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The summer of 1990 was a particularly hot one, even by Algarve standards. I had sold a lot of the household possessions emanating from a broken relationship, in order to finance the kindling for a NEW one, by accompanying a young lady to Albufeira for a weeks sojourn. Cold 'Sagres; Frango and huge surfer waves rolling in on 'Fisherman's Beach' are just a few of the most enduring memories I have of that holiday.
Alas, on a personal level, true love spectacularly failed to blossom on that occasion. However, what DID bloom was a deep and rewarding love affair with the country of Portugal and its people, some of whom I deem very close and consider as my family, that not only lasts to this day but is an important part of my life. Of course, I am not unique in falling for its charms; several million of my fellow countrymen visit Portugal every year, especially the Algarve.
Since that hot summer I have returned to Portugal many times and visited many places there, and have always been struck by the genuine warmth, integrity, courtesy and generosity of the Portuguese, qualities that I consider to be generic to the race as a whole. I have always admired the respect that they reserve for their elderly and the dignity that they bestow upon them, together with the discipline and respect which they instinctively instil in their young. These are qualities that are often lamented in my own country, the social consequences of which are plain to see by all who choose to inspect the European tables for youth crime, drugs and teenage pregnancies, to name but just a few of the maladies that effect British society.
So when the tragedy that unfolded, concerning a young child named Madeleine McCann, in Praia da Luz on the 3rd May 2007, I was drawn to this case with perhaps a slightly greater initial interest and concern than my fellow countryman. Here was a child from my own nation, missing from a country that I love and which I consider to be my second home.
My own personal concerns and interests in this case have never particularly related to whether the McCann's are innocent or guilty, but rather, why we have a British Press and Government that appears hell bent on TELLING us that the McCann's are inarguably innocent, and doing so in a manner that I consider threatens to seriously taint the very alliance that has existed between our countries for 630 years.
By virtue of the secrecy laws that encapsulate the Portuguese judicial system, this was always only ever going to be a case presented entirely by the media with little or next to no 'official' input, making it impossible to distinguish between what could be factual, fabrication or just plain speculation. From an early stage in the proceedings, however, apparent doubts and suspicions surrounding the McCann's began to surface in the Portuguese press and media, claiming to be citing Pol'ia Judici'ia sources.
Some of these suspicions were picked up on and reprinted in the British newspapers but only ALWAYS with the added clarification that the stories were 'scurrilous lies', 'outrageous allegations' or 'ludicrous claims' and NEVER without the statement from sources/friends close to the McCann's, asserting that it was all hurtful and unhelpful speculation.
Thus, it became an endless cycle of reports and allegations emanating from the Portuguese media, being repeated, ridiculed and rejected by the British media. Of course, we all accept that newspapers, especially the more 'salacious' variety, are prone to occasionally, shall we say, slightly 'modify', exaggerate or perhaps even over elaborate certain stories in order to make them more interesting, readable and saleable. That said, particularly in matters and stories of this nature and gravity, I have always held the belief that the media, especially the Broadsheet variety, would fairly rigorously adhere to the basic principles of professional journalism and at least ensure that their reports are as factually based as was possible. I also believe that to be the tenet that any free speaking Democratic Foreign media organisation would operate by. Consequently, I considered the assertion by anyone that EVERY single report being made in the Portuguese press was a LIE to be preposterous.
What ensued was something of a most bizarre and unprecedented state of affairs, to witness on one side, the Portuguese reporting on the possible complicity of Kate and Gerry McCann in the disappearance of their daughter, with the British Press on the other side not only refuting those claims, but stating that what was being reported was being fabricated. Then, when it became increasingly implausible that the Portuguese media were fabricating what was being reported, the British media decided it must be the Portuguese Authorities themselves who were doing the fabricating!.
Of course, in the absence of any true judicial process it should be rightly deemed heartless to speculate about the loss of a child, particularly if one is to try and imagine how any parent would feel if placed in the same situation. However, what then happened over the ensuing weeks and months was, I believe, unique in the annals of any other case in history and I personally believe that it will form the material for many Media based vocational courses for years to come.
What started as simple rebuking and contending amongst the British press and media quickly grew into a mass, concerted 'war of attrition' against firstly, the Portuguese press and media, followed by the Portuguese Police, its Government and then, finally, its people.
'Useless Porto Plod!', 'Bumbling Portuguese Cops' and 'Lazy, Boozy Porto Police' were just some of the headlines that informed the avid, British public of the progress of this case. Serious and reputable Journalists came out in force to support the McCann's in their ordeal with a reverence that bordered on Canonising in the true sense of the word. Penny Wark of the 'TIMES' treated them with a fawning manner reminiscent of the way the late Diana, Princess of Wales was revered. Every other Broadsheet columnist of note penned pretty much the same story; Madeleine was ABDUCTED, the Portuguese police are ineffective and the parents are living Saints.
