Sunday, 3 May 2009

Our Madeleine

“We want a big event to raise awareness that she is still missing (...) It wouldn’t be a one-year anniversary, it will be sooner than that” (Gerry McCann on June 3, 2007, one month after Madeleine's disappearance.)

It is two years since Madeleine McCann went missing. From the very first interview with her parents, something struck me as peculiar about the official story. Generally I avoid news stories of missing and abused children. It's too painful. I don't want to know.
This time however, my antennae went up. Kate McCann did not act...sincerely... Some of her early comments regarding her 'missing' daughter were inappropriate "Whoever's got her, Madeleine will be giving them a piece of her mind". Asked to talk to Madeleine, after all, if abducted, she and the kidnapper could be watching TV, Kate looked down and said "she knows we love her". Not the behaviour of a mother seeking her child, more like the behaviour of a grieving frightened mother.
I have lots of theories about why the press have not properly reported on this 'abduction', why the McCanns have been treated with kid gloves. Several female TV presenters supported the McCanns. I believe this is down to working mother guilt; they saw themselves in Kate McCann, a professional woman who found it hard to cope with the loss of status entailed with becoming a stay-at-home mother. They wouldn't want to criticize another middle-class mother who relies heavily on nannies and paid help to bring up children. These exhausted mothers may also have had occasion to play fast and loose with the rules of wise parenting in the interests of having a break. It is little known but the McCanns left their children alone not just that fateful night, but every single night of their holiday. This is unheard of.
Two years ago I travelled around Mexico and Guatemala with my then 13 year old daughter. One night she had fallen asleep in the hotel room. I was hungry, I wanted to go out to find something to eat. But I didn't. There is no way that I would leave my 13 year old daughter alone in a hotel room in a foreign country. Some may call that over-protective.
I made mistakes when I was bringing up my daughter. I was alone. Unlike Kate McCann, I did not have a husband, several friends, the money to pay for creches when I went on holiday with my child. Once I fell asleep on a beach while my child, only three, played on the edge of the sea. She was wearing one of those swimming costumes stuffed with polystyrene, so she wouldn't have drowned. But I still feel guilty about that lapse to this day.
Bringing up children is a series of near-misses. Most of us get lucky.
I don't hate the McCanns. I feel sorry for them. I believe there was some kind of accident which they couldn't admit to, especially being abroad. I do wish they would put everybody out of their misery, themselves even, and especially the Portuguese, by telling the truth.
There are rumours of political pressure applied by Gordon Brown on the Portuguese government to drop the investigation into what happened to Madeleine McCann. Another black mark for Gordon.
Goncalo Amaral was the detective in charge of the case. He believes that Madeleine McCann died in the flat on the 3rd of May and her body was hidden. He was pulled off the case after he made the McCanns into 'arguidos', a Portuguese legal term which implies that they are not exactly suspects but hold sensitive information regarding the case. Here is the film he has made: he may be wrong, but it is certainly of interest:

A clearer case of child neglect, this time from the 'underclass', and this time gloves off from the press...The killer of baby P, it turns out, has also raped a two year old girl, most likely baby P's sister. Appalling though this is, I yearn to read a more nuanced report on the truth of this situation. Why did the mother, from some accounts a perfectly loving mother before she met her boyfriend, the killer, put up with his abuse of her children? What's the background of the killer? Was he abused as a child? Or is he just evil?

I came across a website in the last few days which talked about Baby P's mother in the most abusive terms. I've seen Facebook groups that want to form a lynch mob to kill Baby P's mother and the social workers. Do they think this is helpful?
I know social workers who will not work with children because of the pressure and the flak they will receive if they make a mistake. Social workers do not get enough funding. They are handling too many cases. Some of them are ham-strung by political correctness it seems. But whatever they do, they get criticized. In the Cleveland scandal of a few years back, social workers and hospital doctors were hounded for putting children into care, as suspected victims of sexual abuse. The young inexperienced social worker, Lisa Arthurworrey, from the Anna/Victoria Climbie case has been suicidal and house-bound for years since her mistake was exposed.
Now social workers are scorned for not removing children from families soon enough.
We feel frustrated and upset when we hear that young children are tortured and abused. We want to take it out on someone.
Bad things will always happen. Ultimately, if someone is determined to commit a crime, there's not much anybody can do about it.


  1. I too feel the McCanns are the untold story here, but i have to admit I always believed the Ramseys were to blame for JonBenet's death. Maybe one day we'll know the truth.

