1.Everyone shall possess the right to freely express and publicise his thoughts in words, images or by any other means, as well as the right to inform others, inform himself and be informed without hindrance or discrimination 2.Exercise of the said rights shall not be hindered or limited by any type or form of censorship Constitution of the Portuguese Republic, Article 37.º

McCanns: Have they lost our sympathy?

Daily Express By Anna Pukas

As it is revealed that they are considering a film about their daughter’s disappearance and their campaign sheds leading supporters, a growing section of public opinion appears to be turning against the McCanns...

On New Year’s Day on the Costa del Sol, 15-year-old Amy Fitz­patrick set out on the 10-minute walk to her home after babysitting for family friends. She never arrived and has been neither seen nor heard of since.

Since Amy vanished, her distraught mother and stepfather have made only one public appearance.

At a brief press conference five days later, they appealed for her safe return and for any information that could help bring that about. Since then they have been resolute in their refusal to say anything more and have turned the media away, saying: “Don’t make this another Maddy.”

It is a most revealing – and in some ways chilling – comment on the Madeleine McCann case from people who are better placed than anyone to form a view.


Like Madeleine McCann, Dublin-born Amy Fitzpatrick disappeared while in a foreign country. Like Kate and Gerry McCann, Amy’s mother Audrey (she is also the same age as them, 39) has had to place her trust in a foreign police force and foreign laws operating in a foreign language.

Unlike the McCanns, however, she has not mounted an extensive publicity campaign to find her daughter. She has not placed posters bearing Amy’s picture in shops or stuck them on the walls of the gated housing complex near Fuen­girola where the family lives. She has not, and will not, give interviews about Amy to tele­vision or to glossy magazines.

The reason she has not done any of those things is because, in her own words, she does not want the investigation into Amy’s disappearance to “turn into a circus”.

In all probability, Audrey Fitz­patrick intended no slight to the McCanns but given her situation and its similarity to that of the McCanns, could there be a more damning indictment of the McCanns’ conduct over their daughter’s disappearance?

The messages posted on the various websites devoted to discussion of Madeleine have always provided a wide spectrum of opinion on the case and, more particularly, the comportment of Kate and Gerry. While there is, broadly speaking, still deep sympathy for the anguished couple there is also a considerable cynicism over their high profile.

Rightly or wrongly, some believe they have become rather too fond of publicity – a view that this week appears to have become even more entrenched.

First, extracts were published from an extensive interview which Gerry McCann gave to the prestigious American magazine Vanity Fair, in which he stated that he bitterly regretted leaving Made­leine in their holiday apartment while he and his wife went to dine with their friends. He also conceded that the past two months – the length of time since the Mc­Canns were named arguidos, or suspects, by Portuguese police – had “clearly polarised people”.

Then it was revealed that Father Jose Manuel Pacheco, the Portuguese priest who comforted the McCanns in the aftermath of Madeleine’s disappearance, has cut off contact with them, reportedly refusing to respond to phone calls and texts from Kate. He now says he regrets getting involved with them and felt duped when they were named arguidos.

And earlier this week it emerged that TV presenter Esther McVey, who is a long-time family friend, has stepped down as a director of the Find Madeleine Fund. Ms McVey, who has known Kate McCann since their college days, insisted she was quitting because she wanted to concentrate on her political career (she hopes to become a Tory MP) and her studies for an MBA degree.

The McCann family spokes­man, ex-BBC reporter Clarence Mitchell, also insisted the parting was “very amicable”.

Nonethe­less the timing is unfortunate, to say the least, coming as it does hot on the heels of the most contentious development so far – the putative “Maddy movie”.

The McCanns have been app­roached by IMG, the biggest entertainment agency in the world, and last month a meeting took place with their representatives, including Mitchell. IMG owns Darlow Smithson Produc­tions, which made the award-winning documentary Touching The Void, about the fate of two British mountaineers following an accident in the Andes.

It can be assumed that a film about Madeleine would use the same format of extensive interviews with the main “characters” in the story interwoven with dramatic reconstructions. How­ever, the use in some reports of the description “movie” has led to the belief that the McCanns are sanctioning the making of a Hollywood blockbuster.

