Suddenly the McCanns are in the news again, and the news is ramping up. On September 19th, Tracey Kandohla’s piece popped up in The Sun admonishing critics that “Madeleine is priceless. You cannot put a price on her life.”
All people are priceless, but let’s face it, you can put a price on people’s lives. That’s why there are things like ransoms and salaries, life insurance and prison terms, minimum wages and tax brackets.
The law provides an excellent benchmark in how to deal with missing people. The gold standard is that after seven years with no evidence of a person, the law officially recognizes that person as deceased. Often the law is correct in this assessment but not always. Occasionally – but rarely – people do return from the dead, or some sort of oblivion.
Madeleine has missing for eleven years. The fact that cadaver traces were found in early August [in the holiday apartment, in the garden below the balcony, in the rental vehicle hired weeks after her disappearance] all confirm the obvious. Madeleine is no longer alive, and so to continue looking for her isn’t about how much her life is worth, but using common sense.
If the legal status of Madeleine does change, and she’s recognized as deceased, then she’ll no longer be regarded as a missing child, but a dead child. Then, once again, one has to ponder: if she died, how did she die, and when.
For as long as the McCann case remains a missing person’s case, the McCanns themselves have a sort of invisible legal barrier protecting them. It’s like the Ramsey Ransom Note during the seven hour “kidnapping phase”. During these seven hours when the cops thought they were investigating a child kidnapping, while JonBenet was missing, the parents weren’t seen as suspects. Think of Madeleine like that, except that the kidnapping phase hasn’t been seven hours, but eleven years and counting [and with no Ransom Note].
As soon as JonBenet was found dead in the basement, the parents [and JonBenet’s older brother Burke] became suspects. So there’s a clear incentive for those closest to the victim to perpetuate the pageantry of a missing person’s case, as opposed to the daunting implications of a homicide case.
It’s an old ploy, but we’re now entering a new phase of the game. To see how this new phase fits into the old pattern, let’s dig for a moment into the origins of the game.
Madeleine’s Origin Story
On the 4th of August, 2008, just over ten years ago, there was a major breakthrough in the McCann case. Arguably it was the first and only genuine breakthrough. The Portuguese cops closed the case.
This meant the segredo de justiça or secrecy of justice legal prescription was lifted. As a result, 17 files released on Compact Discs spanning 11 223 pages were released.
In other words, after a year in which the McCann’s ruled the airwaves, appeared in endless television interviews and colonised the front pages of newspapers in Britain and in Portugal since their daughter’s disappearance, the opportunity finally came for an official answer to all the PR – the police evidence.
This was the first chance for a proper rebuttal, but as important as it was, it came long after the McCanns had already seeded and infected the media narrative with their stories, their sympathy cards, their “evidence”.
Although the police file was voluminous, it was a drop in the ocean of the public’s mind compared to the wall-to-wall tabloid and media coverage that preceded it, effectively clouding and contaminating the public’s mind.
Let’s re-examine the highlights of that evidence now, the McCann’s predictable response to it, and how those ploys are playing into their current strategy – because there is one, and always will be.
Evidence Highlights – from the Polícia Judiciária
Via the Guardian’s coverage at the time:
The Portuguese police file on the disappearance of Madeleine McCann showed that a British scientist had warned that tests on DNA recovered from Kate and Gerry McCann’s hire car had been inconclusive days before the couple were formally named as suspects.
It also shows that during a subsequent interview with Portuguese police, Mrs McCann refused to answer 48 questions about her daughter, apparently fearing they were intended to implicate her in the girl’s disappearance.
Other notes showed that detectives told Mr McCann that Madeleine’s DNA had been found in their hire car. Although the questioning on September 7 was not recorded, an unidentified police officer took notes which were included in the dossier.
The officer wrote that Mr McCann was told his daughter’s DNA was discovered in the boot of the rented Renault Scenic and behind a sofa in the family’s holiday apartment. The notes said: “Confronted with the fact that Madeleine’s DNA was gathered from behind the sofa and from the boot of the vehicle, and analysed by a British laboratory, he said he could not explain why this would be.”
This contradicted the Forensic Science Service (FSS) expert’s opinion that the sample found in the car could not be definitively linked to the little girl.
Clarence Mitchell, spokesman for the 40-year-olds from Rothley, Leicestershire, said: “You have to ask what the police were trying to achieve by over-presenting evidence that they did not have, and clearly could not claim to have.”
Among other material released were photographs showing the room where Madeleine had been left by her parents when they went out to dine with friends nearby.
In this short report we have a summary not only of the whole case and the merits of the case, but also the pattern of response from the McCanns.
A cursory analysis reveals that:
- The McCanns [plural] were initially named as suspects by the Polícia Judiciária.
