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A "sickening stunt"?

Harriet Oliver | 14:14 UK time, Thursday, 7 June 2007

The Sun called it a "sickening stunt", but on Matthew Bannister's phone-in today on Five Live (listen here), most of our listeners thought the German journalist who asked Madeleine McCann's parents if they had anything to do with her abduction was right to do so.

Radio Five Live logoIn fact, many of them wished the BBC would be more probing. "Statistically, child abductions and murders are nearly always done by the family. Therefore it is fair and valid to ask questions of the McCanns," said one man.

Hostility towards the family is not new and our audience has been largely critical of Madeleine's parents decision to leave her alone in the first place. Now it's their use of the media that is getting to people and I think a desire to fill in the gaps that have been left by the failure of the investigation to date.

Journalists too are under pressure to fill in the gaps, but I think it would be wrong of the BBC to turn detective and put the McCann's under suspicion when the police are not. Better to not cover the story at all for a while.


  • 1.
  • At 02:42 PM on 07 Jun 2007,
  • Peter wrote:

I concur, it is not BBC's place to act as detective in this matter, however it is in human nature to look for the culprit, since the crime has not been solved why not look to the parents? anyone said angry mob with sticks and torches?

  • 2.
  • At 08:17 AM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Andrew wrote:

Whilst it is no doubt a very stressful time for the McCanns, I, like many am beginning to lose sympathy. They seem to be playing the media very cleverly and not very geniunely. I think the reporter was absolutely right to ask the question.

  • 3.
  • At 08:56 AM on 08 Jun 2007,

I believe the figure for individuals of all ages who go missing, never to be traced, is in the order of 1,000 in any one year for this country. How can any one talk about fairness and lack of bias while there is so much needless reporting of one individual case? The motives of all those involved, both media and 'victim' need to be questioned. From the outside it appears that everyone has their noses in the trough... and we haven't even started on the morality of it all!

  • 4.
  • At 06:41 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Tamara wrote:

What a difficult question... I enjoy these editors' blogs because they expose the difficult decisions that you have to make and gives me a greater understanding of how the news that I read is made.

This story (the McCann abduction in general, not just this current development) whips up high emotions on all sides and is disturbing for many reasons. These reasons include not only the event of the abduction itself, but also the skilful way in which the McCanns have manipulated the media and gained themselves celebrity status- almost as if they are following a thought-out plan.

Had I been in the German reporter's place, I would probably have felt it my duty to ask a similar question. For weeks there has been conversation "on the streets", with varying degrees of emotional shrillness, on the order of "How much money are they making off this, the kid's probably safe with her uncle somewhere, someone who was really concerned about their daughter wouldn't be jetsetting around Europe, and when does the book deal get announced?" There is a strong voice amongst the public saying these things in reaction to the media coverage and the actions of the McCanns. A journalist who has heard that voice would have the responsibility to ask those questions.

  • 5.
  • At 09:39 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Kevin Jones wrote:

The McCanns are obviously very religious with the BBC having followed to Rome and local churches, What might have been interesting would be for the BBC to host a discussion with a Cardinal on the role of a supposedly loving God in this affair. That an all powerful god can allow this suffering to a three year old girl and her family is one of the reasoons I can no longer believe in Christianity

  • 6.
  • At 10:12 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Kay wrote:

I am totally stunned at the responses here. It seems perfectly clear to me that the McCann family have tried to stay in the media for the purpose of raising awareness throughout Europe and the world of Madelines adbduction. What else can they do as parents, do nothing and sit in Portugal when realistically she could be anywhere in the world?

I understand why the question was posed by the german reporter, it fulfills a natural human curiosity into ourselves and others to try to understand motives, guilt and the darker side of humanity. What surprises me here is the cold hearted feeling to the comments on this site.

I do not know much about the fund accounts when this sort of thing happens but I'm fairly sure that the money does not go straight into anyones pocket but is rather strictly administrated by an independant accountant.

I also undersand that the McCanns while dealing with their own tragedy have been giving support for other charities for other missing people/children.

These peope are not courting celebrity. All they want is the safe return of their daughter and to go home and return to as normal a life as possible, its all they wanted to do 4 weeks ago. The abdutor is the criminal here, not the McCanns.

  • 7.
  • At 12:01 AM on 09 Jun 2007,
  • Rob Nicholson wrote:

I agree with the BBC's editorial decision not to act as detectives and to be generally supportive of the McCanns.

Whilst it is true that many thousands of people go missing unexpectedly it really is hard to blame the McCanns for ruthlessly exploiting the media. Yes, they have been clever, yes they have sought to keep the story in the public eye and turn themselves into celebrities but think and out it this way.

Wouldn't you?

I know if one of my children was abducted I would do anything, absolutely anything to get them back. Keeping themselves in the media spotlight is their best strategy to get their precious daughter back because it keeps Maddie's picture in the public eye. I for one don't blame them for a second. Its a good strategy and they are executing it well. Good luck to them. I pray they are successful.

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