Would you have done better at Murder than Chris Watts did?

When we run scenarios in true crime, we’re not trying to commit murder, nor are we trying to commit the perfect murder. We’re trying to see the logic [or lack of] in heinous crimes, and why they were committed to begin with.We’re also doing a kind of True Crime IQ test, except what we’re testing for is criminal acumen and criminal logic, which is different to normal psychology and common sense. Chris Watts’ murder of his family was particularly heinous but within the context of criminal psychology, was it logical? Just how illogical was it?

The idea for this particular post comes from Sylvester’s comment [read it before reading further], and his idea of how the Watts crime could have been better executed. Could Watts have gotten away with it?

Murder is dumb as it is, but committing murder only to be caught a few hours later, and then to undo your own stupid schemes a few days after that is even dumber. No argument there. The question is: how dumb was the execution itself, and by extension, how dumb was Watts.


In Sylvester’s Scenario:

Watts murders his family and then goes to work leaving their bodies in the house. Perhaps he takes her ring and some jewelry. When enough time has passed he can call 911 and have them checked on. The idea when they’re found is a burglary gone wrong. Maybe they got in through the back door.

What’s good about Sylvester’s Scenario is it’s a better story than Watts’ story in the sense that Watts theoretically doesn’t really have to come up with any explanation of Shan’ann visiting a phantom friend or why she left behind her phone, car and medication.

The bad thing about this scenario is it doesn’t solve the original problem. The original problem was that the Watts home and the homes surrounding it were a kind of spider’s web of digital surveillance. There were layers and layers of digital security. So if it was tough to take bodies out of the house without being seen [and Watts almost succeeded], it’s equally tough proving anyone came in with malicious intent. It’s not just the doorbell cams that wouldn’t show approaches from the front and back, it’s the hi-tech Vivint system that wouldn’t show anything either.

In theory Watts could have disabled the home system himself and then failed to account for it [as happened in the Ramsey case].

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When I first stumbled into the Watts case, I remember thinking if he had only broken a window somewhere in the house, it would have given the idea of an interloper [someone who had come in and taken the three of them] some credence.  But it seemed Watts cared too much about the expensive house and maintaining it to break anything, let alone purposefully. But if he had, he would have set off the perimeter layer alarms. Probably the Vivint protocols would have automatically alerted authorities to check on the house. This is why Watts seemed to want to use the dodgy garage door sensor as his go-to explanation for how Shan’ann left on her own volition. It was a hole in the perimeter security.

The other issue facing Sylvester’s Scenario and effectively any scenario is, well, Nickole Atkinson. If Watts murdered Shan’ann at 05:00 or completed the execution of that phase of the crime [including washing up and removing bodies from the home] at about that time, then he only really had until 08:43 to get a headstart. Because that’s when Nickole contacted Shan’ann. If the bodies were in the home, the cops would have found them very early in the game, and would have provided [arguably] the best evidence against Chris Watts much earlier than they actually got it, and in a much better state of preservation. Time of death, cause of death, manner of death, crime scene, all provided to the cops on a silver platter.

If Watts had acted more like Patrick Frazee, and responded to Nickole’s message and perhaps even posted something on Facebook along the lines of…


…maybe he could have bought himself some time. Probably not though because any response posted on her phone would have pinged from wherever he was, if he had her phone.

Posting a message on her Facebook while he was still home was another option, but it would be very unlikely Shan’ann would go to bed after 02:00 and be up at 05:00 posting declarations about her day. Not completely implausible, just something that might raise suspicion.


It’s important to remember, if this was a premeditated murder [and I believe it was], Watts himself also ran through many scenarios in his own mind. What was clever about the execution was he had the end result – the evidence – mostly taken care of.

He also hid almost the entire fabric of the crime within the plausible deniability of just going to bed, waking up and going to work like he always did. It didn’t quite work, because he didn’t typically head out to the well sites first thing, but only someone close to his colleagues would know that. Also, if caught, because of the flight delay he’d have to explain how a lot happened between him and Shan’ann in three hours instead of twice that time.

