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Missing Madeleine! Madeleine McCann was abducted from Praia Da Luz,  Portugal on 3rd May, 2007anyone with any information and/or ideas how to find Madeline please go to your nearest police station
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Have you seen or know these people?
If so please contact your nearest police station

Madeleine McCann, who went missing when on holiday with
her family in the Algarve, Portugal

Papers reveal McCann neglect probe

First published ruling on the case, seen by The Times, confirms police inquiry covers homicide and corpse concealment

Madeleine McCann's parents investigated for neglect

The parents of Madeleine McCann are being investigated for possibly neglecting their daughter on the night she disappeared from their Portuguese holiday apartment, it has been revealed. The first published court ruling on the Madeleine case confirms that the police inquiry covers homicide, abandonment, concealment of a corpse and abduction. The reference to “abandonment” suggests that Portuguese detectives are investigating if there is evidence that Kate and Gerry McCann were negligent in leaving their daughter alone on the night she was reported missing. The charge carries a maximum 10-year jail sentence.
Mr and Mrs McCann, both doctors from Rothley, Leicestershire, have strenuously denied negligence and said they were just 50 yards away at the time their daughter was taken. The court ruling also reveals that the public prosecutor wants access to the content of text, audio and video messages from 10 mobile telephones believed to belong to Kate and Gerry McCann and seven of their British friends. Investigators are particularly interested in the content of 18 text messages allegedly sent from an unidentified mobile number to Mr McCann between May 2 and 4 last year. They also want details of all calls made between members of the group between 8pm on May 3 and midday of the following day. Madeleine was reported missing at 10pm on May 3 from her bedroom at the Ocean Club resort in Praia da Luz. Her parents and their friends had been dining at a Tapas restaurant while Madeleine and her twin 18-month-old siblings were asleep. The investigation has been covered by Portugal’s strict laws on judicial secrecy which meant that even Mr and Mrs McCann, who were made official suspects last September, have been unable to access details of the inquiry or any evidence against them. However, details of the investigation have emerged in a court judgment, seen by The Times, after prosecutor Magalhães e Meneses was refused access to the content of the group’s telephone messages. He had requested a “complete listings of all telephone traffic to calls made to and from” numbers between April 28, when the group arrived in Portugal, and September 9, when the McCanns left the country. He also sought details of the locations of the
mobile telephones which would allow detectives to recreat the movement of the group. The request for access to the messages was rejected by instructional judge Pedro Frias at the court in Portimão. He said it would breach the right to privacy and that Portuguese law did not allow for the retrospective interception of telephone calls. The Évora Supreme Court of Justice has now rejected the prosecutor’s appeal and published its reasons, giving the first glimpse into the investigation. Judge Fernando Ribeiro Cardoso rejected the application, saying: “The details of the content of the messages can only be objected to interception in real time, with due judicial authorization.” Portuguese police had hoped to stage a reconstruction of the events surrounding Madeleine’s disappearance tomorrow. However, they have been forced to abandon the re-enactment after some of the McCanns friends said they could not see the value in returning to Portugal to take part. Clarence Mitchell, spokesman for the McCanns, said: “We are pleased to see that the investigation covers abduction. Kate and Gerry have had legal advice in both Portugal and Britain which say that everything they did was within the boundaries of reasonable behaviour.” He said that Mr McCann had no knowledge of the texts referred to on May 3 and 4 and had received only a few calls on his mobile in the six days the family had been in Portugal prior to Madeleine disappearance.

Kate McCann at Bishop Eton Catholic church in Liverpool for
 the 1 year anniversary of her disappearance

McCanns urged to visit Portugal for reconstruction of fateful night  05-05-2008 David Brown in Praia da Luz- TimesOnline

Kate and Gerry McCann have been urged by Portugal’s most senior detective to take part in a reconstruction of what happened on the night of their daughter’s disappearance.

The couple have so far refused to return to Praia da Luz to re-enact their movements in the hours before Madeleine vanished on May 3 last year. Portuguese police had appealed for them to return last month and have now asked them to take part on May 14 and 15.

Alipio Ribeiro, the national director of the PolÍcia Judiciária (PJ), said yesterday that it was “very important” that the McCanns, who live in Rothley, Leicestershire, return to Portugal.

“If operations were decided on, which would justify the presence of the parents in Portugal, it would be very important for them to accept that participation within the Portuguese legal regulations,” he said.

The couple left the Algarve two days after being made official suspects on September 7. A Portuguese judicial source said that it was not possible to issue an arrest warrant to compel them to return.

The McCanns have said that they were considering the request but were concerned about taking part while they were still classified as official suspects. They have also questioned the reasons for holding a reconstruction more than a year after the crime.

Mr Ribeiro said that officials had not decided whether to bring charges or drop the investigation after the continuing review of evidence. “At this stage, nothing has been determined regarding possible charges or closing the case,” he said. “The PJ continues to gather and analyse all available evidence.”

However, the Attorney-General, Fernando Jose Pinto Monteiro, appeared to signal that the investigation could be shelved. Mr Monteiro said that the closure of the case was “nothing which should shame the police”.

He added: “These kind of crimes are extremely difficult to investigate. There are a million missing children per year throughout the world and not even 20 per cent are found. It may be that we find out yet. Let’s wait until the end.”

He said that prosecutors could stop the release of evidence in the case, which is due to be made public in August. “We will analyse the state of the case and see whether it is necessary or not to request an extension.”

Mr McCann, 39, has said he feared that the police files will never be made public because of exemptions applying to the release of information in serious cases such as child trafficking. “If trafficking is mentioned, then the files will remain secret for ever, the same with organised crime,” he said. “For us that’s certainly a possibility with Madeleine.”

The McCanns have said that they want to see the police reports so their private detectives can carry out their own investigation. “What we want is the files to be opened and to see what is being done. We’d like to know who has been eliminated and on what grounds they have been eliminated, who hasn’t been eliminated and what leads are still being followed, so we can know what’s being done,” Mr McCann said.

