Sunday, 16 September 2007


I read this article with a growing sense of agreement but also a vague feeling of distaste. As a mother myself, I can understand Janice Turner's point of view. I am so tired of being made to feel afraid for my children's safety by the relentless press coverage.

When that terrible man wreaked his havoc with guns blazing in the classroom at Dunblane, my own daughter had just started school. I can remember going into the playground on that awful afternoon. You could have cut the fear in the atmosphere with a knife. We were all terrified by proxy.

Again, when Holly and Jessica went missing in the summer holidays, my daughter was the same age. It was incredibly hard having to explain to her that she couldn't trust anyone - not even the school caretaker. The hideous blanket press coverage of the disappearance, the search and the discovery and, finally, the trial and conviction, with all its consequent revelations. Followed by all the months and years of arguing over the correct legislation to protect our children from people with similar tendencies.

The case of Sarah Payne, snatched whilst playing with her friends in a field not far from her home highlighted every parent's worst nightmare. It is so hard to convince a child that they are not invincible and would not be able to fight off a grown man, even if they have done some martial arts training. I even did demonstrations for my own kids and the children I teach showing that a normal sized man could pick me up under his arm and run off with me without any difficulty, no matter how hard I punched and kicked. Once he'd grabbed me, he had the upper hand. We repeatedly demonstrated how to maintain a safe distance from someone who was trying to engage us in conversation and how to 'leave the scene quickly and safely to go meet a male family member'. But a week later, the kids would still allow themselves to be approached sufficiently close to be snatched and dragged away.

When Madeleine first disappeared, I have to admit that my first thought was 'But why was she left on her own with two babies? She was only three.' As parents, my Husband and I went on holiday to be with our children. We specifically targeted hotels that would allow us to eat with our children at a reasonable hour for them. Where this proved impossible and dinner was served just too late for them, we would sit with them whilst they had the kids' tea and then spend the evening sitting in our adjoining room with the door ajar, watching tv and eating whatever was available from room service. Some hotels were good enough to let us order from the restaurant menu and bring it up to our room. Despite people's insistence that we should use the hotel babysitting service, we never left them on their own, even when the oldest was three times as old as Madeline. We had seen how the intercom-based hotel babysitter worked and if no-one was sitting at Reception, no-one was listening to what our kids were doing.

However, I can't help but feel sorry for the McCanns. They will have to live with the consequences of their action and the public's admonishment for the rest of their lives. As parents, many of us do things that are viewed as 'taking a chance with their safety' that in another age would have been seen as the norm when children had to learn to survive and be independent and fend for themselves in far more dangerous circumstances.

Sadly, in the absence of any real evidence or obvious suspect, the finger of suspicion was always eventually going to point in the direction of the parents. It seems strange to me, as a regular viewer of CSI, that it is so far down the line that forensic evidence has been brought into play and we will have to await the results of that line of investigation and the possible refuting evidence before that can be relied upon.

Always at the back of my mind is the face of another little boy who disappeared back in the early 1990s. I remember his story well because it was such an unusual thing to happen and his photographs showed such a cute little boy. Three year old Ben Needham was on holiday with his family in Greece when he vanished. Despite a big campaign, he was never found.

As Janice Turner says in her final paragraph:

Given that Madeleine has almost certainly died one way or another, maybe it is easier to accept a parental accident. Yes, let it be a banal domestic: we can guard against that, or so we think. Anything but the cunning, predatory stranger we watch for constantly but can never see.


Pixie said...

Good post Cake,
Thought provoking. My youngest's birthday March 13th, 5years old Dunblane happening, me in tears for most of that day.

And I so agree with you what were those parents thinking of going out to dinner and leaving their 3 children. Not as if they couldn't have afforded a baby sitter at the very least.

Loving Annie said...

Good Sunday afternoon the 16th to you Cake ! How are you doing ?

Thought provoking and sad post. I think an "accident" is just as heart-breaking as a predatory stranger - to the child...

This is off topic, but Thank you for commenting on my Mhmmm Yes blog in August, b.t.w.

You are a dear.

I left you an honorable mention in today's 'thank-you's.

*cyber hugs and smiles* and may your children be safe from ALL harm.

Loving Annie

Vi vi vi vooom!!!!!!!! said...

It all seems quite fishy to me.

Waynecoff said...

not sure on this at all, have to think the parents done, would do so much damage for every parent in the future that shares the same misfortunes.

Freddy said...

I wonder what the press reaction would have been had Madeleine's parents been ever so slightly working class.....

BenefitScroungingScum said...

I'm with freddy. I've felt all along this would've played very differently if this were a single parent, or a couple of a different ethnic origin. The whole thing is just odd.