Tens of outdoors and approximately 10 thousand leaflets with images of Maddie are being affixed and distributed in Praia da Luz. The idea is to ask the village’s residents for help
by Duarte Levy and Miguel Ferreira
Madeleine McCann’s parents have launched a new campaign in Praia da Luz, Lagos, Algarve, in order to try to find their daughter, who disppeared in that village almost two years ago. Tens of new posters have been affixed on walls, bus stops and public transportation, where images of Maddie are visible.
The idea beneath this initiative is to prevent the population of Vila da Luz from forgetting the face of the little girl that disappeared on the 3rd of May 2007, as a representative of Kate and Gerry McCann explained to 24Horas.
According to information from the couple’s spokesman, the child’s parents believe that she is still alive and admit that, in a way, they didn’t care properly for contacts with the locals, who will now receive 10 thousand leaflets in their post boxes, asking for help and possible information about what happened on the night that Maddie disappeared.
Residents have been forgotten in the investigation
According to information that has now been made available by the couple, on the days that followed Maddie’s disappearance “the local Portuguese residents of Praia da Luz and the surrounding areas have never been properly asked about information they may have to give”, as “the emphasis was placed more on international appeals”.
The announcement of this campaign, which surprised the vast majority of Algarve’s residents, is seen with mistrust. “I can’t believe these people now come out to say they need our help after having insulted the Portuguese”, Rute Fernandes told 24Horas, adding that “this is a pure waste of time as there is not a single person in the Algarve who doesn’t know the case and who doesn’t know who the little girl was”.
For months, until Gonçalo Amaral left, the Polícia Judiciária investigated countless leads in the Algarve and abroad, but always ended up returning to the group on nine English people that accompanied Madeleine, including her own parents, Kate and Gerry McCann. The couple itself had Spanish private detectives and British henchmen in the Algarve, but all the allegedly obtained information revealed to be false or without any interest for the case, which even ended up thickening the suspicions against the couple.
“Experience shows that the crucial answers are in the immediate vicinity, someone in the area could almost certainly have the vital information that could help Madeleine’s return to her family”, the McCanns now argue, through their spokesman, further suggesting that now, after two years, someone may have received information that leads to the solution of the mystery, and that this information may be delivered anonymously by phone, text message, email or mail.
Who is carrying out the campaign?
At the origin of the initiative, which was embraced by Kate and Gerry McCann, stands the “Find Madeleine” fund, without names or faces being associated to it. The graphic execution of the campaign was commissioned from “Atelier do Sul”, according to a source at the firm, because it’s “bilingual and based in the Algarve”.
From there on, the press note that was directed to journalists ended up being published on the “findmadeleine.com” website. Nevertheless, there is still no reference to persons in Portugal who may explain what is going to happen. One can read that “local Portuguese residents” are asked “for information to help to find Madeleine”. And the text continues, “experience also shows that people almost always confide in someone else, (…) her family hope and believe that local residents can be a very real help”. It’s further clarified that the campaign will last for two weeks.
Contacted by 24Horas, Clarence Mitchell, the McCanns’ advisor, attributed the campaign to “volunteers” and during the morning was still unaware about times and places where actions will be carried out, like distributing leaflets at the markets of Luz and Lagos.
There are outdoors in Lagos and Praia da Luz
Many residents react badly to the McCanns’ outdoors
The new campaign to find the little English girl that disappeared in 2007 includes the placement of posters between Lagos and Praia da Luz, on the rear windows of the buses that travel until Sagres and the distribution of leaflets to the population. On a yellow and black colored base, the image of the child’s face is repeated, the detail of her right eye, and the messages “help me!” and “don’t give up on me!”.
A website and telephone numbers are indicated for anyone who wishes to communicate any detail, any piece that may fit the puzzle that the Maddie case has become. The message is clear: don’t shut up, communicate, even anonymously, any lead that may clarify the disappearance.
The message will also reach the homes of the residents of Luz by mail, communicating that “we’re still in time to save her”.
The campaign started yesterday, without major visibility for the residents, as few noticed the posters and the outdoors, and those who did notice the return of the little girl’s image and the will to search for her there, saw little interest in the initiative.
Many even show their discomfort, “the shame goes on, the parents know where she is”, a passer-by said. Another pleaded: “Leave us alone, we’ve had enough!”. And yet another: “This is just another marketing stunt, why after so long?”.
Phone, mobile phone, text and email
“We’re still in time to save her!”. “Don’t give up on me!” It’s as if the little girl spoke to those who open the webpage “ajude-me.eu”, the website that is mentioned on the posters and photographs that have been affixed between Lagos and Luz. A brief text recalls the context of the disappearance of the child, that disappeared only days before her 4th birthday.
“It’s quite possible that the piece that is missing from the puzzle still lies in secrecy in Praia da Luz”, one can also read.
And then, over seven items, various questions are asked: “Have you seen or heard something strange on the night that Madeleine disappeared? Did you observe a third party’s strange behaviour? Do you recall any fact that may be related to the disappearance?”
The appeal is launched “talk, anonymously and confidentially, with my friend Isabel”.
Isabel is the woman who picks up the phone, she advances no details about the campaign, with a Northern accent she says she “only wants to help” and the conversation goes no further because, as she justifies, “she’s there to pick up the phone”. Any contact may be made to a free number, a mobile phone, by text message, email or freepost.
English don’t release data
The English Foreign Office refused to hand over information about the communications that were made by John Buck, then British Ambassador to Portugal, arguing that it could affect the relationship between both governments.
The request to access those documents was made by British citizens and journalists under the “Freedom of Information Act 2000”, a law that regulates the public’s free access to information about the work of the government and public institutions in general, namely the police.
Despite the fact that the English Government’s reply mentions communications between its representatives and the Portuguese police, the 13 emails that are at the core of the matter have been sent or received by the ambassador, the consulate in Portimão, and the representatives of the British Foreign Office in Portugal and in London, between the 9th of May and the 21st of June 2007.
According to a source at the Foreign Office itself, some of the emails that were exchanged between the ambassador and the ministry “contain obvious evidence of the interference of the diplomat with the PJ’s hierarchy and that fact has conditioned the investigation”.
In the same document, the English government further confirms that “a [McCann] family member had made clear to FCO staff that all comments made by that individual to FCO had been made in strict confidence and were not intended for disclosure to third parties”.
At the consulate’s door
The face of Madeleine McCann has also found a place at the new offices of the British consulate in Portimão. The space’s inauguration took place on Friday, and at that time, the little girl’s photograph was already affixed at the main entrance. The ambassador and the consul, as well as inspectors of the Polícia Judiciária, visited.
No news is good news
Kate and Gerry say they continue to believe that their daughter is alive. On the website “findmadeleine.com”, they refer a positive aspect from the absence of news, “nothing suggests that anyone has harmed Madeleine”. And they recall recent media-exposed cases like those of “Elizabeth Smart, Shawn Hornbeck and Natasha Kampusch”.