Simeon Francis, 35, died in a police cell on 20 May. He’d been arrested in Exeter and for reasons unclear sent to a police station in Torquay, around 20 miles away. A post mortem was unable to settle on a cause of death. Devon and Cornwall Police issued a statement on May 21, 2020. Mr Francis’s death triggered a mandatory investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct. Assistant Chief Constable Jim Colwell stated:
“An independent investigation by the IOPC will always be carried out following a death in police custody. The force made this referral immediately and has co-operated fully with the IOPC ever since, this will continue in the coming weeks and months.
“Our thoughts and condolences remain with the family and friends of Mr Francis and we remain committed to a wholly appropriate, independent and thorough investigation into the events surrounding Mr Francis’ death.
“As this matter remains subject to an IOPC independent investigation it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time, but our communities can be rest assured that Devon & Cornwall Police will always operate with integrity, honesty and transparency.”
So says the police. Regional Director Catrin Evans said:
“Our thoughts are with Mr Francis’ family and friends following his death. We will be keeping his family updated during the course of our independent investigation. Our investigators have begun gathering evidence and statements from officers. We are analysing a considerable amount of CCTV footage from the custody suite. We are looking at the level of care provided during the period of detention, including the frequency and adequacy of checks carried out.”
Mr Francis was a persistent offender. In 2017, a report into his arrest and conviction for car crime noted that it was his 175th offence. A report in 2018 says Mr Francis was addicted to Class A drugs and had threatened prison offices but not physically hurt them. The presiding Judge observed: “If any one of the people sitting here in court had been through that childhood, we would probably be in the same position as he is now.”
The purpose of noting that is to illustrate that Mr Francis was known to the police. So when he was arrested in Exeter in July 2019, police might well have known who he was. Given his lengthy criminal record for theft and drugs, they might also have assumed he’d be non-violent. But someone took a video of that arrest. In it we see three police officers sitting on Mr Francis, who is on the pavement – one by his head, one by his midriff and one on his legs. Two more officers are very close by. In all, ten officers were on the scene. “Do you really need that many officers on him?” says an onlooker. Says Mr Francis: “I can’t breathe.”
And with those three words, the mysterious death of a black man in police custody becomes news. They were the words uttered by George Floyd as he was being murdered by police in the US, as is alleged.
Desmond Jaddoo is Mr Francis’s family spokesman. He says: “I have written to Shaun Sawyer, the chief constable of Devon and Cornwall Police, lodging a formal complaint of racial discrimination, use of excessive force and intimidation. This video raises concerns of the actual treatment of Mr Francis by Devon and Cornwall Police. It has caused his family further and extreme distress during this difficult time.”
So here’s the key question: was Mr Francis’s death preventable? We might also wonder if had a white aristocrat died in a police cell, people would be satisfied when the State says it is unable to say how he died? A family statement notes: “The news of the death of another black man whilst in police custody raises again the concerns regarding the disproportionality of black people dying in custody.” His siblings add: ” No matter Simeon’s past, he was our brother and well loved. We want answers as to why he died in these circumstances. We are devastated at the news of his death and now seek justice for him.”
So there it is. Had it not been for the death of George Floyd, Simeon Francis would be just another statistic. Now he’s news. Good.
Barcelona’s Liceu opera house reopens on June 22 with a concert for 2,292 plants. Humans will have to tune in on YouTube. Concert for the Biocene will feature Puccini’s “Crisantemi” on strings.
Eugenio Ampudia, the artist behind the concert, explains: “At a time when an important part of humankind has shut itself up in enclosed spaces and been obliged to relinquish movement, nature has crept forward to occupy the spaces we have ceded. And it has done so at its own rhythm, according to its patient biological cycle. Can we broaden our empathy and bring it to bear on other species? Let’s start by using art and music and inviting nature into a great concert hall.”
Not so much invited as carried in and unless they’re triffids, incapable of voting with their feet. But they’re quiet and don’t fidget. So play on…
The BBC has a story on racism in the British police. I’ve seen police racism myself. The police seems to attract more than its fair share of bigots. Stood at a bus stop in north-west London with friends in the 1980s, police pulled up and decided to question us over nothing. Only one us was black. They hit him. At the football, hundreds of jubilant fans ran onto the pitch after Arsenal had won the title – remember those days? A black teenager next to me was smiling broadly. One copper punched punched him square in the head. Why him?
Things are better than they were. In 1981, Manchester police drove riot vans through Moss Side, banging their armour shouting “Nigger, nigger, nigger, oi, oi, oi’ and chasing the kids all over.”
Lewis* is Asian and currently working as a police officer.
“One of my first experiences was when I overheard a senior ranking white officer tell new recruits that if they see a well-dressed black man – it’s ‘game on’.
Is it as bad now as it was? Has nothing changed? The Macpherson Report into the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence redefined racism as “any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person”. You can be an “unwitting” racist. We were directed to look at the individual rather than the deliberate wielding of power by a racist state apparatus. Is that about to change again? What drives racism? And how do we crush it?
To coincide with the resumption of the football season, the Mirror leads with a photo of Madeleine McCann in her Everton kit. The news is that convicted rapist and peadophile Christian Brückner / Christian Brueckner says he didn’t dit not kidnap and murder the missing child. Brueckner’s lawyer Friedrich Fulscher says his client “denied any involvement”.
As the suspect denies all and wallows in solitary confinement in a German prison for depraved and violent crimes, the Mail looks at the vehicle he drove back and forth between Germany and Portugal. Says the paper:
It is not clear when Brueckner bought the 30-year-old Tiffin Allegro but he was known to be driving a vehicle matching its description in 2007, when Madeleine, three, vanished.
People who knew him described a ‘large cream-coloured Winnebago campervan,’ which he allegedly bragged could hide ‘drugs and children’.
Police have located the van on land owned by the suepct. According to Spiegel, police found the van when they investigated the vanishing of five-year-old Inga Gehricke.
Germany’s Spiegel TV reported that during a six-day search of the site detectives found numerous items of children’s clothing, most of them ‘small swimsuits’ in the motorhome. Brueckner does not have any children.
The convicted rapist has no children.
Police also found six memory sticks with more than 8,000 files, mostly containing pictures and videos of child abuse. They were in a bag in a hole in the ground, underneath the body of his dead dog. Brueckner, now 43, was convicted of possessing the child porn but not charged in relation to Inga. He was identified as a suspect in the McCann case in recent weeks and police near Hanover have reopened the file into Inga’s disappearance, looking again at Brueckner.
A bloke called Dieter tells the Mail that he once looked around the van:
“Brueckner told me again, ‘I have 50kg of grass, and I transport it around Europe’. I thought he was joking at the time. He said, ‘In my van, I can take 50kg of grass – nobody can see it … I can transport children, kids, in this space. Drugs and children, you can transport them in this van – it’s a safe space in the van. Nobody can find them. Nobody can catch you’.”
