Top forensic expert says Madeleine McCann riddle WILL be solved one day as 'every contact leaves a trace'

A TOP forensic expert today said Madeleine McCann’s disappearance WILL one day be solved.

Professor Angela Gallop, a world-renowned scientist whose work has helped to solve numerous cold cases, said the riddle would finally be solved because “contact always leaves a trace”.

Her passion and attention to detail has seen her work on and solve murders including Stephen Lawrence, Rachel Nickell and the Coastal Path murders in Pembrokeshire in the 1980s.

And it is her involvement in these cold cases – some solved even after two decades – that has given her an optimistic outlook that virtually any case can be solved.

Speaking to the Sun Online, Prof Gallop CBE explained: “There have been so many cases where it has looked so hopeless at the start, but where we have been able to dig out something which has led to a resolution.”

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And while it has been more than 20 years since Madeleine disappeared on that fateful night in Portugal, Prof Gallop is still optimistic that the answers will be found.

She said: “I’ve always been interested in this case – after all this time it would be extremely tough.

“But one thing I’ve found with some of these really difficult crimes is that you never say never about anything.

“I’m an optimist by nature and an optimist now because of my teams’ success in helping to solve so many of these complex cold cases.

"(The concept) that every contact leaves a trace I now know to be absolutely true. The difficulty is usually in finding the traces in the first place."

Just last week, German authorities examined an underground tunnel as they continue to investigate suspect Christian B as the new prime suspect in Maddie's disappearance.

The 43-year-old sex offender had been in Praia de Luz at the time of Maddie's disappearance.

And he was this year named as German police announced a major breakthrough in the decades old case – claiming they had "concrete evidence" that Madeleine was dead.

As part of the investigation, it is hoped a tiny scrap of blue material held in the vaults of a Portuguese forensic lab could provide the vital link between Christian B and Madeleine.

Tests uncovered a microscopic a DNA profile initially identified as semen, but later confirmed to be saliva.

Scientists were unable to obtain a full DNA profile at the time but have continued to work on it with new testing techniques.

Authorities now hope that continuing advances in DNA testing may yet provide a full profile for comparison with the convicted paedophile and rapist.

Portuguese cops had launched an initial search when the little girl vanished in 2007, with the Metropolitan Police then taking on the probe to find Maddie in 2011. So far, more than£11.75 million has been spent on the investigation.

The case has drawn worldwide attention, with Madeleine's own parents even accused over her disappearance as theories over what happened to the three-year-old abounded.

But despite the sometimes grim nature of forensic work, Prof Gallop has remained motivated.

She said: “People’s freedom, and often their sense of justice is at stake.

“Also family feelings and if they have lost a loved one – there is the need to provide proper closure if at all possible.

“All of these things you are well aware of, and I think it just drives you to do as well as you possibly can.

“Stick at it and be as careful, innovative and accurate as you can – that’s what keeps you going.”


But she is also quick to point out it hasn’t just been her but a team of scientists who have helped solve these cold cases.

It was in 2008 that her team managed to piece together what happened to Rachel Nickell, a 23-year-old woman who was murdered on Wimbledon Common, in South-West London in 1992.

Thanks to Prof Gallop’s team, a tiny trace of DNA that had previously been missed was found, leading to the conviction of Robert Napper 16 years after Rachel’s death.

In another investigation with staggering attention to detail, Prof Gallop and her team found a tiny blood stain on the shorts of John Cooper.

The blood belonged to Peter Dixon, who had been killed alongside his Gwenda Dixon in Pembrokeshire in 1989.

Cooper was ultimately given a whole life order for the 1985 double murder of siblings Richard and Helen Thomas along with the Dixons in 2011.

It is this fastidiousness to detail and objectivity in investigating that Prof Gallop is keen to pass on.

Due to cuts around police funding, more forensic investigations are being done in house.

Prof Gallop said: “I’m just left wondering if this is appropriate."

It was almost by accident that Prof Gallop ended up in forensic science.

By her own admission, she wasn’t that interested in school and struggled towards the end of her university about what she was going to spend her life doing.

Then one day a friend showed her an advertisement in the paper to work in forensic science.

She said: “I realised I wanted to do something that involved applied science, as opposed to pure research for example, and that was more immediately important for people in general.

“One of my friends came over and said have a look at this ad in the newspaper – is that applied enough for you?”

Starting her career working for the Home Office Forensic Science Service in 1974, she has since started her own forensic laboratories and even been awarded a CBE in 2015.

So what has kept her going through her career of more than four decades?

Prof Gallop explained: “I find it fascinating, the whole investigative aspect to it. It’s like peeling an onion and seeing what each layer reveals.

“I was pretty awful at school until the last few years but they always used to say I was very tenacious.

“If something interested me, I would always stick at it until I really understood it.

“That’s been handy to have – that attitude of needing to get to the bottom of things.”

And while others may use CSI-type shows and podcasts to relax, Prof Gallop mostly stays away from the recent trend of true crime.

She said: “Personally, I can’t watch much of it. But if it provides entertainment for others, that’s fine.

“People need to be entertained but I will inevitably get irritated by the inaccuracies and the way things are portrayed. As ever, I think real life is much more interesting.”

However, she does admit to having a soft spot for Inspector Morse – as he works around her birthplace of Oxford – and a touch of Agatha Christie.

She has written a book herself – When the Dogs Don’t Bark: A Forensic Scientist’s Search for the Truth.

In it, Prof Gallop examines the lessons she has learnt over more than 40 years in science.

She added: “We all know these days about cognitive bias where, if you are expecting something, you may be more likely to think you’ve found it.

“And if your budget is restricted, and you’ve only been able to do a few tests on one or two items, you’ll only get half the picture and you could draw wholly inappropriate conclusions and end up misleading people.”

She added: “I’m also worried that all the lessons we’ve so painstakingly learned about how to solve difficult cases will be lost. It’s all about combining novel approaches to find evidence with new technology to analyse it – not usually one or the other on their own.”

And she pointed out how effective forensic science could be when it was used properly.

She said: “It has been demonstrated time and time again, that it is so much cheaper to spend slightly more money on forensic science up front than having endless re-investigations and public inquiries.”

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