Monday, November 1, 2010

The Madeleine case has split Germany

September 12, 2007

The Madeleine case has split Germany, prompting fierce and surprisingly well informed arguments about whether the McCanns are guilty killers or innocent victims. “A tragedy - however you look at it,” was the headline on Stern magazine’s investigation into the disappearance published on Thursday. At the outset of the case, many Roman Catholic churches called for prayers for the distressed parents. Now the priests are not so sure. The discussion hums in pubs, offices and school staff rooms. The publicity has focused thoughts on Germany’s home-grown problem: there are 1,600 missing children in Germany, more than anywhere else in Europe. “Every day there are 200 to 300 cases in Germany of children who have disappeared or have been found,” says Marlene Rupprecht, head of the parliamentary Children’s Commission. Roger Boyes, The Times' correspondent in Berlin

Lindy Chamberlain, the Australian mother whose child was killed by a dingo, appeared on national television to defend Kate and Gerry McCann as their story took on renewed prominence in the Australian media. After her baby daughter, Azaria, disappeared from an Outback campsite in 1980, a case that made international news, Lindy Chamberlain was convicted of her child’s murder and sentenced to life. It was not until 1986, when her baby’s jacket was found in a dingo lair, that she was acquitted. As the Australian tabloids yesterday elevated the Madeleine McCann story to page three, Ms Chamberlain, who has much credibility with Australians, appealed for people not to pre-judge the McCanns in the way she had been in the 1980s. By and large, the McCanns have received sympathetic coverage in newspapers and on television but with the alleged discovery of their child’s DNA in the rental car that may be changing.
In the Sydney Daily Telegraph tabloid, the columnist Rita Panahi complained that the English press had sanctified the McCanns when they should have been charged with neglect for leaving their child unattended.

Bernard Lagan, The Times' correspondent in Sydney
The French showed only mild interest in the Madeleine McCann case until last weekend when it appeared that the parents were suspects. French reporting and dinner table discussions on the subject were mainly about the phenomenon of the British media orgy rather than the story itself. The standard comment in Paris was: Why are the British so hysterical about what amounts to a simple sad news item. The answer, relayed by media, was that Maddy and her parents symbolised middle-class Anglo-Saxon ideals and the Portuguese stood for untrustworthy Latins. That has now changed, with television and print media giving extensive cover to the breaking story. Le Parisien, the popular tabloid, splashed on the case today with the headline: "Madeleine's parents more suspects than ever". Television news gave a full history of the case and reported the conflicting attitudes of the Portuguese and British media. Charles Bremner, The Times' correspondent in Paris

With the exception of a few scattered TV reports, Japan had largely ignored the Madeline case until last week. Although general interest in the story remains low, the "sports" tabloid papers and more lurid TV channels have picked-up on the apparent switch in police focus that now pitches the McCanns as the villains. No particular judgment is passed, but those covering the story express their (traditional) fascination with the way that Fleet Street gets itself worked-up over this kind of thing. They are always ghoulishly impressed by screaming headlines, dramatic switches in the story and the energy with which the British press hound everyone involved. Leo Lewis, Asia Business Correspondent for The Times

The saga has been covered regularly in the Belgian press and the high level of public awareness was shown by a possible sighting in the town of Tongeren on August 3 which was taken seriously by police. DNA tests on a milk bottle proved that the little girl was not Madeleine. Perhaps understandably in a country that has suffered some notorious paedophile cases, including that of Marc Dutroux, who was jailed for a series of attacks in 2004, the newspapers are following the story closely and the French-language tabloid La Derniere Heure has a correspondent based in Portimao. David Charter, The Times' correspondent in Brussels