“Because the police won’t tell us this, we have been forced to compile all the evidence again ourselves. We are begging all witnesses to come forward, even if they have already spoken to police.”

 13-11-2007 David Brown TimesOline

Madeleine McCann detectives barred from reinterviewing parents



Detectives investigating the disappearance of Madeleine McCann have been barred from asking her parents and their friends 100 new questions, it was reported today.

A Portuguese prosecutor has allegedly ruled that there is insufficient evidence to reinterview Kate and Gerry McCann and the seven British friends who were dining with them when Madeleine was reported missing.

Detectives from the Polícia Judiciária were expected to arrive in Britain last month to reinterview at least four of the “tapas seven” friends about events in Praia da Luz on May 3.

However, the Portuguese newspaper 24 Horas claimed today that José Cunha de Magalhães e Meneses, the public prosecutor in charge of the case, has said he will not authorise further interrogations without stronger evidence.

A source quoted by the newspaper said: “The letter of appeal [to the British authorities] is concluded. It contains over 100 questions which will be put to Kate and Gerry McCann, their family members and their friends. The purpose is to confirm the testimonies produced at the time the little girl disappeared.”

Detectives who started a full review of the case last month, are still awaiting for the results of some tests by the Forensic Science Service (FSS) in Birmingham. Preliminary results from tests on samples found at the McCann’s holiday apartment and a car hired have proved inconclusive, it was reported.

Senior officers are said to have privately admitted that it would take “a miracle” for them to build a better case against Mr and Mrs McCann. They believe Madeleine died in a holiday apartment at the Ocean Club resort shortly before her fourth birthday and that her parents disposed of her body.

A source quoted by 24 Horas said: “The new analysis of the evidence, carried out by the team which took charge of the case, has confirmed all the suspicions that exist but nothing more.

“There is no new data. New operations were carried out, other people who had not been interviewed at the time were interrogated. But nothing new came of it. If a body does not turn up or unless somebody comes forward with a credible lead we continue increasingly without any chance of closing the case.”

Mr and Mrs McCann, both 39, from Rothley, Leicestershire. have provided police with a list of 25 witnesses they would like to see interviewed. The list includes the seven friends and several relatives who the hope they would give detectives a better picture of their family relationships.

Clarence Mitchell, the McCanns’ official spokesman, said that the couple hoped to be cleared as soon as possible so that police can concentrate on searching for their daughter.

06-11-2007 TimesOnline by David Brown

Kate and Gerry McCann 'created information monster' that hindered search for Madeleine McCann

A senior Portuguese police officer has condemned the parents of Madeleine McCann for creating a “monster of information” that has failed to help in finding their daughter.

Carlos Anjos, president of the Association of Criminal Investigation Staff, said that detectives had advised Kate and Gerry McCann against their media campaign. They had also warned the couple against drawing attention to Madeleine's distinctive right eye, saying that it could have put her life in greater danger.

The disappearance of Madeleine shortly before her fourth birthday has become one of Europe's most-reported stories after the McCanns made a series of international visits to promote the search for their daughter.

Mr Anjos said that that to “keep pushing stories into the papers — they have clearly not helped solve the case”.

“Quite honestly I don't know if that is good or bad for an investigation,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Inside Stories programme today. “We were against this from the start. And importantly, we were against the release of Madeleine McCann's photo all over the world.

“We thought the photos that were released should not show the distinct mark Maddie had in her left eye. From our experience in criminal investigations this was a kidnap, which was what we believed from the start, the revealing of such a distinct feature would put that person's life in danger.”

Mr Anjos said that Mr and Mrs McCann, both 39, from Rothley, Leicestershire, were partly to blame for the hurtful and damaging news stories that they have complained about. The couple have been made official suspects in Madeleine's disappearance from the Ocean Club resort in Praia da Luz on May 3,

Mr Anjos said: “There is no criminal investigation which can feed a news frenzy for six months, so what we have seen are both English and Portuguese journalists behaving in a scandalous and unprofessional way.

“Writing terrible stories in the papers, some of which have clearly affected the McCanns. . . . now we have to say that the McCanns are partly to blame for this. Because it was something they created.

“It was the McCanns who first gave the story to the press. It was them, together with their press advisers — whose instructions I assume they were following — who gave all those press conferences. It is our opinion that the McCanns created a monster of information about the ‘Maddie case' which they then lost control of.”

His comments followed claims by two Portuguese policemen who arrive at the Ocean Club on May 3 that senior officers were to blame for serious errors in the initial stages of the investigation. The officers from the Guarda Nacional Republicana (GNR) admitted that a “circus” of people trampled through Madeleine's bedroom on the night she went missing.

One officers said: “It was chaos. The world and his dog were in that room just to look under a bed. It was crazy allowing so many people to trample through. There was nothing we could do. The damage had already been done.”

British police experts have said that vital evidence could have been destroyed or contaminated because of the failure to seal off the ground-floor flat and the surrounding area.

One of the GNR officers said: “It's not brain surgery and probably, in this case, could have saved a lot of speculation, heartache and unnecessary investigation time and money. The world's eyes are on us and we mucked up big and there's nothing they can do to change things — it's too late.”

The officers claimed that Mr and Mrs McCann and their seven British friends had been difficult to deal with because they had been drinking.

“They were upset, panicking, wide-eyed, the usual, but there was something else. They were scared — not the usual scared, they were jumpy, nervous. It wasn't normal. None of it was normal,” said on officer.

“They'd all been drinking. They weren't falling over but it was hard to deal with them.”

The McCann family spokesman, Clarence Mitchell — himself a target of some of Mr Anjos's remarks — rejected as “utter nonsense” claims that the campaign had hindered the investigation. “We have done our absolute best to make people aware that Madeleine is out there,” he said “possibly still alive, and we still need their help.

