Madeleine McCann – is there something we should know?

I’m getting increasingly suspicious about the media management of the Madeleine McCann story. Something tells me that there is something quite significant that we aren’t being told and that the family has had professional help in ensuring that only a carefully crafted and sympathetic narrative is recounted by the mass media.

Firstly, there is the fact that on the morning after the abduction, the suggestion that the family were in any way neglectful (remember: the abduction happened at a time when the child was in a hotel room and the parents were eating at a restaurant) had already been carefully pre-butted. That in itself is fair enough: I doubt any parents haven’t, from time to time, taken a calculated risk like that.

Recently though, we’ve had an increasing number of articles that reinforce the Daily Mail-esque prejudice that the police force of any country other than our own are clunking incompetents and living proof of the superiority of the British species. These are the Portuguese for Pete’s sake – they used to own the bits of the world we didn’t. This isn’t exactly a backward nation, yet it has been presented as such. The worst incident I can recall was John Humphries lambasting the Portuguese Ambassador on the Today programme when he was patiently attempting to explain that in a country that is part of the Schengen Agreement can’t exactly set up strict border controls within minutes every time a child is reported as going missing.

Now we’re being told that a businessman, Stephen Winyard, is putting up a £1m reward. Why? Does he do this every time a child gets abducted? Is it just because she is blonde, white and pretty with ‘decent’ middle class parents, or is there some other reason?

Finally, there are those photos. Loads of them. A new one in a different newspaper every day. Usually in cases such as these, you get a single photo which quickly becomes iconic as the media reproduces it ad infinitum. This time, the family have generously given up all their photo albums. For a couple that are said to be distraught, they are being remarkably co-operative with the media.

I’m not saying they’ve done anything wrong, or that this isn’t a tragedy. But these things happen. Stories like this usually go off on all sorts of tangents until the media settle on a narrative; not this time. I know I risk pariah status for pointing this out, but we are being spun, and I would like to know why.


  1. Very interesting observations. I was surprised to see them being filmed in church. Having a camera in my face is the last thing I would want.

  2. I think uou’re trying to find some sort of comspiracy here. but have failed to give any evidence, sorry see nothing here other tan a planned abduction of a little girl.

  3. You are so wrong. The time has come for us to follow our hearts and re assess what we are doing for our children. The couple have kep a dignified and firm stance. Do you think they planned a camera in church? Oh please! And if my child went missing I would let the media have everything they wanted to get her back. Oh how we live in cynical times.

  4. I’m afraid I’m even more cynical now than I was a couple of days ago. This hysteria is reaching Diana-esque proportions. Worse, it has clearly become considered as a major marketing opportunity: pretty much anyone with a product to sell (Branson, Rowling, Wayne Rooney) is now falling over themselves to prove their grandiosity by offering sums of money to help capture the abductors. And now you are apparently a heartless bastard if you don’t wrap yourself in yellow ribbon, even if – as a Brit – you live hundreds of miles away from the incident.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if the media/public responded with even a fraction of this concern about, say, the ongoing situation in Darfur?

  5. I had a dream about Madeline last night and i wouldlike to tell the parents. I have had several real dreams in the past about other things and they have been right before so i would like to tell the parents of madeline my dream. It is important. Please contact me Louisa from Leeds

  6. Could someone please give me the email address of the mcganns i would like to send them a nice email louisa from Leeds

  7. Firstly, thank you for letting me find a site that lets me express my, well, outrage …. Listen, a kids gone missing and I hope to hell that kid gets found well and ok. But for goodness sake …. leaving a kid, with their younger twins on their own in an apartment ??? I’m not a parent, I’m too selfish …. but you have kids you look after them, you want a meal out in a sunshine resort ??? You leave the kids with the grandparents or you don’t go. I’m really sorry to say this but I really struggle to find any symapthy for the parents – you had a responsibility when you had kids …. but, to reiterate, I really hope Maddy is ok.

  8. … And don’t get me started about this business today about everton wearing those t-shirts …. typical example of the liverpudlians wanting to embrace the victim mentatlity.

  9. Maybe if everybody stopped slating everybody else for what they did and didn’t do and channelled in some positive energy little Madeleine may be found. Let’s not forget this is a 4 year old child we are talking about, and I do think it makes you a heartless bastard because you apparently seem to be more interested in reading between the lines.

  10. Mr Graham,

    If you have now or ever have children in the future I hope you never experience what the McCann family are experiencing. I’d endure every conceivable imposition (certainly a video camera in my face) if it meant getting my child back.

    I admire the drive and commitment the McCann family have shown to engage the media in their search and have been equally impressed with the media’s helpful attention.

    I recommend you turn your energies to writing something constructive and avoid the conspiracies, otherwise don’t bother writing at all. You’re an insult to every caring person on the planet.

