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Rebuttal of "Fact" 43

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43. As with all of us, the McCanns’ body language may yield valuable clues. During TV interviews, the following conduct has been observed: avoiding eye contact, nervous twitching, tense facial expressions, shaking their heads while making various assertions, and touching or scratching their faces at difficult moments. They were seen smiling and laughing on what would have been Madeleine’s 4th birthday, just 10 days after she went missing. Many people say they have not seen evidence of the grief that couples would normally express if they had lost a much-loved daughter


Verdict -The image which is regularly used to show the McCanns "smiling and laughing" is in fact a still frame from a video clip.  The smiles were very brief and response to some balloons which blew across in front of them.  Laughter can be heard from the crowd at the same time as the McCanns are seen to smile.


However, we shall not endeavour to refute the body language assertions in detail not because these assertions have merit, but because body language analysis is a very inexact science with many variables.  It is our opinion that body language analysis is best left to the experts.

Sources - Media reports, TV clip and Internet websites.


Summary of Verifiable Facts

  1. Body language is a very inexact science.
  2. Body language experts tell us that the situation within which the subject is being analysed must also be considered.
  3. Gerry McCann was criticised for touching his nose several times during one tv interview.  However, the critic failed to comment on the fact that the tv interviewer touched HIS nose almost twice as often as Gerry McCann had.
  4. The image of the McCanns smiling and laughing on the day prior to Madeleine's 4th birthday is misleading.  A video clip of the same scene proves that they smiled only fleetingly and in response to an incident in the crowd which caused laughter among the crowd.
  5. The McCanns have shown plenty of grief since their daughter went missing. 






As with most of the MMRG's "facts", this one comprises of several independent statements which must be refuted separately.


  1. Body Language.
  2. That the McCanns were seen smiling and laughing on "what would have been" Madeleine's 4th birthday, just 10 days after she went missing.
  3. That "many people" say they have not seen much evidence of grief that couples would normally express if they had lost a much loved daughter.



1. Body language.


Body Language is a very inexact science.

From BusinessBalls.com:-



Body language also depends on context: body language in a certain situation might not mean the same in another.


Some 'body language' isn't what it seems at all, for example:


Someone rubbing their eye might have an irritation, rather than being tired - or disbelieving, or upset. 

Someone with crossed arms might be keeping warm, rather than being defensive. 

Someone scratching their nose might actually have an itch, rather than concealing a lie.



The situation in which a subject is being analysed should also be considered:-



Many body language signals indicate negative feelings such as boredom, disinterest, anxiousness, insecurity, etc.


The temptation on seeing such signals is to imagine a weakness on the part of the person exhibiting them.  This can be so, however proper interpretation of body language should look beyond the person and the signal - and consider the situation, especially if you are using body language within personal development or management. Ask yourself:


What is causing the negative feelings giving rise to the negative signals?

It is often the situation, not the person - for example, here are examples of circumstances which can produce negative feelings and signals in people, often even if they are strong and confident:


Dominance of a boss or a teacher or other person perceived to be in authority.
Overloading a person with new knowledge or learning.
Stress caused by anything.
Cold weather or cold conditions.
Lack of food and drink.

Illness or disability.
Alcohol or drugs.
Being in a minority or feeling excluded.
Unfamiliarity - newness - change.

Ask yourself, when analysing body language:


Are there external factors affecting the mood and condition of the individual concerned?

Do not jump to conclusions - especially negative ones - using body language analysis alone.



It is dangerous to infer any weight upon armchair body-language analysis.  The McCanns have been criticised for the following body language behaviour during television interviews about the abduction of their small daughter.


Body Language behaviour which the McCanns have been criticised for:


Avoiding eye contact

This is not only a sign of deception, but is a classic sign of shyness.  Kate McCann in particular is described by close friends as a shy person (from an interview with Now Magazine which is not online):-


 "'Overall, Kate's a shy and quiet person who doesn't like attention'


Nervous twitching

Unsurprisingly this can be an indication of nerves.  Even those accustomed to it can be nervous when being interviewed on television.


Tense facial expressions

Having a child go missing is not only a serious topic of discussion but is also a pretty stressful experience which is likely to induce tension in even the strongest character.


Touching and scratching their faces

In a recent interview, someone counted that Gerry McCann touched his nose several times.  This was held up as "proof" of his deception during that interview.  However, the person counting Gerry's nose-touching apparently missed the fact that the interviewer touched his own nose more often than Gerry McCann did!  


An interesting example for the record

We looked at this interview in more detail.  Part I can be found here and Part II can be found here:-


In total, Gerry McCann touched his head/face/nose a total of 7 times in approximately half an hour.  The interviewer, Mark Cagney, touched his head/face/nose a total of 11 times!


The MMRG assert that nose-touching is a sign of deception.  The following is a summary of what Gerry McCann was talking about on the four occasions that he touched his nose during the interview:-


1. The benefits of a centralised database in a criminal investigation.  He cited the Yorkshire Ripper case.

2. The fact that there had been no review for Madeleine's case.

3. That they couldn't have been accused of anything worse than killing their daughter.

4. Reflecting (on the verge of tears) that there was a lot of him and Kate in Madeleine.

If he IS attempting to deceive us, it is difficult to see exactly what that deception may be.



2. The McCanns were seen smiling and laughing on "what would have been" Madeleine’s 4th birthday, just 9 days after she went missing.