The Sun picks up more of the Spiegel report:
While living in Braunschweig, Christian B ran a kiosk between 2013 and 2015 and he was pictured inside wearing dark sunglasses.
Bjorn told the documentary how Christian B had been contacted in 2013 by police investigating Madeleine’s disappearance.
He said: “One day I came into the kiosk and he was a little bit distraught and said, ‘Hey, look what I’ve got here’ — and he showed me a subpoena for the Madeleine McCann case.
“You could see it churned him up a bit but he wasn’t panicking and he wasn’t saying ‘they are on my heels’.
“I think he said he had been there but that he had nothing to do with it and that was that.”
Such are the facts.
On June 15 the Sun told readers that Madeleine’s McCann’s parents were due to receive a letter from German prosectors. The letter would tell Gerry and Kate McCann how their daughter died, allegedly at the hands of convicted rapist and paedophile Christian Brueckner, currently serving time in a German prison. By way of a clue, the Mail added that police in Portugal were getting ready to search wells around the Algarve resort where the child vanished in 2007.
One day on and with the murder suspect is not talking, the Sun told readers that the McCanns had been sent the “saddest letter”.
The “concrete evidence” of Madeleine McCann’s death was not revealed in the missive. But the letter had been sent, That much was certain. “Prosecutors in Germany have written to Kate and Gerry McCann to tell them Madeleine is dead,” said the Sun. They have “concrete evidence” suspect Christian B killed her but cannot yet reveal details.”
And then the fact was undone by a “BOMBSHELL”, of which there have been many. This one is that the McCanns have yet to receive the letter.
Prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters has already proven to be less than certain, having informed us that he assumed Madeleine McCann was dead adding later that she might not be. Maybe the letter was sent to the family’s reps, the police or has been delayed in the post. The McCanns note on their website:
“The widely reported news that we have received a letter from the German authorities that states there is evidence or proof that Madeleine is dead is FALSE. Like many unsubstantiated stories in the media, this has caused unnecessary anxiety to friends and family and once again disrupted our lives.”
Says Wolters, as quoted in the Express:
“We have re-established contact with the McCann family in writing. We, of course, really consider the fact that it is going to be very hard for the family when we tell them that we assume Madeline is dead. But we can’t say why she is dead. It is more important that we are is successful and we are able to get the culprit as opposed to just putting our cards on the table and tell them why we think she might be.”
“Might be.” She might be dead. He might be a murderer. Or to put it another way, she might not be dead. He might not be a murderer.
Wolters is quoted more on the Sun:
“It would be easier for them [the McCanns] if I could tell them what we know but I can’t. All I can say is there is no forensic evidence but there is other evidence which indicates she is dead. I don’t want to go into any details about the letter, when it was written or how it was sent. All I will confirm is that it has been written.”
Such are the facts.
Racism is for fools. Anyone sane should strive for equality. But at Oxford University, fine minds think black students are weak and in need of therapy following the alleged murder of George Floyd by police in the US. The dolts want to mark every black student as a special project:
Is this what racism looks like? Yes, says one leading educator:
This is the full open letter to students to Oxford students from the Vice-Chancellor and Heads of House
Many students have written to senior colleagues across the University to express their concerns following the brutal killing of George Floyd.
The response below has been written by the Vice-Chancellor and Heads of Houses of Oxford colleges, outlining the support available to students affected by this issue, as well as a summary of initiatives that are being put in place.
Thank you for your letter expressing your concerns for the welfare of Black students at the University at this time. We are writing to you as a group of individuals who care deeply about our University: we appreciate you writing to us, not least because we share your concerns about the traumatic effect of the brutality which killed George Floyd and which is a manifestation of institutionalised racism. The collective failures to address attitudes and behaviours which amount to discrimination are still prevalent in many institutions, including higher education.
We’re determined to support our Black students in every way we can. You asked in your letter about a number of specific welfare issues, and we will address those first:
We encourage any students with mitigating circumstances to apply to have those taken into account. Any student taking University assessments who feels their performance has been affected should submit a self-assessment mitigating circumstances form after their final examination or assessment. This is available to all students on the Proctors’ website https://www.proctors.ox.ac.uk/forms. Students are strongly encouraged in advance of submitting their form to contact their college academic office who can provide lots of advice and guidance on completing the form. Undergraduate students might also wish to make contact with their college tutors/senior tutor/welfare staff, and likewise any graduate student to contact their college tutor for graduates/welfare staff. The heads of house signatories of this letter will alert all college academic and welfare staff to the potential need here, and will urge those colleagues to reach out to any students who may be experiencing difficulty at this time.
The University has committed to continue increasing the diversity of its counselling team by engaging Black counsellors as soon as possible. In the short term it is seeking to extend such provision by facilitating access to a network of Black counsellors outside the University. We would encourage students to make full use of the University Counselling Service, where there is a strong commitment to making Black students welcome and to working with them sensitively and effectively. We hope, too, that Black students will feel able to reach out to their welfare supporters or staff in college. They may wish to get in touch with a network of peer supporters of colour, who can work across colleges. Details are here, and students can email here: firstname.lastname@example.org
Reduction of workload
The heads of house signatories of this letter will alert college tutors, senior tutors, tutors for graduates and welfare staff to the potential need here, and will urge those colleagues to reach out to any Black students who may be experiencing difficulty at this time.
This is a matter for individual discussions between students and their tutors. We urge any undergraduate who is feeling the strain to contact their tutors/senior tutor/welfare supporter as soon as possible, and likewise any graduate student to contact their supervisor/college tutor for graduates/college welfare team
Urge staff and students to sign petitions
We commend the response of so many Oxford University students and staff, and we note that some helpful advice can be found at the Oxford Student Union resource page here.
In addition, we urge all who protest to know their rights, which they can find here.
Donate to organisations
Because colleges and the University are themselves charities, that makes their giving to other charities complex and often impossible under charity law. However, we completely understand the importance of encouraging and urging staff and students, and anyone connected with Oxford University, past and present, to express their support for any cause they feel will make a difference.
Alongside addressing these specific issues you raised, we remain open to further conversation about what our Black students need at this time. We are aware that it is both easy and problematic to assume that we know what others need without asking them. We would welcome a conversation to discuss what more Oxford University and its colleges can do to support our students, and to this end will continue our dialogue with the Oxford African and Caribbean Society (ACS). We wholly identify with the vision of Black Lives Matter of “imagining and creating a world free of anti-blackness, where every black person has the social, economic and political power to thrive.”
While much is being done by many committed people, we acknowledge that we are rightly reproached for our collective failure to address the issue of systemic racism properly, and that we have work to do. We are planning a number of initiatives, as part of that work, including the following:
A University fundraising initiative for scholarships for Black students
A review of all the Equality and Diversity Unit [EDU] training materials that are used across the University and colleges to ensure they are fit for purpose. We will involve students in the process.
