body could tell us exactly what happened. And that is why, I propose, her body had to be concealed at all costs, including a family's usual need to hold a funeral to memorialize the life of a loved one who has passed.

Let me state right off that I do not think that Madeleine's parents intentionally caused the death of their child. If they're guilty of anything, I believe it is of placing too much trust in what some charge were unorthodox methods of parenting. More on this shortly.

I should also make clear that I have not followed this case as well as I'm guessing most of our readers have, so I might very well have some of my facts wrong. (Readers, I'm counting on you to set me straight in the comments section to this post.) Further, "my theory" might be nothing new. I hadn't given any serious thought to this case until last week, when Portuguese police announced they are considering filing child neglect charges against Kate and Gerry McCann (pictured right) in relation to Madeleine's disappearance.

Childcare: Careless Death, Careful Cover-up

I never believed that the little girl's parents meant to cause Madeleine's death. From my passing understanding of facts that have emerged over the past year, I formed the opinion that Madeleine's death was a case of simple negligence by parents who should have hired a sitter.

The parameters of the current investigation are considerably broader than child neglect. According to a recent ruling released by the Evora Supreme Court of Justice in Portimao, the McCanns will be investigated for abduction, homicide, exposure or abandonment of a child, and concealment of a corpse.

In response to the court's pronouncement, the McCanns, through a spokesman, "vigorously denied neglecting Madeleine, but were pleased abduction was being investigated."

This remark did not surprise me. From the beginning, the McCanns have claimed their daughter was abducted. Any energy and expense in that direction would be eagerly embraced by them. Personally, I believe the McCanns have led the public on a global goose chase. The natural question is Why?

To Sleep, Perchance to Die

Which leads to my theory of the case, a conclusion that hinges on early reports that, to my knowledge, have not been proved or disproved. But they are allegations that, if true, could explain what happened to Madeleine. I believe that the McCanns—both doctors—drugged their children. The specific allegations are that Madeleine died from an overdose of sleeping pills her parents had given her before they met adult friends for dinner, only 50 to 100 yards from where the McCann children were sleeping.

On the whole, the McCanns were probably excellent parents. It's not outside the realm of possibility that they were over-protective parents who, to safeguard against potential abuses, would rather give their children sleeping pills than entrust their care to anyone but themselves. If the kids were asleep, they might have (erroneously) reasoned, no sitter would be necessary, especially when Mom and Dad were close enough to check on them, as appears to have been the case that fateful night.

Still, it seems to me that even if the McCanns had checked on their children, unless the doctor-parents took vital signs each time they popped in, it might not have been apparent that their child had stopped breathing. We see what we want to see. If they did in fact drug their children, they surely thought they were administering safe dosages. I don't believe they would have had any reason, or, after x glasses of wine with dinner, inclination to closely examine their children. That is, perhaps, until it was time to kiss them goodnight at whatever hour the parents returned from their engagement.

If Madeleine's death was in fact caused by accidental overdose, the most likely scenario is that the McCanns did not know Madeleine was dead until they returned from dinner to retire for the night. As overwhelming and gut-wrenching as finding a dead child would be to most parents, as much as time might have stood still, those parents would have had to do some quick thinking to avoid further catastrophe to their family.

Given their medical backgrounds, the McCanns would had to have feared that in a case of drug overdose, a toxicology screen would reveal substances in their daughter's system. If the couple wasn't able to produce a babysitter (who could have served as the scapegoat for drugging their daughter), then consequences were certain: Kate and Gerry McCann would at the very least be charged with child neglect for abandoning their children as well as child endangerment and whatever other charges could arise from giving a child drugs.

That this revelation would irreparably damage their reputations as parents would have been bad enough. What put them over the edge, I think, was the threat to their livelihood. If exposed for giving their child drugs that led to her death, the Mcanns risked the revocation of their medical licenses.

Even if they admitted they drugged Madeleine and convinced everyone that their daughter's death was a tragic accident, they would be held to a higher standard of care than average parents. Pharmacological babysitting might have worked for them without complication in the past. But, as physicians, they should have known the risks inherent in administering drugs to a child.

If they could no longer practice medicine, they might have thought, then how could they support their other children? And what if criminal convictions led to jail time? The McCanns currently face a sentence of up to ten years if found guilty of child neglect. They would have risked that and, quite likely, additional time for other charges a year ago. Their 18-month-old twins could have been orphaned during their most critical years of development.

