The Blacksmith Bureau
Friday, 3 February 2012
When is an oath not an oath?
Let us return to Gerry McCann’s claims about the strange change in UK media attitudes at the Leveson inquiry. These followed (very closely indeed) the answers he and Clarence Mitchell had given to the Commons select committee in 2009. They were:
• That at first the huge media pack were “broadly supportive” but altered their attitude in late June 2007.
• This was because, he says, there was a shortage of hard news about the case around that time which led to the media, under pressure from their editors, searching for scraps or, worse, starting to invent stories. These, for some unknown reason, were critical of the parents, either by innuendo or pure invention.
• Despite their denials that there was any truth to these stories the situation got worse and worse as the imaginations of the journalists ran free until they were printing horrible fantasy speculation.
Counsel: The date you give for the shift of the emphasis of the media reporting is about June 2007, is it, but then you feel the mood may have been moving or turning a bit in the British press? Or perhaps a bit later than that?
McCann: Yeah... it was probably towards the end of June 2007, and slowly deteriorated through July, culminating in September 2007.
This repeated what he and Mitchell had told the Commons committee in 2009:
Mr McCann:We saw pressure, particularly on journalists, to produce stories when really there was not anything new to report. Probably that was the point where things became what I would call irrelevancies or half truths or suggestions were making front page news.
Chairman: Your impression was that the newspapers wanted to go on reporting stories about Madeleine's disappearance and, if there were no new facts to report, they started to resort to making up things?
Mr McCann: I totally agree with that.
And from the Leveson evidence again:
“In June 2007 it appeared to us that the focus of the media reporting was shifting from the search for Madeleine to Kate and myself which made us very uncomfortable. ..as information from the investigation began to dry up the journalists had to look elsewhere for their copy. Not only were journalists seeking stories from and about our friends and relatives at home in Leicestershire. At other times we believe they were simply making stories up. One story that sticks out in this regard was an article in the Daily Star that suggested that we had sold Madeleine and shift this back to Madeleine into white slavery to pay off our mortgage. I cannot imagine how any self-respecting journalist in Praia da Luz at that time, and who could witness what Kate and I were going through, could write such lies.”
Note how McCann has phrased this. “One story that sticks out in this regard” clearly means at this period. But the Star story was published on November 26 2007! And this sums up the deception.
Now, the facts.
Computerised tracking of all the English language media articles coming out of Portugal on the McCann story shows a dramatic drop in material from late June to late July— and with a virtually complete absence of any obviously “made-up” anti-McCann tales.
And there are two good reasons why.
First: the man who’d been creating so many of the “broadly supportive” stories, Clarence Mitchell, had gone home! He had been recalled to the MMU in London when his contract posting ended in mid-June. The latter, by the way, makes a nonsense of Mitchell’s claim to the Commons committee about witnessing the idle UK press pack sitting in the bars waiting to make up stories during this period – he wasn’t even there!
And when do the computer tracking statistics show the quiet period ending? In early August. And what do they show? That there had been "no “shortage of facts” and that the McCanns had become the focus of the police investigation.
That, of course, was the other reason for the “quiet period”: unable to answer the gradually increasing questions from the media about the PJ homing in on them, the couple, lacking Mitchell to screen them and invent alternatives, had first lied and then gone to ground. We are not talking here about rumours or behind-the-hand PJ leaks but about material events such as the pair’s apartment being searched and their car seized, or their being called in for interrogation by the police.
These facts had nothing to do with invention and were no more a campaign against the parents than were the similar events that had been so fully reported about police actions regarding Robert Murat. In themselves the events didn’t mean that the parents were guilty of anything, just as the searches of Murat’s property and his interrogation didn’t mean guilt in his case either. What possible reason was there to deny the truth of them?
Never once have the pair answered this crucial and obvious question. We know what they’d say now, don’t we? The all-purpose magic nonsense answer still being used in the libel claim against Goncalo Amaral – that it was to avoid a diversion in the famous “search for Madeleine”.
But that’s junk as well, isn’t it? And disingenuous junk at that. Because one can accept that the McCanns are totally innocent of anything involving their daughter but pose the question: surely admitting the truth of the police focus and dealing with it honestly would have speeded up the process of freeing them from investigation and getting everyone back to the search? Whereas documented lying, evasion and a determined defence kept the energies of both themselves and the police away from other avenues until summer 2008.
But deny them they did, and lie about them, they did, both in their “blog” and (Madeleine, page 205) in their meetings with the UK media. And the UK media, far from having turned against them in June, were not only “helpful” but actively suppressed the stories of police interest in them that were all over the European media by August. By then it was simply impossible for the UK media to help them anymore – to anyone outside the UK it was making them look biased and foolish.
And note this report from the Guardian of August 10 2007, by which time the McCanns, paralysed by the fact that the things they had lied about or denied were now seen to be true, and unable to unsay them, were refusing to deal with media questions at all:
“With the small town's beaches now packed with holidaymakers, the couple face a besieged existence behind the high gates of their villa, loaned to them by friends. "We are trapped," said Mrs McCann. "What can we do?"
The couple's criticisms were directed at local media. British journalists in Praia da Luz have been careful not to harass the family.”
It wasn’t the UK media that had changed, let alone invented things. It was the McCanns who had invented things (page 205 again) and the McCanns, their lies exposed, who had changed their behaviour.
In their evidence to both the Commons committee and the Leveson inquiry the McCanns have tried by every means at their disposal, but primarily by lying, to give the impression that the UK reporting in late June/July and early August— which in the main was either suppressing information in the McCanns’ interest or completely accurate and truthful in reporting police activity against them— was all of a piece with the quite different reporting after they were made arguidos.
Nothing, as we have seen above, could be further from the truth. The real inventions began, in the inventive UK tabloid press, after September 6, for the very simple reason that all the latter had become convinced that the McCanns were heading for trial and conviction and would therefore be unable to sue—something which they are now ashamed to admit either to the tribunal or the public. And something which the McCanns are determined to go on lying about.
Posted by john blacksmith at 16:30
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