Setting up an access track within UNIQ to meet the specific needs of BAME students wishing to apply to Oxford.
Many different initiatives across individual colleges and departments.
Continuing to work with the pressing diversity challenges in relation to other groups.
The heads of all colleges committed ourselves to doing the work that we know is needed, in a letter to The Guardian, published last week.
We reiterate here what we said in that letter: “We recognise and regret that, for black members of our community, the unfolding crisis together with the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on their communities has caused them particular anxiety, anger and pain. We stand with them during these difficult moments with hope that, through the global mobilisation of many against these injustices, through education, discussion, and peaceful protest, we may work together towards a world free of systemic racism and discrimination.”
We also state that we have zero tolerance for racist comments or behaviours by staff or students of any kind.
Finally, please appreciate that this is not a one-off response. We are aware of other concerns that have been voiced elsewhere and will do our best – given the pressures of final examinations and the Covid-19 emergency – to engage with the issues that have been raised.
We hope that you will join with us in continuing to do the work that is needed to create a genuinely diverse and inclusive community, in which all feel respected and secure.
Louise Richardson, Vice Chancellor
And the Heads of House of the following colleges:
Dame Helen Ghosh, Balliol
Revd Dr David Goodill OP, Blackfriars
John Bowers QC, Brasenose College
The Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy, Christ Church
Professor Ian Watson, Christ Church
Dr Helen Moore, Corpus Christi College
Professor Sir Rick Trainor, Exeter College
Professor Jane Shaw, Harris Manchester College
Will Hutton, Hertford College
Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt, Jesus College
Sir Jonathan Phillips, Keble College
Alan Rusbridger, Lady Margaret Hall
Professor Henry Woudhuysen, Lincoln College
Professor Sir David Clary, Magdalen College
Helen Mansfield, QC, Mansfield College
Professor Irene Tracey, Merton College
Miles Young, New College
Neil Mendoza, Oriel College
Dame Lynne Brindley, Pembroke College
Dr Claire Craig, The Queen’s College
Revd Dr Robert Ellis, Regent’s Park College
Helen King, St Anne’s College
Professor Richard Cooper, St Benet’s Hall
Professor Kersti Borjars, St Catherine’s College
Professor Kathy Willis, St Edmund Hall
Professor Sir Gordon Duff, St Hilda’s College
Dame Elish Angiolini, St Hugh’s College
Professor Maggie Snowling, St John’s College
Professor Judith Buchanan, St Peter’s College
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon, Somerville College
Dame Hilary Boulding, Trinity College
Sir Ivor Crewe, University College
Lord Macdonald of River Glaven, Wadham College
Professor Kate Tunstall, Worcester College
Rev Dr Michael Lloyd, Wycliffe Hall
Christian Brueckner has yet to be arrested or charged with the alleged murder of Madeleine McCann. there is no news. So the media returns to its default poistion: watching the parents. The Sunday Mirror leads with news that Kate and Gerry McCann have called on the German prosecutor who assumes their daughter is dead to provide evidence.
Last week. Hans Christian Wolters, a spokesman for the Braunschweig public prosecutor’s office, told Sky News:
“The hard evidence we don’t have, we don’t have the crucial evidence of Madeleine McCann’s body. We expect that she is dead, but we don’t have enough evidence that we can get a warrant for our suspect in Germany for the murder of Madeleine McCann. At the moment, we also don’t have enough proof for a trial at court, but we have some evidence that the suspect has done the deed. That’s why we need more information from people, especially places he has lived, so we can target these places especially and search there for Madeleine.”
Seems fair to ask him what he’s seen, no, especially if you’re the parents of the missing child and are desperate for news. Surely Wolters is not just speculating, riffing in the public arena in the hope that someone takes the line and points the finger? “German Prosecutors Dash Hopes of Finding Madeleine McCann alive,” says the New York Times. Can we see the evidence, please?
Hold on a mo. Wolters is talking to the Mirror:
“Because there is no forensic evidence there may be a little bit of hope (that she is alive). We don’t want to kill the hope and because there is no forensic evidence it may be theoretically possible. I know it’s important for the British people when I say she is dead, but I did not know it was so important.”
There is no forensic evidence so it’s theoretical she is alive. It’s also theoretical that she is dead. The theories can go on and on infinitum until we see evidence. And at the moment the theory is that convicted paedophile Christian Brueckner murdered the innocent child. And German cops are so certain he did it they’ve not charged him anything in relation to the case. Will they?
“I think the Portuguese officials still think that Maddie’s parents are responsible for her disappearance. From our perspective, the suspect is in jail in Germany right now. And this is not the case for Maddie’s parents. We think that the parents don’t have anything to do with it. We are convinced that our 43-year-old suspect is the murderer of Maddie McCann.”
Wolters is convinced the German police have identified the suspected murderer. Although the victim might be alive. Clear?
The Times says the rapist and child abuser is “receiving counselling in prison while he is held in isolation to prevent other inmates attacking him”. If he’s in isolations, how… Never mind. Here comes the depraved criminal’s lawyer, Friedrich Fülscher, to tell RTL TV how his client is coping:
“How should a person who is isolated in a correctional facility and who is accused by half the world’s population of the worst crimes?”
Confessing would be useful. But he’s not done so.
The man seen taking a leak at the memorial to PC Keith Palmer has been arrested. The stone pays tribute to the life of Mr Palmer, 48. He was one of five people murdered by Islamist Khalid Masood in an attack on Westminster on 22 March 2017. It’s not know why the man was in Westminster, but there was a far-right protest going on at the time. The protestors aim? To protect memorials and statues to white Britons.
The man who thought it ok to take a leak at the tribute site has been nicked on suspicion on outraging public decency. Not everyone is keen to condemn him:
There are no images of Julia Hartley-Brewer urinating in public.
One day after Martin Luther King Junior was murdered, Jane Elliott, a teacher in Riceville, Iowa, wanted to illustrate the perils of prejudice to her class. On April 5, 1968, Jane split here class of third-graders into colour lines. Children were split into two group: the blue-eyed versus the brown-eyed. One day the brown-eyed children got special privileges; the next day it was the turn of the blue-eyed children.
Wind the clock on and Jane Elliott is talking with Jimmy Fallon, the curretn Tonight Show hots. “I didn’t know how this exercise would work,” says Elliott. “If I had known how it would work, I probably wouldn’t have done it. If I had known that, after I did that exercise, I lost all my friends, no teacher would speak to me where they could be seen speaking to me, because it wasn’t good politics to be seen talking to the town’s only ‘N-word lover.'”
You can see the class in the 1970 television documentary The Eye of the Storm:
via Boing Boing
For some time campaigners wanted to add a ‘corrective’ plaque on the statue of Edward Colston (2 November 1636 – 11 October 1721). Last week, protestors went further, pulling down the statue to a man who traded in wine, fruit and slaves, and tossing it into Bristol Harbour. Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees, said he felt no “sense of loss”, but that the statue made in 1895 would be retrieved and it was “highly likely that the Colston statue will end up in one of our museums.”
Like many, I’m interested in why and how the statue ever came to exist, a totem bearing the legend: “Erected by citizens of Bristol as a memorial of one of the most virtuous and wise sons of their city.” Edward Ball investigates:
Despite the claims on the statue of Edward Colston and local myth, the idea of having a statue of to memorialise the ‘great benefactor’ did not come from popular demands by the “citizens of Bristol”. It was in fact the brainchild of one person, James Arrowsmith, president of the Liberal dominated Anchor Society. Arrowsmith was a wealthy businessman who owned the largest printing and publishing company in the city. In a speech to the Colston Fraternal Society in October 1893 he proposed that a statue should be erected and in March of the following year a fund raising committee was set up by officials of the four Colston commemoration societies, with Arrowsmith as honorary secretary.
The money did not pour in. Even with lots of letters to the local paper, fundraisers and campaigning among the monied classes, the target was only met when an anonymous donor rumoured to be one James Arrowsmith dug deep and deeper to make his dream a reality. And so it was that a few wealthy Victorians with an agenda to create and promote a sense of tradition erected a statue to the “father of the city”, a “merchant prince” and a “moral saint’.
The unveiling was led by the Mayor and Bishop of Bristol, surrounded by the business and political elite of the city. The mayor’s speech concentrated on Bristol’s maritime history of mercantilism and Colston’s philanthropy. There was, of course, no direct mention of Colston’s leading role in the slave trade through his management positions and investments in the Royal African Company. The same had been true of the whole fund-raising campaign. However, the Mayor made one major indirect reference in his speech in stating that Colston’s “business was mainly with the West Indies”; essentially code for involvement in slavery and the slave trade. It is interesting that in 1895 there was at least some clarity about this aspect, albeit indirect. This should be compared to clumsy attempts by apologists over a century later to ‘airbrush the history’ by portraying Colston as merely an Iberian, Mediterranean or Levant merchant with no direct connections to trans-Atlantic slavery.
The mayor’s right – the thing belongs in a museum with other statues of long dead gods, saints and angels. The accompanying note will explain its history.
Spotter: Bristol Radical History Group
Anti-racism protests triggered by the killing of George Floyd in the US occupy the front pages. The Mirror calls it “The march for change”. Thousands of us took part in anti-racism protests across the UK at the weekend. The paper leads with the picture of a statue of tycoon, patron and slave trader Edward Colston being pulled down and thrown into Bristol harbour. It’s a striking image. And you wonder a few things, including: if history is eradicated from view, does it vanish from our minds? Does celebrating the life of a slave trader encourage or tacitly approve racism? And who chooses which status go where and when?
You might wonder what “change” the Mirror champions, giving that there’s never been a black editor on the Mirror not indeed on any major national newspaper. The board of Reach plc, which owns the Mirror, Express and Star titles, is less racially diverse than the membership at a provincial golf club:
The all-white board isn’t proof that Reach doesn’t have a fine equalities policy and impeccable anti-racist credentials. But it does illustrate that when aspirational, intelligent black people look up they often see a bank of successful white faces looking down.
Madeleine McCann returned to the front pages with a new suspect and a flurry of questions, none of which will be answered until we know what happened to her. But guessing is an armchair sport. So a German police worker assumes the missing child is dead. British police think she might not be. The tabloids mangle the most basic facts to fit a narrative. The BBC breaks ranks and renames her ‘Madeline’ over the media’s usual ‘Maddie’, and readers get to know of other missing children who convicted paedophile and rapist Christian Brueckner, aka Christian Brückner and Christin B might or might not have kidnapped and murdered.
On the matter of his name, there is a little confusion. German media only identify him as Christian B. German privacy laws make it illegal to name convicted criminals, let alone suspects. As for his spelling, well, while the tabloids do away with the umlaut (Sun, Mail, Mirror, Star), the broader-sheets (Guardian and Telegraph) use it. The BBC refers to him only as ‘Christian B’, which given that you can find his name all over the web and on the Mail’s hugely popular website, is peculiar. The BBC redacts the suspect’s full name on its website and puts a large black square over photos of his face. The Sun sometimes does and sometimes doesn’t.
Today’s front page news is that police are looking at Christian Brueckner in connection with the vanishing of René Hasee. The German chid went missing from the Algarve in 1996. He was six. Yesterday I mentioned Hasee and that his story was of interest, so too that fact that like Madeleine McCann, he too is blond. The Mail highlighted the importance of being blonde whilst missing in its story, “Two fair-haired little girls who vanished on a family trip… with the same man now under scrutiny.” Aref Ishmaili and other missing darker skinned children do not make the front pages.
So is the depraved criminal a serial child killer? The Guardian says “German prosecutors believe the 43-year-old convicted paedophile may have also been involved in the disappearance of Inga Gehricke”. Believe. May. Any facts? Any..? Yes, you, the Daily Mail:
Madeleine McCann’s suspected murderer Christian Brueckner was a twisted loner who was hated by the other children at school, a former classmate has revealed.
The former pupil said: ‘I’ve only ever had one fight in my life and that was with Christian Brueckner. He spent a year talking about me behind my back. He would not stop making nasty comments. One day I exploded and told him to go back to the orphanage where he had come from. We all knew he was adopted, so I shouldn’t have said that but I lost my temper with him. He jumped on me and we traded punches until a teacher pulled us apart. Everyone hated him in class and they all kept their distance. But it wasn’t just the children – it was the teachers as well.
Are we trying to build up a sympathetic backstory or nail the swine?
Any more facts? Yes, you, the Mirror. Today the paper calls the naming of suspect Christian Brueckner an “alleged breakthrough” in the Madeleine McCann investigation. That’s a bit of a climbdown because last week he was the “Maddie suspect” and we saw the “Face of Maddie ‘killer suspect'”.
Brace yourselves for more of this sort of thing. Sky says “almost 400 tip-offs about the disappearance of Madeleine McCann have been handed to British police since a new suspect was identified on Wednesday”. Will anything prove to be more than circumstantial? We all hope so. But no body and no evidence are not paths to justice. The only thing we know with absolute certainty is that in May 2007, Madeleine McCann vanished.
The Sun has been talking about depraved criminal Christian Brueckner with a “Key Madeleine McCann witness”. But has the paper been sticking to the facts to get a story? The paper reports:
The woman reported the sighting within hours of three-year-old Madeleine’s disappearance on May 3, 2007, and has always been viewed as a credible witness. Her confirmation came amid claims of glaring blunders by Judicial Police feared to have let the beast cheat justice.
The Sun understands from another British witness that Portuguese detectives circulated a photograph of Christian B years ago but failed to act. The second woman saw the image in 2007, and also confirmed it was a man she had seen behaving bizarrely in the days after Madeleine went missing…
A Sun trawl of witness statements all pointed to a man matching the paedophile’s description.
