The Blacksmith Bureau
Tuesday, 8 January 2013
More fun ahead
Happy New Year.
Well now. By the last week in April 2013 Scotland Yard will need to have in place a complete news package in response to the annual media explosion surrounding the anniversary of Madeleine McCann’s abduction – sorry, couldn’t resist the prospect of making certain people foam – disappearance in 2007.
The Yard is going to be very busy, isn't it? The first confidential briefing notes, which will be landing on desks around now, will be highlighting certain areas which must be secured in PR terms for the period April 20—May 5. These will include:
Heading off a tabloid-led and potentially horrific "After two years and 3.5 million quid NOTHING" campaign.
Keeping the government both happy and in the picture.
Answering the follow up questions to Hogan-Howe's comments about resources, the future of the investigation and "results by Christmas".
Dealing with Kate and Gerry McCann.
Refraining from any comments that could jeopardise Portuguese co-operation.
Preventing any attempts to wind-up Operation Grange via the media.
Quite a list for starters, don't you think? Those of us who have returned to the case at intervals for almost six years—you know, we fantasists/obsessive haters etc.—are familiar with its truly hair-raising propensity to besmirch or destroy the careers or even lives of those who've come into contact with it, from the parents downwards. Some – the nimble ones like Rebelo, Monteiro, Blair and Cameron – have ridden the wave untouched but the list of the others wouldn't even fit on this page and the damage has by no means ended. Grime the dog handler, to pluck a name from a cast of dozens, might have opted for a steady and un-dramatic increase in wealth and reputation rather than what the case has brought him. Even a monster like Hewitt might have wept as any possibility of repentance or coming to terms with fate disappeared in the black comedy invasion of his death-bed by private detectives and hacks.
We've become accustomed to watching the latest unsuspecting victim step onto the stage, brashly confident like a new England football manager, and watched again, enraptured, as the truth of the McCann Affair's power to destroy begins to dawn on them, usually just that bit too late. Watching Andy Redwood disintegrate last spring was a particular, if unfair, pleasure: gritty determination in the scripted and protective realms of Panorama was followed by a savaging at the hands of the media pack and his dread recognition – you could actually see it in the get-me-out-of here-cartoonish widening of those doleful eyes – that, Jesus Christ, he was in the middle of a minefield without a map. And there'll be plenty more yet. So make no mistake, the careers of every senior Yard officer involved, including Hogan-Howe himself, are potentially at risk unless the minefield is safely negotiated.
Common to most of the bullet point problems is the need to throw the media enough information-meat to distract them while they make their escape. But how do they do that without opening their flank to the McCanns and without breaching their remit? Every attempt to do so will give the normal enmities and rivalries of any organization a chance to surface with the smooth operators, no doubt, coming out on top. Hogan-Howe, with the well-tuned political instincts of all UK chief constables, began positioning himself for April 2013 last autumn by putting blue water between himself and Grange in such a way that he is covered whether the operation produces anything or not. If the answer is "not" then Cider Jack Redwood is dead in the scrumpy vat and he knows it so he's got to play the anniversary in a way that protects himself against his boss without giving the latter the chance to get him for disloyalty. Aren't organizations fun! While people talk oh-so-knowingly about whitewashes etc. in their Mission Impossible view of the case the real life dramas are taking place right now in these obscure internal battles.
Dealing with Kate and Gerry
Last year, of course, there were the cries of despair that the review was apparently in the pocket of the McCanns, whatever that may mean. The fulsome and no doubt well deserved tributes to the parents from the police, the stress from the latter that they were investigating a criminal abduction and a general sense that too much was going on behind the scenes lowered the spirits of those hoping for an independent (of everyone, including the parents and their influential contacts) review.
But we're coming round to the view that the Yard weren't quite as stupid as they appeared and the McCanns are by no means as in the loop as they've implied. After all:
"High profile reviews, such as this one, are highly emotive and the manner in which they are conducted are usually kept in strict secrecy so that the tactics and lines of enquiry that are followed do not become public knowledge thereby rendering them useless."
(Scotland Yard commenting on the review in an FOI response, October 2011)
There is not a whit of evidence that the Yard has breached this, its own, rule. If you go back to the Panorama 2012 programme – not the confused follow up press conference – you will find that Redwood gave no clue as to the direction the review was going. 98% of it was an artful re-presentation of the publicly known remit document, including the "abduction" comment which caused so much controversy in some quarters: "as if the abduction occurred in the UK" are the remit's words. http://content.met.police.uk/Article/Operation-Grange/1400005508791/35434 .The "two hundred leads" gave nothing away. All that was new and definite was the Oporto liaison which, as Cider Jack very well knew, had already been made public by Goncalo Amaral and confirmed by the Portuguese authorities.
Since the McCanns have themselves made it clear that they accepted the right of the Portuguese investigation to include them in their inquiries, they can hardly object to the Yard doing the same, if it will help solve the mystery of their daughter's disappearance. But that is territory the couple avoid like a leper colony. Rightly or wrongly, they have given the impression that their own conduct has not been under examination in the inquiry and a small number of ill-judged PR statements have implied that they have been kept fully up-to-date on the progress of the review.
Here one pauses. Is that really possible? After all the remit, in early 2011, was quite clear:
"The focus of the review will be of the material held by three main stakeholders (and in the following order of primacy);
The Portuguese Law Enforcement agencies.
UK Law Enforcement agencies.
Other private investigative agencies/staff and organisations."
We know all about the focus of the Portuguese agencies and we know from the British Ambassador to Portugal that the second on the list, UK agencies, helped develop evidence against the parents. So two out of the three "stakeholders" feature documentary evidence under review in which the McCanns appear as suspects or potential suspects, while the third is of vanishingly small significance. In other words you can't move without bumping into material examining and questioning the role of the parents and it strikes us as unbelievable that all such material has been discounted rather than re-examined. As we said, though, that's not the impression one gains from the comments of the parents since spring 2011.
In the annual Xmas message to the troops Kate McCann writes.
"The Metropolitan Police Review of all the material in the inquiry has been underway for over eighteen months. We have been really impressed and greatly encouraged by the work which has been done and its findings to date which are revealing there are definitely many stones yet to turn. We continue to wait and hope that the Portuguese authorities will agree to reopen the case so that the many lines of enquiry can be investigated. As Madeleine’s parents, we won’t be able to rest until we know that all that can be feasibly done to find her, and the person who took her, has been done."
We bet that paragraph took some time to write. Of course it doesn't say that they have been apprised of any of the Yard's lines of inquiry, even in their role as parents of the missing child. But we can all see what is being implied, just like the other statements they've been releasing for eighteen months – that the review is working for and with them, that they know its progress and that they are briefed.
But what's the point of such stuff? Whose interests does it serve? The Yard have said they don't want to say anything to anybody – why not go along with that in the most natural and obvious manner and say nothing yourself? Yes, there'll be lunatics who believe that "sorry, no comment" actually means "I'm hiding something", as in the persecution of Robert Murat. But so what? Isn't that better than putting out statements that simply stink of spin and make the non-loonies among us ask yet again, why are they saying these things? What possible gain is there for them in claiming a closer relationship with the review than actually exists? But after nearly six years they just can't seem to help it.
And they add this:
"Since March 2012 independent ‘physical’ investigation of lines of enquiry by our team has been put on hold whilst the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) Review progresses. This has been to avoid duplication (and thereby unnecessary expenditure) and to prevent the risk of compromising any work, albeit unintentionally, carried out by the MPS. The private investigation team employed by the Fund continue to cooperate and work with the Metropolitan Police as and when necessary."
Well a bit of silence might be sensible there too, mightn't it? Rather than putting out something so obviously obfuscatory? Not only does it remind us of the existence of as big a bunch of nincompoop hustlers as ever walked the earth, Metodo ("she'll be home by Xmas"), Halligen ("results soon but it'll cost") and that huge and shadowy international security organization "I'm Edgar, I am" but it also prompts us to ask, why March 2012, for God's sake, a year or so after the review was set up? Why were their activities not halted when the review was established so that the files could be neither hidden, amended nor disposed of but passed on to the Yard? We don't know because Kate McCann doesn't want to tell us. But she can hardly think we're all so stupid as not to remember that March 2012 was the month the parents were in trouble due to their panicky and thoroughly dishonest attempts to spin the review's activities in the UK Mirror via their untruthful Portuguese lawyer. The Yard hadn't acted in 2011 when they'd tried the same thing, this time with Metodo, about the Barcelona visits, but in March 2012 they acted. Hence, no more investigators.
So, a lot of people round the Big Table, come April, and a lot of hands to be played. Should be fun.*
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Nothing original there.
Continuing to sneak prosaically into the prediction league,a little coldwater'esk.
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I cannot be bothered to read through that lot!
"You can run on for a long time, Run on for a long time, Run on for a long time, Sooner or later God'll cut you down." (Johnny Cash)
Well a nice little incentive was awarded to Hogan-Howe in the new years honours list - a knighthood should help things along nicely.
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