First a child like Cleo Smith disappears – then psychics pounce
They swoop in like a second wave of woe when it looks increasingly likely a missing child has been abducted: “psychic detectives.”
Without formal police training, they claim to know where the missing child is based on their “spiritual gifts”.
Cleo Smith went missing from the Quobba Blowholes campsite in WA’s Gascoyne region.
It’s about now it happens – more than two weeks after a child like Western Australia’s Cleo Smith, 4, has been missing.
It happens with missing adults, too; Tik Tok was awash with psychics baselessly theorising about 22-year-old Gaby Petito’s disappearance and death.
There’s already one – the ironically named “The Empathic Pisces” – claiming via an “intuitive reading” that little Cleo “could’ve been smothered”.
If she was truly empathetic, this pisces would leave well alone, letting the police do their job.
That, though, is where the problem lies: police sometimes actually take these purported clairvoyants seriously.
When writing my new book, The Psychic Tests, my freedom of information request revealed NSW police used psychics at least 19 times between 2003 and 2019. Many would’ve been missing person cases.
The actual figure is probably higher; only a limited number of databases are covered by the FOI requests handled by NSW police. They’ve even paid psychics from the public purse.
Former Victorian detective sergeant Colin McLaren has said: “Today any detective at the top of the game will have highly credentialed psychics in their kit bag, alongside forensics, fingerprints and DNA.”
Police have already received and ruled out 200 sightings of Cleo. Some of these may well’ve been psychics.
More than 1000 psychics contacted the family of Madeleine McCann when she went missing.Credit:AP
When Madeleine McCann first went missing, more than 1,000 psychics contacted the family claiming to know where she was. They hired someone just to handle them all.
One British psychic claimed Madeleine was on a farm in Seville. Based solely on that “intel”, Spanish police “kicked down some doors”, leaving bewildered farmers out of pocket and explaining to their disturbed families why they weren’t harbouring a missing child.
Some psychics offer to do so pro bono, hoping they’ll get lucky and then brag about the “win” in their marketing. It’s a dark way for them to get their brand out to potential clients.
It happened with missing toddler William Tyrrell. American “psychic detective” Pam Coronado claims she had a “vision” he was alive in WA. Coronado has never even been to Australia. When I sent one of my psychic investigators to get a reading to test her, she was almost completely inaccurate.
It’s easy to dismiss it as woo woo. But my research shows psychics are hired by CEOs, detectives and even world leaders.
Why do police give them oxygen? Three main reasons: they’re alert to psychopaths making a coded murder confession under the guise of being a psychic to play games or absolve guilt (not that this has been suggested in any of the cases referred to here); families of missing people urge them to; and simply because there are believers in the police.
Amanda Berry’s story shows how sinister this can get. Psychic medium Sylvia Browne on the Montel Williams Show told Amanda’s mum her daughter – who’d been missing for 18 months in Cleveland, Ohio – was dead. You can see it in her face when she’s delivered the “news”: she’s devastated. That month, she packed up Amanda’s room. That year, she stopped buying Amanda gifts. Six months later, she was dead, sources say, of a broken heart.
Amanda was alive the whole time, held hostage in Ariel Castro’s basement. She escaped in 2013.
We’re living through a time when misinformation is deadly. Until we stop such taxpayer-funded rubbish, this pseudoscience will continue to torture and torment families like Cleo Smith’s parents.
Gary Nunn is author of The Psychic Tests: An Adventure in the World Of Sceptics and Believers.
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