Over the past few weeks I have looked at the newspaper headlines on my way to work, glanced at the front page ‘stories’ and shaken my head in despair. I am astonished and saddened by several newspapers’ ability (and callous desire) to take every tiny byte of ‘news’ about Madeleine – or even no news – and with the help of generous amounts of speculation, to squeeze an entire sensational front page out of it, with emotive headlines like ‘Kate: Did you sedate Maddie?’
The Portuguese legal process requires individuals to be given a certain status (‘arguido’) in order to have certain questions put to them. There is no direct equivalent term in English for this word, which equates to ‘a person of interest to the enquiry’ – as parents of a missing child always are. But the lazy translation of this term to ‘suspect’ sparked a huge volume of shocked ‘news’, which had no sensible foundation whatsoever. Did the UK newspapers not understand this, or was this ‘news’ too good to pass by?
The despicable speculation reached a new low with a snippet of information about DNA leading to ‘Maddie’s blood found in parents’ rental car'. On clarification, this blood became hair – in some accounts ‘a mass of hair’. Does ‘mass of hair’ actually mean a strand of hair? And from this we now have: ‘Maddie's body was in rental car’.
Let’s apply our sorry collective intellects to this evidence and the resulting conclusions.
Let’s bear in mind that this car was rented 25 days after Madeleine’s disappearance.
A strand of hair is just a strand of hair, even if it was specifically Madeleine’s and not from one of her siblings (whose DNA profile would be very close, or even identical for certain types of test). A strand of Madeleine's hair could have come from a cuddly toy, an item of clothing or a picnic blanket (yes, despite everything that has happened, the McCanns are entitled to take their other two children from time to time and seek some relief from the unrelenting media glare).
The Portuguese police are now playing down this 'DNA evidence', but that doesn't stop our courageous newspapers from using it to logically deduce what must have happened.
This DNA ‘evidence’ has led us unthinkingly like sheep to the ‘body in car’ conclusion. But let’s think about what this ‘body in car’ theory actually implies:
- The McCanns had possession of their daughter’s body for at least 25 days, without it being found by the police, who conducted a thorough search to look for Madeleine.
- No-one noticed the stench of a rotting corpse in sunny Portugal, in the summer, even after 25 days (or heard the buzz of flies). (Despite the fact that scores of people were actively searching for Madeleine, alive or dead.)
- Under the noses of the police and despite the unrelenting glare of the media watching their every move, the McCanns were able to move the body into the rental car and transport it away somewhere for disposal.
- Despite the condition of the four-week-old rotting corpse and the stench, the only forensic trace it left in the rental car was the ‘strand of hair’.
This is complete and utter nonsense. How idiotic and ignorant can we be, to unquestioningly entertain such a ludicrous idea?
The McCanns, being doctors, must understand how implausible this is. How frustrating it must be for them to witness the general decline in intelligence of the media, the police and the wider population.
“Against stupidity, the Gods themselves contend in vain.”
But the ‘body in car’ conclusion makes a sensational news story and that is what we seem to want.
What kind of society have we become, cynical, unthinking and without compassion, as the McCanns are crucified for our entertainment?
What is it about them that makes them a target for such hideous vilification, no matter what they have already suffered?
There is a portion of our society that looks upon other people with immediate suspicion, and without giving them the benefit of the doubt - they forget the 'innocent until proven guilty' concept which we hold so dear. Some people are intent on finding flaws with anyone who has the misfortune to fall under the glare of media scrutiny.
The McCanns are unfortunate in coming under this merciless glare and so this makes them a target for the jeering and vile accusations of low-life who don't think for themselves and are incapable of distinguishing fact from pure (and often malicious) speculation. And those newspapers exist to entertain these low-life.
If we buy those newspapers, if we engage in this ignorant speculation and gossip, if we point accusing fingers without having any facts, we are these low-life. We can redeem ourselves only by discontinuing this behaviour, leaving the McCanns alone and allowing the authorities to pursue their investigations.
The greatest tragedy is that this has diverted attention away from the most urgent issue of all – finding Madeleine.
I pray for her every day.