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A very public agony

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A very public agony

Post by Guest on 02.06.11 15:15

A very public agony

One May afternoon in 2007 in Praia da Luz, Portugal, barely 48 hours before their daughter Madeleine disappeared, Kate and Gerry McCann took their three young children down to the beach. It began to rain, and the children were grumpy, but the promise of an ice cream worked its magic.
Kate and the kids sat on a bench as Gerry went over to the shop, about 25 feet away. When he called to Kate to come and give him a hand with the five ice creams, she was "momentarily torn. Would the children be OK on the bench while I nipped over? I hurried across, watching them all the time."

Life as a parent, as anyone with children knows, is crammed with such split-second judgements and (sometimes) misjudgements, so when the McCanns' story hit the press just a couple of days after that afternoon ice cream, parents all over the world caught their breath, recognising the situation. Would we have chosen to eat dinner while our children slept, unguarded, a matter of yards away? Some of us would, some of us wouldn't, but I doubt there is a parent on this earth who hasn't negotiated with their child's safety in similar ways at one time or another.

Kate McCann says her main motive in writing Madeleine was to "give an account of the truth". Given how much false information has been circulated about the family, this impulse to exert a little control excites my full sympathy. One night, exhausted and sad, she switched
on the TV for light relief, only to see a picture of her daughter with the headline "She's dead" as the following day's newspapers were previewed. The McCanns often felt that they were kept in the dark by the police, so, for all she knew, a body could have been found - but time and again, she and Gerry were forced to pick their battles, to shrug off the lorryloads of critical comment, because anything that impeded the search for their daughter had to be ignored.

Much of the comment certainly has been negative. Even now, I am not sure I understand how the McCanns came to be considered as arguidos (named suspects). Although I imagine that the Portuguese police would offer a different version of some of the events described here, no UK official believed that the McCanns were in any way responsible for their daughter's disappearance. That didn't stop the headlines and the hate mail, however, so it seems both understandable that Kate should want to take this opportunity to set the record straight and fair that she should do so.

Yet the book clearly has another reason for existing: Kate wrote it because she knew that there was a market for it. The search for Mad­eleine can continue only if there is money, and all royalties go to the fund set up in her name. With no evidence that their daughter is dead, the McCanns are determined to go on looking. Meanwhile, it's a particularly gruesome limbo they are condemned to inhabit. Kate depicts it here with chilling precision.

Before tragedy struck, this was an ordinary family. Kate tells of her happy Catholic childhood in Liverpool, where her grandad had been "chief clerk for a firm importing nuts and dried fruits". She recalls midnight feasts of pickled onion crisps and dancing to Seventies disco hits. Then came Gerry, youngest in a "boisterous" family of five, growing up in a one-bedroom tenement in Govan. Both he and Kate did well at school and went on to study medicine, she at Dundee and he at Glasgow - which is where, as junior doctors, they met.

These were clearly hard-working and driven young people. Even so, their early married years were tough. There was the hard graft of moving between jobs as he trained in cardiology. She specialised as an anaesthetist, but, wanting more sociable hours, eventually opted to be a GP. Then there was the trying - and failing - to conceive a child. I was startled to read that all three McCann children were IVF babies. Mad­eleine, their first, arrived after many attempts. "Suddenly," Kate writes, "your world revolves around this little bundle, and you don't mind in the slightest."

Madeleine is crammed with clichés of this kind, but I confess that, far from bothering me, they drew me in. Kate McCann is not a writer and makes no claims to be one - the power of her book lies in its straightforward, chatty ordinariness. It is hard, too, not to admire its complete lack of self-pity, bolstered by the McCanns' uncomplicated though sorely tested religious faith. The agony lies in the small, casual detail.

Take how, when friends first suggested a spring holiday in the Algarve, Kate wasn't keen. It seemed like a lot of effort, with three children who were so small - all that equipment to lug around. But, not wanting to spoil things, she came round to the idea. "It was the first in a series of apparently minor decisions I'd give anything to change now."

Another factor was how and where they put their children down to sleep at the resort. The McCanns' apartment was on a corner with easy access from the street. It is now considered likely that someone was keeping an eye on their comings and goings. And it wasn't until a whole year later, when finally they were given access to the police files, that Kate discovered that anyone checking the book at reception would have seen a note stating that the McCann party wished to eat in the tapas restaurant every night because they were leaving young children alone in the apartments and needed to be able to check on them easily.