Perhaps the worst and most offensive article written appeared in the 'Daily Mirror'. Under the Header 'OH, UP YOURS, SENOR?, Tony Parsons resorts to appalling xenophobic comments and outrageous abuse. He refers to the 'stupid, cruel Portuguese police', adding 'I have never much cared for the convention of calling cops "pigs" or "filth", but I am happy to make an exception'. He goes on to say that the PJ are 'fitting up', the McCann's and advises the Portuguese Ambassador Antonio Santana Carlos to? keep your stupid, sardine-munching mouth shut?. On a Editorial note, I feel his comments would have had more gravitas had he utilised the correct, Portuguese 'SENHOR' in his title, rather than creating even greater, unquestionable outrage by implementing the SPANISH Senor! On a more serious level, I would have to suggest that, had similar comments been made by a journalist, concerning any other race or subject, then I feel the full weight of the Authorities, (acting under the austere legislation surrounding Race Relations and the plethora of new 'Race Hate? crimes that exist in the UK), would have been dispatched to address the offender forthwith.
Indeed, the disgusting words that were printed by the Daily Mirror appear even more hard to believe when you consider that the UK is famous for its 'political correctness?, considered absurd by most people conversant with it, and especially by those that have faced intervention by the police for inadvertently breaching some obscure legislation relating to it.
I positively shudder with shame when I imagine the good and decent people of Portugal, whom Parsons referred to as ?Bumpkins', especially those who took time off from their work places and normal lives to search the ground on their hands on knees, looking for clues regarding the missing girl, using their bare hands.
When Gerry McCann attended the Edinburgh festival in August, on the invite of BBC 'News night' presenter Kirsty Walk, to address TV executives on the Media role in the search for his daughter, I considered this to be a most extraordinary turn of events and indicative of just how much power the McCann's yielded in controlling how this case was being reported and thus, potentially, perceived.
At the same time, The Daytime TV news schedules were, (and still are), often dominated by the case, with 'friends' and family members of the McCann's lining up to praise them. Minor celebrities too, do not hesitate in telling us how the poor McCann's are being treated despicably by the Portuguese press.
Richard Madeley who, with his wife Judy Finnigan host a popular TV program, vilified and abused members of an internet Forum who voiced possible suspicions surrounding the McCann's, calling them ?scum?.
Another daytime 'Queen' of the 'GMTV'news programme and tabloid columnist, Fiona Phillips, displays a regular sycophancy towards the McCann's that positively nauseates, and flies in the face of EVERY journalistic trait. Surprisingly, it has recently been revealed that Phillips was offered a ministerial job by Gordon Brown, also suggesting she was also offered a peerage. Fortunately for British politics, the Prime Minister couldn't match the '400,000 she currently receives for her 'journalistic? qualities.
Vanessa Feltz, tabloid columnist, 'social commentator' and former chat show ?queen' expressed disgust at what she called 'McCann Baiting', lambasting the deplorable Portuguese Press, and their British counterparts who reprinted their stories. These are just a few of the well known faces of British TV that have unquestionably helped to forge opinions amongst the general public, or at least, those members who have neither the interest in formulating their own opinions, or where they have, allowing this constant media barrage to change them.
More worryingly, and with startling regularity, the newspapers and TV stations here have given column inches and time to fill by retired, notable British Police Detectives, including CID detective Mark Williams-Thomas, (who, by happy coincidence now runs a company dealing with media handling and advice for high profile cases), who became a regular partner alongside Sky News's Martin Brunt; Mike Hames, the ex-commander who set up Scotland Yard's paedophilia unit; John Stalker, former Deputy Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police and the wonderfully titled Baron Stevens of Kirkwhelpington, formerly John Stevens, former Head of the Metropolitan Police, now International Security Advisor to the Prime Minister Gordon Brown. ALL renowned, respected, successful high flying career Police Officers whose stupendous collective powers of detection, pretty much came to the same conclusions, albeit to varying degrees, even though they do not, presumably, have the benefit of any more evidence than any one else outside the Pol'ia Judici'ia NAMELY, that Madeleine McCann was abducted and that the Portuguese Police are incompetent. Other high ranking ex-police have stated that the likelihood was the Portuguese were framing the McCann's.
