Chapter 14: The Last Photo = The Pool Photo

The “Last Photo” 

1 The McCanns had a Canon PowerShot A620.
In her book Kate only refers to a camera in the singular. My camera, our camera. She clearly states that ‘our camera’ was taken away by RO’B so that photos could be printed in the form of a poster. Later that night, when everyone had been asked to leave the apartment, the official scenes of crime photos were taken by the PJ. On the dining table the Canon PowerShot can clearly be seen. The photo session and forensic examination by the PJ took place between 0030 and 0400, 4/5/2007.
The EXIF metadata for the “Last Photo” clearly shows that it was taken on the Canon.

2 The Canon was retained by the McCanns, and neither it, nor the memory stick were apparently surrendered for examination. This camera was in Kate’s possession early on 10th May. It is not known whether the PJ were fully aware of its existence.

3 On 20th May Gerry McCann flew to England, and returned home.

4 He returned to Portugal on 22nd May, with Clarence Mitchell.

5 Gerry McCann’s sister, Philomena, also flew out to Portugal on 22nd May.

6 The “Last Photo” was released through the AFP agency on 24th May.

7 The “Last Photo” was taken with the Canon PowerShot A620 camera.

8 It is relatively simple to alter some of the EXIF metadata, including the date and time, using software freely available on the internet.

9 The EXIF metadata have clearly been accessed and amended by the AFP agency to include the description of the photo.

10 Gerry’s brother in law - Philomena’s husband - Tony Rickwood, is a photographer who is highly skilled at altering images. It is inconceivable that he does not also know how to alter the date and time in the EXIF and to erase aspects of it.

11 Tony Rickwood owns several cameras, including a Canon PowerShot A480 - a model previous to the A620.

12 The McCanns lay heavy emphasis on the importance on the “Last Photo”.

13 Through their spokesman Mitchell, they go to great lengths to explain that the EXIF time might be incorrect by exactly an hour. They make no such claims for any other photo. No other photos from the Canon have been put in the public domain. In each story the words “her own camera” are used.

14 The “Last Photo” is tendered as independent evidence that Madeleine was alive and well during the early afternoon of 3rd May

15 The time given in the EXIF data for the photo is exactly Solar zenith (noon) at Faro, Portugal on 3/5/2007

16 Rickwood is a keen astronomer, and is a member of the British Astronomical Society.

17 There is a strong suspicion that the time and date on the “Last Photo” are, at the very least, unreliable. It is not thought that the image itself has been altered.

18 Almost all other such evidence is specifically stated to be uncorroborated by others in the group, and detailed explanations are given as to why this is so. This leaves the “Last Photo” as the only independent evidence of Madeleine’s being alive and well on 3rd May.

19 The visit by David Payne, and the check by Oldfield do not alter this position. There is considerable doubt as to the veracity of the crèche sheets, which contradict directly Kate’s alternative version in the book.

20 Rachel Oldfield’s statement that she saw Madeleine on the tennis court on 3rd is directly contradicted, in detail and with some force, by O’Brien. In her Rogatory Tanner speaks of Gerry having a lesson and has thus clearly confused this with the Wednesday. O’Brien contradicts this and corrects this with some force and determination, making it clear that Madeleine was NOT there on Thursday 3rd May.

Rachel Oldfield confuses the two days, putting the taking of the “tennis balls” photo on Thursday 3rd.

Kate, and O’Brien are absolutely clear that this was not 3rd.
Kate insists that she herself took the tennis balls photo on Tuesday 1st
Russell O’Brien insists it was taken on Wednesday 2nd
Rachel Oldfield states that it was taken by Jane Tanner on the Thursday 3rd.

When the witnesses talk about Madeleine’s NOT having been present, the style of the language used is very different from the rest of the Rogatory interviews. The witnesses become fluent and coherent, and we see very little of the hesitation, the linguistic fillers of “err”, ummm”; repetitions of part sentences and so on, which characterise the rest of those interviews when other aspects of their recollections are being discussed.

Short discussion.
It is accepted that when numerous witnesses are interviewed some discrepancies will be found between and among their recollections. Sophisticated computer systems now exist to highlight these so that they may be analysed. HOLMES II, ANACAPA, and others are routinely employed by CID for major enquiries.

In this case it is clear that the only person who reports having seen Madeleine on the tennis court on 3rd is mistaken. The events surrounding that ‘sighting’ make it clear from other witnesses that it is simply confusion of the day, and may not bear any sinister interpretation.

The visit to the apartment by Payne looks contrived, as it has no apparent motive. The differences between what Payne and what Gerry and then Kate report are glaring, and this reported episode must be treated with extreme caution.

As has been noted many times elsewhere, Oldfield is very quick to retreat from the position of having apparently been the last person to see Madeleine alive. Any detective will confirm that this is a highly dangerous position to be in.


The above sets out the facts, or some of them, so far as they can be ascertained. References have been cut back from the original, but are available if any mistake is identified.

But facts often require interpretation, particularly for people who are not fully acquainted with more of the background to this remarkable case.

What follows is one possible interpretation.

1 The “Last Photo” is tendered as conclusive proof of Madeleine’s having been in a particular place at a particular time. The pre-emptive insistence by the McCanns that the time was wrong by exactly one hour deserves further consideration.

This alleged difference between the recorded time and the actual time was reported by the media as the photo was released. It was not said later after questions had been asked.
This did not happen with any other photograph. We know that in any event the other photos were not dated, but this was never explained, and no attempt was taken to show how they all fitted into the scenario of the whole holiday. They are merely presented.