  11. Most Parents are ‘Angels in training’.We all have choices and sometimes do not make the right choice. However, the McCann family do not deserve to endure such pain or Guilt for making the wrong choice. Maddie deserves to be with her family therefore lets pray this innocent little girl is brought back to her parents unharmed. lets all be a little more positive, its far too easy to criticise…

  12. Graham, I am glad that there are people out there who are willing to take on the burden of being labeled wrong, or bastard, or such like, in order to comment on the ridiculous inequalities of our society and the power the media holds over us. I come from South Africa, a country at the bottom of the world, and yet I know about the suffering of the McCann family. Yes, it is horrid that their daughter has gone missing, and hopefully the police will find her. But how does commercialisng the pain of a single family help? And why do we gobble up these stories with such emotional fervour? People in my own country are joining facebook groups to support the McCann family. How does this do anything but make them feel better about themselves? Does this do Madeleine any justice, that people ‘care’ for her because it’s the trend of the moment, it’s the current way to say; ‘Look at me, I care’?
    And yes, it’s sad, but I live in a country were four year old girls are raped and children go missing everyday. But their families aren’t rich enough to get the media on their case, and they don’t have internet so they can’t get their story out. These people just drown in their own suffering, and nobody, nobody, bats an eyelid for them. When your world is immersed in children dying, being orphaned by AIDS, suffering drug overdoses at the age of six, being raped by their uncles, being shot in gang crossfire, when that is your reality, then watching all the rich people in Europe give everything, everything they can, for a little lost girl is painful, very painful.

  13. Thanks for your comments Thandeka, I couldn’t have put it better myself.

  14. For James and Thandeka – I’m with you on this. I live in the USA (Arizona) and I am astounded at the media coverage on this tragedy. We have thousands of missing children here, we have a pedophile problem here with the euphemism “sex offenders.” Today I was thinking of this little girl. I decided to take a good look around me. It is amazing how many parents let their children trail behind them while they are on cell phones or talking with each other. I read that a German lady has contacted the McGann’s to express her sympathy. Her young son was abducted from the same place 11 years ago. In that case, the boy was walking 20 ft. BEHIND his parents. For all my sympathy for Madeleine’s parents, I cannot shake the thought that they were in a bar even if it was to have dinner. The patio door was unlocked for easy access to check on the children. It was easy access for someone else too. Two-year-old twins cannot be guaranteed to remain in bed, and a four-year-old sibling wouldn’t have a clue as to what to do when they didn’t. I probably will join you pariahs when I say this was a no-no-no! But again, I looked around me here in the USA, same scenario, different location, parents not paying attention to their children or to who was paying attention to them. I am sad about this truly heartbreaking story. Perhaps I will be lambasted for adding this: there are human trafficking rings around the world seeking young people, young children, for their nefarious business which is a multi-billion dollar business. I fear that Madeleine has fallen into their hands. The predators are paid a lot of money for delivery a child to them. It is horrific but it is nevertheless true.

    I appreciate your comments, I agree with you. Audrey

  15. A footnote to Andrea and Lisa (“You’re an insult to every caring person on the planet.” A truly sweeping statement if ever there was one.

    It is not a question of being heartless or downright not caring or even reading between the lines. James and Thandeka speak the truth albeit unpalatable. Thinking things through happens, despite the media frenzy. I have given this sad story a lot of thought. If anything can be learned from the tragedy of this child and her parents it is this: parents! pay attention to your children, keep an eagle eye on them, and never leave them unattended in a hotel room. Here in the USA it is a felony to leave young children in the care of another less than 12 years old (I am not sure of the exact age, but it’s a whole lot older than 4 years old!). It has occurred to me that someone must have been carefully watching this family. Waiting for an opportunity. And it presented itself. With the help of the parents. If you do not like those facts, Andrea and Lisa, it does not make them not so. The days of Utopia are long gone. Our children are increasingly at risk and no more so than in the U.S.A. were thousands go missing every week, never to be found. The media blitz and award from Mr. Branson et al may be heart-warming – for the moment. But then reality sets in. These three young children were on their own and and opportunist criminal bided his time and took advantage of it. Those are the cold, hard facts. If I am cold (believe it, I love children, I’m a great grand-mother) for calling a spade a spade, so be it. Audrey P.

  16. l understand Thanndeka where you are coming from We all know the world can be an evil place and totally unfair whether rich or poor. if we can help one person such as Maddie thats surely better than none, even if peaple are saying ‘look at me l care’…

  17. I am a mother with 5 children and I wouldnt dream of leaving my children alone in this country let alone a foreign country, going on a family holiday would indicate to me you are spending time together as a family not using it as an excuse to go drinking with friends whilst leaving the kids to fend for themselves. I hope with all my heart that the little girl is found safe and well but I cant help thinking that if this was a single mother who had done this she would have been met with little sympathy and social services would have been notified immediately. However as it is they are so called ‘over-protective’ parents from a well respected family and everybody is willing to turn a blind eye from the truths of the matter. I hope that from this most awful mistake that they have made they dont do it again with there other two children as they are going to have to live with this for the rest of their lives. I am unsure as to whether they believe they have actually done any wrong though.

