'Maddie lies here'

The Star , January 26, 2008 Edition 1


By Glynis Underhill

It is in these idyllic surrounds on the Portuguese coast that Danie Krugel believes Madeleine McCann is buried. Glynnis Underhill reports

Former South African police superintendent Danie Krugel is haunted by the muddy pink and white child's blanket he found at the site in Praia da Luz in Portugal where he believes the body of Madeleine McCann is hidden.

Now, due to his frustration at the lack of progress in the case, the ex-cop - dubbed "The Locator" as a result of his high rate of success in tracing missing people in SA - has broken his silence about the results of his search for Madeleine last year and revealed a map of the area where he believes she is buried.

With the consent of her parents, Gerry and Kate McCann, Krugel spent three nights searching for missing Madeleine (4) in July, using the Matter Oriented System (MOS) equipment he has developed.

The site he outlined to be searched for Madeleine's body is a wasteland, full of black refuse bags, building rubble and rocks, and is located only 900m away from the Ocean Club resort apartment where the McCann family were staying in Praia da Luz.

Krugel said sniffer dogs and a full forensic team should have searched the area, but this had not happened.

"I kick myself every day that I didn't pick up the blanket. I just didn't want to disturb the investigation. The blanket was full of mud and had a light white, light-pink colour, and it was definitely a child's blanket.

"It was also clear that it had been in the elements for a while. I showed the police the blanket but I don't know if they picked it up," he added.

Taking a hair from Madeleine's coat, which was given to him by her father, Krugel's equipment repeatedly gave him signals that led him to the site, which is within walking distance of the apartment. Madeleine is alleged to have been kidnapped while her parents dined at a nearby tapas bar.

Krugel said he gave a copy of the map to Madeleine's parents and to the Portuguese police at the time, but refused to disclose details of his findings to the press for fear of anyone trying to disturb the scene. Now he wants to return to Praia da Luz to see if his equipment indicates that Madeleine's body is still there - or if it has been moved.

Asked whether he would like Krugel to return to search for Madeleine, Gerry McCann said he had no say in the matter.

"Kate and I have no control over who is allowed to go come and go into Portugal.

"This is a matter for the Portuguese authorities. Officially I cannot comment further, sorry."

After his search, Krugel requested the Portuguese police to use sniffer dogs and a forensic team to search the area. But when they were brought in a few weeks after he left Portugal, the sniffer dogs picked up a scent on Kate McCann and in the hired car, which changed the focus of the investigation, he claimed.

Portuguese police have now named three suspects in the case: Gerry and Kate McCann and Praia da Luz resident Robert Murat.

"After the sniffer dogs were brought in, I think the police altered their line of investigation, and I don't believe they searched the area I gave them.

"I am almost 90% sure Madeleine is dead. There is always the slight possibility that she could be held hostage in one of the houses in the area on my map, but I feel this is very unlikely. If her body had been moved, my equipment would tell me she is no longer there."

With 16 years' experience in policing cult-related violent crime, Krugel has devoted his life to finding missing people - free of charge.

"When children disappear, what is important is what went through the child's mind. A child is supposed to be safe and protected. When I first saw Madeleine's face in the paper, I could see this child had an angel's face. Immediately I wanted to catch the person who took this child. There is somebody out there who is guilty. That person belongs in a place where he must not see the blue sky."

In SA, Krugel's free services are used regularly by private investigators and police officers, who frequently call him in to help, with many insisting that he helped them locate people.

Brushing aside the sceptics, South African senior systems engineer Johan Booysen believes Krugel was "spot-on" in the co-ordinates he gave last month to locate his missing father, pilot Dirk Booysen.

The wreckage of his plane and the charred body of Dirk Booysen were found in the dense Baviaanskloof mountains shortly after Christmas.

"At first we misinterpreted his co-ordinates, but when we looked again, we saw he had been spot-on," said Booysen.

"It was very difficult terrain and Danie never gave us any false hope about my father. He just offered to help - for free - and that's what he did.

"I can see now that he was spot-on in his search. I can vouch for him and his equipment, and would be happy to talk to Madeleine's parents if they want to talk to me.'

Krugel has been in regular contact with Madeleine's parents, who have thanked him for his help. But his appeal for them to turn their attentions to the site to help find her body has not been answered.

Last year, Krugel claimed to have uncovered a "forensic route" from the McCanns' holiday apartment at the Oceans Club Resort, along paths and roads to a nearby beach.

At the time, he said: "The area is in walking distance from Praia da Luz. I don't want to say exactly where because I don't want to interfere with this investigation. I don't want to give anyone the chance to destroy his or her prints. If I look at the area, there is a very, very slight possibility that she could be alive. From the piece of hair I was able to conclude that she was in the area.'

But Krugel is still anxious to help find Madeleine, as she is constantly on his mind.

"The sooner we find Madeleine's body, the sooner the police can find out who murdered her," he said.

The locator

While he is currently working as the director of health and safety at the Central University of Technology of the Free State, Danie Krugel (right) is also trying to patent his equipment, which works on satellite technology. Details of the controversial equipment he has developed are being kept under wraps until it has been patented, he said.