Kate and Gerry McCann have had to endure more media attention in the last few years than most celebrities. Except that they are not celebrities, and have not gone after the publicity. The attention that has fallen on two ordinary people is solely because of the disappearance of their daughter Madeleine, while on holiday at the Algarve resort of Praia da Luz. And attention is not the only thing they have had to endure.
Grossly intrusive behaviour by the popular press tipped over into forthright defamation, which ended up with the Express and Daily Star titles being taken to the cleaners and forced to publish front page apologies. As Brian Cathcart pointed out in an article for the Staggers, the McCanns could have successfully taken several other titles to court. British expat Robert Murat, who was caught up in the melée, did so.
And there’s the rub: those legal actions, together with their unswerving support for campaigning group Hacked Off, have made the McCanns a target for the nasty and resentful in the tabloid media. That unpleasant side of the press has resurfaced in the Sun this week under the less than benign authorship of former editor Kelvin MacKenzie, who has decided that the McCanns’ years of torment are insufficient punishment.
So Kel span a story in his Tuesday column out of comments Sharon Osborne had made in a Mumsnet discussion. Someone speaking on behalf of the McCanns had criticised Ms Osborne. Very few people outside Mumsnet threads knew, or were interested. But the mere fact of the exchange was enough for Kel to crow “Perhaps the McCanns should have thought first about the effect [of] leaving the children alone on that fateful night”.
Then he rubbed it in, for good measure: “The reality is that because the McCanns are medical professionals, they have had a comparatively easy ride … Had Kate McCann been a single mum from Rochdale, I am sure she would have been charged in Portugal with neglect … The McCanns would be wise not to be drawn into public spats like this … it wasn’t the public that left Maddie alone”. And he’s at it again today.
“It is clear from my huge e-mailbag that it rankles with ordinary people that the McCanns have never faced censure through the courts (or anywhere else for that matter) for neglect in the same way a council estate single mum might have done”. We have to take Kel’s “huge e-mailbag” on trust, which is in itself a challenging concept, given his past.
But he knows what he’s doing: “Personally I have always been puzzled at the ongoing silence of their friends who sat around the dinner table that fateful night nine years ago. It’s as though they have taken a vow of Omertà … Perhaps they could tell how often the McCanns left the table to check on their children”. Perhaps he could leave them alone.
Kate and Gerry McCann have had to endure enough without Kelvin McFilth’s nasty campaign against them. But the vindictive side of the press never subsides: Kel and his pals are interested in only one thing - administering a good kicking to anyone who dares challenge them by suing, testifying before the Leveson Inquiry, and backing Hacked Off.
Kelvin McFilth is the lowest of the low. But sadly, he is not alone.