I was on the train home from work on Friday evening and I saw the headline “Police identify Maddie McCann suspects” on the mini televisions that passengers are provided with. Within the first few seconds of reading this, I got excited that there may actually finally be some movements within the case. However this rapidly subsided as every few months there seems to be a new revelation printed in a media publication, all of which amount to nothing. I have read so many headlines along the lines of “Maddie McCann sighting!” “Girl In Egypt Identified As Maddie McCann”. Yet 6 years on, Maddy has not been found. Why is this?
To me, the answer lies within the media. Let’s say she’s still alive. The sheer amount of false stories printed within newspapers and online publications only distracts law enforcement agencies from actually doing their job and locating her. There are too many accusations circling the internet which “name” potential suspects, however with a lack of evidence what purpose is this going to serve? Apart from warning these people of an impending investigation into their movements, enabling them to clean up their tracks, I’d be inclined to say there isn’t one. Now I’m not saying that any of these people are actually guilty but just say, for example, one of the names printed knows what happened to the poor girl. If they see any of these articles, aren’t they going to panic? If they don’t kill her on impulse, they’re sure to move her from her current location and ensure she cannot be found.
In some instances, I think the media can be quite helpful in bringing a suspect to justice. If you look at some cases where serial killers have been caught thanks to the implementation of clever media tactics, you’re able to see the uses of such things. Take Ted Bundy, for example. He is perhaps one of America’s most prolific serial killers after he finally admitted to murdering 30 women in 1989, shortly before his execution via electric chair. Bundy was handsome and charming; far removed from any preconceived idea of a killer one would have. He would often pretend to be disabled or injured to gain help from women, whom he lured into his car to commit depraved acts of violence against. When this failed him, he decided to dress up as a police officer to gain victims’ trust. Without the mass media circulating this vital information about men to be wary of, I don’t think he’d have ever been caught. It was on November 8th, 1974, that this exposure to case details aided Carol DaRonch as she was already aware of the man who liked to use the police officer persona as a ruse. Once he tried to handcuff her in his car, she shot out and went straight to the police. Bundy was caught, never to kill an innocent woman again.
The case of a serial killer abducting and murdering adult women is completely different to one where a child has gone missing, however. The latter is definitely a more sensitive one, as concealing a child is an easier task than trying to cover up the whereabouts of a fully grown woman. Care should be taken with every detail filtered into the public eye, as this can have a dramatic impact upon the outcome of the investigation. When the Portuguese police and media told the world they thought Maddy’s parents had something to do with her disappearance, there was little to no evidence they were basing it on. This is the most incompetent and ridiculous police force I have ever seen in my life. Much of what they told in press conferences was actually false, or was twisted from the real account of interviews with Gerry and Kate. I’m not going to comment on what I believe happened, as that is irrelevant to the current article. What should be noted is their lack of sensitivity when dealing with this little girl. They could not be bothered to carry on the investigation, as they had no leads, and so just harped on about an idea that Maddy had been killed by the very people who brought her into the world. Let’s sit down for a second and think about this. If any of their accusations held even a little bit of truth, don’t you think they’d be in prison? Don’t you think the UK police would have found the same things? Of course they would.
The mass media has created a circus frenzy around this case. People have lost sight of the underlying issue: a little girl’s life is at stake. A child who is probably very scared and who has been through more than the majority of people would in a lifetime. She needs to be reunited with her parents and family. Instead of treating the case like a joke and rashly coming out with statements blaming her parents for her death, people should focus on the truth. This means the media too. Instead of being greedy and trying to make profit, and in the process printing misleading stories that you know are not true, leave the investigations to the people trained to do so. If you genuinely want to help, why not print stories that actually aid the investigation? Run something about facts that have been verified, as opposed to things that you deem to be “breaking news”. After all, wouldn’t you pray for the same if your own child was subjected to the same fate?