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

Madeleine McCann: Icons of the decade

McCanns exiting Praia da Luz church, nine days after the alleged abduction
of their daughter Maddie

It's the unsettling mix of the incredibly intimate and the coolly tactical that has made the mystery of Madeleine McCann the biggest and most extraordinary child abduction story in history

by Esther Addley

In November, 30 months after their daughter vanished from their holiday apartment, Kate and Gerry McCann released two images of how Madeleine might look now. Her face is a little longer, her jaw stronger; she has grown out of her toddler's button nose. In one, she is shown with long blond hair, in the other with darker hair and a deep suntan. But in both images she retains the distinctive black flash in her right eye where the pupil bleeds into the iris, and which they hope can be used to identify her, if they ever do succeed in finding her.

Madeleine's distinctive eye has been central to the search for her since the earliest days. The couple released posters in English and Portuguese in which the letter "o" had been modified to have the same distinctive flash. "Look into my eyes," read the images: "Olha para os meus olhos." There were rumours that the Bryan Adams song "(Everything I Do) I Do it For You", which begins with those words, would be re-released in support of the campaign.

Late in 2007, Gerry McCann gave an interview to an American magazine and talked about the decision to publicise the eye defect. "Certainly we thought it was possible that [the publicity] could possibly hurt her or her abductor might do something to her eye . . . But in terms of marketing, it was a good ploy."

It is this unsettling mix – of the incredibly intimate and the coolly tactical – that has made the mystery of Madeleine McCann arguably the biggest and most extraordinary child abduction story in history. HL Mencken, the great American essayist and reporter, called the 1932 disappearance of the baby son of aviator Charles Lindbergh "the biggest story since the Resurrection", but neither the Lindbergh baby kidnap and murder, nor Christ's rising from the dead, took place in the internet age.

Just a few weeks after she vanished in May 2007, a sizeable chunk of the globe knew the name Madeleine McCann. The rather homespun website set up by her parents had 80m visits in the first three months after her disappearance. Millions of pounds were offered in reward for information. The biggest celebrities in the world – David Beckham, JK Rowling, the Pope, Oprah Winfrey – publicly expressed support or interest in this anonymous middle-class couple from the Midlands.

Reporters and camera crews from around the world descended on the small Algarve town of Praia da Luz, to feed an audience desperate for updates. At one point, almost two-thirds of global traffic on Google News consisted of searches for information about Madeleine. Most remarkable of all is that despite the many thousands of articles, the millions of words, written about Madeleine McCann, there remains more than two and a half years later just one solitary fact that we know for sure. In the early hours of 3 May 2007, she vanished without trace from her parents' holiday apartment.

Madeleine was not the first helpless child to come to harm, nor, tragically, will she be the last. So why did this child, this story, become the one that convulsed the world rather than any other? In part, it may be because the McCann case speaks to a profound noughties unease about the rules and roles of parenthood. Would you leave your three children asleep in a strange apartment while you dined and drank with friends in a restaurant some distance away? Have you? Would you heed the advice not to weep in public if your child was taken? How composed is too composed?

Kate and Gerry McCann, so profoundly conventional in many ways, awkwardly resisted conforming to the behaviour that an increasingly engaged and judgmental public demanded, most notably a stubborn refusal to acknowledge any parental culpability on their part and a determinedly dry-eyed public face, albeit on the advice of professionals, that sat uneasily with the sentimental grammar of tabloid reporting and the public mood.

In the case of Sarah Payne, snatched and killed in July 2000, or of Milly Dowler, who vanished in March 2002, or of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, who died five months later, the threat was external and unforeseen. Baby P, who died three months after Madeleine vanished, was murdered in circumstances of unambiguous evil. Terribly unjust as it may be, Madeleine's parents' dreadful victimhood was complicated, in the mind of the public, by their parenting decisions. It set in play the circumstances that allowed their critics, for a time at least, to judge them more harshly than whoever snatched her.

But the story of Madeleine is also a story about the media, how news events are set in motion, and how the plates are kept spinning, and how sometimes they fly off uncontrollably in all directions. A beautiful toddler gone missing will always be catnip to newspaper editors, but Kate and Gerry McCann also chose to make themselves active characters in the story, and though their motives were laudable, their relentless drive for publicity unsettled many. Had Madeleine been snatched in Britain, the McCanns would have been assigned a police family liaison officer and the full, slammed-door stonewalling of a police press office. In Portugal, their advisers were PRs. In October 2007 Clarence Mitchell, by then working as the couple's full-time media adviser, addressed students at Coventry University about the case. The title of his talk? "Missing Madeleine McCann: The perfect PR campaign".