“Everything Kate and Gerry did from the minute she went missing, they have not regretted, nor have I, nor have any of the family.”

He criticised some news reports for misleading the public by repeating “myths” about the case and the hunt for Madeleine, who disapeared shortly before her fourth birthday.

“The coverage in certain directions has been most unhelpful.” he said, “ and we feel very disappointed by certain aspects of this which keep getting repeated and repeated and repeated until the wider public — who have no real inside information on this for very good reasons, because we can't put it out there — they believe these headlines."

Police: blonde girl in Morocco is not Madeleine McCann
TimesOnline Davud Brown

Police investigating a reported sighting Madeleine McCann in Morocco have said that a blonde girl found in a remote village was not the missing youngster.

Officers had searched the coastal towns of Fnideq and Al Hoceima in the north of the kingdom following a tip off that Madeleine had been seen in the area. But the search was called off, after officers found that a girl with a similar description was in fact the daughter of a local family. Abdelmajid Chadili, the head of Morocco’s judicial police, said: “In the case of Fnideq, we did find a small blonde girl. We found she was among her true parents and I can tell you she only speaks Arabic.”

Mr Chadili, speaking at Interpol’s general assembly in Marrakesh, warned people not to get their hopes up every time a blonde child was seen in the north African country. “In a far away country, some people think it’s not possible that a small blonde girl can be Moroccan. But it’s true, we have children with blonde hair.” The news will come as a blow to Madeleine’s parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, 39, who had hoped that they were close to a breakthrough in their search for their daughter. The couple, from Rothley, Leicestershire, are official suspects in their daughter's disappearance.

There have been several reported sightings of Madeleine in Morocco following her disappearance from her bedroom in Praia da Luz , Portugal, on May 3, shortly before her fourth birthday. A Spanish private detective agency hired by Mr and Mrs McCann to search for their daughter has said it believes she had been taken to Morocco, The fast ferry from Spain to north Africa is a five-hour drive from Praia da Luz. But the suggestion has been dismissed by senior Moroccan police officers who said there was no history of children being smuggled into the country from Europe.

Chakib Benmoussaas, the Interior Minister, insisted yesterday: “We have no new evidence suggesting such a presence in Morocco. We have co-operated for a long time with Portuguese and British police through Interpol and we have not had any new development on this case up until now.” However, the most recent sighting had been considered significant because it is the only report of a girl matching Madeleine's description who also has a similar elongated pupil in her right eye. Naoual Malhi, 24, a Spanish woman of Moroccan origin, told police that the girl was in the arms of a middle-aged woman in Fnideq at the end of September. When she tried to share their taxi to the port town of Al Hoceima, a common practice in Morocco, the woman refused. Ms Malhi said yesterday that she had received anonymous death threats from men claiming to work for the country’s crime barons warning her to keep her mouth shut about what she saw - and to abandon plans to investigate the sighting herself.

Ms Malhi, whose daughter is the same age as Madeleine, said that one caller told her: “Let this lie if you know what’s good for you, your daughter and the rest of your family, otherwise you’re a dead woman next time you’re in Morocco.” She said: “They’ve warned me I’m going to be killed next time I step on Moroccan soil unless I shut my mouth about Madeleine." Madeleine’s parents had visited Morocco at the beginning of June as part of an international campaign to promote the search for their daughter. In August a Spanish tourist had photographed a fair-haired child bearing a striking resemblance to the missing youngster. That sighting also turned out to be a local girl. eanwhile, Portuguese detectives are still preparing to travel to Britain to reinterview at least four of the seven British friends who were on holiday with the McCann family in Praia da Luz. he friends are likely to be made official suspects so that they can be challenged about apparent inconsistencies in their witnesses statements and to allow them to have a lawyer present during the interviews.

Kate and Gerry McCann: Beyond the smears

TimesOnline 16-12-2007

For six months David James Smith has examined the evidence surrounding the disappearance of Madeleine McCann for The Sunday Times Magazine. In this, the most comprehensive — and authoritative — investigation yet, he addresses the key issues facing Gerry and Kate as they prepare for Christmas without their daughter

To read more from David James Smith, click on the panel of links below left

That week in Praia da Luz, the week the McCanns were made suspects in their own daughter’s “death”, I was out there talking to them and to family and friends. I was at the home of the Anglican vicar Haynes Hubbard, sitting with him and his wife, Susan, while their own three children pottered around us. The Hubbards had flown in from Canada three days after Madeleine’s disappearance to begin Haynes’s tour of duty as the vicar of Praia da Luz. They had heard about Madeleine for the first time while changing planes at Lisbon airport, in a slightly unnerving encounter with an elderly Portuguese woman who had seized Susan’s arm and told her to “hold on” to the baby she was carrying, as a child had been taken.

The Hubbards had spent their first days at the resort fearing for their own children’s safety. Gradually they became friends with the McCanns, particularly Susan and Kate, drawn together at first perhaps by the McCanns’ need to find some comfort in religion. But mostly in Portugal the McCanns were enveloped by family and friends from the UK.

The McCanns were flying home that Sunday and had been to a farewell dinner that week at the Hubbards’. Susan told me that she and Kate had discussed how much one person could cope with. Kate seemed close to the limits of human endurance. Haynes chimed in: “And I don’t think she’s looking forward to tomorrow very much either.” The thought was left hanging there: how much can one person take?

Kate was to go to the nearby town of Portimao the next day, Thursday, September 6, to be questioned by detectives from the Policia Judiciaria (PJ). It would be Gerry’s turn the day after. For the media this would be a shocking new twist to the story – but not for the McCanns: the PJ had told them four weeks earlier they were going to be subjected to formal interviews and the McCanns had stayed on, instead of going home at the end of August as originally planned, waiting for the interviews to take place. Waiting. Waiting.

