Saturday, September 15, 2007
Suspicion and surreality in Portugal
My arrival at Faro airport was the first surreal moment for me during this trip. It occured to me stepping off the plane and into the awaiting shuttle bus to the terminal building that I was obviously surrounded by holiday makers. Of course, I was heading to a tourist resort, however I was not destined for a sunshine break and the people around me, clutching their Portuguese phrase books, looked on strangely as me and the correspondent I was with immediately starting checking our BlackBerries and mobile phones.
We decided to head straight to the police station in Portimao where Gerry McCann was being questioned by the police over the disappearance of his daughter Madeleine. His wife Kate had spent 11 exhausting hours at the police station the night before and another 4-5 hours that day before appearing to face the press and public as an arguido, or formal suspect.
As soon as I arrived at the police station, I was astonished at the masses of onlookers and press surrounding the door. It was virtually impossible to find my way to the front where our reporter, cameraman and producer were set up.
Within an hour of our arrival there Gerry McCann appeared from the police station door. He was accompanied by the family's laywer and their spokesman. The sight of McCann was another quite surreal moment. I had seen this man almost every day for almost four months, appearing on our television screens, newspaper front pages and Web sites around the world. His face had become instantly recognisable and seeing him standing before me felt like this was a man I already knew.
My second observation was just how exhausted and emotional he looked: Red eyed and barely able to face the waiting press that until now he had encouraged to surround his family. As photographers and journalists scrambled to get their shots of him, he barely had the energy to turn and face their cameras.
His laywer started addressing the crowds in Portuguese announcing that Gerry too had become an arguido in the case of his missing daughter. The atmosphere outside the Police station that night was that of surprise and confusion. How had the two people who had campaigned tirelessly since Madeleine disappeared become suspects?
Many journalists will be in the resort of Praia da Luz for a long time to come. Everyone here for the same reason -- to discover the truth.
-- From CNN International Producer Nicola Goulding in Praia da Luz, Portugal
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