Madeleine McCann case was tragic but probe needs proportion

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

The disappearance of Madeleine McCann shocked the nation, and indeed became an international news story.

The three-year-old girl from Leicestershire went missing from her family’s holiday apartment in Portugal in 2007.

To this day, it is unknown what happened to Madeleine. It was a tragic episode for her family, and a sobering and distressing story for parents across Europe.

Entirely properly, huge resources were deployed to investigate the possible murder of a child – as heinous a crime as is possible to imagine.

But all investigations, even into atrocities, are finite. There must therefore be an element of proportionality to any probe.

It is surprising that until now there were still 29 Metropolitan Police officers working on the Madeleine McCann case. Even her devastated parents have said they “fully understand” the reduction in the inquiry to four detectives.

But serious questions need to be asked as to why so many officers, at a cost that must on salaries alone have run to almost £1 million a year, were kept on this case for so long.

It is not as if the investigation had been light in the preceding years. The case was exhaustively examined from many angles by both the British and Portuguese authorities.

There has perhaps been an understandable reluctance to question the resources put into the McCann case for fear of seeming callous about the disappearance of a child.

But as our report today on page four shows, there are many serious crime victims, including people such as Michael Gallagher, whose son died in the 1998 Omagh mass murder.

It is understandable that the police heaped so much time and money into one particularly awful case that caught the public attention. But there is a problem when major resources are taken away from the countless other grieving victims, who are also searching for justice or even just an explanation into what happened to their loved one.