Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

A very public agony

Is it wrong of me to ask what purpose is served by the parents of a missing child publicly appealing for her return?

Has anyone ever, in the history of press conferences, returned a kidnapping victim purely as a result of a mother's plea? Somehow I doubt it; a kidnapper or accomplice willfully concealing a missing person is unlikely to be swayed at this point.

I know there are other factors - the police have to keep all their options open and, in a world that can produce a Karen Matthews, even the most innocent of parents cannot escape close scrutiny in this carefully  staged situation.

And I suppose there is always an outside chance that it might work - like the life jackets and rafts carried on overland commercial flights.

But is that really sufficient justification for repeatedly broadcasting footage of a woman who has reached the point at which mental and physical pain become indistinguishable?


10 comments:

  1. As I understand it , these are more for the Police than anything else , they have psychologists watching every move to see if a member of the family is acting a bit 'off'

    Random abductions by a complete stranger are incredibly rare, no matter what the 'Paedo Behind Every Bush' crowd say so they tend to look closer to home.

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  2. PC, depressing to contemplate, but I'm sure you're right - it need not be the parents alone under suspicion (in the broadest sense) at the press conference.

    It leaves a nasty taste in the mouth, though; all those fake tears shed by family members responsible for a disappearance in the past, combined with a plethora of TV detective fiction, act as an invitation to the man on the street - or the sofa - to amuse himself by playing amateur forensic psychologist with real live human beings.

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  3. Has anyone ever, in the history of press conferences, returned a kidnapping victim purely as a result of a mother's public plea?

    When one applies logic to an emotive issue, MH, one gets into trouble. ;-)

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  4. As Pavlov's Cat says, in previous cases where the relatives have been put up for this sort of broadcast, the opinion in the Scrobs household has been, on occasions, "Reckon the parents are involved".

    Last evening, somehow, that did not enter the discussion.

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  5. The police response to this has been rather bizarre all the way through.

    Now, the revelation the missing child has cerebral palsy? WTF?!?

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  6. True, JH, though we have not yet, at least, arrived at the point where to do so is to invite mob retribution.

    Scrobs/Julia,the Matthews case effectively endorsed speculation based on superficial judgments - I find myself once more, as in the recent case of Tia Sharp, wondering why the newspapers allow publication of online comments that might affect any future trial.

    Without wanting to get drawn into speculation, I wonder whether the cerebral palsy was not initially disclosed until media comments were closed in case anyone publicly suggested it was linked with the disappearance, effectively accusing the parents.

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  7. "The police response to this has been rather bizarre all the way through."

    It looks like that, because we don't know what the police know.

    Let us hope they are more professional than they sometimes appear.

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  8. WY, it's a good reminder of that quote from Sherlock Holmes:

    'It is a capital mistake to theorize before you have all the evidence. It biases the judgment.'

    BTW, I've set your comments on earlier posts free from captivity - welcome, and thank you.

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  9. "It looks like that, because we don't know what the police know."

    Well, indeed! What they don't seem to know (though they seem sure enough he's their man to admit it's a murder investigation) is the location of the body.

    Which suggests to me they don't have a confession, even a partial one.

    It just gets odder.

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  10. JuliaM, I wonder how much the rise of instant mass media has affected the way the police disclose information.

    Meanwhile, for those whose unspoken thoughts have turned to methods - gentle or otherwise - of extracting the truth from a suspect, there's an interesting 1993 assessment of the use of truth drugs in a released CIA document that may go some way towards explaining why they went down the route of waterboarding.

    https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/kent-csi/vol5no2/html/v05i2a09p_0001.htm

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