Last night I watched a very sad documentary about the murder of teenager Becky Watts, by her stepbrother and his girlfriend.
Initially 16 year old Becky was reported missing, and at 16 there was every chance that Becky could have been targeted by a predator online, but unlike the case of 3 year old Madeleine McCann, there was no intervention by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection agency.
In fact, all the criticism that has been hurled at the Portuguese police for their handling of Madeleine's disappearance could apply to the British police searching for Becky. The borders weren't closed, the crime scene wasn't sealed off, and a lot of evidence could be said to have been lost.
But there is no criticism, nor should there be, because kids go missing for all sorts of reasons, there is very rarely a need to call for an international search within the first few hours, if at all. Most searches are concentrated on the area where the child disappeared, and for good reason. Not only is stranger abduction 1 in a zillion rare, stealing a child to take out of the country is rarer still. Other than in the case of Madeleine McCann, I have never heard of parents of a missing child taking their search global. In the weeks following Madeleine's disappearance, they were travelling to Morocco and Europe, and Gerry even flew out to Washington. I've never heard of parents of a missing child doing that either.
The parents of poor Becky, were not so proactive. They were devastated. They left the investigation to the police and they co-operated throughout. They didn't have a spokesman, they didn't have teams of lawyers, and they didn't patent their daughter's name and open an online shop. All of which the McCanns achieved within the first 3 weeks, roughly the same amount of time it took for Bristol police to arrest Becky's killers.
The behaviour of the McCanns, was seen as heroic by many, not only were they not going to give up on their daughter, but they were fighting for missing children everywhere. The rest of us (and the PJ) however, were saying WTF?
The favourite reprimand was, and probably still is, 'no-one knows how they would behave in such circumstances'. Well yeh, actually we do, and it wouldn't be like that.
Gerry and Kate are, as we know, mad as hell at the Portuguese police for not finding their missing daughter. The original investigation is described in the British press as bungled and incompetent, a myth invented by Team McCann that took wings. But did the PJ respond any differently to police the world over? I'm going with No, because the majority of children are found within the first few hours and the tabloids would be spattered daily with pictures of kids who forgot what time it was.
As for the crime scene. When the first police arrived Gerry, Kate and their friends had already solved the mystery of Madeleine's disappearance. She had been taken by a stranger abductor who was probably going to take her out of the country. For them, there were no other options, and no optimistic ones either, because Kate wanted a priest.
The father of Becky, wouldn't and couldn't, give up hope that she was still alive, like most of us, he envisaged scenarios where she would be rescued, accepting her death, devastated him. Of course by the following day, Gerry and Kate found that 'hope', but they were still going with the worst thing that could possibly happen, abduction by a stranger, or worse, abduction by paedophiles or people traffickers. No thoughts of finding her with a kindly neighbour, or sleeping under a bush, no grasping at straws that she might be close by.
I can only imagine the reaction of the first police who arrived at the scene, on being told a child had disappeared, how it happened (through the open window) and she had been taken by a stranger abductor. Case solved. 'Now off you go and close the borders, we've got a press conference in the morning'. It would be like a cardiac patient telling Gerry where the left ventricle is.
The mystery of Becky's disappearance quickly unravelled after specialist police dogs discovered tiny traces of blood on the doorframe of Becky's bedroom, barely visible to the eye, someone had tried to clean up, but the dogs found it anyway. Within days the killers were arrested.
In the case of Madeleine McCann, bringing in the specialist dogs also led to a change in direction of the police investigation and the even bigger thorn in the parents' side, the alerts of the blood and cadaver dogs. They have, and probably always will, deny that the dogs alerted to anything - preferring to smear the dogs and their handler, rather than accept their expertise. In any event, it brought the police search for a live Maddie to an end.
No matter what Gerry, Kate and their supporters say about specialist police dogs, time and time again, their findings go on to be proved correct. The McCanns argue 1) there was no blood, or 2) it wasn't Maddie's, 3) if Madeleine had an accident and bled in the apartment, why would that be their fault? 4) people on social media should not be allowed to use the word blood. Amazingly, with the use of the repetitive chant 'there's no evidence', Gerry and Kate were able to convince a large section of society, that the biggest clue as to Madeleine's fate, those barking dogs, was meaningless. That those experienced dogs, with 100% track records, were wrong on this occasion (11 times) is absurd, but that's how easy it is to sell a lie.
More amazingly still, Gerry and Kate managed to convince (that same) large section of society, that they were the victims of an incompetent, third world police force, who were trying to blame them [the parents] so they could get back to their boozy 4 hour lunches. I find it chilling, that Gerry and Kate were able to spread their hatred of the Portuguese police and Goncalo Amaral in particular, throughout the UK. And the glee with which some presenters and journalists latched onto the McCanns' prejudice revealed much about their own characters.
The killers of Becky Watts weren't very clever. They didn't delete their texts, they didn't clean up properly, and they didn't write out timelines so their stories matched. And I doubt they could afford expensive lawyers who would have told them to stop talking
But, more importantly, the loving parents of Becky, didn't undermine the police by contacting the press and launching a publicity campaign. The idea I am sure, would have been hideous to them, as it would, to most parents who have lost a child. The thing is, no matter how hard you try, the actions of Madeleine's parents do not fall within the parameters of 'normal' behaviour, in fact, they were batshit crazy, or should that be crazy like a fox? Taking the search away from PDL, was all part of the strategy. So too, encouraging fruitloops worldwide to jam the police switchboards. Confusion is good, said Gerry.
So what put a halt to the original investigation into Madeleine's disappearance? In the majority of unsolved crimes, when the dogs alert, the police are then on a home run. In this case, the opposite happened, the investigation hit a brick wall. The witnesses stopped co-operating with the police. The case was shelved.
For Team McCann, Madeleine was again alive and findable, and anyone using the words, death, blood or dogs, would find themselves in the dock. Those pesky dogs may have cost Gerry and Kate, the support of the Vatican and a few hundred thousand supporters, but they were able to restart the campaign, as victims, not only of an abductor, but of the Portuguese police and the British press. I always wondered what they said to DCI Redwood or indeed any of the officers from Operation Grange, when asked about the dogs. But, silly me, they were never asked. Not because OG are incompetent, but because the only witnesses who can solve this puzzle have been lawyered up since 2007.
When we look back on this case, and the looking back is not that far away, it will be in wonderment that a small group of people were able to create and perpetuate such an almighty whopper, it's almost as if Goebbels himself lent a helping hand. Many will be squirming, and so they should be, perhaps asking themselves 'was I a fool to believe two British suspects' over a foreign police force?'.
Goncalo Amaral is right, at some point the world will know The Truth of the Lie, and that day is drawing nearer. The recent revelation that the McCanns and the Tapas group have not given further statements to the British police is a game changer, they are clearly not co-operating with the police as we were led to believe.
Looking at the speed with which the killers of Becky Watts were arrested, and the 10+ years that have passed since the disappearance of Madeleine, there is one element that stands out above all others. That is, maybe parents of a missing child should not be encouraged and indeed funded, to create a travelling circus and sabotage a police investigation. Most of course, have the dignity and good taste not to, and there is no need for legislation, this is a one off, lessons have been learned, we hope. Most notably, the difference between a missing child investigation being solved within a month, or one that we are all supposed to call a mystery 10+ years later.