4. A MISPLACED 'DUTY OF CARE'? In this episode we examine again the accusations of neglect levelled against Madeleine's parents. This time, however, the spotlight falls upon aspects of the known facts relevant to the McCann's duty to ensure a safe environment for their children - and how this might have been neglected.
A Duty of Care: Were Madeleine's Parents Wilfully Negligent?
EARLIER WE EXAMINED some of the issues surrounding the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine. We did not, however, attempt to offer any enlightenment regarding these disappearance theories in and of themselves. Emphasis on these theories, and on the McCann’s abduction theory, in particular, has nonetheless had the somewhat unfortunate effect of distracting attention from the other key issue in this case – that of the question of neglect and the extent to which it may or may not have played a role in Madeleine’s fate.
In comparison to the disappearance/abduction issue the question of alleged neglect levelled at Kate and Gerry McCann is hardly ever examined in detail. Yet in many respects it's by far the less speculative of matters relating to this case – i.e. we have some reasonably clear ideas regarding the facts of the matter and the actual circumstances in which the McCann’s children were placed at the time of Madeleine’s disappearance. Given these available facts the degree to which the McCann’s may be held responsible for their daughter’s disappearance is surely something that can be subjected to further investigation and analysis? And surely too, given the seriousness of the events that transpired that dreadful evening, any actions that might have contributed to those events are of great importance, interest, and (not least) consequence?
And let’s be crystalline here; those consequences are of very great importance indeed. For if it turns out that Kate and Gerry McCann were wilfully neglectful in their duty of care toward their daughter’s well-being and safety then this is, by no means at all, some small matter. Without at this juncture or for a moment suggesting that they were in fact culpable, in anyway at all, it must nonetheless be understood that such an accusation is not to be taken in the least lightly. If, as many people believe, the McCann’s actions were unacceptably neglectful, and this contributed to Madeleine’s fate, then this is a severe example of neglect, a neglect of huge proportions by the parents and guardians of this little girl less than four years old at the time.
In addition to this there is a further matter of neglect regarding Madeleine’s brother and sister, the ‘twins’ Sean and Amelie, that at just over two years old were significantly younger still. That nothing untoward visited upon them the night of Madeleine’s disappearance is not clearly a matter of good practice or forethought but, rather and more probably, mere chance and good fortune. For whatever befell Madeleine that night might equally have be the fate of Sean and Amelie, both of whom were in the same apartment at the same time.
What is more pertinent at this stage, however, is not whether the parents were in fact negligent but that this entire issue is typically not on the radar of anyone involved in official investigations of the McCann case, in the UK at least. Indeed, this is the case with Team McCann and the British establishment generally. With the obvious exception of Kate and Gerry McCann it might be thought just a tiny bit strange that almost all their supporters assume there was, and still is, no such charge to answer and that even to pose the question (regarding neglect) is itself an affront worthy of, minimally, disregard and very often aggressive and abusive verbal attacks on those that dare suggest it.
The ensuing onslaught, levelled at silencing anyone suggesting the McCann’s might be even marginally responsible for what happened to their daughter has, at times, reached fever point. Rampant social control from left-wing extremist institutions such as the BBC, along with a media and press utterly terrified of further liable suits, ensures that the very mention of responsibility on behalf of the now holy McCann’s for neglectful conduct was and is, from the get go, a non-starter. Those voices in defiant corners of these industries were and are consistently side-lined or silenced by threats of litigation or persecution. And yet there is great irony and hypocrisy here.
Bear in mind that, according to a variety of rather fluid reports by team McCann and others, the nearly four year-old Madeleine and the two-year old twins were left entirely alone in an unlocked holiday apartment for somewhere between 15 and 45 minutes (around 20 minutes seems the acceptable consensus among the Tapas 9, but many are sceptical as to the actual time between checks - see timeline picture at the top of this page). Consider, further, that every member of the infamous ‘Tapas 9’ had a vested interest in being somewhat liberal (meaning, on this occasion, ‘generous’) with reports regarding just how long they really did take between these checks on the children (members of the Tapas 7 also had children they had left alone in the same holiday apartment complex at that time). And take into consideration too that these little children were left alone in a country foreign to them in unsecured apartments, in a building where complete strangers also worked and stayed.
