21 October 2009

Changing Seasons


The Algarve summer is over, and rather abruptly so.

On Sunday, I was at the beach, enjoying the final days of warm and dry bliss of this long summer of ’09. The water was warm, the sun was shining and a perfect blue sky reminded me of how blessed we are, despite all our difficulties, to live in a region where bikinis and flip flops sell a lot better than umbrellas and coats.

Yesterday, mild showers outside and the socks on my feet clearly stated that much has changed since the weekend.

I’m a summer person. I love the hot, dry weather, the light clothes, the long days and warm nights, the beach, the sand and the sea. I love the red earth of the Algarve, under an endless blue sky. I love the smell of sardines being grilled in the open air, and the taste of the local bread, slightly sour, bringing back fond memories of family holidays in my childhood and youth.

I barely survive the winter. I suffer physically from the cold, and psychologically from the dark. While the rest of the world cheerfully looks forward to Christmas, I shudder at the thought of the longest nights of the year, the coldest and wettest days, the layers of clothes that I wrap around myself to no perceptible avail. I hate socks and overcoats; I detest woollen sweaters and thick corduroy trousers.

The only thing that gets me through winter is the certainty that every single day that I suffer through, brings me closer to the next summer.

The case of Justice for Madeleine McCann has been one long, dark winter for almost two and a half years. No matter what each one of us thinks happened to the little girl that vanished from Praia da Luz in May 2007, what seems certain is that a crime has been committed, and it remains unsolved to this day.

A child has disappeared without a trace, the world was summoned to search for her, and despite publicity from Alaska to Australia and a hefty reward being offered, absolutely no useful information about her whereabouts has emerged. None of the campaigns that her parents launched, none of the private detective teams that were hired, none of the worldwide appeals, nothing produced any results whatsoever. Neither did, according to the prosecutor who archived the case, the work of the Portuguese Polícia Judiciária.

Meanwhile, on internet forums and blogs, so-called ‘pros’ and ‘antis’ brandish arguments in favour of basically two theories: abduction versus parental involvement. The child’s parents have endorsed the former; a Civil Court judge in Lisbon has practically outlawed the latter, until further notice.

Those who defend the abduction theory basically rest their arguments on the apparent impossibility of two English tourists, in an unfamiliar area without a vehicle and without known local contacts, being able to make a body disappear without a trace, within a reduced time frame, and while maintaining a perfectly normal demeanour.

Those who favour the theory of parental involvement, found their arguments on the apparent impossibility of someone abducting a child from within a holiday apartment, without leaving a trace of his or her presence, and in the midst of a flurry of movements to and from the apartment block, by the McCanns and their group of friends.

A considerable number of unusual indications, like the dogs’ detection of cadaver and blood odour in the apartment and the parents’ hire car, inconsistencies in the witness statements, and the parents’ and their friends’ reluctance in cooperating with the police, in diligences that have the potential of clarifying many aspects of the case and eliminating them as suspects, have not contributed to make the discussion more peaceful, or the case clearer.

Was Madeleine McCann abducted from apartment 5A at the Ocean Club, on the night of May 3, 2007?

Let us presume that she was.

Let us presume that Madeleine was taken, just like that. For a moment, let us forget about open windows, jemmied shutters, unlocked doors. Forget about the dogs, the DNA tests, the incongruous witness statements. Forget about 48 unanswered questions, men carrying children through the night, spokespeople and lawyers and image consultants.

Imagine, for a moment, that all that had been reported, was that a child was safely sleeping in her bed at around 9 p.m., and that one hour later, she had vanished without a trace.

If that had been the only thing that had ever been said about this, would you be more prepared to accept that Madeleine was abducted? I think that you would. It would still sound like a very strange thing to happen, an incredibly rare occurrence, especially to a child that had been in that location for only 5 days, and on holidays. However, you would set it aside as a very unfortunate case, one in a zillion, a mystery that you would probably accept would never be solved.

Is she dead, is she alive? If Madeleine is alive, she is being held captive against her will. No matter how well her captor treats her, she is not where she naturally belongs. Society in general, and the authorities of two countries in particular, have a moral, not to mention a legal obligation to search for her. It is beyond incomprehensible that the Portuguese police have actively stopped investigating the possible abduction of Madeleine McCann.

It is disputable whether or not the Public Ministry acted correctly in shelving the investigation of the theory of parental involvement. But it surely cannot be defended that the Public Ministry acted correctly in dropping the investigation into a potential abduction, literally abandoning a possibly suffering captive child to her misfortune. In the same manner, there should be an English law enforcement agency investigating the abduction of an English subject, especially when it has to be taken into consideration that she could have been targeted while still on British soil.

