This information belongs to the Ministério Público in Portimão, Portugal.
It was released to the public on 4 August 2008 in accordance with Portuguese Law

825 to 828 Service information re: GNR sniffer dog searches


03-Processo pdf03 pages [825-828]
also Outros Apensos III Vol 02c Pages 55-60

Pages 825-828

Service Information 9 May 2007
To Dr G Amaral
From Vitor Matos, Chief Inspector

Search by GNR dog team

- As you know, yesterday, 8 May 2007 at 23h45, the undersigned joined a search effected by the GNR dog team which targeted Blocks 5 and 4 of the Ocean Club resort and adjacent areas, with the objective of trying to reconstruct the possible route taken by the missing child on 3 May 2007.
- The search was led by GNR 1st Sergeant A.F.Silva, head of the search and rescue team who coordinated all the work done by the "dual track" [method] which was performed by two tracker dogs with their handler, GNR officer P.Fernandes.
- The members of the GNR advised that the tracker dogs are trained to search mainly in rural areas, given the fact that the best capability of the animal is to identify a different and strong smell in a wide, open area, it being sure that in terms of timing they said that after 48 hours from the event it is difficult to obtain positive results. Concerning urban areas, or areas with identical characteristics, they advised that due to the fact of there being a large number of odours in the air, it becomes impossible for the tracker dog to manage to identify/locate the "target smell", because it is diffuse [dispersed; broken up], [the dog] ending up becoming confused and indicating its disinterest in continuing the search.
- Ahead of this type of operation, taking into account the time it is done, as well as the heat [temperature] that is already felt, the results that might be obtained are relative, given that the dog will confirm all the odours that it senses, it being sure that it will seek [track] where they [the smells] are most active, namely where apartments were occupied. Also, any noise [disturbance] the dog perceives inside an apartment could stimulate its interest.
- The GNR team performing the search had in its possession, packed in a plastic bag, a towel supposedly used to clean the missing youngster - Madeleine McCann - furnished by her parents.
- After the conditions for the search are met, the two GNR officers - the leader and the dog handler - gave the scent towel to one of the dogs to smell and led it into Block 5.
- The search started with the dog walking the several floors of the building, always being encouraged by the handler to "seek". It is true that the dog showed most interest at the doors of some apartments while not approaching others. In none of these actions did the dog signal to its handler that it had detected the missing youngster, but it is certain that it showed most interest next to, and around, apartments 5J, 5H and 4G. It is noted that next to 5H there were two bags of rubbish which immediately 'conditioned' the search because the smell was intense and the dog went to check. The opinion of the GNR officers was decisive in affirming that the dog was only checking that strongest odour to try to find the small from the towel.
- Concerning outside 4G there was found a tray of used [dirty] plates, cutlery and cloth napkins, it being sure that it is in this apartment that the parents of the missing child are currently staying. Once again it was the opinion of the GNR team that the dog was 'conditioned' by the small of the food remnants.
- Regarding the interest in 5J, the dog could have been 'conditioned' by the possible presence of people inside, along with a smell that it wanted to confirm at the cracks [gaps] around the door, it being understood from the signals it gave to the handler that it was trying to confirm the presence of the intended [hunted] scent.
- From this search the GNR team members are decisive in affirming that the fact that the dog "signalled" those apartments doe not mean it detected the smell of the missing child, but merely that the strongest odours existed at those specific locations.
- Completing the internal search of Block 5 - the verandas of access to the apartments - and when outside, the dog turned toward [directed itself to] Block 4. However, at the corner of Block 5, it turned left heading for the path between the building and the leisure area - pools and restaurant - going on to turn left [again], i.e. going around the building, setting out for the main street, crossing the road to the wall of Block 6. There, it sniffed the bottom, turned to the right - going down the road - taking itself to the car park next to Block 6 where its search [took it] to a lamppost where it then became confused and stopped the search. According to the GNR team this situation could be due to the fact that the strongest concentration of smells on that path, due to it being a little more preserved from the wind and "protected" between walls, it being certain that when it arrived at the main street and turned to the right, there was a major dispersal of odours, causing the dog to lose interest in continuing the search.
- The second dog was submitted to the same operation, also showing interest at door of 5J, namely it scratched with it front paws at the veranda parapet and lifted its head to sniff the air to find a scent. As noted above, this interest was conditioned by various things, it being certain that the dog sensed a strong odour in that place and wanted to check that [if] he had found the intended scent there.
- After the first search the two rubbish bags were removed from 5H so that during the second one there was no smell of rubbish, and the [second] dog showed no interest at the door of that apartment.
- Outside, the dog immediately followed the same path as the first, taking itself to the car park next to Block 6 where it also lost interest in the search.
- It is true to say that the dogs effectively showed interest in the above-mentioned apartments, without giving an indication needed to their handler that they had [found] the presence of the trail of the missing child. It is also certain that the course that they made to the car park next to Block 6 was done without hesitation and in a most convincing manner.
- To better understand the routes taken by the dogs, there are attached four images/maps of the area of the Ocean Club resort, the route taken by the dogs from Block 5 to the car park being marked in red and yellow.
- Further, in an informal conversation with the GNR team, they advised that on the 4 May they had done the same work, with no control over the direction taken by the dogs, i.e. they were not directed into the buildings, it being certain that they took the same route described above, with the same attitude, losing the trail next to the car park of Block 6.
- According to the GNR team and after the work was finished, they gave their opinion about what had happened, saying it is difficult the be precise about the dogs' achievement given the conditioning factors involved - smells, time of day, area concerned - adding still more the degree of uncertainty, because the clues revealed by the dogs can only be significant by confirming if in an area of intense odour, the intended [hunted; sought after] smell is found.
- Laid bare, in their understanding, the interest demonstrated by the dog at the doors of some apartments can not signify that the scent of the missing child was detected, but solely a mere confirmation and going off track [straying], because it never showed the handler that it had found the intended scent.

This is all I wish to bring your attention.

Chief Inspector
Vitor Matos.


Site Policy HOME PAGE Contact details