Friday, April 13, 2012

Kevin Halligen : Stamped With A D. Notice ?

Mark Hollingsworth Investigates The McCann Files

Disillusioned with the Portuguese police, Gerry and Kate McCann turned to private detectives to find their missing daughter. Instead the efforts of the private eyes served only to scare off witnesses, waste funds and raise false hopes. Mark Hollingsworth investigates the investigators.

by Mark Hollingsworth*

It was billed as a ‘significant development’ in the exhaustive search for Madeleine McCann. At a recent dramatic press conference in London, the lead private investigator David Edgar, a retired Cheshire detective inspector, brandished an E-FIT image of an Australian woman, described her as ‘a bit of a Victoria Beckham lookalike’, and appealed for help in tracing her. The woman was seen ‘looking agitated’ outside a restaurant in Barcelona three days after Madeleine’s disappearance. ‘It is a strong lead’, said Edgar, wearing a pin-stripe suit in front of a bank of cameras and microphones. ‘Madeleine could have been in Barcelona by that point. The fact the conversation took place near the marina could be significant.’

But within days reporters discovered that the private detectives had failed to make the most basic enquiries before announcing their potential breakthrough. Members of Edgar’s team who visited Barcelona had failed to speak to anyone working at the restaurant near where the agitated woman was seen that night, neglected to ask if the mystery woman had been filmed on CCTV cameras and knew nothing about the arrival of an Australian luxury yacht just after Madeleine vanished.

The apparent flaws in this latest development were another salutary lesson for Kate and Gerry McCann, who have relied on private investigators after the Portuguese police spent more time falsely suspecting the parents than searching for their daughter. For their relations with private detectives have been frustrating, unhappy and controversial ever since their daughter’s disappearance in May 2007.

The search has been overseen by the millionaire business Brian Kennedy, 49, who set up Madeleine’s Fund: Leaving No Stone Unturned, which aimed ‘to procure that Madeleine’s abduction is thoroughly investigated’. A straight-talking, tough, burly self-made entrepreneur and rugby fanatic, he grew up in a council flat near Tynecastle in Scotland and was brought up as a Jehovah’s Witness. He started his working life as a window cleaner and by 2007 had acquired a £350 million fortune from double-glazing and home-improvement ventures. Kennedy was outraged by the police insinuations against the McCanns and, though a stranger, worked tirelessly on their behalf. ‘His motivation was sincere,’ said someone who worked closely with him. ‘He was appalled by the Portuguese police, but he also had visions of flying in by helicopter to rescue Madeleine.’

Kennedy commissioned private detectives to conduct an investigation parallel to the one run by the Portuguese police. But his choice showed how dangerous it is when powerful and wealthy businessmen try to play detective. In September 2007, he hired Metodo 3, an agency based in Barcelona, on a six-month contract and paid it an estimated £50,000 a month. Metodo 3 was hired because of Spain’s ‘language and cultural connection’ with Portugal. ‘If we’d had big-booted Brits or, heaven forbid, Americans, we would have had doors slammed in our faces’ said Clarence Mitchell, spokesperson for the McCann’s at the time. ‘And it’s quite likely that we could have been charged with hindering the investigation as technically it’s illegal in Portugal to undertake a secondary investigation.

The agency had 35 investigators working on the case in Britain, France, Spain, Portugal and Morocco. A hotline was set up for the public to report sightings and suspicions, and the search focussed on Morocco. But the investigation was dogged by over-confidence and braggadocio. ‘We know who took Madeleine and hope she will be home by Christmas,’ boasted Metodo 3’s flamboyant boss Francisco Marco. But no Madeleine materialised and their contract was not renewed.

Until now, few details have emerged about the private investigation during those crucial early months, but an investigation by ES shows that key mistakes were made, which in turn made later enquiries far more challenging.

ES has spoken to several sources close to the private investigations that took place in the first year and discovered that:

•The involvement of Brian Kennedy and his son Patrick in the operation was counter-productive, notably when they were questioned by the local police for acting suspiciously while attempting a 24-hour ‘stake out’.

•The relationship between Metodo 3 and the Portuguese police had completely broken down.

•Key witnesses were questioned far too aggressively, so much so that some of them later refused to talk to the police.

•Many of the investigators had little experience of the required painstaking forensic detective work.

