Belfast Telegraph

Key to resolving the mystery of what happened to Madeleine will probably be down to chance or fluke

By Lindy McDowell

In Praia da Luz this week, the weather has been sunny and pleasant. Well into the mid-20s. Glorious in our terms, but still some way off the blistering heat of the Algarve summer that draws so many northern tourists.

Now is a good time of the year to visit Luz - particularly for families with young children.

And you can hear them here - all around the Ocean Club apartment blocks. Children splashing in the resort's pool. And, from just over the road, the shrieks and laughter of the pupils of the local primary school, playing during their break time.

A little beyond that school, in a leafy little bower just off the main road, there is the sun-dappled stone statue of Jesus, His arms outstretched in entreaty.

Suffer the little children ...

This today then, is the tranquil, carefree setting for one of the greatest mystery stories of our time. As all the world knows, exactly 10 years ago tonight, Madeleine McCann, a few days short of her fourth birthday, vanished from the Luz holiday apartment in which she and her family had been staying.

Vanished, seemingly, from the face of the earth.

What happened to the little girl in the Marks & Spencer's pink pyjamas? That is the £11m question - that sum being somewhere in the region of the money spent on attempts to find an answer.

With thus far, no answers.

Even to a first time visitor, those sites in Luz that featured in news stories are immediately familiar. The yellow picture postcard church down by the sea. And the kerbside apartment itself (recently sold, reportedly, at a knock down price).

It achieves nothing by repeating yet again, but, honestly, when you see that ground floor apartment, so far away from where the parents and their friends dined in the tapas bar that night, you do say to yourself: "What in the name of God were they thinking?"

Madeleine, if she is still alive (and those are the five crucial words), would be approaching her 14th birthday now.

Too much money and time has been expended on the search for her, say some.

Yet the search, we know, will go on. We know this because this story is one that gripped the entire world. There was, there is, a myriad of theories. We all became detectives on the case. So why do we remain so fascinated by the mystery of Madeleine?

Perhaps simply because it is such a very human thing to want answers. A child just can't disappear like that, surely. Yes, the case of this one little girl doesn't eclipse others in importance. But it is does continue to haunt us, not least because that initial tsunami of media coverage made us all feel, somehow, party to it.

And whether an official police operation or a media probe or just dogged amateurs, there will always be someone out there, in future, seeking to crack the case.

Police are currently said to be following yet another "new lead" - searching this time, for a woman who may be able to help. But that's to add to the long, long list of suspected paedophiles, heroin addicts, loitering strangers, rich yacht owners, Moroccan gypsies, child traffickers and burglars who have previously been said to be in the frame.

The high profile hunt for Madeleine has attracted "sightings" all across the world.

But if there is a key to resolving this mystery it will probably be less likely down to the enormous amount of cash and police hours that have been spent on it to date, than to chance or fluke.

Or just somebody telling what they know.

Ten years on, it is human nature for all of us to hope that this is a story that might still, somehow, end well.

Ten years on, though, it is hard to imagine how.

Why I feel uncomfortable with naked truth

Each to her own, but I am not convinced that posing in your underwear is somehow so empowering for womankind.

The Loose Women cast (most of them, anyway) have been pictured for an ad campaign encouraging us all to "feel comfortable in our own skin".

Isn't is possible to "feel comfortable in your own skin" with your clothes still on it?

Also can you imagine male TV presenters (Andrew Marr or Robert Peston?) feeling a similar need to lead by disrobing? Maybe I'm being unsisterly. But honestly? I think not.

Hillary's anger management wins my vote

According to a new book about the presidential election defeat of Hillary Clinton, on that fateful night as the realisation sank in that she'd lost to Donald Trump she was forced to "suppress an anger that touched every nerve in her body". 

Fair enough. We'd all have felt very bad.

But I always think the big difference between public figures and the ordinary rest of us is that clinical self-control. That anger suppression thing. I know I couldn't do it.

Had I have been Hillary once that Florida vote came in? I'd have bawled.

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