Over the years I have sat and watched time and time again distraught parents on our screens in the wake of a child or a loved one having gone missing.
Last night was no exception, heartbroken Coral Jones cried uncontrollably on television urging people to help find her five year old daughter April.
I have to say I felt very uncomfortable.
I felt I was invading the deepest recesses of a mother’s private grief. Who advised Coral to do what she did? One suspects the police made this call.
Clearly nothing is being done by the police investigating the disappearance of April to dissuade the media from publishing the name or photograph of the man being questioned by them.
This may well prove ultimately to be very prejudicial if the police have not got their man. There is precedent for this outcome which eventually cost the authorities a lot of money.
I recall when Madeleine McCann went missing in Portugal former Northern Ireland Chief Constable Hugh Orde observing, “if the child hasn’t turned up in the first twenty four hours we are normally dealing with a death.”
This informed comment would be known to most seasoned detectives. In putting Coral Jones forward before the cameras to make an appeal is there a suggestion that the police know they have not got the guilty party in custody?
If they know they have arrested the culpable party to the crime do they know the child is being held at an unknown location and is still alive but needs to make a connection with another party as of yet unknown to them?
These are all imponderables but all lead to the one unknown quantity – what is to be gained by having poor parents appear on television who lose the complete run of themselves and end up exposing their deepest and most profoundly wounded emotions?
I am a parent. How do I know what I would do were I in Coral Jones’s shoes?
Should experience and statistics show that public appeals on television by parents about missing children pay, I will willingly acknowledge this and step away from my thesis.