AJS writes: When Team McCann acted on behalf of Madeleine McCann in 2007, using funds provided explicitly for that purpose, it was an unmitigated failure. A failure to such an extent that when the McCanns suddenly found pressing reasons to go home in September, thus leaving the “search” and “campaign” headless and in suspension, nobody noticed! Since not even one lead had ever been started, let alone pursued, there was, in fact, nothing to suspend. There never had been.
Exactly the same applied to the post-2008 “Search”, except that the farce level now escalated to stratospheric levels of buffoonery with private “investigators” busy releasing pictures and descriptions of people who had literally never – never – existed and libelling paedophiles too near death’s door to defend themselves (the tabloids and the McCann supporters loved that one). Meanwhile a host of crooks and hustlers descended on Madeleine McCann’s infinitely sad and inadequately protected legacy and cleaned it out of several hundred thousand quid.
Straight out of Central Casting?
Nobody cared; nobody was prosecuted, nobody was pursued: not only could the Fund and its “guardians” not find an abductor, they couldn’t even find the people who’d robbed their fund blind. More important things to do, you know.
Or the kids'sticker book?
Meanwhile the McCanns were embarked on the Great Dom Pedro Hotel Search Expedition: money originally donated by the public for the child was again being used to pay luxury hotel bills for the parents – just writing this makes me want to vomit – as long as they could claim to the famously "independent" Fund directors that their luxury stays were part of “searching for Mudlin”, as when Gerry searched for Mudlin in Lisbon in early 2009, funnily enough without finding her there. Until the whole farce came more or less to an end, dribbling away, like dirty, greasy water in the gutter, around 2013, when the Grange investigation started to give the couple something new to fret about.
This One's For Real
But in between these completely shameless, disgusting, episodes that few of us have yet confronted because of their scarcely believable nature, we have the period September 2007 – Summer 2008. That was when, for the first and only time, the supposed interests of the child were ruthlessly set aside and the assembled might of the Team – that circle of City professionals surrounding the couple and the pile of readies – acted for a single purpose, one that, you might say, the funds and facilities could almost have been designed for: saving the arses of Kate and Gerry McCann.
As the pictures of the shrunken couple at this time show, they had temporarily lost the aura of breezy invincibility and “we spoke to Gordon Brown last week” confidence that had carried them along above the clouds to Washington, Madrid and the other Dom Pedro type venues, there to chit-chat as equals with government ministers about the Grave Problems of Child Abduction. That fantasy voyage, so reminiscent of Preston Sturges's 1930s immortal black comedies about liars entrapped by their own dreams, lasted until the PJ coldly reminded them of reality by turning up and seizing their car, clothes and possessions. Now a chastened Gerry McCann allowed others to direct this latest project and did what the professionals told him to do.
The Team, under the overall direction of Ed Smethurst and Brian Kennedy, rapidly designed a twin-track plan in which a powerful legal group under Michael Caplan concentrated on the strengths and weaknesses of the Portuguese case while a reputational strategy under the direction of Smethhurst himself and media lawyer Angus McBride was put in place to reinforce the McCanns’ greatest long-term weapon – apart from their total and complete innocence, of course – public support. If Track One failed to expose the weaknesses in the PJ case and kill it off then Track Two would concentrate on enhancing public support.
You get what you pay for: the lawyers’ bills, according to Gerry McCann/Vanity Fair, were paid by Kennedy, Branson and Stephen Winyard, and they were sizeable indeed. While Caplan probed the official Portuguese position and evidence through conventional legal channels, McBride used the gopher Mitchell, one of the few people that Gerry McCann almost trusted, to engage the PJ in a long-range propaganda war.
The Portuguese, in disarray following the loss of Amaral, never knew what hit them. Mitchell’s feline lies, pre-emptively exploiting the weaknesses in the latest PJ theories at every turn, shocked them with their shameless and populist boldness (Gerry McCann’s “retrieved memories” appropriately derived from a May 3 act of urination) as well as with Mitchell’s apparent inside knowledge – courtesy of Caplan’s discoveries during his negotiations.
The Dignity of the Law - the Portuguese Supreme Court
Criminal cases, in the conservative Portuguese culture, were meant to be conducted with the gravity and respect accorded to Roman/Napoleonic law. And to them this was a case, if ever one existed, that deserved true respect – the appalling disappearance and possible death of a child. Yet the supposedly oh-so-stuffy British, using the tabloids and television to lethal effect, appeared to be treating it like a national attempt to win the Eurovision song contest by smearing the judges, whipping up racist aggression among the audience and letting off shit-smelling stink-bombs at the back of the studio.
