On Sunday, May 13, around 02:45 pm, Sky News TV anchor introduced a story related with Madeleine McCann abduction, emphasising the fact that Madeleine’s case was fading away from the Portuguese Press. A report from a Sky News journalist in Portugal was broadcasted next. The content of that report was exactly the opposite of the idea given in the introduction of the story. The report from Portugal showed images of pilgrims in Fatima, celebrating the 90th anniversary of the sighting of Virgin Mary, and emphasised the fact that many of the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims had posters and pictures of Madeleine.
The report showed also images of a newsstand, where it was clearly visible that every newspaper and magazine had Madeleine’s image on the front page. The conclusion of the journalist reporting from Portugal was clear: Madeleine’s case was not fading away from the Portuguese Media. The report was broadcasted only once, and never was repeated, in the following news bulletins. It seems to me that this is a case of inaccuracy, misleading statement and distortion, and I think Sky News should have acted in order to correct it.
Also, a Sky News special report about Madeleine’s case, broadcasted the same date [May 13, 08:00 pm], had a serious breach of basic ethical standards every journalist must respect. During that special report, Sky News gave a single example of a successful case where the British Police was able to find – alive – a child kidnapped. Immediately after that, it gave a single example of one case of a child missing in Portugal [Rui Pereira] that never was found.
Sky News journalist compared the two situations and the conclusion was that the track record of Portuguese Police was a bad one. This is sheer manipulation. Comparing two singles cases and taking conclusions like Sky News did, is going against basic principles from the Code of Practice enforced by the Press Complaints Office, like the obligation of the Press “not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures” and the need to correct it, with due prominence.
I’ll remind you that in UK, according to the UK National Police Missing Persons Bureau, there was an average of 124 unsolved cases of missing children under 14, on the last four years. In Portugal, from the 80 cases of missing persons still open, from a legal point of view [missing for more than one year] only nine are children and one of them is Madeleine.
In 2006, the Instituto de Apoio à Criança (IAC, a government department in charge of monitoring child abuse) registered 31 cases of missing underage (-18 years) persons. 24 of them were found by the police. This is a rate of 77, 43 % of success in finding missing children. Two of them were found to be dead. So let’s put these figures very clear: Portuguese Police has a track record of finding 77, 43 % of missing children, even if 6,45 % of those children were found dead, and 22,58 % are still missing [mainly adolescents running from home]. From those 31 missing children, only 5 [6.45] were between one and five years old.
I challenge Sky News, the all British Media and every of those British citizens that have been posting, in blogs, sites and forums so many insulting, offensive, slanderous, racists and defamatory comments about the Portuguese police, to produce the same statistical data about British Police. Than, we can see which one has a bad track record, has Sky News concluded, after a carefully planned manipulation of facts, disguised as “journalism”.
Adolf Hitler, the nazis, and some journalists and editors from a few British newspapers
Like in the UK, in Portugal police officers need to be physically and mentally fit. To be a candidate to a CID officer job in Portugal, people must have a university degree [35% of new recruits are chosen among those that have a Law degree] and they go through very demanding physical and medical tests [and I know it very well, because my younger sister tried it, but she wasn’t admitted].
To admit that a high ranking CID officer, in charge of a investigation so important like the abduction of Madeleine, could approve a “sketch” like the one you published and send a team to the field, to show that “sketch” to some potential witnesses, asking if they could “recognize” the person on that “sketch”, is to admit that Portuguese CID (“Polícia Judiciária”) has a lot of seriously mentally handicapped people in it’s ranks, even in the highest positions. Accepting this story as truthful, genuine and authentic, and publishing it, shows how strong is the influence of Alfred Rosenberg ideas among journalists and editors of the Daily Mail and The Telegraph. Indeed, Portuguese police officer have been portrayed in the British media as members of a inferior race or “clowns” – as Mrs Jan Moir, from The Telegraph, wrote.
Thursday, at lunch time, Madeleine parents went to the regional headquarter of CID police, in Algarve. The mother went back to the hotel at 11:00 pm. The father was there until 03:00 am – 13 hours, at all. Large part of that time was used to give Mr Gerald McCann and his wife a detailed briefing of the investigation Portuguese police has been conducting. Some of that time I believe was used to call the attention of Mr and Mrs McCann to the necessity of telling ALL THE THRUTH to police investigators, as staff members of the resort told police that Madeleine parents didn’t check not even once if their kids were well, while they were dinning, according to today’s edition of Diário de Notícias (*). Let me remind you that Madeleine parents told to police and to the Press that they have been checking the kids, left alone in their room, every 15/30 minutes.
The fact is that a large part of the British media is giving an image of the Portuguese police - and of the Portuguese people - as a lost Neanderthal tribe that survived the Stone Age and is still living in a remote corner of Europe, with its primitive traditions and culture.
