Madeleine v The Sun 17 Oct 2016

I believe that as the 10th anniversary of Madeleine’s disappearance approaches, we are going to get a slew of articles about her. In fact, I think this process is already up and running.

I want to have a look at a ‘news’ article by Antonella Lazzeri that appeared in The Sun on 17 Oct 2016. It reports that there are now 8,685 potential sightings of Madeleine worldwide, puts 101 of these across 101 countries into a set of graphics, and it lambastes the Portuguese investigation.

Many of the sightings were collated by Portuguese cops and stamped “NFA” – No Further Action – as they believed the youngster was dead, compounding the despair of parents Kate and Gerry. Since May 2011 the Met police has collated reported sightings under Operation Grange.”

The Sun report is at I can recommend this link for the photos in the story, because there is a large number of high quality images re the case.

It has been calculated elsewhere that when this ‘news’ article appeared, Madeleine had been missing for 3,454 days, thus making the sightings at a rate of 2.5 per day for every day that Madeleine has been gone. Except the ‘news’ is not news. It repeats one statistic out of a response,from memory, to a FOI request, where that answer was made public many months before now. The FOI requested information on the workings of Operation Grange, and the response was a set of statistics. The number of lines of enquiry, the numbers of sex offenders investigated, the number of statements taken, and yes, the number of potential sightings, which was reported as 8,685.

The statistics were published by Scotland Yard on 28 Oct 2015 at when Operation Grange was being down-sized, but my memory tells me these stats were in the public domain before that. I don’t really care. The Sun’s ‘news’ is at least a year old.

What you get in the Lazzeri piece is 101 sightings across 101 countries, complete with details of each. Except about a third are countries where there are no details whatsoever of any alleged sighting.

But you still get very pretty graphics of places around the world where sightings have been alleged, or do you?

According to the Sun location 4 is “4. AUSTRALIA. July 26, 2015: A suitcase containing the skeletal remains of a fair-haired young girl was discovered next to a motorway in Wynarka, near Adelaide. Pathologists said she would have died in 2007. There was speculation that the body was Madeleine’s after a cop said it did not match descriptions of any missing children in that country. But the victim’s DNA did not match Madeleine’s.”

That was a fairly grim tale in its own right without linking it to Madeleine, but where is Adelaide in Australia? Here is where The Sun located it.


So we now know that Adelaide is smack dab in the centre of Australia. Or is it? I thought to myself, isn’t Ayers Rock smack dab in the centre of Australia, and isn’t that close to Alice Springs, so how does Adelaide fit in? (Note it seems to be politically incorrect to call it Ayers Rock. It is now called Uluru.)

I have both relatives and friends living in Australia, but I am fairly ignorant of the geography, so I confess I had to look up Adelaide on the internet. It is the 5th largest city in Australia and it is on the south coast.


So how far apart are Adelaide and Alice Springs? According to the internet 950 miles, or 1,500 km, and if you have stamina and get your right foot down, you can drive it in 16 hours and 15 minutes.

Let me return to Antonella Lazzeri, because I think we will be hearing much from her about Madeleine McCann in the coming months.

I doubt that she either created the pretty graphics, or that she pored over them to make sure they were accurate. I presume someone in The Sun thought a pin point was needed for location 4 in Australia, and simply bunged it in the centre, blissfully unaware that Adelaide is on the south coast.

And therein lies the problem. Coming up to the 10th anniversary we are going to be subjected to a torrent of cheap articles wrapped in shiny attractive paper.

Think about The Sun article. 101 sightings across 101 countries, with the Portuguese police given some stick. Except it is not 101 sightings because around a third have no details whatsoever. I have not counted them, but it is more like 60 to 65 sightings. So why not call it 60 sightings in 60 countries?

Well, that does not have the sensationalist impact of 101 sightings across 101 countries, does it? Journalistic licence could have stopped at 99 sightings across 99 countries, like Nena’s red balloons, but it would appear that the Dalmatians won and there had to be 101.

If I am correct, you are going to be subjected to an overdose of journalistic licence around the 10th anniversary. I suspect the 101 sightings in 101 countries graphic is going to pop up time after time. Time after time. (Cindi Lauper.)


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