  18. Whoo. A foreign country! It must be more dangerous. The truth is probably that Britain is a far more dangerous place that Portugal. Likewise the most common perpertrators of such horrid sex crimes are usually family. James, I’ve had similar thoughts about this whole media frenzy. I don’t believe it is so much a conspiracy as just the basic cicle of the press drive to be read and the public appetite. What are you going to do… People are kind of fond of the way they were raised to the see world.

  19. Whether the excessive media attention in Britain is for the purpose of selling newspapers or not, the fact is the reaction of the press would be entirely different over here. The McGann’s would not have received such caring attention. The first question would have been, “Where were the parents?” Immediately it was determined that the parents were eating in a restaurant in the hotel, nearby or not, and 3 children of 2 years and 4 years respectively were left in a hotel room alone, there would have been outrage. Definitely Social Services (child care authorities in the U.S.) would have been breathing down their necks. What concerns me is that the media there are unwittingly diverting attention from the main message in all of this. Instead of newspapers screaming ‘CLUELESS!” at the Portuguese, they should have huge black letters on their front pages: PARENTS WATCH YOUR CHILDREN! 24 HOURS, SEVEN DAYS A WEEK.

  20. I did not mean foreign in the sense of another language, more unfamilar surroundings. which stands in this country or any other, children should not be left alone. As a parent it was their job to care for those children 24 hours a day 7 days a week regardless of where they are too. It seems that the media have brushed over the fact they were left whilst there parents enjoyed dinner.

  21. “A foreign country. It must be more dangerous … Britain is a far more dangerous place than Portugal.” (Chris)

    First of all, another country is unfamiliar ground, and if you do not speak the language doubly so. The last thing you would consider doing is leaving your young children alone there even for a minute. As for Britain being more dangerous, that’s a matter of your opinion unless you have travelled elsewhere or read the news about what is going on around the world. The fact is that pedophiles and predators are worldwide and growing bolder. The Internet has made it easier for them. It is a fact that those running the sex trafficking find their victims worldwide. Children are particularly valuable to them and they have their minions searching the beaches, the resorts, the bazaars, everywhere to find them. Portugal and Britain not excepted. Madeleine could have fallen prey to these people. On the other hand, she could be a victim of the pedophile you find everywhere and in your neighbourhood. The point is, these seekers are looking for opportunities — children trailing behind their parents, walking alone to school, visiting a park restroom, you name it, but away from the watchful eyes of a parent. The only way children can fall into their hands is if they are unattended, someone in charge of them has got careless. The McCann’s got careless. Their children were left unattended. No matter the identity or purpose of Madeleine’s abductor, no one can deny that her parents handed it to him/her on a plate. The media choose to ignore that salient fact. It is sickening to watch the media in lockstep about that. When all is said and done, “Clueless!” as one British newspaper trumpeted, should not be directed toward Portugal, but to all parents who walk along talking on their cell phones while their children tag along temporarily forgotten — or to parents who go out to wine and dine and leave their toddlers in a locked hotel room, also temporarily forgotten.

  22. Does it really matter that the media have brushed over the fact the children were left whilst their parents enjoyed dinner. At this moment all efforts must surely be focused on finding maddie and nothing else in this case…

  23. Laurie asks does it really matter that the media have shied away from mentioning that the children were left (alone) whilst their parents enjoyed dinner. Yes it does in my humble opinion. Why? Because it could be a wake-up call to others that this could have disastrous consequences, as we all now know. When we take risks we often think it can’t happen to us, just this once will be okay. Where children’s wellbeing is concerned, and certainly their lives, no parents or guardians can afford the luxury of playing Russian roulette. Sorry, I do not agree with you. Despite the media blackout on this vital issue, I hope others will think twice and therefore some good will come out of this tragedy. A.

  24. The media obviously dont agree with you Audrey otherwise they would waste their time on coverage on the parents getting it wrong. their main aim is to alert us all of maddie’s abduction in the hope we will find her.
    If you are a parent yourself Audrey congatulations on becoming the first perfect mother and well done for never making any mistakes!!
    my question in my previous comment was rhetorical !!

  25. I have 3 boys who are now 8, 5 and nearly 4. I used to leave the youngest one in his cot if he was asleep to take the other 2 to school. We live 200yards away from their school. I convinced myself he would be fine, the house was locked, he was too small to get out the cot, he wasn’t due to wake up yet etc etc. Then I thought ‘what if I get hit by a car on the way home? What if the house catches fire?’ I have never left any of my children since and never would again. You just don’t know what could happen. Feel very sorry for the situation the McGanns are in but inclined to agree with Audrey – they should never have been left alone.

  26. I sympathise deeply with the McGann family, I have a 4 year old and he has to be watched all the time. I don’t know what I would do if anything happened to him.

