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WOMAN'S HOUR - Jenny (Jenni) Murray interviews Kate McCann (9/8/07)

Original Source: BBC Radio 4. Woman's Hour 09 August 2007
 BBC radio4 - 09.08.2007
Transcription by Ms Marbles (3As)

Jenni Murray : This morning's papers, yet again, are full again of the McCann's, the parents whose daughter Madeleine disappeared from their holiday apartment in Portugal nearly a hundred days ago. There has been a flurry of activity this week with forensic investigation of the only named suspect's garden; a detailed examination of the apartment and the discovery, there, of what may be blood. The McCanns have themselves would appear to be under suspicion as their car was searched and some of today's headlines carry their denial that they had anything to do with Madeleine's abduction. Well Kate McCann has never before spoken alone in a broadcast interview. I asked her how she's coping with the current developments in the investigation.

Kate McCann : Well obviously I can't talk too much about the investigation. Erm we're just trying to get through one day at a time to be honest Jenny. Erm.. some of the stuff we are not sure about anyway, and we don't know if it's true or not so erm (inhales audibly at this point) we're just coping day by day really. We've got lots of support, erm, very close family and friends and, as you're aware we've had a huge support from the general public erm and we are just trying to have.... (inhales audibly again and next bit inaudible and said within a kind of suppressed laugh) obviously with as normal a life as possible for the twins you know.

JM : 'There has been a lot of speculation as well though that the police have treated you and your husband as suspects. How do you handle that kind of very personal speculation?

KMC : 'I mean, I think you just gotta think to yourself...(1) I mean, you need the investigation to be thorough and, errm, you know, we'd welcome that really, errm, (short pause) you know... you know, we've got a very good working relationship with the Portuguese police and, errr, we've come a long way since the beginning of the investigation.
(Inhales audibly) And I mean, the police were very open at the beginning saying everybody is a suspect and I think that's often the case in, in many crimes as well.

JM : And yet of course, now it seems that the detailed forensic examination is only beginning to happen now and you know things like details of blood in the apartment are just coming to light now and are all over the British press at the moment. (Loudly inhales) Why do you suppose that sort of forensic examination is coming so late 3 months after Madeleine disappeared?

KMC : (Inhales loudly and for a few seconds) I'm sorry Jenny, I can't, I can't really talk too much about the investigation. Erm obviously with judicial secrecy and we are witnesses to a crime so.. I don't want to do anything that might jeopardise the investigation and so jeopardise Madeleine so er it would probably be best if we can veer away a little bit from the investigation.

JM : How do you deal though with the discovery of new forensic details; stories of, you know, children being spotted in various different parts of Europe; people taking DNA evidence from glasses in case it was Madeleine. How are you dealing with that on a day-to-day basis?

KMC : (Longish pause) If I'm honest, we don't read the papers very often (small kind of suppressed laugh) erm.. and that's largely because at the beginning erm anything we did read or anything we watched on the television, there's so much speculation (inhales audibly) and speculation is upsetting and it doesn't help us. You know so we try and veer away really. (Inhales audibly) Erm, the good thing that I'd say about the sightings, I mean we don't hear about them all Jenny, but the good thing is it just, it says to us that people are still looking and that's really important, so we'd encourage that.

JM : What do you remember Kate of the last day that you spent together as a family?

KMC : (Longish pause and than a large intake of breath and tongue clicking noise) I mean we'd had a brilliant holiday, we'd had a really good time. The kids had had a fantastic time, Madeleine herself had had a ball. (Inhales audibly) Erm (exasperated sigh) again I can't go into specifics about the actual day but erm you know Madeleine was very happy, we hadn't done anything out of the norm of that week. Erm.. you know, she was just very happy really. You know my last memory of her is of her being very happy.

JM : We've read that she told you what a wonderful time she'd had that day (Kate says "Yeh" in background). How important is it for you to hold onto?

KMC : Well that's, that's really important. I mean, I mean it was obvious to me that she'd had a really good week anyway. Erm.. t just so happened that on the Thursday she said that it was the best (emphasises on the word 'best') day of the week she'd had. Erm and you know she was quite tired but she was happy and tired. And er.. that's how I remember Madeleine.

JM : 'Was she sleeping when you left her?'

KMC : (Long pause and huge intake of breath) 'Errm, yes, she was, yeah'. (2)

JM : Lots of people will have asked you this question; you will have gone over this question in your mind over and over again, but why did (emphasise on the 'why' and 'did') you think that night that three such young children would be safe, alone in the apartment, whilst you went out?

