Four weeks on, Madeleine still in the public eye

29th May 2007, Comments 0 comments

29 May 2007, London (dpa) - With the pain etched on their faces, Kate and Gerry McCann have appeared before the world's media nearly every day since their four-year-old daughter Madeleine went missing during a holiday on the Algarve in southern Portugal. On Wednesday, almost four weeks to the day of Madeleine's abduction from her bed in a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, her parents, who are devout Catholics, will be able to meet with Pope Benedict XVI in Rome, and travel on to Germany, the Netherlands a

29 May 2007

London (dpa) - With the pain etched on their faces, Kate and Gerry McCann have appeared before the world's media nearly every day since their four-year-old daughter Madeleine went missing during a holiday on the Algarve in southern Portugal.

On Wednesday, almost four weeks to the day of Madeleine's abduction from her bed in a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, her parents, who are devout Catholics, will be able to meet with Pope Benedict XVI in Rome, and travel on to Germany, the Netherlands and Morocco.

The McCann's plight, accompanied by a high-profile media campaign on an unprecedented scale, has won the doctors' couple from Britain empathy from around the world - and support from high places.

But it has also prompted comparisons with thousands of "normal" kidnappings of children every day, and raised the question of the effectiveness of constant media exposure.

Gordon Brown, Britain's prime minister in waiting, has reassured the McCann's of his thoughts and prayers in a number of telephone calls, and he is also reported to have urged the Portuguese police to release their first description of a suspect at the end of last week.

The McCann's, who also have two-year-old twins, were due to fly from Faro in southern Portugal to Rome Tuesday in a private Gulfstream jet offered to them by Philip Green, one of Britain's leading business tycoons and the owner of the Topshop fashion chain.

The meeting with the pope was arranged through the mediation of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Britain.

Churches, pubs, street lamps and homes all over Britain have been bedecked with yellow ribbons symbolizing the hope for Madeleine's return, and the face of the blond, vivacious girl, is daily flashed on TV screens around the world.

Prince Charles, Harry Potter author JK Rowling, soccer stars and cricketers are among the many public figures who have, through words and financial support, backed the Madeleine campaign.

An outsize inflatable poster of Madeleine, transported by road from Britain to Praia da Luz, will be taken around the beaches of the Algarve to jog people's memories.

"We need to believe that she's coming back to us," said Kate McCann in a television interview last Friday, a sentence that revealed her desperate need to cling on to hope.

"If anything really bad had happened, we would have found her by now," added Madeleine's father.

The guilt of "not being there" when Madeleine was taken "will never leave us," said the parents, who were eating in a nearby restaurant on the night of May 3, while checking regularly on their children.

The unprecedented media coverage of Madeleine's fate has prompted comparisons with the plight of the hundreds and thousands of children who go missing daily around the world and, who are often never heard of again.

"The media strategy of the family has been a huge success," said Paul Tuohy, chief executive of Britain's Missing People helpline.

"Madeleine's face is now so well known, if she is taken out in public, there is a good chance she will be recognized. We know publicity works because coverage we produce for other missing people helps us directly to find 10 of them every week," said Tuohy.

Since Madeleine's abduction, there had been a record 1,200 reports of missing young people, he added.

"This case has raised awareness that 'missing' is a social issue that could affect every one of us," said Tuohy.

However, German criminologist Christian Pfeiffer, of the Insitutute for Criminological Research in Hanover, believes that the massive publicity surrounding Madeleine's case carries risks.

"The extreme publicity could put pressure on the abductors," he said, which could have negative consequences for the child. On the other hand, added Pfeiffer, the pictures could alert witnesses who would not normally remember the child's face.

But after four weeks of a high-profile campaign that had brought no tangible result, the publicity efforts had reached saturation point and should be stopped, Pfeiffer suggested.

"The constant pictures don't help - it is important for the publicity to die down now," Pfeiffer told dpa.

Only if Madeleine was out of the news, there could a chance that her abductors would show themselves with her, he said.

DPA

Subject: German news

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