Some British journalists, reporting from Algarve, behave as if they were following a National Geographic expedition to study the not-so-long-ago-cannibal tribes in the deep jungles of New-Guinea. But you, journalists and editors of Daily Mail and The Telegraph, went a little further and showed your strong appreciation of the author of “Der Mythus des Zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts" [The Myth of the XX Century].
Martin Brunt: another howling blood-thirsty British tabloid journalist, willing to kill – or let someone be killed – to have a story (*)
“Sir: Your comments are appalling, disgusting, offensive and nauseating. The only thing that I agree with you, is when you write “[…] I really don’t know”. That's absolutely correct and it's the first factual information I got from you! That’s also the only truth in your post. When you say that most of news, published in the Portuguese Press, about Madeleine McCann abduction, are best described as “colhões” [that’s the right way of spelling], the obscene translation of “testicles” and a word no educated person would ever mention in front of women or kids, is the most offensive and unfair I ever heard.
What you call a “minefield of flyers” is a serious, professional and ethically oriented, non-tabloid coverage of the sad event of Madeleine abduction. I’ll make available, at my web page (Gazeta Digital), within a couple of hours, headlines and highlights of the Portuguese Press from the last days, with pictures of front pages and links to the stories online. This may allow British viewers and readers to have a conclusion about how wrong you are, with your racist comments, more proper from a member the Schutzstaffel.
You, Mr. Martin Blunt, are a good(?) example of those howling blood-thirsty British tabloid journalists, willing to kill – or let someone be killed – to have a story. That’s ok with me, as you keep this low form of life inside your country and don’t export it to Portugal. Most of the British journalists, reporting from Algarve, behave as if they were following a National Geographic expedition to study the not-so-long-ago-cannibal tribes in the deep jungles of New-Guinea. But you, Mr. Martin Blunt and the journalists and editors of Daily Mail and the Telegraph.com, went a little further and showed how strong is your fidelity to the ideas of the author of “Der Mythus des Zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts" [The Myth of the XX Century]. Hope you are aware that your post is what is considered, both in British Law and Portuguese Law, an offensive remark, made through the media (aggravated circumstance…). Now, it’s not the right moment to do it, but I can promise you that, once Madeleine McCann case is closed – and I hope, with Maddy being reunited with her parents – you will heard, not from me, but from my solicitor. And probably, also from a few other solicitors from many other Portuguese journalists…”
The blunders of British media in the case of Madeleine McCann
Some of the British media is giving an image of the Portuguese police - and of the Portuguese people - as a lost Neanderthal tribe that survived the Stone Age and is still living in a remote corner of Europe, with its primitive traditions and culture. Other British journalists, reporting from Algarve, behave as if they were following a National Geographic expedition to study the not-so-long-ago-cannibal tribes in the deep jungles of New-Guinea.
Of course, they do it with the usual British refinement, putting a word here, a word there, an apparently simple question in the middle and, at the end, touching phrases like "Madeleine parents went to the Church to pray for her daughter and maybe, also for those trying to find her." Of course. With so much incompetence from the Portuguese police, only God and a miracle can take the investigation to a good end.Let me remind that British police SPEND 13 DAYS SEARCHING FOR JESSICA CHAPMAM AND HOLLY WELLS AND THEY GOT NOTHING. Only after three members of the public found the bodies they were able to connect all the dots and arrest Ian Huntley, the Sohan Murder, on August 17. What a demonstration of incompetence, right?
One of the main points British journalists have been talking about is this “absurd” Portuguese law that forbidden police to give to the public details of ongoing investigations. It’s a law that exists in several other European countries – Holland has exactly the same law as we have. British media is talking about it as if it was something so primitive like executing convicted people by throwing them alive to a bonfire. British police, as far as I know, has the same modus operandi as Portuguese police. I never saw details of an ongoing investigation, in UK, coming to the public knowledge through a press conference, before the case is closed and the suspects arrested.
But British police has a couple of very good public relations officers that know how to entertain blood-thirsty tabloid journalists, willing to kill – or let someone be killed – to have a story that helps them to keep their jobs. Let me quote Mrs Ros Taylor, journalist at Guardian Unlimited, editor of the subscription paper review, the Wrap: “[…]In Britain, certainly, the voracious need of the media for new information has been a huge factor in the manner in which the police 'handle' such cases. During the Soham investigation, it was policy to offer some new piece of information to the mass of waiting reporters every day, in order somehow to take advantage of the huge coverage in investigating the possible whereabouts of the girls. The Portuguese police have not been conducting their investigation into Madeleine McCann's disappearance in this way.”
While the operation seems to have been flawed, she says, the value of appeals for a child's safe return is at best debatable.I know that British police makes a lot of high-profile, TV-prime-time oriented public appeals, in cases similar to this. And I wonder why they do it. Do British citizens with important information concerning a crime need to be almost coerced in going to the police and sharing that information? They don’t do it by their own initiative? Or is it part of that “circus” British police need to set up, in order to placate a pack of howling journalists, throwing them some old bones to chew?
When this case is closed – with a happy ending, I hope, from the bottom of my heart, as a father of two boys - and details are revealed, we will know that a lot of Portuguese citizens went to the police, in the days following the abduction of Madeleine, with information they though useful. Without the “debatable” public appeals, as Mrs Ros Taylor wrote.
The Portuguese law that orders a total silence during a crime investigation also allows police to release details of an ongoing investigation in case there is a situation of risk or danger to the public and the society [an armed criminal on the run, after killing somebody, and willing to kill again, for example] or when the release of those details is considered essential to help save or protect the life of somebody that is in danger.
This is not a case where the second exception can be used – in my opinion. The abductor can be a cool-blooded man, a professional, working for an international organized crime network; a sexual pervert, a paedophile that has done something similar before; or a woman with psychological problems, not able to have children (in Portugal, we had two or three cases like this, recently).If the abductor is an organized crime professional or a sexual pervert, he is on the run, trying to leave to country or hiding and waiting for a better opportunity to escape.
Don't forget the possibility that, one hour after the child disappeared, she could be already in Spain. And there is not only one road from Aldeia da Luz to Spain. There is one main road and five or six secondary roads. But if she is still in Portugal, in both situations above referred, the abductor should be taking a fundamental precaution: hiding carefully the child, because her face is well known of every Portuguese (and easy to spot, as we are a dark-haired people and blonde children like Madeleine are very rare).
But he is not afraid of showing his face, or being seen by other people. Because he has been watching the news and he knows that police has no clue or tip about who he is, what colour is hair, how tall, if he is skinny or fat, long hair or bald.
Let's suppose he sees, on TV, a photo of him, or a sketch that is so close that allows people to recognize him. He will act immediately.He will do the first thing every criminal does, when he discovers police is on his trail, knows his identity, his name, his face, his last address: he will try to get rid of all evidence that can connect him to the crime. And the strongest evidence of the crime he committed, is having the little Madeleine with him. He could do it on two different ways. One, leaving the child, alive and well, near some place where somebody could find her quickly. I don’t want to mention the other possibility. But British police knows well this kind of possibility.
One last word about the list Daily Mirror published, concerning the ”Ten Blunders” Portuguese Police is responsible for, in this investigation. Police was slow to act, that’s a main idea. They were not called immediately, as Madeleine parents, friends and neighbours searched for her, during some time, in the surrounding area. When police arrived, they need to have some assurance that the child had been abducted. It’s a normal procedure, even for a “real” police, like the British.
“Child abductions and attempted abductions take place almost once a month in Cambridgeshire”, writes the Cambridge Evening News. I wonder if Cambridge police, once every month, cordons off main streets of access to the city and amass a huge force of officers, within one hour or two of receiving notice of a possible abduction.
Talking about amassing a huge force of officers let me tell you THAT AROUND 10% OF ALL PORTUGUESE CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION OFFICERS (Polícia Judiciária, in Portuguese) WERE SENT TO ALGARVE, in less than 48 hours after the abduction. British journalists don’t see police everywhere and they report that fact as an evidence of incompetence. CI officers don’t use uniforms. They work in plainclothes. Both the national police (Polícia de Segurança Pública, in charge of patrolling the cities) and the militarized police (Guarda Nacional Republicana, that has responsibility on rural areas) have special CI units in every major precinct.
Those men are working together with the 200 CID officers sent to the crime scene.
I hope that, in spite of the lousy job some of the British journalists are doing, in Algarve, Madeleine can be with their parents, soon. And I hope that, next time British journalists come to Portugal to report about something, they try to do some research, before. We, Portuguese, are no more living in caverns, or dressing with animal skins and hunting with arrows to have our daily meals. Next time, call some British expatriates living here and ask them those basic things that took you so long to discover, like the existence of a different legal framework in Portugal.Call the editor of "The Resident", an English language newspaper from Algarve. (There are five other English language publications in Portugal, you can find adresses and contacts here)
Talk with some Portuguese journalists. We can speak, we use computers (typewriters are a thing of the past..) we surf the Net and we even know how to send emails. Most of us, like me, have a good command of English, French and Spanish (I can also speak a little bit of Cantonese...)
PS – Forget to mention: our country is a member of the European Union
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CORRECTION (May 28, 21:23): A reader called my attenction to some mistakes I did, in this opinion article, about Soham murders: "Your facts on the Soham/Huntly case aren't quite correct. The police found burned clothing and arrested Huntly on suspicion of kidnap and murder. The bodies were then found and more evidence and formal charges were brought. That isn't quite how you present it. Please check here:
The correction is made. My apologies for the mistake.
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