KMC : (Audible intake of breath) I mean, it's a good question Jenny and it's not like I don't keep going over that in my head, but I think the fact that I went for dinner ..erm and obviously we were checking on them very regularly erm (inhales audibly) says to me I obviously felt it was incredibly safe. If I'd have had to think for one second (emphasizes on the word "second") whether that was okay, it wouldn't have happened. Erm now why did I feel it was that safe, I can only assume, I mean I don't know if you've been out to Praia da Luz, it's a very happy erm.. calm.. erm.. place, and it actually feels incredibly safe. I mean I've never been to Portugal before but a lot of my friends and family have and they go because it's a family-friendly place (inhales audibly) and I can only assume that, possibly I was lulled into a false sense of security, I don't know, but (does a kind of tongue clucking noise, then inhales audibly) you know everybody knows, we.. we were dining very closely to where they were, we were checking them very regularly, and (voice raise here like it takes on a more positivity tone to it) the reason that we were (then tone returns to as before) checking them regularly Jenny was just in case (emphasise on the words 'just incase' very fervently) somebody woke up, which they don't usually do, I mean I never thought for one minute and who would you know, think for one minute that something as awful as this would happen.

JM : How did you discover that she wasn't there?

KMC : (Longish pause then tongue clicking noise) Again, I can't go (suppressed sounding laugh) into too many details, but obviously when I went back to check on them, erm.. she wasn't there. (Kate goes on to say "And I knew" but Jenny has started her next question)
JM : What was your first thought, what did you think immediately had happened?' (Upon discovering that Madeleine wasn't there)

KMC : (Pause, then the tongue clicking sound) Well, obviously I kind of looked and double looked and, errm, you know, obviously, there was twenty seconds of, you know, she must be there (suppressed sort of laugh). Errm, but there was no doubt in my mind within (suppressed sort of laugh) probably thirty seconds, errm, that Madeleine had been taken from that room. I can't go into the reasons why I thought that but it was... no doubt whatsoever. And Madeleine wouldn't have walked out herself. I know that (the words 'I know that' spoken with an air of complete cocksuredness about them). (3)

JM : We've read repeatedly that you are someone who really does hate being in the public eye you're a very private sort of person why then did you and your husband launch (emphasise put here on the word 'launch') such a high profile publicity campaign after Madeleine disappeared?

KMC : I mean.. what, what, what you said about me, Jenny, is absolutely true. I mean I don't like you know when you say "public eye" I mean I don't particularly like having my photograph taken; I don't like doing interviews; I don't like doing presentations but (inhales audibly) it's not about me do you know what I mean it's not about me, it's not about Gerry, it's about Madeleine and we will d (inhales audibly)o absolutely anything and everything which we think might help find Madeleine help find Madeleine (inhales audibly) and, you know, we don't know if we've done the right thing we've just done what we felt was the right thing to do and that was to publicise Madeleine's disappearance and try and get as many people looking as possible. And if that means I have to put myself in the public eye then I have to get over that and do it.

JM : But how much do you worry, as some people have suggested that it may be counter-productive, that it could motivate her abductors to hide her away?

KMC : (Longish pause, sigh) I mean we always knew, ermm, there was a slight risk of that, and to be honest Jenny, I mean, everything we've done since Madeleine was taken has a slight risk, and I mean, that's, that's a horrible situation to be in, to be having to take risks and to think that something you, you do could possibly jeopardise her, but, you know we had to make a decision and.. (intake of breath).. we couldn't sit and do nothing and we honestly felt that it's the best thing to do. And what, what, what we have heard recently from NICMEC, the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, in Washington, was they totally backed what we've done, they've said 100% you have done the right thing. An.. and their experienced. (pause and tongue clicking).. .

JM : Why do you .... (Kate continues with the last answer but what she says is inaudible and Jenny carries on asking her question anyway) .. do they think it, why do they think it's the right thing?

KMC : Ermm, well, just, just, for an example, I mean obviously NICMEC see, ermm, you know, the good stories as well as the bad, and, you know, they're involved in children that are actually retrieved, and one in six of those children that are retrieved is because somebody's recognised the poster of that child. (deep intake of breath) You know NICMEC have been, you know, been going for twenty four years now, and there's a huge number of err, abductions, it's very sad there's a huge number of abductions in, in America, so they have got a great deal of experience.

JM : Why did you choose to stay in Portugal?