- Kate McCann in particular was subjected to tough questioning. She refused to answer any of 48 questions posed to her. Some questions were as benign as “who contacted the police?”, “did you manage to sleep” and “what was Madeleine’s behavior like?” and as damning as “did you ask for a priest?” or “Did you contact Sky News?” or “Did you consider handing over custody of Madeleine [while she was still alive and in England] to a relative?”
- Madeleine’s DNA was found in a rental vehicle that had been ventilated overnight because it smelled of rotting meat.
- Madeleine’s DNA was found behind the sofa in Apartment 5A and in the boot of the Renault scenic. The car was hired 25 days after Madeleine disappeared. So for Madeleine’s DNA to appear in the trunk space, and leading to alerts by cadaver dogs, is very damning indeed.
- Gerry McCann, when he was a suspect and when he was interrogated, had no explanation for why Madeleine’s DNA/cadaver odor was behind the couch in the apartment, and also in the car. [The article doesn’t mention that cadaver odor was also found in the cupboard in the hotel bedroom, opposite the bed of the McCanns, or that one of the 48 questions posed to Kate referred to the cadaver alerts in their hotel bedroom].
- The police report is “contradicted” by the FSS report, a forensic report commissioned by the McCann’s themselves in the sense that they were involved in a parallel investigation [into themselves effectively] and their using the British authorities and a British lab. The DNA used was supposedly from Madeleine’s hairbrush, except the brush was given to South African DNA hunter Danie Krugel in July 2007. Other sources claim the DNA came from Madeleine’s pillow at her home in Rothley, from an item only her parents could have provided.
- The contradiction of the police report the moment it’s released is useful for McCann PR purposes. Because they’ve been running a parallel investigation while the Portuguese investigation has been kept private, they were able to appear to debunk evidence against them out of hand the moment it appeared.
- The FSS is a dodgy lab that closed down in 2012. It developed a reputation for failing to deliver evidence that it was asked to deliver, including in another high-profile child death – that of ten-year old Damilolah Taylor.
- The McCann’s spokesman scoffed at the evidence presented against them, ironically accusing the Portuguese cops of “over-presenting evidence”, and also, offering evidence that they did not have. This was ironic, because the McCanns had been “over-presenting” their own evidence in wall to wall tabloid coverage all along, one example amongst hundreds [perhaps thousands] being the bogus Tanner sighting.
- It’s not important to know the finer details in the foregoing nine points. What’s important is to see and be able to recognize the mechanism that’s being used to neutralize the investigation. It’s fairly simple: one the one side is a real investigation, and real evidence, on the other side is a pseudo investigation bankrolled by the suspects, and backed by a massive PR campaign [the PR naturally edifying and defending the suspects and the pseudo investigation at every turn]. Clearly where you have one investigation + zero PR and very little information VS another investigation with unlimited media leaks and a highly funded million-pound strong PR campaign, it’s obvious which narrative is going to have the edge on the other. And that’s really what’s going on – controlling the narrative.
I’m not going to deal with the libel cases launched by the McCann’s and the Tapas 7, or the libel suits against them, except to provide a few snippet and screengrabs to gloss through. These show the real war that’s been going on for the past eleven years. A high stakes narrative war with lots of money on the cards for the winners, and lots to lose too.
Now we jump to 2018.
Is the McCann narrative still being controlled 11 years later? One easy but not necessarily accurate way to answer this question is to look at Twitter. The relentless #McCann hashtag never trends. This isn’t necessarily a Twitter conspiracy, it’s simply how Twitter works. Old hashtags tend to wither and die whether or not they achieve new wuthering heights after the fact. In this respect McCann case fantatics wishing to be visible on social media are better advised to begin a new hashtag, such as #McCann2018 or #McCannShakedown.
Twitter is also a very useful barometer of the public’s response [controlled and uncontrolled, influenced and random] to the McCann story. There is some organised trolling on both sides, but clearly, also a lot of ordinary folk who are critical of current events on both sides.
What’s more interesting and more sinister than the social media narrative, is the media narrative. Let’s examine that now in the context of current events, but bearing in mind the old ploys referred to in the ten points above.
The Media Narrative Now
Earlier this month, on September 9th, Matt Drake from The Expess wrote a bizarre story about police in Portugal making “secret” vitits to follow leads. In one of the most public true crime cases in history [if not the most public], one wonders why anything in this case still needs to be kept secret. But let’s have a look anyway:
Freedom of Information requests have revealed that five flights were booked to the country [Portugal] in the last financial year, where the toddler from Leicestershire disappeared in 2007. The air tickets cost £1,240 for two separate trips, according to the Metropolitan Police. Senior investigating officer, Detective Chief Inspector Nicola Wall, also claimed £811 for accommodation and £80 on taxis to and from UK airports.
