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I couldn't make love to Gerry

Original Source: SUN: 10 MAY 2011


YESTERDAY, in the latest extract from Kate McCann's book, she told how she was horrified when Portuguese police offered her a 'deal' if she confessed to hiding daughter Madeleine's body.

It followed the abduction of the three-year-old from an apartment complex in Praia da Luz, Portugal, in May 2007. Kate, 43, and husband Gerry, 42, both doctors from Rothley, Leics, had been holidaying there with friends and their twins Sean and Amelie.

In this extract, edited and abridged by ANTONELLA LAZZERI and OLIVER HARVEY, Kate tells of her struggle to even try to enjoy life again in the following months, and her fears about her relationship with Gerry:

After Madeleine was taken from us, my sexual desire plummeted to zero.

Our sex life is not something I would normally be inclined to share and yet it is such an integral part of most marriages that it doesn't feel right not to acknowledge this.

I'm sure other couples who have been through traumatic experiences will have suffered similarly and perhaps it will reassure them to know that they are not alone.

To those fortunate enough not to have encountered such heartache, I hope it gives an insight into just how deep the wounds go.

Apart from our general state of shock and distress, and the fact that I couldn't concentrate on anything but Madeleine, there were two continuing reasons for this, I believe.

The first was my inability to permit myself any pleasure, whether it was reading a book or making love with my husband.

The second stemmed from the revulsion stirred up by my fear that Madeleine had suffered the worst fate we could imagine: falling into the hands of a paedophile.

Tortured as I was by these nauseating images, it's probably not surprising that even the thought of sex repulsed me.

I worried about Gerry and me. I worried that if I couldn't get our sex life back on track our whole relationship would break down.

I know there is more to a relationship than sex, but it is still an important element.

It was vital that we stayed together and stayed strong for our family. Gerry was incredibly understanding and supportive.

He never made me feel guilty, he never pushed me and he never got sulky. In fact, sometimes he would apologise to me. Invariably, he would put a big, reassuring arm around me and tell me that he loved me and not to worry.

I was determined not to be beaten by this, not simply to capitulate and accept it as just one of the unfortunate side-effects of this tragedy.

Gerry and I talked about it a little, but mostly I analysed the problem privately in my head.

I also discussed it with psychologist Alan Pike who assured me that, like my ability to relax or enjoy a meal, it would gradually return.

Deep down, though, I knew there were only two solutions: bringing Madeleine back or conquering my mental block.

Since the first was not within my control, it was up to me to try to train my mind and my thought processes.

I look back now and wonder how on earth Gerry and I have made it this far.

If it weren't for the solid relationship between us, I'm not sure we would have done.

The statistics show that most marriages subjected to such traumatic experiences break down. It would be a lie to claim that everything has been plain sailing.

No relationship, however strong, can emerge unscathed from what is probably the most painful and terrifying ordeal any parent could suffer.

Inevitably, we sometimes reach certain stages, or go through phases, at different times and find different ways of coping with our anguish. Gerry was functioning much sooner than I was.

I felt a tinge of resentment that he was managing to operate and I wasn't; sometimes I found it almost offensive, as if somehow he wasn't grieving enough.

On other days I would feel I was a failure for not being capable of doing as much for Madeleine as he was. It was equally difficult for Gerry. He needed my help and support and I was so consumed by my own grief that I simply couldn't give anything.

When I finally reached the next rung of the 'coping ladder', I could see that my husband's ability to drag himself up from the hell into which we'd been catapulted was a godsend.

Without it, the campaign to find Madeleine would never have got going in the way it did. Gerry has tried, quite successfully, to compartmentalize his life, his thoughts and his focus. I have no doubt this ensures a more efficient and less stressful existence, but I can't do it. Madeleine is there in my head all the time.

This doesn't make me a more loving or caring parent. I think it's just that fathers and mothers are different; that carrying and bringing a child into the world possibly creates a uniquely visceral connection.

The awful sense of Madeleine's fear I once experienced every waking hour has, however, eased a little. What remains is a lasting awareness of the terror she would've felt in the disorientating moment she first opened her eyes to find herself with a stranger. I cannot imagine this will ever fade completely.

It was a long time before I was able to allow myself to take any real pleasure in anything.

I couldn't watch television, read a book, listen to music or follow the football, as I might have done to relax in my old life. I couldn't go to the cinema or out for a meal. I couldn't browse in shops.

Madeleine was in my thoughts when I woke up in the morning and as I battled to fall asleep at night.

I couldn't even sit down unless it was for a purpose, to eat or to work at the computer. How could I possibly take pleasure in anything without my daughter'

It was partly the feeling that I had to be doing something to help Madeleine every moment of every day, partly that so much of what I used to love reminded me of the life we should still have been leading and now made me sad.

Sometimes the most innocuous and unexpected triggers can set me off: the smell of newly mown grass, or a song I associate with happier days. The hymn On Eagle's Wings, which Gerry and I chose for our wedding, gets me every time.

It was over two years before I could bring myself to play music again. In the end it was the thought of how unfair it would be to deny Sean and Amelie, who loved singing, that got me over that hurdle.

Gerry, meanwhile, was able to switch off from time to time and I'm sure that was a great help to him. I felt guilty for his sake that I couldn't do the same.

He was desperate to share his moments of relaxation with me, to have his old Kate back, even if only briefly. He would suggest doing something nice - and I would cry.

Despite his inner strength, determination and capability, Gerry has his own down days, of course.

He's been such a rock through so many long and testing times that when he crumbles, it is all the more concerning.

There's something particularly distressing about seeing a strong man reduced to a heap, crying like a baby.

At times it has taken Gerry everything he's got to fight for his own survival and there's just been nothing left to give me.

Occasionally, when I've been as low as it's possible to be, or afraid I was losing control completely, I've longed for a chance to talk it through, or even just to feel Gerry's arm around my shoulder, but he simply hasn't had the strength.

He knows or fears that if he allows himself to be sucked into my despair, he might be brought crashing down, too.

It sounds selfish and it feels selfish, too. But our lives remain precarious and sometimes it is all you can do to keep your own head above water, let alone anyone else's.

We also know it is essential that we somehow make time for each other if we are to keep communicating, avoid growing apart and escape becoming another marital breakdown statistic.




I took a cognitive approach to getting our sexual relationship back on track, concentrating hard on what Gerry means to me, as a husband and as a friend; on the love we have for each other and the three beautiful children we created together. It seems to have worked.

If my mind ever starts to wander down dark alleys, I fight against that, focusing on what I have that is good and important.

And I tell myself that I cannot, and will not, allow this evil person to destroy anything else in our life.


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