Saturday, September 08, 2007

The Case of Madeline McCann And The Xenophobic British Press

It is too early to say what the latest developments in this case may mean, however, some of the statements that have been made are utterly ridiculous. A great deal of the coverage comprises of members of the McCann family claiming that it is 'ludicrous' that they are being treated as suspects. I see it hard to sympathise with their position. Like it or not, we are all capable of committing such a crime. The insistence of the family that this is 'impossible' is naive in the extreme. While nothing is proven, everyone should be considered as suspects, no matter how uncomfortable that may make them feel. Sadly, as many cases in the past have proven, nothing is impossible.

The problem is, all of the British media have invested so much in this story. Right from the start, large sections of the media have demonstrated a xenophobic approach to the activities of the Portuguese police. So convinced are they of the police's incompetence, they won't even entertain the idea that their investigations might be making progress. No, the media have decided that they are entirely innocent. I hope they are right because if they are wrong, a lot of people are going to feel very foolish.

A glance at some reporting underlines the incompetence of our own media. Gazeta Digital (a website that has been analysing reporting of the disappearance of Madeleine) has picked out some very interesting quotes that are worth reproducing:

Daily Mail
A haunting question for all of Kate's supporters
Amanda Platell
00:42am 8th September 2007

As so often in this terrible case, it's the pictures that stick most keenly in the memory. Madeleine, bright-eyed and smiling, clutching two tennis balls to her chest in one of the last photos taken of her... Her parents, weighed-down by exhaustion and grief as they walked by the sea shore... Madeleine's pink "cuddle cat" held tight in her mother's hands as she attended mass each Sunday.

Now we have an even more haunting image: Kate McCann walking into the Portuguese police station for a second day of questioning, to be branded a formal suspect in her daughter's disappearance.

One can only speculate what mental torment she must be going through. But there are now surely two horrible possibilities. Kate could be being set up by a Portuguese police force, humiliated by its inability to find a single solid lead in Madeleine's disappearance. If that is indeed the case - as her friends fervently believe - or if she is simply the victim of yet more police incompetence, then it is surely appalling.

Despite their mishandling of the case so far, are the Portuguese police really so stupid and callous as to put Kate through this latest ordeal unless there remained questions only she could answer?

For Kate McCann's sake - and for those of us who have identified with her - we can only hope so.

The Telegraph
Kate McCann: The claims and case for defence
By Gordon Rayner, Chief Reporter
Last Updated: 10:51pm BST 07/09/2007

Salacious reports of blood spots, intercepted phone calls and child sedation so far have been dismissed as nothing more than libellous slurs by the McCann family.

Now there is the very real prospect that Kate McCann be charged and tried over Madeleine's disappearance.

races of dried blood, said to be Madeleine's, have allegedly been found in a car hired by the McCanns 25 days after Madeleine's disappearance.

The blood is said to have been found in the boot of the Renault Scenic hire car after sniffer dogs were brought in by British police as part of a review of the investigation.

Tests by the Forensic Science Service in Birmingham are thought to have indicated the blood may be Madeleine's.

Then last month there were speculative claims that the McCanns, both doctors, may have 'doped' Madeleine to get her off to sleep before they set off for dinner at a tapas bar near the apartment.

There were reports today that the police were questioning Mrs McCann about giving Madeleine a dose of a sedative.

Mrs McCann's lawyers will already have identified several huge holes in the theory that she could have killed Madeleine.

How, for example, could she have killed her daughter, removed her body from the apartment and hidden it while her friends sat just yards away in a tapas bar?

And how, four weeks later, was one of the most watched women in the world able to bundle a body into a hire car and dispose of it under the noses of her family, police liaison officers and the world's press?

The McCanns were among a party of nine people on the day Madeleine disappeared, in a resort full of tourists, and were never away from their friends for more than a few minutes at a time.

It would surely have been impossible for Mrs McCann to kill her daughter and hide the body in such a short space of time without being seen, not to mention returning to the restaurant as if nothing had happened.

The only other window of opportunity would have been in the two and half hours between the time when Madeleine was last seen alive and when the couple met their friends for dinner.

Most implausible of all, perhaps, is the suggestion that Mrs McCann returned to the place where she had hidden the body a month later, put it in the boot of her hire car and driven somewhere to dispose of the body.

Ever since Madeleine's disappearance the McCanns have been surrounded by friends and family, police officers and the media - are we to believe that she somehow gave them all the slip and buried her daughter or threw her out to sea?

Furthermore, could she really have gone through 127 days of constant interviews and media exposure without once showing any signs of guilt?

On a procedural level, a catalogue of blunders by the police, who failed to seal off the crime scene, would be likely to render any forensic evidence unreliable.

Again, I would not wish to prejudge the outcome of this case, but you have to question the reporting of the British media. What happened to impartiality? The truth of what happened is yet to come out. One hopes that they are entirely innocent. However, we must entertain the idea that the Portuguese police know what they are doing. To dismiss their investigation out of hand smacks of gross xenophobia and incompetent journalism.