Saturday, 26 December 2009

Madeleine McCann: who searched for this little girl? (Part 1)

Daily Mirror 12/12/09:


Outside the Civil Court in Lisbon, where Gonçalo Amaral had been due to present witnesses in his effort to have a temporary injunction on his book, "A Verdade Da Mentira," overturned, Gerry and Kate McCann took advantage of their right to freedom of expression to accuse Dr Amaral of distorting the truth about their daughter's disappearance.

Gerry, also 41, yesterday said the furore over Amaral's book threatened to obscure the fact that the McCanns were still searching for Madeleine."

Still searching? I didn't realise they'd started! They certainly didn't make an early start. Me? I'd have been running around like a headless chicken if I had discovered one of my children was missing. Not Kate McCann, though. Kate did not physically search for her daughter.
Nor did she actually answer the question on this subject put to her by Jane Hill of the BBC. Why weren't you out there Kate? Well, know....cluck cluck...tut was like...shrug...well....

Jane Hill: I met people who didn't go to work for more than a week because every day they were down along the beach, searching the streets. Did you, as a mother, Kate, just sometimes think 'I've got to go and be out there with them.'?

Kate McCann: I mean I did. We'd been working really hard, really, apart from, as Gerry said, the first forty-eight hours were incredibly difficult and we were almost non-functioning, I'd say, but after that you get strength from somewhere. We've certainly had loads of support and that has given us strength and it's been able to make us focus really. So, we have actually, in our own might not be physically searching, but we've been working really hard and doing absolutely everything we can really to get Madeleine back. (Errrr, ummmms, sighs, etc, omitted.)

So, locals in the village of Praia da Luz were out there for a whole week searching the beaches and the streets, while Kate McCann was working "really hard really," on some unidentified tasks in an effort to get her daughter back? Picking up friends and relies from the airport? Dropping the twins at the crèche and then what? Phone a few contacts, speak to the British Ambassador, give media interviews.*

(*Detailed notes on the events leading up to and following Maddie's disappearance can be found on the McCann Files. Days 1 - 28

For the first forty-eight hours, according to Kate McCann, she and her husband were almost non-functioning to the point of being totally unable, obviously, to get out there and search for their daughter. As most police officers, who have been involved with missing children, are well aware, the first seventy-two hours are very important in the search if there is to be any hope of finding the child. The McCanns, though, were unable to get themselves shifted, unable to fight against their non-functioning state, both of them! They are completely self-centred, feeble excuses for parents and/or they were lying. I'll go for 'and.'

The Portuguese PJ, however, together with local people, searched until the early hours of May 4th, stopped at around 4.30am, with a view to resuming in daylight.

Gonçalo Amaral describes those frantic first few days in his book: these passages are extracted from chapter 3.

The Truth Of The Lie Chapter 3

Chapter 3: The First Seventy-two Hours.


(May 4th)

Since dawn, chief inspector Tavares de Almeida has been getting down to the job at the Department of Criminal Investigation in Portimão. He is following through with the first measures taken within the context of the investigation. At this time, he should have been going on holiday, but faced with the gravity of the case, he has decided to put it off until later. Neither the director of the Faro judiciary police nor myself are going to have the time take our holidays anytime soon.

The disappearance of a child must be flagged up as widely as possible, on the national as well as on the international level. All Portuguese police are already on alert, as well as Interpol. During the night, the National Guard, supported by the civilian population, has started to organise searches. They will be continued and widened tomorrow.

After the searches undertaken in the surrounding area - dustbins, containers, sewers -, it is necessary to proceed with the interrogation of certain potential witnesses

Make contact with the marinas and the maritime police; we must have access to video recordings as well as the registers of boats entering and leaving in the last few days.

- I am going to contact them and make sure they have started the sea searches.

In anticipation of the volume of information we are going to have to deal with, we decide to fit out a room dedicated to the investigation, our crisis unit.

Still May 4th.

The searches on the ground continue, with the help of a helicopter from Disaster Management. Interviews of holiday-makers and the resort's employees multiply. We're worried, aware that it's a race against the clock: tomorrow, many tourists will be leaving the resort.

The accommodation we are occupying in the town centre rapidly becomes overcrowded: we need more sheets and blankets. Beds are allocated; some investigators have to sleep on sofas, others on the floor. Astonishingly, in this place, however jam-packed, total silence reigns. We all need to rest. Our dreams are disturbed, our worries are multiplying. Thirty-four hours after Madeleine's disappearance, we tackle our second day of the investigation. In this apartment of temporary refuge, it's the morning bustle; we mustn't lie around. In spite of the lack of sleep, no one shows any sign of fatigue: on the contrary, we are all in a hurry to getting back to work and impatiently wait our turn outside the bathroom.