KMC : (Long Pause and then an intake of breath) For me, err, And I know there may be possibly no logic attached to it (half a laugh or a smiling hmmph here) I just feel a bit closer to Madeleine here, ermm, and obviously we're closer to the investigation here. (intake of breath) Ermmm, I know some of that might sound a little bit (short intake of breath) bizarre, I don't know, but ermm, you know, because we, we don't know where Madeleine is? She could be anywhere, ermm, and there's no reason to say that she's closer to me here in Portugal than if I was in the UK. Ermm, I mean, I'm also aware that there's things that practically, err, might be easier err, at home, but, if, er er.. it's just a gut feeling really, and at the moment this is the right thing for us to do. I don't know how we'll feel (long pause)..

JM : you.. (Kate continues her previous reply)

KMC : a month's time or you know later.

JM : What about the twins though? I wondered how worried you might be that your focus is so much on Madeleine and perhaps not quite enough on the younger children.

KMC : (Long pause and then a clicking sound) I mean, Sean and Amelie you know, but we're very aware of their needs and you know the first four or five days, you know, it was, it was very difficult to us, to erm, to function, ermm, (intake of breath) and obviously we were very reliant on family, family then, to, to, to help us with the twins as well. Err, I mean, the huge emotional and physical impact, that sort of acute grief reaction had, is, you know, indescribable really. (Intake of breath) Ermm, but now we.. we spend a HUGE amount of time with the twins, I mean, they, you know, they certainly wouldn't get to spend this amount of time with Gerry if we were at home and he was working. (intake of breath) Ermm, you know, they, they go to the kids' club in the morning for a couple of hours, which is a little bit like the nursery at home and they get to do lots of creative things as well as sort of swimming and things like that. (intake of breath) We tend to spend the whole afternoon with them and the evening until they go to bed. So any work or meetings that we have, get done in the morning or late in the evening. Ermm, but they.. they're very, very happy, they've always been surrounded by a loving, protective family and friends if we're not there. And we've taken professional advice as well, just to check that everything we're doing for them is, is thought to be correct.

JM : How have you explained to them what might have happened to Madeleine?

KMC : (Clicking noise and large intake of breath) We haven't had to to be honest, I mean, they.. they've only just turned two and a half, ermm, ermm, you know, and they.. they don't have any concept of time. I mean they're very aware that Madeleine isn't there. Ermmm, and they, they, they have commented that they miss her, errmm, and obviously the... there's photographs of Madeleine, you know, around the accommodation. We talk about Madeleine a lot, err, they refer to Madeleine's things, you know, sort of Madeleine's bag, Madeleine's Cuddle Cat, and they include her in their play. You know, they'll say a biscuit for Sean, a biscuit for Amelie, a biscuit for Madeleine. Ermm, but we haven't at this stage had to go into any details and, to be fair Jenny, we haven't actually got (short pause) a story we can tell them at the moment, because we don't know what's happened to Madeleine. All that I've said to them is that we're, you know, we.. we're looking very hard for Madeleine, but even things like that, that, you know, it's a split second thing and then they're off playing with Noddy or you know, whoever. You know, they don't, they don't dwell on it, they're actually very happy and don't appear distressed at all.

JM : How hard is it for you though when they seemed to be reacting as if Madeleine in any way is still there?

KMC : (Pause, clicking noise, intake of breath) I mean sometimes it does catch me, obviously, ermm, you know, if it's sort of unexpected and they suddenly start talking about her, ermm, ermm, but I, but I'm pleased they're talking about her, I don't want them to forget Madeleine I want them to, you know, for Madeleine to remain very much in their memory, so ermm, (clicking noise) yeah, occasionally it catches me, but it's good that they're talking about her I think.

JM : It seemed to those of us looking on, as if it it's been an incredibly hectic time for you when some people might think you.. you know.. I might have just wanted to retreat home. You've been travelling the world, how helpful is the activity?

KMC : (long pause then intake of breath) I mean I think it does help. I mean there's, you know, we discovered from the minute that we realised that Madeleine had gone, how awful, helplessness feels. Ermm so we've basically just tried to stay focused and positive and think of, and take advice, but think of anything that we feel MIGHT benefit (big emphasise on the words 'might' especially and also 'benefit') ermm, you know, of, of us finding Madeleine really. Errmm and obviously by keeping active by publicising her disappearance ermm we've felt we've done that, certainly for Gerry ermm.. he's been, he's coped much better when he's been doing something, when he's been focused.

JM : And what effect has it had on your relationship with your husband? I mean especially if he's the one especially whose benefiting from going, rushing around the World and you're at home with the children?

