by Martin Samuel
There are, it is roughly estimated, as many as 180,000 missing children in the United Kingdom.
According to the home Office, the number of full-time police in England and Wales is 142,000.
You see the problem, yes? Even if we took one officer and told him his only job was to find Madeleine McCann, he would still have to take alternate Thursdays off to help investigate some other disappearance.
This is why there exists a point at which investigations into missing people are scaled down.
Always reluctantly, always with the hope that one day circumstances will change, but Gerry McCann is wrong to say the police have given up on his daughter, as the third anniversary of her disappearance approaches.
They have not forgotten, but simply lost the trail.
This happens. Not every investigation can be resolved, or allowed to continue interminably when leads and clues are exhausted.
I do not believe any police officer fails to comprehend the significance of finding Madeleine; not just for her parents, but for the mental health of the nation.
Police may respond inadequately to vandalism or petty crime, but if any of the information Mr McCann says has recently been unearthed by private detectives was of use, an official investigation team would have been all over it.
The charity PACT (Parents and Abducted Children Together) says one child goes missing every five minutes [Every Five Minutes - pdf link]; the police, therefore, are not, like the McCanns, solely responsible for a single lost toddler.
Are those most urgently in need of help now to join the end of an ancient queue?
Police work prioritises, it shuffles resources, evolving in the most harshly pragmatic way.
It cannot become mired in history, as cold as that sounds. Russell Bohling is a vulnerable 18-year-old with a speech impediment, who was about to inherit £300,000 to start his own business.
police act, the more chance there is of resolution, happy or otherwise.
At the same time there will be other cases in the area, as yet unanswered. each officer assigned to Russell’s disappearance is therefore being taken off another duty. What is the alternative?
Give his family a number like at a supermarket delicatessen counter and tell them to wait their turn?
‘Find Madeleine’ was the campaign. The police tried and failed. Now they must find Russell.
Next week, it will be someone else. Tragic realities are confronted all the time, but what more can they do?
opinion article continues in Daily Mail - 30.04.2010
Russell is 5ft 8in, of medium build with short, straight, brown hair. He was last seen wearing black Ben Sherman jacket, blue jeans and black leather trainers.
Chief Supt Davison is urging Russell or anyone with information to contact him on (01482) 597801 or police headquarters on 0845 6060222.