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It’s unlikely Inspector Netflix will solve the Madeleine puzzle, but it is not wrong to try

Kate And Gerry McCann at a news conference to mark the fifth anniversary of Madeleine’s disappearance
Kate And Gerry McCann at a news conference to mark the fifth anniversary of Madeleine’s disappearance
Jim Gamble
Doug Beattie MLA

By Lindy McDowell

Whatever happened to Madeleine McCann? And are we about to find out now that the court of Netflix is in sitting? At the time of writing I haven't yet seen the new Netflix documentary which delves into this, one of the most enduring missing persons mysteries of our times. But like millions throughout the world I intend to.

Will it provide definitive answers though? I doubt it very much.

Given that after countless police investigations, millions and millions spent, global and unrelenting media coverage and years and years and years of debate and analysis by armchair detectives we are still none the wiser, I can't see how Inspector Netflix is set to crack the case.

What the eight-part series The Disappearance Of Madeleine McCann is more likely to achieve by gathering together some of the main players, well-known commentators and experts of varying ability to rehash the many theories is, perhaps, to throw some new light on events.

Madeleine's parents Kate and Gerry McCann are not taking part.

Friends have cited a number of reasons why. They didn't want to co-operate given an ongoing (it's still ongoing) police investigation. They didn't see how the documentary series would help in the search for their daughter.

And, of course, they knew that Gonçalo Amaral would be taking part.

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The Portuguese detective who headed up the initial hunt for answers has been sued for libel by the McCanns over a book he published claiming that they had covered up what happened on the night (claims they strongly refute).

A court in Portugal found against the McCanns in their libel action. Needless to say their lawyers will be watching the Netflix series, legal pads in hand.

In fairness, though, it was inevitable the documentary makers would want Amaral to take part. Unlike many of the so-called experts on the case, he was actually there on the ground from the start.

Rancour between Madeleine's parents and the police chief aside, the most challenging hurdle the documentary makers will have had to clear is how to throw new light on a case that has produced countless theories and more potential suspects than the combined population of the Algarve region in which the little girl vanished without trace.

It has to be said, not a few of those theories and the subsequent targeting of various suspects have had about them the whiff of racism.

Did Gypsies steal away Madeleine?

Of course they did. That's what Gypsies do, isn't it? Go around snatching children like the Child Catcher and then bringing them up as their own.

This malign yet oddly widespread argument has been behind the countless "sightings" of Madeleine across Europe and beyond.

Another lunatic theory that will apparently be aired on the documentary is the claim by one expert that the child was snatched because "she was white and middle-class".

Seriously? How do you define a "middle-class" toddler? She prefers her fish fingers with quinoa?

And you would think that if, in the dark, damnable and very real world of human trafficking there was such a premium for "white middle-class" children, more of them would be snatched.

The only real certainty in the case of Madeleine McCann is that we just don't know.

A million and one things could have happened to the child - starting with what police officers first on the scene would presumably have seen as the most plausible.

She was nine days short of her fourth birthday. We know that she was unhappy about her parents going out at night and leaving her. The door of the apartment which she could presumably have opened led directly on to the street outside the holiday complex. She may well have wandered off...

Are we wrong to continue to examine and debate this case, to theorise and conjecture and occasionally condemn?

Is Netflix wrong to turn the tragedy of Madeleine into what is undeniably entertainment, a television series that will command a global audience and stands to rake in millions in profit?

Whatever the motivation, I think in both cases the answer has to be no.

A little girl disappeared seemingly off the face of the Earth. We want to, we also need to, know how and why. Like child protection expert Jim Gamble who contributed to the documentary, I do believe that we will find out answers one day.

I don't think Netflix will solve the disturbing case of The Disappearance Of Madeleine McCann.

But I don't think it's wrong to try.

Brexit signs say we are going nowhere fast

Long-winded Brexit protest slogan of the week - the placard outside Westminster advising 'Things have changed. Time to Reassess.' In terms of a snappy message it has to be up there with Father Ted's legendary 'Down With This Sort Of Thing'. Things have indeed changed re Brexit. And reassessment continues in all quarters. But, as ever, the real signs are of very little progress. So on and on and on we go. Careful, now.

Still on Brexit... where does Theresa May go from here? Celebrity Dancing On Ice someone has cruelly suggested. I've mentioned before that if all else fails there could be an obvious business opportunity for her churning out a line of those big beady necklaces she loves. This week another possibility presented itself for post-PM Mrs May to cash in on her Commons performances. Doing commercials for Strepsils?

Whither Unionism? Party should take its lead from Doug

There used to be a great old hackneyed headline in local journalism which was regularly brought out, dusted down and recycled at times of election and aftermath.

Whither Unionism?

We don't need recent polls to confirm it to us - but a more recent appraisal might be Withered Unionism.

Over the last decade and more the one-time powerful Ulster Unionist Party has been in slow but inexorable decline.

And yet there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of appetite these days for a bit of regrouping. The party could and should be making hay of the recent and many crises buffeting the DUP.

Arlene's difficulty is Robin's opportunity?

Apparently not. Without wishing to be unkind to a decent man, the UUP under the current leadership is in danger of disappearing up the Swannee.

One man - or woman - doesn't make a whole party, of course. But the right leader can transform that party's appeal and its prospects.

And it's not even as if the struggling UUP would have to look far for inspiration.

I do not know the man personally and it may well be that he's not even remotely interested.

But the UUP has among its team of elected representatives one of the most honest, open-minded, principled and undeniably charismatic players in local politics.

Whither Unionism?

If you ask me. Two words: Doug Beattie.

Belfast Telegraph


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