Sunday

Kerry Needham talks about the lack of government assistance in finding Ben

By Melanie McFadyean

"Gordon Brown was reported to have intervened when the McCanns were frustrated by lack of progress in the investigation. Encouraged by this, Kerry wrote to Gordon Brown. It took him three months to respond and his reply, when it came, gave her no hope."
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When Madeleine McCann went missing, in May 2007, from the bedroom of her parents' holiday villa in Portugal while they had dinner nearby, it started one of the biggest international media stories of recent years. The same photograph of Madeleine, a pretty blonde three-year-old with a distinctive black mark in the iris of one eye, was published day after day, as were pictures of her parents, Kate McCann, a GP, and Gerry McCann, a heart specialist, from Leicester, always close together, with Kate holding Cuddle Cat, Madeleine's favourite toy.

Around the world people watched as they were flown from the holiday resort of Praia da Luz, in the jet owned by billionaire retailer Sir Philip Green, to meet Pope Benedict XVI in Rome; as wealthy benefactors, Sir Richard Branson among them, donated time and money to their cause. They spoke directly to Gordon Brown on the phone. Diplomats supported them. Clarence Mitchell, a former BBC journalist, left his job in the government's Central Office of Information's Media Monitoring Unit to run "team McCann" and act as gatekeeper to the huge press onslaught. The children's author JK Rowling, the footballer Wayne Rooney and pop entrepreneur Simon Cowell contributed to the £2.5m reward.

When Ben Needham disappeared from a farmhouse on the Greek island of Kos, in July 1991, while being looked after by his grandparents, the reaction was very different. He was 21 months old, as blond and photogenic as Madeleine McCann, but this was before mobile phones, the internet, the instant transmission of news; before Princess Diana's death legitimised the public emotion that accompanies so many catastrophes. And Kerry Needham and Simon Ward, an unmarried couple from a Sheffield housing estate, didn't have the same appeal as the professional, middle-class McCanns.

Full article here: The Observer
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The 3 arguidos: Observer Magazine 29/03/09 (merged)