The suicide of Brenda Leyland – after a media monstering – took me back to 2007 when I used to comment fairly relentlessly about the McCann media coverage on the website Anorak.
I wasn’t interested in the true crime aspect – but I did chat to commenters who were… They were nicer than me – even the ones who thought the McCanns were murderers. They had the ability to empathise with the missing child at the heart of the story whereas I could never get past the ludicrous press coverage. I was the first one to label us pro and anti McCann while trying to explain why we were slagging each other off so viciously to a confused newbie.
I was very fond of whoever we all were – even the trolls, flamers and sock-puppets. We were essentially Live Tweeting Martin Brunt and Kay Burley on Sky – the first time I was aware of rolling news. We had no narrative consistency and no spin… if Martin looked tired, we said he looked tired, if Gerry was playing tennis we wondered why he was playing tennis…
I was intent on deconstructing the press, others were intent on solving the disappearance, some were caught up in the soap opera, some felt their opinions weren’t being reflected in the newspapers, some were already steeped in establishment conspiracy theories and after the McCanns hired Labour Party media monitor Clarence Mitchell they were added to a list that even in 2007 included Jimmy Savile and Elm Guest House (I thought the theories were entertainingly loopy – but it seems half of them were grimly true).
The McCanns were famous on an unprecedented scale for a crime story. Their life stories were serialised in The Mirror. They went on lecture tours. They met the Pope. A lot of us tried to pin down the hook. Was it class? Was it Kate’s beauty? Was it religion?
It was probably just the mystery. Not just the mystery of Madeleine. But the mystery of Kate and Gerry – as people they’re hard to read. Even harder when they come packaged by a P.R. machine.
When the first wave of intense publicity started to wane (after about a year) I had nothing left to say… I forlornly moved on to digital spy… but the true crime fans and the hardcore pro and anti factions moved on to private forums, YouTube and finally twitter – arguing about the case and everyone involved in intricate detail… It’s not sad, lonely, sick or twisted. It’s sociable, crusading and less damaging than a red top screamer.*
But it’s also libelous and contested… It appears that some pros (who may be paid) gave a dossier about the antis (who have many threatening and insulting tweets aimed at them) to the police and Sky News… and this led to Martin Brunt door-stepping Brenda… which led to her suicide… Because she’s nicer than me… She wouldn’t think he was merely chasing ratings and filling time with hypocritical hyperbole… She’d feel humiliated, cornered and in danger.
*The tabloids are still claiming she sent 4,220 hate tweets to the McCanns in one year… She tweeted on the subject 4,220 times… Behold the taste and sensitivity here :
Institutionalized oddity :