Since her abduction from an apartment in the Algarve resort of Praia da Luz in May 2007, Madeleine McCann has been a favourite source of copy for the Fourth Estate. The disappearance of this little girl has helped editors and owners to increase sales during a period when print media has been experiencing an otherwise steady decline.
So it will surprise no-one when the smallest scrap of new information in the still unsolved case generates yet more column inches, the latest of those scraps coming in last Friday’s papers. Claiming the exclusive were Rupe’s downmarket troops at the Super Soaraway Currant Bun, under the headline “Madeleine McCann is in America – and I know who took her”.
The allegation has been made by an amateur investigator, but the only other facts known are that his information has been passed to the police, and that parents Kate and Gerry McCann, who might just be suffering from Advanced Maddie Sighting Overload right now, have told via their spokesman that putting the matter in the hands of the authorities is the right way to proceed.
But for the press, no Maddie story goes to waste, and so this latest development was picked up by the Daily Mail, the assertion being scaled back to “may be in America”. And the more highbrow papers weighed in too: the Guardian also used the more cautious line of the Mail, as did the Maily Telegraph, which carried video from the McCann’s spokesman.
But one family of papers has been absent from this round of Maddie news: no prizes for spotting that the absentee is the empire of Richard “Dirty” Desmond. No headline appeared in the Daily Express, or in the Daily Star, neither on the day when the rest of the pack published, nor on Saturday.
This is a far cry from the early days of the case, when the Express gained the temporary nickname of the “Daily Maddie”, such was the amount of coverage it gave over to the investigation. But maybe there is a more pressing economic reason for the apparent volte face.
After all, the Desmond press had to pay out around 550k to Kate and Gerry McCann in libel damages, followed by part of the 800k paid to Robert Murat and two of his acquaintances, and 350k paid to the “Tapas Seven”, the group who had shared dinner with Kate and Gerry McCann on the night Madeleine was abducted.In addition to these payments would have been legal costs, probably more than doubling the amounts paid out. Either the absence of the story in the Desmond press is mere coincidence, or the word has gone out not to cover the case again. Who would do such a thing? Desmond wouldn’t, because he said so in court. On oath.