For many anti-McCanns, the dog alerts are the main argument. Three months after Madeleine McCann disappeared, two specialist sniffer dogs were taken to Praia da Luz. Eddie was a cadaver dog who also alerted to blood. Keela was a blood dog.
If both dogs alerted to the same spot, it would indicate blood. If only Eddie alerted, it would indicate cadaver. Simple?
Alas, an issue with these dogs is that they cannot tell us "whose" blood or cadaver they detect. Another BIG issue is that cadaver odour is transferrable. Anyone who comes in contact with a corpse - even by just being in the same room - will absorb some of the odour. This process starts within approximately 90 minutes of death and before a human would be able to detect the smell of death. Because they cannot tell us *who*, the dogs are used only as a tool to aid further investigation. A dog alert can have multiple explanations - not least of all the fact that the dogs alert to any process human decomposition - even from situations which did not result in death - e.g. a lost tooth, old blood even semen. An accurate explanation to the alert is therefore a fundamental necessity. Fortunately, this was acknowledged in the Shannon Matthews case and the search for a live child did not halt with a cadaver dog alert. Shannon was later found alive. It later transpired that the dog was spelling cadaver odour from a piece of second hand furniture which had come from a house where a death had taken place.
The argument about the dogs in the McCann case has raged on for five years. The anti-McCanns continue to hold it up as the #1 key piece of evidence which, despite all expert warning to the contrary, they will tell you "proves" that Madeleine McCann died in apartment 5A. It is a fact that no forensic evidence has ever been found to support this. Tabloid stories about her bodily fluids being found in the car containing lethal doses of sedative drug are completely false. Neither does logic support the dogs alerting to a dead Madeleine either.
Firstly, the dogs alerted to the car which the McCanns hired three weeks AFTER Madeleine disappeared when the world's press had been tailing the McCanns' every move. No-one can adequately explain how the McCanns hid a body for three weeks without resorting to ridiculous conspiracy theories. It would not have taken a cadaver dog to detect a three week old corpse during a Portuguese summer. Experts have said that the smell of a corpse would have been pungent and noticeable over a very large area. No-one reported any smell.
Secondly, for the cadaver odour which Eddie alerted to in apartment 5A to have come from Madeleine McCann, she would have had to have died and been lying behind the sofa in the living area at 8pm or before. Her parents did not leave the apartment until 8.30pm. Therefore they would have had to know about their daughter's sudden death before they went out to meet friend for dinner and not only appeared normal, but in "high spirits". Even ardent anti-McCann Pat Brown has stated that this it is very unlikely that parents could behave normally in the event of one of their children's sudden death.
Experts and case officials in Portugal and the UK have looked at all the evidence and do not consider the dog alerts to be sufficiently compelling. Even the dog handler says that they mean little without corroborating forensic evidence. For this reason and the reason of there being no forensic proof of death, Madeleine McCann officially remains a "missing person" - i.e. considered to be alive.
So why is it that the anti-McCann brigade cannot let go of the dog alerts as "evidence"? Certainly if they were evidence, it is the only thing which supports their theory that Madeleine McCann is dead and her parents covered it up. For this reason, there may be a degree of desperation and/or a wish for the dogs to be right. Or, it could simply be the case that they do not understand the whole thing about the dogs.
Certainly, the anti-McCanns delight in posting about cases where the dogs were right. However, without exception, these are cases where there is other evidence against the suspect and the dogs have alerted to places with limited human access (i.e the victim's own home). More significantly, none of the cases cited involved the forensic presence of a resident GP - a very important factor. As a GP, it was part of Kate McCann's job to attend deaths and certify them. By the very nature of her job, she would absorb the chemical which cadaver dogs alert to. Though imperceptible to we humans, her clothes, bag and shoes would absorb this odour and potentially transfer it to places where they were stored.
But an analogy is what this article is about and one which we can all relate to.
I am a non smoker but when I was younger, most of my friends smoked and when I returned home in the evening, I would be stinking of cigarette smoke. Did that prove I had been smoking? Of course not.
I would hang up my jacket in my closet and soon, my closet would be tainted with the smell too. The chances were, that if I took out a different item of clothing to wear, it too would smell of stale cigarette smoke. Did that prove I was a smoker? Of course not.
A smell of stale cigarette smoke on their clothes does not prove that someone has been smoking. In fact, it's impossible to tell who has been smoking simply from the smell of passive smoke. It *could* be an indication that the person who smells of cigarette smoke is the smoker, but in order to prove it, we would have to find some other evidence. Catching the suspect "in the act" would be the best evidence just as finding a corpse would be in a police investigation involving dogs.
Next up, spent cigarettes with the suspect's saliva/DNA on it would be pretty compelling and hard to explain - just as finding significant amounts of the victim's blood and tissue would be in a police investigation. In both cases, it is evidence which links the victim/suspect forensically to the "crime".
Possession of cigarettes on the suspect would be one possible indicator, but it's not proof. The cigarettes could belong to someone else, or have been planted there. Maybe a friend dropped them and the suspect picked them up with a view to returning them. As evidence, it is circumstantial only.
In order to prove that our suspect is a smoker, we would have to do some "forensic" examination. A toxicology test or a chest x-ray perhaps. There are ways of medically/forensically differentiating between actual smokers and passive smokers. As humans, we can relate to the smell of cigarette smoke which, like cadaver odour, is readily absorbed by certain materials. But as humans we can also easily understand just because we smell cigarette smoke from someone in no way proves that they are a smoker.
The McCann case is fraught with additional complications which make the dog alerts less significant - a fact which is acknowledged by case investigators and even the dog handler himself. Not least of all, if the dog alerts WERE conclusive proof that Madeleine McCann died her in her holiday apartment, we can all rest assured that her parents would not have been cleared and millions spent on a missing persons enquiry.
And so Madeleine remains an official missing person and whilst her parents continue the search for her to the best of their energies and abilities, they are also leading useful lives. Kate has recently accepted a key commitment volunteering for a missing persons organisation whilst Gerry McCann continues his pioneering work in cardiology. Meanwhile, those who hate them, spend their lives attacking them and complaining about them anonymously on social networking sites.