On the outskirts of Lagos, in the direction of Aljezur, there is a Gypsy encampment. Of course, traveling people are no longer thought of as child-stealers. Nevertheless, it is important to make sure they have nothing to do with the case before they hit the road again. As soon as they are informed of our searches, they collaborate voluntarily and let the agents do their work and conduct a search of their tents and their cars. No one has seen little Madeleine in the area.

Throughout the day, numerous apartments are visited in the resort and neighbouring areas: the investigators search more than 400, without result."

So, let's consider where the McCanns looked and what they meant by doing everything to get their daughter back. They went to the Vatican, kissed the Pope's ring, did some more interviews, but there was no sign of Maddie.


Then what? Where did the search take the relentless duo, having now recovered from their non-functioning state and set up a web site and a fund for donations? On May 30th, they met the Pope. On May 31st, they were off again, to Madrid. After a brief sojourn back in Praia da Luz, the McCann were in Berlin on Wednesday June 6th, where they gave a press conference about their search and then headed for Amsterdam, where they did a series of TV appearances, press conferences and appeals, while obviously searching for their daughter.

(See The McCann Files days 29 - 58. here)

On Wednesday May 9th, two reports of sightings in Morocco had been received by the Portuguese police.

"In Morocco, Norwegian tourist Mari Pollard says she saw a girl who looked like Madeleine with a man at a petrol station in Marrakesh. On the same day, a British holidaymaker saw a youngster outside the Ibis Hotel in Marrakesh."

And so, with haste and urgency only the McCanns can achieve, they set off for Morocco on Saturday June 10th.

Now, what did our intrepid duo do in Morocco in their constant quest, their unrelenting search for their daughter? Hand out leaflets in the areas where the sightings had been reported? Tramp the streets in those areas, showing photographs of their missing daughter in an attempt to jog the memories of anyone who might have seen a child who resembled her? Well, apart from complaining that a plane sent to transport them was only a turbo-prop, they had a few meetings, did a few interviews and accepted flowers from schoolchildren. Why didn't they go and actually search in the areas where there had been reported sightings? Beats me, that one.

(Also from The McCann Files days 29 -58)

Kate and Gerry spend the day in Rabat meeting British ambassador Charles Gray, Morocco's most senior police officer Charqi Draiss, the Interior Minister Mohamed Benaissa as well as representatives from 3 child welfare groups, including Touche Pas Mes Enfants (Do Not Touch my Children), an organisation set up two years ago to tackle paedophilia.

As well as the meetings, the McCanns visited the National Observatory for Children's Rights. As they pulled up in the car there were about 150 children waving posters of Madeleine with the words 'All Moroccan Children Are With You Madeleine - Madeleine: Back Home'.

The McCanns also did a couple of interviews for ITV and Sky focussing on a change in the phase of the campaign. They confirmed that there would be a period of reflection before they decided on the best role for themselves

While Kate and Gerry were madly searching through all those meeting rooms in Morocco, an anonymous letter was received by the Dutch newspaper, the Telegraaf, containing a map of an area close to Praia da Luz, marked with a x where the author claimed that Madeleine's body was buried. I would have thought this would engender great worry, anxiety and distress in parents, who were convinced that their child had been abducted, but Gerry McCann seemed more irritated and inconvenienced by it.

"While it is all for nothing and we will not get our child back with this. We know that a big, international action like ours has its shadow side and attracts idiots." (McCann Files)

So, how did Gerry know that Madeleine was not to be found in that location? He seemed quite sure though, and rather than sit around, worrying about what might be found, Gerry and Kate fetched a friend from the airport.

"Initial searches of scrubland indicated by the letter to The Telegraaf do not reveal anything unusual.

Kate and Gerry pick up a friend from Faro airport who has helped with publicity and the production of the 'Don't You Forget About Me' DVD. Gerry and this 'friend' Jon spend the rest of the day discussing 'campaign strategies'." (McCann Files.)

The next few weeks are taken up with appointing a spokesperson, having meetings with the police and generally keeping up the media interest. Then in July, Gerry went to the United States. he spent 4 days there, having meetings, doing the obligatory press conferences and then returned to Praia da Luz.

So, this could be a good point at which to do a reprise of the activity of the McCanns up to this point: they saw the Pope; they went to Madrid; they went to Berlin; they went to Amsterdam; they went to Morocco; Gerry went to the United States; they produced posters, released lots of balloons and banked a loada dosh in the form of donations. Woops! Forgot! They took the twins to the zoo and they discovered that Sean had a liking for sea bass. Gerry wrote up his blog about trips to the beach and child-friendly toppings on desserts!

Is it just me, or does anyone else think they don't seem to have started searching yet?

(Part 2 to follow: the succession of private defectives, I mean detectives, and their search for Madeleine: how Madeleine was not home by Christmas and various shenanigans of the McCanns' hired help.)

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