If Shan’ann had arrived on time, maybe Watts had a different plan involving the Lexus, and maybe it would have played out better. Maybe there would have been time for a late night fake Facebook announcement. 48427215_736786590028657_1063860525886078976_n

My view is that the technical aspect of the crime was executed fairly well, as heartless as that is to say. If Watts had the resources to afford an elite defense lawyer, and if he’d stuck to his first confession, who knows, he may have pulled a Casey Anthony.

It was all hidden in the fabric of the average work day, in plausible deniability, not only the digital traces of the home, but the GPS traces of the truck. Watts also went to some length to send fake messages of concern and make fake calls to Shan’ann’s phone. It shows he was ready to play.

But the social aspect of his game was abysmal. Maybe his mistress had led him to believe he really was a kind of Rain Man who could do [and get away with] anything.


But Watts was a bad liar and an even worse actor from the get-go. Even so, it took a massive law enforcement team several days, and many hours of continuous questioning and data analysis to crack him. Watts did crack, but not completely, not even close to completely. He didn’t spill the beans during the first round. He cracked and revealed a little information.

True to his introverted nature, he has never fully revealed what he did, when or how. And the fact that many of the people closest to the case and charged with prosecution it still don’t know what really happened suggests Watts wasn’t so dumb after all.AP18233621618014-600x400

A Game of Thrones over the Permian and the baby dragon in an egg that was the Chris Watts Criminal Trial

US oil companies are locked in a real life Game of Thrones over the Permian basin, specifically Anadarkos assets there. It’s an area described by the Financial Times as “the thumping heart of the US shale oil boom.”



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But what do the takeover bids circling through the media now for Anadarko Petroleum Corp have to do with Chris Watts?

Put on your thinking caps. You don’t need to know economics to understand the context of what follows; you just have to compare and contextualize dates and big numbers to other names and dates.

Worth playing for?

On June 15th, 2018, Anadarko signed a purchasing agreement with Centrica and Tokyo Gas for the rights to extract liquid natural gas [LNG] from the massive Mozambique field off the Southern African coast.

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While this deal was still in the offing, and before it had been finalized, an obscure employee at an obscure site in Colorado [CERVI 319] used one of Anadarko’s fracking batteries to dispose of the remains of his murdered family. The case soon made local, then national then international headlines.

Bodies of two Frederick girls found inside oil and gas tanks, sources say – Denver Post [August 16th, 2018]

Father ‘stuffed daughters’ bodies in oil tanks so they wouldn’t smell, police say – New Zealand Herald [August 16th, 2018]


Had the Chris Watts trial been allowed to fulminate in the public space, and a full-blown criminal had played out, it would have been the equivalent of burning down the entire marketing apparatus the Anadarko brand had spent millions setting up and putting in place.

It wasn’t good timing for bad publicity. Barely six months earlier, Forbes reported on  a consolidation wave sweeping the oil and gas industry. Majors were gobbling up oil minors and minnows at bargain basement prices. Deals were being made left and right with explorers that were going bust, pulling out or losing their nerve. A public relations implosion could burn away billions…

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One of the big players in this push for the Permian Throne was Anadarko. And after a pause between August 2018 and March 2019, and Anadarko making itself prettier by December 2018, by April 2019 the game for the greasy black Permian Throne was back in full swing.

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[E&P = exploration & production  company]

So what caused the pause in the game, in August until April? Well, headlines like this on August 21st, 2018, just 8 days after the Watts Family Murders rocked Frederick Colorado.

Anadarko: Mounting Risks, National Headlines, Inept Management, And Terrible Tragedies

Frederick is close to ground zero for Anadarko’s impressive Platteville run fracking portfolio.

But one assessment described Anadarko in the summer of 2018 as “becoming the foremost public enemy for anti-oil [anti-fracking] activists.” A disastrous home implosion at Firestone [neighboring Frederick], lead to several deaths and prompted political moves [known as Proposition 112] to regulate the oil and gas industry across Colorado, and beyond.

Had the proposals been implemented, they would have cost the entire industry dearly, and Anadarko in particular.