Kate describes the day in her own words in her book "Madeleine"

"Saturday, 12 May 2007. Madeleine’s fourth birthday.  Until it was upon us, we hadn’t been able to think about it: we simply couldn’t countenance the idea that by the time it arrived she wouldn’t be back with us to mark it. Not being with her today, loving her, pleasing her, enjoying her delight, was unbearable. "


"John Hill had arranged for us all — Gerry, Sean, Amelie and myself, Trish and Sandy, and Fiona, David, Dianne, Jane, Russell, Matt and Rachael and their kids — to spend the day at a private villa. "


"We ate mostly in silence, concentrating on the kids. I couldn’t eat much, and alcohol was completely off my agenda. Fiona recalls that Gerry and I were completely shut down that day, barely able to talk..."


"There was no cake. Gerry did attempt a toast but he was visibly upset and couldn’t manage much more than ‘I can’t even say happy  to my daughter ...’ before choking up.  The physical loss was more intense than ever. I ached for Madeleine.  After attending a special Mass for her at the church early in the evening we were visited in the apartment by Cat, Madeleine’s nanny at Mini Club.  "


"Madeleine" by Kate McCann 



The smiling image

A still image exists of the McCanns smiling brightly as they emerged from a special mass on Madeleine's 4th birthday - 9 days after she disappeared.  This image has appeared on many websites and posts as evidence that the McCanns were not displaying normal grief.  In fact, a video exists of the scene.


The Illusion 

Here is the image which is popularly used by people wanting to portray the McCanns as being inappropriately cheerful - even happy -  10 days after Madeleine's disappearance.:-




The Reality 

The following are still-frames from the film clip taken second by second.  The lapse in time between the first and last clip is only 15 seconds.  The McCanns smile for only a few seconds when some balloons escape into their path.  If you watch the clip, you will hear laughter amongst the crowd at that point :-


At 9 seconds into the clip, the McCanns emerge from the church to a clapping crowd who offer them flowers and notes of support:-



At 10 and 11 secs Kate kisses one well-wisher and Gerry accepts and reads a note from another:-




At 12 and 13 secs.  Gerry McCann appears to acknowledge the note he has just read and the couple start to make their way forward through the crowd.



At 14 secs (note the balloons on the right).  This is 3 seconds before the laughing frame:-



At 15 secs, the outstretched hands which are holding the balloons let them go:-



At 16 secs, the balloons , now released, fly across in front of the McCanns.  Kate raises a smile.  If you watch the video, you will hear laughter amongst the crowd at this point:-



At 17 secs Gerry McCann laughs too:-



The camera then changes to a side view and for a few seconds, the McCanns faces are pretty much obscured by the crowds. 



The camera then changes back to the original perspective.  This is them at 24 secs - just 5 seconds  after the "laughing" photo:-



The entire video clip can be viewed here:-



It is important to look at the "whole picture" before making any judgement.  The image of the McCanns smiling on Madeleine's 4th Birthday and just 10 days after she disappeared is often used by their critics to portray the couple in a negative way.  However, thanks to the existence of a film clip, we can see that their brief smiles were in response to an event in the crowd - an event which caused a ripple of laughter amongst that crowd. 


3.  That "many people" say they have not seen much evidence of grief that couples would normally express if they had lost a much loved daughter.

Who are these "many people"?  There are certainly many on the anti-Madeleine forums who see fit to criticise the McCanns on every aspect of their behaviour.  There are undoubtedly others who have passed judgement on the McCanns as a result of the "smiling" photo when it has been offered as "proof" of the McCanns' lack of grief and concern for their missing child. 


Kate McCann has spoken several times about the mind-numbing shock she experienced in those early hours and weeks:-


From The Independent:-


Numbed by the impossible horror of what was happening to her, the shocked Kate decided the best way to help find Madeleine was to fight the hysteria and get her message out to the world: "Help me find my daughter."


She admits she was in shock. "It's quite frightening when I see myself in those early days. To me, I look incredibly fragile and confused and lost." 



Kate was criticised for not crying and when she DID cry, she was criticised too:-


Clarence Mitchell speaking on Portuguese TV:-


Clarence Mitchell: If you want to talk about reaction, Kate does cry. She cried on Spanish television just the other day.

Interviewer (poss Sandra Felgueiras) : But do you think she cried yesterday to show people that she cries?


The McCanns were advised NOT to display emotions in the early press conferences in case the abductor got a thrill from it.


From an interview with Oprah Winfrey:-


Oprah: Well the tabloids used that press conference against the McCanns saying that Kate's lack of emotion implied that she was guilty, so, first of all tell us why you seemed err not as emotional.
Kate: I mean there were two aspects really, I'd spent seventy two hours I think crying erm and then suddenly almost feel like a little bit numb it's really hard to describe you know.
Oprah: Yeah so I just want to verify that cause I had read that before the conference a behavioural expert spoke to you.
Kate: Certainly in the first week yeah.
Oprah: uh huh...
Kate: And they said it's quite important that you don't show any emotion erm because the abductor could get some kind of, I don't know, some adverse kick out of it and I tell you when someone says to you, you know if you do this or you, you know you get a feeling from them that if you do this it could be detrimental in some way to your daughter.
Oprah: uh huh...
Kate: I mean, it's huge pressure on you to, to do that, I mean, the last thing I want obviously is to cause any extra further harm to Madeleine so...
Oprah: Do you regret taking that advice?
Kate: No, I mean it was advice that was given with the best intention.



This video shows Kate's utter despair:-




Child abductions are thankfully rare, but we have seen a few where the parents have shown very different emotions.  Sarah Payne's mother Sara showed tremendous strength in press conferences when her father was clearly distressed and unable to speak. 

How can anyone presume to tell the difference between lack of grief and mind-numbing shock in a person they have never met?


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