The disappearance of three year old Madeleine McCann from Praia da Luz in Portugal on 3 May 2007 proved to be one of the most perplexing and heart wrenching child disappearances of modern history. Despite one of the most intensive international searches of all time the little girl was never found, and her parents Kate and Gerry themselves became suspects, according to the Portuguese police investigations.
About a year later they were contacted by a man named Kevin Halligen, a private detective, who carried with him impressive credentials from within the security world, including high-level connections with the FBI, CIA and MI5 – and even the White House.
He claimed he could determine what had happened to “Maddie”, using high-level surveillance techniques including satellite imagery, secret recordings, e-fit technology and the use of specially trained ground level operatives.
The McCanns were suitably impressed and he was hired, under an agreed fee of $1 million, with the money coming from the “Find Madeleine Fund” – a public money pool that had been established soon after her disappearance.
Halligen set up “Operation Omega”, a multi pronged investigation that looked at all aspects of the little girl’s disappearance and used operatives on location at Praia da Luz to try and identify any suspicious locals who could have been involved.
Using e-fit technology a promising suspect was identified – nicknamed “George” -because of his likeness to George Harrison,
and a similar looking man was then discovered at a local Romani market. However further investigation eliminated him as a suspect.
After about 5 months of Operation Omega, alarm bells began to ring about Halligen himself, with allegations emerging about non-payment of his operatives and then strong suspicions that many of his original claims were bogus. He was also suspected of being an habitual drunk, and therefore entirely unsuitable for work as a detective.
It was further alleged that Halligen had spent much of the money coming from the “Find Madeleine Fund” on supporting an exotic lifestyle. It was suspected that far from being a high level secret agent” he was in fact a high level “con man” who was convincing, extremely manipulative, and may have in fact come to actually believe in his own “James Bond” fantasy world. His contract with the McCanns was terminated soon after.
In a subsequent television interview Halligen was smoothly dismissive of any of these claims and blamed a variety of external sources – in particular the print media – for what had transpired. However when asked for specifics his response was highly suspicious and further fuelled the general belief in his guilt.
In November 2009 Halligen was arrested and gaoled for 44 months in the US for fraud in a case not associated with Madeleine. He was deported back to England after his sentence had been served.
In 2011 Scotland Yard began their own investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann – codenamed Operation Grange – and ironically some of the information discovered by Halligen and his team was considered to be of value in the case.
Kevin Halligen was found dead in his home at Surrey, in England in January 2018. His death was due to a brain haemorrhage.