Kate and Gerry McCann obviously felt at ease leaving their three toddlers alone, in a dark apartment. Night after night, while they dined and drank with their friends elsewhere in the village of Praia de Luz. They've apparently been told by many people that 'everyone does it' and what they did 'falls within the realms of responsible parenting'. Clarence Mitchell agrees with them, saying that it's a very 'British thing' to do.
I personally disagree with the comments Mr and Mrs McCann have made. I have never carried out anything remotely similar, and I don't know anyone who has either. And I don't think it's responsible. I would also disagree with Mr Mitchell's comments about it being a British thing - it's not.
Anyway, let's give the benefit of the doubt and pretend that everyone does actually do it. We all know the script... the layout and position of the apartment in relation to the Tapas Restaurant. Put yourself in the shoes and minds of parents who leave three small toddlers to care for themselves.
It's a brisk night, darkness has already begun to descend as you check one final time that your three children are tucked up, asleep in bed. You make your way out of the apartment, sliding the patio door behind you, leaving it ulocked and cross the balcony.
Aren't you already looking back to see if they've followed you?
You open the stairgate (which incidently is not recommended for children over 2 years as they can clamber over) and make your way down the steep, concrete steps. It's very dark as the large hedge and plants obscure the light from entering the area.
Aren't you already thinking 'How dangerous is this? Totally unsuitable for families'...
You close the latch on the little wrought iron gate (there is no lock) and make your way down the hill towards the entrance to the Ocean Club Reception.
Aren't you aware that this is a road, with traffic and parked cars.
You enter the Ocean Club complex through two sets of double doors and make your way along the snaking path. Past the toilet, through shrubs and bushes, past the swimming pool.
Aren't you thinking all this is between you and your children.
You arrive at the Tapas Restaurant and are shown to your table. It's a cool night but luckily your table is undercover. You look over to your apartment block. Your flat is out of view, obscured by both distance and the shrubbery. It is also dark and there's a chill in the air.
Aren't you wondering if they're still asleep, if they're still safe or calling out for you?
What is going through your mind right now, knowing that you have another thirty minutes before you need to look at those children again? Thirty long minutes... in which a lot can happen - falls from beds, slipping on tiles, fingers jammed in doors, plugs, undersink cupboard, cutlery drawer, table corners... the list inside the apartment is endless. As is the outside - steep stairs, cars, strangers...
Do any of these things enter your mind as you're thinking about your children being on their own?
What about the simple thought of a little boy or girl opening their eyes in the silent darkness to find that he or she is all alone. It's one thing wakening up from a bad dream and another thing wakening up in one.
Many people are sceptical about the theory of 'neglect', they speculate that it never happened and is a cover for something else. Others speculate about the children being given a little something to help them sleep. Putting myself in this particular mindset, I begin to wonder myself.