There are things that I have felt unable to say – until now.
May I be damned if I am wrong. May I apologise ahead if I am wrong. But, but, but…..
There were things that just didn’t quite add up for me in the case of Madeleine McCann. Now that, finally, the investigation has moved in a different direction, I feel I can utter my doubts with, hopefully, less recrimination than I feared had I done so, publicly as it were, earlier.
Although as horrified as everyone else at the idea that one’s young child could be abducted from a hotel room in the middle of a normal family holiday, there were nevertheless aspects of the story which troubled me.
I have holidayed in the Algarve since a child younger than Madeleine. I know that part of the western Algarve particularly well. I have been there with my parents, my husband and my own children for over 20 years. My parents owned a holiday apartment in a fishing village a few bays further west. I had a friend who worked in the Ocean Club and ran the sports club on the beach at Luz. Just three years ago I walked through the streets of Luz with my own young family, L - aged 2 – straggling along behind us one evening, pulling a little wooden dog that clattered over the cobbles. It made me laugh. How it would have made me cry if I’d looked round and she wasn’t there anymore. This was the first thought that came into my head when I heard of the abduction and the suggestion that this peaceful holiday backwater was in fact the centre of a massive paedophile ring. It made me shudder. All those happy holiday memories potentially shattered with the idea that there was this abhorrent undercurrent to the children playing with their buckets and spades on the beach. It chilled me.
Then I looked at the faces of the parents of the missing little girl. Now, I know we are all different, but if it had been me, and I’d come back to my apartment to find my child missing while I’d been out eating, I think I would have been so filled with remorse, so utterly horrified and torn apart at the consequences of my actions and the fact that it could have even happened in this benign holiday place, that I would have cried solidly, constantly, for days. If I cry even for 10 minutes, my eyes swell up like golf balls. It is very obvious to anyone that I have been crying. Forgive my suggestion, but the parents did not actually look emotionally exhausted, completely distraught. They were controlled. There was tension, sure, but I questioned whether there was - what would have been for me, at least - utter and total disbelief and grief at the loss of a precious little thing, who I’d given birth to and whose well-being was totally in my hands and, as a result of my not being with her, was now undergoing / had undergone unknown horrors at the hands of a perverted stranger or strangers. Yet there was not a trace of puffiness under the eyes. They were actually looking rather well, I thought. I couldn’t help comparing the face of the mother who tragically lost her two children in a villa in Greece due to carbon monoxide poisoning. She really WAS distraught. The trial was televised about the same time in May – the mother, even all this time after the loss of her children, looked ravaged. Her eyes were swollen and misshapen from tears, her face white and exhausted.
My next concern was the publicity machine which swung into action. I put myself in their shoes and thought, ‘Would I really have the presence of mind, let alone the energy, in the circumstances, of orchestrating all that?’ Even our campaign to save the school – nothing compared to the media campaign they were launching – was exhausting. To my mind, it just wasn’t the natural reaction to the situation. But is was a very good way of distracting any attention from themselves…Indeed, for me, it was not only an unnatural reaction, but also rather a vulgar one. It was like something from the pages of Hello magazine – pictures of Kate going to church, holding hands with her husband as they took evening strolls along the beach. Just think about it. Would YOU really react like this? For me, such scenarios would be unthinkable. I wouldn’t FEEL like walking along the beach in the place where my child had been taken from me. I wouldn’t WANT to grin at the world through the playground furniture where my little girl had been skipping around days before with my two remaining children. I would want to hide with my grief and my fears, out of the surreal ghastliness of the public glare. I would hate the place with a passion. I would stay just long enough to do the essentials with regard to the police investigation, but once all the appeals were over, the initial hunt done, I would want to go home and be among my friends and family and the REAL memories of Madeleine. Her room, her clothes, her toys, her friends. I would not want to be hobnobbing with the Prime Minister, the Pope and David Beckham. I would want to cosset and protect my two other babies and be there for them at all times and have them back in their familiar surroundings, being cared for by myself and my family. Call me old-fashioned…
Another point that troubles me is the fact that despite such worldwide coverage and appeals for her return, and despite the huge financial rewards being offered, nothing came of it. Just silence. If she had been taken and was still alive, she would have been dropped off on the outskirts of some village somewhere in the dead of night, left to wander until found. It is a very tight-knit community down there. People know other people. They know their movements. It is extraordinary that nothing of any real significance was spotted by anybody at the supposed time of the abduction beyond the slightly flakey ‘man carrying bundle which looked like a child’ report. Also, I know those Portuguese blinds well. They make a hell of a racket when opening them and they lock down very securely. I find it very strange that anyone could have been tampering with them, in such a public space, and not have been heard or noticed. And why, as an intelligent middle-class couple, would you NOT use the Mark Warner baby listening service? I’m hardly precious with my children, but it seems obvious to me, rather than having to get up and down from dinner every 20 minutes and walk a few hundred metres or more back to the apartment, to have someone keep an eye on them for me. There were, after all, mere babies in that room with her too and was there not a risk that they would wake up and start crying?
In May I spoke to a policeman who trains and works with sniffer dogs. I asked him what he thought and he agreed that there was something about the whole thing that didn’t quite add up. Ditto a friend in France. Just gut feelings and observations regarding basic human psychology. Nothing more solid.
I was very interested to hear the opinion of a Portuguese journalist on the Jeremy Vine show today. She had the balls to come out and say what everyone has found impossible to think, let alone say. We have been so quick to criticise the Portuguese police – something else I found myself very uncomfortable with. Our media circus was in full swing, our ‘Diana’ emotions rushing to the surface. Only when some of that ‘noise’ had died down, did the police manage to get closer to the parents and, perhaps, start asking a few more searching questions…
I am not pointing the finger and saying ‘told you so, told you so’. Again, I apologise if this is how it appears. I am, merely, in light of the above thoughts and observations, very interested in the latest developments with the case and am watching and listening closely. It could have enormous repercussions and offers a fascinating insight into the current cultural-intellectual state of our society.
However, it doesn’t make it any less tragic - at many levels.