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Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Now, here's a thing that is going to make me extremely unpopular, but which I (and apparently a fair few other people not gripped by tabloid-fuelled hysteria) feel ought to be said.

A pretty little four year old kid has gone missing in Portugal's Algarve region, and so far - almost two weeks on - there has been no further sign of her.

I'd like to say from the off that this is a terrible, awful and horrible thing to happen to any child and her family, and I hope she is found safe, unharmed and untraumatised.

However, one thing struck me about this when I heard about it in the initial reports: am I right in understanding that this four year old child's parents went out for dinner that night, leaving their three children (two of whom are a mere two years old) asleep, alone, in their unsupervised hotel room?

And am I right in thinking that low-cost babysitting services were offered as standard by the family-oriented holiday company they were booked with?

And am I right in thinking that the parents are both employed as GPs?

Because you see, I find it astonishing to think that any parent would put their child in that sort of position. Before any Daily Mail readers start getting the idea that I'm endorsing some sort of biblical justice bollocks, OF COURSE their neglect doesn't mean the child's parents are at fault over what has happened, and OF COURSE nobody deserves what has taken place.

What I AM saying, quite simply, is that I am very surprised that any parent would leave their three very small children alone in an unfamiliar hotel room in a foreign country without an adult present. Not because they ought to expect their kid to get kidnapped (not really the kind of thing you can protect against I suppose) but how did they suppose their kids would react if they'd woken up feeling sick, or scared, or having had a nightmare, and discovered mummy and daddy nowhere to be found? What if there had been an electrical fault, or a fire?

The rules are simple: you don't expose small children to unnecessary danger, therefore you don't leave them alone to pop out for paella.

I hope they find this kid alive, I really do, but equally, I hope that such "we popped back every half an hour to check" parenting behaviour is as thankfully rare as the child-snatching behaviour under investigation.

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