So here it is again. Child abduction. When the papers say, ‘every parent’s worst nightmare’, for once they are bang on. I bet I was only one of thousands, perhaps millions of mothers who felt an involuntary shudder down the spine this morning as the radio announcer told the world about the five-year-old girl last seen getting into a light coloured van in Wales.
It is exactly the crime that we have been prepping our children against, from the moment they could take their first steps from our sides. But it is, of course, one of the very rarest of crimes – a tiny number of children every year are taken and killed, far fewer than die on our roads, in freak coach accidents, even at the hands of parents. The trouble is that we all know their names. Jamie. Holly. Jessica. Milly. And their faces. And, sadly, their fates.
It’s very easy to manipulate a five-year-old. Kittens, sweeties, a sick mother – any of these would get a child in a van. Of course, the child has to be around to take – and I am sure a lot of questions will be asked about why this child was out at 7.30pm on an autumn evening, when it would have been quite dark and cold.
The mother, no doubt, is already blaming herself. Let’s not join in. I would say, though, that it’s been a rough old week for men. First, you have the maths teacher, also, let’s not dress it up, an abductor. Even if Megan Stammers went willingly, she was not old enough to make that decision. And you’d think that if the teacher really loved her, he wouldn’t take her out of school at 15. Was she not going to be allowed the education that he must have had, to win his position of trust? He must have a teaching qualification, and an A level in maths at least. Megan didn’t stand much chance of equalling that working in a bar in Bordeaux. Though, no doubt, her French would have improved. How can it be love to separate a girl from her parents, friends and education? Whatever was going on in Megan’s family – and the stepfather claiming he and Megan had a ‘date’ did not sit well with me – he must, at best, be a very naive young man to think he could improve things by running away.
And I don’t want even to attempt to get inside the mind of someone who would bundle a five-year-old into a van. Pray God that is not what really happened, and the little girl will soon be found.
There are no doubt many differences between the perpetrators in these two cases. But, at base, there is one glaring similarity. Here we have two men putting their needs – fifty years ago we would have said urges – before those of two young girls. Can we learn a lesson from this? Let’s hope it’s not just that the old warning,’don’t talk to strangers,’ should now simply be, ‘don’t talk to MEN.’