Just a few short days ago, Madeleine McCann’s twin brother and sister celebrated their sixth birthday. They are probably reading by now, although not yet old enough to play ‘research the family history’ on Google – yet.
When they do, they will find that their missing older sister has possibly overtaken Princess Diana as the most talked about blonde on planet earth. Even when 25 year old Joanna Yeates was still officially missing, their big sister’s name was invoked in the media coverage; no missing person case is complete without the obligatory mention of Madeleine and photograph of those winsome eyes staring out at you.
It won’t make easy reading for them. Many entries on Google lead you to forums where those who enjoy such speculation are pleased to tease apart the finer details of the gruesome end they firmly, adamantly even, believe that she met. They are no better informed than those who speculate that she is alive and well and living as a fairy princess.
‘Our Maddie’ has become public property, the ultimate game of ‘McCluedo’, an inanimate object to be photo shopped, dissected, lied about, verbally abused, fantasised over, yeah, and even drooled over.
Overnight, another in the long line of personalities who claim to have ‘inside knowledge’ as to her fate has come forward. An exclusive in The Sun claims that Angolan born Marcelino Italiano is acquainted with a gang of Algarve-based Portuguese paedophiles that he is sure are responsible for Madeleine’s disappearance. The story will attract the familiar barrage of comments. You can only feel sympathy for the McCann twins when they are old enough to read and understand what is said about their family.
The Sun exclusive – not Marcelino – invoked the memory of the Casa Pia paedophile ring, and this in turn has set off a flurry of comment in the Portuguese based forums who have worked tirelessly to reassure their readers that whatever Madeleine’s fate, it had nothing to do with anyone Portuguese, and therefore the only remaining answer was that either her parents or their friends were responsible for her disappearance.
The Portuguese are sensitive, as surely the British would be, to any notion that there might be paedophiles in their midst, and publicly are quite convinced that if there are – they must be British imports. They pump out endless stories detailing the fact that the British asked that suspected British paedophiles who might have been present on the Algarve when she went missing weren’t to be named – and many on that list were not convicted, merely suspected – when the case files were published, but are strangely defensive when there is mention of the Portuguese citizens who were convicted in the Casa Pia tragedy – ‘they aren’t really guilty, they are appealing you know’…..
As it happens, yet another paedophile was finally apprehended – though for how long, we will see – in Australia yesterday. 73 British born Roderick Robinson was bailed to appear on child sex charges in Australia 10 years ago. He fled the country to New Zealand. There he was arrested for further offences – and bailed once more. He fled New Zealand for the Algarve on a false passport, and CEOPS and the UK border police, working in conjunction with the Portuguese police, traced him there and returned him to Australia. Once again he was given bail, this time he fled to Thailand. On Tuesday he was arrested in Thailand, and the Thai authorities are insisting that as a British citizen, he be returned to the UK. He will be met at Heathrow, put on the sex offenders list, and “As part of the notification requirements of this, he will be required to inform police of any travel plans”. One can only hope that he does dutifully inform the authorities if he is planning to flee once more and give them his forwarding address – but the signs don’t look too hopeful!
In Devon, police are investigating a paedophile ring involving some 20 children. A young man has been arrested.
No country is immune to this epidemic, but is it really an epidemic? Incest has always existed, the Bible felt it necessary to address the issue, but paedophilia is a lot more than incest, it is the ultimate ‘stranger-danger’. Is it more prevalent than it was 50 years ago, or have we become more sensitive to the issue, more ready to involve the authorities?
Another thought occurs to me, even more contentious. Could it be that in the past 30 years as women have become more strident, matured younger, felt more confident in their own sexual requirements, and at ever younger ages – that men who are less confident, sexually inadequate even, have been emboldened to look at children below the age of consent in their quest for an innocent female who will not mock their fumbling performance?
I am not in any way defending paedophilia, before any knees jerk in that direction, merely enquiring whether the rest of society has played any part in this apparent epidemic. I was in a children’s home 50 years ago – many of the girls there had been the victims of incest, but I cannot remember a single girl who it was alleged had been the victim of ‘stranger paedophilia’. Something has changed – any suggestions as to what?