By April 2008, nearing the first anniversary of the disappearance, Kennedy and the McCanns were desperate. And so when Henri Exton, a former undercover police officer who worked on M15 operations, and Kevin Halligen, a smooth-talking Irishman who claimed to have worked for covert British government intelligence agency GCHQ, walked through the door, their timing was perfect. Their sales pitch was classic James Bond spook-talk: everything had to be ‘top secret’ and ‘on a need to know basis’. The operation would involve 24-hour alert systems, undercover units, satellite imagery and round-the-clock surveillance teams that would fly in at short notice. This sounded very exiting but, as one source close to the investigation told ES, it was also very expensive and ultimately unsuccessful. ‘The real job at hand was old-fashioned, tedious, forensic police work rather than these boy’s own, glory boy antic,’ he said.

But Kennedy was impressed by the license-to-spy presentation and Exton and Halligen were hire for a fee of £100,000 per month plus expenses. Ostensibly, the contract was with Halligen’s UK security company, Red Defence International Ltd, and an office was set up in Jermyn Street, in St James’s. Only a tiny group of employees did the painstaking investigative work of dealing with thousands of emails and phone calls. Instead, resources were channelled into undercover operations in paedophile rings and among gypsies throughout Europe, encouraged by Kennedy. A five-man surveillance team was dispatched in Portugal, overseen by the experienced Exton, for six weeks.

Born in Belgium in 1951, Exton had been a highly effective undercover officer for the Manchester police. A maverick and dynamic figure, he successfully infiltrated gangs of football hooligans in the 1980’s. While not popular among his colleagues, in 1991 he was seconded to work on MI5 undercover operations against drug dealers, gangsters and terrorists, and was later awarded the Queen’s Police Medal for ‘outstanding bravery’. By all accounts, the charismatic Exton was a dedicated officer. But in November 2002, the stress appeared to have overcome his judgement when he was arrested for shoplifting.

While working on an MI5 surveillance, Exton was caught leaving a tax-free shopping area at Manchester airport with a bottle of perfume he had not paid for. The police were called and he was given the option of the offence being dealt with under caution or to face prosecution. He chose a police caution and so in effect admitted his guilt. Exton was sacked, but was furious about the way he had been treated and threatened to sue MI5. He later set up his own consulting company and moved to Bury in Lancashire.

While Exton, however flawed, was the genuine article as an investigator, Halligen was a very different character. Born in Dublin in 1961, he has been described as a ‘Walter Mitty figure’. He used false names to collect prospective clients at airports in order to preserve secrecy, and he called himself ‘Kevin’ or ‘Richard’ or ‘Patrick’ at different times to describe himself to business contacts. There appears to be no reason for all this subterfuge except that he thought this was what agents did. A conspiracy theorist and lover of the secret world, he is obsessed by surveillance gadgets and even installed a covert camera to spy on his own employees. He claimed to have worked for GCHQ, but in fact he was employed by the Atomic Energy Authority (AEA) as head of defence systems in the rather less glamorous field of new information technology, researching the use of ‘special batteries’. He told former colleagues and potential girlfriends that he used to work for MI5, MI6 and the CIA. He also claimed that he was nearly kidnapped by the IRA, was involved in the first Gulf War and had been a freefall parachutist.

Very little of this is true. What is true is that Halligen has a degree in electronics, worked on the fringes of the intelligence community while at AEA and does understand government communications. He could also be an astonishingly persuasive, engaging and charming individual. Strikingly self-confident and articulate, he could be generous and clubbable. ‘He was very good company but only when it suited him’ says one friend. He kept people in compartments.’

After leaving the AEA, Halligen set up Red Defence International Ltd as an international security and political risk company, advising clients on the risks involved in investing and doing business in unstable, war-torn and corrupt countries. He worked closely with political risk companies and was a persuasive advocate of IT security. In 2006, he struck gold when hired by Trafigura, the Dutch commodities trading company. Executives were imprisoned in the Ivory Coast after toxic waste was dumped in landfills near its biggest city Abidjan. Trafigura was blamed and hired Red Defence International at vast expense to help with the negotiations to release its executives. A Falcon business jet was rented for several months during the operation and it was Halligen’s first taste of the good life. The case only ended when Trafigura paid $197 million to the government of the Ivory Coast to secure the release of the prisoners.

Halligen made a fortune from Trafigura and was suddenly flying everywhere first-class, staying at the Lansborough and Stafford hotels in London and The Willard hotel in Washington DC for months at a time. In 2007 he set up Oakley International Group and registered at the offices of the prestigious law firm Patton Boggs, in Washington DC, as an international security company. He was now strutting the stage as a self-proclaimed international spy expert and joined the Special Forces Club in Knightsbridge, where he met Exton.

