Wednesday, 3 February 2016


Guest Enid O'Dowd has revised and extended her analysis of the Fund accounts. This is  a much-needed review - many thanks to Enid O'Dowd
The Setting up of the Fund Revisited

'from the outset everyone agreed that, despite the costs involved, it (the Fund) must be run to the highest standards of transparency'

-Dr Kate McCann in her book madeleine

In 2012 I published a report about the background to the incorporation of the limited company Madeleine’s Fund: Leaving No Stone Unturned just 11 days after she went missing.

My report upset an unknown McCann supporter so much that he or she complained to my professional body, the ICEAW (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales). 

This happened in November 2012 but I only learned of it recently when by chance I came across a post which the person concerned had made on the Internet.

I was never contacted as the complaint did not meet the standards required by the ICEAW to warrant asking to hear my side of the story. The ICEAW reply to the complainant included the sentence:

 ‘Mrs O'Dowd is entitled to her opinions and views and freedom of speech’. 


I imagine that this vexatious complaint caused some amusement at the ICEAW, and, on a more positive note, will have brought my report on the Fund to the attention of the staff at the ICEAW who may have discussed it with family and friends.   

At the time I published the first report on the Fund, I did not understand why the situation warranted a limited company set up with such speed.  I still don’t understand this four years later, having reviewed the subsequent audited accounts now available.

The Fund Timeline

Thursday  10pm
May  3
Madeleine reported missing
Weekend Friday
May 11 - Sunday May 13
Unnamed barrister and paralegal (from International Family Law Group  - IFLG) meet with McCanns in Portugal
Decision taken to set up limited company (the Fund).
Monday May 14
McCanns set launch date for  the Fund
Not clear when on Monday the launch date was set. Not clear why they did not get company incorporated and then set media launch date.
Monday afternoon May 14
Solicitors Bates Wells and Braithwaite (BWB)asked to incorporate the new company
BWB inform Charity Commission in email on Monday evening May 14 that launch of new company set for May 16.
Monday  afternoon May 14- lunchtime Tuesday May 15
Communications between BWB  and Charity Commission re possible charity status for the company yet to be incorporated
Tuesday afternoon May 15
The Fund incorporated after charity negotiations dropped.
Documents obtained under FOI show charity status might have been possible with a little compromise
Wednesday May 16
Press launch of the Fund with celebrity guest Martin Johnson
Apparently not having to change the date of a press launch was more important than getting charity status
Thursday May 17
Fund Bank account opened
Thursday May 17
Auditors to the Fund appointed
The McCanns were in Portugal and could not have actually met the auditors. Why the rush to appoint them so quickly?
Friday May 18
BWB apply for British and EU trademarks and given ref: 245601
This protects fundraising, internet and print promotions. Why the rush as before?

According to the book madeleine, charity experts BWB were hired on the advice of the paralegal. It is surprising that Kate did not let them have a day or two more to explore charity status. This slight delay would not have reduced the chances of finding Madeleine, alive or dead. And it is also surprising that the McCanns have apparently not revisited the charity status issue.

In Chapter 9 of madeleine Kate describes her activities on May 14; she does not mention any dealings with BWB, nor does she mention dealing with the paralegal or anyone else at IFLG. There must have been emails and phone calls that day from her advisors. She just states that charity status would not be forthcoming as it was deemed that the 'public benefit' test would not be met, and adds that it (the Fund) 'was set up with great care and due diligence by experts in their field.'

It would be more accurate to state it was set up with great haste and with no apparent reason for that haste.

Rather than describing the busy day she must have had dealing with her lawyers, and why she made the decision to proceed with incorporation and abandon the negotiations for charity status, she talks of going for a run, her first since Madeleine went missing.

She doesn’t mention the cost of getting a top legal firm to set up a limited company. The donations coming in were for finding Madeleine and not for lawyers. The legal pair would presumably have informed her of the ongoing compliance costs of operating a limited company such as the audit fee. The audit fees for the accounts from commencement to March 2014 total £50,085. The audit fee for the year ended 31 March 2015 is not known.

The Audited Accounts

When the first set of audited accounts for the period from 15 May 2007 to

31 March 2008 became available at Companies House, much information was provided but it raised many issues, one of which was that apparently only 13% of expenditure had gone on searching for Madeleine.

The Fund directors had two choices:
  1. to answer questions about the accounts both from the media and from members of the public, to put financial information on the official website, and to provide clearer accounts in future.
  1. to ignore the questions and reduce the information provided in subsequent accounts, in the hope of reducing or eliminating questions, while adhering to statutory disclosure requirements.

They went for the latter option. Subsequent accounts provided much less information but still raised questions! The accounts for the most recent year available, the year ended 31 March 2015, provide even less information than in previous years which is why the my summary of accounting results 2007-2015 later in this article contains (?) in the 2015 column.

It is quite reasonable that an ordinary trading company would not reveal more information than legally required in its filed accounts because some information could be commercially sensitive and of use to a trade competitor. However, this argument would not apply to a company such as Madeleine's Fund where it would logically be to its advantage for the public to see where the money was going.

I contacted the company auditors who passed my questions on the accounts to Clarence Mitchell, their PR spokesman. I received the following response:

I have now been authorised to issue the following brief statement from Madeleine's Fund in response to your approach:

"Madeleine's Fund - Leaving No Stone Unturned Limited" fulfils all of its legal requirements through the filing and public declaration of all the information that is legally required of it. It exists to support the search for Madeleine and remains entirely dedicated to finding her through everything that it does, fully in line with its published objectives."

I appreciate that this does not directly address your specific questions but this is all that the Fund wishes, or needs, to state at present. I hope it is helpful nonetheless.

Kind regards,


Filing of the Fund’s Accounts

Good practice demands the filing of accounts as soon as practical after the accounting year end before the information becomes to some extent irrelevant.  Prompt filing is necessary for
genuine ‘transparency.’ Prompt filing costs nothing but even if it did, the commitment in madeleine promised transparency ‘despite the costs involved.’

The audited accounts were filed as below:

The statutory filing date was 10 months after the accounting year end to 2010 but was changed to 9 months from 2011

Summary of Audited Accounts 2007 – 2015

All we can see from the 2015 accounts is that there was £763,772 in
the bank at the year end, a figure similar to the cash at bank in the
previous year and that there were creditors of £17,620 leaving the
company net worth just under £750,000 as at 31 March 2015.
The Fund now

So, close to nine years after the Fund was incorporated, and given the 
commitment in madeleine to transparency, whatever it cost, we have -
·     No financial information on the official website

·     audited accounts which tell us, in effect, nothing
What is the reason for the reluctance to give financial information?

The website still requests donations from the public, one that is becoming
increasingly suspicious of charities and not for profit organisations which
request support yet do not provide clear information as to why they need
money and what it is spent on.
The Fund’s raison d’être and its income and expenditures remain a mystery.
Enid O’Dowd FCA
1 February 2016


  1. So I wonder how many other orgenizations ,can get away with this lack of disclosure?

  2. Thank you for your work in making this public and the explanation. We can now see the fund is as transparent as concrete.

  3. I don't know if this is relevant but the 'find Madeleine' domain name was originally registered earlier than people think. It had to be re-registered later because they'd mistakenly registered it as with an incorrect spelling of Madeleine's name. I came across this information purely by chance a couple of years ago and although the incorrect domain name has since expired, there may still be a record of it online somewhere with the original registration details.

  4. Thank you. It is certainly relevant in my opinion. The website and costs thereof set up certainly warrant some attention. As to the spelling: one of the earlier websites had the same mistake on the opening screen next to her photograph iirc.