Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Will we ever find out what happened to little Madeleine?

The news about Madeleine McCann is that there is no news about Madeleine McCann. The mystery of what happened to that sweet faced little girl who vanished seemingly from the face of the earth exactly five years ago this week, remains just that.

Total mystery.

In a case which has intrigued and divided opinion throughout the world, if there is one simple, undisputed fact it is that, despite all the millions spent, the myriad investigations, the countless sightings and the various photofit appeals about this or that shady character “seen acting suspiciously”, we still have absolutely no idea what happened to the child.

The fact is that there are no facts.

Just theories — ranging from mainstream to obviously crackpot. And endless, endless questions.

Was she abducted? Or did she merely wander off in search of her parents? Was she taken by an abuser? Or by some sort of sinister child-snatching ring supplying children to unwitting adoptive parents?

So many theories — and nothing conclusive to prove or disprove any of them.

All these years later, despite reward money being offered and above all, despite unprecedented global publicity, no one has come forward with information that could crack the case.

If, as police say, somebody out there does indeed know something, that somebody is keeping remarkably schtum about it.

And then there are the questions about the police themselves. Just which investigative team do you believe?

Scotland Yard which has just spent £2m in a year-long review of evidence, says it has uncovered as many as 195 leads requiring further investigation.

But the Panorama performance of the jargon-spouting Chief Inspector Andy Redwood who is heading up the review did not suggest that the £2m spent had turned up anything seismic.

And the Portuguese police for their part, maintain that there are no credible new facts.

Meanwhile, Madeleine continues to be “sighted” regularly throughout the world. Only a couple of weeks ago there were reports that she’d been spotted in Spain. She’s been “sighted” in Morocco and India.

In the latter case a female British tourist — an over-enthusiastic amateur detective — had decided the daughter of a French/Belgian couple bore such a striking resemblance to the missing Maddie that she convinced an American in the same party immediate action was necessary. He admitted afterwards he had been on the point of seizing the child from what turned out to be her real parents.

In another bizarre episode a wealthy Australian woman whose yacht had been moored in the Med around the time of the disappearance was able to prove there was no link whatsoever between her boat and a story involving a weird Victoria Beckham lookalike reportedly heard asking along the seafront: “Have you got my new daughter?”

The loony theories are probably to be expected given the sheer scale of global interest in the case.

Googling “Madeleine” throws up tens of millions of web options. The most common searches include, poignantly, “Madeleine McCann Found” and, shamefully, “Madeleine McCann jokes.”

Argument rages about whether enough is being done to find her and — on the back of that £2m based investigative review which hasn’t actually moved the case on — about whether too much attention is being given to this one missing child at the expense of others.

There are indeed valid questions about why other cases haven’t been given anything like the same official backing and resources.

But you have only to look at that latest and heart-tearing age progression image of how Maddie might look today to know that however long it takes and however terrible the truth, we do need to find out what happened to that little girl that night in apartment number 5A.

Someday surely, the mystery of Madeleine will be solved.

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