Along with DCI Wall, three detective constables and one detective sergeant are in the Operation Grange Investigating team – which is dedicated to finding the missing child.
If it’s a secret investigation, why do we know about it, and why do we know about it now? Also, the key aspect of the whole report is the most obvious – the investigators are searching for “a missing child”. Did they somehow overlook the cadaver traces in the apartment, the cadaver traces in the garden, the cadaver traces on the toy, the cadaver traces on the car and on Kate’s clothes? But then The Express throws in another juicy bone to chew on:
Netflix is set to be releasing a brand new true-crime documentary series about the disappearance. There are set to be eight episodes in the new documentary series, which comes a year after the one-off Amanda Knox special.
However, Gerry and Kate McCann will not be in the upcoming programme on the streaming giant.
The couple reportedly declined to take part in the series because of the Metropolitan Police’s ongoing investigation – Operation Grange – into their daughter’s disappearance, according to the MailOnline.
Wow, that’s strange. This 8-part documentary series has been in the offing since October 2017, when The Express reported on Gerry and Kate “snubbing” it. So if they’re snubbing it then, and snubbing it now, how is it news? And why is it news now?
And what does an 8 part documentary have to do with a secret investigation that’s not secret at all?
Now let’s examine that earlier report from The Express, from October 2007, on the same subject.
The so-called Tapas Seven, friends of the McCanns who holidayed with them at Praia da Luz, Portugal, when Madeleine disappeared 10 years ago, have also snubbed the venture commissioned by Netflix and Paramount.
Despite the rejection of co-operation by parents Gerry and Kate McCann, Pulse Films has put together a team, including producers and researchers, to keep the project on track. They are working on a “treatment” which will form the basis of the series, which could cost £20 million.
Last week an executive working for the London-based firm visited Rothley, Leicestershire, where the McCanns live and spent hours interviewing journalists who have chronicled the story.
The assistant producer, who has expertise in undercover filming, later flew to Portugal where he has already established links with people closely involved with the story. Another executive has also visited residents near the home. It is thought producers want to involve former Portuguese police chief Goncalo Amaral, who has been involved in bitter legal action with the McCanns. Dramatic reconstructions will be made of key events, including the night of May 3, 2007, when Madeleine, aged three, disappeared.
Clarence Mitchell, spokesman for the McCanns, has confirmed Pulse Films wrote to Kate and Gerry asking them to co-operate. He said: “Gerry said they did not want to get involved and that is also the view of their friends.”
Netflix is hoping to screen the series next spring, but a spokesman for Pulse Films declined to comment. The company has more than 100 million subscribers with more than half of them living outside the United States.Scotland Yard and Portuguese police continue to investigate the case but they have not made a breakthrough.
A television insider said: “This documentary series could provide the McCanns with an opportunity to appeal to a vast global audience of possibly 50 million for help, but they may see it as exploitative and too painful.Without seeing the Netflix documentary, it’s difficult to say what it intends to do. Or is it? The McCanns and Tapas 7 snubbing may be because the documentary is “authentic” [or inauthentic as they see it], and so, may cast suspicion on them. On the other hand, look at the timing, and the libel actions. If the McCanns need good PR, and good PR pressure, then what better time is there than when the case is being heard by the European Court? The legal folks may or may not watch the series, but you can bet your bottom dollar media around the world will report exhaustively on it. And what has been the same message beating the media drum [for the most part] since day 1? Apologia.
On the ten year anniversary, the Aussie documentary with its lankmark breakthrough [what was it again – I’ve forgotten], was also Apologia. In a media landscape where anyone who criticizes or accuses the McCanns is sued, what are the chances Netflix are going to provide genuine analysis here?
There’s also a good reason for the McCanns not to be directly involved in the Netflix show. Anything they say now can and may be used against them in court. This raises another possibility. Are they indirectly involved?
Now let’s go to The Sun to get some of the latest spin, and see if we can answer this question. On April 27th, Tracey Kadohla, the unofficial McCann scribe penned a piece about why the McCann’s [on the 11 year anniversary] won’t be talking to the media. Bare in mind they have written a book, given countless interviews, done innumerable anniversary type fundraiser awareness events, but this year they want to maintain a respectful silence. Why? Is it because they want to be silent or because they have to be?
On September 11, Kandohla was at it again, this time in the Daily Mail.
Police officers on the scaled down Operation Grange inquiry have secretly continued to visit the Algarve searching for possible clues to Maddie’s whereabouts but are believed not to be any step closer to finding an abductor.
The source added: ‘Kate and Gerry are grateful to the Metropolitan Police for everything they have done over the years and hope of course that the inquiry into their daughter’s abduction will continue if more funds are requested and made available.’