Finally, the PJ called. They told the McCanns they would be made official suspects – arguidos. The McCanns had noted the change of mood in Portugal, especially among the PJ, and the increasing viciousness of the Portuguese press. Some of the stories seemed so incredible and far-fetched – Kate, for instance, disposing of Madeleine’s body, or Madeleine’s DNA being found in the car the McCanns had hired three weeks after Madeleine disappeared – that I at first assumed they were the fanciful inventions of an unfettered press. I soon realised how well they reflected the thinking of the PJ. More recently I have discovered the stories were being fed to the press by the PJ, from the highest ranks. So much for judicial secrecy. One Portuguese journalist told me that segredo de justica – secrecy of justice – was like the speed limit. Everyone knows the law; nobody keeps to it.

It seems important to make it clear right away that I do not suspect the McCanns harmed Madeleine, nor do I think they disposed of their daughter’s body if, as the PJ believe, she died in an accident that night in their apartment.

This is not a mere prejudice on my part. I have spent a long time considering and examining every unpleasant scenario. The McCanns are not my friends and I have no axe to grind with Portugal, its police or its media.

To me, the McCanns are genuine people in the grip of despair – the accusations against them are ludicrous and a cruel distraction from the search for their daughter. That’s why I put the quotation marks around the word “death” at the top of the article. Madeleine may be dead, it may even be more likely she is dead, but nobody knows for sure. Nobody, not even the PJ, as we will see, can produce any persuasive evidence that she has come to harm.

) ) ) ) )

That evening, Thursday, May 3, at just after 8pm, by their account, Kate and Gerry McCann were having a glass of wine together in apartment 5a on the ground floor of Block 5 of the Waterside Village Gardens at the Ocean Club. Their three children were asleep in the front bedroom overlooking the car park and, beyond it, the street. Madeleine was in the single bed nearest the door. There was an empty bed against the opposite wall, beneath the window. Between the two beds were two travel cots containing the twins: Sean and Amelie. Gerry had bought the wine at the Baptista supermarket, 200 yards down the hill. They had lived and worked in New Zealand for a year and that particular bottle, Montana sauvignon blanc, was their favourite. It was the sixth day of their week’s holiday in the Algarve and they were reflecting on the enjoyable time they’d had, how surprisingly easy it had been with the children.

When their old friend Dave Payne had invited them on a group holiday, it had seemed too good to resist. Dave and Fiona Payne had been on another Mark Warner holiday the year before, to Greece with Matt and Rachael Oldfield. The Algarve group would be completed by Russell O’Brien, Jane Tanner and Fiona’s mother, Dianne Webster. Six of the group were doctors. Gerry was a consultant cardiologist and had worked before with Matt and Russell. Kate had been an anaesthetist and was now a part-time GP.

The group first spent time together at Dave and Fiona’s wedding in Italy in 2003. Now they had eight children between them. Madeleine was the oldest, her fourth birthday a week after they would return from the Algarve. One of the attractions was that there were children for their own to play with. And the adults were a sporty group, a speciality of Mark Warner holidays; tennis had dominated the activities that week.

That might all sound very cosy and middle class, but that did not mean their lives had been easy or free of suffering – especially with the struggle to have children, eventually managed through IVF – or that they had been born into an advantaged world. Kate came from a modest Liverpool background and Gerry, the youngest of five, had been brought up in a tenement building on the south side of Glasgow.

The terms of the holiday were half-board, breakfast and evening meal, and the McCanns paid about £1,500. There had been some reduction when they had discovered that, unlike most Mark Warner resorts, the Ocean Club did not offer a baby-listening service. Instead, the group had asked for apartments close together, so they were all assigned to Block 5. The Paynes were on the floor above, the only couple with a functioning baby monitor. Russell O’Brien and Jane Tanner had brought a monitor too, but theirs wasn’t getting much of a signal from the Tapas restaurant 50 yards away.

The Ocean Club was not a gated, enclosed resort in the usual style of Mark Warner, but a sprawling complex open to the village of Luz and scattered over such a wide distance that shuttle buses were used.

Even though the resort was open to the village, it felt safe and secure, and in early May it was still very quiet. Gerry never saw a soul, except once, on the last night, on his evening checks, going back and forth between Tapas and the apartment, an even-paced walk of just under a minute.

As the McCanns endlessly repeated afterwards, if they had thought it was wrong or even risky, they would never have left their children. With hindsight, of course, they would never have done it and now they are riven with guilt, but we can all be wise after the event, and so many of us have taken similar chances at times, in search of a bit of respite from our children.

Gerry had knocked up at the start of the 4.30pm tennis-drills session, but had decided not to exacerbate an injury to his Achilles tendon, so had dropped out and waited around by the courts until the children came back from the kids’ clubs at 5pm for tea. That had been one of the most enjoyable times of the holiday, all the children together for tea, then the adults playing with them afterwards.

Gerry was in his apartment at 7pm, had a glass of water, then a beer, while the children sat with Kate on the couch having stories with a snack. The children were clearly shattered – the last thing any of them needed was a sedative and, anyway, it was not something the McCanns ever did. They put them to bed after a last story. The twins were asleep virtually the moment they lay down, Madeleine not far behind them.

These days it was rare for Madeleine to wake up at all once she was in bed. If she did, she’d normally wander into her parents’ bed, whether they were there or not. At home in Rothley, sometime earlier, they had begun a star chart for Madeleine staying in her own bed. The chart, still on display in the kitchen, was full of stars. At about 7.30pm, Kate and Gerry showered and changed and sat down to have a quiet glass of the sauvignon blanc. They were first to the table at the restaurant at 8.35 and spent some minutes talking to a couple from Hertfordshire – two more tennis players – at the next table, who were eating with their young children. As they chatted, Gerry thought how lucky he was, his children asleep nearby, he and Kate free to come and enjoy some adult time at the restaurant and not have to sit with their children, as this couple were.

