By Dr Martin Roberts
20 July 2015
Metaphorical understanding is arguably the most powerful intellectual device we have. Fascinating to study, and no less so to employ, the metaphor is without doubt of inestimable value when it comes to the transference of ideas. Take the following, for instance:
Throughout the entire history of high-rise construction, there have been only three recorded instances of steel-framed structures collapsing as a result, supposedly, of fire damage. All three instances occurred in New York on September 11, 2001.
To be compared with:
“I can’t ever remember where the Government has acted as a PR adviser/stroke minder for a family in a situation like this. This is just one of the factors that make this story so extraordinary.” (Roy Greenslade - former tabloid editor, speaking of the McCann case).
It makes one pause for thought rather. The sort of thought that might accompany a further comparison:
The BBC’s Jane Standley describing the recent collapse of building 7, the World Trade Centre, while standing with her back to an image of said building, intact and still erect.
“Some more breaking news for you this morning. Errr... We're just hearing that a search is underway for a 3-year-old British girl who's gone missing in the Algarve area of Portugal; and she went missing last night. Hundreds of people have been searching for the girl; and that search continuing this morning. So we will try to get as much on that as for... for you as soon as we can; errr... that, errr... missing girl in Luz and we will bring it to you as soon as we get further detail.” (Transcript: Nigel Moore).
Notice the time of the broadcast – 7.48 a.m., on the morning of 4 May, 2007.
‘“Yaddah, yaddah”, what’s the matter?’
Bridget O'Donnell (the Guardian, 14.12.2007) wrote:
“The next morning, we made our way to breakfast and met one of the Doctors, the one who had come round in the night. His young daughter looked up at us from her pushchair. There was no news. They had called Sky television - they didn't know what else to do. He turned away and I could see he was going to weep.”
That tells us all we need to know, surely, especially as only two days later (16.12.07) we had confirmation of same, sort of, from David James Smith, on behalf of Timesonline no less:
“It is widely believed among the Portuguese media, and perhaps the police too, even now, that the McCanns called Sky News before they called the police. For the record, Sky News picked up the story from GMTV breakfast television, at around 7.30am the following day.”
‘For the record’ – Got that!
Well Jill Renwick certainly got it (the message from Kate McCann that is) via a 7.00 a.m. communique (text or voice, the account is a touch ambiguous in that regard). According to Bridget O’Donell (again):
‘McCann family friend, Jill Renwick, revealed how panicking Kate sent her a text saying: ''I need help.'' Jill Renwick has known the McCanns since they all worked together at a Glasgow hospital more than a decade ago.
‘She spoke to Kate at 7am on the morning after Madeleine vanished and said: ''Kate was at the police station in hysterics. When we spoke she said the police weren't doing enough.''’
Helpfully, the Guardian (2.6.07) embellished Renwick’s commentary with: "They didn't know what to do. So I phoned GMTV.
(We’d better just gloss over the fact that the McCanns did not even leave for the police station until after 8.00 a.m. that morning or we’ll lead ourselves astray).
The sequence of events is perfectly clear is it not? Kate McCann ‘phones Jill Renwick, who in turn ‘phones GMTV, who break the story, so that SKY News can run it a few minutes later. The Tapas 7 then ring SKY Television (to ask for confirmation, or a set-top box perhaps, who knows?). End of story.
Well it might have been had Martin Frizell not ‘relived the moment’ in the company of Kate Garraway, for the purposes of last year’s Channel 5 documentary, Madeleine McCann – A Global Obsession, the ‘promo’ for which reads:
“In May 2007, Frizell - then editor of GMTV, ITVʼs breakfast programme - took the unprecedented decision to put a call through to the studio from a family friend of the McCanns. A three-year-old British girl had gone missing in the sleepy Portuguese resort of Praia da Luz and the family was distraught. By that afternoon, it was the leading news story on a number of channels.”
Sensing the importance of what he had just heard, Frizell put Jill Renwick in direct contact with his presenters that morning. As Frizell himself recalls:
“On May 4, 2007, I was the editor of the country’s most popular breakfast show broadcasting to millions of viewers every day. It was a Friday. It was just after 8.00 a.m. and the mood was lighthearted.”
For her part Kate Garraway describes how:
“We were having a generally jokey moment on a Friday morning and, suddenly, and I think you can even see on the footage, I sort of go a bit like that ‘cause you, the call came through on my earpiece saying – “we’re going to do an interview with a woman, she’s really concerned about her friend, her friend’s child has gone missing and she’s desperate for help.”
The actual broadcast dialogue that Friday morning (4 May, 2007) proceeded as follows:
KG: “We’ve got some more breaking news for you this morning, very serious story is developing and is coming through to us and it’s of a 3-year-old British girl has gone missing in Portugal. We can speak now to Jill Renwick, who err, who’s a family friend – ‘What can you tell us about what happened?’”