But the real and, in my opinion, truly damaging bias was reserved for the mainstream television channels. Both the BBC and SKY news, in particular, have displayed a most obvious and uncomfortable loyalty to the McCann's, in regular news reporting devoid of any impartiality, the presenters frequently making derogatory comments to each other concerning the Portuguese claims. It was a common occurrence for the studio link to engage in derogatory 'banter' with the at the scene reporter, invariably Martin Brunt in Praia da Luz when he was giving his latest report about the Portuguese police and their progress in the case, or when commenting on some of the stories appearing in the press there. Kay Burley, a predominant Sky News ?anchor?, would frequently roll her eyes, shake her head or ?tut? in disgust and ridicule at Brunt's' revelations, peppering her responses with asides such as 'Poor Kate' or ?How much more can the poor parents bear??
However, what I consider to be the most despicable, incredulous and unprofessional piece of reporting occurred on the 7th September when Kate McCann was made an official Arguido. Both Sky and the BBC, reported throughout the whole day, that Kate had been offered a ?deal? whereby she would receive a reduced prison sentence if she confessed to the accidental killing and subsequent disposal of Madeleine. It would have taken all of 15 minutes for the back room researchers to establish that, for the interviewing police to make such an offer was an impossibility under the constraints of the Portuguese Judicial system. There was no offer of a plea bargain. It had all been "a misunderstanding", the McCann lawyer, Carlos Pinto de Abreu, explained the following day. The quoted ?source? of this scoop, was Gerry McCann's sister Philomena, who revelled in the limelight whilst explaining to all and sundry that this information had been revealed to her over a telephone call with Kate, subsequent to her interrogation.
To this day, this shameful piece of fabricated 'news' is still on virtually every online edition of most British newspaper archives. The truth, however, relating to this ?misunderstanding?, isn't.
Then, on the 10th September, Martin Brunt sombrely stated to Sky News viewers that amongst other samples, a FULL, non-transferable DNA match to Madeleine had been unearthed from the rear boot of the car hired by the McCann's. By this time, GERRY McCann had also been made an Arguido and combined with these new ?developments? there was a curious 'pause' in the Press and Media, a kind of 'shell?'shock that resulted in the media doing nothing more than reporting the facts, such as they were. The McCann's were suspects, and they were back home .
The huge thong of reporters that had awaited there arrival at the airport asked no questions, appearing to me, almost subservient, as Gerry read out a carefully scripted passage, declaring his and Kate's innocence.
Almost seamlessly, the 'Pro McCann' media wagon was back on the road. As more and more information started to surface and be reported on the mainstream TV news, concerning such unpalatable topics as ?Body fluid samples?, 'Cadaver dogs' and 'blood spots', not only did I expect the ludicrous, servile reporting to cease, but I expected the UK Journalists to give at least a modicum of consideration to the possibility of the McCann's complicity in their daughters appearance. After all, 'speculative' Portuguese sources weren't responsible for the apparent evidence in the possession of the Portuguese Authorities.
The Cadaver dogs, that had purportedly detected the 'Scent of Death' were BRITISH, with an impressive track record in the fields of evidence recovery. The DNA samples, recovered from the apartment and the boot of the McCann's hire car had been, and were continuing to be, analysed by the Birmingham FSS, the 'vanguard of forensic science technology that has an unrivalled reputation for the integrity, impartiality and accuracy of its findings?. It was also revealed that BRITISH police who had assisted the Portuguese in the investigation, also apparently concurred with the PJ that Madeleine had probably died on May 3rd.
It crossed my mind at this stage that a huge and collective sense of astonished embarrassment was potentially about to unfold. Here was a nice 'middle class' couple, both Professionals, highly regarded and respectable people who had accrued a huge wave of worldwide public support in the initial stages, (not to mention around '1.3 Million in donations, around '2.5 Million in pledged reward money for information leading to the safe recovery of Madeleine and other undisclosed amounts and contributions, including a private jet to enable the McCann's to more effectively spread their campaign); who had kissed the Papal ring after receiving his personal blessing, met European and other World leaders, accepted an invitation to the Whitehouse, been interviewed on a number of European and American TV stations and had actively taken part in initial discussions designed to launch a new 'Madeleine's Law', aimed at formulating a European database of known Paedophiles. Not to mention cosy, telephone chats with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown who has frequently been known to not only pledge support, but actively become involved in the investigation itself.
At the VERY least, the circumstances now surrounding the McCann's, I surmised, would result in a perceptible retreat by the media that would put an end to what I considered to be the celebrity status to which they had been appointed. In fact, I rather thought that the press would now exact a tortuous revenge and would seek to print anything that was derogatory towards the McCann's, at least to the degree of abuse and invasion of privacy that had been showered earlier on the other Arguido in this case, Robert Murat.
