It’s the tenth anniversary – if that’s the right word: probably not – of the disappearance in Portugal of Madeleine McCann. The BBC is screening a show tonight called “Madeleine McCann: 10 years on” which focuses on the evidence, or rather the lack of it, relating to her disappearance. I doubt that we will learn anything new.
We all know the story. A bunch of rich professionals were on holiday at the luxury Mark Warner complex in Praia da Luz in the Algarve. One couple, Gerry and Kate McCann, left their three children sleeping unattended to go for tapas at a location some 100 yards away. One of the children, Madeleine, aged three, disappeared and even today no one knows what happened next. Actually, it could be that someone does or did know what happened next but sadly neither the local police or the Met’s finest have come up with a thing.
Let’s get the obvious bit out of the way. What were Gerry and Kate thinking about when they left their young children unattended with as part of what came known as the “Tapas Seven”? Warner holidays represent the very upper echelons of package holidays – a Thomson or Thomas Cook all inclusive they are not – and as part of the exorbitant price comes “free” child minding. The McCann’s chose not to bother with child minding. They were only 100 yards away, basically the length of a football pitch, which is not “only 100 yards away” at all. Sometimes I tire at holier than thou comments towards bad parenting, which this plainly was, but here I become every bit as holy. At no time when our children were small did we even consider leaving them alone in our holiday accommodation unattended for any length of time. I am not sure we even had to make a decision to stay with them or not because there were no decision to be made. We recognised that our lives were no longer all about us, but about our family with the interest of our children paramount. Why the McCann’s felt otherwise, even briefly, is something they will always have to live with.
Once the public had digested the shock of the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, I detected a mood of uneasiness in the mood of the public, at least in my little world, which might not be representative. For a variety of reasons, which may or may not be based on fact, not everyone warmed to the McCanns. I certainly felt so sorry for them but by the same token they didn’t look or sound like anyone I knew or came across in my little world. On the basis of all available evidence I am not in the conspiracy camp which suggests they were implicated in the disappearance of their daughter, other than by way of neglect and Kate’s haunted look leads me to the conclusion that she is a broken woman.
It is incredible that after all this time, no one has come up with a credible account of what has happened. I do not know if the Portuguese police were incompetent or whether the Met actually made things even worse with their approach. I wasn’t there, I haven’t a clue. Given the tools at the disposal of modern day police officers, it seems incredible that the investigation is roughly in the same place as it was a decade ago.
Did the poor girl fall into the sea, get kidnapped by the most secretive person or gang in the world? Your guess is as good as mine and, sadly, as good as the police authorities charged to investigate.
It’s probably not the fault of Gerry and Kate McCann many people find them to hard to warm to, but that may be partly explained by the bewilderment people feel that anyone could leave very young children alone, preferring the hedonism the arrival of children generally removes from people. Either way, the stupid, irresponsible neglect they showed has had catastrophic consequences to their lives and to that of their daughter. They will know that better than anyone and probably won’t need reminding of it.
It’s probably not my business to have an opinion about a story about which I know so little so I don’t seek to judge, other than to say it’s not one of those tragic events that could have happened to anyone. It couldn’t have happened to anyone, just some people who made a crass error of judgement over what was really important in their lives. A high price to be paid for visiting a trendy Tapas bar.