What’s Happened To Compassion?

I was listening to Jeremy Vine’s lunchtime programme on Radio 2 yesterday while I was driving to Exeter and back to get my car MoT’d.  It’s a sort of phone-in debate programme which tends to attract comment from what one might term ‘Middle England’ or, if being a little crueller, the ‘Daily Mail Brigade’.

So they were discussing the Leveson enquiry (is there anybody left in the UK not absolutely bored to tears by the damn thing) as pertaining to Kate & Gerry McCann, Madeleine’s parents, who were giving evidence at it yesterday.

I could not BELIEVE the amount of vitriol and criticism, indeed almost hatred, some of the British public have for this couple.  Some of the things being said about them just stunned me.  Many people seemed to be of the opinion that they deserved everything that had happened to them.

Now, I am not the world’s most compassionate or empathetic person by any stretch of anybody’s imagination – indeed, when there is criticism to be doled out, I think it’s fair to say that I’m often at the front of the queue.

Also, I know for an absolute fact that I wouldn’t have left my child the way they left theirs.  I know this because I was in the exact same situation on holiday in Kefalonia when William was three, with identical distances involved between the restaurant and the apartment.  We considered it, and I just didn’t feel comfortable with leaving him – mostly because what if he woke up two minutes after I’d checked on him, and was left frightened and alone for another 15 or 20 minutes until we checked again?  Just couldn’t do it.

The McCanns, for whatever reason, decided they could do it.  And did.

And paid the ultimate price.

They were having a quiet meal in a small restaurant within the resort with friends (all of whom had also chosen to leave their children unattended).  They were not out clubbing until the middle of the night on the other side of town knocking back shots of tequila.

Does that make it right?  No, not really.

But you only have to look at Kate McCann’s face to see the suffering she has endured – she has aged 20 years in the last four.  There is no question in my mind that she and Gerry loved and nurtured all their children just as any other normal parent does.

Yes, they made a gross misjudgment, but my God, have they not paid enough for it?  Every minute of every day that couple must regret that decision with every fibre of their beings.  And every day for their rest of their lives, they have to live with the fact that they will most likely NEVER know what became of their daughter.

And I think that’s the worst punishment anybody could be forced to endure.  I don’t know how they keep going.

So come on, British public, walk for a moment in their shoes and find a little compassion in your hearts for these people.  They’ve been punished enough.

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9 thoughts on “What’s Happened To Compassion?

  1. I know we have respectively disagreed on this before and I don’t want that to change but here is why I think there is this sort of feeling toward them. I want to say though that I can’t imagine how difficult it is for them to live with the decision they made and I personally don’t think this discussion should be about ‘punishment’.

    I think one of the reasons people feel so strongly toward them is they have been portrayed as victims of this awful crime {whether this be by the media or themselves is again up for debate}. Yet I think the real victim is Madeline and arguably their other children. They partly enabled this to happen by making the decision they did, right or wrong they have to take some responsibility for that and have paid the ultimate price.

    But more than that I think because of their professions they are perceived to be intelligent, people who are trusted to make serious and long-lasting decisions on behalf of others regularly. We have all experienced how Doctor’s can conduct themselves and act as if they are more valuable/important etc which often leads people to have an already tainted view of Doctors. They are in a position where they have a duty of care to report any instances of abuse and neglect. It isn’t a job that has on and off duty hours – they have taken an oath, it is a vocation. If on the other end of this ‘event’ would they have had cause for concern and considered reporting it as neglect?

    Which leads to my final point. I think some of the anger and bitterness toward them isn’t to them personally but to what they represent. Many people in this country feel that if you are living in a big house, in a nice area, doing a ‘fancy’ job that you are protected from questions of children neglect etc. If they had been unemployed or doing ‘working class’ jobs, living in a council house and they’d gone around the corner to a neighbours house for food and drinks would they have been judged differently? Would their ability to parent their other children been questioned and formally investigated? Of course they may have been investigated and we just aren’t aware of it.

    No easy answers and so much discussion. I just hope that their twins get through this ok because it must be terribly hard on them.

    Amy x

  2. I don’t think they wanted anything awful to happen to their daughter. Yet, they decided it was ok to leave her alone and go out to dinner. What were they thinking? I would have thought they could at least have afforded to bring a nanny or au pair with them on their holiday and that would have solved the problem. Now they have to live with maybe not ever seeing their beautiful little daughter again. Was it worth it? I think they are suffering every day of their lives and it will haunt them forever. No one has to punish them. They are punishing themselves every day. It’s so sad for everyone.

