Saturday, 19 April 2008

After the storm - a scarred town tries to forget

Twelve months after the disappearance of the three-year-old few have emerged unscathed
Esther Addley in Praia da Luz
The Guardian,
Saturday April 19 2008

They still pray for Madeleine McCann in the little whitewashed church in Praia da Luz, a small but faithful clutch of 15 or so locals and ex-pats who stumble down the little cobbled hill to the church every Friday evening for a "service for missing children". "We pray for those who have acted in evil or practised acts of kidnapping," they mutter quietly, week after week. "We pray that they may repent and see your light. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer."

Aside from this tiny band of faithful and the much faded photograph of Madeleine's face on the church noticeboard, now so bleached by the sun that her black pupils stare out from a face that is a sickly blue and green, there is little to suggest that this idyllic spot could have been the scene of such an act of evil.

The birds sing all day long here, and although the summertime crowds are yet to arrive there are always a few cheerful children shouting in the distance. But the overwhelming impression of Praia da Luz, aside from the dazzling light that gave it its name, is the quiet. It is almost possible to believe that one of the most overwhelming news storms of modern times happened somewhere else.

And yet all is not quite as calm as it seems in Praia da Luz. Just a few metres from the church of Our Lady of Light is the home of Sergey Malinka. One of the incidental players caught up in the maelstrom surrounding the three-year-old's disappearance last May, Malinka is a Russian web designer and business associate of Robert Murat, the first official suspect in the Madeleine case. He briefly came to public attention two weeks after she disappeared, when his computers were seized by police.

No evidence has emerged to suggest he is anything other than completely innocent. And yet as you walk up Rua 25 de Abril the tarmac changes colour abruptly outside Malinka's apartment. This is the spot on which, last month, his car was set alight as he slept, the Portuguese word "fala" ("speak") scrawled crudely in red paint on the pavement alongside.

In exactly two weeks, Kate and Gerry McCann will mark a year since their eldest child disappeared, a year that has transformed them from an anonymous couple into devastated parents, canny PR operators, mistrusted suspects and maligned media victims, sometimes all at once.

It has also soured the lives of almost everyone caught up in the story. The McCanns last month won £550,000 in an out of court settlement from Express Newspapers for "numerous grotesque and grossly defamatory allegations" published without evidence.

Their relationship with the Portuguese Polícia Judiciária, which they have been careful to pretend remained cordial even after it named them suspects, at last collapsed into open insults this week when Clarence Mitchell, their spokesman, accused the PJ of leaking extracts of the couple's witness statements to a Spanish TV station.

The leak, he said, was timed to distract from their campaigning visit to Brussels; the PJ, almost uniquely, were angered into rebutting the claim in a statement.

The seven friends with whom the couple were holidaying continued to be interviewed this week by officers from Leicestershire police, observed by Portuguese officers, the purpose of these further interviews unclear.

Robert Murat, meanwhile, the local man named the first official suspect in the case (though, again, no evidence against him has emerged) this week launched what may be Britain's biggest libel claim against 11 media organisations, after he also attracted lurid and apparently entirely unfounded allegations. His girlfriend, Michaela Walczuk, similarly traduced and similarly, now, represented by Max Clifford, may well be next.

While Madeleine's disappearance is without question a tragedy of unfathomable proportions for her family, rarely can there have been a major crime or news event which has so roundly damaged everyone associated with it. It is a sorry way to mark a terribly sad anniversary.
Despite its tranquil appearance, it is clear that Luz, too, has been corrupted by the mystery of the little blonde girl. Most obviously loathed in the town are the journalists who came in their scores from France and Germany and Scandinavia and the United States, as well as Portugal and the UK, and who stayed, in some cases, for months at a time.

"It was bloody awful when they were here. They wanted a receipt to go to the toilet," says Nancy Thompson, landlady of the Bull, an ersatz English boozer just opposite the church. "It was just a horrible feeling in our little place. You couldn't get across the square. The vans and things. It wasn't nice."

"She was hounded for months and months, and for the first few months she couldn't park her car and could barely leave the house," says Ian Fenn when asked about his mother, Pamela, who is in her 80s and lives in the apartment above the one from which Madeleine was taken. "She doesn't know anything, and she won't tell you anything, and I ask you, please, not to knock on her door."

"It was really nasty," says Haynes Hubbard, the thoughtful Anglican parish priest who often met the McCanns while they were in Luz, and whose church became the focus, in the early days, of the media's most glaring attention.

"Hard, hard, hard. We would watch the news and see the helicopters fluttering around, and turn the news off and you still hear the helicopters fluttering around. It was a very strange period when the news was ... we were the news. It wasn't edifying. It was important and necessary, but it wasn't right."

Hubbard, who is Canadian, arrived in the town to take up his post two days after Madeleine disappeared. It must have been like walking into a hurricane, I say. "I saw Heather Mills McCartney, or whatever her name is, standing on the steps of the high court the other day with all those cameras and I thought: ha! That's nothing! I've seen worse."

The missing person posters came down almost overnight, says Thompson, when the couple were named official suspects in early September. Though the continuing value of a picture of the child a year on is perhaps debatable, it is striking to see so few visible reminders of Madeleine in a village that was once overwhelmed by her image.

Manuel Silva, owner of an electrical store in the area, says he will keep his posters up until she is found - "I have grandchildren who live here" - but he is almost alone. Why does he think the other businesses removed theirs? "I don't know. That is their concern."

What do people in the town now think about what happened that night? "Nobody talks about this. Nobody talks about it now." What changed? "I'm not inclined to say."

Only as an afterthought, almost, do people talk about the impact of the crime itself. Fatima Sousa, presiding over her beachside sun hat stall, says it badly affected business last summer. "At least until the end of the summer, things felt very different here. We had many fewer tourists. The beach was almost empty.

"Normally we have lots of children who come in here on their own to buy things, but after it happened the parents were afraid. You saw mothers taking lots more care with their children, they wouldn't let them play alone. Now it's changed a lot, of course. They've forgotten."
Hubbard, newly arrived into a crime scene with his three young children, recalls the terrible anxiety felt by his wife. "It was really awful. I mean, I didn't feel it, but she did, she would go to bed every night crying, locking the doors, double locking the windows. Just really frightening.
"But people carry on, life carries on. That intensity, you can't hold on to it. It's too hard. And she will now let our children run around, whereas eight months ago she wouldn't let them out of her sight. Your fear abates. Thank goodness. Because nobody could live in that intensity."

Not everything has abated, however. While the Portuguese and ex-pat English congregations of the small church have been brought together by the tragedy, says Hubbard, the same is not necessarily true of the town itself. Exactly what was behind the attack on Malinka's car is unclear, but he is not the only victim of whispering and suspicion.

"The English say disparaging things about the Portuguese," he says, "and the Portuguese say disparaging things about the English. This is a gross generalisation, but that is the impression one has. The Portuguese think, how could those awful parents do this? The English think, the Portuguese didn't do anything right."

"I do think the PJ will find the truth of this," says Thompson. "In the old days, before the revolution, when you had to have a licence for a lighter, the PJ was everywhere and people were always: 'don't say that'. That was Portugal. That was their regime. It's only 1974. And they are still a bit afraid and secretive."

She says she cannot understand how anyone could get away with abduction. "They are so nosy, people in Portugal, and especially in this village. You can't go for a piss in this town without somebody watching. That night I was back and forwards between my two bars all night. You notice these things, we have nothing else to do in this place, and I never saw a man carrying a child in a blanket."

But Luz is also a holiday town, with a rapidly shifting population, and life goes on. Spend an evening in one of the resort's bars and ask about Madeleine, and you are as likely to be told a sick joke about the toddler as you are to meet someone who was genuinely affected by her apparent kidnap. Praia da Luz will probably always be associated with Madeleine McCann, but for many it has already become no more than a subject of idle curiosity.

Claire Hughes's sister-in-law lives in Luz; she has visited several times from her home in Bournemouth since Madeleine disappeared. "Obviously I was curious to see the [Ocean Club] resort when we first came here. I was interested to see where she'd been taken from, so we went for a drive around. And we always have a look whenever we are here."

In fact, according to Antonio Pino of the Algarve tourist board, after a few cancellations immediately after the abduction, tourism has risen in this part of the coast.

"You see the tour buses driving past the house, the tour guides are now using it as a tourist attraction," says Hubbard, drily. "I don't think Praia da Luz has suffered a grievous blow because of an evil that was perpetrated in our midst."

"A little old couple came in the other day," says Thompson, "Portuguese. I said: 'Where are you from' and they said: 'Setubal' - that's near Lisbon. They said: 'We're on a day trip to see the church where Madeleine disappeared.'

"And we get that quite a lot now. English as well. 'We're just going over to the church to light a candle, say a prayer,' or whatever. It's, like, famous, isn't it?"

Where are they now?

The parents Kate and Gerry McCann have been campaigning on two fronts since being named suspects on September 7: to find Madeleine, and to clear their names of suspicion. Last month they won a sizeable out of court settlement from four British newspapers for defamation; they recently visited Brussels to campaign for a Europe-wide alert system for missing children. Their own privately funded investigators continue to hunt for the missing toddler alongside the police investigation.

The other suspect The record-breaking libel claim by Robert Murat against 11 British media outlets follows similar action against a number of Portuguese newspapers and broadcasters. His seized computer equipment was recently returned to him, but his expectation that he would formally be cleared shortly afterwards has so far failed to materialise.

The police investigators Goncalo Amaral, the first officer in charge, was removed from the case and demoted on October 2; he is facing trial on charges of concealing evidence relating to the torture of the mother of another missing child. Olegario Sousa, who initially acted as spokesman for the police, dramatically quit the role in September in protest at continued leaks. Paulo Rebelo, one of Portugal's most senior detectives, now has personal charge; under his regime almost no information about the state of the inquiry has been forthcoming.

The spokespeople At one point during the summer the couple's then spokesperson, Justine McGuinness, found herself being contacted at a rate of two phone calls a minute. After stepping down in September she ran Nick Clegg's Lib Dem leadership campaign, and she will shortly contest the European elections for the party. Clarence Mitchell continues as the McCanns' official spokesman, having been enticed away from the Foreign Office after McGuinness's departure.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/apr/19/madeleinemccann.internationalcrime

84 comments:

helenm said...

Saw this from Athena on last nights post for Chinadoll. Hope you are looking in Chinadoll and read this.

Athena said...
Good evening,

I don't mean to disturb you but I am concerned for not seeing Chinadoll online lately, although I have not been able to read all the articles from the last days.
Could you kindly let her know that I asked about her and left my best regards to her. She can get in touch by following my profile.
I wish you all a very peaceful night.
Athena

19 April 2008 00:34

helenm said...

Good morning folks,

The following article makes interesting reading, the father of Stephen Lawrence murdered 15 years ago (doesn't seem that long) and his fight with the British Police investigating the deathe of his son, how his relationship with his wife broke down due to the stresses suffered by his son's murder.

'http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=560634&in_page_id=1770

Sass said...

Isn't it charming how people who insult others on this board use it as a message board! Wouldn't have the nerve myself.

Hiya Helen

I assume we are sharing weird weather!

helenm said...

Sorry Sassy, did it more for Chinadoll than Athena.

It has stopped raining but still looks overcast. Think it might be blowing over your way!

Sass said...

Hi Helen

You don't have to apologise!!! I didn't mean it as a criticism of you.

Read the article you posted a link for. Very interesting.

It was interesting especially to read the impact it had on the police force and the changes that came about after. I wonder if the PJ will learn anything from Madeleine's case? Somehow I doubt it!

helenm said...

Sassy,
Didn't take it as one, but had forgotten her insult to you.

It is to be hoped that the PJ learn from this. Every police force makes mistakes, it is the admission of those mistakes and reflecting on them that moves them forward. A huge learning curve for the PJ is ahead of them.

Sass said...

Helen

Not just to me by any means!

What I found the most surprising about the Portuguese police is that they never seem to admit to mistakes and people seem to accept that. Crazy.

Tinkerbell43 said...

Having read the front page article, I am extremely angry that posters of Madeleine was being taken down overnight as a result of the McCs being made Arguidos.

Why didnt the PJ wait another 8 days when they would have had to have evidence before making them Arguidos.

Can you imagine the impact of making them arguidos had on the investigation. How many people would have given up looking. How many people didnt bother coming forward with what could have been vital information.

Poor little mite never stood a chance. It is a complete and utter travesty and a total manipulation of the case by the PJ IMHO.

Tinkerbell43 said...

Hi to anyone that is around.

Hope you are having a good Saturday.

SwedishMum said...

Hi Tinks, Sass, Helenm and others who might be around!

Sass,
I often feel that articles about this case are either rather biased or a bit cautious - but this one I find really interesting and good. Thank you for putting it here.

I wish you all a nice weekend!

Tulip said...

Hi all

Sass you have mail from yesterday.

Very good article today!

Sass said...

Hiya

Glad you liked the article. It is getting increasingly difficult to find something good!

Tulip said...

Hi Swedish

How's the Diploma in Cockney Studies coming on??

SwedishMum said...

Hi Tulip,

working on it, had a Vera Lynn and tonic yesterday btw (hope I got that right)

Tulip said...

I'm most impressed.

SwedishMum said...

Thanks Tulip,

good tutors, I'd say!

Tinkerbell43 said...

Swedish Hairy bum,(Mum)

Hi to you, have a lovely weekend too. I'm busy cleaning windows!

SwedishMum said...

Have fun, Tinks!

Sass said...

Tulip

Stupid question, but which e-mail addy did I give you? I created an account just for you, because I was putting it up on the blog, but have forgotten it!

Tinks - my tip to you is to tell everyone you have net curtains and leave the windows alone!

Tinkerbell43 said...

Hey Sass,

I'll have to remember that one, I'm cream crackered!

I've more than earned my cuppa!

Sass said...

I admit that grey net curtains might not be THE fashion statement, but you can always say you're a Goth!

Tulip said...

The usual sassy p with consecutive numbers tee hee.

Sass said...

Thanks Tulip

Only you have ever used that address. I created that account just to post on here! That's why I forgot the consec numbers!

Tulip said...

Sass, is that info enough for you or do you want me to put the whole addy up here?

I've become rather cautious ;0)

Tinkerbell43 said...

I've just been reading TWS and not a day goes by when I dont shake my head and think you nasty, nasty B......s. Sorry guys, they have a photo on there of Kate undoubtedly upset and some of the comments are just unnecessarily spiteful.

One person even says, Kate picked the wrong partner, the one in the photo is more fit! There're not interested in Madeleine all they are interested in is a bitch fest.

Sick!

Tulip said...

Tinks, yes, I am horrified by the sheer heartlessness of the people on that site.

Bianca has calmed down and is now making some reasonable 'on the fence' noises. Now she's being accused of being a fake -- you have to toe the party line there 100% or you're ridiculed and subject to barrage of accusations.

I really feel quite sorry for her -- she is daring to think independently.

Sass said...

Tulip

You can put the whole thing up! Thanks!


Tinks

I saw that too and thought how totally unnecessary it was.

claire said...

vile viv has been outed in assassins blog

Sass said...

Tulip

Found it! Don't bother! Thanks.

Tinkerbell43 said...

Claire Hi,

Thank you for the advice, can you tell me where I can see this ?

claire said...

looks like some kind of game has been going on to get to this
http://shadowharmony.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=1713&whichpage=15

a surprise to some afoot

Tinkerbell43 said...

Hi Tulip,

I dont see eye to eye with Bianca on the neglect issue, but she is damn right on the other points concerning the DNA findings. There is no proof of these in the public domain and she is being unfairly treated on that point.

She made a true statement, it would appear she is not anti Mccann enough to be on there!

Says quite alot!!!

helenm said...

I think Bianca cooked her goose pretty much earlier on this morning when she said how upset Kate looked in the picture that TW put up on her site. Marga too, not the response TW was hoping to get.

Won't go to that site again Claire.

Tinkerbell43 said...

Thank you Claire,

Very Interesting!

Tulip said...

Thanks for the message, Sass!

helenm said...

Off to watch Man Utd and Blackburn. Catch you all later.

Sass said...

Okey doke Tulip!

Helen - I'd say "enjoy" but you're talking about football, so am having problems with the word!

Tinkerbell43 said...

Sass,

I was gonna ask, if you wanted to update the front page, as in Viles blog is run by:- Clawdia,Vile,Felicity,LGC,Dolores,
Notdoc, etc etc, lol.

Sass said...

Tinks! How right you are!

Sass said...

Tinks

Have sort of done it!

helenm said...

Where are you all? Tinks, just scraped a point! See your team had an easy game!!!!! Well done.

Sassy if David Beckham had been playing for a team in Austria I'm sure you would love the game!!! That's the only problem at the moment there's no-one who tickles my fancy, so to speak!!!LOL

Sass said...

Helen

Even then the game sucks! Football is the only game I hate playing and watching!

Tulip said...

Hello Helen

I suspect the others are all out enjoying the weekend. They'll probably all come rolling in when decent folk are off to bed ...

Sorry, don't follow footie.

Tulip said...

Helen, if you like David Beckham there's always that underpants ad ... someone in the press today wondered if that was a soft aubergine. No idea what she was talking about ...

We should get Swedish to listen to 'im talk to 'elp 'er wiv 'er language lessons.

Sass said...

Tulip

You're right - Saturday is always quiet. Thank goodness, I say. We have seen what happens when people get carried away with blogging and wild theories!

Tulip said...

Sass, remember that marvellous Elton song 'Saturday, Saturday, Saturday night's all right for fighting'?

helenm said...

Sassy,
Never played it myself. Why would you 'suck' it?

Tulip, now you're talking!!!

Sass said...

Tulip,

Nope! When was it around?

Helen

Not really into slang are you? I don't want to suck football!!! I meant its lousy!

helenm said...

Sassy,

It was you that called me a 'wind up merchant' wasn't it?

helenm said...

You've got five minutes before I'm off to hone my skills!!!! watching casualty!!!

Sass said...

Helen

Was wondering how you couldn't know that one!

People who seriously injure themselves near you must have a great feeling of calm knowing you have just watched Casualty!

claire said...

Doppelganger;-)

http://www.dwellingofhorrors.com/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=31&sid=709606abf80dcb28818ca022afe429ed

and

http://sociopathic.net too

:-)

viv under her various identities also.

The whole vile thing is run by and a game with psychopaths and sociopaths.

Watch Assassin - she is outing them all.

Sass said...

Tulip

I was 5 when that song came out, so that's probably why I don't remember it!

helenm said...

Sod it, it's persisting down again, TV in Portugal goes off when it rains!!! So much for technology! Better get the candles ready!

I'll have you know Sassy that most people have complete and utter faith in me!!!

Sass said...

Helen

Then the "most people" can't know you consider Casualty "further education"!!!

Claire

Seeing as I have been cloned and ended up on sociopathic, Doppelganger could have been too. Weird site.

Tinkerbell43 said...

Evening All,

Sass, dont mention the "D" word,lol

helenm said...

Very weird site. Is that right Sassy, you were cloned on there?

My problem now though is I'll have that daft picture of him in my mind!!! Never took him seriously before, but now.......

Sass said...

Tinks

Sorry, forgot! Like rubbing the lamp isn't it!

Sass said...

Helen

Was cloned on the other one socio whatever, not on horror whatever (great memory for names here). I wouldn't mind if "I" was asking something half way intelligent, but my clone asked a whole bunch of bimbo questions!!!

Tinkerbell43 said...

Thank you Claire,

Gawd, I'll have bloody nightmares now.

Tinkerbell43 said...

Claire,

Appreciate you letting us know, I'll keep eye over at Assassins for any updates, dont think I can go near them other sites again.

Do you have any thoughts on the Madeleine case ?

claire said...

Check out where you are cloned in socio site, you will soon see doppelganger is no clone or been cloned. He is for real.

I stay out of the Madeleine concerns. I watch Assassin in operation on other concerns and causes so became aware of her dealings on this subject too tracking down the realities.

Tulip said...

Elton John had a concert on TV the other night and played Saturday Night, Rocket Man, Benny and the Jets etc -- they seem to go on forever.

I have no idea when they first came out -- when I first became aware of Elton John he was already a hardy perennial.

What is all this with 'Claire' and Asassin -- what have I missed??

Tinkerbell43 said...

Hi Tulip,

See posts from Claire at 16:27 & 16:41. If you click on the link provided, you will see Assassin has outed Vile.

Tulip said...

I feel I'm trailing everyone on this. Do I understand that Viv is also -- that individual who kept visiting here??

Sorry I'm so stupid!!

Sass said...

Tulip

Assassin is of the opinion that Viv was here using the name "Arepa" "Muldoon" "Speak Your Mind" and whatever other names she uses!

Tulip said...

Oh, right. I always thought some of those were Viv -- not because I'm a brilliant sleuth but because it was hinted at before.

I looked on those sites but couldn't find my way to the 'outings' though. Weird stuff ...

Tinkerbell43 said...

Tulip,

Plus, behind the damage caused to her own blog last weekend. You know, what we were accused of doing!

Gina said...

Evening all

Tinks I think yesterday you asked me something just as I was going out and I rushed an answer, but you posted I had misunderstood. If you can remember what it was and want to put it to me again I will try to answer.

Tinkerbell43 said...

Gina,

Thanks I appreciate that, but I'm too tired to go back over it and I think it would be one of them "yer buts" that would run on all night :)

claire said...

http://sociopathic.net/forum/index.php?topic=942.0

Viv cloning Sassy

Doppelganger as himself.

Gina said...

Ok Tinks I think it was something to do with publicity and Murat suing or something, cannot remember now. I think someone asked me what were my views on people making money out of this case and I said I was against it. However regrettably it is going to happen as it did with Diana and many others.

Re people suing, well if Murat is cleared and is innocent then I do not see why he should not be allowed to sue whoever he sees fit in the same way as anybody else. I just hope this case doesn't turn into a "suing circus", with toothman, pigman, the family in the mountains and anybody else who has been in the papers starting the same thing. Think that just about sums up my view, but perhaps that was not the question:-)

Sass said...

Severely tired! Going to bed.

Nighty night!

Tinkerbell43 said...

Night Sass, I dont think I'll be too long behind. Sleep well xx

helenm said...

Nite Sassy, sleep well.

helenm said...

I'm off, nite Tinks, Tulip and Gina.

Gina said...

Goodnight Helen and all off to bed myself

Tinkerbell43 said...

Yep I'm off too. Lets hope for some news soon.

Night everyone xx

Tulip said...

Night all. Sass, have just got up to speed with all the goings on at Assassin's. No wonder I was confused.

Sleep well!

X

Gina said...

Tinks the only news I have, which is the same news I get every week is I did not win the lottery, nite

Christabel said...

Madeleine special investigation: The damning case against the Portuguese police - and how Kate and Gerry are coping one year on
By DAVID ROSE - More by this author »

Last updated at 23:08pm on 19th April 2008

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/femail/article.html?in_article_id=560696&in_page_id=1879

SwedishMum said...

Tulip (re your post 20:28),

I love to watch David Beckham play football. And if I'm honest I actually love watching him without a football as well :-)
But (once again being honest) I don't like listening to him. Not because of his dialect, but because of his voice.
Sorry ...
Anyway, I like your idea and may consider overcoming my resentment towards his voice.

calcite51 said...

Hi, everyone - hope you are all well. So Murat is now going to sue Daily Express, etc..,

I don't remember him being mentioned all that much in the papers and the press certainly never went at him like they did Kate and Gerry. But some of the papers if I recall correctly, did carried away too - so yes, maybe he should. What we need is RESPONSIBLE journalists.

calcite51 said...

Where's Diane, where's Jane? where is everybody?

Minute For Madeleine McCann

Locate IP Address on Map