Madeleine press spokeswoman urges industry to take paedophile threat more seriously

Madeleine press spokeswoman urges industry to take paedophile threat more seriously

The travel industry should do more to combat the threat from paedophiles, the press spokeswoman for the family of Madeleine McCann told the ITT conference.

Justine McGuiness, giving her first ever public address on her experiences of managing the press campaign to find the missing five year old, said the sector should take the issue more seriously.

She praised the operator Mark Warner from whose resort in Praia da Luz in the Algarve Madeleine went missing from six years ago for its reaction.

But speaking about the travel industry in general she said she felt more should be done to counteract problems before incidents occur.

“When you take people to safe places to have family holidays and there is a risk there then actually I think the travel industry should take it more seriously than it does.

“Preparation is the key. I always said to clients prepare for the worst, the likelihood is it won’t happen but then at least you are prepared for it.”

McGuiness said the rise of social media means firms have to react quicker than ever to any incident and that a speedy and effective response was likely to pay dividends.

She said she was grateful the disappearance of Madeleine happened before the days of Twitter because the micro-blogging site has speeded up the flow of information.

“We had a clear strategy. We wanted to change certain things so that if a similar case occurred the police response would be quicker. There was a public affairs strategy as well as a media relations.”

McGuiness said she felt the Portuguese police did not understand the McCann family’s need to stay in Portugal while the hunt for Madeleine got underway following the disappearance.

And she believed the police and the local authorities started to take the view that they wanted the McCanns to go home.

“They felt if they went home this problem would go home with them. Of course you would want to know what happened to your daughter.

“For some of the policemen, and they were all men, I do not think they really understood that. They wanted them to go home and started applying the pressure by briefing the Portuguese media and then the UK media.”

And of Mark Warner’s response, McGuiness said: “They were prepared for dealing with the crisis. They did not know what crises may happen, but they were prepared.

“That’s the real trick in terms of a corporate dealing with a crisis, is preparation. They did a really good job and were supportive of the McCanns and were really helpful.”

Asked what she now believes happened to Madeleine, McGuiness said it was highly unlikely she was kidnapped to order as some theories suggested or just walked out of the apartment herself.

But she said her experience of the case made her realise that many paedophiles appear to be upstanding members of communities not thought capable of carrying out that sort of crime.

But she said often when the police find out what pornographic material they have half have material involving children under the age of 10 and 20% material involving under three year olds.

McGuiness said she feared as more time passes the chance of finding Madeleine fades.

“I hope it has a very positive outcome and that Madeleine is found. They are still looking for her but the longer than goes on the more likely it is that there won’t be a resolution.

“My heart really goes out to Kate and Jerry [Madeleine’s parents], to go for six years without knowing what happened to your daughter really is brutal.”


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