I don't believe there can be any worse pain than losing a child, and like everyone else, my heart ached for the parents of Madeleine McCann, a sweet little girl, not yet 4, who mysteriously vanished while enjoying a family holiday in Portugal.
I was not without sympathy, but as an eternal student of psychology, media and human behaviour, I had questions, hundreds of them - but for some reason asking them, elicited such venomous abuse, that I began to think, curiosity did indeed kill the cat.
Within hours of the child going missing the parents demanded a priest, a press agent and a crisis management team. Before dawn broke on that morning of 4th May, we were being told that the apartment had been broken into and the child had been taken by an abductor. By the time it had been established that there was no break in, the story had been spread globally, and sympathy and cash began to pour in.
However, over the past year or so, there has been an air of change. Newspaper magnates and prime ministers have been called to give evidence before Public Enquiries, into the sleazy operating practices of certain branches of the press. Even those who restrict their reading to headlines, page 3 and celebrity trivia, cannot fail to have picked up on the Levenson Enquiry, the loss of their favourite Sunday paper, and the fact that there is something very remiss about the way in which news is reported. Never underestimate the power of spin.
We could of course argue points about this case until the cows come home, the total of the Tapas bar bill, the distance between the restaurant and the apartment, the 6 minute window of opportunity, etc, etc, but as many have have said, it has been done to death.
I am not a hater, nor a forker, nor a hounder, I don't wish to add to the parents' pain by criticising their parenting, only to say that I wish they had used their tragedy as a warning to others. I have no idea what happened to Madeleine, no doubt time will tell. Though 5 years on, I dare not say, I think Madeleine is no longer with us, because the result would be a long sojourn in Holloway.
I do however, object to the use of money donated by compassionate people who cared only for the fate of missing, vulnerable child, being used to gag newspapers and individuals who dare to ask questions.
Of course, I do not know if The Fund is used for legal fees. It may well be that all these expert, extradition and libel lawyers in the UK and Portugal work for nothing. And if they do, I hope that Goncalo Amaral and Tony Bennett, use this fact when their own cases come to trial.
Meanwhile, I cannot help but wonder, why the McCanns set up a Fund within days of their daughter disappearing? What was the need for it? The police and the people of Portugual had instigated the largest missing child search in its history and the iconic image of Madeleine was a global phenomenon.
Though not a registered Charity, The Madeleine Fund received millions in donations from well wishers all over the world. Without charitable status, the Fund could remain dedicated to the search for one child and the support of her family. We were invited to put cash in envelopes and simply address them to Kate and Gerry, Rothley.
Without charitable status, the Fund is not required to produce transparent accounts, nor does it. We are told all donations go towards the search for Madeleine, and we must believe this without question, though the only accounts available show the actual amount used for the search was 13%. The rest, presumably, comes under sundries, including an incredible £37,000 to set up a website.
Fortunately for the McCanns they have Carter Ruck, the most prominent (and expensive?) libel lawyers in the world, acting on their behalf and through them and a series of libel trials against newspapers, they were able to add to their coffers , and crush all, but a few dissenting voices.
The stories surrounding the disappearance of Madeleine may be old hat for those of us who use the internet and the message boards, but for most of the British public, they are unknown and unseen. The accounts published in the main stream press have been read, censored and approved by Team McCann and highly paid lawyers with an agenda. And yes, Carter Ruck do indeed have a team of lawyers dedicated to reading internet forums, would you believe.
Criticising or even questioning the McCanns and their unique form of parenting is now a criminal offence, and at least one British citizen is facing prison. There are several ongoing libel actions in this case, one of the main ones against the lead detective Goncala Amaral begins on the 13th of this month. The McCanns demanded that his book The Truth of The Lie (available in English on the net) be banned. Initially it was, but the book burning frenzy was overruled by the Appeal Court and the Supreme Court and it is now back on sale. However, the McCanns are proceeding to seek damages in the sum of £1.2m.
For me this case evolved into an issue of free speech, a subject I care about passionately, the burning of books especially. We have learned this past year, about Super Injunctions, ways in which those who are rich and powerful enough, can manipulate the law to cover often unpalatable truths. And those of us who care about Freedom of Speech are all too well aware of totalitarian societies where free and independent news reports are forbidden by law. We must never allow that to happen here.
For those out there willing to dip a paw, like the proverbial curious cat, there is much more to this case than meets the eye. You may be surprised to see that the 'haters on the net' that the McCanns refer to, are no more than interested observers who discuss this case in a civil, moderated environment. Abuse and libel is strictly prohibited. I would suggest you look at the 'pro' sites too, JATYK2 is a good starting point, however, don't give your name, because on sites such as these, abuse is positively encouraged.
It may well be that the McCanns have enough in the kitty to sue everyone, but if you have read this far, I can only urge you to dig a little deeper and ask why the McCanns need more money and why the details of this case can never be revealed.