I look on the years I spent writing about Madeleine McCann as a journey, a journey I shared with hundreds of others. Now it may seem an odd journey to embark on, but I and indeed everyone else who followed this real life reality crime were hooked. Gerry, Kate et al, caste their rods far and wide to entice a global audience and they succeeded. That they weren't able to keep control of the global audience they attracted, was inevitable. As Gerry said, perhaps they were naive to think they could control the monster they created.
Of course it was inevitable that the narrative the parents were putting out would be questioned because there were so many questions left unanswered. The story simply didn't ring true and didn't make any sense. People could see that, and many, including myself, who refused to accept the 'official' story became the enemy.
The 'official' story caste the parents as victims and heroes, whilst demonising the Portuguese detective who originally led the investigation. It forgave, unconditionally, the fact that the parents had deliberately left 3 very young children on their own in a holiday apartment while they went to dinner. And worse. It implied 'all' parents did this, especially English ones and it wasn't a big deal. How could they (the clueless parents) know a child predator was on the prowl that night? The hotel didn't warn them about child predators nor did the local police, ergo, they and the predator were guilty and the parents were victims.
Those of us who have looked into this know that is a load of rubbish. Holiday resorts rarely advertise that they are plagued by child abductors, especially when they aren't, and not unreasonably, they expect parents to look after their children. Gerry and Kate were offloading blame from the very beginning. This I found odd. From my own experience, I have blamed myself absolutely for every accident and near miss my kids suffered. And I have cried along with every parent who has lost a child and blames themselves, I hear them, I feel their pain. I remember seeing an interview with Sarah Payne talking about her murdered daughter. Her agony was tangible and she made her sweet little daughter real to us in the loving way she spoke about her. It was a very emotional experience, not just for myself, but for all who watched it. If you read this Sarah, a big old cyber hug.
Now I know many people say, particularly in defence of the McCanns, that no-one know how they would react to the horror of having a child stolen. Some admired the McCanns', err, stoicism, others were appalled and cried 'wtf is wrong with them'. I, self admittedly, am a complete wuss, ergo I try not to judge other people by myself. But I've seen bravery, heck there have even been occasions when I have been brave myself. For some reason I equate bereavement with bravery, that is when we have lost someone we truly love, we can pull ourselves together for short periods of time, the funeral for example, to maintain some sort of dignity. A little break from being a sobbing, vodka infused, weeping heap of jelly. When I lost my beloved dad, I didn't leave my bedroom for days. I watched 'Seinfeld' and 'Father Ted' back to back, together with old depression curer 'The Odd Couple'. One of the best friends I have ever had in my life was there with me on the first night as I drank and talked and cried. That is a kindness I will never forget. She knows who she is :), we went to Uni together and I still love her for it.
I have no shame in admitting that I suffer from manic depression, so it may be that my reactions are more extreme than others, I really don't know because most people don't talk about this stuff out loud. But I refuse to accept the judgment of those who supposedly love me, and those who outright hate me. I'm not the crazy one. Unfortunately the whole McCann debate raised for me, a battle I have been fighting my entire life. That is, my non acceptance of obvious lies, my refusal to conform to majority opinion, was yet another sign of my insanity. And of course, this was the Achilles heel that the McCann supporters picked up on. Added to which, I had a truth telling memoir published by Random House, so they had plenty of ammunition. 'Go take your meds', 'your mother never loved you' was the fodder of the trolls who pursued me. Along with websites, photoshops (which were hilarious) and nasties telling me to 'hurry up and die'. Incidentally, all deleted after the death of Brenda Leyland.
I didn't set out to go to war with the McCanns on social media, I responded after much provocation. In my writing I have a golden rule, one that I have stuck to my entire life, even when I only scribbled into A4 notebooks in the middle of the night. Honesty and Integrity. I know how much words matter, ergo I sleep soundly because I know what my words mean to others, I know the effect they can have on other people. Not because I personally am a wordsmith, but because I have seen the effects of words being used trivially and malevolently by ignorant people and believed.
The McCanns and all those people pushing the abduction story were presenting a false narrative and that hurt my innate sense of justice, above all else. I really, really, hate being lied to. The disappearance of poor little Madeleine McCann, became 90% propaganda for a government seeking a national database of DNA, finger printing and micro chipping and a zealous cop who wanted a slice of Silicone Valley pie and the power to police the internet. Included in that was the agenda of people who wanted to convince us that pedophiles were everywhere. Lurking on street corners and of course, on the internet. Convincing people the internet was a bad thing was always going to be an uphill battle, but suggest the internet was being used to enable child abusers, and they are halfway there. Why wouldn't you hand over all your private and confidential information to the likes of Jim Gamble, what do you have to hide?
