Let me set the scene, we are currently holidaying in Spain. We come to this particular destination on the Costa De La Luz, most school holidays and on a very clear day you can just about make out the Coast of North Africa some 65km away.
We love the people, the easiness with which they go about their everyday business, the way they make us feel so welcome and their genuine friendliness. We are reasonably well known here as we are the only english speaking people in the surrounding area.
Back in July, I started reading Kate McCann’s book “Madeleine”, I am not sure why I chose to download it onto my ipad but I did. I would counter that it is my subliminal conscience working, there are still the dog eared remains of the “Find Maddy Posters” on the walls of the old Gibraltar Airport, the campaign driven by the now defunct News of the World, it’s where we fly into before heading on into Spain.
As a mother I make a point of asking my boys to surreptitiously study the poster and familiarise themselves with her face, our brain has an enormous propensity to remember even the most inane details.
Often my husband and I talk about Maddy’s abduction even more so as I am still only two-thirds of the way through a very moving and detailed account of the night of Maddy’s abduction and all that the McCann’s have had too face over the ensuing four years.
I’m calmer now and those of you who know me KNOW that although I am half italian I am not prone to excessive forms of panic with hands flaying everywhere, nor do I rant and rave when things go wrong either in my personal or business life.
I am a fairly measured and fact based person I’ve learnt through age and experience that you should always get the facts first before making a judgement on a situation or person. This has always stood me in good stead with customers, suppliers, friends and employees alike.
But this morning an episode took place and we experienced first hand both as a mother and father some of what Kate and Gerry must have experienced that night Maddy was taken.
We have two beautiful boys Mickey who is 7 (8 in October)and Ollie who is 12 years old and this morning we watched a scene unfold in front of our eyes which may have possibly changed all of our lives forever, in the same way as it has for the McCann family.
I am sitting in the beach bar, it’s quiet, 11:30am, people are starting to arrive at the beach.
I love this time of day; time to read, watch people or just reflect; my husband Mark is sitting under a beach umbrella a little farther away from the boys from where they were sitting making some business calls. The boys were, as usual winding each other up and messing about.
Mickey my younger son had taken off his watch and left it on my sunbed despite numerous efforts of us reminding him that it is waterproof and he doesn’t need to take it off.
What can I tell you they are only kids!
I settled back into my writing and instinctively became aware that Mickey wasn’t there; you know, that feeling you get in the back of your neck that sets your hair on end; I looked around, he wasn’t sitting next to Ollie where I last saw them both together, it must have been less than a minute.
Mark was still on the phone and was looking out to the sea and although he was literally three metres away from the boys, his white t- shirt and the way he was sitting on the deck chair obscured him from the unwelcome visitor.
What I didn’t see was a strange man unknown to us; walking down the steps to our sun beds; he picked up Mickey’s watch that had been left on my sunbed; I should point out the watch is inexpensive. I can tell you there is no way on god’s earth you would be able to see a watch from the top of the steps or the main walkway.
He boldly walked over to Michael and I later learn’t how he stroked and carressed his cheek in an over familiar and affectionate way, showed Mickey his actual watch, turned and walked back toward the beach steps at the same time encouraging Michael to follow him which of course he did, it was his watch and he wanted it back.
Now you might be wondering what Ollie was doing at this point? He was watching what was going on and his initial instincts were this isn’t right but for a moment he thought it was either a friend of ours or Freddie, our lovely friend and sunbed attendant sounds plausible doesn’t it?
The man apparently smiled gently at Mickey as he coaxed him up the steps, Mickey was half way up before Ollie reacted instinctively and shook Dad from his mobile phone; Mark looked around and hastily walked toward the man with Ollie telling him about the the watch!
At that point Mark squared him in the eyes the man looked at him, smirked, returned the watch, turned around and walked off.
Mark recounted later to the Police that it was the look that chilled him, the one that says you got me, you caught me out!
If he could have spoken better spanish he probably should/would have followed him and questioned him as to what the hell he thought he was doing. Hindsight is a wonderful thing!
Straightaway we alerted the Police of the incident and Mark went to the Police Station to give a detailed description of the man. They were swift to send down a plain clothed Police Officer and tomorrow (Friday) Ollie and Mark will be going to the Police Station again to make a full statement with an interpreter.
Was a crime committed No, did this man cause any harm No.
It was the blatant audaciousness of this man, in his late 50’s to walk up to the boys. It is obvious now he didn’t spot Mark sitting on the sun bed nor did he see the watch. Was it a random incident; an opportune moment to do what?
If he wanted to steal the watch then why not just take it? Why go to Mickey stroke his cheek and then walk off? Is it because the natural instinct of a child when their ball has been taken away is to go after it?
After the incident we were calm and analysed the situation and we kept asking the same questions:
Are you sure we didn’t misjudge the situation? It’s easy to imagine someone behaving strangely in that kind of situation; easy to misinterpret an innocent act?
He was just being friendly surely, he saw 2 young kids on the beach alone, so he thought, spotted the watch; but then why did he walk off with the watch? Why did he seemingly lure Mickey up the steps? Why when stopped by my husband did his look make Mark shudder, instincts or just imagination?
We won’t know the truth behind this man’s actions.
The reason why I am writing about this?
Things often happen for a reason and strangely enough after I eventually finish reading “Madeleine” I was going to post something on twitter about missing and abducted children; too much of it is happening in the world and Mark later told me that the Police Officer said they have some problems with abductions and missing children in Spain, I knew this anyway from Kate and Gerry McCann’s book; it’s not just Spain, it’s Portugal, UK , USA and so on….
Since the boys have been old enough to comprehend not to go off with strangers we have done our best to instil in them the importance of taking care of each other and not to talk to strangers or take things from people whom they don’t know!
That said, a child instinctively goes after their possessions if it look’s like it’s being taken away from them.
We read about missing, abused, abducted children it’s a sad world and I cried later in the sea when I thought what could or might have happened had fate, god or my husband not intervened or if Ollie had just decided to wonder off to the beach toilet as 12 year old’s do. Mark is very vigilant I often accuse him of being too over zealous with security and his family’s welfare, he say’s it stems from his days as a youngster helping his Dad in the shop that made him street wise and savvy.
I am a typical italian Mummy in some respects maybe too over protective; the boys believe I really do have eyes in my butt!
Today could have turned out to be very different and my heart goes out to Gerry and Kate and so many other parents who have missing children; who are living in a permanent night mare!
I’m grateful for reading Kate’s book; because if this was a wake up call to be more vigilant with our children, not just ours, but yours too then it worked.
Please retweet and send this out to all you know as a reminder of all the missing children and to teach all our children the importance of being careful!