Within days of Madeleine going missing, her parents set up a Fund, not a Charity, but a fighting fund that would somehow return a live child to her bereft parents. Any detective, or fan of CSI knows that outside the golden hour, the chances of finding a kidnap victim alive is remote to impossible, but that has never deterred Madeleine's parents. Neither did the scent of blood and cadaver picked up by specialist dogs from the UK.
As bereft as they were, they were going to turn their disaster into a (financial) triumph. Within days of their 'loss', they were being wined and dined by Clement Freud and Ray Wyre and taking calls from the Prime Minister. They may even have convinced themselves they were doing if for Maddie, but the memorial they were creating was for Maddie alone, it would never assist any other child. The money amassed by the Madeleine Fund would only be passed on if Madeleine AND her abductor were found. The emphasis on the 'and' is the McCanns, not mine. However, as there is no abductor, the question of sharing the donations becomes moot.
The parents of Madeleine didn't mourn her loss because they had to sell the belief that she was alive and everything they have done since the moment they discovered her missing, has been focused on that 'hope'. Within days they had set up a 'Fund' to get Madeleine back and their 'bravery' was seen as in inspiration to us all. They didn't wallow in the guilt of leaving their babies so that one was now missing, they put out collection buckets and became the spokesman and spokeswoman for border control and pissed off libel claimants.
In the early days, it was said that the Missing Madeleine website received 500million hits plus. Everybody wanted to assist the distraught parents in any way they could, and the best way they could assist was to donate cash. The cashometer on the Madeleine website didn't last long, they axed it when it hit £1m or was it £2m? But in any event, it was becoming embarrassing. Who knows how much the McCanns received in donations, not only did the cashometer disappear, but so too did the transparency in the financial reports filed with Companies House. My estimate would be that they received around £4m or £5m, they had many big donors, multi millionaires offering to finance their 'Search' and their battles with the sardine munching Portuguese police and I'm sure they had the persuasive powers to keep their regular donors hooked. This has always been long term project for Gerry, as demonstrated by his infamous whiteboard and wider agenda.
The first financial reports filed with Companies House was probably the nearest inkling we would ever get as to how the donated millions were spent. The backlash against the fact that only 13% of the Fund's income went on the 'Search' put an end to any transparency from thereon. Most of it appeared to go on PR, marketing, lawyers and bizarrely £37k on a website!
The McCanns then appeared to be spending vast amounts on private detectives, according to Clarence they hired the 'big boys', the crème de la crème of Europe's private detective agencies with figures such as £50k per month being paid by way of retainer being bandied around. As we now know, most of the 'big boys' hired by the parents are now in prison for money laundering and fraud and the usually litigious McCanns have shrugged off their losses.
We should of course be appalled that Gerry and Kate have let so many millions fritter through their hands. The cash so generously donated by kind people who cared desperately for the plight of the child, had little to do with getting the said child back. When Kate and Gerry were made arguidos in September 2007, the directors of the Fund gave a public statement that it would not be used for legal expenses, that is it would not be used to defend Kate and Gerry against criminal charges.
The exact wording of that statement could keep many highly paid lawyers fully occupied for the next 20 years. The Fund clearly has, among it's objectives, 'support Madeleine's family'. That sentence alone is open to a thousand interpretations as the 5* lawyers who drew it up are fully aware.
However, before embarking on a Jarndyce .v. Jarndyce legal trial of epic proportions, we should maybe ask, is it morally right to use public donations to defend yourself in civil and criminal proceedings? Ie. Use that cash to clean up your image and pay lawyers to watch your critics 24/7? Is it morally right to use that cash to wreck the lives of others?Is it morally right to raise money to find a 'non' missing child? Is it morally right for a national Charity that is supposed to assist thousands, to focus on one non missing child? Do they not have other children on their books who are genuinely missing and who have a good chance of being found alive?
This should be an easy one for the Christians out there, but probably easier for the humanists. How many children have died of starvation since Madeleine went missing. How many kids who were missing before, are missing still? How many of the millions the McCanns accumulated have been given to the families of other missing kids? Or even, in creating a dignified memorial to their 'missing daughter'? Maybe a school in her name in a third world country, or a new gym for the school she didn't attend? So much good could have been done with the millions raised in her name, and I am sure that is what the generous donors intended.
This whole 'Madeleine' is alive myth is like watching a badly botched combo of Tangled and Weekend at Bernies. With those still believing in the 'Tangled' (little princess imprisoned in a tower) version, trapped in the Freudian toddler stage of their development, where they all lived happily ever after. I sincerely hope the officers of Scotland Yard are not among them.
