IN THE first days after Madeleine McCann vanished, well-wishers from across the country descended on Rothley carrying cuddly toys, written prayers and yellow ribbons to express their sympathy for the McCanns.
But visible signs of support have ebbed away in the family’s home village. A single candle flickered below a yellow bouquet where there had previously been a makeshift shrine. Only a few messages were left behind.
“Everyone has an opinion on the case, and now it has become acceptable to voice criticism of the McCanns,” said Mark Borkowski, a media commentator. “The parents are now facing a middle-class trial by dinner party. The clear indication I am getting from newspaper executives is that coverage will shift towards the centre ground – not necessarily going after the McCanns, but certainly keep a distance that hasn’t been maintained up until now. There has been a clear flow of public opinion away from the McCanns.”
He added that interest in the case had been “phenomenal”, driven by the McCanns’ early appeal for coverage in helping to raise awareness of missing Madeleine. “The problem is that the media ‘owns’ the case – that is, that because the media have been with the family every step of the way, giving coverage to all the press conferences and keeping the picture of Madeleine in the public eye, they have the right to withdraw support when they see fit.
“To a certain extent this is also true of the general public. If this was about someone from a council estate then no-one, least of all the media, would be interested but it is about a middle-class couple and their photogenic daughter. Everyone has an opinion and everyone feels the right to say their piece because so much of the case has been conducted in the public domain.”
He added: “It doesn’t help that most people have seen television programmes such as CSI and Cracker and have become armchair forensic experts.”