After almost two years of active investigation the March 15 conference marks a watershed in Scotland Yard’s Grange operation. Five international letters of request and the resultant interviews in Portugal must have more or less cleared the famous 38 name list that they claim to have begun with in the summer of 2013; a rumoured sixth letter, which the Portuguese were said to be expecting in autumn 2014, has disappeared into the information void, together with any news whatever of the climactic Lisbon Christmas interviews.
What a contrast with the announcement of the investigation phase! Then the pages and screens had been filled with hysterical tales about Scotland Yard finally meeting the couple’s wishes and quasi-royal expressions of “we are encouraged” from the dodgy couple themselves, all mixed in with a rich Mitchell Fantasy selection … new witnesses…new key witnesses…He had a really fat face and had two-tone sunglasses on…Serial paedophile’s deathbed confession…Gypsy stole Maddie to order…Twisted trolls have sent death threats to Kate McCann over the disappearance of her daughter …weird stranger at apartment…and on and on and on…
That was the beginning. The end is being played out almost unannounced, dribbling quietly away like a stream into the sands.
Much of this is due to the Yard itself. When, after careful planning, the active investigation phase was formally launched, a Yard priority was to ensure that the 2007 circus-cum-car crash of media coverage was not repeated, particularly since the news of the CPS visits to Portugal in April had filtered out. The key July 4 media conference at which this was accomplished began unpromisingly for neutrals with a journalist’s opening question prompting a collectors’ item Redwood Waffle Torrent:
Journalist: What has changed, have you had new information, new evidence? What has changed to lead you to open this investigation?
Det Ch Insp Andy Redwood: Well, as we have worked carefully over the last sort of two years, through that review process, we have now processed some 30,000 documents and some of those documents could have, say, one page, some have got hundreds of pages. From that, you will recall last year that I said we had 195 investigative opportunities. We have now generated over 3,800 actions and it is from a careful analysis of that work that we have been able to establish new thinking and we have spoken to witnesses that have provided new evidence for us.
When the audience had recovered from this onslaught Redwood moved swiftly to his main point.
Journalist: Some people... some people suggested, quite cruelly at the time, [isn’t he lovely?] that the McCann parents might be [go on, go on, go on] in some way involved with the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. What can you say about the involvement of Madeleine McCann's parents in anything to do with her disappearance?
Det Ch Insp Andy Redwood: Neither her parents or any of the members of the group that were with her are either persons of interest or suspects.
Journalist: Because, obviously, there were some rumours [Nobel Prize for delicate understatement on its way] at the time, but you are quite categorical in that?
Det Ch Insp Andy Redwood: They are not persons of interest or suspects, they are parents who have lost their daughter and we are doing all that we can to bring resolution for them to find out what has happened to Madeleine.
In those few dozen pre-planned words (which he just happened to repeat elsewhere that day) Redwood ensured that not a single UK MSM outlet would speculate unfavourably about the McCanns before the investigation was complete: the lawyers would never allow them to since the statement at once removed any defence to being injuncted at the first hint that they might, indeed, be “of interest” to the Yard. Having no wish to make an involuntary donation to the Save the Tot, Finance the Family fund the cowardly but fleet-footed Bureau was also quick to withdrew its claim that the CPS visits pointed in one direction.
So the MSM couldn’t be blamed too much for the spectacular McCann arse-lick-fest that ensued – for the gap between Redwood’s warning assertions and his Monster Waffle Assault version of what his squad was actually up to was narrow indeed, so narrow that the journalists had nothing to write about except fantasy or what Mitchell gave them. After all, this being the MSM, Telegraph readers were unlikely to find a lengthy centre-page analysis of the Yard’s Don’t Panic, Not Suspects message with its interesting implication that over-the-top, fair-trial-wrecking, media madness would only occur if the McCanns, rather than the Prince of Wales or the Pope, were somehow at the centre of it. Now why would the Yard assume that?
The brutal fact is that nobody in this extraordinary case gives a tuppenny f*** about anyone’s involvement other than the McCanns’. They couldn’t care less. The relentless parade of rumoured suspects isn’t just banal and downbeat – petty thieves, burglars, junkies, dead paedophiles, white van cleaners – but comically ridiculous and, despite the best efforts of the Team and the media, all these turkeys launched our way have resolutely refused to fly. Can you picture any of them in your mind? Not one of them has tempted journalists, researchers or anyone else to go and investigate their possible origins and backgrounds. No, within days of being splashed all over the MSM these two dimensional fantasy figures are forgotten.
There is, in fact, a creepy and by no means accidental similarity between the Yard’s supposed suspects that the MSM – not the Yard itself – has brought us and the Rorschach blots that the McCanns and their doltish accomplices showered us with for years, from Bundleman to Baby-Buyer. The mind has difficulty picturing them in the round even when we’re given a real name because they’ve never existed in the context claimed for them – contact with a live Madeleine McCann.
The couple, fronted by Mitchell, may have had a clear media run since the day of the Redwood veto but one by one the sources that have sustained their initiatives have been turned off: there are no more suspects, no new witnesses with a likely tale to tell, no visible new lines of inquiry, no leaks from Portugal, no conflicts between the forces of the two countries, no hint of a report from the latest interviews. Above all, two years investigation hasn’t produced a single tit-bit, not a crumb, that the couple can point to, wave at Leicester’s assistant chief constable and say there, vindication! But nor can they now run to their media lawyers and editors screaming there, persecution!
So the stream trickles into the sand amid an overground public silence more profound than any since 2007. With it trickles also the last possibility of the MSM influencing or damaging the investigation on the 2007 model: the latter’s destructive powers have been completely tamed, indeed emasculated. If arrests come in the UK then the contempt of court rules immediately take over to maintain the peace.
For all the internet rage and paranoia about the MSM bias its effect has been zero, and now, rather deliciously, all of us on the net find ourselves free to speak – as long as we stick to the truth – while our steam-age opponents above ground are impotent! Isn’t that great?
Who should we thank for that? Operation Grange, for putting us all on an equal footing. All of us, the MSM, Kate and Gerry McCann and the Brighton conservative candidate included, know exactly as much about the operations and activities of Grange as we did in spring 2011: absolutely nothing. All any of us, readers or writers, have had is the power of inference. Whatever the final result, and whatever our intermittent frustrations at not knowing what to believe of the squad’s honeyed words, it has kept its operations triumphantly secret – and therefore free from interference by anyone.