  3. I agree – they have been punished enough. They made a decision which they will regret for the rest of their lives – there will always be ‘if onlys’ and ‘what ifs’. The thing is that many, many people have left their children and gone a short distance away (as the McCann’s and their friends did), going back to check on them regularly, and nothing has happened. The poor McCanns have been hounded and vilified in a way that none of the other thousands of parents who have done, and will continue to do, a similar thing will ever be, yet they are all guilty of the same ‘crime’.

  4. I can’t imagine what they go through on a daily basis. I hope they get answers someday. If that poor baby is still alive, it sickens me to think what the possiblities could be. In these kinds of stories, it’s hard to even know what to hope for.

  5. The media hasnt helped. We were in Portugal at the time and they interviewd someone who knew them and he went to their house to dinner on a few occassions and the man made some comment like “I wouldnt put it past them to have drugged the kids to make them sleep and not bother them”. It was kind of a throw a way comment that was his opinion and not anything that he knew to be true.

    The Portuguese press had this going on the screen scrolling across day and night on all tv channels that we saw in restaurants (we were sailing no tv on the yacht), so saw no British TV at the time. So maybe he read this and then spoke to the british press and it grew.

    There are so many things that just dont add up in any way. They hired a rental car 5 weeks later and the police seized the car and found madelienes hair in the boot. I cant understand that… if it was one stray hair then it could have been on a bag or a childs toy. But to find enough for them to test it and to have the car checked *gesticulates wildly* what were they looking for and how come they knew to look?

    This is all conspiracy obviously as no one really knows the truth.

    All I can say is if I was lucky enough to have a child I would never leave it unsupervised like that. our families policy is when we all go to a restaurant, no one is left behind. it is a family meal unless all are present. Even if it means a baby is in a car seat under a table. And yes I know children are hard work, I have plenty of nieces and nephews and great nieces, that are all over the place screaming and throwing things about, all the time.

    I can understand the need to be alone and have some time to yourself, some peace with out someone crawling all over you and asking questions all the time or jibber jabbering constantly. in that case you need a baby sitter. lots of resorts offer this. they have enough money I cant understand why they didnt have anyone to sit with the children.

  6. It is just a terrible situation all around. There but for the grace of God etc although I am a stickler for not leaving the kids alone – there is always takeout food…..
    have read reports saying that it was no distance at all – just like at the bottom of your garden but even so….
    I wonder if the press and thus the general public would have been so harsh of the McCanns had been working class folk. It came across to me (reading articles over here in US) that they were made to seem bad parents specifically because they were Drs and so ‘should have known better.’
    I have lots of Dr friends here who make bad calls personally too….it doesn’t make them infallible.
    Wherever I go on my travels I always keep a look out for a kid of Maddie’s age with the unique eye feature. I cannot imagine the guilt and pain they carry every day.

  7. Caroline, I have only just come across this and want to thank you for posting it. I agree with everything that you have said. When my children were small in the early eighties we used to go on holiday and were sticklers for the children “keeping their routines” so always put them to bed at their normal bed times and then went down to the hotel lounge/bar checking on them regularly. Never thought anything about it. We thought we were doing the best for the children rather than having them running around at midnight bleary eyed as other parents were doing with their tiny offspring. Nothing happened with our children but would we do it now. An emphatic NO. The McCanns love (present tense) Madelaine and their twins and you only have to look at Kate´s face to see the pain and anguish there.

    Many years ago a little boy was taken from a Greek island and never found. His mother has looked for him for years but has there been any blame on her? A child was taken from a German supermarket when the mother wasn´t looking and the child wandered off. Do we blame her for not having her child in reins. No. We sympathise and think thank God our children are still with us.

    The McCanns made mistakes and will reap those mistakes for the rest of their lives. Why should we pour more misery on them. As for the “conspiracy theories” they just disgust me.

  8. One time when my younger daughter was a toddler (around 2-3 years old), we were in a large department store and she was crying to get out of the cart so I took her out and told her to hold onto the side of the cart and in one second, she took off running. Even though I was after her immediately, she managed to dissapear down some aisle and I was in such a panic that I started to have a panic attack right there in the store. A woman came up to me and asked me what was wrong and I explained so she went with me to try and find my daughter. Several minutes later, a woman had my daughter by the hand and was walking up to me. I almost fainted! I can tell you that this can happen to anyone. I was right there with my daughter and yet in one second, she was gone. I cannnot ever forget this and my daughter is now 31 years old. It was a shocking experience. No one would ever believe that I was watching my daughter as she ran away from me. They would think that I was not watching her. People can be very harsh and can be unforgiving when something happens to a small child. I was in such a state that I actually left our jackets in the cart and left the store to get her home. When I calmed down, I left her home with my husband and went back to the store and retrieved the jackets. So, my point is that we cannot always be so hard on others because we do not know all the circumstances.

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