On March 15, Netflix released another series for fans of true crime: “The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann.” Beginning with a request for any information about Madeleine’s disappearance and a number to call, the eight part docu-series centered around a three year old British girl who famously went missing from a hotel resort in Portugal while on vacation with her family in May of 2007. Madeleine, along with her siblings, was left sleeping in the family’s apartment at the resort while her parents were at dinner. This was a normal occurrence for the family while on this vacation, and the children were checked on periodically throughout the night, until her mother discovered that she was missing from her bed. Guests and staff at the resort began to search for her in the immediately surrounding area, to no avail. The Portuguese police conducted an investigation, looking into the possibility that Madeleine had died in the apartment and her parents were covering it up, but this was dropped due to lack of evidence.
The McCann family continued the investigation using private detectives, going off the assumption that it was a case of kidnapping by a stranger after a guest staying at the resort said that she noticed a man walking away from the hotel carrying a child. In 2011, Scotland Yard opened an inquiry, tracing images from the resort including a man carrying a child towards the beach on the night of Madeleine’s disappearance. This prompted the Portuguese police to reopen their investigation, and inquiries have continued on a smaller scale. The Netflix series recapped the events leading up to and following Madeleine’s disappearance, using news footage, interviews of people who were there or were connected to the McCann family, and photographs of the family and the scene of her disappearance. Additional related information was given, like the history of Algarve, the region of Portugal the resort is in, dead ends investigations reached and books and media stories written afterwards.
The documentary series offers no new insights or information, but may still be of interest to avid true crime fans. St. Mary’s College of Maryland student Mollie Rudow stated “At first I was very curious to watch it, especially since Netflix has done things like this before and I liked it, but I feel like it had a lot of unnecessary details and could have been condensed into one documentary, instead of a series.” Since the case was highly publicized and fairly recent, controversy has arisen over whether Netflix was just preying on the tragedy the McCann family faced in order to attract viewers and make money. Kate and Gerry McCann, who notably did not participate in the docu-series, released a statement saying “We did not see and still do not see how this programme will help the search for Madeleine and, particularly given there is an active police investigation, could potentially hinder it. Consequently, our views and preferences are not reflected in the program.”
Overall, there was no relevant information in the eight episodes that could not be gotten from the Wikipedia article on the subject. As such, it is unclear what Netflix’s motivation was in producing and releasing the project, aside from feeding viewers with a morbid fascination for stories of crime.