With two futile weeks of ground searching and the questioning of four unlikely suspects still fresh in the memory, a former Scotland Yard commander had a new idea. In a report in the Mail on Sunday he urged detectives to examine an abandoned well “just 875 yards from the apartment where Madeleine McCann vanished.”
The newspaper carried an aerial view of the location and also a close-up photo of the supposed well.
“The Mail on Sunday has established that the uncovered shaft is on scrubland used as a campsite by Roma Gypsies – and has been overlooked by Portuguese police,” according to the paper.
The aerial view indicated that the well was located on land behind the property of a well-known resident of Praia da Luz. He told us that in his 28 years of living there he had never seen Roma Gypsies camping in the area.
But the Mail on Sunday’s claim could not be lightly dismissed because the former commander had served 27 years with the Metropolitan Police and as Commander of Specialist Operations had dealt with serious crime, from murder to rape and human trafficking.
“It [the well] is clearly known to locals and possibly to local criminals as a place to discard evidence from petty crime, such as handbags and other unwanted stolen items,” said the ex-commander.
The local homeowner was bemused by this. “Before they tossed the handbags into the well, I hope the Roma Gypsies checked to see if they were Gucci,” he said.
Of course the ex-commander was not just talking about petty crime. He quickly came to his main point: “Whoever abducted Madeleine knew the local streets, alleyways and scrubland and used that knowledge to avoid detection.”
Not one to shirk a challenge even on a formidably hot summer’s day, our source in Luz went to check out the ex-commander’s hunch.
The first problem was a two-metre high fence. With difficulty he managed to find a hole in the wire only to be confronted by a six-metre wide boundary of thick vegetation. Eventually he emerged prickled, sweating and swearing into a recently mowed hay field.
“I felt relieved that if I were now to be attacked by irate Roma bandits, at least I could see them coming and hopefully make a hasty retreat,” said our intrepid explorer.
“I walked all over the hay field but was not able to discover a well. I was relieved to be able to return to the gap in the fence and depart with no loss of either wallet or handbag.”
Asked about a circular object that can be seen in the middle of the area on Google Earth, our source in Luz said, “it could be an alien landing pad, but more likely a flat round area for threshing corn. It’s certainly not the well shown in the paper.”
He concluded with dismay that tourism-dependent Luz had once again been portrayed as a lawless place – and certainly not the sort of place to go on holiday.
If Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood and his team decide to take the ex-commander’s advice and go searching wells, they had better come prepared for a long stay. There are many hundreds of wells dotted all over the Algarve. Fortunately, most of the others are fairly easy to find.
Meanwhile, the “Stop McCann Circus” street signs are still in place in Luz.
© Len Port 2014
Algarve-based, Len Port, has been a journalist for 50 years, working as a staff reporter, broadcaster and freelance correspondent for many leading news organisations. He covered events in the Far east in the Sixties, and in Northern Ireland and South Africa in the Seventies.
Since moving to Portugal in the early Eighties, he has edited regional magazines, contributed to national dailies in Britain and written several books, two of which are currently available as ebooks with Amazon.
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