Of course, my country is, and always has been instrumental in maintaining that most basic of human rights, the right of 'Innocent until Proven Guilty', and I personally believed that never to be more appropriate than in this case. I considered it would be neither suitable nor fair for the Media to comment, speculate or assume anything until a fair and judicial process had been undertaken. Certainly, the tales, theories and assumptions being made and propagated on internet Forums had no place in the realms of anyone's National press.
However, to my mind, what occurred with the British media, subsequent to this Arguido status being applied to the McCann's, was every bit as offensive, preposterous, irrational and groundless as the most wildest Conspiracy Theory ANYWHERE on the net. The McCann's arguido status seemed to actually harden the resolve of the entire British media, and Kay Burley was back to her acerbic best, making sniggering asides to Martin Brunt when he reported on the Pol'ia Judici'ia officially handing over the 4,000 pages of prosecution evidence to Judge Frias. Burley feigned mock surprise, stating that she couldn't believe that the Police would miss out on such a 'photo opportunity' to present the pile of boxed documents for the cameras, implying that perhaps the documents weren't quite as substantial and plentiful as was being reported.
Tabloids and Broadsheets alike began producing countless articles explaining how and why Portugal is a haven for paedophiles, especially the Algarve. Column inches were given over to explain how Portugal's 'elite', including Government officials had once been involved in a Lisbon Paedophile ring centering around an orphanage. A Portuguese Investigation into paedophilia, involving a nationwide operation, including the seizing of 150 computers was reported in the UK Press as being an integral part of the McCann case, suggesting that the operation was effected to establish whether any indecent images of Madeleine McCann existed, even though Operation Predator was nothing whatsoever to do with the events that occurred in Praia da Luz. The Daily Mail's Roger Graef explained that Portugal has 'more Paedophile's than it cares to admit'. He goes on to explain that the Portuguese have 'an odd attitude towards underage sex.' erroneously stating the permitted minimum for same age couples.
And just in case we're not getting the picture, 'Dispatches' a Channel 4 Investigative Documentary entitled 'Searching for Madeleine' is endorsed by David Canter a 'Criminal Psychologist? who explains how the alleyways around the Ocean Club apartment where Madeleine went missing, ?provide an ideal rat-run that would be well known to local criminals?. He goes on to point out that the most convincing arguments he had heard for an abduction by a local came from his colleague at Liverpool University, Professor Kevin Browne, (who advises many international agencies including the WHO and UNICEF on child protection) He, apparently, made clear that this quiet village could harbour a number of child abusers who had been released into the community rather than convicted, (adding that Portugal convicts a much smaller proportion of child abusers than some other
SKY News has its own, SPECIAL Investigation: 'Madeleine: The Search For The Truth', which actually searches for no such thing, but does imply that the Portuguese are so inefficient that apparently a British 'expert' in child abduction declined offers for his help in the matter as he didn't want to 'risk his reputation', given the ?mess? made by the Portuguese. Yet another British ex-detective gets his chance to solve the mystery, and concluded that the Portuguese police appear to be ?trying to make a situation fit round a theory so all these bits lock together in order to show them to be guilty?. He goes on to conclude that ?one is left with the only other solution??? which I'm not going to quote verbatim here, suffice to say that it involves ?1 or 2 men?, abuse and an unpleasant ending. Unfortunately, the documentary didn't appear to have sufficient time to include the evidence, nor the reasons for the detective arriving at this conclusion.
ITV took an even more pro-active stance in defending our Kate and Gerry, with ?Tonight with Trevor McDonald: The McCann's, Questions of Evidence?. They interviewed Allan Jamieson, a 'top British forensic scientist', who proceeded to rubbish reports that suggested hair recovered from the McCann's hire car showed evidence of containing traces of sedatives, and had been derived from a corpse. The documentary also featured the irrepressible Mark Williams-Thomas, the former CID Detective and SKY News regular, mentioned previously, and who has been one of the most violent critics of the Portuguese Police investigation of Madeleine McCann's case. He appeared as a 'child protection expert' Mr. Williams also concluded that Madeleine was abducted. Unfortunately, what he failed to mention in this Documentary was that, although his company WT Associates Ltd. is A 'Child Protection and Risk Management Consultancy?, this company also lists amongst its services, 'MEDIA MANAGEMENT, providing media handling and advice for high profile cases', and also 'Design or review organisations media crisis policy'. More importantly, he forgot to mention what he subsequently declared to a Portuguese journalist: that he was ?involved with advising the McCann's, although he did later issue a retraction of this, declaring that 'there are no conflicts of interest?.