The story of how Madeleine went missing need not be repeated here, but the book gives us what the press never could: a sense of the misery of that first night and those that followed. The slow breaking of dawn, followed by the sickening job of telling the news to relatives in the UK. Kate's inability to stop banging and bruising her fists on the metal railings of the veranda, "trying to expel the intolerable pain inside me". Gerry breaking down and "roaring like a bull".

The McCanns were soon, and wisely, given access to a trauma specialist, who immediately reassured the couple that they seemed like model parents. "I cannot overstate how much such kind reassurance meant to us at that moment," Kate writes. He explained to them the importance of taking control little by little, "starting with tiny actions as simple as making ourselves a cup of tea".

In fact, kindness and forgiveness - being gentle with yourself in the face of unrelenting shock - is the core, though perhaps unwitting, theme of Kate McCann's book. Her husband was able to shut off his pain for hours at a time in order to deal with the world - something that she admits she occasionally resented. With touching self-awareness, she describes how she could not do the same. She was unable to settle to anything that did not relate directly to finding Madeleine: "I could not even sit down unless it was for a purpose, to eat or to work at the computer."

She conjures a heartbreaking image of the bereft mother, condemned to pace up and down eternally, sniffing for her young. It was two years before she could listen to music or watch television, or allow herself to take pleasure in anything at all without feeling that she was letting her daughter down.

Hugging friends whom she hadn't seen since before Madeleine disappeared, she would find she could "hardly bear to let go", because she knew that the moment she stepped back and saw their faces, she would be reminded of "days spent together with Madeleine". She also says candidly that her sex life with Gerry suffered and that she finally took "a cognitive approach" to getting it back on track.

Years later, even beginning to feel more normal brings its own problems. She worries about what people will think if they see her speaking crossly to her other children in public. Or that, if "people saw me smile or laugh, they'd think it inappropriate". She has a fear that if anyone spots her shopping in Marks & Spencer, they will frown on her "for not going somewhere cheaper like Aldi and putting the pennies saved into Madeleine's fund".

If Kate McCann doesn't feel she deserves to be forgiven, it is striking nevertheless that this is a boldly empathetic and forgiving book. She writes without bitterness about the people whose correspondence goes straight into the "nutty box".

As doctors, she and Gerry have some professional experience of dealing with mental illness, and are not surprised that their tragedy attracts such attention - "within days of Madeleine's disappearance, several people with major psychiatric problems made their way over to Praia da Luz". And although the trauma specialist had warned them that they would lose some good friends (and they did), she is grateful for the "quiet majority". Astonishingly, perhaps, she still believes that "most human beings are inherently good".

Even though I am sure there is a readership for Madeleine, many others will feel free to discuss and comment on the book without having read it. I would urge them to be as kind and non-judgemental as Kate McCann has been. Although she and Gerry come across as remarkably strong - clearly their love for their two remaining children, together with the search for Madeleine, has kept them going - I don't think anyone should underestimate how vulnerable they are.

To endure tragedy of this sort, followed by relentless press attention, leaves you raw, your skin feeling stripped right off. One night almost a year after they lost Madeleine, the couple woke in the night in Leicester to find the whole room shaking. "With the occasional death threat turning up in our morning mail, it is perhaps not surprising that our first instinct was to think we were being attacked."

Thankfully the "attack" turned out to be an earth tremor. You hope for the McCanns' sake that, whether or not they ever discover what happened to their daughter, the agonising rawness - like the tremor - will eventually subside to nothing. l

Kate McCann
Bantam Press, 400pp, £20

Years later, even beginning to feel more normal brings its own problems. She worries about what people will think if they see her speaking crossly to her other children in public. Or that, if "people saw me smile or laugh, they'd think it inappropriate". She has a fear that if anyone spots her shopping in Marks & Spencer, they will frown on her "for not going somewhere cheaper like Aldi and putting the pennies saved into Madeleine's fund".


Kate and the kids sat on a bench as Gerry went over to the shop, about 25 feet away. When he called to Kate to come and give him a hand with the five ice creams, she was "momentarily torn. Would the children be OK on the bench while I nipped over? I hurried across, watching them all the time."

But ok to leave them in an unlocked apartment next to a road, whilst they went out drinking??

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Re: A very public agony

Post by PeterMac on 02.06.11 16:40

Even the earth tremor is fiction.
You can find all earthquakes at
and there isn't one round their area that day
p. 301 "At 1am on Wednesday, 27 February 2008, Gerry and I were woken suddenly from our sleep."

