Sunday, September 16, 2007


‘We are frightened. We are being backed into a corner,’ Kate and Gerry McCann said this week as the Portuguese police net appeared to be closing in on them.
It is beginning to look as if they may be hoist with their own media petard.
If the story of their daughter Madeleine’s disappearance had been allowed to vanish from the headlines as news events moved on and the Portuguese police left to potter on in their own way, it seems unlikely the British police would have been become so involved in the case and the top British sniffer dogs, whose work helped to open up new lines of inquiry, would have stayed in their kennels at home.
Like the British boy who vanished in Greece sixteen years ago, she would probably have been forgotten by all but her own grieving family as thousands of other missing children sadly are. But the McCanns were determined this would not happen.
‘We are going to keep Madeleine’s profile high,’ announced Gerry McCann’s dreary, whining monotone launching the world wide and Internet campaign and appeal for funds to help find her as the initial media interest threatened to fade.
Run by top London public relations people from the start, the media management worked well for the couple as they progressed around the capitals of Europe in a blaze of global publicity and A-list celebrities like David Beckham joined in the appeal to find Madeleine.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he would do anything he could to help and a swathe of politicians signalled support for the McCanns.
A meeting with the Pope was arranged and when the final book in the Harry Potter series was published, its author, J K Rowling, asked booksellers to stick find Madeleine posters in their shops and windows.
Madeleine’s profile could not have been higher as members of Clan McCann joined in with an ever-ready stream of TV and newspaper interviews and quotes.
For the popular British media and its predilection with pretty, photogenic faces and child abduction, the McCanns ticked all the boxes for boosting circulation and viewing figures.
They were not only white, middle class professionals but Kate McCann’s good looks more than made up for the glowering mug of her dour husband who threatened a libel action against a Portuguese newspaper before the couple were made official suspects.
Though he got a taste of what it’s like when the media are not so friendly on his solo trip to America to promote the find Madeleine campaign, he was by this time so at ease with instant fame and the attendant VIP treatment wherever he went that he accepted an invitation to address the Edinburgh Television Festival over the August Bank Holiday weekend.
Almost reluctantly and despite the brilliant PR news management, the British media have started to report what the Portuguese papers have been saying for weeks and that the plodding Portuguese police may not be so incompetent after all. There just might be a case to answer.
If there is not, the avenues of inquiry opened up as a result of the pressure put on the Portuguese police by the McCanns high profile media campaign - about to be relaunched with an £80,000 trans-Europe newspaper advertising and billboard blitz - may have already caused them more grief than the disappearance of a daughter who may never be found.
Despite a Bank of England bail out and reassurances that all is still well with Northern Rock, thousands of savers have withdrawn a reported £1 billion from their accounts.
The reason? The track record of company fraud and failure leading to lost savings and pensions plus smooth-talking spokesmen saying there is nothing to worry about when an organisation is falling apart means people have wised up and do not believe a single word uttered by Northern Rock, Treasury or City mouthpieces. Copyright © Rebecca Hamilton 2007. All Rights Reserved

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