During the Madeleine investigation, Halligen spent vast amounts of time in the HeyJo bar in the basement of the Abracadabra Club near his Jermyn Street office. Armed with a clutch of unregistered mobile phones and a Blackberry, the bar was in effect his office. ‘He was there virtually the whole day,’ a former colleague told ES. ‘He had an amazing tolerance for alcohol and a prodigious memory and so occasionally he would have amazing bursts of intelligence, lucidity and insights. They were very rare but they did happen.’

When not imbibing in St James’s, Halligen was in the United States, trying to drum up investors for Oakley International. On 15 August 2008, at the height of the McCann investigation crisis, he persuaded Andre Hollis, a former US Drug enforcement agency official, to write out an $80.000 cheque to Oakley in return for a ten per cent share-holding. The money was then transferred into the private accounts of Halligen and his girlfriend Shirin Trachiotis to finance a holiday in Italy, according to Hollis. In a $6 million lawsuit filed in Fairfax County, Virginia, Hollis alleges that Halligen ‘received monies for Oakley’s services rendered and deposited the same into his personal accounts’ and ‘repeatedly and systematically depleted funds from Oakley’s bank accounts for inappropriate personal expenses’.

Hollis was not the only victim. Mark Aspinall, a respected lawyer who worked closely with Halligen, invested £500,000 in Oakley and lost the lot. Earlier this year he filed a lawsuit in Washington DC against Halligen claiming $1.4 million in damages. The finances of Oakley International are in chaos and numerous employees, specialist consultants and contractors have not been paid. Some of them now face financial ruin.

Meanwhile, Exton was running the surveillance teams in Portugal and often paying his operatives upfront, so would occasionally be out-of-pocket because Halligen had not transferred funds. Exton genuinely believed that progress was being made and substantial and credible reports on child trafficking were submitted. But by mid-August 2008, Kennedy and Gerry McCann were increasingly concerned by an absence of details of how the money was being spent. At one meeting, Halligen was asked how many men constituted a surveillance team and he produced a piece of paper on which he wrote ‘between one and ten’. But he then refused to say how many were working and how much they were being paid.

While Kennedy and Gerry McCann accepted that the mission was extremely difficult and some secrecy was necessary, Halligen was charging very high rates and expenses. And eyebrows were raised when all the money was paid to Oakley International, solely owned and managed by Halligen. One invoice, seen by ES, shows that for ‘accrued expenses to May 5, 2008’ (just one month into the contract), Oakley charged $74,155. The ‘point of contact’ was Halligen who provided a UK mobile telephone number.

While Kennedy was ready to accept Halligen at face value, Gerry McCann – sharp, focused and intelligent – was more sceptical. The contract with Oakley International and Halligen was terminated by the end of September 2008, after £500,000-plus expenses had been spent.

For the McCanns it was a bitter experience, Exton has returned to Cheshire and, like so many people, is owed money by Halligen. As for Halligen, he has gone into hiding, leaving a trail of debt and numerous former business associates and creditors looking for him. He was last seen in January of this year in Rome, drinking and spending prodigiously at the Hilton Cavalieri and Excelsior hotels. He is now believed by private investigators, who have been searching for him to serve papers on behalf of creditors, to be in the UK and watching his back. Meanwhile, in the eye of the storm, the McCanns continue the search for their lost daughter.
in ES Magazine (London Evening Standard)– Paper edition only, 28 August 2009

*Mark Hollingsworth is best known for his investigations into Mark Thatcher and also MI5. He worked for Granada TV’s ‘World In Action’ programme for five years. He is the author of nine books, notably ‘Thatcher’s Fortunes: The Life and Times of Mark Thatcher’, ‘Defending the Realm: MI5 and International Terrorism’ and ‘Saudi Babylon: Torture, Corruption and Cover-Up Inside the House of Saud’. His new book, ‘Londongrad: From Russia with Cash, The Inside Story of the Oligarchs’, will be published in July 2009. He also contributes regularly to the London Evening Standard and most national newspapers

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Failed Reconstruction Was Not Our Fault.

“Thank you and sorry”

Breaking a silence lasting several months, the father of missing toddler Madeleine McCann this week spoke exclusively to The Portugal News about the ongoing search to find his daughter. He also spoke of the effects Madeleine’s disappearance has had on his family. Gerry McCann singled out the local community for praise and expressed appreciation for all the sacrifices they have been forced to endure the past two years, such as the negative impact the case has had on jobs and tourism in the area. He also admitted that cash in the Find Madeleine Fund is now only a few months away from being exhausted.

