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Madeleine McCann search fund running out of money



Original Source: CHANNEL 4: WEDNESDAY 03 NOVEMBER 2010
Wednesday 03 November 2010
Madeleine McCann's parents tell Darshna Soni their fear that the authorities have given up searching for their missing little girl. Their own fund to find her could run out of money by next spring.

It is now three and a half years since Madeleine McCann went missing – an arbitrary anniversary, perhaps, but her parents are desperate to keep the story in the news.

Gerry and Kate McCann rarely give television interviews, but they told me they believe the authorities have effectively given up searching for the toddler.

Mr McCann told Channel 4 News: "The authorities haven't done anything proactive in the search for well over two years now. We think it's fundamental that a case review is undertaken."

The McCann's daughter went missing on a family holiday to Portugal on 3 May 2007, a few days before her fourth birthday. The couple were dining with friends at a nearby restaurant when she disappeared.  

Uneasy relationship with detectives

The original investigation was led by the Portuguese police and saw the couple themselves questioned over Madeleine's disappearance. Although they were exonerated, they have since had an uneasy relationship with detectives, whom they claim have now given up on their daughter.

You can watch the whole interview with the McCanns at the Channel 4 News You Tube Channel

Since Madeleine's disappearance, the couple have paid hundreds of thousands of pounds to private detectives. They set up a fund for and received donations from the public and wealthy businessmen, including Sir Richard Branson.

Cash flow problems

The fund raised more than £1.8m from donations and some merchandise sales in the first financial year after Madeleine's disappearance.

The accounts of the fund say the money was spent on searching for Madeleine. None was used to pay the McCann's own legal defence costs. In the first year, £250,000 was spent on "search fees", with £123,573 spent on campaign management and £7,993 on hotels, travel and subsistence, among other costs.

By the end of the financial year – 31 March 2008 – the fund had just over £1m. Over the following year, the 2009 accounts show that donations fell as awareness of the case dipped. As such, the fund spent more in trying to find Madeleine than it received in donations up until 31 March 2009, drawing on its cash reserves. 

On 31 March 2009, it had £690,000. But the pattern of dwindling donations continued, as the costs of running the fund and keeping up awareness remained the same, leading to the difficult financial situation the fund is in now.

Today, the fund has less than £300,000 left. They have written an open letter to supporters and celebrities, appealing for help. Mr and Mrs McCann say the money will run out by next spring.

"There are days when it feels like feel obstacles after obstacle are thrown in your way," Mrs McCann told me.

Home Secretaries

The couple have now met with three Home Secretaries: Alan Johnson, Jacqui Smith, and most recently Theresa May, to ask for a review of the case. Mr Johnson commissioned a "scoping exercise" by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre to see if a review would be helpful. Since then, however, progress seems to have stalled.
Mrs McCann told me that Mrs May admitted she had not even read the scoping report when the couple met her.
They are asking the public to sign a petition backing their calls for a review.

"The clock keeps ticking, the calendar keeps turning. There are days when we look at each other and think God I wish it was all over… I wish Madeleine was back with us full stop. But we can't stop, no matter how tiring, no matter how many blocks are put in our way because a little girl is still missing," said Mrs McCann.

Mrs McCann told me she doesn't read most of what is written

Mr and Mrs McCann know there will always be those who feel there are unanswered questions about their daughter's disappearance,writes Channel 4 News Midlands Correspondent Darshna Soni. The story attracted worldwide attention and elicts a huge response - I have been  inundated with Twitter and email messages today.

There are dozens of websites and Youtube videos dedicated to exploring alternative accounts of what could have happened to the little girl. These range from conspiracy theories to legitimate questions about how donations have been spent, which is something we have tried to investigate.

The couple have had a difficult relationship with the press; They know they need the publicity, but at the same time have been hurt by some of  the accusations made against them.

Mrs McCann told me she doesn't read most of what is written, as most of  it is without evidence.

"You have to question their motives," she told  me. "I don't value their opinion" The vast majority of the public, she believes, are good people who support them in their search for Madeleine.



With thanks to JJP for transcript

Darshna Soni You are calling for a review of the investigation. Explain to us why.

Gerry McCann I think the first thing to tell the general public is that the authorities haven’t been doing anything proactive in the search for Madeleine for well over two years now and we think it is fundamental for any major incident that a case review is undertaken to look at all the avenues that could be explored that might lead to new information coming into the enquiry.

DS You say that they have been doing nothing proactive. What have they been doing for the last two and a half years? People might be surprised to hear that.

GM Well…

Kate McCann Well I think if information comes in, certainly to the British authorities, if they are able to they will have a look at it and if they feel its necessary they will send it over to Portugal.  But they are actually waiting for information to come in rather than trying to bring information in that could find her.

