News digests and reviews of the missing child in the news. Madeleine McCann vanished on Thursday, 3 May 2007 from a rented holiday flat in Praia da Luz, Portugal. Madeleine, on holiday with her twin siblings and parents Kate and Gerry McCann,became the biggest news story of the past decade. We’ve followed it closely ever since the story broke.
“WE HAVEN’T GOT A CLUE,” says the Sun’s front page. The paper quotes Chief Inspector Oligario Sousa: “We have examined many leads, but each has now been discontinued. Everything that we have looked at so far has been discounted.”
At least this is what Sousa is telling the Sun. The Portuguese police have not involved the British press in all aspects of the hunt for Madeleine McCann. Sousa is not a recognisable face to British readers and TV watchers from press conferences. The E-fit picture of Madeleine was not made available to the Sun.
So instead of the Sun saying how tireless Portuguese police work is, by a process of elimination, moving ever closer to solving the mystery, readers get an altogether less positive headline.
The message is that the Portuguese police haven’t a clue, and this despite the McCanns thanking them for their hard work. And this in light of what the Mirror calls an “official news blackout”.
What will get results is the Sun’s poster, which it tells us is “a big hit”. The poster is “flying around the globe”. Thanks to the Sun, 15,000 posters of Madeleine’s face were handed out at Saturday’s Celtic v Aberdeen football match.
“Maddie cops are back to square one,” says the Sun. Although they are not. The Portuguese police have ruled out suspects and possibilities.
But no matter, because the Sun will crack the case. Or at least spread the anxiety, remind people that a girl has gone missing and that it could have been your child.
But the Sun is not alone. Here’s Tony Parsons in the Mirror. He has lost sight of his child:
“My wife and my daughter were in the school changing room packing up the tutu after ballet. I was waiting right outside, kicking around a ball with the kid brother of one of my daughter’s friends. Eventually my wife came out alone. ‘Where is she?’ my wife asked. ‘Isn’t she with you?’ I said. And that’s how it happens.”
Parsons’ child was found in a classroom. She was “chilling out”. Nearly all children are found. The theft of a child is extremely rare.
Parsons is a victim of the anxiety of what is routinely called “every parent’s worst nightmare”, and he is helping to spread the virus of fear.
Meanwhile, away from Parson’s ballet trauma and a football match in Scotland, the Mirror leads with yet another picture of Madeleine McCann’s parents. More time for readers to see the strain “etched” on their faces. “PRAY FOR MADELEINE,” says the Mirror’s masthead.
There is no news of Madeleine McCann. But the papers continue to report without any need to inform or educate, to spread the fear and compete to show which of them cares the most…
A reward has been posted. The News of the World has put up a “record” £1.5 million reward for the safe return of Madeleine McCann. “POTTER GOLD,” says the headline as JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, has offered £250,000.
Others have donated money: Simon Cowell, tycoon Philip Green, Richard Branson, Wayne Rooney, the England cricket team and more.
The money may work. When dealing with the lowest form of human life, money may trigger a reaction, a lead to find Madeleine. Appealing to the criminals’ better nature is hopeless. But will money affect they who stole Madeleine? How could they claim it and get away with their crime?
The reward may also trigger a lot of bogus calls, false claims from chancers afer the cash.
“COPS: MADDIE IS STILL ALIVE,” says the front page of the People. But they don’t know. Not for sure. To put this headline on the front page is bad reporting, offering false hope. It smacks of opportunism, using Madeleine to sell newspapers.
The News of the World has money. The People has Madeleine alive. And the Express has the group experience, turning Madeleine into “OUR MADELEINE”.
All that helps the effort to find Madeleine is good. But what more can be done?
But how long before Madeleine is moved from the front pages? Talk of the police in Portugal scaling down the hunt is a sign of nothing.
All hope of finding Madeleine McCann alive, if at all, is lost when the tabloids no longer feature her on their front pages.
And her family is left alone…
It is now a week since the three-year-old girl was snatched from a Portugal holiday resort.
The story has been distressing to watch on our TV screens. What it must like for the parents of Madeleine only a few can know.
But their misery is far from complete. With no news of Madeleine, and the Portuguese police having no need to indulge the British tabloids with speculation and theory, Madeleine’s parents are the central characters.
And today’s front-page news, as reported by the caring Mirror, is: “THEY KNOW LEAVING KIDS WAS WRONG.”
Does the Mirror mean to say that Madeleine’s parents, Kate and Gerry, now think they did the wrong thing in nipping out for a bite to eat and leaving the children in the apartment on what they thought was a secure resort?
Does the Mirror mean that the McCanns know that popping back regularly to look at their children and checking on their well being was less than perfect?
Does the Mirror mean that the McCanns realise they should not have left their children alone, just like it is wrong to leave a child in a hotel under the auspices of a baby monitoring service, to leave a child in the car while mum goes to pay for petrol, to talk to a neighbour over a garden fence while the children are indoors?
Of course this is not the Mirror’s view. Oh, no. This is Madeleine’s grandmother, Susan Healy, saying: “They know this was a mistake. But it wasn’t child neglect, it wasn’t not caring for your children.”
That she feels the need to say this is wrong. That the Mirror can lead with Madeleine’s grief-worn parents is pathetic and misguided. That the paper can talk of “people are asking why they didn’t make use of the crèche” at the resort or take the children out to dinner with them is wrong.
But the Mirror has news to write. And the police aren’t playing the game.
So the Mirror produces: “THE 6 THEORIES.”
Only six! Why this cautious approach? But it is all the Mirror has. And readers hear of the “PAEDOPHILE GANG”, the “LONE PAEDOPHILE”, the “JEALOUS MOTHER”, Madeleine wandering off and “DROWNED”, the “OPPORTUNIST PAEDOPHILE”, the “CHILDLESS COUPLE”.
But the Sun has more. It has 130 more. As the front-page headline screams: “MADDIE COPS HUNT 130 BRIT PAEDOS.”
The paper says “at least” 130 British paedophiles “might” have taken Madeleine McCann.
In “ALGARVE IS ‘HAVEN’ FOR PERVS”, readers learn that Portugal is a “magnet for sun-seeking perverts from Britain and the rest of Europe”.
Who knew that perverts get off on watching children at the beach?
Us And Them
But help is on its way. The Sun lists the British coppers who will go out there and see to it that justice is done. We, says the paper, are the only country with a sex offenders’ register.
All convicted perverts must inform the police of their desire to go abroad. At least 130 have. And the police are looking for them.
But – and whisper this – might it be that convicted sexual deviants don’t all tell the police what they plan to do? They are not monitored while overseas. And might it be that not all sexual predators are caught and make it to the list?
Among the policemans’ names is Detective Superintendent Graham Hill, attached to theChild Exploitation and Protection Centre. Hill is on the case. He has flown to Portugal.
Hill worked on the case of Milly Dowler. She was snatched from near Walton railway station, Surrey, in 2002. Her body was found six months later. Her killer or killers have never been caught.
Perhaps Hill’s experiences can help. Perhaps he’ll have more luck. Perhaps not.
Meanwhile, a family is distraught, and bearing up incredibly well under the strain and the merciless gaze of the newspapers…