Coincidence : “A surprising concurrence of events, perceived as meaningfully related, with no apparent causal connection” – Diaconis and Mosteller (1989)
In her book “madeleine”, Kate McCann at last got around to publicly discussing the sighting by the Smith family of someone carrying a child at around the same time that Madeleine disappeared. Without giving any details, she compared this sighting with the one reported by Jane Tanner, saying she was “staggered by how alike they are”. (The reader can read just how (un)alike they are here – Tannerman and Smithman – compare and contrast.) Anyway, to reinforce the point that the supposed number of similarities may point to the two sightings having been of the same person – the abductor, Kate wrote “As a lawyer once said to me, apropos another matter, ‘One coincidence, two coincidences – maybe they’re still coincidences. Any more than that and it stops being coincidence.’”
Well, here are some more koincidences for Kate’s kollection. (That’s enough! – Ed.)
- The cadaver and blood dogs only signalled at locations relating to the McCanns despite being also presented with a variety of locations relating to their friends and Robert Murat. If the dogs were having a bad day, one would expect them to have signalled at least once or twice at locations that weren’t related to the McCanns. But every time they signalled, it was a McCann. Coincidence or what?
- Of the 4 couples in the McCann party (the “Tapas 9”), the only couple not at the beach and the Paraiso Restaurant on the afternoon of May 3rd were the only couple to report their child missing that evening.
- Two coincidences for the price of one …. The only evening during the week that a parent did a visual check of children that weren’t their own was on the very evening that Madeleine disappeared. And in doing so, whilst he did eyeball the two children that were in the room, Matthew Oldfield did not check the one McCann child that wasn’t.
- Of the few statements that weren’t released by the Portuguese in the summer of 2008, two were from people dining together on the same balcony. The two – Rajinder Balu and Neil Berry – spent the evening with their families at the latter’s apartment, eating their meals on the balcony. Both were interviewed in April 2008, but while both made reference to their statements made in 2007, neither of these earlier statements were among those released by the Portuguese later in 2008. Anyone who has seen the files released by the Portuguese can’t help to be “impressed” by the number of documents contained within it. By cross-checking, it can be determined that a few statements were not released, possibly around half-a-dozen. Two of these are Balu’s and Berry’s.
“The surprising frequency with which unlikely events tend to occur has drawn attention from a number of psychologists and statisticians. Diaconis and Mosteller (1989), in their analysis of such phenomena, define a coincidence as ‘a surprising concurrence of events, perceived as meaningfully related, with no apparent causal connection’ (p. 853). They go on to suggest that the “surprising” frequency of these events is due to the flexibility that we allow in identifying meaningful relationships. Together with the fact that everyday life provides a vast number of opportunities for coincidences to occur, our willingness to tolerate near misses and to consider each of a number of possible concurrences meaningful contributes to explaining the frequency with which coincidences occur.”