By May I.
The first rule of planting evidence- there must be evidence to plant.
Search and rescue dogs are greatly respected by the British public, but it seems the McCanns do not share this confidence. From the outset, various doubts were expressed: the dogs were unreliable, they were detecting residues of blood from meat, the dog handler had influenced their responses and even that the evidence could have been planted.
Specialist dogs are highly trained, at great expense; their tasks are often very specific. For example, a dog trained to detect illegal currency being taken out of the country is trained to detect only amounts above the legal level. Of course it can’t count, but it can detect quantity and only alert to illegal amounts. As the dog works only for a reward from its handler, my understanding is that a reward for an incorrect alert would immediately confuse the dog and would undermine any extensive training.
A dog called Isla is being employed on a current search. Last year, she was judged the most gifted canine in the UK for tracking missing people. She is able to track “human air scent” from a dead or alive person from a quarter of a mile away. Her owner says “She’s outstanding at picking up a trail of skin cells.”
Kate’s first reaction when presented with the information that the PJ had a lot of evidence against them and that if Madeleine’s blood was in the boot of the car was “how on earth had it got there? Did this mean someone had planted it? I could see no other explanation.” This had been suggested by family members in the media, but at the time of writing her book, Kate must have realised that this suggestion was preposterous. On page 253 she writes that Gerry realised that no-one had planted forensic evidence to implicate them as there wasn’t any evidence. All they had, according to Kate was “the signal of a dog trying to please its instructor.” Of course, any dog alert is only an indication , not stand alone evidence. Martin Grime made this clear before the start of his search. “ The dogs only alerted to property associated with the McCann family. The dogs’ alert indications must be corroborated to establish their findings as evidence.” But surely the fact that the blood and cadaver dogs alerted to property relating solely to items and a car used by the McCanns is highly indicative of something incriminating in the eyes of the PJ? Did they not have every reason to focus on the McCanns?
In her book on page 267, Kate refers to State of Wisconsin v Zapata 2006 CF 1996 in relation to research undertaken about the dubious success rate of cadaver dogs. Not the most appropriate reference it seems, as Eugene Zapata pleaded guilty in October 2008, to the charge of homicide by reckless conduct in connection to his wife’s disappearance 30 years previously.
Next year, we will probably see the outcome of two cases where search and rescue dogs, including body recovery dogs were used extensively and with every faith in their reliability. What conclusions will the Scotland Yard review team reach about the evidence found by Eddie and Keela? Is the only possible conclusion that Martin Grime unconsciously influenced the dogs on the numerous alerts – apartments, toy, key fob, car, items of clothing? Why has he continued to work on other investigations since, at considerable expense, if his dogs are so unreliable?
Who to believe: Eddie and Keela or The Mccanns?