Tuesday 9 May 2017

Madeleine McCann and Operation Grange

At the outset I should say that I don't know what happened to Madeleine McCann.  All the evidence available to me – and there is more and deeper information available to the public on this than any case I have looked at – does not convince me of any theory or scenario being proved.  Soon, in the coming months when my other projects are less busy, I hope to take a proper analytical look at it all and come up with some conclusions.  But as things stand my position is that I don't know.

Having said all that, there are aspects of the case which trouble me already and the main one is what the Metropolitan Police set out to do in Operation Grange.  My brush with that investigation – and I call it that because I was never actually involved with it – has been the subject of a fair bit of comment, embellishment and misunderstanding.  So it is right I think that I set out clearly what happened and what did not.

On Sunday 9th May 2010 the News of the World published a story which suggested that the Met was going to reinvestigate Madeleine’s disappearance and that I would be asked to lead it.  This was news to me on both counts. Nobody from the Met had, or indeed ever did, make such a request of me.

The only official news I heard about the reinvestigation was a week or two later when I heard that the idea of such a reinvestigation had been shelved for the time being in the wake of the change of Government. You will recall the note by former Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liam Byrne, apologising to his successor that there was no money left. The rumour in the Met was that, unless and until the Government were prepared to fund it, we would not undertake such an expensive operation which, as desirable as it might have been, was not really something on which Londoners should see their Council Tax spent.

However, before this, just a few days after the NotW story I did receive a call from a senior officer in the Met whom I knew quite well.  This officer told me I would do better to avoid the McCann investigation if it did happen, because "You wouldn't be happy leading an investigation where you were told what you could look at and what you could not".

That is the totality of the advice I received. It was made clear that this was an ‘unofficial’ call and that it was made in my interest – so that I might not end up taking on a task which would ultimately frustrate me.  As such I never pressed the caller for more information, nor will I ever be in a position to disclose who the officer was.

I was familiar enough with the reporting of the McCann case in the media to understand that there was a widespread reluctance to talk of any scenario which did not involve an abduction and in which no blame or complicity was to be attributed to the parents and their friends.  This struck me as odd but, in those days, quite frankly I was busy enough with he investigations I was involved in without undertaking any 'off the books' look at what had gone on in Praia de Luz.  I had assumed that there was good reason for this; that those who had been involved had satisfied themselves that was the case.

I retired after 30 years service in early 2011.  At the time I retired there had been no decision made to mount the Met operation.  As I embarked upon a new career writing and commenting I looked at the case a little, sufficiently enough to provide sensible assistance to the media when they asked me.  This was, though, always around police procedures and techniques.  Nobody ever asked me what I thought might have happened, only what the police were doing, why and what they might do next.

Last year Sky asked me to a meeting to discuss what a ten-year anniversary film might achieve.  I explained that I would be willing to take part but that my position was one where I was as sceptical of the accepted (abduction) theory as I was of any other. I said I would also like to make the point that Operation Grange was so restricted from the start as to be destined to fail.  In support of this I presented the original Grange terms of reference and told them of the advice I had received in the phone call.

To their credit (and, actually, to my surprise) they accepted that this was a valid point of view to hold and one which should be presented in their film.  Within the limitations and constraints of legal matters, the editing process and the need to present a rounded story, I think the Sky film was pretty good.  It is certainly the most balanced mainstream report I have seen and one with which I am entirely happy to be associated.  I also think it represented my views well.

I am neither an anti nor a pro – of the McCanns or the media or the police.  I felt, feel indeed, that the limitations which seem to have been imposed on Operation Grange were worthy of being publicised and would inform the debate.  I am not necessarily advocating that it be started afresh, just that it is understood what it was and what it tried to do.

I do though think that a point worthy of reinforcing is that a proper, conclusive and reasoned elimination or implication of Kate and Gerry McCann would have been in everyone's interest, most of all theirs.  That would have been my first objective had I been leading Operation Grange and so that is the biggest issue I have with how that investigation proceeded.  To eliminate or implicate those closest to the child in this type of case is not only the documented best investigative practice but is common sense.  Had Grange done this then everything would be a lot clearer. I have no idea why this was not done but I am satisfied on what has been said by the Met and what is available that it was not.

I want to continue to raise and discuss issues around Madeleine’s disappearance when it is appropriate to do so.  I am mindful that, to maintain credibility and access to meaningful platforms that I will need to do so in a considered, reasoned and evidenced way. If I don't offer support to theories and assumptions it doesn't mean I don't understand or believe them, just that I don't think it is appropriate to adopt them or comment upon them at the moment.

Finally a paragraph on me. I am nowhere near naïve enough to have thought that I could become involved in this debate without suffering some abuse and denigration. While it is water from a duck’s back I won't expose myself to it unnecessarily.  Hence I won't take part in discussions on the various forums and I am likely to block those on Twitter who can’t be reasonable and polite.  Like us all I am far from perfect but I did give many years of service to the community – as do thousands of others – and during that time I was lucky enough to achieve some results of which I will always be proud. My expertise and reputation is well-regarded by the media and I have no need to raise my profile; I turn away as much media work as I accept.  I am not writing a book on Madeleine McCann and I have no motivation other than that which has been with me for many, many years – to get to the truth.  So I will continue to tweet about the case ( @colinsutton ) and when people raise good questions I will try to respond quickly.



  1. Bravo Mr.Sutton Your stance here alone sets you apart from any other officer who has ever 'examined' this case. For the sake of Madeleine McCann and us ALL, this matter deserves the truth to be learned.

  2. Bravo Mr.Sutton Your stance here alone sets you apart from any other officer who has ever 'examined' this case. For the sake of Madeleine McCann and us ALL, this matter deserves the truth to be learned.

  3. Thank you, Colin Sutton, for your honest and objective comment. I shall follow your blog from now on.

  4. Thank you for your blog Colin i really think one day the truth will come out eventually
    and i have a feeling how and when but i do not want to put my theory on here has you never know who reads these comments

  5. So refreshing to read honesty.

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  7. As Sherlock once said....

    "You will not apply my precept," he said, shaking his head.

    How often have I said to you that,

    When you have eliminated the impossible,

    Whatever remains, however improbable, must be the TRUTH?

    We know that he did not come through the DOOR, the WINDOW, or the chimney.

    We also know that he could not have been CONCEALED in the ROOM,
    as there is no concealment possible.

    When, then, did he come?"

    Sherlock Holmes in The Sign of the Four (Doubleday p. 111)

    Think about it New Scotland Yard and get back to the basics in finding out what really happened to Maddie ;)

  8. Thank you. It is refreshing to read a measured, calm response to the case. I genuinely hope that you get time to look at it in a deeper way.

  9. Thank you Mr Sutton for your refreshing blog.We need someone that has the common sense approach.

  10. Interesting to read your opinion and insight from your side. I only hope that after 10 years and many unanswered questions, that this is dealt with from a clear and transparent platform. For those that have been caught up in such an uneccessary and complex case, it's time to be honest. What a tangled web we weave.....

  11. Thank you for taking the trouble to start this blog and your explanation regarding your (non) connection to the McCann case.
    We don't need misquotes or rumours. The truth will come out eventually.

  12. This is so refreshing to hear, and the comments you made, particularly to Sky News, coincided with quite a damning documentary in Portugal - again insisting on a reasoned, methodical investigation that asks all the questions, not simply those deemed to be acceptable.
    I am actually working on a new 'story' for our paper in Portugal, so hope you won't mind if I am in touch with you via Twitter (lime_harry)

  13. You are a breath of fresh air Colin Sutton. Thank you.
    If you ever have time to answer, I`d like to know why Alison Saunders (the UK Director of Public Prosecutions) travelled to Portugal with her Deputy in April 2013. If it was a Portuguese case, why would our CPS be interested?

  14. Thank you for starting this blog.

    I find it interesting that a review was being considered in 2010 under Gordon Brown.

    Do you know who decides what cases are to be reviewed? Is it government or an internal police decision?

  15. Thank you Mr Sutton. You are a brave and honourable man. Please be careful.

  16. This is great news - that someone with your wealth of experience is going to consider the case once more . As you say, it is seldom that so many statements are available to peruse . Looking forward to reading about your findings in the not too distant future . The truth is definetly there to find and see . Thank you again . This is great news .

  17. Thank you for posting this, Colin Sutton. Such comment from an unimpeachable source is very very welcome.

  18. I've been following this case for 3 years now and despite being sceptical about the aims of Operation Grange I hoped that in the end we would get closer to the truth. Unfortunately it would appear that this isn't the case. I'm grateful to you for coming out publicly with your opinion. I hope this will lead to OG coming under more scrutiny. I wish you luck and hope you will continue to look at the case with your DCI eyes. We really need someone like yourself to stand for truth rather than pandering to an official line which ignores facts and evidence in favour of fictional accounts given by ex suspects. I also hope you won't as the British media have done be over critical of the PJ. They have been totally slated for what was an extremely complex case which from the start was impeded by media and political interference.

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  20. You sound brave, Mr Sutton, but what would have been REALLY brave would have been to take the case, solve it, and to hell with political pressure. That is the kind of courage that Justice needs.

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  22. Good morning, Colin. Until a year ago, when I gave up in despair, I was a regular contributor on the McCann case on twitter (@kikoratton). In my small way, I was responsible for drawing attention to the fact - that's what it is in my view - that Gerry McCann falsified the creche attendance records. I then went on to propound (a word favoured by Gerry himself) a theory as to why he had done it, and what it achieved. If you would care to evaluate the evidence upon which I drew, I should be glad to hear from you.
    I've often said to the small group with whom I actively share information, that we should have our views assessed by an experienced police officer. Perhaps this might be such an opportunity.
    With best wishes
    Dewi Lennard


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  24. "exercising his brain by thinking about things"
    If it's all a question of exercise, what about thinking about real facts ?

  25. I cannot help thinking of the song "One voice singing in the darkness, all it takes is one voice ....." well we now have two voices (Sr Amaral and Mr Sutton), one more voice than we have had for the past ten years - just maybe, in time, "one voice, it takes just one voice, and everyone will sing"!! We have to find the truth for Maddie.

  26. Respect and admiration to you Colin. If only all in op Grange had your morals.