15 September 2007

A hair's breadth

Having sustained newspaper circulations through the flat summer months, it would seem the tables have been turned on the McCann family, whose daughter Madeline is still missing. For so long the personification of tragic despair, a whispering campaign to indict them has led to a sudden distancing between them and the previously supportive media.

Partly this may be explained by the new friends the fourth estate seems to have found in the Portuguese police; back in May the local fuzz was infuriatingly tight-lipped. Now, it seems, they are leakier than Sellafield, if the rumours of physical evidence are to be believed. New updates come almost daily about hair and body fluid DNA matches to Madeline from a car hired by the family 25 days after her death. Nothing official, of course - just a drip-drip of innuendo to establish a presumption of guilt in the public's mind.

For let us be under no illusion that this is about due process of law. This is a case that is being fought in the court of public opinion, for which read Tabloid Opinion. The McCanns have announced the equivalent of a rebuttal in the form of new press and TV advertising to appeal for help in finding her. Such a campaign will not be about finding the girl, but about reminding the public they are innocent until proven guilty - for there can surely be no-one left in the Western Hemisphere who couldn't identify her image.

A cheaper and easier rebuttal would surely be this: if the police truly believe that Kate and Gerry McCann killed their daughter, hid her body for 25 days and then buried her, how on earth was this not spotted by the press? Given the saturation coverage of this story for the first two months, it is inconceivable that not one long lens paparazzo would have snapped them in the act. In this regard, the press that now seeks to bury them may be their best alibi.

No comments: