How have Madeleine McCann's parents been treated?
- 15 May 2011
- From the section Magazine
This week was Madeleine McCann's eighth birthday and her mother, Kate McCann, released a book about the missing child. Commentators have reflected on how the McCanns have been treated by the press over the last four years.
In the Telegraph Allison Pearson recalls the "vitriolic" online comments about Kate McCann, which accused her of selfishness and said she "had it coming".
"Kate McCann's 'crime' - a lapse for which she would receive a life sentence - was to have left her children sleeping while having dinner 100 metres away, returning to their apartment every half-hour," Pearson says.
"It was a latter-day Grimm's fairy story", says Cassandra Jardine in the Telegraph referring to parents' fears about "tiny risks" taken by many people from "leaving children in the car while dashing to the cash point" to "nipping to the loo when they are playing in water".
Jardine goes on to say the seeming lack of sympathy has less to do with the circumstances and more to do with Kate McCann's identity. "Had Kate not been pretty, middle-class and educated, she might have received more sympathy - like, say, Karen Matthews, mother of Shannon, who wept fetchingly for the cameras the following year, although her daughter had not in fact been abducted, only hidden for mercenary reasons."
Jardin says Loaded magazine was one of Mrs McCann's few supporters when "crassly, it put the bereft mother on a most-fanciable list".
The Independent's Christina Patterson has other reasons why the finger of blame pointed towards the parents. The columnist argues the treatment of Mrs McCann is indicative of an industry that demands new details, even when there aren't any.
She calls the press a ravening beast with a 24-hour appetite that can "chew you up, and spew you up".
Patterson thinks the McCanns' willingness to cooperate is fuelled by their belief in the power of the media. But Patterson worries Mrs McCann "has come near to selling her soul".
But she goes on to defend Mrs McCann as "no-one who hasn't been through what she has been through can blame her for the choice she has made".
One choice was to engage with "Britain's sleaziest red-top, to get a missing child back".
Two days before the release of the book, The Sun's front page said "I couldn't make love to Gerry" - a detail pulled out of an extract of Mrs McCann's book.
Whatever it takes?
A different reaction to the private life revelations comes from Sandra Parsons at the Daily Mail. She is in awe of the McCanns. It's not their willingness to share their private life that impresses her, but that they haven't split up.
Mrs McCann recounts in the book that the night before Madeleine disappeared she slept in the children's room because she was hurt by her husband's "abrupt" manner. Parsons supposes that Gerry McCann's uncompromising attitude after Madeleine was abducted and his resolve may have not been matched by another man.
The writer defends what could be construed as cynical use of the media and an unemotional appearance. For Parsons, Mr McCann's "cool logic and ability to compartmentalise" allowed the couple to run their campaign to find Madeleine.
Similarly, Allison Pearson commends "ferocious" maternal love demonstrated in Mrs McCann's book.
Away from the personal revelations, the book also calls for a comprehensive review of the case. The Sun backs the "moving" open letter delivered to the prime minister.
Sky news suggests some leads to the new investigation could follow. The first is a team of UK detectives to go to Portugal and "pore over" the police files. It suggests a "crucial exercise" would be to do the mobile phone cell-site analysis that wasn't done. It also suggests follow-up reports of previous intruders into the holiday homes of other Brits.
For those who argue Mrs McCann will do whatever it takes to find her daughter, the evidence seems clear: a few personal revelations later, the McCann family have got press support for the new investigations and David Cameron has promised that the home secretary will be in touch to set out the "new action" involving the Met Police. No mean feat considering it is four years after Madeleine went missing.