  2. Oh god yes. The handwriting experts confirm the 'kidnapping note' left. The terminology was that of the mother.
    The fact is that in the vast majority of missing children cases, the perps are the parents or the family.
    It's stupid to ignore that...

  3. A brilliant piece, well written and well researched...well done.

  4. Very interesting read! I do think class heavily influences these things, and I agree with everything you say regarding the handling of the McCann case and the Baby P case.

    Such a traumatic and sensitive area, but witch hunts and lynch mobs don't get us anywhere. So destructive!

  5. Taking a child from its mother is a big decision and sometimes it is right to do so, often wrong. I don't have any particular theory on the McCanns, but was interested to read your take. Another curious case was Sharon Matthews - different, but shows what can go down. We pretty much know what happened with Matthews, as for the McCanns I don't know if we ever will.

    I heard Ed Balls (Up), the UK government minister talking absolute shirt about social workers on the radio this morning. Asked about social workers having to spend too much time at their computers on red tape, and not enough on the job, he said they should do the right thing and the government would support them. Absolute rubbish, if they don't follow the rules they'll obviously be disciplined and probably sacked and even prosecuted. The guy was just spouting absolute garbage - people like Balls really are a joke, but unfortunately the joke is on us since it is Balls and his mates who are running the country!

  6. Yes, there's definitely something weird going on there. It just doesn't ring true, and the more you research the more inescapable it becomes. Whatever has happened though, they must feel absolutely terrible.

    The people who want to lynch social workers should try doing the job for a few months and see how they get on. Idiots.

    I can't see the video because half of it is out of frame, can you fix it or post up a link to the original?

  7. CE I've fiddled about with it but can't seem to post it up properly therefore I've put in a link...

  8. I can´t believe that the interview with oprah was censored in the UK!
    In Portugal it was broadcasted on the 4th of May, same day as it was in the US.

  9. I didn't know that they censored it. What exactly did they censor? The whole interview or parts of it?
    Welcome to the blog by the way

  10. A bravely-written article, ML. It's a very unpleasant subject and I don't blame you for turning off the news when a story like this comes up.

    Some have compared Kate McCann's behavior to that of Lindy Chamberlain. Chamberlain was convicted and jailed for the murder of her baby daughter, but was later released on appeal. However she has never been aquitted in the minds of the public in Australia where she lives. She appeared very cool and unpeterbed by her baby's death, and she provided a very outlandish claim: that the baby had been snatched by a wild dog while they were staying at a desert campsite. This has led to a lot of speculation and accusation. Some say there is a ritual element to many of these crimes, including Madeleine McCann. Although I know that such things do happen I just don't know in either of these cases.

    I appreciate that social services have a hard job to do, but as someone who has been on the receiving end of them in regard to my own child, I often asked myself why they didn't have bigger fish to fry.

  11. This is such a sensitive area isn't it? My sister is a social worker and is under such pressure to complete a mountain of paperwork that she barely has enough time to do her actual job.

    It's absurd, more time is spent typing up notes and implementing 'new' databases etc than visiting those in need or at risk.

    Ed Balls is an idiot.

    Thanks you ML for such a well written and thought provoking post.

  12. Wonderful to have my own opinions about the McCanns confirmed with some researched information, rather than just anecdotal.

  13. Very interesting post. Regarding Kate McCann - whatever she said and however wrong she was to leave the children alone, the Press has a history of viciously punishing women who do not conform to the 'weeping distraught parent' standard that they set. It's far more satisfying - more infotainment for the press to see a crying, wretched woman that we can empathise with, instead of the strangely calm, poised figure Kate McCann presented.

    As Ben pointed out rightly, Lindy Chamberlain was convicted a la Kafka, for not crying or showing enough emotion. Joanna Lees was torn apart by the Daily Mail for not crying enough when her boyfriend was murdered in the Outback. (In fact the Mail wanted serial rights to her story and a Mail journalist wanted to write a book about it. Lees refused to co-operate so the Mail made it their business to try and destroy her).

    Kate McCann may well have been on sedatives which is why she seemed eerily calm. I would be.

    As for Baby P - what struck me most was something Camilla Cavendish wrote about it - that the social workers decided early on that the mother was inadequate but not deliberately abusive and stuck to this initial theory in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary. She came from a background of chaos and abuse herself and had no ability to empathise with her baby - in the way that these women think that a baby will 'give' them the love they lacked as a child. The child is born and instead is a bundle of needs and wants themselves, giving nothing back. The mother, inadequate, unable to parent doesn't know what to do - cannot control her anger. And in this case, she was able to manipulate the social services, to the point of covering the baby's bruises with chocolate.