There is another reason, of course, why Madeleine has become so iconic, and that is the terrible, ongoing mystery. "Madeleine is a very happy little girl with an outgoing personality," reads a heartbreaking note on her parents' website. "Like most girls her age, she likes dolls and dresses (and anything pink and sparkly)." What on earth became of this vibrant three-year-old, frozen in time? Will we ever know? Is it possible, as with Jaycee Lee Dugard or Natascha Kampusch or Elizabeth Fritzl, that one day a woman who was once named Madeleine will emerge, blinking, into the media spotlight?

in the Guardian/icons of the decade series


Gerry fears Madeleine's unique right eye could put her in danger.

He said whoever snatched the child now held a recognisable girl and could take her life. But he still believed her distinctive iris could also help trace her.

He added: "We thought it was possible this could hurt her. Her abductor might do something to her eye. But in marketing terms it was a good ploy." in Daily Mirror, 10.01.2008


  1. Na minha opinião a autora esqueceu-se de pontos muito importantes e que tornam este caso tão diferente dos outros (mas não me surpreende pois não são muito favoráveis ao "santo casal":

    -Campanha de descredibilização da força policial encarregue da investigação, realizada pelos pais da criança através dos media do país de origem desta;
    -Campanha de insultos e ofensas de teor xenófobo contra o país onde ocorreu o crime e suas gentes,realizada pelos media britânicos com a participação de familiares da criança desaparecida;
    -Interferência directa do Governo do país de origem da criança na investigação desde o primeiro minuto;
    -Recusa dos pais da criança em cooperar com os investigadores;
    -Recusa dos pais da criança em pedir o retomar da investigação após o arquivamento do processo;
    -Todos os indícios recolhidos pela polícia apontam para o envolvimento dos pais no desaparecimento da criança;

  2. Apart from her parents, no one has used Maddie's disappearance for their own personal gain more than Clarence Mitchell. And he has the audacity to complain about people he feels are "making money" from her disappearance. SHAME ON YOU, Clarence Mitchell!

  3. 'Late in 2007, Gerry McCann gave an interview to an American magazine and talked about the decision to publicise the eye defect. "Certainly we thought it was possible that [the publicity] could possibly hurt her or her abductor might do something to her eye . . . But in terms of marketing, it was a good ploy."'

    marketing- The business or process of planning or implementing a strategy for the promotion, sale and distribution of goods and services.

    "Madeleine is a very happy little girl with an outgoing personality," reads a heartbreaking note on her parents' website. "

    Another example of marketing. A happy little girl, who spent her time alone crying? Outgoing personality? The people at the creche described her as withdrawn.

    "Would you heed the advice not to weep in public if your child was taken? How composed is too composed?"

    When I read the above sentences the word that comes to mind is what you find in a field containing bulls. They didn't weep in public because they are malignant narcissists. The recent weeping is learned behaviour and yes this is what they were advised to do.

    At the end of each year the charities call out to the public to give since they are usually in the giving mood, and the McCann pseudo charity is no different.

  4. According to CM and the McCanns, they were advised not to show emotion when being interviewed on television because it might make the 'abductor' get some sort of pleasure from seeing them crying! Now I know that if it was my missing child there is no way I could hide my emotion and I would have refused all interviews, apart from where I couldn't be seen. I don't believe any grief stricken parents could put on that cold a front and make such unfeeling comments as these two have. They come across as the coldest and most calculating pair of hoodwinkers imaginable.

  5. Icons of Lies and Deceit
    Icons of Censorship in the XXI Century
    New Age Dictators

  6. According to CM and the McCanns, they were advised not to show emotion when being interviewed on television because it might make the 'abductor' get some sort of pleasure from seeing them crying!


  7. This is a good article from the Guardian. It gets to the nitty gritty here. No fawning over the McCanns or Clarence Mitchell and as for this comment from Gerry McCann.

    "Certainly we thought it was possible that [the publicity] could possibly hurt her or her abductor might do something to her eye . . . But in terms of marketing, it was a good ploy."'

    if you put that alongside one of the very first things that he said about how he coped with her disappearance you get a picture of just what he is all about.

    "The analogy that I like to use is a bit like when we were students and you'd got to your overdraft limit and you'd gone beyond it and there was just nothing left in the tank….’

