End this witch hunt

End this witch hunt and find Madeleine
Tony Parsons
17 September 2007

The real crime and the real tragedy is that nobody is looking for Madeleine McCann anymore.

That little girl is out there somewhere, either dead or alive, but all of the energy of those Keystone cretins, the Portuguese police, are being poured into attributing guilt to Kate and Gerry McCann.

We are little better. Back home, the search for Madeleine has been reduced to a grotesque who dunnit, adult entertainment of the blackest kind.

The big question is no longer "What happened to Madeleine McCann?" The question now is "Which side are you on?"

Are you still completely convinced of the McCanns' innocence? Or are you one of those sad, spiteful souls - and there are plenty of them - who is asking for a refund of the money you donated to the Find Madeleine fund?

I cannot recall a news story that so totally divides public opinion.

We were told all along that the McCanns were brilliant media manipulators, but I wonder if they truly understand the nature of the beast. The media - like the mob - can turn in a moment.

I would not have thought it possible, but with frightening speed Kate and Gerry McCann have gone from tragic victims to the worst thing in the world - suspected murderers of their own child.

I don't believe for one second that they did it. If they did, then they are the greatest actors who ever lived.

The bewilderment, the grief, the overwhelming sense that their world has collapsed - it was there at the start and it is there now.

Kate and Gerry McCann would need to be better than Streep and DeNiro to play the roles they played in front of the world's media.

They would also need to be criminal masterminds. To kill - accidentally or otherwise - little Madeleine, and then court the attention of all those cameras and reporters, and then dispose of the body under that glaring spotlight. They did not do it.

I do not much care what the Portuguese spoon-feed their tame hacks in the local rags - that man and woman are innocent, and it is an obscenity that the world is playing Cluedo with their lives and the fate of their little girl.

No smoke without fire, right? But there is no smoke.

A lot of the innuendo and propaganda that the Portuguese cops have slipped to their flunkies in the Portuguese press turns out to have absolutely no basis in the real world. We were informed that the woman who lives above the apartment where the McCanns were staying often heard Madeleine crying and "sounds of violence."

Now the real woman - Pamela Fenn, 81 - says that these claims are "absolute rubbish."

Reports of hair in the hire car, blood on the curtains, the 'smell of death' in the apartment - none of these lurid titbits prove that Madeleine McCann is dead, and still less that her parents murdered her.

Forensic experts in this country say that all the evidence stacked up against the McCanns would never lead to a conviction in a British court. We are told Kate McCann "struggled to control" three children under the age of five.

Well, who the hell wouldn't? Most of us struggle with just one.

That doesn't make her any less of the calm, loving mother that she has always appeared to be.

But chuck enough dirt and it will stick. The Portuguese cops seem stupendously stupid - but they are smart enough to understand that.

It is right that the McCanns should be potential suspects. But it should all have been done months ago - not when the Portuguese cops have become a sick joke because of their blundering incompetence.

Those swaggering plods in their dark glasses clearly wanted the media circus to go away from their sleepy, sunny doorstep, and they have been granted their wish.

As the months have dragged on, they must have felt like lumbering yokels, despised by their north European neighbours. They are not the type who would enjoy that feeling.

Chief Inspector Goncalo Amaral, the fat, sweaty cop who is co-leader of the investigation into Madeleine's disappearance, faces investigation himself for the torture of Leonor Cipriano, the mother of an eight-year-old girl who disappeared in the Algarve in 2004.

Official mug shots show the mother with her eyes battered so badly that she is unable to open them. She allegedly confessed to the crime and is now serving a 16-year-jail sentence.

The missing child has never been found.

That is Portuguese policing in action, and I would suggest that the smear campaign that has been unleashed on the McCanns is just as bad as being given a kicking in a police cell.

The Portuguese plods are not desperate to solve this crime - such a task was way beyond them.

They just want a convenient confession, true or false.

They just want the case of Madeleine McCann to go away so they can salvage what is left of their fragile macho pride and return to their siesta.

And somewhere a tiny child is still out there, whether she is dead or alive, separated from all she ever knew and loved.

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