Mitchell was swift to try to dispel the notion of fictionalisation of Made­leine’s story. “Our objection is to the word ‘movie’,” he said.

“We had a discussion with IMG a month ago and that’s as far as we’ve got. We discussed a film in the broadest terms possible. It may or may not happen. A similar meeting was held with ITV about some kind of factual drama, with actors playing Kate and Gerry. We get approaches from all kinds of media all the time.”

The film could form part of a package,with book and TV broadcast deals, worth a reported £10million, but Mitchell emphasised that all money earned would go into the Find Madeleine Fund, which was launched a few days after she vanished last May.

It quickly topped £1.2million but is seriously depleted. With £80,000 spent on a poster campaign, £300,000 on Spanish private investigators and thousands going on fact-finding trips to Spain and Morocco and living expenses (including two months of mortgage payments), the fund stands at less than £400,000. Donations have dried up.

“Money is needed to search for Madeleine,” said Mitchell. “A film would be made on a percentage basis, with part of the profits going to the fund.

“None of the money would go to Kate and Gerry. They are absolutely not trying in any way to profit out of her name.”

Gerry McCann, meanwhile, denied that he and his wife were co-operating with any kind of film.

“We can categorically deny that we are considering a movie about Made­leine’s disappearance. This is simply untrue,” he wrote in his blog on Wednesday. “

Sadly, his denials and Mitch­ell’s clarifications app­ear to have had little, if any, mollifying effect on public perception.

“It’s an absolute disgrace that these cold, calculating, child-neglecting, sorry excuses for human beings should have a film made. They should be arrested, not given the opportunity of more publicity!” That, from a message board correspondent named Pam, is typical of the ferocity of opinion.

Another, Ken, writes: “If a film is made it will be endorsed by the McCanns. They will give permission so they can make even more money out of this. They left them kids alone most nights – why do you have sympathy for them?”

Eileen ponders: “What next? Gerry writing a newspaper column and Kate launching a fitness video? This news does not surprise me in the least. That publicity-mad couple have and will continue to do anything and everything to keep THEMSELVES in the spotlight in their vain and (thankfully) failing attempt to detract from their own irresponsible actions.”

And from Geoff, there was: “All the sympathy and sorrow I had for them has now vanished. How could any genuine grieving parents be looking for this sort of money-making venture so soon after Made­leine’s disappearance?”

Meanwhile, a correspondent named Peter mused: “Am I the only one fed up with listening to people involved with the Madeleine McCann case, like Clarence Mitchell, and their ‘holier than thou’ attitude? To keep saying that her parents had nothing to do with it is complete nonsense. Had the McCanns been an ordinary couple from a poor council estate and not been professional people, the two remaining children would have been removed from them by social services.”

Here, on the Daily Express website, more than 60,000 comments have been posted about the case – nearly three quarters of which are hostile to the McCanns.

Gerry McCann was all too right when he wrote in his blog: “This is the worst publicity we have had since Kate and I were declared to be arguidos.”

Since the McCanns left Portugal in September and returned to Rothley, Leic­ester­shire, their lives have taken diverging paths.

In November, Gerry went back to work three days a week as a cardiologist and as of this week is working full time.

He plays golf once a week, pops into a village pub and takes twins Amelie and Sean to play in the park. Kate rarely ventures from home; she takes the twins to nursery twice a week and attends mass on Sundays and Tuesdays.

Though their relatives and friends insist that, as a couple, they are as united as ever, they admit the one point on which they differ is publicity and handling media.

Kate finds it too painful – she was unable to answer a single question for the Vanity Fair interviewer – and she feels that a lower profile would be more prudent. Gerry still sees the media as a tool to be used.

In this, even his advisers say he has sometimes been too assiduous and his blog dis­appeared from the Find Madeleine website for a time.

Handling the public is, however, another matter, as Gerry is finding out to his cost in a week that may come to be seen as the week the Mc­Canns’ grip on the nation’s heart slackened.


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