The McCanns sat down after a few minutes and then ordered some wine. The Oldfields were next to arrive, then Russell O’Brien and Jane Tanner and, finally, always last, Dave and Fiona Payne with Dianne Webster.

That night their group ordered six bottles in total and two were still untouched on the table at 10pm. No more than half a bottle of wine each. The Portuguese magazine Sol reported that the group had drunk 14 bottles. Another Portuguese journalist told me a local GNR (national republican guard) police officer had described one of the group as being so drunk later that evening, they could barely stand.

They had just ordered starters when the routine of checking began. Matt Oldfield went first at 8.55 to check his own apartment and to hurry up the Paynes, who had still not arrived.

He was followed by Gerry, who entered his apartment at about 9.05 through the patio doors to the lounge. Earlier that week the McCanns had used a key to go in through the front door next to the children’s bedroom but, worrying the noise might wake the children, they began using the patio doors, leaving them unlocked.

When he entered the apartment, Gerry immediately saw that the children’s bedroom door, which they always left just ajar, was now open to 45 degrees. He thought that was odd, and glanced in his own bedroom to see if Madeleine had gone into her parents’ bed. But no, she and the twins were all still fast asleep.

Gerry paused over Madeleine, who – a typical doctor’s observation, this – was lying almost in “the recovery position” with Cuddle Cat, the toy her godfather, John Corner, had bought her, and her comfort blanket up near her head, and Gerry thought how gorgeous, how lovely-looking she was and how lucky he was. Putting the door back to five degrees, he went to the loo and left to return to the restaurant. That, of course, was the last time he would see his daughter.

As he walked down the hill, Gerry saw Jes Wilkins on the opposite side of the road pushing a child in a buggy. Gerry called hello and crossed over to talk. Wilkins and his partner were eating in their own apartment that night, but their youngest still wouldn’t settle. It reminded Gerry of the fraught time he and Kate used to have with Madeleine when she was a baby. In his memory, they could never eat a meal together when they went out, as she was always disturbing them and needing to be wheeled off to sleep.

As Jane Tanner walked up the hill, she saw Gerry talking to Jes and, as she passed them, she saw ahead of her a man walking quickly across the top of the road in front of her, going away from the apartment block, heading to the outer road of the resort complex. The man was carrying a little girl who was hanging limply from his open arms. The sighting was odd, but hardly exceptional in a holiday resort.

Her daughter fine, Jane returned to the table. At 9.30, Kate got up to make the next check on her children, but Matt Oldfield was checking too, as was Russell O’Brien, and Matt offered to do Kate’s check for her, which she accepted. Gerry teased that she would not be excused her turn at the next check.

In the McCanns’ apartment, Oldfield noticed the children’s bedroom door was again open, but that meant nothing to him, so he merely observed all was quiet and made a cursory glance inside the room, seeing the twins in their cots but, agonisingly, not directly seeing Madeleine’s bed from the angle at which he stood. Afterwards, he could not say for sure if she had been there or not. Nor could he say if the window and shutter had been open.

He would get a hard time from the police because of this, during his interviews not long afterwards, being aggressively accused of taking Madeleine – you passed her out of the window, didn’t you! – being suspected because he had offered to take Kate’s turn.

Jane Tanner, too, would be accused of fabricating or misremembering her sighting of this stranger with a child. There could be no answer to such an accusation – except that she was an ordinary, honest person who knew what she had seen. Sometime after 10pm, Rachael Oldfield would go to Jane’s apartment to tell her Madeleine had been taken and Jane would say: “Oh my God. I saw a man carrying a girl.”

It perhaps needs to be stated openly that all these timings and details, the way in which they weave and dovetail together, are based on witness accounts – corroborated not just by the McCann group but by others, such as Jes Wilkins – and that, despite suggestions to the contrary, there are no obvious contradictions or differences between them. Nor has any of the McCann group, at any time since, said they wanted to retract or change their statement.

That suggestion too is a lie.

Russell O’Brien checked his own daughter at 9.30 and found she had been sick. Jane returned to the apartment to be with her daughter, and Russell went back to the table. Russell would later fall under suspicion too, because of those few minutes he spent away from the table.

Finally, at 10pm, it was Kate’s turn to check the apartment. She only became alarmed when she reached out to the children’s bedroom door and it blew shut. Inside the room the window was open, the shutter was up and Madeleine’s bed was empty. Kate quickly searched everywhere and ran back down the hill and into the restaurant: “Madeleine’s gone, somebody’s taken her” or “Madeleine’s gone, someone’s taken her.”

Gerry stood up. “She can’t be gone.” “I’m telling you she’s gone, someone’s taken her.”

It was reported that Kate had said “They’ve taken her,” as if it was someone that she knew. She did use those words, but only later, back in the apartment, in her despair, as she said: “We’ve let her down. They’ve taken her.”

Matt went down to the 24-hour reception at the bottom of the hill to raise the alarm. The call to the police went in at 10.15. They arrived 55 minutes later. It is widely believed among the Portuguese media, and perhaps the police too, even now, that the McCanns called Sky News before they called the police. For the record, Sky News picked up the story from GMTV breakfast television, at around 7.30am the following day.

There was a latch lock on the sliding glass window, and the McCanns thought, but could not be sure, that they had locked it at the start of the holiday. They would later discover it was common for cleaners to open the shutters and windows to give the rooms an airing, so there was no way of knowing whether the window was locked that night or not and no forensic trace to indicate where and how an abductor had gone in and out. They could easily have used the front door, perhaps even had access to a key.

In the McCanns’ minds now, there is no doubt Jane Tanner saw their daughter being taken, but there was so little time to talk in the first few days that it was not until Jane saw the description of Madeleine’s pyjamas in the media, around Monday or Tuesday of the following week, that she told them the little girl she had seen was wearing the same design: pink top and white bottoms with a floral design.

While searches began, Gerry was worried about Kate, as she was so distraught and kept talking about paedophiles, saying Madeleine would be dead. He tried to be reassuring, but of course he was thinking the same things.

It all came pouring out of him at 23.40 – from his phone records – when he called his sister Trish in Scotland ranting and raving semi-coherently on the phone about Madeleine being taken, and Trish kept trying to get him to calm down. A sharp contrast with the way he would be later, particularly in public, once he had regained his self-control.

The detectives from PJ arrived at about 1am. By 3.30am they had gone and there was no police action at all, or none visible to the McCanns.

Four times that night they put in calls via the British consul; four times the message came back from the PJ, a message that the McCanns would never forget: “Everything that can be done is being done.”

One of the PJ officers had put on surgical gloves and begun trying to dust down the bedroom, but his powder was not working properly. He tried to take the McCanns’ fingerprints for elimination, but that didn’t work either. It all had to be done again the next day.

The twins slept on like logs, just as they always did at home, though even their parents were fleetingly worried – had they been sedated by an abductor? – that they should be quite so comatose. The Ocean Club gave them another apartment, but the McCanns did not want to be alone, so the twins were taken to the Paynes’ apartment, and Kate and Gerry went there later too, to try to rest.

They got up at first light and went to search alone on the open scrubland beyond the resort, wandering around, calling Madeleine’s name. It was cold and lonely – there was no answer. Gerry had asked the departing PJ detectives at half three about contacting the media to make an appeal. One of the officers had reacted with surprising agitation, waving his hand emphatically: “No journalists! No journalists!” That, of course, was not quite how it worked out. For many weeks, the McCanns enjoyed a good relationship with the Portuguese police and were treated to regular updates and a flow of information via the family-liaison officers sent out by Leicestershire police. The problem with the three Leicester officers was that they didn’t have a word of Portuguese between them.

The first public indication of police thinking came at the end of June when the magazine Sol published a story about the McCann group, casting doubts on their evidence and claiming they had undertaken a pact of silence. It was the first time the McCanns’ friends had been named in public, but Sol’s journalist Felicia Cabrita had their names and phone numbers and details from their witness statements. She had called them all, and at least one other witness, Jes Wilkins.

The information had been handed to Cabrita by the police – she says she acquired the material through good journalism, which in a sense it was – and her source is widely believed by her colleagues to have been the former head of the inquiry, Goncalo Amaral. The PJ appointed an official spokesman, Olegario Sousa. He was apparently plucked from his day job – he was a chief inspector on the art-robbery squad – because he was the only one who spoke decent English. He was never directly involved in the investigation and was rarely told much of what was really going on. Initial suspicion focused on Robert Murat, who made himself busy with police and journalists from the first day, offering his services as an interpreter, as he spoke both languages and lived across the road from the Ocean Club with his mother at the villa Casa Liliana. In fact, the man Jane Tanner had seen carrying a child was walking straight towards the Murat villa. Murat later said to me that he told the PJ the press were suspicious of him, and they told him not to worry and to keep away from the press and work for them instead. He had signed papers to become an official interpreter and even sat in during the witness interview of Rachael Oldfield.

Leaving the police station in Portimao one evening, a week after becoming an official police interpreter, Murat became aware he was being followed. Shortly after that he was arrested and interviewed himself and made an arguido. Murat always denied he was out the night Madeleine disappeared, but three of the McCann group claimed at the time they had seen him and still insist they were right. I was told there was at least one new independent sighting of Murat out on the night of May 3. Bizarrely, the McCanns believe they were inadvertently responsible for encouraging the PJ to take them seriously as potential suspects, as it was them bringing in a South African “body finder”, Danie Krugel, that led to search dogs being used. The PJ agreed to work with Krugel, and an officer from the UK National Policing Improvement Agency was called in to advise on a search based on Krugel’s findings. It was agreed the British would supply some specialist equipment for spotting disturbed soil and also some search dogs, including one trained in human-remains detection (HRD) and one trained to detect the scent of blood.  Ultimately, only those who were there and involved know exactly what happened, but the McCanns wonder just how the search dogs were presented to the PJ and what claims were made for their success rate and infallibility. All British policing techniques are meant to be practised uniformly by every force across the country and defined in written policy created by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO). But the ACPO was unable to produce for me any policy relating to search dogs.Gerry was initially optimistic at the prospect of the searches by these supposedly elite British dogs and techniques. The dogs then went on to search the apartments of the McCanns and their friends. A line-up of cars were also called in by the police, including the cars owned or used by Murat and the Renault the McCanns had been using, which they had hired on May 27. Those who told me about the dogs’ searches say they involved little objective science. It has been suggested that the HRD dog was treated differently in the McCanns’ apartment than in the others. The dog kept sniffing and running off and it was called back on several occasions. Eventually it “alerted”, meaning it went stiff and stayed still.

Then the blood dog was called in and directed to the area where the other dog had alerted. Eventually this dog alerted in the same place – behind the sofa in the lounge, which is where the trace of blood was supposedly found. The cars were lined up, not in a controlled environment, but in the underground public car park opposite Portimao police station. Again the dog was led quickly from one car to the next until he reached a Renault with “Find Madeleine” stickers all over it. The dog sniffed and moved on to the next car, but was called back. The dog was taken around the McCanns’ car for about a minute, as opposed to the few seconds devoted to the other cars. Then the dog went rigid, an “alert”, and the doors and the boot were opened. It was this that led to the recovery of some body fluids that the PJ suspected would contain traces of Madeleine’s DNA, and which led to the supposed revelation that her body must have been carried in the car. The role of such dogs is normally intended to find a body or remains. Without any subsequent discovery the alerts amount to little more than an indication – or worse: in one recent case in Wisconsin a judge concluded that similarly trained dogs were “no more reliable than the flip of a coin”, after hearing evidence that they were wrong far more often than they were right. The McCanns’ lawyers are in touch with the defence lawyers in that case. The PJ had never attempted to obtain a “control sample” of Madeleine’s DNA. That had been left to the McCanns, who had found traces of her saliva on the pillow of her bed at home in Rothley and provided that DNA sample to the Portuguese police.

