Scanning through the newspaper headlines this morning, I felt a slightly unexpected twinge of compassion for the McCanns. It was unexpected because I've been quite detached from the whole thing and, if anything, mildly irritated by the media campaign that has seen this family pushed into my face in places as ridiculous as the gents toilets at a motorway service station, as if Madeleine McCann was the most important child in the world and that no other tragedy was worthy of my attention, my sympathy or my money. I do not have a heart of stone and I do have sympathy for a family who have lost their daughter. I don't have children of my own, it's true, but I am (I believe) a human being. There are other, bigger, tragedies in the world. Wars, natural disasters, disease .... but these do not make the disappearance this one child, in its own way, any less of a tragedy.
You could argue that her parents have so actively courted the media to help in the search for their daughter that they can hardly complain now that the spotlight has been turned back on them... but we should not forget that they are innocent until they are proven guilty. They have been named as suspects, but they have not been charged.
But what if they didn't have anything to do with it?
How would you feel to read all that speculation about Madeleine's hair being found in the boot of the car you hired 25 days after her disappearance? Of "the scent of death" being detected on your Bible by specially trained sniffer dogs? Of your missing child's blood apparently being found in your appartment? Of all that innuendo and suspicion as people begin to face up to the possibility that they have somehow been conned, that their sympathy has been extracted from them under false pretenses.
Gerry McCann called it "unbearable", and however much of this is of his own making, I'm inclined to agree with him.
This is not going to have a happy ending.