McCann watch - Cuddle Cat holds the key
As we move into 2008 there is still no sign that Madeleine McCann will be found or that the investigations of either the Portuguese police or detective agency Metodo 3 have got any closer to solving the mystery surrounding Madeleine's disappearance.
To the extent there have been no tangible results, the media has kept the story alive through the steady flow of new angles, gossip and misinformation that still makes its way onto tabloid front pages, websites and broadcast bulletins.
The latest 'news' highlights the bipolarity of the coverage:
On the one hand there is the investigation and reports today that the Portuguese police wish to reinterview the Tapas 9 - the friends with whom the McCann's dined on the night Madeleine disappeared. As Mediabeak reported last month, the 'Tapas 9' recently had a reunion so will at least be prepared for another round of questioning.
On the other, the 'story' and confirmed reports that representatives of the McCanns have met with an entertainment company to discuss a potential film about Madeleine.
In absence of any breakthrough and given the difficulties in obtaining any sensible information other than 'leaks from official sources' to the Portuguese media, the story has grown very long legs of its own. The story is the news and the protagonists and story-tellers have long eclipsed Madeleine as the focus of 'news'. This poses an awkward dilemma for the McCanns who have done all they thought they could and all they thought was right to find Madeleine - or at least highlight the fact she still needs to be found - but in doing so turned the focus on themselves and ignited a media monster that is proving as difficult to tame as it is enduring.
The irony in this tragic case is that laws that were meant to protect and assist the investigation have actually forced public perception and media reporting to follow lines of inquiry that are increasingly speculative, founded on scant availability of facts and are likely to be far more prejudicial than offering sensible updates on the investigation might have been.
The one key witness which holds the secret to what happened to Madeleine and who fresh reports claim the police are keen to reinterview - is Cuddle Cat - the toy Madeleine clutched and had in bed with her when she was presumably taken - the toy Kate McCann has clutched onto as tightly as she does the hope that Madeleine will be found. Only Cuddle Cat knows what happened - why would and abductor leave behind the cuddly toy that gives their victim comfort and if they awoke might prevent them from crying? Cuddle Cat holds the key but cannot talk and any traces of stray DNA will have long been messed up.
It is to be hoped that a miracle or the bullish bragging of Metodo 3 that they will find Madeleine does provide an answer soon. Without a breakthrough the quality of media coverage is likely to become as strained as the pegs upon which it can be hooked.