Even as the biggest missing child search in Portuguese history began, the McCanns and their friends were frantically phoning the UK, pleading that no-one was helping them and as British citizens they were demanding all the diplomatic assistance the UK could offer. These frantic demands and condemnation of the third world they found themselves in, were not the result of hours, days or even weeks of lethargy on the party of the Portuguese. These phone calls were being made immediately following the alarm being raised. That is, while the police, the staff from Warners, the local people and holidaymakers were frantically leaving no stone unturned in the immediate vicinity. At a time when Madeleine could have been lying injured under a bush.
The decision not to trust or listen to the local police seems to have been made the night Madeleine disappeared and the negative campaign began straight away. The Portuguese police were to take the brunt of the blame even before they arrived.
Gerry and his friends took control of the investigation that very same night. As the police advised them not to contact the press, they were running off pictures of toddler Maddie in her Christmas party frock and handing them out to passers by. Don't mention Maddie's distinctive eye warned the Portuguese police, 'but it's a good marketing ploy' whined Gerry, and went ahead with his LOQK FOR ME campaign anyway.
Fascinating to observe, I have to say, never in my entire life have I seen suspects in a major crime launch and manage a separate investigation to the police. An investigation supported by their government and paid for with public donations. So unique and bizarre is this case, that I am still here nearly 8 years on.
On 9th May 2007, John McCann, Gerry's effervescent big bro, appeared on Sky News, bursting with pride for his proactive family and the way in which they had taken control, though to be fair, he graciously acknowledged that if the Portuguese police could work with them, that would be sort of be OK, but they were going to do it anyway. They had captured Britain's good old wartime spirit, it was us against them and all the little Englanders and closet racists were more than happy to hop onboard with a barrage of sardine munching insults and mocking of the European lifestyle.
On 22nd May 2007, while the official Portuguese investigation was very much underway, the public were being asked to send their holiday pictures to CEOP and Jim Gamble, and the NPIA were asking for anyone with information to contact them. The official police meanwhile, the Police Judiciary (PJ) were being inundated with thousands of sightings of little blond girls all over the globe by nutters stirred up by the excitement created by Team McCann. Even the press were joining in, helpfully pushing Robert Murat forward as a suspect. There were many things the PJ could have done better, and they have acknowledged that, but in fairness, they were also being sent on hundreds of wild goose chases and the main witnesses were not co-operating. They were too busy running their own investigation.
|Phew, not arguidos anymore|
Are there any lessons to be learned? Hell yeh. Should parents of a missing child be allowed to conduct their own investigation, in Portugal or indeed, here in the UK. Well yes, of course they should, I don't believe in banning anything. Should they be supported by their government and public money to continue such a charade is another question altogether. Nearly 8 years on this case still remains unsolved.