I remember the end of April 2007, my marriage was in its death throes. Life was pretty stressful, and it seemed my world was an amalgam of uncertainty and trepidation.
Then, at the beginning of May, something happened which completely took my mind off my own troubles, and made me realise that being a parent is a true blessing, and something we should never take for granted.
A little girl, the same age as my eldest daughter, disappeared whilst on holiday with her parents and siblings in Portugal. That little girl touched my heart, and following her story has, in many ways, changed my view of the world.
We all know her name, everybody on the planet knows Madeleine's name. The media furore which surrounded her disappearance was unprecedented, and will go down in history as the catalyst which sparked massive debate about the media, the power of the internet, and freedom of speech itself.
The intricate ins and outs of this case are widely available to those who wish to dig a little deeper than what's reported in the mainstream press. Following the case has certainly been an eye opener for me, in terms of discovering the shocking reality about how much the public can be manipulated by the press. Thank goodness information can be disseminated globally via Google and internet fora. For anybody who is interested, it doesn't take long to compare and contrast what's reported in the main stream press, to what's actually (and factually) documented in the witness satements contained in the Police Files, which were released to the media when the case was (prematurely) shelved back in 2008. More interesting to discover, is what's not been reported in the mainstream press.
My heart breaks for a little girl who was let down by those closest to her, and then again let down by the prodigious 'machine' which was created in her image. The person who needed help most has been forgotten amidst the PR, litigation and mud slinging from both sides of the fence.
Many books have been written about Madeleine's case, books which look at both sides of the story. But, one of these books 'The Truth of the Lie', written by the former Investigation Coordinator, Goncalo Amaral, has been temporarily banned from sale (pending a trial) following an injunction brought by Madeleine's parents.
Their argument, is that the conclusions in the book are detrimental to the search for their little girl, because he reproduces the theory that she most probably died in the holiday apartment, and that her death was covered up by her parents.
Now, whether or not these conclusions are correct, is entirely a matter of interpretation. The book details the police investigation as it was experienced by Amaral himself, as well as those in the team of detectives with whom he was working. It doesn't profess to be the gospel. It is a man relaying his own experience of the case, and the conclusions that he and his team arrived at.
Do we not all have the right to document our feelings and experiences as we lived and breathed them?
This is, after all, just one mans summary of the investigation. It's not fabricated or embelished, it sticks closely to the information in the police files. So why has it been banned?
Do we not all have the right to question certain events, and the way in which are presented to us? Are we not allowed to ask questions and demand honest and truthful answers?
How does one book stop people wanting to get to the bottom of what happened to Madeleine? Surely we should consider ALL possibilities, not just the one her parents insist we should believe?
Of course we should!
Today is the Anniversary of the Carnation Revolution in Portugal. It's the anniverary of a day upon which freedom and civil liberties were peacefully restored to an entire nation.
It's a day for celebrating freedom of speech and freedom of expression.
Nobody should be gagged for voicing an opinion. Even if others find their opinions abhorrant, they are still entitled to them.
As for the case itself, I wonder if we'll ever really know what happened. That little girl no longer has a voice, so it's up to others to speak up on her behalf. And it's up to us, the public, to listen to all the arguments, and draw our own informed conclusions.
There are two sides to every argument. I'm glad to be living in a day and age where I have the capacity and the tools which enable me to look behind the media spin, and make up my own mind.