Thursday, 1 October 2015

"It is a great mistake to suppose that the only writers who matter are those whom the educated in their saner moments can take seriously. There exists a subterranean world where pathological fantasies disguised as ideas are churned out by crooks and half-educated fanatics for the benefit of the ignorant and superstitious. There are times when this underworld emerges from the depths and suddenly fascinates, captures and dominates multitudes of usually sane and responsible people."

Norman Cohn, Warrant for Genocide

The Madeleine McCann Affair

Madeleine McCann vanished in May 2007 from the Algarve resort of Praia da Luz. The well-known eruption of media hysteria ensued.
The parents became the chief suspects in an investigation that ended with the case  being "archived" (suspended without result) in summer 2008. The  Portuguese ministry of justice's summary of the case, which accompanied the release of the parents and a Mr Robert Murat from their arguido status and which  has been partially accepted in the UK (but not the Portuguese) courts as a provisional finding of fact, made two statements of the utmost importance for the future: that the parents had failed "to demonstrate their innocence"  and that there was no evidence of commission of any crime by them.
These twin findings might as well have been written on a dynamite wrapper for, taken together, they effectively guaranteed explosive  instability and controversy until such time as further facts emerged to tip the balance one way or another. But, rather extraordinarily, in seven years no such facts have appeared: nothing  that clearly "demonstrates their innocence", despite three separate investigations, and not a trace of evidence  to justify proceedings against the couple either in Portugal or the UK.
The iron boundaries established by  the ministry's report remain in place, to the frustration of everyone involved except the Norman Cohn people, who benefit greatly. It's no place for us until the current investigations have been completed.  

The  main questions surrounding the events of May 2007 are explored  in our The Cracked Mirror here ,written in 2009 and with a 2013 introduction.  The only event of significance to note since then has been the Scotland Yard dismissal of the famous "Jane Tanner sighting". The work attempts to provide a reasonably neutral appraisal for those fresh to the case.We leave that up until someone, or even  a couple, faces trial in the UK, in which case down it comes.  
For the more cultured  of our readers - you know who you are! - the next issue of the  Bureau, the indispensable guide to news and the arts (a McCann-free zone), comes out week commencing 4 October.