Jim Gamble and CEOP wanted, desperately, to link little Madeleine McCann (not yet 4) to internet grooming. Their agenda, to prove that the internet, freedom of information and the ability to connect to others, was somehow dark and seditious. Something that needed a specialist police force. In a James Bond world, those seeking to seize power over the internet, as policemen, would be seen as the Drs Evil, but before 2010, everything regarding the world wide internet was up for grabs.
It never ceases to amaze me how those, in the very short time they have of holding all the cards, are so swiftly brought back down to earth. I would be a liar if I said I didn't enjoy it. Where is your power now, Gerry, Clarence? Can you go back to international fund raising? How about 'Go Fund Me?' Are you Clarence, held up to media students as the goal to aspire to? Where is the support, the enthusiasm that you had in the early days? Gerry, if he had had his way, would have built a world wide corporation on the back of his missing daughter. It never came to fruition, nor his annual 'Maddie Day', when the public would be reminded to donate. The unseemly focus on asking for donations offended my sensibilities at once, wtf? Little Madeleine was lost the first night, when all the vultures got on the planes to PDL, but the Tapas group, stranded and alone in PDL, were already thinking that very same way.
I think I offered a couple of times, to cease the war with the McCanns, but they escalated it. They went onto Amazon and trashed my book and followed me, literally everywhere, on social media. Within moment of my typing something, it would appear on McCann supporters sites. They were using my comments and blogs to get hits, lol. Such is life, ha ha. I can laugh, because I am the one in possession of the talent, the pro and anti sites might try to steal it, but it's still mine.
I make no apologies for the media wars that ensued. In fact, their hostility emboldened me, the more they attacked my mental health, my crazy childhood, the more they made me eternally grateful that I wasn't them. Everything I have written, readers will note, is tinged with pity.
Whilst it is true to say, that in the early summer of 2007, Gerry and Kate McCann held the world in their hands. They were sympathetic victims (it could have been any of us), they were camera ready and erudite. But that happy paradigm was never going to be sustainable. Most of the people Gerry and Kate were meeting were buying absolutely their carefully rehearsed, simplistic, story of how their daughter disappeared. On paper, especially A4 sized and verified by every character in the drama, it was an open and shut case. Especially, as every character was a doctor or a professional and beyond questioning or reproach. It's not as if the Tapas 6, or is it 8, were in any way reckless chavs who left their kids to go out on the piss. Let's get that distinction firmly in place, carved in stone, and beyond question as we go forward.
Now I am a single mum who spent many nights crying into my gin and listening to Diana Ross singing about no-one living her, while all my mates were out partying. And there were times when I took my sleepy toddlers along with me to pub or restaurant and covered them in a blanket while they snoozed in a buggy. Maybe I should, but I don't feel bad about that. What I do feel bad about is the one time, I left my sleeping tot and drove to the shop that was literally at the bottom of the road and back. I was less than 10 minutes but I have never been able to shake the guilt.
The Doctors McCann and their close knit group of friends made it OK and forgivable to leave small children on their own. The callousness of their statements, especially one of the mothers of a baby, outraged me, especially the way she spoke about her small child's sickness and diorrhea, it chilled me to the bone.
I was also appalled that the disappearance of Madeleine McCann was used to distort the general ideology of the masses. Child abductions are extremely rare. There is a Wiki page that lists child kidnappings going back decades, and kids who go missing globally, make headlines, due to the rarity! Those pushing the story that Madeleine was abducted by a predator, was based more on fantasy than reality. But they succeeded, they persuaded parents worldwide, that their babies were at risk of being abducted from their beds.
So who was this frightening myth good for? Police agencies based on protecting kids, charities for the missing, governments pushing for a national database, newspapers who love stories about bogeymen. A win win all around. Who was it ultimately not good for? Hmm, the parents, strangely. 13 years on, they still do not have an answer as to what happened to their daughter. That is, not an official answer that clears them absolutely. The appearance of suspects from different parts of Europe these days, means absolutely nothing to old hands like me. Seen it so many times before and know, beyond reasonable doubt, that there is no abductor. See all my blogs. So I guess the answer is no, I don't need to look any further.