Running with the pack – part two

I was woken by a British journalist who had just landed at Faro airport asking for my help to find Praia da Luz.

Once again, the village was playing host to a pack of national and international journalists, all hoping to catch a glimpse and maybe a few precious words from Kate and Gerry McCann, Madeleine’s parents who travelled down from Lisbon the day before.

Of course, I was expecting the media interest, yet another angle to the Find Madeleine news monster that has been created.

This was Kate’s first trip back to the site of her daughter’s disappearance since she was made a suspect in 2007.

This day proved to be much different to the previous day with Derek Spring. This was pack journalism at its best – or worst, depending on your point of view.

All day, journalists were running and driving around Praia da Luz with the sole aim of photographing and gaining a comment from the McCanns, which would be sent via Blackberries to London news desks within minutes of happening.

With many already being veterans on this news story, having spent many months in the Algarve working on articles for the British press since May 2007, the press pack in Praia da Luz is a well-oiled machine.

Journalists and photographers, cameramen and reporters were stationed in strategic locations across the village: the church, the Ocean Club and outside the home of the local Anglican priest Father Haynes Hubbard, among other locations where the McCanns may be spotted. All day we waited, until we made a final stand from 6pm outside the church in the hope that the couple may turn up for an evening service that was scheduled for 7pm.

Suddenly they were spotted, walking down the road toward the church; the pack went wild, with cameras flashing, questions flying, cameramen running, while Kate and Gerry walked intently and silently with a small group of friends into the church.

Then came the waiting game. Suddenly, a buzz was felt through the pack as they planned a strategy for the McCanns’ exit at the end of the service.

A suitable, non-threatening opening question was collectively decided upon to be asked by one member of the group, while everyone else crowded into a semi-circle around 20 metres from the entrance door of the church.

When the moment came, Kate and Gerry simply walked out and intently back up the hill to a friend’s car – without a word.

Despite promising not to mob them or follow them, the press pack is a hard thing to control, so naturally several ran after the couple, filming and photographing wildly until the car moved away.  I suspect that Praia da Luz has not seen the end of media coverage on the disappearance of Madeleine McCann or visits from curious tourists, private investigators, film crews, clairvoyants and others.

The overwhelming urge to solve the mystery and the faint glimmer of hope, which is strengthened by international cases of children who have been found many years later, is a strong driving force for those who will likely keep this search alive for many years to come.

Do you have a view on this story? Please email Editor Inês Lopes at [email protected]