Friday, April 20, 2012



By Dr Martin Roberts

Assuming of course that Madeleine McCann is in the hands of a not-so-swarthy Scandinavian, secluded in a land where, 'with her looks, she could blend in fairly easily.'

And so the McCanns went off to 'do media' in Sweden, where a journalist, who had no doubt been told she was to meet and interview Kate and Gerry McCann, was greeted by the pair with 'Hi, Gerry.' 'Hi, Kate.' As if she might for some reason have had difficulty deciding who was who. (Making allowance for Swedish sexual liberalism perhaps?). But don't get your hopes up. The dialogue was no more convincing once they were all sitting comfortably:

Gerry McCann [voice over]: I don't think you can give up, even when we've been exhausted to the point of saying 'I just want this to end', you go to bed, you get up the next day and you think, 'she's still missing and we still need to find her' and I think most parents understand that.

And what, exactly, would Gerry like to end? Not the search for his missing daughter, surely? That's what they travelled to Sweden to promote, as Kate will later confirm. But first we hear from her:

Kate McCann [voice over]: I mean, I... I feel she's out there. I feel that there's... there's more to come. I just need it to be soon.

Well of course she's 'out there.' Where else could she be? (No, don't answer rhetorical questions, on the grounds that, etc., etc.). Yet 'there's more to come' You betcha!

Annika Widebeck [voice over]: How convinced are you that she is still alive then?

Gerry McCann: Well, I try to look at it as logically as possible. What we do know is that there's no evidence, at all, to suggest that Madeleine's dead and that means there's a good chance that she's alive, and as a parent I couldn't accept that she was dead without irrefutable evidence that she is, so...

We'll do the logic bit in a moment. First the lie: 'there's no evidence, at all, to suggest that Madeleine's dead.'

No evidence at all to suggest, eh? Viva Zapata!

'...that means there's a good chance that she's alive.' No it does not. If I may quote from an entry in Wikipaedia (on a completely different topic - substitute 'that Madeleine is dead' for the phrase in parentheses):

'The argument that there is no evidence (of Shakespeare's authorship) is a form of fallacious logic known as argumentum ex silentio, or argument from silence, since it takes the absence of evidence to be evidence of absence.'

So, a bit more effort on the logic front required there I think, Gerry.

Kate McCann: And I think we do know of so many cases now of children who have been abducted and have, you know, been away for years and sometimes decades.

Was that two, or three rediscovered in the last five years? I forget.

Annika Widebeck: Like when you're walking in like a Swedish beautiful weather, do you think about now, at this very second, she can be some place and wonder about where?

Kate McCann: I do... It's funny you mention about the weather because it's days like this when I think 'oh, what a lovely day' and that's when I think 'but this would be a lovelier day, if Madeleine was here', errm... (big sigh) I do... I mean... I don't... I try not to speculate too much. I really don't know where she is, all I hope for is that whoever's with her is looking after her and that she's happy, and even that is... is, errm... is sad because, you know, the thought of her being happy with somebody else, when she should be with us, and being happy and, you know, there's no doubt that a child's best place is with their family.

The weather. A singularly British pre-occupation. And on days when the weather is good and it is therefore 'a lovely day,' Kate thinks about how much lovelier the day could be, i.e. how much better even, the weather could be, if Madeleine were there. Apart from the occasional Welshman who believes himself to be a native American Indian, I don't know of too many Europeans who would place any faith in a 'rain dance.' The weather locally (to me, to you, to Kate McCann) is wholly unaffected by Madeleine's exact whereabouts. So in what sense could Madeleine's 'being here' enhance the day's loveliness?

The question to Kate McCann is about Madeleine. All Kate 'hopes for,' primarily, concerns whoever is with her (Madeleine, that is). This strange turn of phrase made its first appearance during the McCanns' very first televised appeal, causing Gerry to cast an irritated glance of disapproval in his wife's direction. It describes guardianship, not captivity. Furthermore, if the subject of the observation is a missing child, then one might expect to hear the phrase, 'whoever she's with' used as an adjunct to any discussion. Here, once again, the child is replaced as the topic by her 'abductor.' Why should Kate prefer/find it easier to discuss anonymous individuals rather than her own daughter?

Gerry McCann: You know, there was a very clear strategy at work that was, errr... trying to convey to the world that, errr... there was strong evidence that Madeleine was dead and we were involved and, in fact, thankfully the prosecutor's final report makes it absolutely clear that, you know, there is no evidence that Madeleine is dead and there's certainly no evidence to link us, errr... to implicate us is any way. So...

So... there's that same old misrepresentation again. Followed by a remark that swerves to avoid danger like a frightened charioteer in the film Ben-Hur: '...there's certainly no evidence to link us, errr... to implicate us is any way.'

Might that have been, 'no evidence to link us to her disappearance,' perhaps? (At which point, those who enjoy a good 'stand-up' routine might picture another notorious Glaswegian, standing all of six feet, one hand on his hip the other stroking his beard, replying, 'Oh, you b****y think so?').

Kate McCann: The damage, errm... that was done with all the media reporting with the lies and speculation and fabrication and being made arguido. I think the damage was ongoing. We've had this in other countries, outside the UK and Portugal. Unlike the UK and Portugal, where the story carried on, some... in other countries it stopped, so it stopped at the dramatic, 'oh, the parents are involved' and then, you know, they moved on to another story really, and all I can say to people is please, please read my book.

Not, '...please be vigilant and look out for my daughter.' 'Please read my book’ (available at the usual retail outlets), where you will find an ‘account of the truth,' comprising lies, speculation and fabrication to counter that of the media referred to earlier.

Gerry McCann: Madeleine could have easily been taken out of Portugal within the first two hours and that's the problem. We have no idea where she is, we don't know who's taken her and we don't know why, so unfortunately for us we want as much awareness as possible that Madeleine's missing and obviously with her looks she could (laughs) blend into Scandinavia fairly easily.

'Madeleine could have easily been taken out of Portugal within the first two hours and that's the problem.' A problem exacerbated by the McCanns having given the abductor a two hour head start (Madeleine 'taken' at 9.15 or thereabouts, local police first contacted at 10.50 p.m., arriving at the scene some 12 to 15 minutes later).

Note also the categorical statements of ignorance. The McCanns apparently have no knowledge of 'where,' 'who' or 'why.' Really?

Gerry McCann: I think certainly there's been remarkably few child abductions since Madeleine was taken.

Remarkably few genuine child abductions to be sure. Coupled with an equally remarkable upsurge in the number of faked ones. Trend analysis anyone?

Annika Widebeck: Tell me how far away was this restaurant?

Gerry McCann: I mean it was incredibly close. I think if you had to draw a straight line from the restaurant to the apartment it was 50 metres. It never entered our head for a second that somebody would steal your child, it was the furthest thing from your mind, so...

Two metres might be 'incredibly close.' Fifty metres is like the other side of the dual carriageway. Just think of 'cross the bridge for motorway services.' And by the way, Annika's child, if she has one, was never at risk, so there was little point in Gerry agonising on her behalf.

Annika Widebeck: And still you hear this all the time why did you leave them... right?

Kate McCann: I mean, there's only so many times we can answer the question and, you know, I've had to... you know, I've persecuted myself with that, you know, obviously... (sigh) I can't change it, I know how much we love Madeleine, you know, and at the end of the day the person who has taken Madeleine is the one who has committed the crime and, errr... and that's who we need to find.

Basically, 'there's only so many times we can answer the question,' ('Why did you leave them?') and Kate's not going to answer it now either as it turns out.

All in all another media moment that's as transparent as cellophane. Still, it did provide some pictures to remind us all of how 'destroyed' the McCanns have been by others opinions of them.

('As he walks along the Bois Boolong with an independent air, you can hear the girls declare, 'He must be a millionaire...!').