MADELEINE is the disquieting account of the disappearance and
subsequent search for the British girl Madeleine McCann, written by her
mother Kate, and includes excerpts of the diary Kate kept over that
It’s a riveting personal account of the incident, which many of
us have read much about in the years since Madeleine was snatched, but
at the same time, the enormity and horror of what happened to the
gorgeous three-year-old, and what might have happened to her
subsequently, make it a harrowing read. Madeleine’s happy wide-eyed
photo on the cover is heart-wrenching.
It’s hard not to make judgment calls on the parents, medical
doctors Kate and Gerry, who while holidaying at a resort in Portugal
with other couples, left Madeleine and their two-year-old twins in their
unlocked holiday apartment, 120 metres
away from where they dined with the other adults in their party each
night. Besides the threat of
abduction, what if the children had awoken from a bad dream and needed a
cuddle, or got out of bed and hurt themselves, or a fire had started?
There was also a swimming pool in the complex. In terms of basic child
care, I felt the two doctors were disappointingly misguided and naïve to
think it was acceptable to leave their children alone in a strange
On the morning of May 3,
2007, the night Madeleine was abducted, Kate writes that Madeleine asked
her mother why she had not come the previous night, when she and her brother had cried for her. The
McCanns, both medical doctors, brushed that off, and went out again
that night, something they will no doubt regret for the rest of their
lives. When they checked on the children later, Madeleine was gone. The
question that haunts the reader is: why were the children crying that
night? Had someone come into their apartment and frightened them?
Kate McCann rails against aspects of the ensuing media frenzy,
accusing various publishers of denigrating her and her husband after
they were named as suspects by the Portuguese police. She must also,
however, acknowledge her debt to the same media that has kept her
daughter’s image on the front pages and the television screens of
millions of people, and continues to do so five years later. Kate comes
across as very defensive. Understandably, she is often very angry. The
couple have made many enemies, and have not been above suspicion. The
international media have simply reflected all this because of the way
the McCanns themselves introduced the world to their plight. Madeleine
became the focal point for global hope. She was gone, and the public
yearned for a happy ending and wanted her back safely. Incidentally,
Madeleine, as young as she was, hated being called Maddy, according to
Kate. The media preferred the contraction of the name though, as it
fitted better into headlines and poster bills.
I found the diary notes in which Kate addresses the missing
Madeleine, to be flat at best. If there were outpourings of abject
apology, poignant expressions of love, and intensely emotional accounts
of how she missed her beautiful little girl, they have been excluded
from the book. Kate and her somewhat enigmatic husband clearly love
their daughter, and want her back, but I found there was an odd tone to
the book, and my overriding response to both parents was an uneasy
disdain. As full-time doctors, they led busy lives career-wise, and one
assumes they had scant quality time with their three children, who were
under four-years-old at the time. Yet, when they found time for a family
holiday abroad, they quickly booked their children into crèche at the
resort, getting them out the way so they could spend time doing their
own thing. That in itself astounded me.
The sinister story of the subsequent police investigation serves
as a very poor indictment on the Portuguese police, whose reaction was
flabby, unintelligent and plain slack. One hopes they have put protocols
in place to correct their procedures now. It is also terrifying to read
that subsequent investigations revealed that in the three years prior to
the McCann’s visit to Portugal, five cases of children being sexually
assaulted in their beds, while their parents slept in adjoining rooms,
within an hour’s drive of where they stayed, had been recorded. There
are too many “if onlys” — and each one on its own was enough to fail
So where is Madeleine now, and who is searching for her? The book
reveals an age-progressed photo of what Madeleine would look like now.
Sadly, there is no active search going on, besides that which the
McCanns themselves are driving.
The book will resonate with anyone who ever wondered where
Madeleine is, or worried about their children and stranger danger. While
this review is being written, a child of a similar age is missing from
his home in Slangspruit, near Edendale. Mcebisi Zondi disappeared from
his home at the end of May, without a trace.
The Witness published a story of another toddler who went missing
from his rural home near Otto’s Bluff, about two years ago. He too was
never found. There are others unaccounted for, including 12-year-old
Fiona Harvey, who went missing on December 22,1988,
whose story will also haunt this city for years to come.
Madeleine is a book well worth reading, although some may find
aspects of the story disturbing. As for Kate and Gerry McCann, you
by Kate McCann is
published by Bantam Press.