It is more likely to have been the British Geological Survey, who are based at Kegworth, not a million miles from Rothley.



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Re: A very public agony

Post by S_S on 02.06.11 18:37

Oh dear.  You are not awfully good at this research stuff, are you.

Back to the drawing board   

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Re: A very public agony

Post by S_S on 02.06.11 18:39


2008 February 27 00:56:45 UTC

Earthquake Details

  • This event has been reviewed by a seismologist.


  • Wednesday, February 27, 2008 at 00:56:45 UTC
  • Wednesday, February 27, 2008 at 12:56:45 AM at epicenter

53.321°N, 0.314°W
10 km (6.2 miles) set by location program
40 km (25 miles) S of Kingston upon Hull, England, UK
75 km (45 miles) NE of Nottingham, England, UK
80 km (50 miles) E of Sheffield, England, UK
210 km (130 miles) N of LONDON, United Kingdom
horizontal +/- 6.8 km (4.2 miles); depth fixed by location program
NST= 50, Nph= 50, Dmin=291.4 km, Rmss=1.02 sec, Gp= 54°,
M-type=body wave magnitude (Mb), Version=7

  • British Geological Survey, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

  • Report shaking and damage at your location. You can also view a map displaying accumulated data from your report and others.

Earthquake Summary

Felt Reports

One person injured and buildings damaged in Lincolnshire and South Yorkshire. Felt (V) at Barnsley, Bedworth, Beeston and Stapleford, Bentley, Beverley, Bicester, Boston, Brigg, Brighouse, Chesterfield, Chorley, Doncaster, Droitwich, East Retford, Eaton Socon, Failsworth, Grantham, Grimsby, Heywood, Hinckley, Ilkeston, Kingston upon Hull, Leicester, Lincoln, Long Eaton, Loughborough, Mablethorpe and Sutton, Mansfield, Matlock, Melton Mowbray, Mold, Morley, Newark, Rotherham, Scunthorpe, Sheffield, Skegness, Sleaford, Spalding-Pinchbeck, Stamford, Whitefield and Worksop. Felt widely in the United Kingdom, north to Arbroath, southwest to Falmouth-Penryn and east to Great Yarmouth. Also felt at Douglas, Isle of Man; Antwerp, Brussels and Gent, Belgium; Aniche, France; Letterkenny, Ireland and Haarlem, The Netherlands.

Earthquake Maps

Scientific & Technical Information

Additional Information

  • Preliminary Earthquake Report

  • for Seismology, Denver

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Re: A very public agony

Post by Guest on 02.06.11 19:26

They seem to have whooshed the comments on this article which were there earlier.

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Re: A very public agony

Post by WasNew on 03.06.11 0:45

No, not whooshed but you have to press the comments tab to get them. Here they are - sorry for the length of the post.

(The author of the article, Julie Myerson, was the one who used to write that column in the Guardian 'Living with Teenagers'. Once the said teenagers found out it was about them, and that their mother had happily been writing about them and their private affairs the columns had to be pulled from the website to protect the children's privacy.)


02 June 2011 at 10:56The search for Mad­eleine can continue only if there is money, and all royalties go to the fund set up in her name.
I have not seen any evidence of searching! Unless of course you
count Morocco and the likes! Maybe these royalties can be offered to
Scotland Yard to offset some of £3million+ review!


02 June 2011 at 11:07Now that you've mentioned Morocco! Did Kate and Gerry rush
round the areas of those 'credible sightings,' handing out leaflets,
showing Madeleine's photo and asking people if they had seen her? Seems
like the logical and helpful thing to do. But no! They had meetings with
a few dignitaries and accepted flowers from children. So, where did
they search?


02 June 2011 at 13:59'no UK official believed the McCanns were in any way
responsible' Nonsense. What about the Wikileaked embassy document that
stated UK police were 'working up' a case against the McCanns. I wish
journalists would get their facts right.


02 June 2011 at 14:31The UK's best sniffer dogs detected cadaverine on 10 (in
words: TEN) different items/places all belonging or relating solely to
the McCanns.
The various changes in the statements of the Tapas 8 could fill it's own book
The deliberate setting up of Robert Murat by 3 friends of the McCanns should be investigated as well.
The UK media is helping to cover-up the death of a little girl.
You should hang your head in shame for not following up on the released
police records.


