“Photography helps people to see.” — Berenice Abbott
Think about Madeleine McCann. What image comes to mind?
The first image released to the media and circulated throughout the first three weeks and the image/s subsequently burned into the public’s mind are not the same. Why not? And if not, does it really matter?
On the second question, does it matter:
- One might argue that the delay of the “last photo” came down to the media and the McCanns simply being slow to get off the mark, slow to get organized, but that’s not right.
- On May 15th, 2007, twelve days after her disappearance, the McCanns set up Madeleine’s Fund: Leaving No Stone Unturned Ltd. Within two days of the website going live, it had amassed 58 million page views. During this initial period, the so-called “last photo” still had not been released, and a third critical week would slip by before it finally was. So why the delay?
- One might argue that the rigmarole involved in getting a hold of family photos, especially while in a foreign country, might have delayed getting the “right” photo out sooner. But that’s not right either. This was the era of digital photography, and the McCanns had a digital camera with them on their holiday. When the police arrived at 5A on the fateful night Madeleine disappeared, the silver Canon PowerShot A620 was sitting on the table in the apartment. And yes, in its memory card were photos – usable photos – of Madeleine from the holiday*.
- One might think the McCanns may not have had much time to take family photos, or had they forgotten they had? May 3rd was the second to last night for the McCanns in the Algarve. They’d arrived at the hotel almost a week earlier on a bright, though mild, Saturday afternoon – April 28th. They were due to leave the following Saturday, May 5th, after a seven day break during the off-season.
Since the crime happened on the last day before their departure, from a camera footage perspective, they could hardly have had less opportunity to accumulate happy holiday snaps of Madeleine.
On the first question, why would there be a deliberate discrepancy, well…because it’s happened before. Curiously, the “unsolved” JonBenét Ramsey case has similar problems:
- There were [unusually] very few images taken on the day – Christmas of 1996 – when JonBenét was murdered in her own home in Boulder, Colorado.
- The first image released to the public [looking for JonBenét’s killer] was a kindergarten image of JonBenét that was hardly recognisable compared to her pageant photos.
- The Ramseys were also scheduled to fly out on a family holiday first thing on the morning after her death.
The Amanda Knox case [sightseeing trip to Assissi], the Jodi Arias case [Cancun], the Oscar Pistorius case [Brazil, Manchester] and the O.J. Simpson case [Chicago] all involve murders around imminent or clearly scheduled travel arrangements.
Did Madeleine’s coming to grief have something to do with the timing of it – because it was the last night of a holiday? Did the festivities of those celebrating the last night have an impact on what happened that fateful night of all nights?
*According to Kate McCann, friend, Russell ‘O Brien, asked for the digital camera “later” [an indeterminate time] on the night of May 3rd 2007. The McCanns make no mention of either offering the police digital photos or of the police requesting them.
Read more in DOUBT, due out this May