Kate and Gerry McCann could not reverse what happened to Madeleine. But upon finding her dead, they could still make choices they felt were in the best interest of their surviving children.

If She Dies Before She Wakes . . .

As horrific and incomprehensible as it might seem to anyone not in that same circumstance at that moment, the only way to avoid further tragedy, in their minds, was to make sure the body was never found.

Without a body, no toxicology. Without toxicology reports indicating the presence of drugs, no charges. I believe the McCanns quickly made the decision to conceal their child's body, in a place known only to the parents. A private burial for family.

A body is not necessary to prove neglect. But to prove that the child was drugged, police would need considerably more evidence than what has been made public. An admission from either parent is not likely.

Even an admission won't cinch a case of criminally negligent homicide. I'm thinking of another disappearance in which drugs might have played a role in a death that I'm inclined to think was accidental.

Death and the Maidens

The month of May was also the anniversary of the disappearance of Natalee Holloway, the 18-year-old student who never returned from a senior trip to Aruba. Officials did not gather enough evidence to charge Joran van der Sloot with Natalee's death. It was apparently because Joran thought he was off the hook for murder that he made incriminating statements to a Dutch reporter, who videotaped the conversation. Naturally, Joran has recanted those statements, maintaining he was only saying what he thought the journalist wanted to hear. That's his story now. When talking to the reporter on tape, Joran said, "I'm being honest with you."

Aside from Joran's denials, the reliability of his statements was further compromised by the fact that Joran was under the influence of marijuana when he confessed that Natalee had died in his presence. Joran reportedly used drugs regularly.

While Joran has been vilified in the press, I do not believe, based on his recorded statements, that he intentionally brought about Natalee's death. I am convinced he gave her drugs, with or without her consent, and that, similar to the McCanns, Joran knew that her body would tell the tale of drug use—drugs that likely contributed to her death, drugs that could be linked to him. To avoid responsibility, Joran decided her body had to disappear. In his taped confession he told the reporter "they'll never find" Natalee.

"I know what happened to that girl,'' Joran continued, adding that he was "just incredibly lucky that she's never been found. Because if they found that girl, I'd be in deep shit."

On tape, Joran described a romantic encounter with Natalee (pictured right) on
the beach. At some point, he said, she lost consciousness, probably from whatever drug/s she had ingested.

"Suddenly, she wasn't moving anymore," he said. "I tried to shake her. . . . I was shaking the bitch. I was like, 'What is wrong with you, man?' I almost wanted to cry. . . . Why does this shit have to happen to me?"

If these statements are true, Joran did not intentionally cause the death of Natalee. But a compelling case of criminally negligent homicide could be made, especially if Natalee had been alive when her body was thrown into the ocean, as some have speculated.

Joran went on to say that, in a panic, he phoned a trusted friend. "And I told him, 'Well, this is what happened. Come, come, come help me. And please don't call the police.' "

Not only did Joran fail to seek emergency attention—he admitted he specifically asked someone else to keep authorities in the dark. Joran enlisted the help of his friend to dispose of Natalee's body.

Joran told the journalist that it was a relief to tell someone what happened to Natalee that night. "I'm putting it away and for me," he said, "it's finished. Case closed."

Not so fast. Based on those tapes, authorities have reopened the investigation. Although
Joran said he had no trouble sleeping the night that Natalee died, odds are he isn't sleeping as easily since police have turned up the heat.

Disturbed Sleep

If my theory about the McCanns has any merit, they could be equally restless now that the investigation has shifted directions. After Madeleine's disappearance last year, there were numerous reports that Kate McCann was able to sleep "just five days" following her daughter's disappearance.

The implication was not that Kate McCann had been up for four nights straight before the poor woman finally collapsed from exhaustion. The subtext was that because Kate knew what had happened to her daughter, she was not kept awake by the twin torments of parents of missing children: the "agony of the unknown" and the hope that at any moment the child would return.

Of course, Madeleine returning is as unlikely as it is that murder charges will ever be filed against her parents. And there is little hope that Natalee Holloway's body will ever be recovered. Whether Madeleine or Natalee were actually murdered will probably remain a mystery.

As WCI Cold Case Detective Connie Park shared in her post on Monday: "You must consider the body as evidence—the one piece of evidence you discover which will ultimately help you solve the murder investigation." Without those bodies of evidence, we cannot expect real answers about how they met their deaths.


Leah said...

