Saturday, 4 December 2010

A Lack of Proportion

John Blacksmith writes: The Madeleine McCann affair falls into four parts to date. First, the disappearance of the child and the subsequent investigation until the McCanns were constituted arguidos in early September 2007; next the flight of the parents and the powerful public and legal campaign in their favour financed by the fund and rich well-wishers, ending in the admission of defeat by the PJ in April 2008 and the subsequent formality of the archiving process; then a period of apparent vindication and retrenchment by the parents brought to an end by Goncalo Amaral’s provocative attack on them in his book and by their decision to sue; finally the flurry of publicity, petitions and the new book announcement, all flowing from the Portuguese appeal court decision.

Distance lends perspective.

The first phase – the search for the child

In retrospect we can see that the famous “search for the child” was effectively over by the end of August 2007 and has never been resumed. The death-knell for Madeleine McCann was sounded not by Goncalo Amaral or his team but by the severely intellectual head of the PJ Alipio Ribeiro, who made it clear during the summer that the inquiry was concentrating on “pure investigation” and analysis of existing data rather than branching out to follow wider leads. No such leads existed and none exist to this day: the enquiry had returned, full-circle, to those known to be present in the Ocean Club on the night of May 3.

The media carnival, so noisy, melodramatic and self-important at the time, has vanished into insignificance, reminiscent of those weighty obituaries of one of their own by newsmen and broadcasters to an indifferent public before they are forgotten for ever. There is general agreement that it was initiated by the McCann family but it is doubtful if it was a critical factor: if decisive forensic evidence had been found to incriminate the McCanns, or forensic traces of an outsider to exonerate them, then no media campaign at that time – in contrast to their defence campaign from the safety of England - would have made any difference to their fate.

No evidence of improper protection of the parents by UK authorities has emerged. The content of the famous foreign office cables is fairly easy to infer, Ribeiro himself denied the claim that Ambassador Buck had in any way intimidated him early in the case and Clarence Mitchell’s absurd and Pooterish hints that he was an arm of the British government have been refuted in previous posts on here.

All the evidence suggests that the Labour government was comfortable in immediately smearing the KY of synthetic “we are suffering with you Maddie” popular sentiment all over the body of the case, prompted by the maladroit Gordon Brown’s hopeless attempt to match the tears for Princess Diana so effortlessly shed by Tony Blair.

The vexed question of why the parents and their friends chose to act independently of the police from the start remains unanswered. The retrospective justification is, of course, (in Glasgow-speak) that the Portuguese police were bluddy useless, didn’t have a clue etc, third world etc, etc. But that couldn’t have been the reason since the two crucial steps - the decision to brief the McCann friends and family on police shortcomings and the outright refusal to abide by the police “no media” instruction - were taken before the police performance could possibly have been assessed as bad or good, in the early hours of May 4. Since the parents were confined to the apartment block for that period they could have had no personal knowledge of either the form or quality of the wider search and thus no evidence to base a decision on.

It remains incomprehensible that the parents could have taken such a grave and critical step – which, according to current police doctrine, would obviously put the child’s life at risk - on such flimsy or non-existent grounds. There is no avoiding the stark reality: “obviously put the child’s life at risk” [at the hands of a panicking abductor] means just that - the McCanns’ refusal to co-operate with the police on Day One may well have been a death sentence for Madeleine McCann.

The only possible excuse for their actions lies in stress-induced bad and panicky decision taking. But that in itself raises difficult questions, since embarking so prematurely and wilfully on a course with potentially fatal consequences for their own daughter takes us into the murky question of character. One interpretation of the last three and a half years is that the McCanns really are totally innocent victims of an abductor but their personalities are so odious and selfish, their decisions so utterly and malignantly wrong throughout their ordeal, that they have brought dislike, contempt and unwarranted suspicion down onto themselves.More The Bureau.

but their personalities are so odious and selfish

Shurely shome mishtake?