A British Approach to the Law's Majesty
At least in Portugal the McCanns had intrigued against the PJ and prosecutors silently through third party journalists, thus preserving a semblance of legal dignity: now that the pair was beyond reach their agents seemed to be openly and contemptuously mocking them through Mitchell and the tabloids. Arguidos just don’t behave that way, just as, on the Algarve, people don’t display their burnt-raw paunches or their flabby, oversized tits in the way that the British inferior classes, beer-cans in hand, do – hence the apoplectic, almost strangled, outrage from people such as Carlos (“Mitchell lies with all the teeth in his mouth”) Anjos of the police federation.
That's the price you pay for looking at fictional national characteristics rather than modern realities. While the Portuguese are still, to this day, searching for the languid White's club intelligence agents and all-powerful perfidious Albion diplomats who subverted the case from the beginning - actions that fit in with their own world view and which, in a weird kind of way, they find comprehensible - they've somehow missed the fact that a dynamic, ruthless and essentially classless collection of professionals from the most powerful city in the world blew them out of the water - legally and openly. Because they didn't have a case.
The public needling of the PJ in the British media was all quite deliberate, of course – Reputation Management on this scale often involves Reputation Destruction and, one by one, key figures like Anjos, Amaral and Ribeiro, were targeted and put through the media mincer with brutal, single-minded professionalism, while other Portuguese thought to be keen on treating the McCanns like unpleasant and unwanted viruses – just get rid of them! – like Paolo Rebelo, were treated with flattering respect and restraint. It was nothing personal and the McCanns themselves were not directing this effort: it was just a job to be done by clever professionals for enormous rewards. Welcome to the way the modern City of London works, Mr Anjos.
As we now know the Portuguese prosecutors were in fact in a hopeless position. In many ways Goncalo Amaral was like the detective in yet other Hollywood movies, those in which freaked-out superiors thrust their heads into their hands and mutter, all right I’ll give you another three days to crack this but then that’s it. In the movies they keep getting another three days until the credits roll and the tears of gratitude flow but, as so often, real life was different: the killer pieces of evidence never turned up, Ribeiro, who’d loyally granted the extra days, went down with Amaral instead of ending up a national hero, the couple were allowed to walk and without the missing pieces they could never be forced back. You win some, you lose some. The Portuguese had done their best to serve the child's interests and had acted decently and with characteristic Portuguese mercy in letting the couple leave; but the evidence to get them back again just wasn't there.
It was the interviewer Sandra Felgueiras who best expressed the sense of baffled shock at the revealed weakness of the Portuguese position, weakness that even today people there and in the UK are in denial about. The only way the McCanns could be brought back – they were never going to return voluntarily – was via European extradition proceedings and these depended absolutely on the presentation of clear prima facie evidence of potential wrong-doing before removal could be granted.
That is the “no fishing expeditions” rule: you cannot extradite suspects in order to get them to talk, or to carry out a reconstruction or to examine the contradictions in their evidence. But that was exactly what the Portuguese needed to do because the evidence hadn't been found.
Sinister Superbrain and Dancer - Home Secretary J. Smith with Male Chorus
In its absence the case remained purely circumstantial. No guiding hand from above was needed to protect the McCanns: they had democratic law completely on their side. It didn’t matter whether the offensively ungifted Home Secretary Jacqui Smith or the brooding Big Brother fan, Gordon "incapability" Brown wanted to protect the McCanns or not – the judges would decide the law, not they, and if the judges decided it wrongly then the well-resourced Team would appeal until it was applied correctly.
The City was doing what it always does: ensuring that those who could afford the fees gained the full protection of the law, national or international, criminal or civil. And the public, including Winyard, Kennedy and Branson, whose motives are not known to be any different from those of the pensioners and their cash envelopes, had given them the money to pay the fees, just as the public has given them the money to pay the McCann-Amaral legal costs. Strange, isn't it, that no donor has ever sued for the return of their gift on the grounds that the Fund retrospectively broadened the number of beneficiaries without consent or consultation? But then people who've been suckered are notoriously reluctant to admit it publicly.
In the concluding part: the final long-term rehabilitation plan for the McCanns following their “exoneration” – and the fate that has befallen it.