  8. The happy smiley faces at the top of the page is most worrying to me.
    How many people could even manage the faintest of smiles under those circumstances, I would be devastated at a time like that.
    Odd beyond all reasoning doesn't even come close, and they wonder why people reject their so called version of events.

  9. More
    and more articles/interviews asking them to explain there actions.
    and less articles/interviews promoting the search.

    Quite simply the tide is turning.

    Throughout this case, i have had moments when i believed it would remain unsolved.(corrupted through POLITICAL pressures ).
    I can say that now it will be solved and they will be held to account and my god what a backlash that will ensue for there backers and supporters.

    (I strongly believe the case already has the evidence needed to be solved, alot of which still has not become public knowledge YET).

    The Mcanns and co have tried to rewrite the facts with the help
    of Clarence and backing of the media...with the support of the
    It seems to me Clarence was complicit with the editors of the newspapers to conspire to change the perception of the public by using lies, twisted truths and just not bringing to peoples attention what had been found,in other words staying tight lipped of anything that could not be manipulated into their favour.

    As more and more indications/evidences consoildated Goncalo Amarals direction, the smear on his integrity was the direction they went deeper into regardless of the cost of health to him and his family.
    he was expendable for there overall vision.

    The scary part for me is that i believe if not for the determination of Goncalo and his supporters that this would have been a walk in the park for them.

    The Portuguese government behaved like puppets and turned their back on one of their citizens who had dedicated his life to helping protect it citizens.

    I believe that as sick and twisted as it is that the Mccanns
    would have believed they had righted their wrong against Madeleine by making there goal in life to promote legislations on missing children and lets be honest it was heading this way with the support of the British Government....How the hell do suspects in a case where homocide is a strong possiblity let alone the dreadful neglect issue be allowed to take the world stage to drive legislation (amber alert)....it beggars belief, no its just plain sick and twisted.

    The rammifications of this case are massive and will bring down Government figures on Both sides aswell as major institutions such as CEOP,FSS,Leicestershire Police, media organisations etc.
    These are the influences that are building the walls to prevent the truth emerging not the Mccanns.
    This case is wrotten to the core like the establishments involved,as i write this i am half ready for the police to come crashing into my house and take me away.
    I really dont give a sh@: if they do....i am prepared to stand my ground and fight for the truth and there is no threat that will deter me.

    enough is enough.


  10. The McCanns told the twins that a monster had taken Madeleine, then Kate McCann's mother told the media, that the twins had been given Christmas and birthday presents and told that Madeleine had sent them.

    The McCanns say they have sought advice from social workers, I don't believe for one minute that social workers would tell the McCanns to tell the twins that a monster had taken Madeleine and then buy gifts for them and tell them their big sister bought and sent them.

    I believe the McCanns are messing with the twins heads, because they know it will be pay back time when they are old enough to understand what happened in PDL.

    The McCanns are a cruel and callous couple and I fear for the twins mental health. I sincerely hope someone is keeping a close eye on these twins, because their parents are unstable. I also hope that Gerry McCann is still being kept well away from patients.

  11. I forgot to say the McCanns have now announced that they are setting a place at the table for Madeleine, on Christmas day.

  12. Was this picture of the vile parents laughing actually printed in the Guardian, because on the Guardian website there is just a picture of Madeleine?

  13. I wonder how far Kate and Gerry's parents are right now about knowing their neglect children.
    Very many times parents don't know their own children, they have an ideal picture of them: loving, gentle, responsible children and their grandchildren could not have found better parents in this world.
    At the beginning Kate's mother was badly surprised about the 3 grandchildren being left alone every night.
    "Why?", she said on an interview.She did not expect that from Kate, a sign she did not know her daughter very well.Later she read on the papers"why did you not come last night when we were crying? "
    And the complaints of the lady neighbour, Maddy crying for over one hour.A bad surprise for Mrs. Healey, no idea how her daughter could be.Indifferent, irresponsible.
    And them the publication of 15% of the official files, Mrs. Healey confronted with Gaspar's statement.
    At first "no, this can't be true!" and than...doubts, wondering about this, wondering about that, Kate's Freudian slips while talking to the parents...
    Kate to Mrs. Healey: "She is gone, Mum, she's gone!"
    Or "I see Madeleine coming down the stairs".
    Kate's reaction to the PJ man: "What are my parents going to say?"
    And a photo of Kate, Gerry and Fiona Payne together on a paper last September, during a marathon.
    "My God, they are still friends!"
    After 2,5 years Kate's parents must know or strongly suspect the truth.
    They have gotten two choices.
    Going to the police and to tell what they know or strongly suspect, saving the twins and other vulnerable children's lives from crimes and traumas for the rest of their lives or
    To keep their mouths shut , saving their son in law and daughter, letting other innocent children be destroyed.
    This is a terrible dilemma for every parent and grandparent and it takes time to make a decision(while innocent children are still at risk).
    What gives me hope are Gamble's words: "Relationships change".
    I hope good, responsible grandparents will always chose for saving innocent grandchildren or any other child.
    The truth liberates.