Of course, the social commentators, columnists and media people, especially those that have actively and openly supported the McCann's, are wont to say that this case is an appalling 'Trial by Media'. My own, personal, response to that is that the case for the DEFENSE definitely has been by media!
With the appointment of former British Government Director of Media Monitoring Clarence Mitchell as the McCann's spokesman in mid September, (although it's difficult to establish exactly when and how he turned up on the scene in the first instance), it was very quickly made clear in the press that, indeed the Portuguese Authorities and Police had got the case all wrong! Madeleine wasn't dead at all.
Almost immediately, she was spotted in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh by two unrelated witnesses. A further sighting was reported by another Spanish woman, who is convinced she saw Madeleine in the town of Zaio being led by a Moroccan woman in Muslim dress across a street. In yet ANOTHER sighting, in Zinat, the witness not only photographed Madeleine, but took the precaution of only forwarding the photograph to ?lawyers working for the McCann's, thus avoiding those ?incompetent? Portuguese police. The photograph, taken by a Spanish holiday maker, was very widely published. (Proving, if nothing else that the Spanish are surely the most observant, attentive and productive witnesses in the World). Alas, barely 24 hours later, the girl in the photograph was identified as local five-year-old Bushra Binhisa, the daughter of an olive farmer.
Clarence Mitchell commented that the discovery was 'disappointing news'. Presumably not least because it remained in the papers for all of a day, and subsequently might reinforce the notion in some peoples? minds that it couldn't possibly have been Madeleine in the first place.
Still, help was at hand in the form of a NEW suspect to the 'abduction?, 24 hours later. This time, a mysterious Englishman, 'stairwell lurker' observed by an Ocean Club employee to be ?hiding? in a stairwell beneath the McCann's holiday apartment. The employee, who did not want to be named, exclusively told the Mirror: "I'll never forget him?. Alas, everyone else did. Not least because there appeared little to suggest he existed in the first place.
Never mind, another day, another witness. According to the Daily Mail, A nanny who worked at the resort where Madeleine McCann disappeared told detectives she saw a man lurking outside the family's apartment. Or rather, she saw a man's shoe. Which quickly receded when she questioned it. Lurking in the bushes. Oh, and it was in 2006, a YEAR before the McCann's came to Praia da Luz. Still, the nanny thought that the sighting was on a Thursday, the same day of the week when Madeleine would subsequently go missing. Presumably the Portuguese didn't place great significance on this sighting. Which would explain why she went to ' 3', the Private Detectives hired by the McCann's to do the job the Portuguese obviously weren't doing for them. What significance this alleged sighting of an unidentified man has on the McCann case soon becomes clear. According to the nanny, when the man ran out from the shadows, he ?bore a striking resemblance? to the man allegedly seen by Jane Tanner on May 3rd 2007, the ?abductor?, walking away from the family's apartment carrying a child in his arms. In case readers of the Mail were experiencing incredulity and confusion, Clarence Mitchell was on hand to make a clarifying statement:? This nanny's evidence backs up what we have always said, that Madeleine was taken from her bed by an abductor?
The next suspect appeared courtesy of Royal approval. A ?tip off?, sent by e-mail to the official website of Heir Apparent Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales. The email insisted that three-year-old Madeleine was kidnapped from the Mark Warner Ocean Club holiday resort in Portugal by a disgruntled ex-employee. The informant named a maid who was sacked from the apartment complex in Praia da Luz and claimed she snatched the child in a 'crazed revenge plot'.
Clearly this plot was not quite as 'crazed' as the story itself, as, like all the others, it quickly faded into oblivion.
Throughout these 'new' sightings, witnesses, suspects and suppositions, the PJ remained resolute. As they always had done, directly or indirectly they were stating the same, unadulterated points. That they believed Madeleine to be dead and that her parents were in some way responsible. The case appeared to me to be stalemate. The Police by this time were still asserting that they were awaiting further Forensic results from the Birmingham FSS, together with 'Regoratory letters' permitting them to further question members of the now infamous 'Tapas 7', and probably Kate and Gerry McCann also.
Criminal history is littered with cases where the alleged culprit has dispensed with their Defence Lawyer. The McCann's went one better. They dispensed with the Police. And instated their own??
On paper, Metodo 3, the 'elite Spanish Agency' appear ill suited to the task of finding Madeleine McCann, irrespective of whether she is alive or not. They seem to me to be a glorified Debt Collection Agency with positively NO experience of finding missing persons. Still, in late October they are the latest recruits to 'Team McCann', and have their own, unique 24 hour 'hotline' for anyone with any information regarding Madeleine. Or at least, presumably, anyone who had information that for reasons not stated had not already been imparted to the PJ. Which surely can't possibly be anyone. Can it?
