Many years ago I worked with a guy called Brendan. Among his many faults, or should that be, charms, was his ability to activate a 20 to 30 minute rant from me by simply shouting over from the other side of the room a six word question. It was something I kept saying before taking time out to check on-line news sources, and Brendan knew the best way to kick me off on one would be to jump the words on me when I was least expecting them. The words:
“Have they charged the McCanns yet?”
All this happened only a few weeks, growing to a few months, after 4 year old Madeleine McCann had disappeared from a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal, where she had been left unattended whilst her parents were wining and dining some distance away out of view of the apartment. Apparently they returned on regular trips to the apartment to check on the children they’d abandoned, and on one of those trips discovered her missing.
Let me stop here for a moment. I don’t wish to distract from the awful gut-wrenching tragedy of a child disappearing, nor do I want to appear unsympathetic towards any parents faced with this complete nightmare. If it happened to me, I’m sure it would break me. Hundreds of children go missing, some of them, like James Bulger, we later learn the unimaginably awful things that happened to them, but for most of them we learn nothing. For the parents there must be this awful void, the not knowing, the wondering, the hoping, the complete lack of closure. Forever. It is terrible enough when a child’s body is discovered, giving some form of knowledge of what happened in the end, but the added dimension of nothing whatsoever coming forward must slowly kill the parents. In this respect, the McCanns have my deepest sympathy.
However. And, you knew there’d be a ‘however’. However, at the time of Madeleine’s disappearance, whether it was due to the way the parents dealt with the shock, guilt, and grief, or whether it was just how the media circus played it out, something didn’t seem right. Conspiracy theories abounded, of course, with the parents themselves also being made suspects. Conflicting evidence and stories, refusal to co-operate, and the whole demeanour of the mother especially, plus I guess, general revulsion at the children being left unattended whilst the parents were out getting drunk, meant that the ‘net was ripe with ideas and timelines that indicated the poor child had been somehow killed by one or both of her parents and then carefully disposed of. Of course, if the parents are completely innocent, then that too must be an awful thing to have people say about them.
Having had a gut feeling that it all didn’t add up, I watched the news unfolding, read the conspiracy theories, and whilst not really knowing one way or the other, elected to lean towards not believing the parents’ (and friends) constantly changing account of the events. Whether it was the media’s reporting of it, or incompetency on the part of the police, there were so many oddities and changes, and to this day the parents remain ‘suspects’ as far as Portugal is concerned.
Most bizarre of all this is the fact that the parents retain the assistance of a public spokesman, Clarence Mitchell. How many parents of missing children have an official spin doctor? And, along the way, how did access to so many corridors of power and the international media open up for the McCanns, when ‘normal’ parents struggle to raise the interest of local papers?
Now we hear that Prime Minister Cameron has ‘asked’ the Met Police to look into the whole thing, on behalf of the parents, paid for by us, the taxpayers. What makes the McCanns so singled out for special treatment all the time? How do they have access to such people as the Prime Minister? Will they be affording the same treatment to ordinary people who have kids that went missing and were never found? Apparently not.
Anyway, to quote “Then There Were 4” (what’s happened to his blog? Has it been shut down?), one of the commentators from Anorak, a site full of conspiracy theorists:
The apartment was locked. Then it became unlocked.
The apartment was secure. The weak points were on the farside.
The shutters were smashed. Then they weren’t.
Madeleine’s bed was between the twins 2 cots. Then it wasn’t.
The toy CuddleCat was in left in a ‘high place ‘. Then it wasn’t.
Kate ‘knew not to touch anything in the crime scene’ .Then she did.
The Gorrods searched all night. Then they didn’t.
Renwick was on holiday with the McCanns. Then she wasn’t.
The McCanns had been to Portugal before. Then they hadn’t.
The McCanns dined at the Paraiso. Then they didn’t.
Madeleine isn’t called Maddie. Then she was.
Madeleine isn’t called Margaret. Then she was.
Gerry McCann went into the apartment. Then he didn’t.
Webster doesn’t remember. Then she can.
O’Brien made a bed. Then he didn’t.
Tanner left the table. Then she didn’t.
The McCanns booked two tables in the Tapas Bar. Then they didn’t.
Oldfield saw Madeleine asleep. Then he didn’t.
Father Pacheco handed over the church keys at 4AM. Then he didn’t.
Then he did. Now he won’t talk about it anymore.
Sue Healy didn’t know Robert Murat. Then she did.
Norah Paul was Madeleine’s grandmother. Then she wasn’t.
Norah McCann was Madeleine’s aunt. Then she wasn’t.
Norah Paul said ‘they could have covered it up’.
Brian Healy said they ‘hadn’t had too much to drink’.Then they had.
Najova Chekaya was working that night. Then she wasn’t.
Kate McCann cries. Then she doesn’t.
Kate McCann will take a lie test. Then she won’t.
Madeleine wandered off. Then she hadn’t.
Madeleine walked to the beach. Then she hadn’t.
Madeleine fell asleep under a bush. Then she hadn’t.
Madeleine McCann hadn’t been abducted. Then she had.
Madeleine was abducted INTO the Mark Warner complex. Then she wasn’t.
Madeleine left by the bedroom window. Then she hadn’t.
The door was lying open. Then it wasn’t.
Mitchell knew how the abductor left the apartment. Now he doesn’t.
Madeleine hadn’t been drugged. Then she had.
Madeleine had been drugged. Then she hadn’t.
The twins had been drugged. Then they hadn’t.
The twins hadn’t been drugged. Now they have.
Campbell tipped off the police. Then she didn’t.
Murat wasn’t at home that evening. Then he was.
Carpenter the cleaner dined with the McCanns. Then he hadn’t.
Edmonds the millionaire dined with the McCanns. Then he hadn’t.
Madeleine visited Murat’s villa. Then she hadn’t.
Murat translated witness statements. Then he hadn’t.
Jenny Murat wasn’t looking for tax cheats. Then she was.
A private plane left Portimao on May 3rd 2007. Then it didn’t.
Madeleine McCann is ‘like a student overdraft’. She isn’t.
Madeleine McCann is like ‘there’s no money in your bank account’. She isn’t.
Madeleine McCann is ‘that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you know you’ve got no money’.
Only Madeleine McCann isn’t. She really isn’t.