On my last blog a poster commented that there was a history of child trafficking in Portugal and Europe. This surprised me because in all the years I have watched the Madeleine mystery, I have never heard of any child trafficking rings being raided or arrested. Significantly, I have never heard of any missing children being rescued from child traffickers.
The McCanns blame the Portuguese police for not responding quickly enough and for not closing the borders, sea ports and beaches presumably. Why their first thought was that she was being taken out of Portugal is bizarre, sadly most stolen children are found close to where they were taken and not alive. Travelling with an abducted child would be an absolute nightmare, especially a near 4 year old who could blurt out anything. Abductors of children and adults, ‘get rid of’ their hostages as soon possible for fear of being caught.
Strangely on the night of Madeleine’s abduction, the McCanns were already focused on taking the search away from PDL, statistically the most likely place Madeleine would be found, and where the police and volunteers were already out searching. The idea that Madeleine may have been taken to another country may have been comforting for the parents, but it is not realistic. It simply never happens. Couples desperate to adopt a child have limitless legal means to do so, and let’s not forget, Madeleine was sharing a room with two babies, a boy and a girl, why would a potential adopter push past the babies to reach the 4 year old?
The astonishing part of this (imaginary) happy ever after fairy tale, is the fact that the government, the British police and the media ran with it. That such an abduction has never happened before in the history of the world, was brushed aside as the search for Madeleine went global. Jim Gamble and CEOP even released an aged progressed 'Asian' Madeleine. And in the early days, an innocent Moroccan family were targeted simply because their small daughter had blonde hair. As if a poor and struggling family in Morocco could or would sponsor an international crime to acquire another mouth to feed. But the McCanns were selling and the papers were buying, pouncing on an innocent Moroccan family may have been ludicrous, but it sold papers.
The Portuguese Authorities approached the investigation with calm and logic. Most missing children turn up safe and sound. The parents, not unnaturally, were frantic, as any parents in such a situation would be, but their unwillingness to leave it to the professionals, simply added more suspicion. We can only imagine the astonishment of Goncalo Amaral and his team watching Gerry and Kate visit the Pope and tour Europe.
Making the search for Madeleine global, was of course a masterstroke in marketing, and unique, most parents of abducted children don't claim they have been taken out of the country. Madeleine, bless her, was special I'm sure, but no child is special enough for someone to arrange an international kidnap. She was too old to blend into an existing family, and too recognisable to be seen in public. None of which would have been a problem if they had taken one of the babies.
I can understand why people would want to comfort the parents by agreeing that their hopes of rescuing Madeleine are feasible, but is it really a good idea to feed an obvious delusion? And what kind of sick minds came up with an image of Madeleine with brown skin?
There were of course a lot of benefits in taking the search for Madeleine worldwide. Not least it distracted from the actual search in PDL and jammed the police switchboards. But it also boosted the Fund. I believe they received over 50m hits in the first few days. The idea that Madeleine could so easily have been shipped away, took hold as they visited Morocco (why?), and Kate, or one of her relatives, had a vision of a boat.
Unfortunately, every abduction theory leads eventually to the ludicrous. An organised international kidnap? Seriously? A random opportunist? body would have been found. Burglar? Among the more ridiculous and from SY to boot. A Gang? Would the police, both Portuguese and British allow them to carry on for 11 years uninterrupted? An adoptive family? Given the publicity, there was never any hope of a normal life. A monster with a basement? Dear God, let's hope not.
It is very unlikely that poor Madeleine ever left PDL, even if she had been taken by an abductor. Yet Gerry and Kate never searched the area around them. Looking back at the campaigns of Gerry and Kate, even from the earliest days, they have taken their search everywhere but Portugal, yet it is the last place they saw their child.
It is hard not to be cynical about the parents motives for taking the search for Madeleine worldwide. It was an almighty distraction, not only to the search in PDL, but also to the tricky issue of the child neglect and the suspicions of the Portuguese police. How could these parents who were working so hard to publicise their daughter's disappearance, possibly be involved? It is assumed that the guilty hide away lest they be caught, but often the opposite happens, they, like the lady, doth protest too much.
Without knowing the fate of their daughter, they embraced the cause of missing children worldwide, especially in the USA where the huge NCMEC has it's own TV network and specialist centre for tracking down missing children. It's TV host, John Walsh, the father of a child taken and murdered many years ago. CEOP by comparison, were the poor relations, but I'm pretty sure Mr. Gamble had big plans for it. For whatever reason, the non charismatic JG thinks he's great on the telly, and would have had a permanent spot, with good public speaker, hmm, Gerry in the John Walsh role.