    All I know is I could not do that job. I would want to gather up the baby and run. I would not want to spend my life trying to face squarely the ugliness of poverty and cruelty that social workers have to confront every day. There are thousands of people out there who cannot look after themselves. They should not be having children. What do you do? I don't know what the answer is.

    And I think of the pathetic Karen Matthews in jail, apparently talking about 'doing courses so she can get out early'. Still refusing to take any responsibility for kidnapping her own child. Someone else said that when you have two or three generations on benefits, they look on the State as their parent. Literally. They become children themselves, totally unable to take responsibilty for any aspect of their lives.

  14. great post! I too just want to know what happened! I don't like the fact that they were left alone...I always wondered if there was an accident - weren't there three children in the room(?) my memory is slightly fuzzy due to an insane lack of sleep!

    As for social workers, people love to blame, and at the risk of sounding like a snob, the uneducated love to point the finger of blame, and jump about shouting, when they really have no idea what is involved, I blame papers like the sun for breeding such yobbish behavior and ignorance!

    P.S. LOVED your hat in the piccie on bellaphon's blog :D

  15. Oh dear another Pitchforker who cannot seem to understand the concept of the lack of evidence against the McCanns.
    Yes they were wrong to leave the kids alone, but they have now paid the ultimate price for it.
    Yet there is no evidence to suggest they were involved in Madeleine's vanishing act. Do not give me rubbish about Amaral saying he has evidence, if he did they would have been convicted. The dogs evidence just points to a death scent. Does not mean it is Madeleine's scent at all.
    The blood had DNA results and they came back as not Madeline's. Do not get yourself brainwashed by those at the 3 Arguido's. They have one agenda and that is to attack the McCanns.

  16. Well Murat fan,
    you obviously spend far more time than I do over at the 3arguidos
    I trust my instincts.
    I've heard a different story from you regarding evidence.
    But we must agree to differ. I think it's rude to refer to me as a 'pitchforker', that's not the tone of my post at all.

  17. Bit late in the day to comment but I too thought Kate McCann didn't present as authentic & I think there was an accident which has been concealed. I think their class has insured them against the kind of vitriol that Sharon Matthews and those around Baby P experienced but I am also hesitant to vilify a woman who just does not present as I think she should. So I am not sure, but I would echo all of the comments about those who say that social workers are overwhelmed by paperwork. This government want to measure social work (such an easily measurable task huh?) and that involves ticking a box on a computer or writing something on an electronic record. The only way records get written is when workers neglect case work or work a lot of additional hours outside working hours. This is what holds workers accountable, and the reason it is wrong is because some families have the capacity to effect change. Some don’t, and as Jane says, there is a kind of learned helplessness when families expectation is that they will have a social worker and everyone on the street has one. Some families who have experienced poor parenting just haven’t had any kind of good parenting modelled for them, once they have, they can pick it up and run with it. That is what workers live for, they stay awake at night thinking about the babies, & the baby P’s but that brings me to the law. It was also the lawyers who were the obstacle to the Baby P case going to court, and social workers should be given more respect by the courts for their expertise, because it should be they who make the decisions. Lawyers need to remember that their advice is just that; advice. The bigger legal picture is the 1989 Children Act, which workers rename the parent act, because that is where its focus is. The Act’s focus is that children are better placed with parents, and whilst it is right that they are not removed unnecessarily, it also leaves them at home for too long too often. The largest demographic in the care population are the 140 – 14 year olds who emerge from all of those years of neglect displaying exactly the kind of challenging behaviours you would expect them to. They are the sociopaths/psychopaths of the future and Baby P could have been one of them if he had lived.

  18. “So I understand. The Church sent them a priest, then?”“I’m convinced,” I said. “I’ll never go swimming again, and I’ll steer clear of Florida forever. But where’s the danger for girls-or women either, for that matter? I realize you pee, although I understand you have to sit down to do it-”“Right over there,” Howell replied, pointing. The man didn’t move. Suddenly, Howell realized that he, too, was blind. “Oh, sorry, straight ahead.” He took the man’s elbow, guided him across the room, and placed his hand on the piano.


I would love to hear what you think of this post! I try to reply to every comment (if there is a delay, I am probably away from an internet connection or abroad)