Whatever the public’s perception – based on a slew of news stories – at this stage there is no published evidence that Madeleine’s DNA, or any trace of her blood, has been recovered from the apartment or the car. Any suggestion to the contrary appears to be misinformation from the PJ. Some Portuguese journalists and, apparently, some members of the PJ believed the UK’s Forensic Science Service (FSS), based in Birmingham, had been deliberately delaying the tests. There are some who suspect the involvement of the British secret services. In fact, both the PJ’s national director, Alipio Ribeiro, and another PJ official, Carlos Anjos, have both said openly that the police have failed to establish a perfect match. The PJ found several specks of what they believe to be blood in apartment 5a, including one sample that someone had apparently tried to wash off.

They found a trace of body fluid – that is, not blood – in the boot of the Renault and a tiny trace of blood in the Renault’s key fob. Some forensic tests were carried out at the PJ’s own laboratories in Lisbon, where tests on samples related to Robert Murat were also made. The tests on the traces that were potentially the most significant came to the FSS. One sample was said to have produced DNA that was similar to Madeleine’s. An exact match would be 20 out of 20 bands, this sample was said to be similar in 15 out of 20 bands. But in reality, that result was meaningless, as any family member could produce the same match.

Some journalists were told that more advanced tests were being carried out on the smallest blood traces – tests called low copy number profiling, which could produce DNA findings in the slightest of samples. They were a slow process, but did not normally take more than two weeks.

In late November, PJ officers and forensic experts came to meet police and FSS experts in the UK, amid claims the PJ were still waiting for further results. Leicestershire police have apparently paid for all the forensic tests being carried out in the case by the FSS – they are the client in the case, not the Portuguese. The PJ have used this as evidence that the British are suspicious of the McCanns too – even the McCanns think the British police doubted them for a while, until the forensic results emerged – but you might think the PJ would have wanted to be in control of their own forensic findings.

I heard that a PJ officer had been surprised to find a member of MI5 at a UK meeting about the case, and this made him suspicious that shadowy forces could be at work. The Sol journalist Felicia Cabrita mentioned the “mysterious Clarence” – Clarence Mitchell, the former government PR officer turned McCann spokesman – and I was told there was suspicion too about another government official, Sheree Dodd, who had acted as a PR officer for the McCanns briefly in the early days – had she come out from MI6 to help dispose of the body?

These theories might seem preposterous, but for those involved in the case in Portugal, they fitted a pattern in which the Portuguese government and in turn the PJ had felt the heavy weight of diplomatic pressure from the UK – a pressure that the police and the journalists very much resented, with its implication that the police were not doing their job properly. This could be one reason why the PJ were so ready to suspect the McCanns.

There seemed to be no doubt that the PJ really did think the McCanns had done it. I was outlined a scenario in which Kate had come back to the apartment and found that Madeleine had fallen from the sofa and hit her head – hence the blood – and cleaned up and hid the body somewhere in the apartment, and perhaps had not even told Gerry until the next day.

The police could not answer all the questions, of course. They were almost as unanswerable as they were unimaginable. Where would they have hidden the body? How would they have got it into the car 24 days later, and where would they have taken it? What kind of people would they have to be – what borderline personality disorders must they both share – to keep that to themselves for six months, maintain a facade in front of everyone they knew, and at the same time not hiding away but going out to ask the world to help find Madeleine?

I know the McCanns believe the PJ were oversold the value of the dogs. It was after the dogs came out that the PJ’s attitude towards the McCanns changed and it became harder for the McCanns to obtain a briefing meeting. They were disturbed when the press began reporting that the PJ knew Madeleine was dead. Finally, after pressing for a meeting, one was arranged for Wednesday, August 8, three days before the 100-day point after Madeleine’s disappearance.

When they arrived at the station in Portimao the couple were separated and both interrogated. Kate especially was given “the third degree”. Gerry broke down and cried, pleading with the PJ to share any evidence that Madeleine was dead. “It’s coming, it’s coming,” he was told.

The interviews caused the couple “incredible emotional distress”. But they agreed, if they had been guilty, they probably would have cracked and confessed at that point. The police said there would be no more briefings. The next time they saw the McCanns it would be across the table, for formal interviews.

What was doubly dispiriting, of course, was that while the PJ treated them as suspects, they were no longer looking for Madeleine. I was told the PJ had “abandoned the abduction theory”. It was open season now on the McCanns. The publicity was wretched.

The British press were not blameless either, often lazily repeating allegations and sometimes repeating them despite emphatic denials from the McCann camp. If you read the blog sites on the internet you would discover an even darker, nastier tone. The McCanns and their holiday friends were swingers, apparently. That allegation was even made on the Portuguese equivalent of the BBC by a former PJ detective, Jose Barra da Costa. When I checked with him, he said he had been told by a friend in the UK who happened to be a police officer. No doubt that officer had plucked it from the internet. It is not true.

During Kate’s interviews with the PJ in September, just before she was declared an arguido, she was separated from her lawyer, and he was presented with a long list of factors pointing to her guilt, including entries from her entirely innocuous diary and a passage they believed she had marked in a Bible (which in fact had been given to her and marked by the original owner).

The PJ also told the lawyer there was a 100% DNA match with Madeleine in the car and showed him a document that appeared to prove it. Possibly, this was the document showing Madeleine’s control sample of DNA. The McCanns feared even their own lawyer thought they were guilty. Kate was asked by the PJ to explain the dog alerts by her car. “You’re the police,” she said. “You tell me.” Kate asked the PJ: “Are you trying to destroy our family altogether?”