    The thing I can’t understand is that why turn down the offer of the babysitting service and leave the 3 kids all on their own, Ok the restaurant may have only been 200 yards away but there is a point where you just don’t leave your kids alone at anytime especially in a different country. I would never do that with my child. I am not trying to be horrible but in a way it is their own fault for leaving the kids in the apartment on their own. If the offer of babysitting is there you take it, it is not like their can’t afford it.

  27. i so agree with audrey and co, i am a single parent of 2 and would never dream of leaving my babies for the simple fact something like this could happen it is pure common sense not to do it and nobody has even said anything. I know for a fact that if this had happened to my princess who is maddies age it would have been a huge scandal i hope that little girl is found cus it gives me real pain in my heart to try and imagine what those parents are going through. But they will have the most pain because they know that deep down if one of them had gone out for a take-away and bottle of wine this wouldn’t have happened and that must be the worst feeling in the world. And to laurie you dont have to be a perfect parent to realise that you should never let your children out of your sight even if you are starving as the mcgann’s probably were, having your child abducted is not a mistake its stupid!

  28. The simple fact is there daughter is missing and pretty soon the media will find the next story. If they want their daughter back they need to keep the attention of the world on their plight. Mistake or not, the girl is gone and she needs to be returned.

  29. An addition to my previous post …. I’m “pleased” (probably not the right word in the circumstances but I’m not as articulate as a lot of you guys) to see others have the same view as me.
    My next comment is ….. This week in the UK a guy was found guilty in St. Helens of owning a dangerous dog, a dog that (can’t find the right word – unfortunately doesn’t seem right) killed his neice over Christmas. The child was staying with her grandmother at the time, the dog was inadvertently let into the house I understand and then the unfortunate incident occurred and the child died of her injuries. Next week, I believe the grandmother is due in court for – I’m sorry, I don’t know the legal terms but – letting something happen to a child when they are in your care – No-one knows yet what the outcome will be …..
    However, a couple of weeks ago in Portugal an unfortunate incident happened to a kid when they should have been in the care of their parents. Will their parents be taken to court on their return to UK ?? Ask them the question – WHY did they keep checking on the kids every half hour? The answer will be, “to make sure they are ok”, well to me that proves there’s a risk out there. Otherwise why check on them at all ? Why not just sit there and enjoy your meal and we’ll see them when we get back ? BECAUSE YOU KNOW THERE IS A RISK AND YOU ARE WORRIED – to me that proves negligence.
    I still believe that if this exact case had happened but had involved a single mum from a council estate the media reaction would have been reversed.
    And I reiterate, I’m not a parent because I choose not to be. Because if I chose to be a mum I would choose to be unselfish and my kids would be everything. I recently took my friend and her 2 kids to the theatre in Manchester City Centre and she laughed so much at me because (for some bizarre reason they love me and wanted my attention and she was happy for them to take the focus off her for half an hour or so) but I would not let them out of my sight for a second ! I was knackered at the end of the night and she so took the mickey out of me for that. That’s why I’m not a parent, but you want the responsibility then take it properly.
    And the reason we are getting so annoyed about the media coverage is because we need to see a balanced view, I’m not getting it, not on Radio 5 live, not on BBC News 24 and not on Sky News – so give us our air time.

  30. i agree that this should be a wake up call for parents. i live on a quiet back lane in cornwall and use to leave my 3 year old son asleep in the car out side, checking him every 10 minutes or so until he woke up. this whole maddy incident has made me decide not to do this anymore. unattended children are rich pickings for any evil oppottunist who may chance come your way. why take the risk? maddys parents proberly know that its there fault and thats why people are supporting them because they know how much they must be beating themselves up about it. as parents weve all taken the odd risk here and there, big or small. i think we should all be quite about the blame thing and focus on finding this girl. we need to show the worlds evil that they cant do this or else they will have everyone on the planet on their trail.

  31. How shocking that the most replies to this discussion involve you arguing amongst yourselves. Talking utter rubbish about conspiracies. How dare anyone comment on the the McCanns acting as irresponsible parents, even more so those who don’t even have children. We have all done stupid irresponsible things as parents at least once, and i fail to believe anyone who says otherwise. It doesn’t help to make assumptions neither does it help to be judgemental. This family must go through sheer hell on a daily basis…every waking minute must be torture. I don’t understand those of you that make your own negative assumptions on this family. We already have the media who like to add their own little remarks as they go along. This whole story has touched my heart and i pray everyday that Madeleine is re-united with her family. You know that saying you should never ASSUME because it makes an “ASS OUT OF YOU AND ME” maybe you should remember this the next time you decide to write something so negative on this situation. Finally, to those of you who don’t have children but are however quick to judge the McCanns as parents think before you speak…i’m not at all saying you aren’t allowed to speak freely, but until you gain the knowledge and experience of being a parent and its difficulties, you simply can’t judge another.