Excellent post Vanessa. I believe the McCanns were responsible for Madeline's disappearance but I haven't give the entire situation as much thought as you have. It makes perfect sense.

Anonymous said...

If Maddie did die accidentally, it would have been an extremely traumatic event for the McCanns. How were they able to manage to hold themselves together to go around the world smiling and smirking?

How was the fund set up so quickly and professionally?

Pre-planned I think.

Leah said...

Pre-planned?? I doubt it. When something tragic like this happens, a community rallies together. It doesn't take a lot of time to get a fund set up. Professionally or not.

Michelle said...

Vanessa, great post. I hadn't considered your theory, but now feel like you certainly have a sound one. Thanks.

Pat Brown said...

Good post, Vanessa, on the McCann's. I was also particularly stuck by Kate's comment that she sleeps just fine at night. This was one of the biggest red flags in the case. The totality of behaviors by the McCanns showed little concern for any fear and suffering their little girl might be going through while in captivity. Most likely the ability not to have intrusive thoughts constantly arising about your little one being rape, tortured and calling out your name comes from the fact this is not the scenario you believe or know to be true.

As to Joran, I disagree that it was an overdose of drugs. Joran has enough influence with his Daddy to get out of a charge of "I took this girl out for a spin and she suddenly just passed out. Maybe she took some drugs." It would be hard to prove Joran was responsible for getting the drugs into her system.

I think he smothered her in the sand or strangled her while in the act of raping her. Just because he has a story for this incident does'nt mean it is true. Joran lies whenever it is convenient to him to do so and even if he is telling a story that has truth in it, this doesn't mean he isn't modifying the parts that really incriminate him.

ASG said...

I am a Portuguese living in Portugal. Congratulations for your post on Maddie's case. It is the best I ever read about this case.

Kathryn Casey said...

Great post, Vanessa. Really interesting.

Connie Park said...

Great insight on the two investigations. Unfortunately, like stated in your post, it's difficult to build a case without the body. It is that one evidence that might be able to complete the story.

Ludmila said...

Wow great post Vanessa!
Your theory about the McCanss is what I think sence Madeleine dissapear. Thank God that I´m not the only one.
The only thing that I don´t think they are great parents, give your kids sleeping pills it is really a bad thing.
But the thing that I can´t believe is the emotions of the McCanss, it is to much cold. The prejudice of what people have is that british people are suppose to be cold and not showing to much emotions. But my brother in law is british and he is not like that. I know that the emotions depends of your life history but I saw a lot of videos of missing childrens in UK and I saw the parents and the sadness is there coz they are looking for they child.

About the Natalee Holloway case is obvious that Jorand murder her, and as Pat says I do think that is not just drug ingested. Maybe is just a part of that. I think it was a mix of alcohol/drugs and raped what kill Natalee Holloway.
And when Jordan realize that she was dead he calls this friend and dump her body into the ocean.

But of course this is just me theorys!

Stacy Dittrich said...

Phenomenal post V!

Regarding the McCann case, Donna Weaver and I were discussing the same theory the other night and both agreed on the accidental overdose theory. However, had the McCanns had any remorse, one would've taken the fall while the other claimed innocence to stay and raise the other children. From what I've seen in their interviews, they are two of the most narcissistic people I have ever seen-hence, the lack of the nanny.

As for Natalie Holloway, I've never been sure about the drug or strangling theory, but I've always stood firm on my theory that she was not dead at the time Joran dumped her body into the ocean. He is not a doctor (Thank God!), nor could he possibly determine whether or not she was merely unconcious. As for his "marijuana" confession, I find it incredulous that the Aruban government would not consider it a viable confession. Marijuana is not a hallucinogenic drug, but a depressant. In fact, after smoking marijuana and driving around in a car feeling relaxed in his environment, he would be more apt to give a truthful statement at that particular moment than anywhere else.

I'm fairly confident that if I presented the tape, statement, and the fact that Joran was the last person to see Natalie, to my district attorneys office-an indictment would be imminent. Aruba is a strange place...

I would love to have Mrs. McCann or Joran VanderSloot in front of me to interrogate....what a pleasure that would be.

Excuse my spelling on this post--it's late and I'm tired!!!

Anonymous said...

I also enjoyed your post.
My question is, it's obvious some type of crime was committed in both Madeleine's and Natalee's cases. Why don't they charge them with what they know?

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Anonymous said...