Anadarko spent almost $7 million in campaign finance to lobby the community to vote against Proposition 112, far more than any other entity, and more than triple the total raised by supporters of the proposition.

In sum, the oil-funded opposition raised almost $32 million in campaign funds, the biggest chunk as noted from Anadarko itself. The opposition barely raised $1.5 million.

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Despite disproportionate campaign fundraising, Proposition 112 was narrowly defeated, with just over 55% of voters voting “No”.

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From October 2018 [one month prior to the first hearings in the Watts criminal trial] Anadarko’s share prices fell, and continued to fall until the spring of 2019. What Anadarko were faced with, and what they had to do at all costs, was tame the dragon. And they did.

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At the time the new environmental safety proposals were voted on, in fact the same day, Chris Watts’ “unexpectedly” took a plea deal in a rushed status hearing.

The status hearing itself was strange for its suddenness. It was announced late on a Friday afternoon [at 16:20 on November 2nd] when the District Attorney filed an innocuous sounding notice of a status hearing. It caught many off guard.

Chris Watts: Deal or No Deal? [Novembert 5th, 2018]

So did the hearing itself. What was dressed up to appear as a mere formality turned out to be quite shocking. A plea deal was announced.

Watts admitted guilt on all charges essentially shutting down the prospect of a high-profile criminal trial, one that was set to eclipse the liked of OJ Simpson, Casey Anthony and Jodi Arias.

Chris Watts reaches plea deal to avoid death penalty in deaths of pregnant wife, 2 daughters

DA addresses Chris Watts’ guilty plea in the murder of his pregnant wife, two young daughters

Chris Watts Cried in Court, Wore Bulletproof Vest While Pleading Guilty to Murdering Pregnant Wife, Daughters

That was November 2018.

A lot of discovery had to be dealt with over the following weeks and months, over Christmas, and into the first few months of the new year. Chris Watts’ mistress, a safety officer was interrogated on social media. The media however, was almost completely silent on Nichol Kessinger, as was Kessinger herselfFullscreen capture 20190425 152553Fullscreen capture 20190425 152626.

Then, when the dust had finally settled on the Watts case, this, on April 24th, 2019:


Anadarko Petroleum (APC) Stock: Climbing On Takeover Offer

A bidding war breaks out as Occidental Petroleum makes $38 billion offer for Anadarko, topping Chevron’s 

Anadarko Changed CEO’s Potential Payout Before Chevron Deal

Occidental Petroleum tops Chevron’s deal for Anadarko

Occidental seeks to outbid Chevron with $57bn offer for US explorer Anadarko

Occidental makes competing offer for Anadarko Petroleum

Cramer: Chevron’s Anadarko merger won’t be the only oil deal this year

And remember that exploration purchasing agreement Anadarko was pursuing off the Southern African coast? In February 2019 Anadarko was still pursuing it, and apparently “closing in” on the supply deal.


Then, on February 5th they finally signed their deal.

Anadarko inks new Mozambique LNG supply deal



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More: Black Sunday and the demise of the American shale oil industry

“The McCanns insisted they had given their children nothing more potent than Calpol, which is a painkiller and has no sedative effect.” – Sunday Times, 9 September 2007, Victims of the rumour mill?

It’s a popular misconception that Calpol Night helps children to sleep.

Is it really?

On the same day the McCanns finally arrived home at the end of a disastrous summer in Portugal, the Sunday Times published an analysis of how the well-to-do British parents [both doctors] had been unfairly victimized by Portuguese cops and Portuguese tabloid media.

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One of the “most powerful rumours” quoted in the article was this one:Fullscreen capture 20190423 151722

The inference is that the gossip surrounding the use of a Calpol as a sedative cannot possibly be true simply because – medically speaking – Calpol isn’t a sedative.

Do a Google search of “Calpol sedative” and Google will inform you that:

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This must mean that the article in the Sunday Times, especially the bit about Calpol having “no sedative effect” was 100% accurate, right?