  32. I just googled ‘missing children’ and there are over 26 million sites. Interpol only has 69 children currently on their site. Makes you think… I know not every case can have the coverage the McCann one (OK, Patty?) has had but it should highlight how many kids are missing all over the world. Why can’t we adopt the ‘Amber’ system they have in the States? I remember driving along a highway a few years back and the traffic information signs were alerting drivers to an abducted child – gave the description and number plate of the vehicle they were suspected to be in. They were found, too.

  33. Sorry, make that 318 on the Interpol site – the 69 are for recent events…

  34. I am sure many a lesson has meen learnt from this case and for all for us with children who are tucked up in bed, it is very easy to say how could they have left there children, it is so neglectful etc, etc. surely the fact that they did and now she is gone is enough punishment for anyone and so lets hope there will be ‘no trip to a court for them.’ I am sorry that Amy feels it would of been a huge scandal had this hapened to her just because she is a single mother, I disagree.
    Everyone is aware that they left there children alone, I don’t think there has been a media hush and i am sure there are a fair few parents who have also done it and would not do so again. So surely theIonly person who is guilty is the abductor and the fact that this appears to have been planned and not a opurtunity abduction seems to make it even worse. So yes we now know that madie and her sister should not have been left and that ther parents would appear to be at fault for leaving them, but i take my hat off to them on how they have handled it since, and i know if anyone took my 4 year old girl i would do any thing to try and get her back. This may also be there way of grieving and coping, so I think perhaps a little support rather than chastising them may be a little more useful

  35. What do you really feel about the disappearance of four-year old Madeleine McCann from an Algarve holiday apartment? Do you reckon it is a bad thing, a good thing, or are you a ‘don’t know’?

    Of course, it is a crass and stupid question. Everybody is appalled by child abduction. So why then do so many people and organisations in Britain now seem to feel the need to protest that they are against the abduction of a small child from an upmarket holiday camp in Portugal?

    The ongoing grim story of Madeleine’s disappearance will have touched the private feelings and fears of millions. But that does not explain why so many now make such a song and dance of demonstrating their feelings of sorrow for a family they have never met and of bitterness towards an invisible abductor. After all, we are not stupid enough to think that crime is like a reality TV show, where if we make enough noise we can just vote out the one we hate and make sure the best people win through.

    In my part of London there are posters up in windows asking us all to ‘Help Find Madeleine’ and advertising the phone numbers to ring if we ‘have any information about Madeline’s whereabouts’. Apparently many thousands have been distributed by newspapers and other organisations and displayed across the UK. In the fortnight since Madeleine disappeared, we have seen football crowds waving banners for her and people all over the place wearing yellow ribbons around their wrists. Internet sites are clogged with messages from those keen to express sympathy and say how upset they are.

    While British celebrities and footballers make appeals and offer rewards for Madeleine’s return, the message from most of the media was summed up by the front page of the Sun newspaper last Saturday – Madeleine’s fourth birthday – which told her tortured parents: ‘We share your pain.’ The television news has largely been given over to the story, with presenters sent to the Algarve to front broadcasts and ‘special correspondents’ reporting on the latest minute developments as if it were a military campaign. Even MPs and government ministers have now felt the need to get involved in the campaign for Madeleine’s safe return.

    I feel for Madeleine’s family as anybody must. But at the risk of being accused of callousness, what is this public outpouring really about?

    It has nothing to do with the progress of the case in Portugal. We know from the rare occasions when a child has been abducted in Britain that such high-profile outpourings of public emotionalism have little bearing on the actual investigation. But at least in those cases one might claim that appeals for information and publicity are relevant to the local police work. This time, however, the posters appealing for our help in finding her are a very long way from the crime scene in Portugal.

    That gap helps to make clear that such displays are really about something over here rather than over there. The McCann case has been turned into the latest public focus through which people in a fragmented Britain feel able to come together in a collective display of emotion, to show that we share one another’s pain and are on the side of good.

    Those pictures of the little girl are on show in windows where a church or community group poster might have been in the past – or more pertinently, perhaps, where an England football flag might be displayed these days. It is about a public display of belonging, of feeling part of an emotional collective at a time when there seems little in society or its values to hold people together. It was inevitable that lonely politicians would get involved in this media-shaped attempt to make a connection and bring people together.

    To some extent this is not even about Madeleine McCann, the real missing little girl. It is more about the media creation, ‘our Maddie’ or ‘Maddy’ – a name not recognised by her family but invented by headline writers, just as they once turned the murdered two-year old James Bulger into ‘our Jamie’.

    Some might suggest that this outpouring of common feeling shows ‘Britain at its best’. But as after similar tragedies over the past decade, it is worth asking what it says about our society that it should now take something as terrible as the disappearance of a little girl to bring people together. It is hardly a healthy sign of the public state of mind that many should want to turn a family’s private tragedy into a public spectacle (with audience participation), or even a sort of national emotional rally.