Shortly before leaving for Faro Airport on Sunday afternoon culminating what had been a whirlwind visit to Praia da Luz, Gerry McCann sat down in a Praia da Luz hotel room for his first media interview in months.
“I can totally understand that people want to move on”, said Mr McCann when questioned over the apparent animosity towards him on Saturday when he visited the site of his daughter’s disappearance.
“They don’t want the media intrusion and the negative association with Madeleine’s abduction. For me, and this is going right back to 2007 – I didn’t feel any evil around Praia da Luz or anywhere else in Portugal. What happened here could have happened anywhere in the world”, argued a composed and soft-spoken Mr McCann.
“Actually, the amazing response we had from the community was incredibly important to us”, he said.
As for the heckling by a small group of middle-aged locals who had been monitoring filming closely since Saturday morning, Mr McCann said: “That aspect was everything I had hoped could be avoided”, by keeping the visit under wraps.
He had demanded the utmost secrecy from all those involved in the weeks leading up to the filming of the television documentary by Mentorn Media for the May 7th showing of the programme Cutting Edge on Channel 4.
He repeatedly expressed regret at the negative impact his daughter’s disappearance has had on the region.
“I am sorry for any harm caused to Praia da Luz”, he said, before repeating an earlier request: “I specifically want to thank the local population for all their support and tolerance.”
But news of the sacking of more than half of the staff at Ocean Club resort shortly before his fleeting visit was met with regret by the man whose leftist political stance is well-documented, while his background includes growing up in a working class family on a council estate in Glasgow.
There have also been murmurings that former employees are contemplating legal action against the McCanns for loss of income, especially as the ‘Maddie Case’ is cited as one of the reasons for their dismissal.
Mr McCann put this down to “the need to blame someone” for what has happened, saying that if any legal proceedings were to be instituted, they should be directed at “Madeleine’s abductor”.
On his return to Praia da Luz and the absence of his wife Kate, Mr McCann explained: “Kate and I have been desperate to come back to Praia da Luz, but we haven’t done so due to the media exposure and the controversy such a visit would pose.
We want to come back and meet the people, without it being highlighted. There is nothing bad about this resort, it is beautiful. In these difficult economic times we don’t want to worsen things. But I do hope people understand why we are doing what we’ve done. This is a key factor in an investigation strategy. Madeleine is still missing. We need to do everything reasonable to get any information. The best thing for everyone is that she is found and that whoever took her is caught”.
Mr McCann ruled out any other visits to Portugal in the near future and as for Madeleine’s mother, said: “She’d love to come back. But we will not be returning for the anniversary. We wanted to come here and do this as quietly as possible and not to disrupt”, with last weekend’s media attention not aiding this desire.
“We want to get to the stage where Kate and I coming to Portugal is not a news story”, he said.
“Walking down into the Ocean Club felt like we were going backwards, that bit of it at least - I was the story with the media focussing on me.
“The reason we are doing this documentary is that it should be about Madeleine. I can understand why people don’t like it or that our level of child care was not to their standard, but the focus should be on an innocent child and that someone has taken her.
“There’s one thing that has been revealed in the case files which is that there is no evidence that Madeleine is dead and there is no evidence to suggest that Kate and I were involved in any theories. It’s about Madeleine. As her parents, I hope people understand that we have to do what we are doing”, argued Mr McCann.
Visibly uncomfortable at the question, Mr McCann, when asked about the toll Madeleine’s disappearance has had on his marriage, responded by saying: “We are united in our search for Madeleine and we are very strong in our relationship”.
And how have the twins been coping with their sister’s prolonged absence?
“They talk about her everyday. They are great. Literally, saying: ‘When Madeleine comes home…’. When we are having bad days [these comments] drive you on”.
But Gerry McCann refused to answer a question on whether or not Madeleine’s room has been left unchanged in the event she is found.
“If Madeleine came through the door, Sean and Amelie would react like she went missing yesterday. She is still a huge part of their life and it’s refreshing”.
What have they been told about where Madeleine might be?
“They completely understand she is missing and they understand someone has taken her. There is not a lot more. We had counselling on how to cope with the twins, given to us by a child psychologist who has dealt with child abduction who said we should fill in the gaps as they get older. But, with us, the psychologist said the problem you have is that there is very little to fill in.
The fact remains, she was there one minute and gone the next”.
Mr McCann also admitted that their approach to raising their other two children has been significantly altered by Madeleine’s disappearance.
“I am undoubtedly much more aware of potential danger or a threat to the kids now and things which we previously considered safe, and probably still are, are no longer.
“It’s a horrible balance we as parents now face between being cosseting and allowing the kids freedom, and at what age. I grew up in a very child-orientated environment, playing in parks, with minimal adult supervision. I think that’s healthy”, he explains as he leads up to the question about regrets they have over their actions as parents on the evening Madeleine went missing.
