Why Madeleine McCann?

When the original news broke in 2007 about the disappearance from a holiday apartment in Portugal of a three year old, it wasn’t a particularly unusual story.

I mean that in respect of the disturbing and unacceptable fact that children go missing all the time.  Thousands of them disappear every year never to be seen again.  I can’t begin to imagine the agony this leaves behind.  There can be nothing worse than the ‘not knowing’.

And in writing this, I am not trying to take away that pain or to be demeaning.

But, what has always puzzled me is the complete control of the media the case of Madeleine McCann has always had.  That is not to say it shouldn’t, but more to ask why the tens of thousands of parents facing the knotted stomachs and anguish as the weeks, months and then years pass since their child went missing, aren’t given the same kind of coverage.

The initial investigation went through many odd twists and turns.  Lots of the statements, lots of the supposed evidence, and, well, just lots of things, didn’t add up.

We, the people sitting in our armchairs watching it all, just didn’t like the McCanns for leaving tiny children unattended in an apartment whilst they were out getting drunk and partying.  When the McCann’s were arrested and treated as suspects, especially the mother, I was convinced the truth was now out.  Yep, the parents had killed the child and the case was solved. Next story please.

The lack of a body and the lack of any relevant evidence meant this was not the answer, despite the number of websites spouting the contradictory ‘evidence’ for this particular conspiracy theory.

As always, after a while – although in the McCann case it was an extremely long while – the story finally left the front pages of British newspapers.

Every now and again it pops its head up, especially on Madeleine’s birthday or the anniversary of her disappearance.

It’s just done that yet again with the press full of the story that Scotland Yard has identified some ‘persons of interest’ that need interviewing.  Or, maybe they were originally interviewed, they aren’t so sure, but they need interviewing again.

How many other grieving parents wish they had such media attention to keep their case in the public eye?  All of them.  For nearly all of them, the national press or TV coverage of even the initial disappearance doesn’t appear.  Their cases don’t make headlines.  Then a handful, especially where it’s possible that others might go missing, make it to the local news for a while.

Depending on other factors, including a ‘slow news day’ only a tiny few make it into our eyeline via national headlines.

And virtually nobody gets mentioned again once the story is ‘old’ unless there’s a body found, or somebody arrested.

Parents and friends will try desperately to keep the public interested, spending a fortune in time and money printing and distributing leaflets and posters.  Tirelessly they will continue their search, but this usually doesn’t generate any media interest, not even at a local level.

In complete contrast, something bizarre happened in the case of Madeleine McCann.

Stop me if I’m wrong, but how many other parents of missing children still have, even six years later, the services of a ‘spokesman’?  In theatrical terms this is a bit like having an ‘agent’, through whom all enquiries have to be made.  For anybody else who has a missing child, they are their own ‘spokesman’, grabbing any opportunity they can.  They will gladly do the interviews, answer questions or get involved in publicity for the search for their missing child, should the media ever bother to contact them.  Meanwhile the McCanns have a ‘spokesman’ to deal with all that so they don’t have to.

Doesn’t that seem a little strange?

The other strangeness of the power of the McCanns compared to any other parents with missing children is the people they had access to.  From the then Pope, with whom they got a fast-tracked audience within weeks of Madeleine’s disappearance, through to the then Prime Minister Tony Blair.  Heck, maybe it’s a Catholic thing, since all parties are devoted to that particular religion, but surely there are hundreds of other Catholic parents who would have wanted the luxury of such access?

The power the McCanns have seems to be out of proportion to who they are.  They are just a couple of middle class doctors, reasonably well off, but not with any particular heritage or connection to the upper echelons of the chattering and controlling classes.

Well, they were.  Now, it seems, they are right in with them.  They even have the power to bend the ear of the current Prime Minister David Cameron such that he went on to ask/command that Scotland Yard start ‘Operation Grange‘ dedicated to re-visiting the case.

In contrast of course, to put this in context, when the 96 families of those football fans killed in the Hillsborough Disaster, kept asking Cameron and predecessors to re-visit the case, their pleas fell on deaf ears.

It seems the parents of a little girl disappearing hold far greater power than a group of 96 families when it comes to calling for justice.  Likewise for any letters than may have arrived at Downing Street concerning any of the tens of thousands of other missing children.  Nothing happens.

Don’t get me wrong, I too wish for a satisfactory answer to the mystery of the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.  Equally, I wish for a satisfactory answer to the mystery of the disappearance of all the children whose parents don’t have the luxury of spokesmen, easy access to the media, the Pope, or the Prime Minister.

But mainly, I’m asking why doesn’t anybody else have this level of access to government, media, and the leader of their religion?  Why just the McCanns?