    Many of the complaints about Portugal’s privacy laws, which prevent the police giving the UK media the full details of their investigation, seem motivated largely by this wish to turn the case into a full-blown media event as has been done with recent child tragedies and murders in Britain. As I noted earlier, one result is that there appear to have been two operations going on around the McCann abduction at the same time. There has been the secretive investigation by the Portuguese authorities. And there has been the noisy ‘who’s-to-blame?’ inquiry conducted by many others via the UK media.

    It has seemed as if everybody wants a piece of the action in Portugal for their own purposes, with child protection experts and policemen and lawyers flying out from the UK to stake their claim. Many have sought to seize on the abduction inquiry – and prey upon wider fears about children – in order to promote their own agendas. This has prompted a lot of ugly point-scoring and finger-pointing.

    So within hours of her disappearance, even though nobody knew for certain that Madeleine had been abducted or why, campaigners were out in force demanding a crackdown on a supposed army of British sex offenders holidaying abroad, or a new global offensive against an alleged international paedophile ring. While some sought to blame the ‘incompetent’ Portuguese, others pinned the blame on the ‘irresponsible’ parents for leaving their sleeping children locked up while they had dinner. The effect has been to spread more feelings of fear and guilt and bitterness.

    Just below the surface of the universal sympathy, it has been striking how more than a few contributions to online discussions have turned against the McCanns. The assumption that everybody must want Madeleine returned to her family turns out to be not strictly true; some contributors to readers’ discussions have argued that, whether she is found safe or not, she and her siblings should be removed from her parents and placed in official care. It just shows how thin is the veneer of unity in reaction to a tragedy like this. When people’s public reactions are based on unthinking ersatz emotion, divorced from any real involvement with the family or the case, they can just as easily turn against the parents as in their favour – especially at a time when parent-bashing has become so much in vogue.

    Much of the British media has effectively sought to take over the case and turn the tragedy of ‘our Maddie’ into a story of their own. It came as little surprise to hear that, once a British man had been identified by the authorities as a formal suspect, a tabloid journalist stepped forward to claim that she had fingered him. She said she had been disturbed by the fact that he refused to be interviewed by the media – a deeply suspicious attitude in our tell-all age.

    Madeleine’s parents are reported to have said that the high-profile coverage and messages of support have given them strength to cope with their ordeal. Perhaps so; it remains to be seen what the longer term impact on them might be of having their trauma nationalised, of being turned into media beings who walk on the beach for the cameras, live from public vigil to press conference and are pictured on front pages clutching their daughter’s toy every day.

    In any case, the rest of us should surely try to take a step back and see things differently than the devastated family. The compassion that we feel towards them is no excuse for indulging in self-serving morbid displays. Many of those writing messages about Madeleine on the internet concede that there is no way anybody can really feel what the McCanns are going through, and there are no words to describe their horror at what has happened. In which case, might it not be better for us to shut up about it, let the investigation run its course, and focus our energies on things that we can do something about?

    Things like, for example, challenging those who would turn this unique and terrible case into a metaphor for the alleged vulnerability of all our children, and exploit it to intensify further the irrational mood of paedophile-phobia that grips our culture. It almost seems as if there is no family tragedy so terrible that its impact cannot be made worse by the intervention of the child protection zealots.

  36. Oh dear oh dear I wondered how long it would take for politics to come into a plight to find a lost innocent child.!
    I agree wholeheartadley with some of your comments and strongly dissagree with others, everyone has a right to an opinion I suppose, I do agree with the fact that you should NEVER! leave children on thier own at home abroad wherever,and just cannot understand why they would do that, I am not a perfect mother,grandmother but feel the parents will for the rest of thier lives have this guilt over them. This will be punishment enough. I admire thir calm aplomb but do not understand how they are managing it, i would be openly distraught if it were one of mine. But again we are all different in the way we conduct ourselves.
    I also understand how people are feeling re: other countries losing children daily and nothing is said, but its because we dont know! about thier plight, Madeleines little face is in the spotlight everyday and like a soap opera enfolding, you start to feel you know the family and relate to it through your own children and experiences.Rightly or wrongly you would have to have a heart of stone not to feel moved.
    The longer the time goes on, I feel as others have said that it was planned the opportunity was there and she is with a well organised network,especially after all the grand offers of her safe return being rewarded, if thier aim is a high income.
    Where there is life there is hope and I hope every day that she and children all over the world can be found safely, I realise though that the world a big place and lots of places to hide.

  37. This is a tragic thing to happen to any family, and I know that they are trying to put a brave face on it, but when they speak to the media I get a strange chill from the dad.. Something isnt right.

