This week I received from the UK Home Office a response to a Freedom of Information Request regarding the ongoing cost to the British taxpayer of the search for Madeleine McCann, the child who went missing from Praia da Luz in the Algarve 8 years ago.
The full response is as follows:
Thank you for your letter of 18 September 2015 in which you ask a number of questions about the Metropolitan Police Service’s (MPS) investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann (Operation Grange). I will answer each of your six questions in turn:
1) How much UK taxpayers’ money has been spent on the failed search for Madeleine McCann?
The total cost of Operation Grange, up until end of June 2015, is £10.1m.
2) How many arrests have been made?
The Home Office does not hold this information as, whilst this department funds the investigation, the MPS is an independent organisation and so has operational responsibility for the management of the investigation.
3) What firm leads are being followed up?
As per answer 2.
4) How many police officers are still working on the case, and their ranks?
The MPS has informed me that there are currently 18 Police Officers working on the case comprising one Detective Chief Inspector, two Detective Inspectors, three Detective Sergeants and twelve Detective Constables.
5) Why is so much time and money is being spent on this one, very old, case when a child goes missing in the UK every 3 minutes.
The Government takes very seriously all cases of missing children. Although most of these cases may not be in the public eye, unresolved missing children cases are never closed and they remain the responsibility of individual police forces until the child is found. The circumstances of each case will vary and it is for individual forces to make an operational assessment on how they pursue it.
The Government believes it is right that it does all it can to support the search for Madeleine McCann. That is why the Home Secretary asked the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service to undertake a review of the case in May 2011. The Commissioner considered the request and made a decision to bring the Metropolitan Police’s particular operational expertise to the case.
The Home Office agreed to fund this work from the Special Grant budget, subject to the Home Office and the Metropolitan Police reviewing together the value and cost of the work at each stage. The level of funding provided to the Metropolitan Police will continue to be monitored to ensure expenditure from the Special Grant budget is appropriate and proportionate.
6) When is the investigation likely to be closed?
The MPS will continue to work on the case whilst there are lines of enquiry to follow.
So there you have it – 18 detectives, more than £10 million spent and, if there are any leads or have been any arrests (pigs fly) then they’re not telling us.
I think it is now time to stop focusing all this effort on one old case that Mr Cameron wanted to support. Time to get those detectives on to the crimes that are happening now.
I know that there are varying opinions about the McCanns’ behaviour at the time of the disappearance and subsequently.
I declare that I find much of their conduct after the event to be totally inappropriate – it’s not surprising that a sign next to the main junction in Luz was defaced.
It is difficult to reconcile grieving parents with legal actions against a policeman for €1 million damages, a visit to the Pope, appearance on an American TV chat show…
That’s my opinion, but what do you think? Should we draw the line under this investigation now? Am I just a grumpy old man or do you share my view?