Nonetheless, this was thought an acceptable solution by well-educated medical professionals so that, as responsible parents (?), they might all be ‘free’ to enjoy themselves in the Tapas bar. Lastly, it should be noted that Madeleine and all the other Tapas 9 children were left alone night after night like this. This wasn’t a singular isolated event, rather the fateful night was the sixth in a row that the children were left alone under these circumstances.
Compare this to the following (singular) incidents. In 2004 Tim Haines was arrested for leaving his two year-old child in his (locked) car for less than ten minutes to dash to a chemist for Calpol. His children were placed under a ‘protective’ order by social services, he was prosecuted for ‘wilfuly exposing a child to risk of significant harm’, and the family had to battle through the courts just to keep their children. In 2005 his conviction was overturned on appeal. Haines only later (2014) spoke out about his family’s ordeal in response to hearing about another case in which a mother was cautioned by police for leaving her six year-old child home alone for 45 minutes. Take note of just some of the comparative features here: in her own home, in her own country, which was securely locked, etc.
There are many, many, more such examples.
The above cases helped motivate a YouGov poll, also in 2014, on the question whether the (UK) government should set a minimum age for children to be left alone and without supervision. More than two thirds agreed that such legislation should be pushed through as, presently, the law only dictates that parents should not leave their children alone if they will be placed at risk. Rather incredibly, some might think, it’s left to the parents to make the risk assessment -excepting in cases like those above where the judgement was very clearly made by the police and social services, so which is it?
Inevitably a report on the poll by the Telegraph newspaper mentioned the Madeleine McCann case. The article missed the obvious, that any ‘offence’ committed by the McCann’s was in another country and therefore as such be out of the jurisdiction of British courts anyway. What it did state, very briefly before quickly moving on, was that the McCann’s claimed the apartment was always in sight. Even if this was true (it isn’t) it means next to nothing unless they were ‘always’ watching – which they very evidently were not. Effectively the Telegraph, like all British papers and media, skimmed over what has become the most famous abduction case in the world, at least since the Lindbergh Baby (1932), for fear of persecution by Team McCann.
What has been outlined above are simple facts of the matter – how different certain individuals are treated, and moralised about, by the establishment and some of the (mostly left-wing) public. What they don’t see here, or give weight to, is the disparity in response and attitude -and the reasons for it. In the examples above only the McCann’s child, Madeleine, came to any harm- and is very probably dead. Whilst taking a kid-gloves stance toward the canonised McCann’s the same authorities that condemn ruthlessly in other cases fail consistently in even entertaining culpability on the part of the celebrity favourites Kate and Gerry.
We need not, at this juncture, conclude the McCann's are in any way negligent or responsible (wilfully or not) but to stymy the debate, negate the discussion, and circumvent the question itself so completely is beyond doubt a crime against reason, common sense, and the very idea of justice. To then persecute or prosecute other parents for the same of similar actions, but where the child came to no harm, is a disgraceful audacity and affront to judicial fairness and common-sense.
As many critics of the McCann’s have pointed out, had these two been Jeremy Kyle’s freak show exhibits living off benefits on a council estate, attitudes towards them would have been very, very, different. Had something like Harry Enfield’s comic characters Wayne and Waynetta Slob (depicted as two rather disgusting benefits wasters) done the same with Frogmella (their child) you can be assured of a public outcry along with senior figures calling not just for their public execution but changes in the law, etc. It’s hard to see it any other way too given examples like those above - cases similari to the McCann’s only with far less catastrophic outcomes.
In an ideal world, of course, this sort disparity in dispensing justice wouldn’t occur but the world isn’t ideal and this is a fact of life. In many such circumstances, and had this alleged neglect occurred in this country, Social Services would surely have been called in, a protective order issued for the twins, and they may well have been taken into local authority care. Moreover, a Kyle-esque McCann’s would have been scrutinised, invaded, hounded, and persecuted, not just by the relevant local authorities but the very same people that presently make up the McCann Fan base itself – therein lies an irony of sorts.
In May 2016 several national newspapers reported on reality TV’s Sharon Osbourne’s apparent condemnation of the McCann’s, stating that leaving their children alone was in her opinion ‘insane’. The response from Team McCann was to claim that Osbourne was ‘ignorant’ and ‘ill-informed’. The question here is ignorant and ill-informed about what? The McCann’s children were alone, they were left this way by their parents, and they knew what they were doing in leaving them without a babysitter. Had Madeleine not been alone that night she would not have been abducted/disappeared and that’s that (?).
It’s actually quite astounding that members of Team McCann think this is in some way an adequate response. What Sharon Osbourne actually did was nothing more than reflect the view of thousands of people regarding the McCann’s behaviour and decision-making leading up to the disappearance of their daughter. That view might still be wrong but what it almost certainly was not was ignorant or ill-informed. On the contrary, this child abduction/disappearance case is probably the best known around the globe by far – people generally know more about this that just about any other such case, even where they might otherwise not be particularly interested. Even Katie Price (aka. topless bimbo ‘Jordan’), hardly someone known for her intellectual prowess, was out-spoken in defence of Osborne, as were a great many other parents that are of the view children this young just should not be left alone – period.
The crux being that even a dim-witted, self-centred, and otherwise pointless celebrity such as Katie Price can see the sense in taking the view that you should not, as a matter of principle, leave your children in such a vulnerable position. But this, according to Team McCann, is an ignorant and ill-informed view. But then, although both Osborne and Price are very wealthy celebrities they aren’t of course middle class doctors.
On 27th April 2017 the Telegraph report on the upcoming 10th anniversary of Madeleine’s disappearance claimed “only one fact remains uncontested: that she was reported missing at 10.14pm on the evening of Thursday, May 3, 2007”. Really? So we have just the one uncontested fact do we? Well, what about another very important fact that Madeleine (and her younger brother and sister) were alone, completely and utterly alone, when whatever happened to her occurred? Is this not a ‘fact’, an absolute, incontrovertible, clear fact? Or is it the case that the Telegraph knew something we didn’t, that the children were not alone? No, this is not so because the ‘fact’ is these children were alone in that apartment and that ‘fact’, that very, very, important ‘fact’ is what made it possible for Madeleine not to be with us today.
This single fact, a ‘fact’ that may have been the result of neglectful decisions on the part of the parents, is the reason that, very probably, Madeleine is dead, and has been for a long time. And this, we should add, remains true despite Gerry McCann announcing (like a victory for the Team) that “there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that Madeleine has been harmed” (Gerry and Kate’s message: findmadeleine.com). There is no evidence Lord Lucan was harmed either.
It's worth pausing a moment to consider what Gerry McCann is actually doing in making the 'no evidence' claim. Typically, this is the approach taken by someone demanding a far more stringent body of evidence than is available, or likely to be available - and they know it. No smoking gun, no body, no suspect. The reality is that this is a very weak position to argue from. This is because in Madeleine's case there is otherwise very clear circumstantial and statistical evidence, which continues to mount, a preponderance of which points quite convincingly toward the conclusion that, in all probability, she is indeed dead.
It's not of course a hard, logically compelled 'fact'. However, the probability of this being, above all other contenders, a realistic description of the events of and following the fateful night of Madeleine's disappearance has become increasingly and extremely high. But in the Madeleine McCann case such a description of the events suggests a rather inconvenient fact, one not quite so forgiving of the parents as other 'facts' – so we avoid it, it becomes an unmentionable truth.
What is really quite unexpected, if not a little incredible, is that Gerry's claim that there is ‘no evidence…Madeleine has been harmed’, has attracted so few responses. No evidence, really? What Gerry McCann means is there is no dead body, no corpse on the slab, for forensics to pore over. And, yes, that’s entirely correct. But to say there is no evidence is to ignore, out hand, a mass of circumstantial and statistical evidence that points very clearly to a reasonable assumption, near to certainty, that Madeleine is very probably very dead. Lot of those involved in the case know this, and it’s equally ridiculous that these same people are letting the McCann’s flog this dead horse just to keep those that suck it up donating to their ‘find Madeleine’ fund. It borders on deception at this point to allow this kind of claim, i.e the lack of definitive physical evidence, to be used essentially to bolster an investigation that is now well past financial justification, at least in terms of the public purse.
The idea of ‘finding Madeleine’, moreover, is itself a distraction because, if otherwise competent professional detectives are swayed by the ‘Madeleine is still out there somewhere’ assumption they can be led in entirely the wrong direction. What they need to focus on is the question, and mystery, ‘what actually happened to Madeleine McCann’, and this is a different question and investigation. On this account the McCann’s might even themselves be considered complicit in thwarting, or otherwise impeding, the official investigations into Madeleine’s disappearance by both the Portuguese and British police. But why?
The answer may be found in further considering the ‘neglect’ branch or issue we started with. There is little doubt, I suggest, that the McCann’s deeply regret their own behaviour, and shortfalls, regarding how they went about parenting Madeleine and the twins. Whether or not they were wilfully negligent, it is evident they did neglect a proper duty of care toward their children. It’s simply a commonplace, and a point of common parlance, among almost anyone who is a parent that the McCann’s attitude to caring for their children on the occasion of this family holiday was tragically negligent. Some doubt this, of course, and other defend the McCann’s to the very end. But on the whole consensus appears very much to condemn what they did in leaving their children in such vulnerable position, night after night. This was, as previously mentioned, a critical factor in turning much public opinion against them both in Portugal and back in the UK.
The McCann’s can, though, be defended and indeed Gerry McCann himself claims that a service professional (work colleague?) told him Kate and he acted within acceptable standards or limits for 'respectable parenting', or some such (not verbatim). More recently Gerry, upon hearing suggestions that a charge of wilful neglect may still be a prospect, responded by saying they (Kate and himself) would fight ‘tooth and nail’ against such a charge. More likely, however, they mean yet more money will be poured into Carter-Ruck’s burgeoning coffers so that they might sue whoever dares bring such a charge, hopefully scuttling any attempt before it starts. These are tactics commonly used by the McCann’s to maintain the status quo, along with the probable myth that ‘Madeleine is still out there’ and keep the search on track – or so they might claim.
But there may be a deeper, more personal, reason why the McCann’s push so hard for the abduction thesis, and the idea that Madeleine is still alive, in the world, waiting to be found - and it is this. By keeping to the pretence that Madeleine is still alive and well they can also hold onto the possibility that their neglect that terrible night of 3rd May 2007, and the nights before, did not have the utterly disastrous consequences that otherwise clearly resulted.
In this way the McCann's culpability is minimised, if only their abducted daughter is found alive and well after all. Because, otherwise, the full and horrific weight of their negligent actions, wilful or not, will be theirs to bear for the rest of their days. The full weight of this emotional burden is enormous, crushing, and unbearable – that their little daughter may be taken from them by some evil piece of human slime is an unimaginable tragedy for any parent, but to know, to be certain, your selfish and intentional actions made it possible, even brought it about, that magnitude of tragedy may truly be more than one could bear.
This is the true plight of the McCann’s. This is the motherlode of culpability they must carry if their daughter is found other than alive and well. And this is why they will fight ‘tooth and nail’ to keep the abduction investigation alive too.
Keeping alive the idea of Madeleine as simply missing, and not completely gone, dead, keeps the weight of the culpability they bear to, perhaps, manageable proportions. As long as Madeleine is ‘alive’ their neglect does not make them party to her death. She is not dead, just missing, abducted, and so nobody can be responsible, in part or whole, for her demise. We just need to 'find' her.
It’s all a lot easier like this, naturally, but it’s unlikely to keep the McCann’s free from the consequences of their role in this dreadful saga forever. The piper must be paid in the end and what justice the system does not administer their own consciences ultimately will. Whether or not they were truly wilful in their neglect, and neglect their children they did, is another question, the answer is not obvious here. One thing is for sure, though; the question of wilfulness is in need of further investigation and we need not, and should not, shy from it.