Good to see that the Find Maddie Campaign is ticking over nicely. New suspects pop up with some regularity -most recently a British paedophile being treated for cancer in Germany, a Portuguese market trader of “gipsy appearance” and another British man in jail in the UK-, adverts calling on the public to keep looking (“she might be next to you”) continue to appear regularly in the British tabloid press and presumably financial contributions to the capaign fund keep flowing in. I say this (about the money) because little has recently been heard of the McCanns’ plan -first mooted in april 2008- to write a book about their ordeal. At the time, a deal possibly worth two million pounds was mentioned, at a time when the existing Find Maddie campaign coffers were running disturbingly low.
Still, with their unerring talent for raising doubts in the minds of even the most sympathetic members of the public, Gerry and Kate McCann have decided to embellish the newspaper advertisement not just with the familiar picture of Maddie aged 3 but also with a computer generated image of what she might look like at the age of six. And what a lovely girl it is! Beautiful eyes, with the tell-tale mark of course, shiny hair combed back behind her ears: a picture of health and happiness. A girl that is obviously being well looked after. Every bit the Maddie we might have known today….if she hadn’t disappeared over two years ago and suffered an as yet unknown fate.
I remain unwavering in my personal conviction that little Maddie is no longer alive. How she died and at whose hands I cannot say; no theory, however outlandish, can be entirely discounted. Identifying a guilty party is well-nigh impossible in the absence of a body or a shred of forensic evidence. Any remains found could always be identified via DNA, but evidence pointing at a killer (or killers) will inevitably degenerate with the passing of time. How much time I don’t know, you’d need a trained medic to tell you that. But let’s not dwell on this, the McCanns believe Maddie is alive and that’s all we have to go on. If she is, though, then what? If indeed she was abducted by some hideous paedophile and subjected to unspeakable horror and abuse she’d be a hollow-eyed waif by now, possibly on drugs, underfed and in ill health. A far cry from the girl with the cheeky grin that the McCanns would have us believe could be Maddie as a six-year old.
So, assuming that Gerry and Kate aren’t stupid, what’s the point of the photographic update? I see two possibilities. Either the McCanns have an inkling that Maddie is indeed dead but, for their own reasons, want to keep the campaign going (you can get used to receiving big cheques in the post) or they believe that she may have been stolen to order, possibly for resale to a well-to-do childless couple. Only in a case like that is there any likelihood that she would look as hale and hearty as she obviously does in the newly concocted picture. It’s a long shot, admittedly, but stranger things have happened.
But finding Maddie alive and well, happily living with a new family is probably the worst case scenario for the McCanns. A girl of six, who has just spent two happy years with a new identity, new family, new friends will be entirely different from the toddler left on her own in a holiday apartment in the Algarve in May 2007. At such an early age, the process of learning new things, adapting to new situations and forgetting what was takes place at breakneck speed. By now she may have no recollection of ever being called Maddie. I know what I’m talking about: when I was nine I went into hospital, I came out again nearly two years later. Older than Maddie is now, with the contact with my family intact, I still had enormous problems readjusting to life at home, fitting in and getting on with my next of kin. Not to put too fine a point on it: for a long time I felt closer to the man who, for the past eight months, had been lying in the bed next to mine than I did to my own mother. Imagine a young, impressionable child, entirely at ease in her new life, reacting to a family she hasn’t seen for over two years! Or much longer, depending on when she would be found. Gerry and Kate would be strangers to her; and disruptive, unwanted strangers at that. Claiming Maddie back in such circumstances would be a recipe for disaster.
But as I said, this is probably a fantasy scenario. Maddie McCann is dead. But until her remains are found and identified, the circus will continue. Not with my money, though.