Disappearance of anyone is worrying but when the one missing is a child, it is more than a worry, it is disaster and a panic until, hopefully, the little one is quickly found and reunited with parents.
In the case of Madeleine McCann, however, we are now approaching the 9th anniversary of the date she was reported missing from the family’s holiday apartment in Praia da Luz on Portugal’s Algarve coast.
What happened to her? Well, the truth is that we don’t know. It seems that no-one really knows – despite years of investigations by the Portuguese authorities, British police and private detectives. Operation Grange, the Scotland Yard investigation that has been cut back drastically since it began, has just been granted a final £95,000 for another six months. After that, the case is likely to be closed.
The only person or people who do know what happened are the ones responsible for Madeleine’s disappearance and, if she is still alive, the girl herself. There are those who favour various different scenarios. There are some who believe that the three-year-old was abducted from the apartment; there are others who believe she died in the apartment and that her parents disposed of the body.
On Facebook, people with these and similar opinions tend to be drawn into two types of groups, basically known as ‘pros’ and ‘antis’. The ‘pros’ are backers of the abduction theory and support the parents, while the ‘antis’ believe Madeleine died in the apartment and accuse the parents.
Both sides point to files of evidence collated by the Portuguese investigation and made public in 2008 under that country’s laws. They claim that different parts of the evidence give credence to their own opinions; their own pet theories.
Now, I know that this is likely to make me unpopular and even get me barred from some of Facebook’s ‘pro’ and ‘anti’ groups to which I belong (yes I am a member of both types) but there is one remarkable fact about the evidence so far made public. It does not support any particular theory over another. It does not indicate what actually happened; it does not point towards the involvement, much less guilt, of anyone.
‘Antis’ cite, as evidence of death in the apartment, the alerts made in the dog searches while the ‘pros’ dismiss this as uncorroborated by forensics and say the searches were badly run by the handler. Having watched the full unedited recording of the searches, I can see why the dog alerts were discounted by the Portuguese investigation.
The two sides also disagree about the involvement of Gonçalo Amaral as head of the Portuguese investigation. ‘Antis’ quote his belief that Madeleine died in the apartment, despite the fact that the evidence made public does not confirm that. The ‘pros’ point out that Amaral was once proven to have lied in another case. However, the fact that he lied once is not evidence or proof that he is lying this time. Amaral, now retired, has put his beliefs in a book which has not been published in the UK after the Madeleine’s parents took legal action.
So, where does that, and other arguments, leave us? Exactly where we started. All we know is that Madeleine was reported missing on the evening of May 3, 2007. Despite many, many reported ‘sightings’ around the world, she has never been found. Nor has a body ever been recovered.
The files of published evidence point absolutely nowhere.
It was a mystery in 2007; it is a mystery now. And that, I fear, is how it will always remain.