DS Do you think it makes it difficult for them, though, because you have got your own private investigators looking for your daughter? Does that make your relationship with the police difficult?

GM It shouldn’t.  I mean its not competition. They should be working together if anything. The fact if there wasn’t private investigators there would be absolutely no-one looking for this so I don’t see why… Its not a threat. We don’t have the resources. They don’t have statutory powers. There’s a lot more the authorities can do. We do have people, though, on the end of a phone line, looking at emails, interviewing witnesses and generally following up new lines of enquiry and they’ve passed a number of those on to the authorities.  But, you know, this is an unsolved serious case and particularly given the profile we think that a full case review should be undertaken and that has to be collaborative with the Portuguese authorities.

DS Leicestershire Police have said to us that they haven’t shelved the investigation because it was never their investigation to shelve because it was being led by the Portuguese. What more would you expect Leicestershire Police to do?

KM I mean I think it is important to say although Portugal has primacy with regards to the investigation it doesn’t mean that there isn’t things the British authorities can do. And certainly a review is one of the crucial, significant things that they can take part in.

GM I mean I think what we are asking for today is for the governments to do more. Leicestershire have, you know, largely played their part and they have done that to the best of their ability. But this needs to be done at higher level. It needs to be done between the governments and there has to be an agreement and err… parameters set in terms of the review, how it is going to be done and what it leads to. And the last Home Secretary, Alan Johnston, ordered a scoping exercise that was undertaken by CEOP and as far as we can see, after six months nothing has been done with that scoping exercise and we just don’t think that’s acceptable.

DS So the previous Home Secretary looked into the feasibility of having a review. Has there been a change in the attitude of the new government now that we have a change of government.

GM Well it is difficult to know because we are not getting any metrics to measure what the government are doing against so there’s no time lines, there’s no deliverables and time’s just ticking on. We were told that we would be told the contents of that report. We haven’t seen it. We haven’t been told.  And really although the government say there are sensitivities, we fully understand that but they should be doing more and they are, should be responsible for ensuring that Madeleine gets the best investigation possible.

KM We are not aware of any progress since the CEOP report was handed in to the government at the end of March. And even allowing for a change of government in the last six months we’re not aware of anything that has carried on from that report being given in.

DS When you met with Theresa May, the new Home Secretary, what promises did she give you?  Did she tell you what was in that scoping report?

KM Well, I think that’s just it. There weren’t any promises. In fact she said, “I don’t want to make any commitments”. But, basically, what we need to know is what are they doing, what are they going to do with that report, have they read the report?

DS Do you think she had even read it?

KM Well she hadn’t when we met her. She said that which was a bit disappointing. Hopefully now she has but we need to know where are we going now because we truly believe its going to help the search for Madeleine. We know its not easy but it doesn’t mean its not possible.

DS I just wanted to ask you. You’ve chosen to do the interviews now three and a half years on. People will be wondering how on earth you keep going and how you keep this story in the news after such a long time.

GM Well we don’t …(Slight laugh?) Although we offered to do things like this really I think it is a reflection that the public  are very interested and…

KM I think the public care about Madeleine and that’s why its still a story for want of a better word.  Which is great because without the public support I don’t know where we’d be, erm…

GM I think that’s crucial, you know. The government won’t do anything without pressure and its the public.  The government are accountable to the public who elected them and that’s what we’re asking for is the public to ask our government to do more and to work with the Portuguese government as well and we should be putting pressure on both of them to solve this. We can’t stop doing what we do. We need to find Madeleine. We are living a life that’s somewhat in limbo between our previous life which was very, very happy and somewhere now where we’ve got a different life but without Madeleine in it. And we can’t really get off that treadmill until we find her or at the very least what’s happened to her.

DS And how do you keep going? How do you keep hoping?  There must be days when it is very, very difficult.

KM Well we’ve worked so hard. I mean, understandably, we’re Madeleine’s parents and we are going to do everything that we can and we work really hard. And there are days when it feels that obstacle after obstacle is thrown in your way and obviously the clock keeps ticking, the calendar keeps turning. And there’s days that we just look at each other and think “God I wish it was all over”, you know erm. But basically we wish Madeleine was back with us. Full stop.

GM You know, …

KM You know, but we can;t stop while we are in this situation we just have to keep going. It doesn’t matter how tiring it is. It doesn’t matter how many blocks are put in our way. We have to keep going because a little girl is still out there missing. You know this is not solved this case. She’s still missing and there’s an abductor out there, there’s a criminal out there who is free to do this over and over again if we let him. You know, so that’s another reason why the governments and the authorities should be doing more.

