Friday, September 07, 2007

Madeleine's mother quized by Portuguese police

Under fire: Press coverage is beginning to turn against the McCanns

After more than 11 hours being questioned by Portuguese police, Kate McCann, mother of missing four-year-old Madeleine, has emerged from a police station into a street full of waiting press and members of the public. Headlines in Friday’s papers were already running with sensationalist headlines after Mrs McCann earlier said she believed she and her husband, Gerry, were being treated as suspects in connection with their daughter’s disappearance. Yesterday it was revealed that forensic tests had been completed on substances found in the flat where Madeleine was last seen. However Gerry and Kate McCann only learned of the developments from newspaper reports. Details of what the tests revealed have not yet been made public.

There have been many twists and turns in the way the story has been reported over the four months that has followed Madeleine’s disappearance. In the early weeks the parents led a massive publicity campaign and met with the Pope in order to bring attention to their missing daughter. Posters were distributed to airports and printed in newspapers throughout Europe. But after weeks of saturation coverage, Portuguese media outlets began to ask more difficult and accusatory questions. This culminated in Gerry McCann storming out of a television interview when asked if he was the last person to see his daughter alive and what he felt after British forensic experts found spots of blood in the flat. Later, reports emerged that a syringe or hypodermic needle had been found in a cupboard [Daily Express]. The implication was that the parents may have sedated the young girl. Friday’s Sun newspaper, which will hit news stands later today, leads with the headline “Did you sedate her?”. Friday’s Mirror runs with a headline taken from a quote attributed to Kate McCann which had earlier been conveyed by her lawyer. It ended with the line “… now we fear we are SUSPECTS” emblazoned across its front page. The Express was set to run “Mum: Now we fear we are suspects”. The British tabloids changing angle on the reporting of this developing story comes on the back of reports in a Portuguese tabloid which said the McCanns were being treated as suspects and may have killed 4 year old Madeleine. The story hinged upon unnamed police sources, however the Portuguese authorities swiftly reputed the allegations and the McCanns started legal proceedings against the paper, Tal & Qual [BBC].

In the early hours of Friday media coverage on Sky News showed large throngs of media mixed with crowds of curious sightseers. Martin Brunt, reporting from the scene in Portimao, said that Kate McCann had been interviewed sice 15:00 local time [13:00 GMT]. At 01:30 local time [11:20 GMT] police began to create a cordon near the exit to the police station with press photographers, journalists and tv crews jostling for position. It was some time before anyone emerged from the wooden door, bout Sky News gave a constant update to the lack of events occurring at the police station. From 23:30 local time Sky showed a split screen and returned on occasion for updates from Martin Brunt who could only repeat that an expected departure of Kate McCann had been delayed. At 23:50 GMT BBC News 24 showed a brief shot of the assembled media and as she and her lawyer exited the building. Her lawyer gave a short statement in Portuguese as Kate McCann stood beside him. Mrs McCann looked visibly exhausted as her lawyer said Mrs McCann was still being treated as a witness but could not say anymore due to secrecy laws. The two then made their way to a waiting car, pursued by photographers and TV crews whilst police tried to keep them back. As they sped into the night, there was little more to report than had already been discussed in the media. The whirl of media attention surrounding this storyis likely to continue for some time to come [Sky / BBC].

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