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Tonight’s “Crimewatch” programme will feature an appeal for information from the parents of missing todddler Madeleine McCann - who’ve been criticised in some quarters for being “grief celebrities”. Their detractors are missing the point, says Ros Dodd

Sandwiched, somewhat tactfully, between the daily news headlines about Kate and Gerry McCann’s desperate search for their abducted daughter, Madeleine, are column inches suggesting that the couple are becoming, effectively, “grief celebrities”.

Stirrer columnist Laurence Inman has lamented our “sick” society for tearing its collective hair out over the disappearance of the four-year-old from her holiday apartment in Portugal more than a month ago. (see his article here)

Other commentators have compared the media hype over Madeleine to that of Princess Diana’s death a decade ago.

Whilst I am the first to be withering over collective grief, which I see, as Laurence does, as being a kind of madness, I think the case of Madeleine deserves to be seen in a different light.

When Diana died, there was no possibility, regardless of the hysteria of mourning, of her being brought back to life. With Madeleine it is different. It is very possible that she is alive still and that is what is driving her parents to embark this week on a Europe-wide publicity initiative.

They are doing so with the altruistic backing of the likes of Sir Phillip Green, who has loaned them the use of his private jet, but the luxurious accommodation being afforded to them is immaterial.

The only thought in their mind is to find out what happened to their beloved daughter and if a tycoon offers to help, why shouldn’t they accept that help? It doesn’t make them “grief celebrities”; it makes them two frantic, terrified parents who are willing to accept whatever benevolent aid is on offer to make their heart-breaking search logistically and financially easier.

As for the charge that they are manipulating common sensibility, why on Earth wouldn’t they?

Anyone who is a parent knows that the very worst thing is for their child to go missing in a nightmare scenario such as this: if the public are drawn to the affair, let’s applaud rather than criticise it. It little matters how genuine is the wearing of ribbons and the like, the important thing is to keep Madeleine’s apparent kidnapping in the public arena.

If the public forget about her, how much harder will it be to bring her back into the bosom of her family?

So let’s here no more about sick-making collective grief and celebrity-style arrangements for the McCanns: they are doing only what they believe is necessary to get their little daughter back. We wish them God’s speed.

Agree with Ros? Or Laurence? Join the Good Grief thread in the News section of our Message Board.

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