Alas, within a day or two of its inception, 3 have received '275 calls with many relating to Morocco?. How they relate or differ to the previous Moroccan sightings isn't explained, but investigators are ?reported to be particularly interested in three calls that gave details of a girl matching Madeleine's description with a middle-class Moroccan woman aged about 60?. Around the same time, Metado 3 release a sketch of a man allegedly seen walking away from the Ocean Club resort carrying a child, as 'witnessed' by McCann party member Jane Tanner. It doesn't explain why this sketch of the abductor differs wildly from the description originally given by Tanner, but given that the Portuguese didn't place much significance on the original sighting anyway, perhaps they didn't feel any explanation necessary. Still, Gerry McCann is happy with it. He writes in his blog: ?We believe this child was Madeleine . . . Someone else may be aware of a man matching this description who has behaved suspiciously at any time since the beginning of May.'
The Moroccan tip offs seem to be paying off, as Metado's 'elite? announced that they were 'closing in' on a farm where Madeleine was being held captive in a lawless Moroccan mountain range notorious for drugs and child trafficking. TEN witness sightings had led them here! Unfortunately, we can only conclude that the lawless child traffickers and drug dealers sneaked out of the back door, because the next big news to develop was by way of that friend to the media, Philomena McCann, who states that 3, have 'extended their search to Saudi Arabia'!! Philomena explains that Metado believe that Madeleine 'may have been snatched by a millionaire paedophile' from Saudi Arabia.' They are searching everywhere for her and Saudi Arabia is the latest destination - we don't know why'. Perhaps Metado's expense account will hold a clue.
However, before our intrepid heroes can unpack their suitcases a NEW sighting has been made . In Medjugorje in BOSNIA!! The witness, an Irishman, (Bosnia presumably not a popular Spanish tourist destination), says 'I got very close to her, right up beside them and was about to speak to the child when the man put his hand over her mouth and shoved her into the car'. And, for added effect, ?"But my blood ran cold when I heard her cry, 'I want my daddy'." Which either explains something about the astuteness of Irishmen or the multi-lingual capabilities of 3 year old Bosnians because in as short a time as it took to identify the Moroccan girl as NOT being Madeleine McCann, the latest sighting is revealed to be 3 year old local, Tea Dedic.
Of this, and other 'sightings' the Portuguese police refuse to comment. Presumably they are still bent over double with mirth. I feel it surely only a question of time before some entrepreneur starts selling 'T' shirts for blonde haired children worldwide, emblazoned 'RELAX, I'm NOT Madeleine!'
As I write this, a few weeks before Christmas, I have scanned the leaders of much of the British tabloid Press. The Star, 'Simply the Best', explains that 3 have narrowed their search down to a 'hit list' of ten paedophiles. It adds that the ' 3 agency are blitzing locations in Europe and Africa to find the known sex offenders?. I can only presume that whoever is footing the bill for this ?elite Spanish Agency? is hoping that they're not expecting a Christmas bonus.
The Sunday Express tells us 'A MAN who looks like Robert Murat tried to climb into the apartment where Madeleine McCann went missing at a time when another child was alone inside'. My suspicions on this are aroused when I see that the 'witness' is a NANNY who worked at the Ocean Club in Praia da Luz!! And that the incident happened 6 Months before the McCann's came to the Algarve! Whether it occurred on a Thursday or not was not made clear.
As in the previous six and a half Months, not one paper, periodical or TV programme gives the slightest consideration to the possibility of the McCann's involvement in the disappearance of their daughter. EXCEPT???????????..
A rather curious documentary that was aired a few days ago. ?Panorama?, the flagship for so many years of the BBC's Current Affairs programmes, and rightly deemed by many in the past to be the epitome of excellence when it comes to Investigative Journalism. Their contribution to this case resulted in a documentary 'Madeleine McCann - separating fact from fiction'. Except it didn't do so. Nor did it explain which was which. It gave a lot of time to an interview with Jane Tanner, without questioning her on the wide ranging discrepancies both in her testament, and that of other witnesses there at the time, therefore allowing her to reiterate that she 'saw' Madeleine being abducted. The programme also included lots of 'private' home footage of the McCann's in the aftermath of losing Madeleine, said to have NEVER been intended for public viewing, except its obvious staging and choreography suggested otherwise. Friend and 'Cameraman' John Corner was also permitted to make a 'Camcorder? snippet towards the end of the programme, accompanied by Gerry McCann at the site of the Ocean Club, showing and explaining how and where the 'abduction' most likely took place. Nothing new here then. EXCEPT?????.. Some rather curious incidental music that punctuated various scenes in the documentary, firstly the theme tune from ?Twin Peaks?, an American award winning serial drama that was hugely popular in the UK, about a young girl who was murdered by her father and whose plastic-wrapped body is found on a river bank and secondly, 'HEROIN' by the 'Velvet Underground'. A rather popular theory doing the rounds of the internet to accompany the PJ's 'sedation' claims. There was also some shots of Pampas grass, which I am reliably informed by those more conversant in such matters, is the plant of choice of 'Swingers' as a means of advertising their adventurous lifestyles to like minded couples. Appropriate given that the documentary also featured former Chief Inspector with the Portuguese Police,
Jose Barra da Costa and his claim on Portuguese television that the McCann's rather enjoyed such practises.
