At 10:00pm on that fateful Thursday evening, Kate McCann ran into the Tapas Bar screaming to her friends that someone had taken Madeleine. At the very moment that she was raising the alarm, another family returning from an evening out, passed a man walking away from the McCann’s apartment, carrying a child.
This family – the Smiths – had just left Kelly’s Bar and were making their way back to their apartment, their route taking them along Rua das Encadinhas, across Rua 25 de Abril and along Rua da Escola Primaria (the green line). The man they met (since referred to as “Smithman”) was walking down Rua da Escola Primaria to the junction with Rua 25 de Abril (the red line). They passed him at about 10:00pm, around 300 metres from the McCann’s apartment.
Of the party of 9 (4 adults and 5 children) 3 statements regarding the encounter have been released.
Martin Smith – “After leaving the bar, he travelled in the opposite direction and reached a set of stairs which gave access to Rua 25 de Abril . On this artery they followed a second street, parallel to Rua 1 de Maio [Rua da Escola Primaria], whose name he does not remember, heading towards the Estrela da Luz complex which is located a little above the street that crosses the primary school. At the beginning of this artery, he saw an individual carrying a child, who was walking normally and who did not seem out of place as it is normal to see people carrying children, especially during the holiday season. This individual was walking the downward path, in the opposite direction to the witness and his companions.”
Peter Smith – “They left the bar, and went up a set of stairs that give access to a road just above. On this road, they walked towards another street (whose name he does not know) and headed for Estrela da Luz. At the beginning of this road, he saw an individual carrying a child. This individual was walking normally although with somewhat quick steps as he was walking downwards. He appeared normal to the witness, as if this were father and daughter. He adds that this individual was coming down the street, in an opposite direction to that of the witness and his companions.”
Aoife Smith – “Upon leaving the bar, they turned right and headed along the road for 40/50 metres. At this point, they again turned to the right and ascended a small street with steps which lead to Rua 25 de Abril. As it was a large group (four adults and five children) they walked in a spaced out manner along the street some walking ahead, some further behind. She does not remember how they were divided. The witness remembers that upon reaching the top of the steps, she looked to her left and saw a man (1) with a girl (2) in his arms, walking along the path Rua 25 de Abril. He was walking in their direction at a distance of, more or less, two metres. The witness crossed to the other side of Rua 25 de Abril and began walking up Rua da Escola Primária, in the direction of the Estrela da Luz complex. She did not see if the individual in question carrying the child descended the Rua das Escadinhas or if he continued along Rua 25 de Abril.”
It should be noted that Mary Smith may also have made a statement which has not yet been released by the Portuguese. In January 2008 Martin Smith made another statement. The Irish officer that took this statement noted “I took an additional statement from Mr Smith as requested. His wife [Mary] does not want to make another statement.”
To get from the McCanns apartment to the site of the Smith sighting, Smithman will almost certainly have gone right to left along the zig-zag of roads across the top of the aerial view shown above. It would have taken between 3:30 and 4:00 minutes and been very quiet, so it’s unlikely he would have been seen by anyone else.
Indeed, there were no reports of anyone else seeing Smithman in this area at this time (10:00pm). Jane Tanner had previously reported seeing someone carrying a child close to the apartment at around 9:15 (since referred to as “Tannerman”), but this person has since been accounted for by Scotland Yard’s Operation Grange.
So, who were these people that the Smith family saw?
The suspicion is certainly that the child being carried was Madeleine, and no one has said that it couldn’t have been (or if they have, I’m yet to see it). The Smith family agree that it could have been Madeleine that they saw, and indeed Aoife Smith says that she was about 60% certain that it was i.e. more likely that it was Madeleine than it wasn’t.
Martin Smith has since said that with 60-80% certainty that the man carrying the child was Madeleine’s father, Gerry McCann.
So, was it Madeleine? Was it Gerry? There are 4 possibilities.
- A random parent carrying their child
- The abductor carrying Madeleine
- Gerry McCann carrying Madeleine
- WTF?! … Gerry McCann carrying another child? (This possibility is only included for completeness.)
Easy ones first :-
Random Parent : It may just have been a parent carrying a tired or sleeping child home from wherever to wherever. Strange that they haven’t come forward (like the person Jane Tanner saw). It’s tempting to think that any parents carrying children around Praia da Luz would be guests of Mark Warner going to or from their apartment and the 24-hour reception (i.e. the location of the “Dining Out Service”). As there are no Mark Warner apartments in the area of, or beyond, the Smith Sighting, it is unlikely the person the Smiths met was a random parent carrying their child.
Abductor : 430 metres – the distance between the McCann’s apartment and the Smith Sighting – is a long way for an abductor to carry a child. Surely they’d have used a car to effect the getaway. One ready-and-waiting next to the apartment would be best, but if you did want one parked less conspicuously, then on Rua da Escola Primaria, alongside the school and parallel to Rua Primeiro da Maio would be a good place (190 metres walk away from the apartment but preferable to 430 metres).
