Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Belfast Telegraph: Time for the British Government keep out of a serious criminal investigation

“Madeleine McCann story - and the real reason why it feels so unsavoury - is that it is now spinning out of control”, writes Gail Walker on today's edition of Belfast Telegraph. The columnist says that “there was always, in PR terms, an element of spin in this story.” For Gail Walker, if Gerry and Kate McCann were “working class parents they'd have been slated” for their “neglectful” behaviour, when people realized they left three small children alone to go out for dinner, at a restaurant “some distance away.”

Mr McCann, we are reliably informed, has personally rung some editors to state his innocence”, according to Gail Walker. “But one of the strange aspects of the case is that the perception of innocence or guilt is almost being determined by the magnitude of the law firms and QCs on one side and the Prosecutors and Judges on the other. For every ordinary legal functionary doing their job in Portugal, there is almost a celebrity on the McCann side. In addition to Sir Richard Branson forking out on legal fees, one of their 'top lawyers' is none other than Michael Caplan QC, formerly hired by one Augusto Pinochet to fight extradition.”

The columnist of Belfast Telegraph mentions also the recent change of seats from Clarecence Mitchell, until a few days director of the powerful Media Monitoring Unit – a department of the British Government's Central Office of Information, part of the Government Communications Network, whose hard-working civil servants are known, all over the Net, as 'keyboard typing monkeys' or 'trolls', due to what members of many forums and message boards experience, whenever they criticise the British Government, their allies and friends.

Gail Walker writes: “And now we're told that Clarence Mitchell, originally seconded from the Foreign Office to assist the couple - a move that raised eyebrows in itself - is to step down from his government role and become their new Media Advisor. Ex-hack Mitchell has lots of experience. But he is a government man, and the move will only spark more controversy and conspiracy theories.”

Clarence Mitchell has been working before as Press Officer for the McCann family, while keeping his post at the Media Monitoring Unit. Now he has quited, because he feels “so strongly that [the McCanns] are innocent victims of a heinous crime” that he is prepared “to forego my career in Government service to assist them.” Mr. Clarecence Mitchell told to the Press that his salary is being paid by a private backer of the McCann family that wishes to remain anonynous.
But Gail Walker finishes her opinion column with a clear message and a serious appeal:

“One problem for Team McCann is that the sophisticated Noughties' public recognises when a story is being 'managed'. Even though it also knows there may be perfectly good reasons why that may be so, the device jars. Getting the message across can easily, if unfairly, translate into: what are they hiding? The time has come for us all to take a step back. For the McCanns - all of them - to afford themselves some privacy. For the media to take a breather. For the Government, even by implication, to keep out of a serious criminal investigation. And for due process to take its course.”