By Terence Blacker: The Independent
Three years have passed since the disappearance of Madeleine McCann and her parents are determined that the search for her should not slip out of the world's headlines. To keep the story alive, they have just released a moody video, complete with a musical soundtrack, which includes a photograph of the three-year-old wearing make-up and gazing into the camera. It is that image which, predictably, has featured in the media,
It seems a bizarre and unsettling development. Clearly, Kate and Gerry McCann have been living through a nightmare of unimaginable horror and perhaps, even after three years, they are not thinking straight. If so, someone should surely have pointed out to them that, in a case over which paedophilia casts an obvious shadow, it looks downright weird when a photograph which has the effect of sexualising the missing child becomes part of the campaign to find her.
Obviously, the make-up game and the photograph were innocent at the time but, when the private picture is released into the public domain in these circumstances, something altogether nastier kicks in.
What was the point of this exercise, apart from getting more news coverage? At a time when there is justified concern over Primark selling Little Miss Naughty padded bras for eight-year-olds and allegations that Playboy brands are being aimed at the primary school market, the circulation of this can only feed prurience of the very worst kind.
Maybe it was a misjudgement, but it confirms a niggling sense that the McCanns' publicity–at-all-costs campaign has seriously lost its way.
Strangely, a McCann supporter took the trouble to photoshop the original image to remove the make up to 'prove' that the photo wasn't 'inappropriate' after a debate opened up where another McCann supporter said "It's a picture of a child who has raided the make up box and made a mess of herself with eye shadow. It's an impish child having a laugh."
Having read the Gaspar statements; read Goncalo Amaral's statement where he alleges that "There is a child molester within that group of friends"; read the disturbing comments about Maddie made by Dr David Payne and Jon Corner, and seen a few other disturbing images of Maddie then it's surely not unreasonable to think that this photograph was inappropriate for the purpose it was used. I can't see that Maddie looks impish in the photograph, nor does she look as though she's having a laugh. She looks made up by an adult and deliberately posed for a photograph that was, presumably, taken by an adult.
It's like saying Baby P was enjoying that bar of chocolate that was, in fact, covering up something far more sinister.