Domhnall MacAuley: Madeleine McCann

Domhnall MacauleyHad you forgotten? Of course you had, admit it. A drama lost in the blur of television history. But, on Friday night brain-dead talk show television, the horror story flashback. Kate and Gerry McCann told again the story of Madeleine’s disappearance. And, while we get on with our lives, and they do too in a very different way, Madeleine has not reappeared in some magic fairy story happy ending. The press and cameras packed their bags, the police quietly closed their files and only her parents wake up every morning still living in the nightmare.

But it is so close. They are doctors, like you and me, a GP and cardiologist. Think back- they could have been sitting beside you at medical school, the postgraduate lecture, the next desk in the exam, or a colleague on the corridor. And, their children could be your children. And, while it is easy to wonder if it would have been different had they booked a baby sitter, or not joined their friends for dinner that night, we all know there were moments when we took our eyes off our own children. Who hasn’t had the half fright of losing their children in the supermarket, the panic on seeing an empty space where you thought they were standing in the shopping centre, or the anxiety if they don’t appear at the school gate. What if it was permanent and for real?

They have written a book. Some might buy the book in a morbid curiosity, search for suspicion, or looking to criticise. But, the book has a purpose. It brings them into the media eye, nudges our memories, reminds us of what happened. These are not plastic celebrities hawking their latest ghost written half life. This is the story of what could have happened to you or me. And, they must wonder what Madeleine would look like now, what she would have been like at school, of the children’s games she might have played with her friends. And, most of all they must wonder if she is alive? Kate and Gerry McCann still believe she is. Someone somewhere knows.

Domhnall MacAuley is primary care editor, BMJ