I totally agree with this analysis.No doubt the parents were devestated,but do know her to be at peace, if prematurely.The horror of imagining your child captive & terrified, even if alive for a time wouldn't allow their composure. Our three week old bottle fed pet baby goat went missing and I was distraught about what he'd go through by a stranger preparing to eat him.
Luckily another kid lover had him in good care.
Logically if they thought she was kidnapped and not found fast she'd been murdered. Kidnap for adoption was out as there were real babies to take. It's the insistance she will be found again after all this time that convinces me of their fateful accident.Their greatest crime is lying to their remaining children and wasting rescources. If only they had the sense to shut up and quietly raise their remaining twins.

Anonymous said...

Excellent article. Would you please give your opinion regarding the fact that madeleine mccann was heard crying for nearly an hour on the 1st of May whilst her parents were out. Was the sleeping medicine that particular night not high enough dosage and her parents gave her a much stronger dosage on the fatal night?

Vanessa Leggett said...

Anonymous 05/19 - I am glad your "kid" was returned to you unharmed.

Anonymous 05/21 - That Madeleine was heard crying two nights before she was never heard from again would seem to bolster my theory, for the very reason you state. Her doctor parents likely increased the dose, so that the child would not awaken again.

I imagine that, over the years, the McCanns had steadily increased dosages as their firstborn grew. It seems on that last night, they upped the dose to a level likely to ensure Madeleine wouldn't awaken and cry. If so, their overcompensation proved fatal.

Thanks for reading.

G. H. Schorel-Hlavka said...

I was a single parent once and to my horror discovered my 2-year old daughter having slipped out of a backdoor of a house we were staying I had not known the door existed let alone someone had opened it. So, I decided to immediately go back the out my daughter and I had taken earlier that day just in case she had gone back to any of the shops we had been passing earlier. I located her at the chemist, and my daughter had precisely done what I suspected me might do, as went back to the chemist to look for the toys she had seen earlier. It was a happy ending. Never again did I trust any building from then on, I can assure you.
Now, translate this to the McCanns story, that perhaps Madeleine may have awoken and simply slipped out, without her parents being aware of it and have gone back to some store, she remembered, and then was grabbed from there. It means that the police really never had the real crime scene in their investigations, and they may never have considered what really could have happened to Madeleine. Adults should try to place themselves in the mind of a little girl when trying to discover what may have eventuated and not as how an adult may react.
Madeleine may be alive and well in the same town but hidden, and kept imprisoned, while the search is for a body! Better to keep a look out for someone who buys children items (clothing, toys, etc) but is not known to have a child, as this perhaps might just be a give away!
And keep an eye out for any girl having the black mark in the eye Madeleine has because even in time she may not remember her real name, the black mark always will be a give away who she is. In years to come she may be known under a different name and have photo’s taken and then might be recognised for the black mark in her eye.
Try to focus on what the child might have done at her age being so to say home alone (not counting the twins) and go out for s walk and the investigation may perhaps have some real results.

Mr G. H. Schorel-Hlavka said...

To add further:
I urge people not to judge the McCanns on how they appear to react, as unless you have been in the situation yourself you just don’t know what it is. All those theories about the McCanns conduct and if they did or didn’t drug their children may just sidetrack everyone and be counter productive.
I was horrified to find my daughter (Now a married women with three children herself) missing but stayed calm enough to think clearly and then being a single (male) parent with a small girl had been noticed by the chemist when walking past and so this all aided, whereas a woman with a little girl might not have been.
The McCanns no doubt never should have left the children alone but besides that a blame game to somehow try to blame them on every thing else, such as using drugs, etc, isn’t likely to resolve the issue. If people are anywhere, then look out for a girl with a black mark in her right eye and who knows you might one day see her! That is how we all can assist no matter where in the world we might be and it will then be a better outcome then trying to use smears and innuendo’s that causes only added hardship. We have no right to continue to inflict harm upon the McCanns making it worse as they have already ample of punishment for their conduct to leave the children alone.
Keep publishing the photo of her right eye so perhaps one day she be located alive and well, albeit not knowing her real identity. We can do it together! Just keep trying to find her!

kelly said...

i agree with u Mr G. H. Schorel-Hlavka, well said

Anonymous said...

Brilliant article I completely agree with your observations.
Now Scotland Yard are involved I hope we will soon see closure and the mccanns brought to justice.

Pat Brown said...

I agree, Vanessa. I have had a lot of flack from people over this! This post on The Daily Profiler has gotten me a lot of support and a lot of vicious attacks as well.