The very special circumstances of Madeleine’s possible abduction have to consider the hypothesis of Portugal having contributed with nothing to this crime except the few square meters of land where it took place.

Just as incomprehensible as the fact that the Portuguese authorities dropped the case as quickly as possible, is the fact that no British agency picked it up as swiftly as it could.

There is, after all, a potential abduction victim being held captive and possibly subject to all sorts of abuse, day after day.

The only people who seem to worry about this lack of initiative and sheer urgency, seem to be the many members of Madeleine forums and blogs, ‘pros’ and ‘antis’ strangely united in one common purpose, which is to solve the crime – because a crime has been perpetrated. The child’s parents make public appearances, now and then, stating that the public needs to remain aware that she is missing – as if we could forget – and that their daughter needs to be found.

How exactly that is going to happen, by employing two private detectives with no known record of expertise in missing children’s cases, instead of getting the very best specialists from legitimate police forces on the case, is something that I, and apparently a considerable part of the public, fail to understand.

Madeleine McCann, victim of abduction, alive and suffering, held captive somewhere on the same planet where my children live in happiness and freedom, needs to be rescued, and that has to happen now, not within months or years. Her parents should not have to be making plans to visit Luz, the place where they held their daughter for the last time, at some point during the coming months, alone. They should be making plans to hold her again soon, they should be making plans to return to Luz with her, next summer, to complete the holidays that were so cruelly interrupted.

Because there will be a summer after the winter.

7 comments:

  1. Very thoughtful piece, thank you. IF Maddie had realy been abducted whilst on a family holiday her parents should have been begging the police to keep the investigation open, never mind reopened.
    Jan

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  2. Joana, as always, you have put this entire case succinctly.

    "If" there had ever been an abduction, the case would remain open, it is what any parent would want, without question. A parent would do anything, and I really do mean anything, to rescue, locate or recover their child.

    It is obvious beyond doubt from this simple post that Madeleine is dead, and that her parents know that fact. So, so sad.

    Justice must prevail.

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  3. Nice makeover guys - looks nice and bright! Just like a summer morning or a snowy winterd day! ;D
    I was born a few days before Xmas so I do like winter, even though it doesn't snow often where I live... but, I understand what you mean - we miss our blue summer in the winter...

    As for the topic, I think the following explains a lot: PT http://www.publico.pt/Media/portugal-cai-14-posicoes-no-ranking-da-liberdade-de-imprensa_1405981#Comente
    UK http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2009/1021/breaking36.htm
    Portugal has dropped 14 places and is #30, the UK is #20 in the Press Freedom Index 2009.

    I can't stress enough that this "war" is being fought mainly in the information/propaganda fields - since the beginning. Who did the Tapas group call first - Sky News or the PJ?... who are they trying to gag? Those who are more mediatic...

    Information is vital to bring justice to Madeleine.
    Rgds.

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  4. Astro, a very sensitive and impartial analysis. But let me add a note: The English police doesn't pick up the case because, in all probability, they came to the same conclusion as the Portuguese Judiciária: That Madeleine is no longer alive. Let us remember that the laboratories where the analysis were made is English, the dogs too, and there was an English team of investigators helping the PJ. Now, as the case was shelved by the Portuguese, they obviously leave it up to them to take the case to a final conclusion, if ever possible. That is why the parents don't want any of the police forces involved, preferring the use of several private investigators with dubious capacities and sometimes dubious integrity, knowing full well that their investigations will lead to nowhere.

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  5. Very well written article Astro. Unfortunately, the objective of many involved in this case was not to find a missing child but to prevent the parents from facing charges of negligence or more serious charges.

    I can empathise with your feelings about winter. In Canada, I have experienced -40 celsius weather, not factoring in the wind chill, this type of weather bites your skin. The humid winters in Portugal tend to penetrate my bones and give me the shivers.

    When I logged onto your website this morning, I thought I had made a mistake. It's good to remodel once in a while, it prevents things from becoming stale. The only objection I have is that it seems that I can't paste into the comment section.

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  6. A very thoughtful and sad reflection, I too dislike the darkness of winter and the cold and humidity that eats away at my bones. That same coldness displayed by the McCanns eats away at me, as I wonder why they are not begging for police to reopen the case, and find out what happened to their beloved daughter that night, but then the coldness tells me that they possibly if not certainly already know. Their lack of "leaving no stone unturned" creates an image of hypocrisy and falseness. How many parents would not allow the police to shelve the case.....None unless it suited them.
    Dear Maddie whereever you may be, many care about you and will seek justice for whatever happened to you.

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  7. Astro or Joanna, Any news about Goncarlo Amaral? he appears to have dissadppeared without a voice. He must keep himself in the picture or else all his bravery is lost

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