“Claims.” “Understands.” The hunt for facts continues. Can the Sun cut through the fog and help us form a clearer picture?
The Sun mentions British-born Tasmin Sillence, 12 at the time of Madeleine McCann’s disappearance in 2007 and living in Portugal since she was two months old. Twice she saw the man in the area of the McCanns’ apartment. The Sun says she “told police she saw a white man in dark glasses with his gaze fixed on the complex. Moments later, she looked up and saw a girl around Madeleine’s age on a sun deck in the same block. Tasmin provided police with the photofit picture circulated at the time which bears a striking resemblance to Christian B, 43. It would appear Christian B’s name and background were known to police all along.”
But that’s not exactly what she told police.
The Sun says this is what Tasmin Sillence told police in her statement of 9th of May 2007:
“She saw the man, this time in front of the Ocean Club reception, once more looking at Madeleine’s house.”
“She added that his face was pockmarked, he looked “ugly” and was casually dressed and wearing large-framed sunglasses.”
The Sun has got things in a muddle. Facts matter. This is what she told them, her words helping to form the efit image you can see above. (He words have been translated from Portuguese by Google translate):
Concerning the individual, she describes him as being: Caucasian race, light skin, so he wasn’t Portuguese, but could be British, according to her criteria. Approximately 180 cm tall, thin complexion, 30/35 years of age. Short hair, like shaved with 1 cm of length and fair, but she isn’t sure if it was blonde because the sun was reflecting, and made perception more difficult. She didn’t see the eyes because he wore dark glasses of black colour, with a structure of mass, a thick frame. He had a large forehead. Nose of normal size, a bit pointy and sharp. Large ears, close against the head. Mouth with thin lips, she didn’t see his teeth. Chin pointing up, which stood out on a face that she describes as sharp. No beard, no moustache, a clean shave. No other special signs, apart from some small pimples on the face as a result of shaving. He looked ugly, even ‘disgusting’.
Christian Brueckne has pockmarked skin. The witness did not say the man she saw did. He had a bit of pimply shaving rash. And there’s more.
Let’s recall for a second times what the Sun says:
Tasmin Sillence, 12 at the time, told police she saw a white man in dark glasses with his gaze fixed on the complex. Moments later, she looked up and saw a girl around Madeleine’s age on a sun deck in the same block.
But the police report does not present the same picture. In it we learn:
She also mentions that she lived in the apartment where the missing child was staying, that belonged to her Grandmother, who is already deceased. That she didn’t actually reside there, but spent extensive and repeated periods of time there, with her Grandmother and her Mother. The apartment was bought in 1994 and sold in 2002 and therefore she knows it perfectly, both from the inside and from the outside.
She wishes to clarify. On the 30th of April, Monday, at around 8 a.m. and when she was walking to the bus stop for the school bus that leaves at 8.15, a path that she walks every day when there is school, she noticed the presence of a male individual, at the back of Madeleine’s house, on a little pathway to the apartments that exists there, looking in an ostensive manner at the house’s balcony. This happened when she was walking down the street, on the left side, which was right in front of the balcony, and the distance between them was the width of the road. That when she was walking down she decided to look at the pathway, because as she lived there, she likes to watch the house and the neighbouring garden. She walked with her mother, that she is certain she didn’t see the man, and she was walking two dogs on a leash, which forced them to cross the road, a bit further down. At that moment she saw the man more closely, as they crossed the road, and then lost visual angle when they finished crossing.
Says that the man didn’t see the deponent, because he was staring at the balcony.
She presumes that nobody was on Madeleine’s house’s balcony, but she cannot state it beyond doubt.
On May 2, she saw the same man for the second time. She did not see him again:
She started walking up the street on the left side going up, and saw the man, this time in front of the ‘Ocean Club’s’ reception, once more looking at Madeleine’s house in an ostensive manner, where he stood he could observe, she thinks, the house’s two side windows and part of the balcony. She thinks that he could also be looking at the other residences that are located in the same direction.
And then this:
When asked she says that she saw Madeleine once, on a day that she cannot indicate, on the balcony where the man was staring at, the first time. She even waved at her because it was a small child, in a caring gesture.
She did not see the man stare at the balcony and then “moments later” see Madeleine McCann on the same balcony. She used to look at the McCann’s rented holiday home a lot, as she says. She once lived there. She could recall the two dates and times she saw the man and how she did not see anyone on the balcony on either occasion. She did see once Madeleine McCann on the balcony the man had observed but not when he was there. She did not see him looking at Madeleine McCann.
Such are the facts.
After moral panics, conspiracy theories, false accusations, arguidos and hundreds of journalists typing the words “every parent’s worst nightmare”, we are now invited to wonder if Christian Brueckner kidnapped and murdered Madeleine McCann. As pastimes go, debating an innocent child’s fate is one down from dogging. But you can play armchair detective from the comfort of your own home and shape the single-thread story – child vanishes – to fit with your own prejudices.
And so to Christian Brueckner. Did he also kidnap and murder a child in his native Germany, a girl called Inga Gehricke? We don’t know. And innocence, even when the suspect is a convicted paedophile and rapist should be presumed. Evidence and proof are the stuff of justice. But the ‘maybe’ keeps us reading. The tabloids lead with the story of what might or might not have happened.
Inga appeared on these pages in 2015. A child killer named Silvio S had been arrested in connection with her disappearance. But he had nothing to do with Inga’s vanishing from a family trip to the woods in Wilhelmshof. The Sun told readers Inga is known as “The German Madeleine”. As we’ve noted, many countries seem to have a version of the missing child. Madeleine McCann is the media’s benchmark for all the world’s missing children – but only the white ones:
Australia has an Our Maddie – Chloe Campbell Is Australia’s Madeleine McCann
Brazil has an Our Maddie – Madeleine McCann: Isabella Nadoni Is Brazil’s Our Maddie
Israel has an Our Maddie– Madeleine McCann: Israel’s Rose Is The International Our Maddie
France has an Our Maddie –Typhaine Taton Is France’s Madeleine McCann
America has an Our Maddie – America’s Madeleine McCann Turns Up Alive
Spain has an Our Maddie – Madeleine McCann: Mari Luz Cortes, Maddy 2 And Gerry McCann Writes
New Zealand has an Our Maddie – Madeleine McCann: Patronising Aisling Symes
South America has an Our MaddieA Madeleine McCann Found In Panama
Holland has an Our Maddie – Madeleine McCann: Milly Boele Is Holland’s Our Maddie
Australia has an Our Maddie – Kiesha Abrahams Is Australia’s Madeleine McCann
What else Inga Gehricke and Madeleine McCann have in common is made plain in the Daily Mail: they are both blonde:
It was Madeleine McCann’s blondness that helped turn her into the media’s ‘Our Maddie’, Would a black child have been news for 13 years, his or her face on the national newspapers’ front pages and leading the TV news bulletins? No need to answer. The answer is ‘no’. Black lives matter. Blonde lives sell papers.
Aref Ismaili has been missing since April 4, 2016. He had fled from Afghanistan to Germany under adverse circumstances with his parents. Aref Ismaili vanished in the small town of Wanfried in Hesse, Germany. He has dark hair and dark eyes. His face is not familiar to people the world over.
This is news as much as it is entertainment. Take this story also in the Mail: “Luxury villa where new Madeleine McCann suspect Christian Brueckner raped a 72-year-old US tourist is just a ten minute walk from apartment where the toddler vanished 18 months later.” The circumstantial nature of the link is clouded further by pictures of the luxury villa (price on application; there’s a swimming pool). Again the Mail notes Inga’s “blonde hair and blue eyes”.
In 2017, Jens-Uwe Gehricke recalled in German media how he’d seen his daughter Inga shortly before she disappeared on the footpath that leads from his friends’ house to the barbecue area on the edge of the forest. Inga was carrying two large bottles of water. She wanted to help prepare for a barbecue. Shortly afterwards, two other children watched her again as she made her way back home. That was around 6:30 p.m. Nobody knows what happened then. Said Jens-Uwe Gehricke: “It was only 100 meters to the house. But she never got there.” Read that and your skin crawls and your heat breaks.
But if we’re looking for links why not look at the vanishing of six-year-old René Hasee? Eleven year before Madeleine McCann disappeared, the boy from Elsdorf, Germany, was on a summer holiday with his family in Aljezur, not far from Praia da Luz when he disappeared. René Hasee is blond, so we may well hear of him in the British tabloids before any mention of Aref.
Was the alleged murder of George Floyd not enough to damn the police? Having witnessed the worst of policing, many want more. Take the story “Policeman Caught Looting Nike Shoes Amid Protests”. You’d think that with so many cameras around – CCTV, camera phones, police bodycams – no copper would be dumb enough to steal in broad daylight. But then, of course, we can point to the preventable death of George Floyd as evidence of police ignorance and entitlement. They have been seen behaving more like a gang than a force too often to discount any allegation of wrong doing without some consideration.
But for some the allegation is proof of fact.
Bad news – or good news if you’ve an agenda to promote and a fixed narrative – travels fast:
The truth? The copper with the Nik trainers is no looter. He was outside a police station in Chicago helping the owner of a burglarised store load recovered items into his car.
We should be watch what we report. But we should be able to say what we like:
Yesterday Madeleine McCann returned to the front pages. A relaxing of the Covid-19 induced lockdown meant the time was ripe for police and media to bring us an update on Operation Grange, the investigation into what happened to the innocent child who vanished in May 2007. News is that a convicted German child abuser named Christian Brueckner, 43, was in Portugal at the time Madeleine vanished from the Praia da Luz resort where she’d been holidaying with her family and their friends.
The prisoner has been spoken to by British and German police. Today papers lead with the opinion of German police that Madeleine McCann is dead. Well, maybe she is. They “assume” she is. You might assume she is not. In the field of cold case facts, assumptions are not evidence of anything other than opinion and prejudice. British police are keeping an open mind.
Want to see what the man named in Germany as ‘Christian B’ looks like, the man the Guardian says is the “strongest” suspect yet? This is how the BBC reveals the face of the suspect:
Have we come any distance since the early days of the investigation, when these suspects occupied newspaper front pages?
But in the newspapers and all over the web we can see the suspect’s face:
The Daily Mail publishes a picture of Christian Brueckner in a bar in 2011 and posted to his Facebook page. He has more than 17 criminal convictions. But what links him to the missing child? Well, allegedly he confessed or boasted to a friend that he’d kidnapped Madeleine McCann as they watched a TV show on the tenth anniversary of her disappearance. The Sun says Christian Brueckner also showed his friend a video on his mobile phone of him raping a woman. You might well wonder how the revolting Christian Brueckner came to have any friends and at what point you grass your drinking buddy to the police?
The bigger question is why we should accept Christian Brueckner at face value. This is a man described by German prosecutors as “a predator convicted of crimes against little girls”. He is a deeply nasty individual who has led a “sordid” (Times) life. The Sun tells us he is in prison for “raping a 72-year-old woman in the Algarve resort [Praia da Luz] in 2005”. German police say they suspect him of selling drugs and burglarising homes when he lived in a rented home near Praia da Luz. They suspect him of murdering Madeleine McCann.
And then the paper says: “The rapist’s alleged confession led to the latest breakthrough, but Madeleine’s parents Kate and Gerry’s hopes of finding her alive were yesterday dealt a crushing blow.” But the German authorities don’t know anything. They are assuming and believing. The investigation and the current appeal for help and witnesses is the enduring hope that this story will reach a conclusion.
German public prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters adds: “The public prosecutor’s office in Braunschweig is investigating a 43-year-old German national on suspicion of murder. From this you can see that we assume that the girl is dead.” And then we learn: “B was investigated by Portuguese cops in 2008 over Madeleine’s disappearance but was ruled out at the time.”
So they bungled it or correctly ruled him out? Says the Sun, “Experts said B matched the profile of a Jimmy Savile-style “paraphiliac”, who targets victims of all ages.” Jimmy Savile was never arrested. He was neither tried nor convicted of any crime.
The investigation continues…
There’s a new suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. It’s a 43-year-old German man. No need to look for him. He’s already in prison. German media has identified him as ‘Christian B’. Hans Christian Wolters, from the Braunschweig Public Prosecutor’s Office, says: “We are assuming that the girl is dead. With the suspect, we are talking about a sexual predator who has already been convicted of crimes against little girls and he’s already serving a long sentence.”
The story leads the news cycle. The Times says he’s a “paedophile”. The Telegraph says it’s the “biggest breakthrough yet”. It’s “time to nail” him, says the Star. Great news. And it is – until you get the facts… How can you charge a man with a crime with no evidence he committed one – and no evidence any crime took place?
The Mail and Sun both lead with questions. “Did German take Maddie in this van?” wonders the Sun, making the suspect’s nationality a key part of the story. “Have they found man who took Maddie?” asks the Mail.
And one more question: did police working on Operation Grange keep the story from media until coronavirus had been washed from the front pages? Was it done to help their appeal for anyone who saw the man or his van to come forward? If they did, it’s worked. Did they also want to show us that for £11m, the cost of the investigation so far, you get results?
The BBC leads its story by telling us, “He is believed to have been in the area where Madeleine was last seen, when she disappeared in Portugal 13 years ago.” Believed by..? “Someone out there knows a lot more than they’re letting on,” says Det Chief Inspector Mark Cranwell.
So did you see a man with a camper van in Portugal 13 years ago? He has short short blond hair and about 6ft tall with a slim build at the time. German and British police have spoken with him about Madeleine but he’s not confessed.