It is of course entirely irrelevant whether the “Last Photo” was taken at 13:29 or 14:29 ; 12:29 or 15:29

The exact time and date of the “Play house” and the “Jumping on grass” and the “Tennis balls” photos are equally irrelevant except to show that Madeleine was with her family on holiday at that resort, which is not seriously at issue.

So what is the importance of drawing such attention to the exact time on the “Last Photo” ?
Clearly it is to do with something else, which is to draw attention to the DATE.
Given that most people were previously unaware of the existence of EXIF metadata, this had to be for a purpose.

And that purpose must be to show that Madeleine was alive and well at lunchtime on 3rd May.
But it does so in a typically blunt way, which ultimately serves to do exactly the opposite from what was intended. We recall that Clarence Mitchell accompanied Gerry on his return to PdL on 22nd, and so by 23rd was in control of what was released to the media and the wording of press releases. Does this blunt instrument bear the classic Mitchell hallmark ?

2 The “Last Photo” with Madeleine smiling and happy would have been an ideal choice for the poster put out that first night. The camera is capable of editing images, or it could have been edited on the computer from which it was eventually printed. (We note that the image was subsequently ‘cropped’ before release in another place, and later still the small part of Gerry’s elbow by Madeleine’s right ear and the lower part of Amelie's arm were skilfully photoshopped out and replaced to show the background rock wall).


But it is very easy to crop carefully excluding the bit of Gerry’s elbow - like this

This would have been a perfect, charming and heart-rending image, and it could have been given out on 4th or 5th May, printed and distributed.

But it wasn’t.

In its place what they used was a very boring photo of Madeleine, in a strange pose, in an unknown location, on an unknown date. With no explanation.

This one

and we note the pixel aspect ratio of 1888 x 2350
(See point 6 later, and work out that this was NOT taken on the Canon)

3 But yet another photo was released on 4th May, and used as a front page image by the Daily Mirror on 5th May. It is the full face portrait, which adorns the cover of the book 'madeleine', and has become the iconic image of Madeleine wearing a red dress, and showing clearly the coloboma eye defect on which so much emphasis was placed in the first years.

This one

4 We were told by Kate that on that day (3/5/07)) at 5:30pm Madeleine was “pale and worn out,. . .really tired . . wanted me to pick her up . . . so exhausted.” But on the photo timed at 2:29 Madeleine looks alert, happy and smiling.
What could have reduced an alert, happy and smiling child to pale and worn out, really tired, and exhausted in the space of three hours ? Sailing and tennis might have that capacity, in the hands of untrained and unprofessional child minders, but we recall that Madeleine did NOT play tennis that afternoon, and did NOT go sailing.

5 On the afternoon of 3rd, uniquely, all the other members of the Tapas group suddenly absented themselves from the vicinity of the Ocean Club Tapas area, and distanced themselves from the company of the McCanns. All of them - the entire group with children and grandparent - deciding simultaneously to go to the Paraiso bar, which is located on the beach some half a kilometre away.

Great play is then made of Kate’s jogging on the beach itself, and being seen by the Tapas group. This is emphasised by some of the group and by Kate in her book. It has been observed that running that particular beach is extremely difficult and punishing, the sand being very fine and soft, and offering little resistance to a running shoe. It has also been observed that the way to the beach from the apartment is very angled, and that serious runners prefer straight lines. The decision to display herself on the beach in this way is thus questionable, and may have another motive.

6 So far as can be discovered there is no reference to the Canon PowerShot camera anywhere in the files.
The only camera referred to in the PJ files is an Olympus C-50, examined by Det. Con. Martin, and it is now believed owned by another totally unconnected family.

The only two clues as to the very existence of the Canon are therefore
• the photo of the dining table in the apartment taken by the PJ during the early hours of 4th, where the Canon can clearly be identified by its distinctive shape,

Canon PowerShot A620, capable of taking up to 7m Pixels

• and the EXIF metadata on the “ast Photo”.
Camera Model Name Canon PowerShot A620
Modify Date 2007:05:24 17:41:22
11 months, 22 days, 23 hours, 3 minutes, 2 seconds ago
Orientation Horizontal (normal)
Related Image Height 2,304
Related Image Width 3,072
NOTE: The Modify Date is clearly the date the French Press agency added their comments.
The pixel aspect ratio is correct for the Canon Powershot A 620

We do know however that twice in her book Kate reports that “my camera” had been taken away by Russell Oldfield during the late evening so that the poster could be prepared. That MUST therefore refer to the Canon. And it MUST therefore also be the Canon to which Gerry refers when he says that he has no other photos in his possession.
Gerry also helpfully adds that it is Kate who takes most of the photos.
In her book Kate claims ownership of the “tennis balls” photo and the ”Last Photo”.
Since Gerry is visible in at least one of the others, the implication is clear.
Kate took the family photos.

7 Gerry specifically states in a signed statement to the PJ on 10th May that he had no other photos in his possession. The PJ may have relied on this statement and assumed that he was telling the truth. The sudden appearance of the “Last Photo” after his return from the UK, with Clarence Mitchell, and after the arrival of his sister in Portugal, clearly bearing the EXIF metadata is therefore extremely suspect.

Can this list of facts ALL be simply coincidences ?

The camera - with the Last Photo, retained - Canon PowerShot A620
The date of the trip to the UK
The photographic skills and knowledge of the brother-in-law
The skills and knowledge of Astronomy of the brother-in-law
The date of return to PdL, with Mitchell
The date of the trip by the sister to Portugal
The date of release of the ‘Last Photo’ to the world’s press
The pre-emptive and unnecessary insistence on looking at the time (and date) of the photo
The fact of the total lack of witnesses to show Madeleine alive on 3rd (or indeed after 29th)
The explanations for almost every difficult aspect of the story

Or does it amount to something else ?

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