KMC : Yeah, I mean, to be honest I haven't been on many trips Jenny when we've been separated. I mean I know he went to Washington, but that was only a few days, and obviously at home Gerry has to go to conferences and stuff, so there isn't, there's nothing out the normal here from that point of view. Err we're lucky that we've got a very strong relationship, we've always had a strong relationship, and ermm I mean communication's always been important for us and we're well aware that it's vital at the moment. Ermm you know, we've got strengths and weaknesses you know, we reach different points at different times I guess, but we're managing to keep together and pull each other through when we need to.

JM :And how do those strengths and weaknesses balance themselves out? I mean, what, what strengths and weaknesses does Gerry have and what strengths and weaknesses do you have?

KMC : (A very long pause, clicking noise and intake of breath) Ermm, I mean, you know, as I've mentioned before, sort of Gerry's strengths, he's used to speaking in public, ermm and he handles that very well, ermm. (heavy sigh) Mine? I don't really like talking about my strengths too much (bit of a laugh) but, ermm you know, I mean I'm happy kind of doing you know, some.. some of the ... kind of perhaps the domestic stuff, as well, you know, the cooking. Ermm I mean the important thing really is whatever we've done we tend to.. to pair up as a team. Ermm you know when Gerry went to Washington we felt it was better that one person went rather than both of us. Ermm but it was vital for us to kind of ..(intake of breath).. keep in, ermm, contact regularly throughout that time. So often, we were on the phone three or four times a day just so I could be aware of, you know, who Gerry was meeting, what was getting discussed, or if there was anything that between us we needed to decide we could (intake of breath) And I think we're a very good and equal partnership really.

JM : How do you get through the time between the frantic activity, the quiet times and the nights?

KMC :Yeah, ermm, they often are as I say, very much with, with err.. with Sean and Amelie. So, (heavy sigh) you know, we're usually playing with them, sort of role play or reading stories or you know we're go for a walk, or they'll go for a swim or something, so, I mean that's, you know, very much as normal as we're going to get at the moment. Ermm evenings usually you.., you know, they're going to bed a little bit... the twins are going to bed a little bit later than would be normal at home. Ermm, (clicking noise and intake of breath) so, often we just kind of, ermm we have the usual night-time stories and then as I say once.. once they've gone to bed, we'll usually get on and do a little bit more work really.

JM : Do you sleep at night?

(There's a bit of overlap here Kate is still answering the last question when Jenny poses this question.)

KMC : We tend to, we tend to have.. Yeah (this seems to be an acknowledgement that she heard the next question) .. dinner together, certainly still lunchtimes and evening meals are spent together as a family. And I describe those as very normal. (intake of breath) Ermm sleeping through the night? Yes, I do actually. I mean, the first four or five days was ermm. (clicking noise) I didn't sleep really, ermm as I mentioned earlier it was very hard to.. to function at all. Ermm but now I'm fine actually, I don't.. I'm usually quite tired to be honest by the time we get to bed. But I haven't had any problems sleeping.

JM : How much hope do you still have that you will find Madeleine alive?

KMC :(Long pause, tongue clicking, intake of breath) I do still have hope Jenny, in fact I probably have more hope now than I did right at the beginning. Ermm it's also very important to hang on to that hope really. I mean it's so important to stay focused and positive and (sigh) you know, we haven't had any news to the contrary that Madeleine isn't alive, you know, and that.. and that's very important (intake of breath) and there have been many cases of children that have been found, ermm much later than this, so again that's reassuring. So the hope's still there.

JM :And at what point do you think you and Gerry will have to accept that it's time to come home and pick up the pieces?

KMC : (intake of breath) Again I don't know, I mean that's very much a day by day, week by week thing really. And I can only (intake of breath) think that when the time is right, I'll know. Certainly, at the moment it feels right to be here. But, as I say, things might change and suddenly it'll be right to be at home. It's very, very.. a very difficult one to predict really.

JM : 'And how will you deal with the guilt that will probably stay with you forever of having left Madeleine alone?'

KMC : (Very long pause, tongue clicking, intake of breath) I have actually come to terms a little bit with... with that, Jenny, I mean, you know (intake of breath) .. I know the, errm, I know the situation that we were in that night and uh, I've said all along, I didn't feel I was taking a risk. Errm, yeah, I... I do feel desperately sorry I wasn't with Madeleine at that minute when she was taken. Errm, I'd also like to mention I've had so much support from so many people. I've had so many letters and comments sent me.. sent to me from other families, and particularly other mums saying, you know, we have done what you have done a hundred times over, do not blame yourself. Ermm (clicking noise) and certainly, when I'm in my car and have rational moments Jenny, I know how much I love my children, and I'm I know how responsible I am, and that's what I have to hang on hang on to really. (4)

JM : And what.. when you look at the sort of work that Gerry's done, particularly in America, and there's sort of people you've been in contact with who have real expertise in these matters, what sort of lessons can be learned from what's happened to you?

