Monday, 18 March 2019

Madeleine McCann is sixteen.

I just finished the Netflix docu on Madeleine McCann. First thing; it's a must see. I'm not buying into that it's a pointless exploitative exercise in tragedy entertainment bringing nothing new to the table; just some of several TV critics' opinions.

The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann is eight hours long for a good reason; there's a lot hanging on tiny details which as you grasp the significance of could change your point of view entirely. It's a brave narrative that takes you down a familiar story and then just before you turn it off thinking you've heard it all before, it slaps you with your predictable conclusion, illustrating how difficult honest detective work must be. A fact is not a fact until other facts corroborate it, but those fact-facts have to be ruthlessly examined too. 

A very troubling revelation is the number of similar crimes that occurred in the Algarve before the McCanns went there and the obvious reasons why tourists never knew of these but plenty of officials did. We too took our children to the Algarve several years in a row back then and did the same things for the same reasons the McCanns and the Tapas 7 did. In my experience parents who struggle to conceive as the McCanns did with five years of IVF for Madeleine are usually not cavalier with the Calpol or casual about security, they're generally the opposite. The issue of sedatives is illustrative. There's no evidence for it. All the critiques of the McCann's parenting choices comes with hindsight. I know the Ocean Club and all the family videos and contemporaneous photographs submitted in case there was a hidden clue are indistinguishable from my own. While the quantity of familiar news footage used is substantial, it is not repeated over and over as tragedy porn but that repetition serves to contradict something just laid before you. The lingering beauty shots of a crime scene says more to me that in this paradise of the 'beach of light' lies a lot of unsavoury business hiding in plain sight. 

It gradually dawns on you that the tragedy of this story is not only did the McCanns lose their child, we have lost crucial time that could have saved many other children as well as Madeleine.

Overall the series is very sympathetic to the McCanns so it's entirely to their credit they refused to take part. They had no idea how it would turn out and so, on the balance of probabilities, - something which has determined everything in this case -  they wisely chose not to be interviewed. However this is presented as proof by the critics that this film is not worth your attention. Umm, a perfect illustration of the issues that have dogged this case. 

The McCanns outward 'presentation' of themselves - and the other arguidos - to the media is forensically examined as this evidently has influenced people in the media and so public opinion. What's tragic for Madeleine is how that public opinion shaped the course of the investigation. Many people evidently think Kate McCann is a cold-hearted bitch and Gerry is controlling gas-lighting monster, therefore they're hiding something. I think now what they're hiding is an appalling fear of losing a normal life for their family and their privacy and it's entirely plausible that the only person they need to present their feelings to is Madeline and her abductors. Somebody else knows what happened to Madeleine after that night and they are probably watching. The justice system of two developed nations is as certain as it can be that it isn't anyone close to Madeline. 

Though I don't remember it being in the film, much is made elsewhere that Kate McCann refused to answer the questions put to her when she was interviewed as an arguido though the hostility of the police is dramatised. If you read those questions now, one gets the impression the police had already made up their minds it was the parents' fault. The police were not interested in finding Madeleine, they were looking for a murderer, without a body to prove there had been one.  

There's a lot of new stuff and since it has been almost 12 years we might wonder what the McCanns have been doing lately? Spoiler alert: it's a shocking revelation that they were being exploited by several con men which has only hampered things more, but those crimes eventually persuaded Scotland Yard to pick up the ball that Portugal dropped. 

A crucial point that many of the critics and picture editors of their outlets have missed is that Madeleine is now 16 years old, yet pictures of her as a three year old are constantly being republished. An expertly created 'aged' photo of her likely appearance now should be the one that illustrates her story now; if the media are to defend their interest and serve the cause of finding Madeleine. 

I surmise on my own that Gerry and Kate must have had to play hardball to coerce cooperation from the government and media having been let down so many times before. However if they've used any advantage they have to do this; wouldn't you? Hardball is not the easy option either, it takes energy and stamina. They have to walk on an impossible precipice to keep engagement with the media so that attention remains on finding Madeleine without becoming professional victims, on speed-dial for journalists for a quote - ideally emotive - after every development or in every instance of a similar tragedy. 

The fourth estate comes off very badly how it hampered the investigation. I know the mentality of the press pack far too well and make no apologies for it; the plough has to go deep to break the soil.  The seismic shift happening with social media at this time undoubtedly whipped the authorities in Portugal to chase their own tails. There's only some redemption that a few journalists have exposed the scale of the problem of human trafficking in Portugal, massive because of its geography; a poor country between the first and third world. Politics and diplomatic relations played a part too, negatively at first. 

We've heard a lot about international paedophile rings operating in the upper echelons of power (Savile, Wonderland, et al) and it's very troubling that Portugal was once Europe's Cambodia for paedophile sex tourists so reputation management was the government's priority. Who were the rich Americans that used to fly there when Portugal was under the Salazar dictatorship? 

Were I concerned by it I might criticise the approach of the documentary filming but it reflects well the truth that the bright playful outdoor sunshine in the Algarve is often contrasted with the cool, even cold, dark interiors of Algarve houses. Were touches like the military jacket of the investigative journalist accidental or by design?  

What parents of missing children talk about in the film is having closure and anyone who's suffered an unexplained loss of a loved one knows that until you close the open wound in your heart with an explanation, it will cause constant unbearable pain. I've swung from ambivalent to wholly supportive to the McCanns, for any focus on finding Madeleine will bring about the protection and rescue of many children now and in the future, and closure for many parents too. Do not let any disdain for the McCanns for any reason prevent that.


It is the exposure of this trade and the capture of its suppliers and customers that offers the best chance of finding Madeleine. The film makes a good case that Madeleine was stolen to order. There is hope; many abducted children held captive for decades have been since found. Therefore please watch the films and then decide are we doing enough?

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