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How the McCanns use Mari Luz in the Maddie case

Carla Bernardino, from TV Guia, January 25-31 2008

DRAMA AND LIES: How the McCanns use Mari Luz in the Maddie case - The opinion of crime specialists


Whether Maddie is alive or dead, what’s important is to talk about the issue. And to do it emotionally. “It’s information management in times of crisis,” they say.

Every time some news comes up that is not favourable to the McCann family as regards the disappearance of Maddie, another news imposes itself favouring the missing child in the Algarve. From vigils, evocations, storytelling, YouTube movies, there are situations that repeat themselves and leave in the air the feeling that the positive overcomes the negative. “The strategy of the McCanns is well implemented, it has a spokesperson and composes the campaigns, studies how they should be carried out, where they are to be placed. Some of them are carried out in a mystifying way, others in a chirurgical way,” explains Francisco Moita Flores, an ex-investigator of the PJ and a commentator of the case.

Edson Athayde [a Brazilian who is Portugal's top advertiser], a specialist in communications, without wanting to state that this is the case with the McCanns, believes that “this behaviour is typical of a crisis management situation.” And he says: “When it is installed in the media, interesting factoids may be produced that eliminate the facts”.


It’s known that the British family works with some of the best information experts, that being the case of Clarence Mitchell. In fact, the journalist Hernâni Carvalho [author with Luís Neves of the ‘Maddie 129’ book] is categorical about the method: “The specialists in communication know how everything is done, the experts in analysing and collecting information know even better”.

The assessor of the McCann couple, Clarence Mitchell, has a curriculum in data management. “Before working for the couple, the assessor did collection and analysis of information” for the United Kingdom. The journalist concludes stating that “all the communications have been run by a specialist”. Edson Athayde, an advertising man, also does not ignore these facts.


“There’s a lot of talk about the positive agenda of politics, and that happens also in other areas,” states Edson Athayde. But not everything lasts forever. “This expedient works when it’s possible, but one must need to know that there may be a wearing off and thus public disinterest may occur. It can last for quite a while”.

However, with so many news against and in favour of the McCanns, will we arrive eventually at the truth? “As the case has already been turned on its head several times, the result is that no one knows what to believe in. If that was the objective of the communications strategy, then it’s going well”, mentions the advertising man. Hernâni Carvalho defends that the truth is already known despite all the facts that were published. However, he answers with a question mark: “Isn’t the outcome already visible?”


Is there a correlation between the McCann family and the disappearance of Mari Luz, the 5 year old Huelva girl whose whereabouts are unknown since January 13? Francisco Moita Flores has no doubts: “Of course they’re appropriating it and will do it even more.” Hernâni Carvalho answers with a question: “Would anyone be speaking about Kate if they hadn’t called the family?” A disappearance that, in the words of the commentator of ‘You on TV!’, “curiously occurred in Huelva, where there is not a communications apparatus and everyone knows that the little girl disappeared”.

The advertiser and specialist in communications believes that this kind of phenomenon is indeed going to start multiplying. “Factually, I don’t know if there is an exploitation or not. But it’s natural that several simulacra start appearing in the media”. Imitation phenomena that exist only because the impact of a news of this kind has on people is known".

However, Edson argues that this may not stay confined to the South of Spain. “Soon we may even have the Maddie of Brazil, the Maddie of France… The media attention will concentrate on those places until the public is tired”.

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