Column: Time to end funding search for Madeleine McCann

How one of our sister papers, the Newsletter, covered the tenth anniversary of Madeleine's disappearance
How one of our sister papers, the Newsletter, covered the tenth anniversary of Madeleine's disappearance

If your child went missing, you’d never stop searching or hoping.

But at what stage do the authorities decide they have done all they can?

And when do the parents accept, albeit with the heaviest of hearts, that, officially, the end of the line has been reached.

It is 11 years since Madeleine McCann went missing and, this week, the Government sanctioned another £150,000 of public money to allow police to continue their investigation.

That will take them through until the autumn, at which point, public funding has to cease.

The McCann case has been the most debated missing person in modern history.

Googling the toddler’s name is akin to wading through a cesspit of vile, witless and deeply personal abuse, not to mention drowning in a sea of half-baked theories about what really happened in Portugal in 2007.

I never quite understood the irrational loathing so many people showed from day one towards a couple who’d just lost their daughter.

It revealed a horribly dark, nasty side to society.

Madeleine’s disappearance was second only to the death of Diana in terms or lurid speculation and nutjob theories, and both were fuelled, and exploited, by the hideous conduct of some sections of the media.

The McCanns also used that same media to the max to give their daughter’s disappearance the highest possible profile – remember the celebrity appeals, the wristbands, the messages beamed across all the major football stadiums?

Madeleine’s Fund was set up 12 days after she vanished, generating significant sums of money to support their campaign.

There have been books and newspaper serialisations. prominent spokesmen and private investigators, a handful of court cases resulting in huge damages being awarded to the McCanns, a report into the original investigation, and then Operation Grange which saw Scotland Yard assign 29 detectives to a new review of the case.

That inquiry has now cost £11m – a staggering sum of public money.

And still it goes on with this week’s announcement adding another six-figure sum to the overall bill.

It has to end. There can be no open-ended blank cheque for an investigation that was scaling back its resources in 2016 – just as Fife airman, Corrie Mckeague, also went missing. His case has already been passed to the cold cases unit.

The McCann inquiry has generated 40,000 documents, collected 100 exhibits, and investigated 650 sex offenders and 60 persons of interest. Realistically, what more can be done so long after her disappearance?

A little girl remains missing, and that is truly heartbreaking, but the Madeleine Fund now has to take on its running, and funding.

The parents’ emotional call to do more, to keep going, is entirely understandable, but there has to be a politician at the very highest level who can turn to them and say, with the utmost compassion and honesty “sorry, we can do no more.”