GM I was just going to say one of the simplest things is Sean and Amelie’s attitude because they talk about Madeleine all the time and when we are having one of those days when you just want to opt to go away and you are exhausted and they just say, “When Madeleine comes home” and there’s no reason why she can’t come home that we know of and its happened for other children and they know how hard we are working and they want Madeleine home as well and that really does give us renewed energy and vigour to carry on what we are doing.

KM In Sean and Amelie’s words, “Madeleine’s missing. We need to find her.” And its quite simple when you put it like that, you know.

DS So you still believe that your daughter is alive and out there somewhere?

KM Certainly, we know there’s a good chance that she’s still alive. I mean at the minute she’s just missing, you know. I mean, so you have to assume she’s alive cos there’s nothing to say otherwise. There’s many cases, as you know, that have hit the media of children and many cases that haven’t hit the media of children who’ve been found years down the line so you just have to keep going.

GM I mean you could imagine if we just gave up and years down the line we found her. There’s no justification for giving up.

DS And so you will keep on searching for as long as it takes.

GM Yeah. And we can’t stop. I don’t think any parent could stop.

KM I don’t think you could live comfortably. I just don’t think physically that you could, or mentally you could actually reach that decision, you know.

DS When you mentioned the public support and how important it is to you. How do you feel about the fact that there are still people who feel that you had something to do with it and there are web sites set up to (?????????)? It must be quite hurtful still after all this time.

GM I think the key thing is that the motives of people who wish to persuade others that Madeleine is dead without any evidence to suggest that have to be questioned. You know, we are here to try and make sure that there is as good a search as possible and that’s as far as I can see the way the vast majority of the public want to see it happening. And I think they’ll be shocked to find that the authorities have not been doing anything. Our focus is in making sure there is a good search not stopping one for a missing child 


DS So are you still quite hurt by some of the things you read?

KM Well a lot of the rubbish I don’t read, to be honest.  Because, as Gerry said, you have to question the motives of people like that. People who want to insist on something without evidence. People who want to bring, you know, more pain and suffering to a family who are already vulnerable, who are already suffering. You really have to question those people and I don’t value their opinion because, you know, I wouldn’t behave like that so, you know, you can’t be, you know, detracted, distracted from what is important which is Madeleine by people like that. The majority of people are good people. They’re the quiet majority and I strongly believe they are the ones who want to find Madeleine.

DS And you are appealing for more funds. What happened to the money that you had previously? There’s around, I understand, £350,000 left. What happened to the previous money that was donated?

GM OK. I think the first thing to say is that the priority today is very much about asking the public to help us with the petition to get the government to do more.  We have been fortunate, although its not helped us get where we want, by having a fund. And the fund was set up in response to people offering money and it was set up properly and the fund is very accountable and it has independent auditors and we have a fund administrator who’s got lots of experience. The vast amount of. The vast majority of the money in the fund has been spent directly on search fees. Its obviously supported other things, awareness campaigns, we have a part-time co-ordinator now. We have media liaison to deal with things like this here and in Portugal in trying to get our messages across, but the most of the money, the vast majority of it has been spent…

KM we’ve had to fund an investigation for two years now which as you can imagine with several more than that personnel, it costs money…

GM Staff, expenses, interviewing.  We run a 24hr help line which is available. We run a web site. That costs money, updating it. Communications. You know, all of these things do add up and without having the fund there wouldn’t be a meaningful search today.

DS You’ve also spent money on your own investigators as you’ve said. There have been reports that some of these detectives have taken money but then not delivered. They are dodgy detectives if you like. How can you reassure people that money won’t be spent on people like that in the future.

GM  Well we’ve very much had for the last two and a bit years, we’ve had Dave Edgar who is a very experienced detective who was near retirement. He’s been working with us. He’s very much accountable for the spend. He feels he can justify every penny. But at the same time I hope the public realise as well as directors of the fund in particular when we were arguido and there was no search going on that it was incumbent upon us to continue a search in very, very difficult circumstances. So we have made decisions along the way which have always, we felt, been in the best interest of the search to find Madeleine and we are very accountable. All the expenses are there err, receipts and we’ve got quite a tight-knit team working on this but we need them. Without it there would be no-one there to go and interview people and follow up leads.

DS What about the, some people might say, the judgement of the trustees is sometimes questionable because you have had people like Halligen who is now facing extradition?

GM Well, you know, we are doing the best in very, very difficult circumstances. I think that’s key. We always take advice, due diligence is done, references are sought and, you know, the fund is accountable and  as directors we are responsible for making those decisions.