If they’d not had a car, then presumably they’d have had accomodation in that sector of the town, south and west of where they met the Smiths. For the 5 routes they could have taken, see below.
Gerry McCann : As it was for the abductor, 430 metres (and further) is a long way to carry a child. One can only guess at why he would, and where he was heading. The 5 options to get wherever that was is set out below. The big difference between the abductor and Gerry is that the abductor can just ‘disappear’ and put his feet up; Gerry, though, would have to complete his task and get back to the area of his apartment before his absence was noticed. It will have already taken 4 minutes to get from 5A to his encounter with the Smiths, and getting close to that to get back again (best not to draw attention by running, and it is uphill all the way). 10 minutes absence might be noticed, especially if you arrive looking a bit dishevelled.
WTF?! : I’ve seen it mentioned that it may have been Gerry carrying one of the twins or one of the Tapas 7’s children. I can’t remember the thinking behind this, so if anyone does remember etc etc. As with the previous paragraph, it would certainly make Gerry’s actions look “odd”, and he’d have the extra burden of having to carry the child back to the apartment. I’ve really only included this possibility for “completeness”.
So the question is, after passing the Smith family, where did “Smithman” – the man carrying the child – go?
Before setting out the options, it should be noted that Smithman would be moving from a comparatively quiet area of the town to one that’s the busiest at this time in the evening (ignoring the various holiday complexes). There’s at least a dozen bars, cafes and restaurants within 60 metres of the point where the Smiths passed Smithman, and another half dozen similar establishments 40 metres beyond that going east towards the centre of Praia da Luz. The area that Smithman was heading for is “downtown” Praia da Luz.
After passing the Smiths, Smithman would have had 5 options
- Turn right, up Rua 25 de Abril
- Go across Rua 25 de Abril and along Rua das Encadinhas, and first right into Rua das Salgadeiras
- Go across Rua 25 de Abril and along Rua das Encadinhas, and second right into Rua da Calbeta
- Go across Rua 25 de Abril and along Rua das Encadinhas, and left into Rua da Calbeta
- Turn left, down Rua 25 de Abril
1) Turn right, up Rua 25 de Abril
I think this unlikely. If Smithman had intended going up Rua 25 de Abril, then he’d probably have turned right immediately and been in full view of Aoife Smith as he did so. He could have crossed as Aoife Smith crossed and so been behind her as he turned up the road, but I doubt it.
But having said that, the road is quiet once past Clive’s Cocktail Bar. If you’re heading to some hideaway, then there are buildings along the street; if you’re looking for somewhere to leave a body, then you’ve got a further 150 metres to go before you find rough ground and a derelict building (just past the supermarket).
2) Go across Rua 25 de Abril, along Rua das Encadinhas, and first right into Rua das Salgadeiras
This may be the most likely route. After “running the gauntlet” of Rua das Encadinhas, Smithman would then be into the comparative quiet of Rua das Salgadeiras. From there, there’s access to rough ground and buildings along the Rua das Salgadeiras, Tv das Fontainhas and that section of Rua da Calbeta (and beyond).
The only downside of taking this route is that anyone sat outside the bar next to the Dolphin Restaurant will have a good long view of anyone going up Rua das Salgadeiras until they disappeared into the shadows – which I guess they’d have done quite quickly at that time in the evening.
3) Go across Rua 25 de Abril, along Rua das Encadinhas, and second right into Rua da Calbeta
This is probably the second most likely route. Smithman would be risking being spotted by anyone drinking or eating outside Kelly’s and the establishments in that row, and those entering or leaving the Dolphin Restaurant. But after that, they’d be risking a low level of “traffic” along Rua da Calbeta before being able to access the accomodation and rough ground nearby.
They would also have easy access to the shoreline from where they could continue west, or doubleback eastwards, maybe heading for the area around the church and beyond. (They’d have to pass by anyone drinking in The Bull, and someone scrabbling around on rocks in the dark, carrying a child, would look a bit conspicuous …. but it is possible.)
4) Go across Rua 25 de Abril, along Rua das Encadinhas, and left into Rua da Calbeta
This is unlikely. It would get Smithman to the same point as 5) below, but risk going through maybe the busiest area in Praia da Luz at that time in the evening.
5) Turn left, down Rua 25 de Abril
This too is unlikely. It gets to the same areas as 4) but the route would be quicker and less busy. However, from Aoife Smith’s account, it doesn’t look like this route was taken as she would most likely have noticed him. For her not to have seen him turn down Rua 25 de Abril, Smithman would have had to cross the road before turning left , which doesn’t seem plausible for someone in a hurry.
So it looks most likely that the child that the Smiths saw was Madeleine, and that whoever was carrying her was heading south west, to the area around Rua das Salgadeiras and Rua da Calbeta. I shall leave it to the reader as to whether this person was an abductor or Gerry McCann.