    The 2 sad things are:

    1. Some sick twisted people have taken advantage of this and set up scam websites for donations which just line their pockets
    2. Soon this will blow over and the media will find their next story which will tug at the heart strings of the country leaving the poor family all alone without help

  38. In response to my previous posts and subsequent responses …. I am angry, really bloody angry that someone (Emm particularly) can say that my opinion is less than everyone else’s because I’m not a parent. Ok then Emm, here you go, didn’t want to do this but …… I’m not a parent, I’ve given the last 17 years of my life to a corporate business that gave me a great living and a great lifestyle – then – 2 months ago I thought, there’s more to life so I resigned, I’m giving up my £52k a year for no income and do you know what I’m gonna do ? I’m going to Central / South America to work with Street kids in Guatemala, Costa Rica and Ecuador. So, I may not be a parent but I really hope to do my bit for kids who I can contribute to their life in any way I bloody can. I really agree with Thandeka’s comments – there are so many kids out there in the world who don’t have the advantage of media coverage. I genuinely want no harm to come to any kid who goes missing but I get well annoyed that one kid gets the advantage of media coverage, football support and celebrity endorsement and another kid in another country doesn’t. To quote “The West Wing” ….. “”Why does an American life mean more than a Kudinese (made up country) life ? ….. I don’t know sir but it does.” …….. How can all of you wearing those yellow ribbons justify to yourselves that you are wearing it for that reason but for any kid who goes missing or who suffers the traumas Thandeka mentioned and you don’t wear a ribbon for them ? …… “Why does Madelaine McGanns life mean more than that of any kid in Africa, South America, Central America or anywhere …. ?” I don’t think it does. I think her life means the same as any other kid on this planet ….. but when the media hype dies down how many of you will be wearing a yellow ribbon for the kid who lives on the street in Quito, AIDS affected, hungry, beaten, abandoned ……………… Yes I’m being overly dramatic but when you throw away that yellow ribbon in 2 weeks time, think, yeah, I gave a month of my life to a kid that I could associate with and I feel soooo much better ….. I’ll just forget these things happen to kids everyday, all around the world, but hey, I’m a white european eh so not my problem.
    So Emm, Am I not allowed an opinion eh ?

  39. Carolyn you say on a previous mail you are too selfish to be a parent, I am just wonderring why you are giving up your precious me ! time then to do your bit as you put it for less fortunate children. I wholeheartadly applaud you for doing it however. It is sometimes harder to look after someone elses child than one you have given birth and bonded with.
    I dont understand your problem though with people wearring yellow ribbons as a sign that they care, that also is a personel choice and find your words very harsh. I support many charities through personel experience of loss and grief and would never tell someone they dont have a right to wear another charities emblem,just because it has had media hype, and many of them have.
    Of course! you have a right have an opinion, but with a delicate subject as this you are bound to upset people that genuinely want to feel they are doing something (albeit it small) to help. I reiterate what I said earlier its because like a soap opera enfolding you feel as if you know the family. When you come back from your travels, unless you are planning to live there, you will leave these childeren behind please set up a charity website for them and I am sure we would all love to help, through your experience we can get to know them too.

  40. Laney, Thanks for your reply and thank you for what, I think, between the lines, was support for what I’m doing. I am actually a sort of nice person really but I’m not articulate enough to explain why I get so angry at this sort of mass grief thing. I’ve made a couple of points throughout this whole thread – my opinion on the parents leaving the kids, that’s my opinion and I’m entitled to it – everyone else is also entitled to call me harsh, I accept that.
    I really don’t like this hijacking of other people’s grief, I think 4Real explained it better. I DON’T feel I know the family, I don’t think I should feel I know the family ….. In fact, if I was part of the family I would be wanting to scream out ….”SHE’S NOT YOUR MADDIE” (Ref banner displayed at Everton FC recently) stop hijacking my pain and just get out of my life.
    Hate to say it but Boris Johnson’s comments about scousers come to mind but on a more national scale.
    Yes, feel a bit of sorrow for the family, but …. unless you are part of the family or maybe a holidaymaker in the same area who could help the investigation – YOU ARE NOT INVOLVED, so stop trying to be.
    Like I said, I’ve got my opinions, I’m not generally a harsh person but I get annoyed in what people choose to care about and what people choose to ignore – but hey, I think I’m an idealist ! I think maybe a preganant mother got stabbed and killed last week in Manchester ….. and the ribbons are nowhere to be seen ….

  41. Sorry to upset those that think the parents have done nothing wrong, but I AM a parent of 4 children and have been abroad on holiday with them even when they were as young as madeleine and her siblings, it’s always a long day with kids but on holiday with the heat it makes kids more irritable, however i have NEVER EVER left them alone even in a hotel room whilst i went for a meal, my husband or myself would go and get food and we would eat on the balcony if need be (although usually we would eat with the children). Of course this is a tragedy but there are only 2 people to blame the parents whoever took this little girl it was said by police, was watching before taking her this means that this wasn’t the first night she had been left alone!! The second point is I agree there is a little too much compliance with photographers and why are the other 2 children never with them??? I would personally never want them to leave my side considering my child had been taken!!

