I’ve now watched the first two episodes of the Netflix series The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann. The first was absolutely dire, stuffed with time-filling padding, the second considerably better, which does not mean that much. I watched it for a number of reasons hoping I might learn more about Madeleine’s disappearance (I didn’t) and because we were barely 40 yards away from THAT apartment during our holiday in Praia da Luz last September. Despite my qualifications, I enjoyed it.
The padding was ludicrous at times, though not surprising since the McCann’s refused to have anything to do with the programme. We met numerous ‘tourists’ who had nothing of interest to say, ex pats (they are only migrants if they come to the UK, not leave it) and journalists.
We were told how local man Robert Murat was arrested as a suspect and he was presented as a dodgy sort of bloke. When he was interviewed for this show, he came across as very reasonable. The oddest thing is that he became a suspect seemingly on the grounds that he was a bit unusual and lived nearby. There was, so far as we could tell, literally no evidence to suggest he had done anything at all.
And there was criticism of the police, much of it justified. Or maybe it wasn’t. Once the police were, it seemed, shamed into action, they went here, there and everywhere, shooting fish in a barrel. No intelligence led investigations, probably because there was no intelligence.
The McCanns themselves came across as they are. Obviously, I pity them the loss of their daughter – who wouldn’t? – but however hard I tried, I could not warm to them. Whether it was their aloof, offhand nature, which could be (mis?) interpreted as arrogance or their bizarre religious fanaticism (all those years of praying and the Pope’s intervention have come to nought) or simply that they are a very rich family who were utterly irresponsible with regard to their children.
I know the former Tapas bar well and I know where it is in relation to the apartment in which they left their children, as did their fellow affluent professional friends. They left their children unattended about 60 yards away as the crow flies and about 100 yards away on foot, in an apartment right by two roads and barely in view from the bar area. Is this normal behaviour?
A local British journalist who reported on the disappearance suggested it was. Apparently, everyone went out on the lash, leaving their infant children on their own. He certainly did. It could just be me and the company I keep, but we never, ever did that when our children were young. When we went on holiday, our children were always with us. And why? Because they were children. The holiday was not an excuse to abandon them to our own devices for a pie and a pint, or of course a selection of Tapas. If we had to return to our apartment early because the children were tired, that’s what we did.
I hear people who have children saying, “I just can’t watch it.” Well, why not? I suppose if you are the sort who go on holiday, put the kids to bed and slip out to paint the town red, it might set off a few alarm bells. It might, if you were desperately unlucky, as well as reckless, end up in tragedy, as happened in Luz. If you are not, the only reason for not watching is because it’s probably not the best documentary series ever.
The McCann’s were unlucky. They took a punt, perhaps without realising it, that they would probably get away with leaving their children unattended whilst they enjoyed a few glasses of wine and some grub. Then, whatever happened, happened and they were thrust in the public spotlight forever.
Their pained expressions in the historic footage betrays their pain at losing their daughter. It must also express their guilt, knowing as they must that their daughter’s disappearance happened because of their own actions. If the children had been slumbering in their push chairs in that Tapas bar, they’d still have three of them today.