JR: “They were just, you know, watching the hotel room erm, and going back every half-hour….and the shutters had been broken open and they’ve gone into the room and taken Madeleine.” *
Martin Frizell (in documentary mode once more) continues:
“My instincts had been right. The story that we’d just broken was developing fast.”
So fast, in fact, that SKY News had broken it some fifteen to twenty minutes earlier!
Moral support is later offered by Mary Nightingale (ITN):
“I remember seeing the Maddie story on GMTV first of all.”
So too did David James Smith no doubt – for the record of course.
Apparently Martin Frizell has, for the past seven or eight years, been under the mistaken impression that it was he and his GMTV colleagues who ‘broke’ the McCann story via the UK broadcast media, when it was SKY News after all. Which obliges us to return to that vexatious question of who informed SKY News, since the record (as espoused by David James Smith at least) is clearly wrong in that respect.
The first default setting in this instance would appear to be the Tapas 7, one of whose members let it be understood (by Bridget O’Donnell) that they had ‘phoned SKY Television before breakfast that Friday morning. Whoever they were, they must have put the call in before that 7.48 a.m. broadcast, obviously.
It seems, however, as if ‘they’ was something of a proxy vote as far as Bridget O’Donnell’s doctor was concerned. With the sole exception of David Payne, none of the Tapas 7 made any ‘phone calls early on the morning of 4 May. David Payne’s solitary pre-dawn ‘ping’ was at 1.17 – way too early to have been a news feed for SKY, whose reporter was only just learning the details at the time of the 7.48 broadcast.
Which leaves the McCanns.
Gerry made a number of calls. He also sent and received several text messages (which I think we might dismiss as a sensible means of communicating an out-of-the-way emergency to a televised news desk). Concentrating on his voice calls up to and including 7.15 therefore, we may note that none of them involved SKY Television, as their switchboard number simply doesn’t feature in the schedule.
What about Kate McCann? She made so many calls before 10.30 that morning the phone ‘ping’ map couldn’t keep pace! It must have been she who had SKY Television on ‘speed dial’ therefore.
Just how likely is that? Are we to attribute such initiative, such presence of mind, to the same woman who, by 7.00 a.m., thought only of contacting a friend in the UK with a plea for help, and left said friend to dial GMTV on her behalf?
Someone clearly contacted SKY News, and did so before Jill Renwick spoke to anyone at GMTV. They were either very quick off the mark that morning, or even quicker the night before. On balance it would appear that the McCanns were not that fleet-of-foot (24 hours elapsed before they were ready to face the press, Gerry McCann reading from a prepared script – it didn’t take that long to write his little ‘words cannot describe’ speech, surely?).
Should anyone feel this conclusion to be unjustified, they might prefer to place a little more faith in SKY News’ own reporter, Ian Woods:
“It is absolutely not true that they (the McCanns) reported it to SKY News before they reported it to the police. We didn’t know that Madeleine had disappeared until 8.15 on the Friday morning – not the Thursday night, the Friday morning, at 8.15, and that was because a friend of the McCanns, knowing that their child was missing, and knowing that they were desperate, ‘phoned a television station called GMTV – another television station, not SKY News – and did a telephone interview at 8.15 on the Friday morning. That was the first time any journalists knew anything about this. Kate McCann did not call SKY News. And I know that it has been put out there as an accepted fact, and I’ve heard, you know, Carlos Anjos talking about this on Portuguese television, that he knows that the McCanns called SKY News. It…it…it is just not true.”
Run that by me one more time, Ian…
“8.15 on the Friday morning… was the first time any journalists knew anything about this.”
‘Believe half of what you hear, three-quarters of what you see’ so they say. Well, here’s that three-quarters once again (‘Breaking News’ being broadcast by SKY at 7.48 a.m.):
Given Ian Woods’ effective denunciation of his own broadcasting company, what could possibly have been incriminating about his either inferring or explaining that someone contacted SKY that Friday morning after Kate McCann had ‘phoned them – someone like Jill Renwick, for instance? Why deny knowledge if it springs from an admissible source?
The implication appears to be that the source itself was inadmissible.
So if it wasn’t the McCanns, then who was it? In sum, not only do we not know the ‘who’ in this instance, we do not know the ‘whence’ either.
There are good grounds for suspecting the FCO’s earliest diplomatic initiatives to have been kick-started from within the U.K. Should the paradoxical appearance of a press release in the Telegraph, timed at 12.01 on 4 May, be substantiated in all respects, then it too will ultimately have been FCO progeny, since an FCO spokesperson was cited therein.
Is it at all reasonable to suppose that the FCO could have had a vested interest in statements issued via the press, but not those broadcast on national television?
* Before we had even heard the name Madeleine McCann, the script had been written, distributed, and was being learned by rote, albeit to an embarrassing degree, by seemingly every member of the McCann's extended family and various friends. The source of which, and undeniable, Kate and Gerry McCann. Madeleine McCann Was Not Abducted Includes a section on the phone records.