McCann's Magical Mystery Tour


By Dr Martin Roberts
17 October 2009


The Beatles were responsible for so much that was, and is, good in our lives, it seems almost a sacrilege to adopt their lyrics as metaphors for the distasteful on-going farrago that is the McCann case. Nevertheless, I trust that those remaining warm-hearted Liverpudlians, messrs. McCartney and Starkey, would not object if their words were used to promote ease of understanding, in a case where complexity has been piled upon complexity, deliberately obscuring Occams razor almost to the point of invisibility. For we are all being encouraged to dance around the totem pole, while the tribal chief and his Shaman sidekick creep off into the darkness with the magic fleece. We might have the egg man but he is the Walrus.

'Imagine all the people... looking for our child.' And how was she taken from you? 'He came in through the bathroom window...'

At this point a complete rendition of Yesterday would sum the story up nicely.

Early on in his Beatles career, the dear departed George Harrison penned what could now be interpreted as a liar's libretto. Taken to No.1 in the UK charts by Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas, it runs:

'Listen.! Do you want to know a secret?
'Do you promise not to tell? Whoa, oh, oh,
'Closer. Let me whisper in your ear.
'Say the words I long to hear.
‘My secret's safe with you.'

O.k., so I've altered the last line a touch. But the stanza can otherwise be adopted 'as is' in relation to what follows.

"Three may keep a secret if two of them are dead."

Already a century-old before Benjamin Franklin utilised it, this proverb still carries some weight, although there are less dramatic options open to us these days, e.g. 'three may keep a secret if:'
(a) one is your local Catholic priest and the other his Cardinal


(b) one is your country's overseas Ambassador and the other resides in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

On March 19 this year the FOI News reported thus:

'Sensitive e-mails concerning the hunt for missing child Madeleine McCann will remain secret for fear of offending the Portuguese authorities who were tasked with finding her.

'A request for the disclosure of 13 e-mails and one letter, which were written in the two months after Madeleine went missing, was refused by the Information Commissioner.'

And later, discussing an appeal by the requester to the Information Commissioner's Office:

'The complainant said the release was in the public interest in order to uphold public confidence that British authorities do everything possible to help find missing children, reassure people the authorities keep in close contact with the police involved in the search and ensure public funds are used effectively to help find missing children.

'But the Commissioner said in his decision that the disclosure would offend the Portuguese authorities.

'He went on to say: "...even now, to disclose full information about the then ambassador's communications with the Portuguese authorities then, on a balance of probabilities, substantial damage to the international relationship would result."

'He added: "The Commissioner is mindful of the need for the UK authorities to be seen to be worthy of trust by their foreign counterparts in Portugal and elsewhere in the world.

'"He sees significant risk that disclosure of confidences or of other sensitive material would have damaging implications for any possible further developments on this matter and any relevant future investigations in Portugal or elsewhere in the world. This would not be in the best interests of the McCann family, including Madeleine, or of other UK citizens travelling to Portugal or elsewhere outside the UK."'

In sum therefore, the Commissioner took the view that, if the UK authorities were perceived as prepared to 'tell tales out of school' we would no longer be internationally respected for our integrity. Hence he felt it inappropriate to divulge 'sensitive material' or 'disclose confidences.'

It all sounds very paternal, very proper, until one discovers just what 'confidences' are being protected. I invite you, dear reader, to peruse in disbelief, as I have, comments recorded within the 3 March Decision Notice under Reference FS50188322:

Findings of fact

13. On May 3 2007 the child Madeleine McCann went missing: at the time of the information request the investigation into her disappearance was high profile and continuing. In determining to withhold certain information under the section 27 exemption, FCO consulted with the British Embassy in Lisbon and with two relevant authorities in the UK - Leicestershire Police and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).

14. FCO told the Commissioner that a family member had made clear to FCO staff that all comments made by that individual to FCO had been made in strict confidence and were not intended for disclosure to third parties. FCO did not approach the family member again during the Commissioner's investigation but told the Commissioner that they were confident the individual would not appreciate being contacted regarding disclosure of the relevant personal information, a position the Commissioner accepted.

So, in part at least, an international incident is averted by not betraying the confidence of a family member, who would not appreciate being contacted.

Even as I write this I stare with complete and utter incredulity at these statements. If members of the UK Parliament viewed Carter-Rucks' attempt to suppress discussion of the Trafigura report as an affront to democracy, what on earth are we supposed to make of this?

'Dear Sirs at the FCO. Something rather unpleasant has happened to my daughter whilst on holiday in Portugal. A couple of us involved in the incident are prepared to tell a few lies to the media, to keep them at bay (in fact we've already done so), but we're not prepared yet to divulge all the details. Fortunately for all concerned, the Portuguese justice system obliges us to keep stum anyway, so our backs are covered there. Now this is all in strict confidence you understand, so you won't tell anyone will you?'

Is this how it goes? Is this the measure of sheer lunacy practised by the British Government and its unquestioning Civil Service? When, in Heaven's name will someone have the conviction and moral principle to point out that the Emperor is naked?


FCO website: Madeleine McCann

PeterMac's Free e-book: What really happened to Madeleine McCann?

Gonçalo Amaral's 'Maddie: Truth of the Lie

Richard D. Hall: 'When Madeleine Died?'

Richard D. Hall: 'When Madeleine Died?'
Please click on image to view all three Madeleine films

Prime Minister introduces Prime Suspect to Royalty

Prime Minister introduces Prime Suspect to Royalty

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