Subliminal messages from the BBC' Wild imagination? Maybe. Perhaps someone at the BBC simply wanted to break the Pro-McCann mould. David Mills, the producer of the Panorama Documentary in question, quit the project before it was transmitted, citing the fact that the programme to be screened did not fit the script that he originally presented. An obvious supporter of the McCann's, he states in his written complaint, ?the programme drips innuendos against the McCann's, it does not put a single challenging question to anyone in the Portuguese Police?. Suffice to say that he believes the PJ to be incompetent, and that Madeleine was abducted.
?You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time?. At least, according to Abraham Lincoln. However, it seems to me that the British Government and the press rather favours a quotation made by George W. Bush: 'You CAN fool some of the people all the time, and those are the ones you want to concentrate on.'
Because anyone who could possibly be fooled into believing that a paltry, inconsequential Spanish detective agency is on the threshold of, not only arresting the culprits involved in abducting Madeleine McCann, (as is now reported in the press on a daily basis), but also presumably recovering the girl herself given that are ?100% Certain? that she is alive; are truly, FOOLS.
But the real question is WHO is doing the fooling?. And WHY?. Are we really supposed to believe that every single editor, producer, commentator, ex-policeman, celebrity and journalist are all singing from the same song sheet, citing opinions, notions and editorial policies that are completely free from external influences?. Are we really expected to believe and share their opinions and conclude that, indeed, not only are the Pol'ia Judici'ia incompetent, bumbling and inadequate, but also that they are deliberately framing the McCann's for crimes that they didn't commit' Are we really duty bound and morally obliged to accept that, not only are the McCann's entirely innocent of any wrong doing whatsoever, but that the whole country of Portugal, its Police, authorities and its people are all scheming, lying, fabricating third world inhabitants, as some of our more ?colourful? commentators have opined'.
Because if that is the case, then those expectations are not going to be fully met. Not by a long shot. Throughout history, the role of the media has played an integral part in influence peoples lives and opinions, especially in times of conflict. Herman Goering once said, 'it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy'
What Goering did not have was the benefit of hindsight, because if he had foreseen the INTERNET, he might have not being quite so adamant with his statements.
In August of this year, the COI, the UK government's communications agency, was reported to be working on a way to monitor what people say about policy on blogs and internet forums. As well they might. There are innumerable Forums, Blogs and discussions on the internet concerning Madeleine McCann. Some of them are pretty ridiculous, providing armchair detectives with a means to voice their theories, a bit like a virtual 'Cluedo'. (?It was Mr. O'Brien in 5a, at 20.45, with the sedatives?). However, the majority DO appear to concur that the case is NOT as is being reported in the Press.
On September 10th a BBC Radio 5 phone-in on the McCann's had to be abandoned after a flood of critical calls. The station was apparently deluged and surprised because of the unexpected degree of anti-McCann feeling voiced by callers. Some newspapers reported this ?abandonment? as having been as a result of callers rebuking the BBC because of holding a debate about a couple who are part of a continuing legal process. That didn't stop innumerable OTHER Radio programmes from subsequently conducting such phone-ins. None ever had to be abandoned however. Any anti-McCann sentiments were dealt with in an entirely different manner. Such callers were simply disconnected, even for asking whether it was acceptable for the McCann's to leave their children alone while they dined in a Restaurant nearby.
And the Leicester Mercury, the journal serving the home Town of the McCann's who had previously raised money for the ?Find Madeleine? fund, had to withdraw a website opinion page that was bombarded with comments deemed unsuitable.
In November, I wrote a letter to the former leader and Home Secretary of the UK Conservative Party, Michael Howard. In the letter, I explained that I was concerned that conflict and potentially irreparable damage was being caused between the two countries concerned, Britain and Portugal, much of which appears to have been effected by the Press and Government of this country. I further questioned the use of the British Government Media Monitoring Unit Director, Clarence Mitchell, as not only a spokesman but as an apparent mentor of sorts; resigning from his Government job and allying himself with the McCann's when they were made Arguidos. I suggested this to be somewhat an unprecedented and unusual state of affairs.