DS There are also reports that you have fallen out with some of the trustees, with your brother and your boss who have resigned…

GM That’s nonsense. That’s absolute nonsense. Why do you say we have fallen out? I mean the fund has changed over three years, three and a half years. Its very different, ermm, initially we weren’t on the board because we were based in Portugal…

KM Nobody thought, you know, three and a half years ago that we would be in this situation today. Its a big commitment, you know, and things have changed. We’ve got different phases in the last three and a half years so inevitably there’s going to be changes.

DS So its not that you’ve had differences over the way the money was spent or…?

GM No, not at all.

KM Absolutely not.

GM  In fact any of the changes we have made recently are to make the fund more efficient and more responsive. Kate and I always feel, you know, there’s still an urgency. It doesn’t get easier and we don’t need a large board as such. We are trying to run the fund like a small business in many ways so that its focused and the directors by and large are hands on and responsible for certain areas. Kate and I are integral to all the parts of it. We’ve got legal advice. We’ve got specialist media liaison etc. We’ve got a retired accountant, and, you know we’ve got Kate’s uncle who is there and is a good governance sort of person. So all of these are taken on board and we’ve got a very experienced fund administrator as well.

KM Have you talked about the petition?

DS Yeah, I was just going to ask you about that. So, I mean, you have mentioned the petition already. Just how many signatures are you hoping to collect? What are you asking people to sign for? What is the point of the petition?

GM Well the whole point is to call on the governments, both the UK and the Portuguese government to do more in the search for Madeleine and the first thing we feel that’s fundamental is that they undertake a complete review of the case preferably it should be independent and we want transparency as well and we are asking the public to help us in that regard.

DS In terms of, you only have £350,000 left now, how can you, how long do you worry that you can keep going (if you dont get donations????)?

GM Well we are always as directors of the fund, we are always looking at that because one of.., the remit is for us to fulfil the objectives of the fund and the fund is to try and find Madeleine and bring those responsible to justice so there’s always an agenda item about finances and we need to look at that. We’ve done other fund raisers in the past and we’ll keep looking at that. We’ve been very fortunate from the point of view of having so many of the public make donations and a large part of the money we’ve spent, as you know, has come from libel damages which were paid into the fund. So we’ll continue to explore it. We certainly need to be looking at income generation over the next months.

DS There must be huge pressure on you knowing you’ve always got to look (????????).

GM Well, I mean, we’d love nothing more to find Madeleine. And then we wouldn’t have to worry about that. You’re absolutely right. Our focus is on the search for Madeleine and without the authorities conducting that then the onus is on us and we don’t think that’s right. The onus should be on the governments to do more. We’d love to give that pressure away. You’re right.

DS And you mention the money from the trials. How do you feel now that Amaral’s book is going to be on the shelves here?

GM Yeah, so.  Well, you know, we’ve already alluded to it. Anyone who wants to convince people that Madeleine is dead without evidence to support it then will just have to be questioned.  But today the focus is on asking the public to help us petition the governments to do more.

DS Do you feel that you should be chasing libel actions?  Some people might say why don’t you just leave libel stuff to one side? Why try and silence your critics?

KM Well obviously we’ve talked about this in great detail previously. The reason why we had to take actiion was because we strongly felt it was damaging the search to find Madeleine and as Gerry has just said, that is our ultimate goal, is to find Madeleine.

DS I just wonder, can you update people? Where are you now? I mean recently you went over to Germany. You translated all your literature into German. So can you update people? Where are you now? Have you got any new leads?  What’s happening (???????)?

GM I would like to say to you that we did have some hot leads but the very fact that we are calling for a complete review to identify further areas for investigation is telling you that, you know, more needs to be done. All the information needs to be put onto one database because that may be the way that we find the key bit of information, the missing piece of the jigsaw.

DS So at the moment you are worried that there isn’t even a central database so the information might not be getting cross referenced (?????)?

KM Yes, I mean there’s information in lots of centres that hasn’t been brought together and there could be two key bits of information that individually don’t seem key but put together could give you some valuable information that could take you one step closer to finding Madeleine so it just seems an obvious and crucial thing to do. And this is why reviews are done time and time again in this country on major investigations.

DS So you must be frustrated that the government has carried out a scoping into whether there should be a review and no action has been taken?

GM Yeah, I mean that’s what we’re asking for. We want to see what action. We want metrics. We want deliverables. And we want the government to do more. Madeleine is a British subject and the government should be doing more to look out for her interests.

DS And I was just wondering. How can people sign the petition?

GM Its on the ipetitions website. So its then forward slash petitions but its quite a complex link.

DS We’ll put it on our website.

GM Thank you.



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