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Anorak | Madeleine McCann: Fourth Anniversary Tour, With Robert Murat

Madeleine McCann: Fourth Anniversary Tour, With Robert Murat

by | 24th, April 2011

MADELEINE McCANN: Olga Craig visits Praia Da Luz four years after Our Maddie vanished: She kicks off the tour in the 17th-century church of Our Lady of Light, “overlooking the sea in Praia da Luz on the Algarve, where the couple feel closest to Madeleine”.

The local priest is Haynes Hubbard, her Portuguese “pastor and confidant”.

Craig is optimistic about the child still being alive:

Here that they still hope one day to return to give thanks and salvation for the safe return of their child, who will turn eight next month.

Fact.

Yet today, as another agonising anniversary looms for the McCanns, there is, surely, something missing?

The child?

“There are pictures of Madeleine in the church,” Fr Hubbard says hesitantly. “But you can’t see them, they are hidden. They are not on display. People were hurt and scarred by everything that was said and done and it has frightened them off. Many are now cautious to openly display their hope.”

Why would anyone be cautious to display their hope that an innocent child is safe and well? Are they cautious, or have they just moved on.

He is wary; uncomfortable, perhaps. He chooses his words with care.

Why? Just stick to the facts – or the fact: a child is missing.

For while he – and many in his congregation – continue to pray in hope rather than in despair, the sad truth is that Madeleine McCann has become an awkward, painful and, perhaps unpalatably, at times taboo topic in Praia da Luz.

Wonder why? Maybe journalists walking the Maddie Mile are too few and too thrifty. Whereas Our Maddie once flogged papers as hacks fought among themselves for more sensation, spinning a single thread story into a web of speculation and outright lies, this year only Craig is in town.

Tragically, though perhaps understandably, the overwhelming atmosphere here is of a community uncomfortable with its connection to a lost little girl. Some have simply airbrushed her from memory while others, who at the time were highly vocal in the “Find Maddy” campaign, now distance themselves.

Why?

A few, one suspects, feel guilty that the locals did not handle the disappearance in a more organised – and less hysterical – manner.

Eh? The locals share a collective guilt?

As Inez Lopes, editor of the local newspaper, Algarve Resident, points out: “People want to move on, not be forever attached to or identified with Madeleine. Of course we still feel for the McCanns but we want to be associated with a happier place. Frankly, it was an isolated incident that could have happened anywhere in the world. Right now Portugal is in the grip of a financial crisis. In Praia da Luz the feeling is that it has hurt our local economy. Tourism was affected by it, businesses closed. I don’t think the local business community can be blamed for wanting to return to being nothing more than a holidaymakers’ haven.”

That does not sound anything like guilt.

And what about the innocent? The McCanns were libelled. They come and go. But what of Robert Murat?

The scars of his public savaging, however, remain. These days he is rarely seen in public in Praia da Luz. He has since married his long-term girlfriend Michaela (she, too, was wrongly accused of involvement) who eight months ago gave birth to their son, Benjamin.

He has moved on. But his name is linked to the story of a missing child. An innocent man has had his life damaged.

Says he:

“No one wanted to know how I felt, or what I was going through at the time.”

Anorak did. We got emails from his friend Tuck Price. We followed his media journey from helpful expat to demon.

“…Mr Murat and his family have found it difficult to return to anonymity. “It’s still talked about here. All the time. But everyone is more cautious, less willing to take events at face value,” says Tuck Price, a close friend of Mr Murat and his staunchest supporter when he was wrongly accused.

Others were hurt, like Mr Murat’s aunt and uncle, Sally and Ralph Everleigh. Says she:

“It was a horrendous time. Our house was bugged, our phones tapped. Of course the McCanns have suffered a tragedy that they will never be able to come to terms with. How could they? But the stress of the whole situation made my husband ill. We suffered in our own way.”

Craig then adds, without irony:

Little wonder, then, that each year, as the May 3 anniversary approaches, the couple leave their home and spend a few weeks in Gibraltar to escape the attention.

Ian Fenn, who inherited the 5a apartment on the Ocean Complex from where the child vanished, says:

“There are always tourists who stand outside and get their friends to take their photograph outside 5a. They find some ghastly attraction in being pictured at the spot when a little girl was abducted. Gerry McCann did come up to apologise to my mother for all the unwanted attention – which was incredibly kind as he has endured a grief and pain that no parent should ever have to withstand.”

Craig meets holidaymakers on the Maddie complex. Mike and Liz Atwood are there. Mrs Atwood says:

“But, of course, we are more vigilant. This is a friendly, family-orientated resort and the Portuguese are well-known for how lovingly they treat children. But we just don’t let the kids out of our sight. We wouldn’t dream of going out for dinner and leaving them alone. I don’t mean to be critical of the McCanns. All parents can empathise with how grief-stricken they are. How bitterly they regret those decisions. They are paying a dear and heavy price and no one would wish it upon them. It has certainly made us be more attentive.”

Is that the legacy for Madeleine McCann: spreading the fear?

In other news, Madeleine McCann is a story Brian Cathcart blames on bad editors:

Time and again when a big story breaks – think Madeleine McCann, think Bridgend suicides, think Ipswich murders, think the Jo Yeates murder in Bristol – editors do what they want, or what the traditions of their industry dictate, or what they believe the increasingly desperate newspaper market conditions demand, and they ignore or forget the lessons of past errors and misdeeds.

But unlike those other stories, the tale of Our Maddie has reached no conclusion. It just goes on and on.

See you next year?



Posted: 24th, April 2011 | In: Madeleine McCann Comments (2) | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink