Victims of bungling and incompetence

Victims of bungling and incompetence
Paddy Shennan
22 July 2008
Liverpool Echo

Chief feature writer Paddy Shennan reports on how Madeleine McCann has been badly let down by those investigating her disappearance

Move over Inspector Clouseau and the Keystone Cops, you no longer appear to be quite so clueless.

So this was what Portugal's attorney general, Fernando Jose Pinto Monteiro, meant by a "solution" was it?

A near 15-month-long case, characterised by gross incompetence and almost unbelievable ineptitude, is being shelved, with the police having about as many clues no was they did on day one.

Some solution.

Calamitous cock-ups together with diversionary and devastatingly damaging leaks to the press solved nothing, but caused untold misery and heartache.

There are many innocent victims of what has laughably been called the "investigation" into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann - but Madeleine, herself, is the biggest victim of them all.

How refreshing - and honest and right - it would have been if those at the cutting edge of this inquiry had come out and begged for Kate and Gerry McCann's forgiveness.

But instead of receiving the apology they so richly deserve for being so badly let down, Madeleine's parents have instead been basically told: "We haven't got a clue - so we're giving up."

Again, I would have been expecting too much for the police to say: "We've not only made a pig's ear of looking for your daughter, but added insult to injury by dragging your good names through the mud."

No one is disputing that this, the abduction of a young child in a sleepy holiday resort, presented the Portuguese police with a particularly difficult challenge.

But the seemingly overawed detectives didn't help themselves by making fundamental mistakes - like failing to preserve the crime scene.

And unused to being under the glare of the international media, they were like rabbits caught in headlights - frozen in fear and unable to act. Yet they alienated people by appearing arrogant. They were not going to be rushed - either by desperate parents at the end of their tether or an army of reporters hungry for information.

Their stubborn, blinkered and bloody-minded approach was aided and abetted by Portugal's secrecy laws, which hindered rather than helped.

Within hours of Madeleine's disappearance, an ocean of goodwill engulfed Praia da Luz. Everyone wanted to help because everyone wanted the same thing. A little girl had gone missing and her family, the mass media and countless millions of people wanted her to be found safe and well - and as quickly as possible.

Portugal's secrecy laws are supposed to smooth the wheels of justice, but they ended up sending this investigation careering off the rails. By building and then maintaining their deafening wall of silence, the police caused dismay and created distrust.

They also created a vacuum, which the more irresponsible members of the Portuguese and British press were happy to fill.

It was a calamitous cocktail of precious few facts mixed together with a mountain of fiction.

The biggest and most poisonous of smokescreens began choking our senses last September, when Madeleine's mum and dad were made arguidos.

As Kate's despairing father, Brian Healy, said at the time:
"I think Charlie Cairoli the clown must be in charge of the investigation."

Justine McGuinness, the McCann family's then campaign manager, said police believed Madeleine's DNA had been found in the couple's car ... hired 25 days after she went missing.

If there had been disquiet at the circus surrounding the first named arguido, Robert Murat - who sections of an out-of-control media appeared to presume guilty on the basis that they thought he looked shifty - it now seemed clear that this was an investigation with no place whatsoever for reason and common sense.

That it has taken this long to lift their arguido status is another indictment of the police.

Amid all the lies and distortions being peddled in Portugal, an enlightened piece of journalism appeared in the leading Lisbon newspaper Diaro de Noticias last December.

Columnist Joao Miguel Tavares talked of the need for the media in Portugal to "make a serious analysis of its role in the tragedy and activate mechanisms to stop it from behaving again as a ping-pong table throwing too many lies and too little information".

He also wrote that it was now "as likely that the case will be solved as penguins starting to fly" and referred to the "it will go away" attitude that people in Portugal have, adding: "I suppose this is now also the strategy of the detectives leading this case - let's keep quiet and soon nobody will remember ... In the PJ (Policia Judiciaria) all they dream about now is the silence of the archives."

And now, they have it.

But while the police in Portugal may have given up on Madeleine, her family haven't - and they never will.

Kate's Liverpool-based mum and dad didn't want to comment on the news from Portugal. They instead wished to focus on the family's ongoing search.

Susan Healy told me: "We yearn for the safe return of Madeleine and we thank all the many people who have supported us with their prayers and good wishes.

"We ask that they continue to support us as we continue to search for Madeleine. May God bless them all, we will never forget their kindness."

Their dignity is in stark contrast to the crass opportunism being shown by the disgraced former head of the investigation, Goncalo Amaral, whose grubby book, out this Thursday, reportedly promises "explosive revelations" about the inquiry.

Just in case he, and anybody else, needs reminding, Madeleine McCann went missing 446 days ago - and she is still missing.

Return to top of page Copyright © 2010 | Flash News Converted into Blogger Template by HackTutors