Its ten months since the disappearance of Madeleine McCann in Portugal last May. Ten months that have seen very few new facts or evidence emerge to explain what happened to Madeleine. Ten months that have seen the McCann’s paraded and parade themselves across the media in their quest to find, or discover what became of, their daughter. What little is known about the investigations of the Portuguese judicial police has cast more doubt than light on the case and the only public movement on the part of detective agency Metodo3 (hired by the McCanns to find their daughter) has been to upgrade their office space in Barcelona. The public has provided a series of ‘sightings’ ranging from bundles on jet skis near Praia de Luz itself to Spain, Greece, Malta, Morocco, Belgium, France and even Dorset in the UK.
The lack of hard facts and substantive information about the case has done little to diminish its newsworthiness. The hunt for a missing girl turned into the story of her parent’s emotional journey through guilt at having left her in harm’s way to the ongoing quest for absolution and an answer to their prayers to find her. Having engaged the media to support their search the McCann’s couldn’t expect to be shielded from its spotlight. Early empathy from headlines such as the Sun’s ‘We share your pain’, was replaced by ‘Kate left kids alone 3 hours a night’ and although a German reporter, during a press conference in Berlin, attracted outrage for suggesting the McCanns were involved in the abduction, the focus ultimately turned on the parents. What followed was some of the wildest speculation witnessed in recent criminal investigations. Never has so little fact produced so many headlines.
Whatever the public think of the McCanns, whatever conjecture conspiracy theorists place on the media campaign to find Madeleine, there is no excuse for journalism that manufactures fact out of fiction.
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