Are Madeleine McCann’s parents really to blame?

"Blog for Madeleine McCann"Once, I left my baby alone. I checked the windows of my hotel bedroom, closed the door and went downstairs to dinner. The reception on the monitor in the restaurant was terrible; anything could have been happening and I wouldn’t have heard it. The couple in the opposite corner seemed to be having trouble with their monitor too. But it was fine. I knew she was asleep, in her cot, unable to climb out, and there was a smoke alarm in the hotel.

  • Have you ever left your sleeping child in a locked room, whilst you had dinner in another place, escaped for an hour of adult company?
  • Have you ever entertained friends in your back garden whilst your child slept at the front of the house?
  • Do you leave your back door unlocked (not open) whilst you are in your house?
  • Has your child ever been out of sight in a field or park during a game of hide and seek?
  • Have you ever allowed your child to climb into the car on your driveway whilst you did a last minute check of the house, or supervised a quick toddler loo visit?
  • Have you ever accidentally gone to bed thinking your partner has locked the back door, only to realise in the morning that he didn’t?

Unless the answer to all of these questions is an emphatic NO, you cannot judge the parents of Madeleine McCann for their actions on the night of her disappearance. Last week I was a voyeur of a Facebook thread on the subject of the McCann tragedy; people were slating them for their actions, practically demanding that they be punished. Well you might as well punish thousands of other parents who, if they were honest, have left their child in situations that were not 100% lock-tight.

Praia da Luz: the perfect family holiday…

"The McCann's appartment"

Photo courtesy of the Guardian

You may wonder why I feel so strongly about this. The year before Madeleine McCann was abducted, I had the pleasure of a family holiday in Praia da Luz. Our holiday house was directly opposite the pool entrance, about 100 metres from the McCann appartment. It was a great holiday; pool and bars on the doorstep, gorgeous beach, lovely people, delicious food.

My baby was a noisy sleeper, who often cried in her sleep, but didn’t wake, so we had opted for  a 2 bedroom house. We left the bedroom doors open so we could hear her if she woke, but a small cry could go unnoticed. The man in the house next door was a heavy snorer, and kept me awake for hours at night. In the end I wore earplugs. It was hot, so we left the windows ajar in the baby’s room. We locked the shutters down, just as the McCanns did, but we left some fresh air circulating for her.It could have been us…..

When does safety become obsession?

It never occurred to me that my baby was at risk. But had our appartment been targetted that week, I have no doubt that our safety net was not strong enough. We were in the house. External fittings were locked. But would we have heard an intruder hell bent on secrecy?

In the months after Madeleine McCann’s disappearance, safety became an obsession for me. 30º heat or not, the windows remained locked at night (I still can’t shake this habit). If I allowed my kids to run down and switch on the TV of a weekend morning I would get a lie-in, but they can’t, because the alarm is  always on overnight.

Statistics are no comfort

I met a child-protection police officer who maintains that statistically, it is likely that the McCanns were involved in their daughter’s disappearance. But what use are statistics unless they are 100%? If your child fell into that unlucky 0.3% bracket, would the statistics comfort you? Of course not! It angers me that so many people put such energy into shouting statistics and castigating her parents for their actions that night. “Oh, statistics say it was them, so that’s alright then, case closed.” Rubbish! My feeling is that people take this stance so they can brush the issue under the carpet as being something they, as responsible parents, do not have to worry about. Wise-up! That 0.3% matters!

You are never 100% safe

I know that had the McCanns been in their appartment that night, it would not necessarily have prevented Madeleine’s abduction. Two years ago, a woman living not far from us, got up as usual, put the kettle on, and opened her back door. Maybe she put some washing on the line and came back in for her cup of tea. Some minutes later a stranger walked in through her back door and stabbed her to death. Her 18 year old son rushed to help her, and ended up stabbing her assailant, who also died.

My proximity to these two tragedies has left me obsessed with the safety of my family. All of those questions at the beginning of this article? I can answer yes, to every single one of them. And I bet most of you can too. I will never again do any one of those things, and that is probably good. But it shouldn’t be necessary. When a crime is committed, do not turn on the victim with recriminations.

Madeleine McCann is 9 years old today, 12 May 2012. She is still missing. A criminal is still free. A family is still devastated. Do not judge them, help them.

"Madeleine aged 9"Madeleine McCann went missing on Thursday 3 May, 2007, whilst on holiday in Praia da Luz, Portugal. This is how she may look now, aged 9. Please, if you see a girl who might be Madeleine, take the following actions:

The Find Madeleine official website is www.findmadeleine.com, and you can see all the details of her case there.

Lastly, if you are a blogger, or social media user, you can help by tweeting and sharing this post with your contacts, or by writing your own blog post, including all these details. The #blogging4madeleine campaign is being organised by bloggers A Mummy’s View and Tea and Biscotti, and a linky is being hosted by BritMums. Please share this information with as many people as you can, in whatever way you can, so that this vulnerable girl can be found.

Thank you.