Time to review the evidence:
The Express says he was known to be in Praia da Luz when Madeleine McCann vanished. He had 30-minute phone conversation with a “mystery caller” the night Madeleine went missing. The day after Madeleine vanished in 2007, the suspect transferred the Jaguar to someone else’s name. The BBC says this is “suspicious”.
On the night of the vanishing, he received a phone call at 7.32pm, which ended at 8.02pm. Madeleine is believed to have disappeared between 9.10pm and 10pm that evening.
The Telegraph says he’s a multiple child sex offender.
The Mail says the suspect was renting a “ramshackle farm building” two miles from Praia da Luz where the McCann family were holidaying.
German police also suggested there “may” have been other people involved who are still at large, says the Mail. As one German officer puts: “There is reason to assume that there are other persons, apart from the suspect, who have concrete knowledge of the course of the crime and maybe also of the place where the body was left.”
It all adds up to a lot of belief, assumption and maybe. Plus ca change.
And you can help find Maddie. Scotland Yard is launching a joint appeal with German and Portuguese police with a £20,000 reward for information that leads to the conviction of the person responsible for Madeleine’s. Remember when the reward was huge and the innocent girl who became the media’s ‘Our Maddie’ was spotted in: Canada,Italy, Sweden, Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Majorca,Belgium, Bosnia, France, Australia, Brazil,Wales, Malta, Italy, Germany, Australia, France, India, Dubai, Dorset, USA and New Zealand (taken there by boat).
The last word is with the parents who issue this statement:
“We would like to thank the police forces involved for their continued efforts in the search for Madeleine. All we have ever wanted is to find her, uncover the truth and bring those responsible to justice. We will never give up hope of finding Madeleine alive, but whatever the outcome may be, we need to know as we need to find peace.”
Madeleine McCann is missing.
How do you react to the death of George Floyd. You should be angry. You should be sickened by the casual acts of violence that left a man dead after he was abused by police. You should campaign for equality and blind justice. But in Dallas, Texas, lunatics thought it right to try to murder a man who’d thought it sensible to carry a sword into the street. The mob used bricks, feet and a skateboard to crush his skull. What do we see – violence, race, crime or just part of the whole story? The video was taken by Elijah Schaffer of conservative broadcaster Blaze TV. It is shocking. The mob is cowardly. The mob always is:
And as for the police:
This striking image of a fire engulfing police Precinct 3 in Minneapolis, USA, was taken by @slate_mk.2 on Instagram. The allegation is that a police offer murdered George Floyd. There’s trouble in America. The divide between free people who arrived in the USA in search of opportunity and slaves shipped there in chains remains. Let’s give no quarter to racism. Hold it up to debate. Sunlight and blind justice are the best disinfectants.
The death of George Floyd has been televised the world over. But who to blame for what his alleged murder? The Telegraph leads with Donald’s Trump’s role in the story. “Trump race row as police officer is charged,” runs the front-page headline. ‘George who?’ ask Tele readers.
Trump says Mr Floyd deserves “justice”. He also says that “looters should not be allowed to drown out the voices of so many peaceful protesters”. And he also guffed: “”When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Which sounds like a threat and a glorification of violence, no?
The head of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, spoke out about what he called the “murder” of Floyd and said his organisation rejects the “continuing discriminatory practices against black citizens of the USA”.
The Guardian says it’s “America blaze“. “Fury erupts over police killing in US.” A police officer was killed? No. A police officer named Derek Chauvin (44; armed; white) thought it fair to place his knee onto the neck of George Floyd (46; unarmed; handcuffed; complaining of being unable to breathe; suspected of tying to use a counterfeit $20 note; black) for little under nine minutes. If the video of the incident doesn’t make you angry, you may need to check your angle.
And get this: sources says Mr Chauvin and Mr Floyd had both worked as bouncers at the same nightclub venue. Did they know one another?
What o justice? Derek Chauvin has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Hennepin County Prosecutor Mike Freeman says, “This is by far the fastest that we’ve ever charged a police officer.” Looks like video evidence gets results. So too anger. Stay angry.
Are the police contrite?
The last word for now is from Killer Mike:
What of Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s aide who “may” have broken lockdown rules? “May” is the word of the moment because police in Derbyshire says Cummings “may” have broken the rules. The Star, Mirror and Guardian all lead with what “may” have happened. Or to put it another way, what may not have happened.
It’s always useful to reverse a headline to see the angle at work. So here’s a twist on the BBC’s front-page headline “Dominic Cummings ‘might have broken lockdown rules’ – police”: “Dominic Cummings ‘might not have broken lockdown rules’ – police.”
Durham Police have issued a statement on the matter that’s occupied the media for a week. Here it is in full:
“On March 27 2020, Dominic Cummings drove to Durham to self-isolate in a property owned by his father. Durham Constabulary does not consider that by locating himself at his father’s premises, Mr Cummings committed an offence contrary to regulation six of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020. (We are concerned here with breaches of the regulations, not the general Government guidance to “stay at home”.)
“On April 12 2020, Mr Cummings drove approximately 26 miles from his father’s property to Barnard Castle with his wife and son. He stated on May 25 2020 that the purpose of this drive was to test his resilience to drive to London the following day, including whether his eyesight was sufficiently recovered, his period of self-isolation having ended.
“Durham Constabulary have examined the circumstances surrounding the journey to Barnard Castle (including ANPR, witness evidence and a review of Mr Cummings’ press conference on May 25 2020) and have concluded that there might have been a minor breach of the regulations that would have warranted police intervention. Durham Constabulary view this as minor because there was no apparent breach of social distancing.
“Had a Durham Constabulary police officer stopped Mr Cummings driving to or from Barnard Castle, the officer would have spoken to him, and, having established the facts, likely advised Mr Cummings to return to the address in Durham, providing advice on the dangers of travelling during the pandemic crisis.
“Had this advice been accepted by Mr Cummings, no enforcement action would have been taken.
“In line with Durham Constabulary’s general approach throughout the pandemic, there is no intention to take retrospective action in respect of the Barnard Castle incident since this would amount to treating Mr Cummings differently from other members of the public. Durham Constabulary has not taken retrospective action against any other person.
“By way of further context, Durham Constabulary has followed Government guidance on management of alleged breaches of the regulations with the emphasis on the NPCC and College of Policing 4Es: Engage, Explain and Encourage before Enforcement.
“Finally, commentary in the media has suggested that Mr Cummings was in Durham on April 19 2020. Mr Cummings denies this and Durham Constabulary have seen insufficient evidence to support this allegation.
“Therefore Durham Constabulary will take no further action in this matter and has informed Mr Cummings of this decision.”
Such are the facts.
People are angry that George Floyd died after a run-in with police in Minneapolis. The key question is: could George Floyd’s death have been prevented? The answer must be a resounding ‘Yes’.
