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Anorak | Madeleine McCann and Ben Needham get the cash; Charlene Downes is an afterthought

Madeleine McCann and Ben Needham get the cash; Charlene Downes is an afterthought

by | 20th, March 2016

ben needhamMadeleine McCann: a look at reporting on the missing child.

The Sun has a loaded headline:

Joy for Ben Needham’s mum as cops given extra £450k to find missing son – while Maddie hunt totals £11M

Are the two cases of British children who vanished on overseas trips connected? Why else would Madeleine McCann’s name be invoked in a headline about Ben Needham?

SOUTH Yorkshire Police have been given an extra £450,000 to find missing Ben Needham as the 25th anniversary of his disappearance draws near. Police were granted £700k by the Home Office last January for more resources into the investigation, but that money will have run out by the end of the month.

Good news. The disappearance of Ben Needham is an open sore. But then this:

The amount given to Operation Ben still pales in significance compare to the £11 million spent on Madeleine McCann’s search fund.

A great deal of money has been invested / spent on the hunt for Madeleine McCann. Good. Let’s hope we get to know what happened to her. The problem is not what is spent, rather what is not. Do you think it unfair that the case of one missing child gets more public cash than another because, like the media and police who stand accused of picking blondes over blacks and rich over poor, there is bias at work?

If you want to compare what is spent on what, it might be better wondering how much has been spent on the hunt for other children who vanished in the UK, like, say Charlene Downes? She disappeared 12 years ago from her home in Blackpool, Lancashire, when aged 14.  There is a £100,000 reward on offer for information leading to, well, something. Was she murdered, as Paige Chivers was? Paige went missing from her Blackpool home on 23 August 2007. She was 15. Three days later her feckless father reported her missing. The police operator recorded the year of Paige’s birth incorrectly – as 1962 not 1992 – and that she had left home voluntarily. Police were looking for a 45-year-old woman who had left home of her own accord. On 7 September the error was rectified.

Paige had sought help from Robert Ewing, 37 years her senior. Ewing, a known paedophile, had groomed Paige for sex. To keep her quiet, he murdered her. In July 2015, Ewing was convicted of murder at Preston Crown Court. His co-defendant, Gareth Dewhurst, 46, was convicted of disposing of her body three days later.

How much cash was spent investigating the disappearances of these two girls from impoverished backgrounds? How much police work has gone into either investigation?

The BBC provides notes:

Less than a fortnight before her disappearance, Ewing “tested the water” with police when he contacted them anonymously and said a “problem child” had turned up on his doorstep after being thrown out by her father. The prosecution said Ewing had wanted to see what official reaction there would be to a 15-year-old girl turning up on the doorstep of a 52-year-old man. “The answer he learned… was very little,” said Brian Cummings QC.

Back to the Sun’s story of stolen lives and money:

But it is still a promising step for Ben’s heartbroken mum Kerry Needham, as the government agreed to hand over more cash to find her long-lost son. Kerry said: “Please end the pain my family are suffering. I know he’s out there somewhere, please call the detectives and put an end to it.”

Ben was 21-months-old when he disappeared on July 24 1991 as he played outside the house his grandparents’ farmhouse in Kos.

Resources are finite, of course. But where police chose to spend their money and time should not be a decision triggered by media pressure.



Posted: 20th, March 2016 | In: Key Posts, Madeleine McCann, Reviews Comments (2) | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink