FEBRUARY 2008, NINE MONTHS AFTER MADDIE’S DISAPPEARANCE.IT’S CARNIVAL SUNDAY. In the distance the shots of the hare hunters can be heard, resounding above the low-growing vegetation of the Barrocal.
On waking, I decide to stay at home. Recently, I’ve had no wish to go out, to go walking or to meet people. I yearn instead for peace and silence. That morning, the sun was shining, promise of a lovely day: but in the afternoon, the rain began to fall, ruining the fête and the parades.
From the window I admire the Algarve countryside: the pink and snowy-white of the almond trees contrasting with the blue of the sea that is glimpsed in the distance. Suddenly, the ringing of the telephone – more and more unusual of late – brings me out of my lethargy; I have to face reality.
From the receiver, a friendly voice, swinging between anger and sadness, asks me:
- How are you? Have you heard our national director’s interview?
I reply no and wonder what the clearly perceptible anxiety of my questioner is due to.
- He says we were precipitous. That placing the couple under investigation was premature….I wonder what’s come over him. He totally validated that decision. What is he intending to do? End the investigation?
He is alluding to the investigations undertaken after the disappearance of a little English girl of nearly four years of age during the night of May 3rd to 4th 2007, at the Ocean Club, one of the many tourist complexes in the village of Luz in Lagos, Portugal. She was called Madeleine Beth McCann and she was sleeping in a bedroom in the apartment block, beside her sister and her brother – twins aged 2 years. During this time, their parents were dining a hundred metres away with a group of friends and holiday companions. This news story was the beginning of a criminal investigation, unpublished in Portugal and, I think, in the rest of the world. Even so, the case benefited from unprecedented international media coverage.
Numerous suggestions were put forward, mixing truth and lies; at the same time as regular information bulletins from the police, a campaign of disinformation was developed with the objective of discrediting the work of the investigators. For me, the investigations came to an end on October 2nd 2007, the date on which there seems to have been a new English ultimatum, incidentally on the same day that the Treaty of Lisbon was being discussed.
Considering the length of time I witnessed that media spectacle, including, at its height, “forcing,” by the McCann family with the disclosure of a photo-fit sketch of the alleged abductor, nothing more could have surprised me....