Derek Chauvin, the armed policeman who felt it within his civic duty to put his knee on unarmed George Floyd’s neck and leave it there as the handcuffed man complained of feeling unwell and being unable to breathe, has yet to be charged with any crime. He is innocent until proven guilty. George Floyd was not given that right. His alleged offences were to attempt to pass a fake cheque at a grocery store and then resist arrest. His other apparent offence, as many see it, was to be black.
Derek Chauvin and three police colleagues who looked on as George Floyd fought for life on, his face pushed into the asphalt by the forces of law and order, are no longer serving police officers. They’ve been sacked.
And in lieu of legal justice, the people watch police station Precinct 3 burn:
The New European, the newspaper created to campaign for a second referendum (failed) and keep the UK in the EU (ditto), reports on a petition created to support Emily Maitlis, lead presenter of BBC’s Newsnight who fell foul of the State’s broadcaster’s impartiality rules when she presented opinion as fact in her monologue on Dominic Cummings. “The New Pop-up Paper for the 48%” who voted to Remain in the EU, as The New European was originally billed, shares with readers the call to help Emily and a link advising “The online petition can be signed here”. The paper also features four voices in support of Maitlis but not one to say that the BBC should be politically impartial and in this instance was clearly biased.
“Less than 24 hours after Emily Maitlis spoke for people in the UK and spoke truth to power she has been removed from Newsnight. How can it be just and appropriate that a woman is removed for telling the truth, while an unelected man appears bulletproof even after lying and showing no contrition? Her removal tells us so much about the degree of control the government has on our national broadcaster. We have suspected it for a long time. This time it’s hiding in plain sight.Please join me and sign this not just to re instate Emily Maitlis but to also send a message to this and successive governments. You will not silence those brave women and men who choose not to stand by while terrible things happen.”
The main problem with the paper’s report is that Maitlis was not taken off air. “I asked for the night off,” she says. The show was presented by UK editor Katie Razzall instead. But it can’t be that Maitlis spoke off the cuff. TV’s shows are scripted and planned. Razzall said she “wouldn’t have agreed to present the show” if Maitlis had been sidelined. Newsnight editor Esme Wrenn said Maitlis “hasn’t been replaced”. Deputy editor Stewart McLean added: “For the avoidance of doubt, @maitlis has neither ‘been replaced’ nor ‘been taken off air'”.
But how can we be certain? Why not hold a vote and see. A simple in / out choice on whether Dominic Cummings should keep his job and then one if Maitlis should keep hers?
Last Tuesday’s edition of BBC’s Newsnight kicked off with presenter Emily Maitlis telling viewers: “Dominic Cummings broke the rules, the country can see that, and it’s shocked the government cannot.” Boris Johnson’s aide had broken the rules on lockdown by travelling from London to County Durham, said the impartial BBC. For added oomph, the audience was told that the “public mood” was “one of fury, contempt and anguish”. Cummings had made us “feel like fools”.
And there was more. Maitlis went on: “The prime minister knows all this. But despite the resignation of one minister, growing unease from his backbenchers, a dramatic early warning from the polls and a deep national disquiet, Boris Johnson has chosen to ignore it. Tonight we consider what this blind loyalty tells us about the workings of Number 10.”
Problem was that the BBC’s facts were just the BBC’s opinion, which it has sought to clarify in the following statement: “While we believe the programme contained fair, reasonable and rigorous journalism, we feel that we should have done more to make clear the introduction was a summary of the questions we would examine, with all the accompanying evidence, in the rest of the programme. As it was, we believe the introduction we broadcast did not meet our standards of due impartiality.”
Disappointing stuff. Biased news is fake news. Eat yer heart out, Twitter.
Transcript of Newsnight monologue:
“Good evening, Dominic Cummings broke the rules. The country can see that and it’s shocked the Government cannot. The longer minister and the Prime Minister tell us he worked within them, the more angry the response to this scandal is likely to be.
“He was the man remember who always got the public mood – who tagged the lazy label of elite on those who disagreed. He should understand that public mood now – one of fury contempt and anguish. He made those who struggled to keep to the rules feel like fools and has allowed many more to presume they can now flout them.
“The Prime Minister knows all this but despite the resignation of one minister, growing unease from his backbenchers, a dramatic early warning from the polls and a deep national disquiet, Boris Johnson has chosen to ignore it.”
Why not let the facts speak and the people, the very ones Newsnight says are angry, make up their own minds? Does the BBC not trust it’s own audience?
Death, murder and a killing. How do you report on George Floyd, the 46-year-old man filmed telling the policeman kneeling on his neck, “Please, please, please, I can’t breathe”? He had already been handcuffed. Four Minneapolis police officers have been fired and federal authorities are investigating what happened to George Floyd, an unarmed black man who had allegedly used a forged check in a grocery store. What we know is mostly broadcast in this video below. Police say George Floyd resisted arrest:
“Hundreds demand justice in Minneapolis after police killing of George Floyd,” says the Guardian. Mr Floyd was “killed when a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck as he lay on the ground during an arrest”. Does the policeman’s whiteness matter? Was the man killed, a word that suggest it was no accident? Was it murder? Did he “lay” on the ground or was he being pushed into it.
Minneapolis police department says George Floyd “died a short time” after a “medical incident”, after being transported to hospital. He just died. It was passive. “[They] were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and realized that the suspect was suffering a medical distress”. Dutifully, officers “called for an ambulance”. Was this medical incident related to the large, armed man named Derek Chauvin kneeling on his neck? “He physically resisted officers,” MPD said in a statement. “Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress. Officers called for an ambulance. He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center by ambulance where he died a short time later.”
The Daily Mail is no less circumspect, reporting that “footage emerged of a white cop kneeling on the neck of a black man who then passed out and died”. He was not killed. He just died. Al Jazeera agrees, although its headline only identifies the dead man by skin colour: “George Floyd: Black man dies after US police pin him to ground.” It was the “death of a black man” says the BBC. “CHAOS, ” yells the Sun, “Riots erupt in Minneapolis as thousands demand arrest of cops over George Floyd’s death with riot police firing tear gas.” Not a killing. A death that plays second fiddle to the “riots” -of which there were none. There was protest. Given what had occurred and the long, ugly history of African Americans being abused at the hands of white police and the US State, the crowd was remarkably calm.
Who do we fear – the police or the crowd looking on? A policeman is kneeling on a man’s throat. Another policeman stands by them both, watching the crowds for signs of insurrection. The man being pinned to the tarmac is about to breath his last.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports on “The nonviolent incident that led to Floyd’s death”, adding that “a cause of death has not yet been determined”. It’s a mystery. But the coroner may care to take a look around Mr Floyd’s neck area for signs of “non-violent” trauma.
The Washington Post says Mr Floyd “died at the hands of police”. There’s no mention of any underlying health conditions. He didn’t collapse. He was taken down and kept down in brutal fashion. Was his death preventable? That one for the experts.
From one newspaper’s”killing” to another’s “non-violent” incident, the story is packaged and shaped to our tastes and prejudices. We need the facts.