Dear Keir Simmons…
“But why should two parents who have suffered so much continue to have this groundless campaign against them?”
So glad that you wanted some feedback and I hope that someone will forward this to you or twitter you the link. First, by way of a taster, can I quote what the mayor of London wrote this morning about the BBC journalists’ strike, which you will note brought the country to its knees?
“I consume vast quantities of news – but almost entirely without the assistance of the BBC. I get up early and read a fair quantity of newsprint, notably this paper and the FT. But if I then switch on my computer and go to Google news, I can see what everyone is reading across the planet.
You don't have to wait and fume for a quarter of an hour while some egotistical journalist tries to skewer some temporising politician. You don't have to worry about the bias of programme editors, because the sheer multiplicity of sources enables you to shake out the bias and work out what is really going on. You can find it all out in your own time, and it usually takes about five minutes.”
That’s the world you now work in, Mr Simmons.
I don’t defend any vile accusations made against the parents and I have no theory whatever about any involvement by them in the fate of their daughter. I don’t take part in internet forums or comment boxes precisely because of the incredible violence with which people disagree. But that is nothing to do with the McCanns – it is a function of internet debate.
But are you seriously suggesting that there are no important questions about the behaviour and veracity of the McCanns since May 3 2007?
You will recall, I’m sure, the shouted comment from a journalist on the Lisbon court steps early this year, referring to the irrefutable evidence earlier that Goncalo Amaral was not a “rogue cop” but a person representing the views of a whole police team. “Yes,” came the shout, aimed at Amaral, “all old stuff – what’s new?”
And that is the trouble: to you and your colleagues there is a great deal of “old stuff” that anti-McCannites harp on about, as if its age alone made it somehow worthless - a very journalistic view if I may say so. But the reason the “old stuff” persists is because it has never been satisfactorily answered by the parents – so articulate, not to say verbose about so many other subjects – nor properly analysed and refuted by journalists such as yourself.
Can I ask you about a few instances of “old stuff” and exactly what you make of it? Not wild accusations, not theories about what the parents did or didn’t do on May 3, but documented examples of their conduct since.
The Prosecutor and his Report
An easy starter for ten. Why do you think the parents have cherry-picked the prosecutors’ archiving report, highlighting the “clearance” of themselves but never, ever alluding to the comments about the lack of co-operation from their friends and the bald statement that the couple gave up the chance to demonstrate their innocence?
The McCanns were not telling the truth to the police about their “checking” routines. No doubt you were in court in Lisbon when the prosecutor himself stated this explicitly. Portuguese law prevented a full cross examination of Mr Magalhaes e Menezes at that hearing to compel him to tell the court more about the untruths. There will be, I can assure you, opportunities for him to do so in the coming months.
Do you really think this is a mere old stuff detail? If they weren’t telling the truth about the “checking” then what have they told the truth about? Do you believe they have always told you the truth?
The Rothley meeting and the collusion over evidence
In December 2007, immediately following the announcement that the Portuguese authorities were formally requesting interviews with the so-called Tapas 7, a meeting was held in Rothley at which the case and the evidence were discussed. Prior to that meeting it had been maintained for months that all 9 were willing and keen to assist, either by returning to Portugal or by being interviewed again. It was a genuinely secret meeting, in the strict sense of that overworked word, but information that it had occurred leaked out.
Their spokesman, initially caught off guard, said that "it was a show of solidarity under police claims that one or two had wanted to change their stories.” He later refused to enlarge on that most revealing statement and announced that he was not going to comment on the meeting in future.
Why, with a background in crime reporting, do you think 9 supposedly independent but associated witnesses met in secret and have refused to discuss the matter, or even mention it, ever since? What stops them?
The request for help in finding a child
After those UK “rogatory” interviews had indeed taken place the head of the Portuguese investigation formally asked the 7 if they were willing to return for a reconstruction of their movements on the night of May 3 2007 to assist the inquiry. They all saw fit to take legal advice; they stalled; they all refused.
Why do you think the 7 refused? Why do you think the parents didn’t ask them to return to help the search for their daughter?
The end of the search
When the Portuguese investigation was shelved it meant that no authority would any longer be searching for their child, a situation that the parents have been bitterly criticising this last week. They had twenty days to appeal against the archiving and keep the search going.
Why do you think they chose not to appeal?
All old stuff.
Don’t you ever think that you might have a responsibility as a journalist to ask the parents or Mr Mitchell a series of penetrating questions about these issues? Or will it bring them pain and suffering if you ask? “Old stuff” it may be but you will find that it features both in the forthcoming Portuguese libel hearings and in any re-opening that the Portuguese undertake. Oh, and the Leicester police are still waiting for the answers to those “old stuff” questions too.