Maddie: The paradox of the Portuguese press

By Paulo Sargento
Tuesday, 29.06.09
Translation by Nigel Moore

Today, in Loures, a protocol was signed between police and judicial authorities and other public and private institutions with the aim of putting into operation an alert system for missing children, using a network based on the rapid and effective dissemination of information relevant to the recovery of those children.

Contrary to what one would expect, taking into account the relevance of the theme, the event was not given the publicity it deserved. Very little media space was devoted to it or even made reference to it.

However, two organs of the general daily written press, with different profiles (a more popular one, with a tabloid inclination, and a less popular and more politically correct one) echoed the "news" of the British tabloid "The Sun" with news which constituted a sort of requiem for shameful news campaigns, and whose central theme was the subject of appeals made to the European Court of Human Rights and Amnesty International. I refer to the alleged investigations that two private detectives (retired British police) are undertaking, on behalf of the McCanns, into a 64-year-old British citizen, Raymond Hewlett, who is subject to chemotherapy treatment for throat cancer which is in its terminal phase. Now, it is known, that neither of the two detectives have a search warrant from any institution, of any European state, to carry out such procedures. Also, it is known, that the citizen had already been investigated by the Portuguese judicial police (as recorded in the process) and was discarded as a suspect. So what interest does this citizen have for the Maddie process? The answer to this question lies in all processes of life which make the dying, suddenly, prominent, to the extent that they can be simultaneously safe scapegoats and eternal guardians of "bad secrets."

The news on this citizen has decreased significantly. Because in recent days there has appeared another potential suspect who, by chance, is a prisoner in the British Isles. The piece of news that the two above-mentioned Portuguese newspapers cited, was already out of date by reason of a new set of suspects (one for each day of the week, as suggested, with appropriate irony, by the journalist Duarte Levy) refering to a hypothetical and unconfirmed investigation of the van which was owned by Mr. Raymond Hewlett. According to the two detectives, the investigation of the van is vital because they could find "a single hair or a clothing fibre (which) could provide the breakthrough for which all are desperate." Before continuing, who are "all" those who "are desperate"? Secondly for what motive would they dismiss the forensic evidence found in the grey Renault Scenic, two years ago, that they will now value from this blue "Dodge" van? Thirdly, it does not seem that the archiving of the Maddie case has now ceased, at least not up to the date of writing this post.

It was, therefore, for me, a disappointment to see that two major Portuguese newspapers did a copy/paste from this piece of news (which no longer was before it came into being) without confirming the information provided by the tabloid which, in its own head office, would have to justify some of this information. It would have been good if these two newspapers had given precedence, today, to the good news about a new and faster recovery system for missing children, instead of translating the last notes of a requiem for the announced deaths of inconsistent theories or, even, the absurd.

Since they spoke of hair and fibre, I'm waiting to see what the tabloids will say about certain fibres, of a certain "textile" lost in the Maddie case, which within a few days will be the subject of public scrutiny...

See you soon
Paulo Sargento: Câmara de Comuns