“Obviously what we did [leaving the children alone while dining at the nearby restaurant] we thought was safe.
“The whole aspect of a foreign child being abducted while on holiday never entered our thought process for even one moment, because if it had, we wouldn’t have done what we did”, he said.
An Ocean Club employee has said you were playing tennis on the Monday after your daughter’s disappearance while others were looking for your daughter, is that true?
“That is not true.
The first time I think I hit a tennis ball was about three weeks later.
 We stayed in the Ocean Club for two months.
What we were told in terms of counselling was that it was really important we get back into doing things for our mental well-being.
Jogging was the first thing we did. It was only weeks later that we played tennis and that was primarily because my sister was over and she plays more tennis than I do.
“About six weeks after returning home, I played some golf due to the solitude and privacy it affords me, but I was followed onto the course by a photographer and that was just horrible - the invasion of privacy.
I think Kate has played tennis once in the two years - it has become much harder for us to enjoy the simple things in life”.
On returning to the apartment last Saturday and how he felt re-entering it almost two years after last being there, Mr McCann said: “The apartment doesn’t hold any bad karma. It was just a couple of thoughts really, it was about re-enacting [the events on the night of her disappearance] and it was where I last saw Madeleine. But actually, I felt more emotional at church this morning [last Sunday] with the support and seeing the photograph of Madeleine with the words ‘Help me’ along with the green and yellow ribbons around it was more difficult to cope with.”
Gerry McCann explained his involvement with the documentary, which will be aired next month and shown in several European countries including Portugal shortly afterwards, was purely aimed at finding Madeleine.
He also recalled that failed attempts to stage a police reconstruction were not of their doing.
“We would have been obliged to come back [due to their status as arguidos that was only lifted last July].
 It did not fall on us to do it, but other people.
 Don’t get me wrong, we had major concerns as to why the reconstruction was being done.
 As opposed to this reconstruction, which will be broadcast with a view to getting new information, the police reconstruction was not aimed at finding Madeleine, but rather to look for inconsistencies.
There were 12 or 15 people involved and it is inevitable there would be inconsistencies”, he said. A response which led to the question over his disagreement with Jane Tanner [a member of the so-called Tapas 7] over where he was standing as Miss Tanner walked passed him the night she spotted a man taking what she believed to be a man carrying a child:
“In my mind, I am 100 percent certain I was on the other side of the road, though Jane Tanner and Jez Wilkins said I was on the side closest to the apartment. I can’t resolve that, I remember making a conscious decision to cross the road”.
Mr McCann also revealed that the family has made peace with the fact they might never see Madeleine again, but would never give up the search for her.
“We have always known that’s a possibility and that is why we have to rely on other people.
And we have that incredibly difficult balance between doing this [filming the reconstruction] and the human interest aspect. While we also want our lives to be private and normal for the sake of Sean and Amelie, we also need to do as much as we can. It’s a possibility we might never see her again, but until we have absolute definitive evidence of what happened to Madeleine, we can’t stop searching.”
Do you think the Portuguese PJ police did everything within their powers to find Madeleine?
“I think the way you are asking the question is right. PJ did more in this case than on many other occasions and worked extremely hard.
And there were many different pressures.
If you look back there were probably mistakes made on all sides.”
As for the role of private investigators and reconstructions, Mr McCann said it was a way of ensuring no stone is left unturned in the search for his daughter.
“At the minute there is no law enforcement agency actively looking for Madeleine and by that, I mean looking at the evidence saying; where are the gaps and what more can we do?
 And that’s what we need.
We have severe limitations and issues of jurisdiction and we realise we have to work with the authorities. We will hand over all relative information we obtain as we do not want to waste resources nor do we want to duplicate things.”
The Find Madeleine Fund, which has received around 2.5 million pounds since it was set up shortly after Madeleine’s disappearance in 2007, now appears to be running out of financial resources.
“There’s still money in it”, says Mr McCann, adding: “I can’t give you the exact figure, but we have spent and continue to spend a lot of money with the aim of trying to enhance the chance of finding her.
On the chances of the Fund drying up completely he responded: “It won’t dry up in the next few months, but probably by the end of the year, at the rate we are running.”
He concluded that fundraising is presently being considered as an option to boost funds and thus ensure an ongoing interest in finding Madeleine.
Brendan de Beer

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Photographs and Passports....discussion forum.

Look4Maddy wrote:Said to be taken on 10-11-2006 at 13:48 (1:48 PM) taken with Kate's Canon PowerShot A620. You can see the picture there because it was displayed like that on for Christmas...

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