Chapter 12: The Pool Photo - Floppy sun hats and flapping curtains ?

The Pool Photo - Floppy sun hats and flapping curtains ?


This chapter emerged from the more formal Last Photo, Pool Photo work, when we started looking at weather charts, wind surfing competitions at Portimao, personal diaries of ex-pats, and the descriptions of temperature and weather in the Tapas group's statements and Rogatories.
It was soon realised that regardless of anything else, the wind and weather are capable of proving - on the balance of probabilities at the very least -
that the Last Pool photo cannot have been taken at lunchtime on 3/5/7
and that the curtains cannot have 'whooshed' at 10 pm on 3/5/7

Both are independent of any other considerations, and this Chapter can stand alone for this reason.

The Last Photo - revisited

Kate states that the Last Photo, of Gerry, Amelie, and Madeleine sitting by the children’s pool, was taken, by her, on Thursday 3rd May 2007

“We then sat round the toddler pool for a while, dipping our feet in, and I took what has turned out to be my last photograph to date of Madeleine.”

The time in the EXIF metadata is shown as 13:29, but the McCanns were at great pains to point out that this time was one hour wrong, and it was actually taken at 14:29

Date/Time Original 2007:05:03 13:29:51+01:00

The photo shows Gerry wearing sunglasses, T shirt and shorts, with a slight sheen of perspiration across his forehead, the children in sun hats, which are casting shadows, there are clear shadows cast by the tree, and by the sun beds.

The edges of the shadows are sharp, indicating bright sun.

However, the weather records for Thursday 3rd May 2007 in Praia da Luz tell a totally different story.

At 1pm the temperature was 17º C, (62ºF) This is relatively cold.
At 2pm the temperature had risen to 18ºC (64ºF) Again not hot enough for sweat to break out on the brow of a man wearing nothing more than a thin cotton T shirt and shorts.

Across the top of the figure is a grey bar which indicates the cloud cover.
At 1pm and 2pm it is shown as 50%

By 4:30pm it was 90% so we may deduce that at lunchtime there may have been cloud cover somewhat greater than 50% and increasing as the afternoon progressed.

It also shows TWO separate cloud layers, one at 540m which then rises to 740m, and a higher one at 2700m

The record for the entire holiday week is even more instructive.

Here we see a clear pattern of the temperature falling and the cloud cover increasing between Sunday evening 29 April, and the following Friday morning 4 May

When we consider the Last Photo we must ask the following questions.
What do we SEE
What do we KNOW
and then
What can we DEDUCE ?

We see
Shadows have sharp outlines
Shadows more or less vertical
Bright reflection from human skin
Bright reflection from objects
Sheen of perspiration on Gerry's forehead
Children in very light dress
Children in sun hats
Gerry wearing very dark sunglasses
Gerry wearing T shirt and shorts
Bright and sharp reflection in sunglasses
Father and children with feet in the water

We know
The pool was very cold - all week
Weather for the rest of the week was cold and cloudy

What do we deduce ?
The photo was taken on a pleasantly warm or even a hot day.
It was taken when the sun was more or less overhead. Solar Zenith was at 13:29 for the days in question. Therefore, in layman’s terms the sun was overhead between 12:30 and 2:30 pm
There were no low clouds and there was no high overcast

But surely wind speed and direction depend on other factors, buildings, vegetation . .

You make a very valid point.
Wind speed IS measured about 3m from the ground, and in an open area, for the obvious reasons that you give. The ground has a frictional resistance, there are walls, buildings, street furniture, and then hedges and trees, all of which will act to slow the apparent speed at human level
The wind speed and direction at lunchtime is given as 7.2 m/s, or a stiff breeze, Force 4, and the direction approximately WSW, or bearing 250

On the map it is coming in along the red line (the arrow is pointing the wrong way !)

In fact this is across a large patch of waste land, tennis courts and then the very low wall by the Tennis courts in the Ocean club, which are protected only by chain link fencing. The vegetation, although there is some, is low.

As we can see there is not much of a barrier to reduce the force of the wind.

And I suppose that even reducing Force 4 would only bring it down to Force 3

Well exactly, and if we look again at Madeleine’s very fine hair falling across her face, and her floppy little sun hat, we are entitled to ask whether they were sitting in any wind at all.

But if I may digress slightly, this raises another very interesting point,

Let us stick with the issue of wind force and direction .. .

Later that evening, around 10pm Kate tells us what happened when she entered the apartment.

Her first statement said the curtains were wide open,
[Quote]and immediately noticed that the door to her children's bedroom was completely open, the window was also open, the shutters raised and the curtains open, while she was certain of having closed them all as she always did.”

But later we have seen repeated interviews, and read in the autobiography, which say they were tight closed.

but I just noticed that the door, the bedroom door where the three children were sleeping, was open much further than we’d left it.
I went to close it to about here, and then as I got to here, it suddenly . . . slammed, . . . . and literally as I went back in, the curtains of the bedroom which were drawn,
[demonstrates with both forearms together] that were closed, “wheesh’ like a gust of wind kind of blew them open.

[extract from book] p. 71 “Then I noticed that the door to the children’s bedroom was open quite wide, not how we had left it. At first I assumed that Matt must have moved it. I walked over and gently began to pull it to. Suddenly it slammed shut, as if caught by a draught.”

She says the door slammed even though she was holding it, and when she pushed it open again another gust “whooshed” the curtains into the room.

By 10pm the wind had died down, and was 4 m/s, Force 2, bordering on the low end of Force 3. It has also veered to WNW, or bearing 290.

Assuming the window was open, it is only 1 m x 0.5 m, so half a square meter. The door is 2 m x 0.75 m so one and a half square metres.

So any wind pressure entering the room is effectively dissipated over three times the area,
Now let us look at photos of the area outside the bedroom window.

What we see is a small car park lined with thick and high trees, a substantial wall, and then another wall just outside the window of the apartment

So the argument which says the effective speed and power of the wind is reduced by vegetation, walls, street furniture, cars and other obstacles applied here with even greater force.

This apartment window was by any standards very well sheltered

And from that we then have to imagine what wind power or force would be necessary to tear through all that barrier - and remember the wind is coming in at an angle across that road, across other areas with high buildings and thick vegetation, it is the purple line on this map

And the wind still has to have the force to get in through a small open window, and then slam a door being held by an adult, and on the second occasion to pull full length curtains from where they were jammed between the bed and the wall, or jammed behind the wicker chair, against the wall, so that they can “Whoosh”

And that wind force, would then one assumes also hit the Tapas bar around the same time, and we remember that the bar was encased in about 40 square metres of clear tarpaulin. Yet not a single guest or member of staff reports what would have been a deafening sound as those two gusts hit.

The Weather reports from Faro Airport are similarly silent on the point.

So it has been an interesting excursion, driven by responding to reasoned arguments that the wind conditions might have permitted the Last Photo to have been taken on Thursday 3rd, but leading not only to a serious suspicion, on those grounds alone that it could not have been, but also to some serious doubts about the slamming door and whooshing curtain story.

There just does not seem to be enough evidence to substantiate either,

as with so much else in this continuing Mystery.

What is even more interesting is to note that the McCanns’ entire story involving the Last Photo, and flapping curtains depends on flat calm and hot at lunchtime, and high wind at bedtime.

The facts are

Discussion on the Complete Mystery of Madeleine McCann forum: