Sunday

A ‘Clarri-fied’ parallel universe

by Anna Raccoon on January 29, 2009

Mr Clarence Mitchell said: ‘People will be able to see that every penny of the money they so generously donated has been spent properly in the hunt to find Madeleine.’

I would suggest, Mr Mitchell, that the publication by Companies House last night of the accounts for the private company (limited by guarantee) ‘Leaving No Stone Unturned’, often misleadingly referred to simply as ‘the fund’, a term more commonly applied to a Registered Charity, will have an entirely different effect.

Less than a third of the Audited monies have been spent on directly searching for Madeleine. ‘Search fees’ of £250,000 out of the ‘£2 million’ figure quoted in the Daily Mail’s banner headline is not a figure that will impress the most numerically challenged reader, far less the army of ‘widows and orphans’ who raised this sum in order to ‘Help Find Madeleine’ as they were exhorted to do in a series of emotional appeals.

The remaining two thirds of the monies are accounted for under a series of headings that could be paraphrased as ‘protecting Madeleine’s (and by extension the McCann’s) image and reputation’ and ‘providing for the needs of those entitled to draw from the fund’ - the lawyers, the friends and family who act as Directors.

In 2007, Esther McVey, then acting as a Director of the fund, was quoted as saying

“And with Mr McCann, the family’s main earner, on unpaid leave from his job as consultant cardiologist, part of the Fund has been used to meet their living costs.
“I haven’t got the exact figure but it is just under £300,000,”

The living expenses of a highly paid professional couple was hardly uppermost in the minds of those who scrapped together their pennies to ‘Help Find Madeleine’. Nor were legal expenses of just under £200,000 to ensure that Madeleine’s image and intellectual property rights remained under the control of the fund.

Web site costs of £37,071 is another figure which has left many aghast. Was the web site sued for libel? I cannot fathom any other reason why this figure should be so astronomical. The web site was set up by a pupil of a family member - surely acting in an unpaid capacity, it is unthinkable that a relative should wish to profit from this sad saga. As each and every blogger who has written extensively on Madeleine knows, it costs peanuts in financial terms to set up and run a web site. The vast 3Arguidos web site which is accessed daily by thousands of members to keep up to date with the ‘McCann news’ quotes a figure of £1,597.44 as the ongoing costs to date of hosting a busy web site.

One of the most interesting figures is the £26,113 paid for ‘media monitoring’. Quite how this helps to search for Madeleine is hard to understand. Did someone suspect that Madeleine would put a small advert in an obscure classified column somewhere ‘Here I am, please release me’……. in which case monitoring for such an appearance is emphatically an example of Mr Mitchell’s ‘every penny [...] spent properly’. Though given Gordon Brown’s involvement in this matter, and that of his wife’s association with Julia Hobshawn’s ‘Media Monitoring’ company, the suspicion must remain that the monitoring was not for word from Madeleine herself, nor from anyone who preferred writing to a newspaper to the more efficacious method of dialling 999 as a means of transmitting news of her whereabouts, but that this item may indeed be for payment to the army of ‘posters’ who have appeared on every web site determinedly pushing the use of the word ‘Abduction’ in preference to ‘Missing’ or Vanished’ or ‘Lost’. Incidentally, should the £81,904 spent on ‘posters’ be added to this section or to the merchandising and and campaigning section? Posters is a misleading term. If that is so, it has been a wasted £26,000 for I can think of no ‘News outlet’ that is not under the control of the McCann’s that still uses the word ‘Abduction’. Can you?

We must remember that these are the accounts for an initial ten month period - further accounts will reflect the massive libel payouts made last year and further donations.

The law should be changed so that in future, a truly independent body oversees any donations made in respect of a sick or missing child. Not merely the Charity Commission overseeing the accounts (although that would have been a welcome and advantageous intervention in this case), but a truly independent body overseeing what the donations are spent on. Two European police forces were involved in the search for Madeleine, there was no initial reason for the family to have access to these vast sums. Where a child receives compensation as a result of personal injuries, the money is never handed to the parents, it is held by the High Court and expenditure scrutinised at every stage - before and after it is spent. The law should be changed to encompass situations such as this, where well meaning and hard working families donate money to aid any child in difficulties.

It should not be spent at the discretion of a family whose ‘common sense’ is at the mercy of their emotions.

Source: Anna Raccoon
Related links: The Fund