Well, it depends on “when”. If the question is: Does Calpol Night have a sedative effect today? the answer is no. The date of the article cited in the Google search [February 16, 2005] seems to predate the incident involving Madeleine McCann by over two years.

The problem with the assessment that the active ingredients have no sedative effect is that they don’t refer to the actual active ingredient that does: diphenhydramine hydrochloride.

There are three important points to raise in this respect:

1. While the original Calpol Night did contain Paracetamol, and while Paracetamol is a painkiller as opposed to a sedative [confirming the accuracy of the text above] the other active ingredient is used to treat coughs and runny noses.Fullscreen capture 20190423 155708

It dries nasal secretions and is, as such, an antihistamine. Antihistamines are famously sedating, and diphenhydramine hydrochloride is no exception. So the original Calpol Night does have a sedative effect, despite the claim in the Sunday Times that this was a rumour, and apparently the same claim by the doctors at the centre of the allegations that it had no sedative effect.

2. What is astonishing is that the Sunday Times either was ignorant of the well-known trend in British to sedate their children using cough-medicine in the decade following 2000, or was deliberately ignorant. In other words, they either misled their readers on a misconception that wasn’t, or they did so accidentally. A year and ten days after “setting the record straight on the safety of Calpol” the same newspaper referred to the “Calpol generation” in a headline, and the dangers of the medication leading to long term side-effects.

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3. By March 2009 the original formula of Calpol Night was discontinued, and the product packaging of the replacement product was altered to reflect this. After coming under review, it was no longer recommended to dose any children under six years of age with Calpol Night. [Madeleine McCann was three-years-old at the time of her disappearance]. Some of the side effects associated with the original formula now officially included drowsiness, hallucinations and potentially serious liver and kidney damage.

The Calpol product that replaced Calpol Night in 2009 doesn’t have a sedative effect. The Calpol product that existed at the time something happened to the doctors’ daughter during their holiday in Portugal in 2007, absolutely did.

More: Are we using too much Calpol? – The Telegraph [2005]

Doctors are now being told to prescribe Calpol instead of antibiotics to children – Daily Mail [2017]

Are we raising a generation of Calpol kids? Doctor warns in TV doc that our children are overdosing on drugs – The Mirror [2018]

Madeleine McCann cops thought Kate and Gerry had accidentally killed Maddie with Calpol overdose, Netflix documentary reveals – The Sun [2019]


McCann PR Circus in Pictures

The Madeleine McCann case is the most heavily reported missing-person case in modern history, and at a current cost of  $15.4 million/£12 million, the most expensive missing-person search [for a single person] in history.

2007 spokespersons/PR/Campaign leaders timeline:

May 5th, Alex Woolfall (Bell Pottinger) assists the McCanns on behalf of Mark Warner.
May xth, Sheree Dodd assigned as “close consular support”, acts as spokeswoman.
May 11th, David Beckham Appeal

May 19th, Alex Woolfall departs for the UK.
May 21st/22nd, Clarence Mitchell assigned as “close consular support”.
May 30th, Sheree Dodd returns to the UK.
May 30th, Papal Visit in Rome.
June 12th, Clarence Mitchell recalled to Britain.
June [x]th Justine McGuinness Hired at £350-a-day. At some point brings in a friend of hers, David Hughes.
Sept 7th, McCanns named Arguidos. Justine McGuinness and David Hughes accompany Kate to Police station.
Sept 9th, McCanns flee Portugal.
Sept 11th, David Hughes appears as “spokesman” for the McCanns on MSNBC Live.
Sept 15th, Justine McGuinness’ contract expires.
Sept 18th, Clarence Mitchell hired in a private capacity.

More: Spokespeople involved in McCann case
List of people and organisations that appeared not long after the announcement of Madeleine’s ‘disappearance’

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True Crime’s Three-Pronged Pitchfork

In the courtroom, there are really two “prongs” on which to secure a conviction, or argue against one. The first is forensic evidence [direct DNA evidence, fingerprints etc]. The second is circumstantial evidence [indirect evidence, witness testimonies, alibis or lack of]. Sometimes one prong is emphasized over the other. Other times they’re used to complement a particular argument.

