domingo, 29 de janeiro de 2012

Interferir com a Investigação da Polícia.


By Dr Martin Roberts
28 January 2012


Gerry McCann's televised meeting with Jeremy Paxman features several quizzical moments on the part of the interviewee, but one in particular stands out:

JP (on the subject of media attention in Portugal): 

"Do you think, to some degree, you reaped a whirlwind?"

GM (after an initial verbal fumble): 

"We had very clear objectives, what we wanted, and any parents would take the opportunity of trying to get information into the investigation, that might help find their daughter, and that's what our clear objectives were..."

Even an uninformed listener is likely to have wondered why Gerry McCann should have found such a straightforward question apparently stressful, his answer being peppered with speech errors initially. If they took the time to think about it, they might also have wondered how this statement answered the question, since 'getting information into the investigation' and airing it before the media are not at all the same pursuit. To simplify the issue however, we may classify this semantic confusion straightforwardly as resulting from the stress hitherto observed. The real cause of curiosity resides in the first clause, which concerns the taking of a very particular opportunity.

The Paxman interview was included as part of a BBC Newsnight programme broadcast early in March 2009, and covered the unprecedented media activity surrounding the McCanns in the wake of Madeleine's disappearance; activity which Gerry 'fully expected to die down' after the parents' European 'trips.' These junkets, to Germany, Holland and Morocco, occupied Kate and Gerry and McCann until mid-June, travelling to locations 'where we felt there might be information relevant.' (relevant to what exactly is not made clear). After which time the parents remained in Portugal where, emotionally unprepared to leave, they felt closer to their missing daughter.

So much for context. Now let us return to the issue engendered by that one all-too-meaningful clause.

As vague as Gerry makes it sound, it is entirely reasonable to suppose that the 'information' the McCanns toured Europe in search of was relevant to the quest for their missing daughter and would, should it have materialised, have been introduced into the investigation. What class of useful information might this have been? Much as the McCanns and others would have sought at the outset most likely, e.g., sightings, of the 'where,' 'when,' 'how' and 'with whom' variety; perhaps even the odd remark overheard in conversation, such as take place on the boardwalks of the Barcelona marina.

But the significance of the media in all of this can be discounted. Whereas they formed the topic of the Paxman discussion, they were nothing like appropriate agents for 'getting information into the investigation.' That role belonged to the family liaison officers from Leicestershire Constabulary and the PJ. 'Getting information into the investigation' should not have involved the media at all, however concerned the informant(s) may have been. In the McCanns' case the media, having invited themselves to Praia da Luz, albeit at the McCanns' instigation, were there, in principle, to comment upon the investigation, not to influence it. We all know of course that certain of its representatives exceeded their remit in that respect, and it is a moot point as to whether that might have been an intended outcome, but the media were essentially present as observers, not agents provocateurs.

Leaving the headlines, both good and bad, aside, let us consider one very obvious aspect of this much discussed 'information.' Come mid-June, i.e., four weeks or so after Madeleine had been 'taken,' there was not very much of it. And what of those sightings which had already come to the attention of the Portuguese authorities without the benefit of McCann intervention at all? What importance did the parents attach to any of those? None whatsoever. And that puts a whole new slant on the idea of there being 'very clear objectives' as regards 'getting information into the investigation.' If sightings were of no apparent interest from the outset, why travel around Europe in an attempt to encourage them? Widening a search is one thing, spreading confusion quite another. And all the while Madeleine stands to be seen by everyone from Turks to the Tuareg (Germany has long hosted a substantial population of Gastarbeiter), hope springs eternal.

'Sightings' seem not to have represented the class of information the McCanns themselves were concerned to 'get into the investigation,' in which case it will have been information of a different sort they were desirous of introducing. And suddenly we have an altogether inappropriate state of affairs. Because even those of us whose culinary skills extend no further than the micro-wave cooker understand that whatever ingredients a chef adds to his or her recipe will directly affect the outcome. Yeast will make the dough rise. If you want banana bread you add bananas. What you put into the mix will influence the result.

Having had every opportunity during interview to inform the PJ of as much relevant detail as they possibly could, the McCanns should have largely met their 'clear objective.' Obviously they did not meet it entirely, since they went jetting off looking for further information, of a type they had previously disregarded. Objective not totally fulfilled therefore. But in the absence of information worth passing on to investigators, 'taking the opportunity of trying to get information into the investigation' would necessarily require initiative.

It fell to Kate (who couldn't bear to use her camera after taking the 'last photo') to get information into the investigation, and via the proper channels of police liaison, thereby giving the attendant matter of mysticism an air of respectability. And it came to pass that the PJ diligently investigated the ownership and movements (not) of the yacht 'Shearwater.' Just as they had diligently held a press conference to announce inclusion in their 'missing persons' bulletin of an official photograph, of pyjamas identical to those being worn by Madeleine at the time of her disappearance.

Interfering with a police investigation is a crime in the U.K. and, I dare say, in Portugal also.

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