KMC : (Very long pause, tongue clicking, intake of breath, then a very loud sharp exasperated sigh) I mean, I think it, it's important that the general public are informed really, as the scale of the problem you know. I'd like to think I'm a fairly well-read person and, ermm I was horrified really of, you know, the things that I've learnt about since this happened. Ermm, ....

JM : (Interrupts Kate's answering) What sort of things are you horrified by?

KMC : The scale of the problem, err. the number of children that are abducted, ermm you know the for example, just I mean I think the problem that we have a little bit in Europe is there's just the statistics aren't all there basically. Ermm but I, I had some statistics passed on to me from PACT, which is err Parents and Abducted Children Together, and in England and Wales alone, and that's just England and Wales, ermm sort of the 2002/2003 year, there were a thousand, ermm attempted stranger abductions (clicking noise). Now, a hundred of those just under 10% of those, ermm, were (does a kind of tongue clicking noise) actual abductions. I don't like to use the word successful even though I think that's probably the word that's used, but a hundred children were taken by strangers. (pause gathers herself then carries on in a matter of fact manner/way to fishish the sentence) And as I say, a thousand were attempted. I mean, I, I think that's huge just for England and Wales. And we don't know what the scale of the problem is in Europe. Ermm.I think it's really important that people, parents, know these kind of things and just to take extra care. I mean, hopefully, what you know.. we'll be able to do things that might change some of these things. That might improve things, make the world a little bit safer for children, but in the meantime I think parents should be aware really and just take extra care.

JM : And what sort of lessons do you think authorities need to learn from the way, what happened to you was handled?

KMC : (Long pause, clicking noise, intake of breath) Ermm I think they need to be (exasperated sharp sigh) err, have systems in place across Europe, really, for a, a quick response to a child that's gone missing, and particularly a child that's been abducted. Ermm and it probably needs to be a Europe-wide response. Ermm there's other things as well. I think all Countries in Europe should have a Sex Offenders Register, and probably, ermm CRB checks should be in place throughout Europe. I mean a lot of what I've learned to make compari... comparisons with are obviously, err the information that's come from the States. And, err they do seem to be a little bit ahead, quite a bit ahead rather, ermm with reacting to situations like this.

JM : What's next for you now, Kate? Er I mean, I know you don't want to go into any details of how the current investigation is all forensic discoveries, but immediately now, where do you go from here?

KMC : (Long pause, clicking noise, intake of breath) Well you know, I just hope Jenny.... you know, every day I'm hoping that we don't get to the next one. And, I mean it's true when I say we really just try and deal with it one day, ermm and then the next ermm and take it as it comes really. I mean, you know, I don't feel I can go through anything worse than this in my life, you know, so, I feel I can probably handle most things now.

JM : Whenever we see you in a picture, you're you're carrying Madeleine's toy with you. How important is that that you keep that close?

KMC : You know Cuddle Cat. Cuddle Cat's with me now actually (low laugh) at the moment. I mean, Cud.. Cuddle Cat was.. is very special to Madeleine, and, ermm she took it to bed every night and she tended to have it if she was feeling tired or if she was feeling unwell. And because it was special to Madeleine, it's special to me. And, ermm you know, it does provide me with a little bit of comfort.

JM : I was talking to Kate McCann.


Notes by Nigel Moore

(1) As is common in Kate's answers, she often uses the word 'you' when she has been asked for her own opinions. This would suggest she is placing herself outside the event. And yet again, when she feels vulnerable, she resorts to frequent use of the word 'we' to remind us that she is part of a 'united' team.
By placing emphasis on the fact that 'we've come a long way since the beginning of the investigation' it could appear that the most important aspect of the case, for Kate, is the investigation, not the recovery of her daughter.

(2) Why should Kate need a significant pause to be able to answer that question? The immediate impression from both the pause, her answer and the way she says it, is that she momentarily didn't know what to say. But how could that be?

(3) Kate gives an extraordinarily convoluted and inarticulate answer to a very simple question.

(4) There are three peculiar aspects to Kate's answer:
What does Kate mean by the phrase 'I know the situation we were in that night'?
Why does Kate say she is desperately sorry she wasn't with Madeleine 'at that minute when she was taken'? She specifically emphasises 'at that minute' when she speaks.
Why does she seek to justify her decision to leave her three small children alone, every night of the holiday, by suggesting that other families had done this a 'hundred times over'? This is surely a ludi
crous exaggeration. How many families have 'hundreds' of holidays with their children?


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