Although the McCanns keep appealing for more money, and more police help, they don’t seem to do much searching themselves. They snub documentaries [apparently] but are enthusiastic about taking their detractors to court – those investigations and legal mechanisms they have a tireless appetite for. Kandohla continues:
The Portuguese investigation of Madeleine’s disappearance was criticised by the British authorities as being not fit for purpose. Detectives believe she was stolen by child traffickers, sex fiends or during a burglary gone wrong.
Which detectives believe this? Referring to the police report at the top of this post, didn’t it highlight the parents as unco-operative prime suspects? So where do the child traffickers, sex fiends and burglars come from? Is it a Polícia Judiciária theory, a British police theory, or a McCann’s detective’s theory?
Inevitably, these news reports from Kandohla are littered with sappy sentimental sympathy cards, like this:
In May, her parents posted a poignant tribute to mark their daughter’s 15th birthday – telling her: ‘We love you and we’re waiting for you and we’re never going to give up.’ Gerry and his wife Kate wrote ‘Happy 15th Birthday Madeleine!’ on the official Find Madeleine Campaign Facebook page. The message accompanied a cherished last photo of her as a three-year-old, smiling under a wide-brimmed sun hat and is posted alongside a green and yellow ribbon symbolising hope, strength and solidarity.
If the McCanns are invested and visible on anniversary day, and on Madeleine’s birthday, where are they during the rest of the year? A single Facebook tribute seems like a minimal effort to look for someone that’s so precious, and so worthy of more and more money.
On September 16th, just a few days after her last media blast, Kandohla’s at it again. This time the sympathy jerk-off is a lot less subtle.
Gerry McCann will speak candidly about his own struggles in a bid to help other men facing unimaginable loss and grief cope with their issues. The eminent cardiologist – whose daughter Maddie vanished nearly eleven and a half years ago during a family holiday in Portugal – will open up about the once taboo subject of males talking frankly about their emotions.
Wow. Is this really first time in eleven years Gerry has spoken “candidly” about his feelings? And when he has he doesn’t seem to be “coping with unimaginable loss” but quite the opposite, he seems smug.
Mr McCann, 50, will discuss his own agony in ‘honest, personal and sometimes painful terms’ for the BBC Radio 4 special show.
He said: ‘I decided it was a good opportunity to say something about the special bond between fathers and daughters, thinking that speaking openly might help other men in similar positions. It feels like the right time.’
Kandohla then really turns up the volume, invoking Kate’s unfulfilled desire to take her own life. It’s difficult to reconcile the suicidal image of Kate with the Kate seen jogging around Praia da Luz after Madeleine’s disappearance, and then running marathons.
This is also very bizarre given the “police orders” that they remain silent, an article written by Kandohla herself less than five months before this one. Kandohla cleverly links Gerry’s newfound mental health campaigning now with Prince Harry’s in 2017. Maybe Prince Harry can offer them some support, like the Pope did circa mid-2007. Kandohla also gets that in – that the McCanns are devout Roman Catholics, and that Gerry is a “world renowned doctor”. Is he world renowned because of his medical fame?
On September 18th, the Daily Mail breathlessly reports that the McCann fund could be WIPED OUT at any moment [even though it’s been funding an investigation non stop for eleven years]. In a clever use of semantics, the article implies that the fund will be used to pay Goncalo Amaral in the event he wins the libel contest. In other words, for suing him, if the McCanns lose, the public foots the bill.
If they lose the case the pair will be forced to pay Goncalo Amaral £750,000, after he made a bid to sue them for compensation. The couple will face Amaral in the European Court, as public money which was funding the search for Madeleine is about to dry up.
It is believed that Kate and Gerry have had to take money from the fund in the past to cover costs of previous hearings. Retired Det Chief Insp Mick Neville, who last year investigated the case, said: ‘It is tragic that funds to try to find her could be lost because of this legal action.
In other words, isn’t it a shame that the McCann’s should spend money out of the fund on these frivolous hearings when it could go to a really good cause – searching for Madeleine. What Amaral is effectively doing then [so the psychology goes] is stealing money from Madeleine, and stealing her chances of ever being found. No matter the detective lost his job and livelihood because of pressure exerted on him – Madeleine’s life is of inestimable value. Detective Amaral’s – pah!
There’s some [very slim] reason to believe that the outcome of the imminent trial may be firstly in Amaral’s favor, and secondly that the “secret” investigation may well be legitimate. Did the change in the Home Secretary have anything to do with the McCann’s possible reversal of fortune?
It could be too much to wish for, but things are certainly afoot in the McCann’s PR universe in a way they haven’t been for some years. And the ravens are circling.