I also explained my concerns that Gordon Brown had not only personally intervened in the case by persuading the Portuguese authorities to permit the McCann's to make an appeal for information concerning the 'abductor', as 'witnessed' by Jane Tanner, (even though the Portuguese placed NO significance or, more likely, credibility in this ?sighting'), but that some factions of the credible Portuguese Press were suggesting that ?Government Pressure? was being brought to bear on the case. Certainly, I considered it inappropriate and unusual for Gordon Brown to have made the personal communications and offered the assistance that he did to the McCann's. Clarence Mitchell himself had already confirmed that he, via the Prime Minister, had been instrumental in not only co-ordinating the visit to the Vatican, but also visits to other world leaders and dignitaries. My letter concluded that I felt it essential that the Prime Minister clarified his position and involvement with regards to the McCann's case.
The response I received was a positive, if not unexpected one, advising me that the letter would be forwarded to the Prime Minister for his comments, which would be communicated to me if and when he made them.
I published my letter on an Internet Forum, inviting any like minded individuals to either use it as a template or to modify it for their own purposes and forward it to their own local, Members of Parliament. A lady from Bristol did just that, and the response that it elicited made headline news, both here and in Portugal.
Piers Merchant, assistant to Member of the European Parliament Roger Knapmann wrote an astonishing and despicable letter that firstly warned the author to be 'careful' of what she writes, referring to the laws of Libel. It then goes on to state, somewhat pompously, that ?One of the first duties of the British government is to support its citizens abroad. It is therefore entirely correct that the government should do this in the case of Kate and Gerry McCann'. He then sensationally declares, 'The Portuguese police and judicial system is known to be suspect. Elements of the police are corrupt and indeed in this case the senior detective involved has been charged with corruption?
He continues; 'The Portuguese judicial system does not assume innocence before guilt in the way the British system does and operates an interrogatory process in which people are denounced as suspects without any proof?. Merchant explains why this shocking state of affairs is so: ?It is important to realise that Portugal has no real history of citizen's rights and liberties or democracy. From the 1920s to the mid 1970's Portugal was ruled by a fascist dictatorship, first under Salazar and then Caetano. Political opposition was repressed and the police and judicial system was used to achieve this. A stable multi-party democracy only came into existence in the late
1970's and is still very young. Many of the police were trained under fascism and the institutions still bear the impact of this long period of dictatorship.?
The letter concludes by stating, 'In all the circumstances it is entirely right that British citizens should be protected against an unreliable foreign system. In any event
I think you can rest assured that the British police and intelligence services have long had a better grip on the facts of this case than the Portuguese police?.
A simpler synopsis is as follows: The Portuguese Police are incompetent, they are trying to frame the McCann's and Kate and Gerry are innocent.
Of course, Knapmann and/or Merchant tried to suggest that the email had been modified or altered in some way. I have the original email's together with their headers and I am entirely satisfied that the response is both genuine and was how it was written. Conversely, it would take all of a minute to establish beyond all doubts the exact response that was made by Merchant, but it requires his computer or his Web Based server to be examined. To date, he has elected not to permit such an examination.
The only positive aspect of this particular debacle was that Prime Minister Gordon Brown was made to deny giving Gerry McCann VIP treatment over his missing daughter. One of the very few occasions when he was forced to make a statement on the case. Of course, given that there isn't another recorded example in history where some poor unfortunate, let alone the official suspects in a missing child case, have been afforded the privileges, opportunities, attention, Ministerial guidance and support shown by the Government and press of this country, it rather makes a mockery of his statement.
As to what really happened at the Ocean Club resort on or around that day in May, perhaps we shall never learn. How this sad case will conclude, IF it ever concludes at all, remains to be seen. Madeleine McCann's disappearance has become, perhaps, the most famous and mysterious missing person case of all time. But it needn't have been. For both the British Police and the Pol'ia Judici'ia are rightly regarded as being amongst the finest crime fighting units in the world.
Whatever crimes that took place involving Madeleine may forever go unsolved.
Whatever crimes that threaten to alienate and divide two countries, whose shared beliefs, mutual respect and loyalty is, since 1373 the oldest alliance in the world, must NOT be allowed to remain unsolved; for the sake of both countries, for Madeleine McCann and for us all.
Spudgun, wherever you are
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I agree Autumn, a brilliant piece by Spudgun. Reading it it made me sad to think - what was so much more important than a little girls life. It is also very scarey but makes me more determined in my view that this little girl will not be forgotten just to suit someone elses agenda.
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