  42. Another point i’d like to say is that i agree totally with Steve i too have this strange uneasy feeling when the Dad is on screen. I don’t doubt for a second the grief her mother is feeling it is seeping out of every pore, but him mmm NO

  43. I know what you mean,we have taken the children abroad a lot and because of siesta’s most of Europe take the children out in the evening to eat with them,so we usually had them in the buggy beside us or on our laps in Taverna’s Piazza’s Tapas restaurants, simply because it was safer and it is the norm. I can honestly say I never left them alone for a moment,we tried so hard to get them in the first place and they were are and always will be the most precious things in my life(apart from my new grandchildren of course)
    I do feel so sad for the mother though,there is a special bond between mother and child that cannot be broken having carried that little person for nine months, no detriment to the father of course the love is as strong, but a different sort of bonding.
    My husband also feels suspicious of the Dad, but again I think as a surgeon he has to deal with life threatening situations eveyday and cannot afford to be emotional, I could be wrong.
    Good luck with your trip Carolyn.
    I just hope some closure can be sought soon, but hold out precious little hope,the world is a very big place. I admit it is causing me loss of sleep thinking about it, I just cannot switch off from it,as much as I try,Its Madeleine though lost little soul out there all alone,without protection.

  44. I don’t think we should be concerned about the parents right now. It is a known fact that human trafficking is a huge problem all over the world. At this point we need to concentrate on finding Madeleine instead of blaming the parents. Yes, the parents did not use common sense, but that is not the issue at this point. We must concentrate on the people or persons involved in sex/human trafficking in Europe. She is a blonde 4 year old girl…she has many years ahead of her which is big bucks for the sex slave sickos out there.

  45. I have to say that reading alot of the comments on this site made me so very sad. How incredible commenting on people that you dont know or have never met. I was certainly brought up alot better than that which is not what I can say about alot of people that have posted on here. I know the Mcganns and the father is a kind gental soul who is going through hell. And no he doesnt throw himself all over the place crying on camera but I know what pain he and his lovely wife are going through.SHAME ON YOU TO SIT IN JUDGEMENT AND MAKE SWEEPING STATEMENTS about something you know nothing about. My thoughts and prayers are with the Mcganns and for the safe return of there daughter, conspiricies and all the other shit that people are talking about is irrelevant. The fact is this case DOES have publicity…So wheres the negative in that? Instead of taking the time out of your oh so busy lives, why dont you do something positive like the rest of us who DO give a shit, want to help and try and find her…Be proactive…print off the posters..Do something that CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE. I am and will continue to support the Mcganns and bring madeline home…and so should ALL OF YOU. And for all of you that have condemned the mcganns…I hope you enjoy your smugness and pray that nothing happens to your family, or yourselves where you may happen upon a website like this to show you just what arseholes are out there IN YOUR TIME OF NEED.

  46. Graham,
    You wanna keep your opinions to yourself you heartless bastard, spare a thought for the girl who doesnt come home every night while your sad little existence is writing bollocks on internet sites. The womon in S Africa why make it your problem piss off and do something other than moan, i bet your fat.
    Craig Dixon

  47. And has for leaving the kids they will regret that for ever, but the real blame is the sad bastard who sneaked in and took their child. Millions of people sit in their gardens while children are in bed why should we live in a society where we have to blame innocent for a bad mistake and say you cant even feel sorry for them. get a life

  48. Good response graham.
    My response to Sophie is …. If you know the family then of course you are entitled to feel involved and to care and to print off how ever many posters you like.
    But I don’t know the family, I hope the kid gets found and is safe and well, but I don’t know the family and I’m not going to pretend to feel their pain because of course I can’t.
    I have my opinions about what they did and you are entitled to come back at me with your opinions.
    I’M NOT INVOLVED, I’M NOT FAMILY OR FRIENDS so don’t label me a b**tard because I’m not shedding tears and I get annoyed that millions of other people who want to hijack the grief of others want to wear a ribbon. I think you responded to the person who suggested something about the dad. That wasn’t me – I don’t know the family therefore I’m not shedding tears, not printing out posters and not wearing a ribbon. Like I’ve said before, bad things happen everyday around the world to kids – those who are directly involved should have something to say ….. And by the way Sophie – to respond to your criticism about those of us who “have oh so busy lives” …. like I told Laney, I’ve given up a £52k a year job to go to work with street kids in Central / South America … Now, I don’t want any praise for that just to ask … That ribbon you wearing for Madelaine …. why aren’t you wearing a different one every day for every kid that gets abducted around the world ? If your answer is – “I know the family” well that’s just fine, but don’t have a go at us who don’t know them eh ?

  49. ooh ! And just to wind you up even more Sophie …. and to make the previous post from Patty proud …. If you know the family so well – you’d get her name right ! Madeleine !!

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