The tragedy of little Madeleine's disappearance (I dare not say death) is that no good has come from it. The lessons that could have been learned (never leave small children on their own) were suppressed and even made light of. 'We ALL do it' said dozy sofa queens, thus giving the green light to naïve young parents to nip out to the pub whenever they liked. All those doctors can't be wrong eh? We were all made to fear prowlers and bogeymen rather than sofas being used as climbing frames, sharp corners, poisonous substances, concrete staircases, choking, falling, fire..... or any number of other clear and present dangers to toddlers who are left on their own.
But this is about the Fund. Bizarrely it continues much as it always has. It still has donate buttons, but I doubt it sells many holiday packs or t-shirts these days and Kate tells us the kids still fundraise at school. And getting the kids to fundraise is a new low in my eyes. The Fund, not being a Charity, doesn't appear to be accountable to anyone. Basically it is saying 'we want your donations but we don't want to tell you what we are doing with them'. There are no named employees, and the mysterious 'Webmaster' who runs the Madeleine Facebook page is as anonymous as he/she ever was. Why the need for the 'Webmaster' to hide his/her identity? Why have Kate and Gerry kept such a distance from their fans and supporters. Even A-listers have the good manners to interact directly with their fans without the need for spokesmen.
Frustratingly for them, the McCanns have not been able to use their fund raising skills for themselves this past 4+ years. Though they were brazen enough to conduct their own private investigation alongside the official PJ investigation, they have not dared pull any similar stunts with Operation Grange. And this time around it is unlikely that the public would fund them.
The Fund appears at the moment to be untouchable, but as we have no idea what Operation Grange are up to, we may yet see an 'Al Capone' outcome, the feds got the gangster via his unpaid taxes. This Million Pound baby has kept media moguls, spin doctors, for sale 'experts' and an army of sleazy lawyers gainfully employed this past 9 years, Who profited by Madeleine's disappearance? It's going to be a pretty long list that will probably begin and end with money. Personally, I would like to see them all lined up JB Priestly style** and made aware of their own contributions to this tragedy.
Sadly, despite all the millions raised in the name of the child there is no memorial to Madeleine's short tragic life. All those strangers touched by the plight of this tiny girl wanted to ensure that this never happened again. Just as the readers of Charles Dickens lobbied their politicians to clean up the streets and treat orphans humanely, the followers of the Madeleine case don't ever want to see another child treated so appallingly. So much good could have been done in this tragic child's name and no doubt the donors thought it would be. Instead her image and her memory have been tarnished by links to everything that is bad in this world.
On the right is picture of Isbell Peatfield who died in the 2004 tsunami aged 5 with her mum. Her devastated parents Kim and Tristan started a fund in her name and returned 6 weeks later to distribute the cash. They have since built playgrounds in Sri Lanka and added a children's ward to the local hospital. Their little girl will never be forgotten because her parents' created a legacy in her name. In these parents we saw a 'hundred virtues rise, in shapes of mercy, charity and love.'
As the Madeleine case seems to be drawing to a close, the McCanns have stated that their search (fundraising) for Madeleine will continue. Clearly Operation Grange have failed to give them the result they wanted. That 'innocent' certificate to hang on the wall. Worse still, OG stated Madeleine may have been dead when she was taken from the apartment. That's not really something you can go back on, nor something they can sue the Met for. Nor could they put a tent over the bleddy great big diggers in PDL as the libel trial went on in Lisbon. Was the Judge wearing ear muffs and blinkers? Who knows what the feck is going on over there, but that situation alone takes surreal off the chart. In any event, the 'likely' death of Madeleine won't help their fundraising one bit.
No matter how this case ends I think it is safe to say the fundraising will begin again in earnest. Perhaps with the disgruntled libel claimants claiming they have been victims of the lawless press and political machinations. They have had a lot of lawyers watching a lot of social media for a lot of years. Not to mention of course, the trolls hired to provoke and then document everything said by the McCann critics for naming and shaming purposes and use in a possible trial. Lucky them, all the crazy shit from Bennett could tie a Court room up for years.
It should be noted that any 'new' private Search for Madeleine will be the same as the last ones. That is, the investigators will be looking for someone to blame and more lives to wreck. More mugshots for the front of tabloids and more accusations against single men, hermits and eccentrics. It doesn't matter who gets hurt in the McCanns 'search for their daughter', they will never stop. They need to clear their names in order to get the Fund back up and running as it did in its heyday and they need someone to blame.
Lets hope, in time, the name of little Madeleine McCann can be used for good, that lessons can be learned and that wrongs can be put right. Small children should never be left alone under any circumstances, not because a bogeyman might steal them from their beds, but because an accident is almost inevitable.
* Many thanks Pamalam and I urge anyone who wants to explore explore the 'Fund' further to visit Pam's site.
Please also see the excellent analysis of the Fund by Enid O'Dowd at the same link.
** An Inspector Calls