02 June 2011 at 15:08The truth will out!! and when it does, I think two parents will take the honourable way out!!!


02 June 2011 at 16:05she panicked about 25 feet for a few seconds in the company
of her husband in broad daylight in public but didn't panic leaving
them alone for half an hour at a time in an unlocked house in the
dark-unbelievable, which most of this book is-as to the author of this
article - kind and non judgemental? you obviously haven't read the way
the author is scathing and almost libellous about some people, totally
innocent people


02 June 2011 at 16:05"It was two years before she could ... allow herself to take
pleasure in anything". Really ? Look at the photo of them coming out
of church on day 8, or jogging, or trotting round the world. Why don't
journalists ask questions any more ?


02 June 2011 at 16:51@petermac, 160.05
Because they don't have integrity.


02 June 2011 at 17:10Everyone - please stop judging these parents - it could
happen to you - no one is prefect!!!!!! only one thing to remember is
poor little Madeleine - she is the one who needs ALL our help, her and
lots of other missing children like her.......


02 June 2011 at 18:24Gillian, I wholeheartedly agree with you. But your words are just falling on deaf ears, I am afraid to say.
Some of these people do nothing but leave me with the impression
that if Madeleine were to be found, it would mean game over for them.
There would be no more criticising the parents and that is definitely
something they don't want to happen.
There again, Kate McCann in her book, probably got it right, they
will move onto another family to hound, harass and stalk. Especially
groups like the Madeleine Foundation.
All these people who proclaim to be such perfect parents -
looking down from their ivory towers whilst posting their vile,
libellous and defamatory remarks - just goes to show there is no such
thing as "the perfect parent".
Because if there was, these people who are so vile to the
McCanns, their friends and family, would show remorse and be thoroughly
ashamed of themselves for posting such hateful remarks on the internet.
Most of all they would beg and pray that their children would never
post such bile on the internet about a person.
Because if their children did post such horrendous things, it just goes to show the kind of upbringing these children have had.
A whole lot of them have forgotten all about Madeleine and the need to find her. Poor child.

tiny susie

02 June 2011 at 18:41although i wish all people well ,someone, or some people need
to own up to this crime,over poor little Madeleine's assumed death,as
that is the conclusion the Portuguese Police have concluded.''Show us
the body and prove we killed her''is what they are reported to have
said.One of the tapas 9 said they would know how to resuscitate a
child,that does not sound like this was any abduction sadly,personally
rather dubious there is any point going mental, looking for a child, who
is already dead, until they tell us how she died, or where she is
placed ,or diposed.This is not being nasty, but these were what they
have been reported to have said,and the police wer challenged to show us
the body,and prove we killed her,,knowing without a body, and never
being told the truth, there would never be any damning evidences,so long
as they never divulged all that really did happen,the book Madeleine is
t truely was ,an account of the truth,but is only an account,but what
the real truth ,,will not be anything, but awful and gruesome, I fear in
my opinion, based on all that they have actually said ,and not even
from the papers,but from tv interviews .....poor Madeleine cowering in a
cupboard Kate looked to see, does not sound like Madeleine was
invisaged by Kate to be ok and certainly none of them should have been
left alone.I don't at all hate these people but think its a real shame
for them being left alone by all the tapas 9 ,its not ok to do this
because its totally unfair cruel and wrong.,in my opinion,Searching for
her remains sadly or how she died should be a key to solving all this
sadly is my truthful opinion,based on all I have seen and heard said,and
by changed statements and odd laughing and strange behaviours, ear
scratching,and odd gestures.Gerry laughed an said ask the dogs,in one
interview but this is no laughing matter about poor little Madeleine,if
she is infact dead and they know it then this needs to be estblished as
the truth if this is the gruesome truth and they need to answer all the
questions put to them by the Portuguese police,surely the very least
they could do to help in the search for the truth,but all the more
suspicious is their reluctance to answer any questions at all apart from
one thet by not answering they were damaging the investigation into
what has become of their poor little daughter.I just don't want to be
misled nor for the general public to be misled and deceived ,The truth
is required and its most unfair on everyone tax paying for the truth to
be covered up,it just won't do in my opinion what ever is truth and
integrity and justice and law abiding oaths,not perverting the course of
justice,honour underoath and integrity please,the truth about Madeleine
please,someone must know if she died in the apartment or not and why
the tapas 9 changed their stories accounts of the alleged truth about