  14. Just a thought,I wonder if Sean and Amelie will have their noses pressed against the window,on Christmas day, watching for Madeleine's arrival. After all a place will have been set at the table for her, or so the McCanns have declared.

    Unless there is a miracle, these small children will be very disappointed and upset, when Madeleine doesn't appear.

    How much longer are the McCanns going to get away with this type of cruel behaviour, before someone has the guts to say enough is enough and remove them from society.

    Surely someone within the Portuguese judicial system, can find something that will bring this disgusting pair to justice. I know the PJ had enough evidence, to prosecute them, at the time of Madeleines disappearance, but instead of doing what they should have done, they bowed to pressure from Gordon Brown, backed by Tony Blair.

    Its no use expecting the British police to do anything, they had a chance to do something, when along with someone from Social Services, they paid the McCanns a visit, shortly after they returned from PDL. Gerry McCann said that they had been told that their behaviour in PDL was within the normal realms of parenting.He said the same thing when he was interviewed in PDL shortly after Madeleine's disappearance, yet when he and his wife fled PDL the day after they were made arguidos, they said it was because they feared they would be arrested.

  15. The two photo at the top should be printed by every newpaper and media outlet in the world with the caption,
    "These are the parents of a little girl who they insist is alive and in the hands of a predatory Paedophile.
    Make up your own mind."
    And send a special copy to Carter-Ruck, Clarence Mitchell, and all the rest of the mob.
    What does Kate's mother make of it, I wonder.

  16. I have always noticed the bags under Madeleine's eyes (in many of the photographs.) Either she stayed up late often not going to bed at a normal time, or spent a lot of time in her short life crying.
    Also, she often looks like a child being brave, trying to keep a smile up for the camera.
    She might, of course,have had some medical condition, but that would surely have been part of the general information already released.

  17. Good post, number 9 - I agree entirely and your conviction that the truth will be known boosts my own hopes. I hadn't thought about the McCanns trying to make amends by promoting legislation about missing children, but it definitely makes sense. However, they just jumped on the bandwagon with the Amber Alert - it wasn't their brainchild and wouldn't have been any use if Madeleine was taken, anyway! It did look as if things were going that way with the support of the British government, as you say, but I am sure that the steadily increasing scepticism towards the McCanns has discouraged them from continuing.
    And post number 10, I also agree. We should also bear in mind that the twins have now been without Madeleine longer than they were with her (I think!), and they were very young when she went missing so it is likely that they have few, if any, memories of her and anything they visualise is purely a result of what their parents have told them. A form of brainwashing, really.

  18. Cons of the decade. Yea, I'll go along with that.

    Boy, hasn't this year absolutely flown by. And still no peace for our favourite doctors. Will 2010 finally set them and their sinister backers free? I do hope so. That's free from the ridiculous lies they need to keep peddling. There are times when they must surely feel like a bunch of knackered hamsters unable to step from the incessant spin of their caged wheels.

  19. Nr 13, very well written and well analysed.
    I also remember Jim Gamble refering to a person close to the offender(s).
    "It could be a father or a mother".
    Does he hope Madeleine's grandparents will come forward telling what they know or strongly suspect?
    Will those grandparents be ready to save other little children's lives?

  20. Poster 16 ,A photo of Maddie in a fancy dress costume (Snow White i think) she has sheer fear in her eyes as she looks up at whoever is taking the photo ,This photo haunts me

  21. Good post (16)One can only imagine what Madeleine had to put up with. I can imagine Gerry McCann being a bully, he put the fear of god in me, when I saw a video of him, at the airport, on his way to PDL. He was told to cheer up by one of his mates,because he was going on holiday. "I'm not going on holiday to f***ing enjoy myself" he said,in front of all the children.

    Poor Madeleine, little did she know her days were numbered and it was her who never had a chance to enjoy her holiday. She was stuck in the creche during the day and then left to babysit her baby siblings in the evenings.