Examples of cases where circumstantial evidence was more important include the murder of Laci Peterson and triple axe murderer Henri van Breda. In the Peterson case there was virtually no trace of Laci other than a single hair in a needle-nose pliers in Peterson’s boat, and cadaver odors.

In the Van Breda case there was an Armageddon-like crime scene overflowing with blood. In the latter case there was so much blood and DNA it was slippery to sort out and somewhat confusing. The main thrust of the defense case in the Van Breda trial focused on nitpicking DNA samples that were inconclusive.The Judge in the Van Breda case said if all the DNA evidence was excluded [from the prosecution side and the defense side] the circumstantial evidence remaining was still compelling, and overwhelming.


Examples of cases where DNA evidence was more important [and arguably too important] include the Amanda Knox case, OJ Simpson and Madeleine McCann. If DNA can be used to convict, any uncertainty around its scientific veracity means it can also become the fulcrum around which a defense can secure an acquittal.

Examples of cases where DNA evidence was used to argue a case but shouldn’t have include the JonBenet Ramsey case and arguably the Madeleine McCann case. In both these cases circumstantial evidence ought to have been sufficient.

Where a crime scene is severely contaminated or compromised, reasonable doubt exists surrounding forensic samples that are typically not quite good enough to qualify as sufficient. The law requires forensic samples to be 100% accurate, and the protocols in collecting them to be professional and beyond reproach.


The third dimension to the true crime pitchfork is psychology, or in the parlance of the genre, “motive”. Unfortunately, modern criminal law no longer puts much value in motive, just intention [or Dolus]. As a result, more than a few trials conclude with the court unable to explain why the crime even took place [Chris Watts, Casey Anthony, Amanda Knox, Oscar Pistorius, Henri van Breda etc.].

The courts say knowing why doesn’t matter, just that knowing when, what, where and how is sufficient. It may be sufficient for the law, but it’s not adequate for human beings.


The “Death Practices” of Chris Watts

Most people – whether murderers or not – engage in ritualistic “death practices”.  What the hell is that? Well, it’s something like this:

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HAPPY 420! 🌿 Welcome to the Drop Box 📦 Meandering your way to this arch is a process. But, when you get there— you can jump both sides. The issue is that the gap is only wide enough for a jumper to literally slide down a 10-15’ birth canal and fall out into a BASE jump! Make sure your umbilical cord is attached. Yes, this will one day go head first 😂 This isn’t the most normal of jumps but it is as unique as it is exciting. Great landing area, awesome petroglyphs, and scary as hell 😀 100% Moab. Xoxox ❤ Thanks for T-H-Cing this one 🙂 Yey3ah! Wahoo!~ This Jump was inspired by a video of @lemmingsbase ‘s I saw where he jumped through a hatch just big enough for him and his rig into a BASE jump— this was also really fired up by @jimmy_pouchert And @silentstudiodesign when they invited me to Make Mill Creek Great Again and jump oven roasted turkey. To all the @skydivemoab ($20 jumps today!!! Come fun jump!!) folks—@katchmar, @jimmypeterson27, @stubbs160, @krummyparachutes, @dustinwhite9623 @moabjoe423 —- See what happens when somehow my days off line up with no one!? ;D Now we have to go back. Ugh! ;D 😂🔥🌵🐁 miss ya @nreyes1092!! 😭 #slacklife #reborn #bringky

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Most of us are less extreme in our rituals. You don’t have to climb Mount Everest or use a parachute to play games with fate. Smoking a cigarette will do. Eating foods you know you shouldn’t is what most of us try to get away with.

Some “death practices” are life affirming. They remind us we are alive, and encourage us to appreciate being alive, and perhaps being with someone else. But some “death practices” are less controlled, and more self-destructive. They may start as disassociation or disconnection, and ultimately lead to a downward spiral.ecba5bb7c9de2cb810dfa0aa8f793242

To understand the mind of a murderer, and the the mechanism of “death practices” for someone like Chris Watts, think about some of those things that you consider crossing the line, in terms of rituals, especially risky rituals. Let’s call them forbidden fruit. It might be cheating on a partner, or stealing from your business partner, or doing things on your phone or computer you probably shouldn’t. It might be having sex at work, or sex with a prostitute, or sex with someone who is married. Or indulging in an addiction of some kind. Whatever it is, a would-be murderer starts to feel the same temptation – about murder.


