Whatever happens in the end Kate & Gerry McCann have unarguably been at the centre of something truly dreadful, perhaps, for we don’t yet know, worse than dreadful.
The face of Kate McCann, either without make-up, as she chose to appear before Leveson, or slathered with it, as on Crimewatch, speaks eloquently of that truth. Their suffering, which has a lot further to go, was not something they consciously chose. They are like a couple struggling in a grey, turbulent sea.
And the same goes for the families of the pair for whom there has been no relief or resolution after six years: their clan loyalty and instinctive distrust of the police which the Bureau has highlighted at times has, given the context, a certain admirable, if troubling, quality about it.
The word evil is used cautiously these days. But I remember watching the dogs’ video for the first time. The almost deserted and brutally lit concrete car park and the line of empty vehicles, at once suggestive of a dozen post-mortem gangland news photos, was lowering enough. But then the strange and almost wordless ritual of a forensically-overalled handler, his two dogs and their echoing barks as they worked their way through the cars suddenly brought home the reality in a way that the hysterical media stories never had. I was watching a search for the concealed traces of a child’s corpse. A sense of evil is the only way I can describe what I fleetingly experienced, not with regard to the McCanns, but to the transport by somebody of a near-infant out of a night-time apartment and her almost certain death. There were no winners, no happy endings, no soap opera plots here. Just evil.
That anyone not already trapped in this nightmare by blood and kinship would actually choose to invite themselves into it seems hard to conceive. Even those whose work forces them into proximity with violent death – emergency service people and hardened police investigators – find themselves shaken and troubled when the victim is a young child and are not ashamed to admit it.
But among all the various parties who have been drawn into the case one figure stands out clear of all others, clear even of opportunistic criminals like Halligen who was only too happy to get away from the case once he’d made his money. One who has not just involved himself but for six years has actually thrived mightily on it like a repulsive fattened bluebottle supping on dead and rotten meat. That person is Clarence Mitchell.
About whom I’ll have more to say.