Children in reality, very rarely get abducted, and the best source for that statement is Wiki's list of global kidnappings. If abduction is rare, taking a child across borders is rarer still, it has simply never happened. The parents were miffed because the PJ simply wouldn't support their bizarre appeals in countries all over Europe. John McCann said in an interview, they would continue their private investigation, but are happy if the police wanted to join them. I'm trying to think where that would come on an arrogance scale, but the summer of 2007 was a summer of madness and it has much to compete with.
Those of us unfortunate enough to become entrapped by this mystery, remember all too well the hysteria and lunacy this high profile crime unleashed. The idea that Madeleine could be found literally anywhere in the world caught on. Week in, week out, the tabloids ran stories about sightings, in fact the sightings continued for years, right up until Scotland Yard opened Operation Grange, and they stopped. So too did the appeals and so too the fundraising. It would of course, be disrespectful to the British police to act independently of them whilst a live investigation is underway, but they had no qualms about doing it to the PJ. They held press conferences, they put out appeals, they staged faux police briefings. Clarence was always with them, but never a serving or even ex, police officer from the PJ endorsing them.
John McCann gave a lot away in a self congratulatory interview, though many of us didn't realise it at the time. He confirmed, with glee it must be said, that not only had Team McCann gone rogue, but they expected the PJ to praise them for it, a tick in the 'shows initiative box'. The McCanns had already decided that the PJ weren't up to the job, so they would do it themselves.
Bizarrely, the McCanns conducting their own investigation, never attracted the comment it should have. Instead of being criticised for taking the law into their hands, they were praised by the British establishment and media as heroic. As if suspects looking for a stranger to pin the crime on, and not co-operating with the police, was the most the natural thing the world, rather than the obstruction of justice that it was.
There was never any real possibility that Madeleine had been taken out of PDL, but the idea that she might have been, sold millions of newspapers and planted an irrational fear among the public, that will never go away. The case of missing Madeleine has demonstrated just how rare child abduction is, if anything it proved there was no necessity for a specialised team of child rescuers on standby should such a similar abduction occur in the future. A dream of Jim Gamble, who is sure he could have done so much more.
Making Madeleine's search global was a major achievement for the marketing arm of Team McCann. They somehow convinced the watching world that they too should be looking for Madeleine, even if they lived thousands of miles and several continents away. Holiday makers were urged to put up posters wherever they travelled, and the truly devoted bought holiday packs with prayer cards and luggage tags.
There is a sadness about parents looking for their lost child, parents who return again and again, to the place their child went missing. Still putting up posters. still showing photographs and still begging the police for information. But other than the first few weeks, that never happened with Gerry and Kate. They rely on others to put the posters etc, up for them. Do they phone the PJ regularly to see if there are any updates? Do they return to PDL, out of sight of the media? do they have masses said in the small church that became their sanctuary?
Some might still say, Gerry and Kate were right to be wary of the Portuguese police, some might say they had good reason to be hostile towards them, but ultimately, they were the McCanns best hope of getting their daughter back. Refusing to cooperate with the detectives searching for your daughter, is unfathomable to most people, they would put the fate of their child above any fears they may have for themselves.
Madeleine being taken out of the country was actually the least likely scenario, but for Gerry and Kate it was the most likely - on the night she disappeared and in the weeks that followed. What parent goes on a European tour, leaving their toddlers in the same place their older sister was taken from, and knowing the body of their child could be found at any time in the place they just flew out of?
A global search was never necessary, yet Gerry and Kate convinced the world it was. 11 years on, we can see how bizarre the actions of the parents were in their conviction that Madeleine had been taken out of the country, and how blaming the police for not closing the borders is just about all they have to blame on the police. Their allegations of incompetence, dressing badly and having long boozy lunches are not the reason for the first investigation coming to a halt.
The first investigation ended because it couldn't go any further without the co-operation of the main players, ie, the McCanns and their tapas friends. The search for Madeleine in Portugal was officially over. The worst result possible for parents of missing child. Not for Gerry and Kate however, who could now officially take over the investigation, and feed the press anything they wanted. They even demanded the files of Leicester police, but happily their demands were thrown out by a Judge.
Despite the fact that Gerry and Kate could at any time, have asked for the Portuguese to re-open their files, they chose not to. Instead they appealed directly to the British Prime Minister for a Review, not by the sardine munching Portuguese police, but by a panel sympathetic to their good characters, their professions and their British and Celtic roots. A panel that would lift the horrible little cloud of suspicion left by the disgruntled ex Detective.
I suspect for the Portuguese Judiciary, the opening of the British doors with Operation Grange, offered them a way to re-open that interrupted investigation. The Tapas group were out of their jurisdiction, safely home in the UK and out of their reach - they couldn't interrogate them, nor could they put pressure on them, only a British force could do that.