I hadn't intended to write on this subject but Twenty Major raised a few important questions and we found ourselves in total agreement in our respective comments. His brief article has provoked considerable healthy debate.
As parents who have three daughters who were once Madeleine's age, my wife and I are filled with sadness and sympathy for the parents and the little girl. It's a living nightmare for each one of them. What form of humanity is out there to do this? Whoever did this were once children themselves but must have had a bizarre upbringing.
Having said the above, I cannot help but comment on the fact that it is highly irresponsible to leave children this age unattended in any dwelling. Especially in a foreign holiday resort with such a huge mixture of non-locals and easy access to all sorts of further places to take kidnapped children. I think of the sacrifices so many of us parents make as the kids are small to ensure they are safe - it is a tiny price to pay in reality. They grow so fast and when they are older they don't want to go on holiday with you anyway - as we ourselves have discovered.
If your small daughters are pretty and look different to the locals, they do attract attention. I've noticed this in the past on our own holidays abroad. An example we had was in Turkey when our youngest was just 11. She was getting a lot of looks and friendly comments from some local men. It seemed innocent and I'm sure most of it was. I actually found the Turkish people very nice, but holiday places also attract different types of local people and foreigners. One guy serving us in a restaurant called my daughter a little princess and patted her head a lot. Another guy jokingly offered me a camel for her! I carefully avoided the quip I might have used at home that she was worth at least two camels. You must be careful in these places. The notion of us leaving her in the apartment without trusted adult supervision in these foreign holiday places would be beyond comprehension. I don't buy this checking her every 20 minutes idea. It's not remotely enough and 20 minutes is a very ill-defined term when you're chatting and having drinks.
Madeleine's parents will not read this article and even if they did I'm sure they already now know the lessons privately anyway. The media have - understandably I suppose - not made a major factor of the non supervision of the child in order not to hurt the parents more. This has the side effect however of almost implying this practise as acceptable. So if by speaking the raw truth I can somehow encourage anyone with small children to be very careful on holiday abroad - then it's worth me saying it.
I deeply hope for a good ending to this horrible episode and all other similar cases.