Thursday, 26 September 2013

Fiona's Disappearance: when the parents are suspected

A poster appealing for help finding Fiona

Sky News reports today that Fiona's mother, Cecile Bourgeon, has admitted that Fiona is dead following a number of blows delivered by Fiona's step-father, Berkane Maklouf. Fiona's mother had originally stated that Fiona had disappeared while she, her mother, had fallen asleep in a park in Clermont-Ferrand, in central France. Cecile Bourgeon has told police that Fiona's body is buried near Clermont-Ferrand. 

Europe1 carries a very interesting article on what the author considers to be good police procedure when parents are suspected of a crime. Published before Fiona's mother had confessed and updated today, September 26th.

Four months after the disappearance of a little girl called Fiona, aged 5, from a park in Clermont-Ferrand, investigators took her mother and her step-father in for questioning, in the course of which, they confessed. What strategies are used by investigators to get to the truth when the weight of suspicion falls on the parents in this type of case? 

Have a solid case: Criminologist Michel Roussel starts by saying, "The ideal is to be supported by a solid case and have a team of investigators who are experts in their subject. Then it's useful to have at your disposal a psychological profile of the suspects, notably by listening in, because that is a good way to understand and get a handle on the the people who are going to be questioned.  That's what the investigators did within the framework of the Fiona case. 

Don't humiliate the suspect: "The investigators work involves talking and listening, and not in judging or getting worked up," Roussel adds. To get at the truth, "you must never humiliate the suspects," the criminologist, Pierre Lamothe contributes. He stresses that, "In a case where the parents are responsible for the death of their child, their distress may be authentic." 

Don't go for a confession: when suspects are in police custody, the way in which the questions are formulated is very basic. "Don't go for a confession, but rather ask, "what do you think happened?" Michel Roussel explains. "To stop the suspect feeling guilty, it's preferable to suggest an accident or bad luck than to speak of a crime where infanticide is suspected," states this former gendarme. 

"You mustn't throw at the suspects: "tell me everything," but rather "did something happen that you did not intend?" Pierre Lamothe suggest. "In the same vein, never ask: "Did you do it?" but "Do you know how that happened?" which allows you to offer the suspect a way out. 

Carefully observe the responses: The attitude of the suspect faced with the questions is as informative as the language used. For Pierre Lamothe, "an innocent person accepts being confused and doesn't have an answer for everything. He is not hiding the truth and, in as a result, can have gaps in his memory, which is generally not the case with the guilty person, who leaps in with an explanation," he concludes. 

The above is very interesting when we look, once again, at the 48 questions that Kate McCann refused to answer after she was made an arguida in September 2007. 

1. On May 3 2007, around 22:00, when you entered the apartment, what did you see? What did you do? Where did you look? What did you touch?

2. Did you search inside the bedroom wardrobe? (she replied that she wouldn’t answer)

3. (shown 2 photographs of her bedroom wardrobe) Can you describe its contents?

4. Why had the curtain behind the sofa in front of the side window (whose photo was shown to her) been tampered with? Did somebody go behind that sofa?

5. How long did your search of the apartment take after you detected your daughter Madeleine’s disappearance?

6. Why did you say from the start that Madeleine had been abducted?

7. Assuming Madeleine had been abducted, why did you leave the twins home alone to go to the ‘Tapas’ and raise the alarm? Because the supposed abductor could still be in the apartment.

8. Why didn’t you ask the twins, at that moment, what had happened to their sister or why didn’t you ask them later on?

9. When you raised the alarm at the ‘Tapas’ what exactly did you say and what were your exact words?

10. What happened after you raised the alarm in the ‘Tapas’?

11. Why did you go and warn your friends instead of shouting from the verandah?

12. Who contacted the authorities?

13. Who took place in the searches?

14. Did anyone outside of the group learn of Madeleine’s disappearance in those following minutes?

15. Did any neighbour offer you help after the disappearance?

16. What does 'we let her down' mean?

17. Did Jane tell you that night that she’d seen a man with a child?

18. How were the authorities contacted and which police force was alerted?

19. During the searches, with the police already there, where did you search for Maddie, how and in what way?

20. Why did the twins not wake up during that search or when they were taken upstairs?

21. Who did you phone after the occurrence?

22. Did you call Sky News?

23. Did you know the danger of calling the media, because it could influence the abductor?

24. Did you ask for a priest?

25. By what means did you divulge Madeleine’s features, by photographs or by any other means?

26. Is it true that during the searches you remained seated on Maddie’s bed without moving?

27. What was your behaviour that night?

28. Did you manage to sleep?

29. Before travelling to Portugal did you make any comment about a foreboding or a bad feeling?

30. What was Madeleine’s behaviour like?

31. Did Maddie suffer from any illness or take any medication?

32. What was Madeleine’s relationship like with her brother and sister?

33. What was Madeleine’s relationship like with her brother and sister, friends and school mates?

34. As for your professional life, in how many and which hospitals have you worked?

35. What is your medical specialty?

36. Have you ever done shift work in any emergency services or other services?

37. Did you work every day?

38. At a certain point you stopped working, why?

39. Are the twins difficult to get to sleep? Are they restless and does that cause you uneasiness?

40. Is it true that sometimes you despaired with your children’s behaviour and that left you feeling very uneasy?

41. Is it true that in England you even considered handing over Madeleine’s custody to a relative?

42. In England, did you medicate your children? What type of medication?

43. In the case files you were SHOWN CANINE forensic testing films, where you can see them marking due to detection of the scent of human corpse and blood traces, also human, and only human, as well as all the comments of the technician in charge of them. After watching and after the marking of the scent of corpse in your bedroom beside the wardrobe and behind the sofa, pushed up against the sofa wall, did you say you couldn’t explain any more than you already had?

44. When the sniffer dog also marked human blood behind the sofa, did you say you couldn’t explain any more than you already had?

45. When the sniffer dog marked the scent of corpse coming from the vehicle you hired a month after the disappearance, did you say you couldn’t explain any more than you already had?

46. When human blood was marked in the boot of the vehicle, did you say you couldn’t explain any more than you already had?

47. When confronted with the results of Maddie’s DNA, whose analysis was carried out in a British laboratory, collected from behind the sofa and the boot of the vehicle, did you say you couldn’t explain any more than you already had?

48. Did you have any responsibility or intervention in your daughter’s disappearance?

The Portuguese police had what they thought was a solid case: the two English sniffer dogs had detected human blood and cadaver odour in various places associated with the McCanns and in the car they hired weeks after Madeleine's disappearance. It is probably more difficult, though, to be subtle with questions when the people being interviewed have to have every question and their answers translated.

Perhaps the Portuguese police also had the notion that they might not get a second chance to question the two arguidos, which did turn out to be the case when just a couple of days later, Kate and Gerry hot-footed it home to the UK.

Fiona's mother and step-father attracted a great deal of sympathy for their plight: Fiona had been playing with her younger sibling in a public park and she just disappeared. So, maybe Kate and Gerry would have attracted a lot less suspicion if their daughter had been said to have disappeared from a crowded beach while her mother was snoozing! Much more credible than an abduction from an apartment with no evidence and only one witness whose memory of the event changed with stunning regularity!

Fiona is just another child who was harmed by those who should have protected her, and who faked an abduction to cover up their crime. Too many of these little ones being harmed by those who should protect them from harm.

Hoping for justice for that other child, Madeleine, who was gone before we knew her name, but somehow I'm not expecting anyone to confess.