Cheap, flimsy & emptySpecial Freight
In a few weeks time a cupboard labelled Evidence Supporting the Parents’ Claims since 2007 will be delivered to a Lisbon court, there to sit making its own silent statement. A thin and angry M/S Isabel Duarte will attempt to get it draped with grey cloth in order, she will shout, “not to distract the court”. Having failed to do so she will refer to its bulging contents throughout the rest of the libel trial but will be unable to find a way of opening it.
After that the cupboard will be air-freighted to Scotland Yard to be inspected at intervals by the forty five or so officers undertaking a case review. The review will end with the cupboard still empty and the officers retracing the PJ’s steps since there are, literally, no other tracks to follow.
It is the lack of sustenance on the cupboard shelves that is slowly but surely turning the activist supporters of the parents to the edge of hysteria, as a glance at their blogs, social postings and forum contributions will easily confirm: starvation rations always end up having that effect. Most of their postings now avoid any pretence of dealing with factual matters concerning the loss of the child, concentrating instead on a stream of invective against anyone who doesn’t share their obsessions. The rants, threats and evasions, together with the increasing use of shouting text like This (a symptom of the loss of an argument) communicate a toxic mix of perverted joy at the punishments awaiting Bennett, Amaral et al (they list them in drooling detail) and a curious sense of fragile edginess. What are they worried about and why do they seem to sense coming pain?
As Gerry McCann might say, “ask them”: the Blacksmith Bureau doesn’t do counselling. The only reason they matter is that they are reflecting reality – the reality of the parents’ increasingly desperate situation and the dreadful fact of the ever-empty cupboard. The same sense of unbalanced aggression to enemies entwined with suppressed pessimism – or in her case actual foreboding about her future – is to be found in Kate McCann’s Madeleine.
Enter the big brains
Still, a little way back from the toad-filled cauldron, we have the more “intellectual” of the supporters attempting to make some sort of case for the pair, although the same neurotic note is present. In the absence of anything factual to counter the rising din against the parents they have turned to the last-ditch “they couldn’t be guilty of anything because…” hand book, digging up stuff from the past – what other source do they have? – and laying it out yet again, perhaps in the hope that, like my daughter, if they say something often enough and loudly enough it will come true. Two of these threadbare claims are worth examining for how they stand up to the evidence, particularly the evidence from that four- -and-a-half-year-in-the-filling comfort box labelled The Other Cupboard.
The first such claim is that little wonder, “nobody could have carried on acting naturally if they had…” As well as being put forward extensively by commentators in 2007 it has the final imprimatur of the demon prosecutor himself, Menezes, where he states in the archiving summary that their non-involvement in any criminal activity was demonstrated by, among things, “the normal behaviour that they adopted until the disappearance and afterwards, as can be amply concluded from the witness statements.”
In other words if the parents had been involved in some dreadful event early in the evening of May 3 then they would have been quite unable to mask the emotions which one would expect to result from such a situation.
What, one wonders, might legal counsel in a libel case, say, make of this claim?
Classy, full, healthy – and oursHe simply reaches into the overflowing cupboard, pats his tummy comfortably and begins.
- There is primary source evidence that when required or considered to be necessary the parents, particularly Kate McCann, are extremely skilled at masking their real feelings very successfully even when under enormous emotional and other stress. (Footnote 1)
- This ability to mask, or deaden, the emotional response to the loss of their daughter, on request,was the subject of widespread remark by commentators and observers of the case who had watched their performances on television.(2)
- Had the parents been incapable of masking their emotions effectively then they would have been unable, by definition, to follow the advice they were given.So they have a proven and recorded ability to do so. (3)
- The previously unknown primary source evidence provided by Kate McCann in Madeleine regarding events on August 8 provides a second, quite separate, series of examples of the parents coolly misinforming the media and the public – lying – about their situation while giving no clues in their demeanour to the enormous stress the police had already placed them under and which, away from the public and the cameras, was resulting in despair and hysteria. (4).
- Finally, the parents behaviour after the disappearance cannot be slotted into this defence, although poor Mr Menezes didn’t notice. There is no normal template for behaviour in such circumstances that would distinguish it either from acting or from genuine emotional distress at events unknown to us.(5)
And down goes another
The second claim is that the parents, by keeping themselves at the centre of public attention, have behaved in a way that is quite counter to the expected behaviour of people with something to hide. Had the latter been the case, the claim runs, then they would surely have sought privacy in the hope that their notoriety and hence their suspected actions would be forgotten. Instead they stand proudly in the public eye.
In which case it is down to the advocates of this view to demonstrate just when the parents have ever been free to withdraw from the limelight. In summer 2007? Nope, they tried and failed. (6) In autumn and winter of that year? No, again – their defence team shut the newspapers up while they hid behind those awful Rothley redbrick walls, certainly, but they saw it as essential for the pair to stay in the lights to propagandize as part of Project Expunge, the counter to an EAW. (7)
In the first half of 2008? What, when they made their absurd Eurostar trip with accompanying photographs to try and counter the fall-out from the rogatory interviews? (8) Or later, when they span the archiving report to the UK media so dementedly to try and strengthen the so-called exoneration? (9) Or when the media caught them out using confidential Family Court proceedings to get at the Leicester police evidence?
And that’s it, because shortly thereafter the Truth of the Lie was published and with it went any chance of the McCanns retreating from the lights as long as Amaral remained alive: silence in the face of his claims would have been treated as acceptance and thus they had to sue. Ever since then Amaral has given them no choice but to remain in the news, either defending themselves against the increasingly convincing claims being made against them in court or by fund raising to maintain the litigation effort.
The claim doesn’t stand up when the record, rather than the hope, is examined. The fact is that since May 3 2007 the couple have held a wolf by the ears: passive silence and withdrawal has never been an option.
The louder they shout the thinner they get
Notes, reference, evidence (the boring bit)
(1) The claims by the parents that they were advised to try and conceal their feelings in public are well attested. See Oprah transcript:
‘Four days after Madeleine's disappearance, the McCanns held another press conference pleading for their daughter's safe return. Kate remained calm as she spoke, but the tabloids would use her appearance against her, saying her lack of emotion implied guilt. "I'd spent 72 hours crying, and you suddenly almost feel a little bit numb," Kate says. She'd also spoken with a behavioural expert who'd given specific advice on how to act at the press conference, Kate says. "They said, 'It's quite important that you don't show any emotion, because the abductor could get some kind of adverse kick out of it,'" she says. "When you get the feeling that if you do [something] it could be detrimental in some way to your daughter, there's a huge pressure on you to do well."
Though it may have done more harm than good, Kate says she doesn't regret taking the behavioural expert's advice. "It was advice given with the best intention," she says.’
And from Madeleine, page 112:
‘In fact I would soon be advised by British police experts to try and stay as calm as possible and not to show any emotion in public, so it was probably no bad thing that my feelings seemed to be temporarily on holiday that day. The thinking behind this advice was that madeleine’s abductor might get some kind of perverted kick pout of my distress and perhaps change his behaviour in some way.’
She adds: ‘Of course we were terrified by the implications of this theory. It meant that quite natural actions or expressions of emotion caught on camera could potentially jeopardise Madeleine’s safety.”
(2) We don’t cite news reporters as authorities on the BB. Googling the subject will produce numerous newspaper examples of how successful their dissimulation was. So successful, indeed, that she was accused of being “emotionless”.
(3) Self-evidently they could only have been witnessed dissimulating after advice if they had the innate ability to do so. By (2) above they have it in spades. Clearly it was already there, not grown overnight – and present on May 3 2007.
(4) On pages 210 – 214 of Madeleine Kate McCann describes the events of August 8, which we have cited before. Two days previously their car had been seized by the police. During the interviews the police told Kate McCann outright that they didn’t believe her and made serious accusations about her behaviour on May 3 which left her hysterical. To Gerry McCann it was made quite clear that further meetings with them would no longer be as parents of the child but as potential suspects.
Since M/S McCann maintains that until that time she had not seen warning signs of such accusations the shock must have been immense. Yet examination of the television interviews of the period shows the couple effortlessly dissimulating about their situation for a full week after August 8. Leaving aside the point that we now know that their comments that week, like those on the GM blog at the same time (see Gerry McCann’s blogs website), are thoroughly dishonest and intentionally misleading without any Portuguese secrecy claims to justify them, they also betray few or no signs of the events in which they had been involved, behaviour startlingly akin to their conduct on and after May 3. In other words they are not just capable of concealing their feelings and acting normally after trauma but demonstrably expert at it.
(5) Self-evidently except to Mr Menezes, the behaviour of the couple after 10PM on May 3 is to be sharply distinguished in its implications. Rolling on the floor and screaming, punching walls, throwing themselves to the ground when the police appear etc. – leaving aside the “masking” effect which such loud and unusual conduct might possess, is not evidence of “normal” behaviour at the hands of an abductor nor does it say anything either way about a person’s ability to deceive or dissimulate. And it could result from very different events. Drawing up timelines doesn’t strike the Blacksmith Bureau as strictly normal under the circumstances either, but that’s another story.
(6) Madeleine, page 190, “We had made a strategic decision to signal to the media that we would be withdrawing from the spotlight.”
Gerry McCann STV interview August 24 2007, “We could not avoid the publicity; we never asked for it, we never wished we were in this situation. What we've done is to try and use it in a positive way to affect the outcome. In terms of the campaign, we said 60 or 70 days ago that we would be stepping back from it, and we've done very very little offensive media in terms of us coming out to campaign for Madeleine.”
(7) Project Expunge, Smethurst on BBC Panorama transcript, winter 2007. See Assange extradition proceedings for examples of how, despite the theoretical limitations on the right to challenge a European Arrest Warrant, public opinion can be used to pressure or delay a verdict up to cabinet level.
(8) High level media spin for the Eurostar Brussels trip complete with photographs of KM on the railway platform before departing. “It just so happened,” writes KM in Madeleine, page 298, “that the PJ’s trip to the UK [for the rogatory interviews] coincided with our visit to Brussels.” Indeed.
Connoisseurs of McCann-speak will relish KM’s description of the origin of those interviews. Rather than the culmination of a lengthy and complex stage in the investigation into the two arguidos, prepared over months by the Portuguese prosecutors’ department and established under international treaty agreements, we have her breezy version of how they really came about earlier on the same page 298:
“You’ll recall that, back in October, we had supplied the Portuguese public prosecutor with a list of people whom we felt statements should have been taken. In response the Portuguese police had decided to come to Leicester to be present while the British police interviewed Fiona… [and the others]. The questions to be asked were those Gerry and I had suggested to the prosecutor (obvious and pertinent ones, I hasten to add) with a few additions from the PJ.”
(9) McCann Files et al.Various synchronised newspaper reports mocking the PJ and strengthening the “exoneration” in July 2008 previously cited in the BB.