02 June 2011 at 18:48Marosiala and Gillian,
Unfortunately, these people think this is a game of sport. They
relish the fact that they can heap load after load onto these poor
parents. It NEVER has been about Madeleine to them. They use her name as
their mantra, but really their mantra is to harass and stalk this poor
family. They are no better than witch-hunters in the middle-ages. Their
new way to terrorise is through the Web. They have Madeleine in their
Google feeds and anytime there is a positive story about Madeleine or
her parents, they squash it and use their myriad of sock-puppets to post
hateful comments They try to make it look like the world is against the
McCanns': when in fact, many people actually sympathise with them (and
secretly thank God that it isn't them or their family that have had to
go through such a horrible nightmare).
We should feel utter pity for these pathetic soul-less people.
Alas, it's really hard for me to feel any sort of sympathy. All I feel
is contempt for them.


02 June 2011 at 18:51What is wrong with pointing out the innumerous oddities,
discrepancies and clear indications pointing towards the parents instead
of an abductor for which there is no evidence at all?
I have not yet been brainwashed to accept the cult-like mantra
that if you don't believe the parents then you are a nutter or weirdo or
bad person.
Every policeman in the world would get suspicious about the
change in the course of events and statements they dared to dish out at
the police force but at the same time rubbishing them from the evening
of 3rd of May getting their "compatriots" behind them in their superior
feeling of british supremacy. Disgusting and very obvious spin if you
look at it from a less brainwashed country

tiny susie

02 June 2011 at 19:40its most unfair all the wrongly accused victims,and those
who's health and lives have been ruined by all this utter
nonsense.That's a gret awful crime too looking at children who can not
possibly be poor left alone Madeleine and getting funny looks from the
parents,its totally mad mad mad to think we should all be looking for
her when I think about it it is bad for all our sanities,and its wicked
to brain wash us all,I only want to believe the real truth only please,
and so does every decent law abiding citizen,and no more money should be
wasted and squandered a way No one can find madeleine if she is dead as
the police really think for goodness sake,they must have their
reasons,and suspicions and changed stories is a very good reason to
doubt the integrity of those giving changed statements,in other cases it
has finally been concluded that the parents were involved in a death,so
abduction may just be a never ending fairytale and stay out of jail
free card as one lie replaces another and another anad another till we
are all spinning dizzy well,if they are innocent only then can Madeleine
turn up,but if their chaged stories are all lies including six dead
patients for smell of death on Kate's clothes,well somethings lies and
somethings truth but its time the disgusting liars who ever side is
lying covering up told the truth.Personally how can I believe changed
stories how can any one?No being nasty some people are very clever liars
indeed and just like the man who knocked me off my bycycle coming out
of a side street dew diagrams to place me in front of him on the main
road instead pretending I did no right hand signals well he'sa liar who
broke my bones and noes and concussed nearly killed me,well he was a
liar and still will have to live with his guilt for rest of his life,he
also lied to save something his driving licence,I was only 6 stone 3 and
was bullied into silence by the police,but never mind I have one
precious thing I am tellingthe truth I had right of road did my right
hand signal,and he pretended he was not coming out the side street
cutting stright across the main rosd as I did right hand signal and
turned right,but God knows the corruptions and the liars and who gets
away with lies...and he knows all the trickery and con artists and those
who think they are above being found outfor pety thefts sorceries con
letters and deceptions by the bucket load,its a dihonest fraud really to
maime others and leave them to suffer rsest of their lives,and get off
scot free.


02 June 2011 at 20:47Marosiala and Gillian
I do not post vile on the internet. Unlike you I have read
Goncalo Amarals book, I know the dogs alerted to 10 places in the
apartment, hire car, cuddle cat and villa, they didnt alert to any of
the T9 apartments or anywhere else. How can this be? Dirty nappies...I
think not!
There was no sign of a breakin in the apartment! Kate said
herself that the twins could have been sedated but did nothing to get
them tested until they had had haircuts months later!. Why wouldnt they
comply with a reconstruction? Why not answer the PJ questions if you
want your daughter found? Why the text to Gerry from \kates phone but
all calls been deleted from Gerry's phone??
So many contradictions make me think that somebody is lying and I
came to this conclusion myself! . I wouldnt read Kates book as I dont
want to read about her sex life or what might be happening to Madeleines
body as Kate describes!!
Read the facts before you decide I am a nasty, vile person and then make up your own mind.

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Re: A very public agony

Post by lj on 03.06.11 5:25

and they call us nutters .....

"And if Madeleine had hurt herself inside the apartment, why would that be our fault?"  Gerry

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