    So it turned out, that Gerry McCann did enjoy his holiday, we saw plenty evidence of that, when he and his wife were photographed laughing,as they accepted gifts of flowers and money, outside the church and in other places in PDL.

  22. this photo taken 9 days after Maddies disappearance!! They look like they just got married, such joy.........not really grieving parents. If they really want their daughter found then demand they reopen the case, ask scotland yard to investigate.if you have nothing to hide. A trip to the cliff overlooking the sea??freedom or memory, why there when there are many other places to feel free.

  23. In my opinion, the McCanns know that Madeleine won't be found ever. When they were in PDL the other week, they said they went to the beach at 05:30hrs. I wonder if it was to spread Madeleine's ashes, they were suspected of using an animal incinerator to dispose of Madeleine and when they were filmed at their house last year, the camera showed an urn on a shelf.

    I wonder if the same thought crossed the camera mans mind and that was why he trained his camera on the urn.

    I can think of no other reason why the McCanns would go to a beach at such an early time of the day, other than they didn't want to be seen doing something they didn't want anyone to see.

  24. 'There is another reason, of course, why Madeleine has become so iconic, and that is the terrible, ongoing mystery.'

    The writer of the article goes to the heart of the matter here. If this were a case of proven abduction, where it was known for certain a child had been taken though not by whom or what had happened to her later, I think the media would have lost interest long ago. But no one knows what happened to Madeleine. She disappeared, as the media correctly say nowadays, and that is all. Vanished. The apartment she disappeared from had no sign of an intruder having entered it, so it's impossible to state conclusively that anyone DID enter it. If no intruder came in, how could Madeleine have been taken? Did she go out by herself? There was an unlocked door and she was known to wake up and get out of bed at night, so might she have gone outside, gone to look for her parents, something they had already envisaged when they discussed leaving the door unlocked? Again, no one knows.

    The media sense there is a big mystery at the heart of this case and it keeps them interested, I think. They know how the official summing-up said it was not possible to say what had happened to Madeleine, they know that various highly-paid firms of private detectives have found not the slightest trace of her, they know that thousands of 'sightings' have all come to nothing. They know that it always comes back to the one known thing - Madeleine disappeared from the holiday apartment; how, when, why, they don't know. It's the various possible answers to those questions that hold the interest of the media and to some extent that of the general public, IMO. I imagine the McCanns are aware of this as they know it was an important part of the public prosecutor's summing-up, and that it will remain so until hopefully something comes to light that will help to solve the mystery.

  25. Kathybelle (23) Did anyone see them at the beach at that time in the morning? There were fishermen there at that time and when asked they said they saw no-one. Did they really go to the beach and the rocks?

  26. 25 Were they just throwing a few false leads down to create a talking point away from their real agenda?

  27. Hi Anymous(25)I only read that the McCanns said they went to the beach at 05:30 and then on to church a comment was made about fishermen in the area and also if the McCanns were once again given a key to the church. Apparantly the McCanns made these early visits, to avoid the public. More like to avoid the locals who searched for Madeleine, while the McCanns jogged,played tennis and did all the things they did before Madeleine disappeared.

    These locals were very angry with the McCanns,because their behaviour lost PDL a lot of trade,which in turn costs many locals their jobs. So much so, that the locals and the Priest the McCanns dissed, re the key to the church, tore down photographs of Madeleine.

    Poor Madeleine, once again she bore the brunt of her parents behaviour.

    Re my post (23) I really hope I am wrong about the McCanns spreading Madeleine's ashes, I hope she has been taken by someone who wanted a little girl to love and take proper care of. Something Madeleine was short of in her short life with her dispicable parents. Should she be found safe and well, I hope she will never be returned to the McCanns.

  28. Comment(26) Who knows what the McCanns did on their short visit to PDL, they told many lies during the investigation into Madeleine's disappearance, all to save their own skins.

    They still haven't ackowledged responsibility, for not only Madeleine's disappearance, but for leaving their children in an unsafe environment and I don't think they ever will.

  29. Anonymous (26) That has been my view. I would be surprised if it turns out they really had went to the beach and rocks at that time in the morning.

  30. Quote from above article "Had Madeleine been snatched in Britain, the McCanns would have been assigned a police family liaison officer and the full, slammed-door stonewalling of a police press office. In Portugal, their advisers were PRs".

    This is incorrect in fact. The McCann's were allocated a police family liaison officer in the very early days, but because that officer dared to question them about where Madeleine was, they objected strongly to that person's presence and the officer was removed.

    They then instigated the presence of a PR spokesperson.


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