Eleven years on and the only people brave enough to comment on and indeed question, the ongoing search for missing Madeleine McCann are two people with missing loved ones of their own. No politician, no celebrity with a platform, no newspaper columnist and no breakfast TV presenter. All are united in keeping it zipped when it comes to criticizing the £12m costs and unlimited police resources that have been poured into this one case. And all are gushingly sympathetic to the parents, not for one moment questioning the neglect, their failure to co-operate with the police, or their vendetta against the former police detective.
Suspecting the parents is as taboo as it ever was, those few celebrities who have said anything remotely critical of Gerry and Kate, have quickly seen their careers nosedive. We have been living a twilight zone, where we all have to play an elongated game of pretend with the parents as innocent victims of the corrupt Portuguese justice system. No-one dare ask why the Madeleine case continues to get special treatment and why funds for her search are seemingly limitless. Kerry Needham was right to point out the vast difference in the way Madeleine's disappearance has been treated, and the father of a man missing since 2015, complained that he and many others with missing family members are told by the police nothing more can be done. Kerry and Paul, are probably the only people able to ask these questions, without being stamped on by the McCann media monitoring machine. With family members missing themselves, they are above reproach.
The same can't be said of the media and members of the public who are freethinking enough to opt out of the game of pretend. Any sign of dissent is struck down with great vengeance and furious anger, no newspaper or broadcaster can look beyond the headlines for fear of being labelled as 'haters'. A nasty little word that crept into our lexicon in 2007, commonly used by those without answers, explanations or the ability to debate.
I happen not to believe Scotland Yard and Operation Grange are part of some great big scam to cover up the crimes of the guilty. I also happen to think they are operating under Portugal's laws of judicial secrecy. It is often forgotten that the Portuguese have the lead in this case and it is up to them to prosecute, or not. The 'or not' isn't an option. Those of us who have been around a while will remember how stubbornly the PJ refused to re-open their files. They were insistent that there had to be new evidence and they were not playing games.
Several years ago, Alison Saunders, the outgoing head of the CPS travelled to Lisbon for talks with her Portuguese counterpart. Both must have agreed the investigations were worth pursuing and both must have agreed on the role the British police would play. Even if the British police say absolutely nothing about their investigation and their findings, all will be revealed when the Portuguese police files become public.
Moving on from the recurring cover up argument, I see the McCanns, via a pal, have 'hit back' at the armchair detectives. They seem to have completely forgotten those biblical passages that urge the turning of the other cheek. Every politician, every celebrity, every comedian and indeed, every writer, knows the golden rule about not attacking your audience. Even if you are right, dead right, you should never do it. I'm sure there are many celebrities who would like to say 'listen you bastards' to journalists, photographers and members of the public, but those who do can be found in the 'where are they now' section of YouTube. Telling people exactly what you think of them gives only momentary satisfaction, but the damage can last a lifetime.
I am astonished that the McCanns have not yet taken in the concept of the Streisand Effect. Simply mentioning the 'armchair detectives' draws attention to them. It goes without saying that most can be written off as barmy, but those tempted to look beyond the headlines will find Goncalo Amaral's book. It's as if the parents themselves want to stay in the news, and they want people to read all that's out there, even the bad stuff! The Truth of the Lie was on sale for a year before they took legal action. Cynics might say the bigger the audience, the bigger the payout. Other cynics might say, any case against them is prejudiced by the publicity this case has received. Ergo, there can be no trial.
I think however they were referring specifically to Colin Sutton, the ex-detective who has stuck his head above the parapet to share his expertise. Calling him an armchair detective is probably a 9/10 on the miaow scale, up there with 'who is he'. Colin Sutton was of course an actual detective, but putting him alongside Bennett and Hall degrades him. Among all their critics they dislike real detectives the most.
The pal also added how thankful Gerry and Kate were to the police, and described SY as the world's finest. Thereby putting aside all and any rumours that they might be suspects. As it is approaching 7 years and no progress, I can't help but think there was a touch of irony in there. Gerry and Kate still believe Madeleine is alive and findable, not surprising, but so too do the detectives which is surprising.
Meanwhile, I can't help but wonder if the McCann media machine, opts for controversial statements in the hope of getting more column inches, if not the front page. Why say something positive when something negative is more newsworthy. Unfortunately, their whole campaign went downhill when it turned negative. There are so many things the McCanns could and should have said over the years to keep their supporters onside, instead they are always 'hitting back' or incandescent with rage. Confident people don't do that, or if they do, they do it in a way that ends the argument.
Until this case reaches a conclusion, it will always be open for discussion by armchair detectives. That's what happens with high profile crimes. See OJ Simpson and Michael Jackson's doctor. The McCanns are victims of a heinous crime, or not, but they are the ones who worked so hard to make their case so famous. If this were a reality TV show, they would be applauded for keeping the ratings high. Unfortunately, all they have to lash out at for the moment, is internet trolls and armchair detectives. Their vendetta against Goncalo Amaral has a hit a brick wall. They lost. And they daren't criticize the British police because they want to appear as if they are working with and alongside them. Awkward.
The case won't and can't, end without each investigation, British and Portuguese, reaching a conclusion. Both are financed with taxpayers money and accountable to the public. Whilst the British police might hold back on the information they give to the public, the Portuguese won't.