Wherever the thought emerges, it becomes progressively reinforced or stimulated by circumstantial and subjective factors. Eventually the stimulation becomes self-sustaining. At that point the “death practice” slides into the background, because the time has come to execute on the fantasy of killing.

There is much more to say on the subject, but a blog post is not the place to do it. It deserves a chapter and a lot more context. But to give you some idea of the context we’re talking about, in terms of Chris Watts, some of the factors stimulating the idea of “death practice” [even only in a theoretical sense] included:

  • the pregnancy, and the realization at some point that he didn’t want this living thing to come into the world. In other words, he wanted the baby not to exist. This was one of the most powerful psychologies that framed many of the others that followed.180817063954-colorado-woman-pregnancy-video-full-169
  • the sicknesses of the children. Bella and Celeste were less healthy than the average children. It may have had something to do with their mother being a Lupus sufferer.
  • the life-size doll wrapped in the twister mat.0_Chilling-final-photo-Chris-Watts-pregnant-wife-took-of-their-childrens-barbie-doll
  • the “near death” spiel that was Nut Gate. This was a real test case for Watts to feel out the psychology of serious harm coming to his youngest daughter, and then experiencing some of the emotions firstly in himself, and in others around him. It’s likely this “death practice” reinforced or even awakened his feelings about needing to get rid of his other child – the baby.
  • the bankruptcy in 2015, and the financial malaise that overshadowed the enormous brown house hulking over Saratoga Trail.memorial-colo1a-abc-ml-180816_hpMain_4x3_992
  • Bella’s trauma after being told her sister might not wake up after eating coconut is another example. When exposed to this, Watts may have entertained the idea of one or both children surviving the death of someone else, and deciding against it.maxresdefault
  • other “death practices” include the sequestrating of data on his phone, including nude photos and data into his Secret Calculator app, closing himself emotionally [and sexually, and in terms of general communication] from Shan’ann. Shutting down his Facebook account.
  • going to work and working with dangerous chemicals, and being reminded on a daily basis of life-threatening aspects at work, would also nudge him further and further forward into the miasma of murder that was gradually forming in Chris Watts’ mind…


Gerry McCann’s Interrogation in Pictures [September 7 2007]

When Gerry arrives on September 7th, he’s dressed in a dark blue shirt, with his yellow and green Find Madeleine wristbands clearly on display.

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While Gerry has no comment to the media, they know where to go to get commentary – the Find Mandeleine website. [And why don’t you make a donation while you’re there?]

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And to show her solidarity with her employer, the PR lady is dressed in a matching blue dress.

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What made the substance of the police questions so ludicrous? The idea that blood and cadaver traces of Madeleine could have been found in the hire car, when it was only hired 25 days after Madeleine disappeared.

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And yet Kate’s response to this – allegedly – was that she had come into contact with as many as six cadavers during the course of her work, prior to going on holiday.

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The way the cops saw it, Kate was more culpable than Gerry.

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Well, what about the chemicals themselves? Once they’ve formed, how long do they persist, how long after they’ve formed can the supersmell of dogs still detect them?

30 days?

How about 30 years?

Can cadaver dogs really sniff out 30-year-old remains?

The CSI death dogs: Sniffing out the truth behind the crime-scene canines

Dog of the Dead: The Science of Canine Cadaver Detection

Research shows value of cadaver dogs locating underwater corpses

Can you trust a cadaver dog if there’s no cadaver?

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*Madeleine: Our daughter’s disappearance and the continuing search for bKate McCann

More: Kate McCann September 6 Police Statement – PJ Files

Kate McCann September 7 Police Statement – PJ Files

Gerry McCann September 7 Police Statement – PJ Files