Gerry was asked the same questions the next day but could not answer. (Sometime earlier a Leicestershire officer had said to him, just stick to what you know.) Why did the dogs only alert next to material belonging to the McCanns? The officer was brandishing the dog-handler’s report. And then: “Your daughter’s DNA, your daughter Madeleine McCann, how do you explain that?” “Show me that report,” Gerry asked. “No. This is the report that matters – with the dog.” Of course, they could not produce a DNA match because there wasn’t one.

The McCanns took heart when Goncalo Amaral was forced to step down after making public criticisms of them and the Leicestershire police – he had made the criticisms in a phone call to a journalist contact, not suggesting the comments were private or off the record.

The McCanns hope that Amaral’s replacement, Paulo Rebelo, a more sober, conservative character, will take a wide view of the inquiry. He is said to have stopped leaks to the press, and has been locked away on the upper floors of the station in Portimao reviewing the evidence with a team of officers.

Meanwhile, the McCanns are back home trying to recover some kind of normality. How long can you put your life on hold? They have the twins to think of. Gerry has gone back to work half-days, and has finally told the British Heart Foundation he plans to go ahead with the research fellowship they awarded him, a week before he was accused of being involved in his daughter’s death. He had told me, weeks ago, about the six-figure grant and how it meant almost nothing in terms of professional advancement, but might one day help in the prevention and treatment of heart disease.

He had prepared the application in his own time, working evenings and weekends.

In other circumstances it would have meant the world to him but, right now, he had other things on his mind.

If you have any information that may help the search for Madeleine, please call the confidential phone line 0034 902 300213 or visit

TimesOnline Sunday Times June 3, 2007

Lay off the McCanns India Knight

I wrote about Madeleine McCann just after she’d been abducted, and was quite startled by my postbag. Roughly half the letters sympathised impotently with Gerry and Kate McCann; the other half were entirely, and brutally, condemnatory. Who leaves three toddlers unattended for half an hour at a time, they asked? The McCanns were “asking for it”, they were “selfish”, they were “criminally careless”. I hardly think so: leaving small children alone is never wise, but most of us avoid doing it because we’re frightened of choking, not of marauding child-snatchers; if we believed that paedophiles lurk around every corner, we’d all go insane and never leave the house. I was really taken aback by these letters, chiefly because when an unspeakably awful thing happens, compassion seems a saner and more appropriate response than being smugly judgmental.

Anyway: here we are again, a month on. Madeleine is still missing, her picture still appears in most newspapers every day, and I don’t know quite where the compassion percentage stands at today. There is clearly a growing rumble of unease out there at the McCanns’ omnipresence in the papers and on television. No aspect of their grief is deemed too private to share with the media. We’ve watched them in church, we’ve watched them walking about, we’ve seen their other two children, we’ve seen poor beribboned Kate McCann clutching pathetically at Madeleine’s favourite toy. They were in Rome last week, where they briefly met the Pope; soon they’ll be off to a slew of other countries, cameras in tow, to broaden out their campaign. And it is a campaign, involving appeals or offers of support from David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo, even Gordon Brown. Whoever is orchestrating it deserves an award. Enough, detractors say. A hundred children go missing in Britain every year: what about them? Do we know even one of their names? The answer, shamefully, is no. But two wrongs don’t make a right: would it be preferable for Madeleine to become an anonymous statistic too? Would ignoring the McCanns and their desperate appeal somehow honour the other 100 nameless missing children? It’s hard to see how.

The argument then moves on to the cynicism and sentimentality of the media, which apparently feeds the public’s fundamentally unwholesome and voyeuristic hunger for images of a lost child and her distraught parents. Well, er, yeah: full marks, Sherlock. Nothing new there: one of the bestselling books in the country at the moment is called Please, Daddy, No. It is one of many in the same genre, and it is an unfortunate fact that the public’s appetite for horrific “true” stories involving children being abused seems, disturbingly, almost infinite. The question is, does it matter that some people’s avid following of the McCanns’ story undoubtedly involves prurience and a strange sort of hunger for the gory detail? Not really, no. The point, surely, is that somebody somewhere knows or suspects what happened to Madeleine, and that her parents are desperate to attract that person’s attention by any means necessary. If, on the way, they make some of us feel uncomfortable, or voyeuristic, or even, whisper it, compassion-fatigued, that’s entirely our problem. God knows theirs is greater. Speaking of God: what really brought the nay-sayers out of the woodwork was the McCanns’ attendance at mass in St Peter’s Square last week. They are devout Catholics; they met the Pope for a few minutes afterwards; he appeared to bless a photograph of Madeleine. Unacceptable, according to some woman on Newsnight for whom this was the final straw: the McCann story had now become about “religion and faith”. What an extraordinary statement. Here are two parents, stuck in hell, not even afforded the dubious comfort of grieving. Love the Pope, hate the Pope, meeting him helped them and brought them comfort. Do we really need to sit in judgment?

The boring leftie middle-class response to the McCanns’ story - clumsily seeking to intellectualise an event to which most people respond only viscerally - has echoes of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. Reams were written at the time about how Britain had gone mad, how this syrupy sentimentality was entirely puzzling, how the writer felt like an alien in his or her own country, how he or she really didn’t care that much, how plenty of women died every day, how the fuss and the grief were entirely disproportionate and we’d all be terribly embarrassed in the cold light of day. You sensed that the writers of those articles felt brave, like they were boldly sticking their heads above the parapet, speaking up for a significant minority. Which I’m sure they were - though perhaps not as heroically as they’d envisaged — just like the commentators expressing their discomfort at the magnitude of the McCann campaign. But what’s the point, exactly? It is an act of off-the-scale egoism to base your view of a situation such as this one only on whether it makes you feel “comfortable” or not. What has anyone’s “comfort” got to do with anything? The facts are simple: a child was snatched; her parents are in despair; the Portuguese police seem worse than inept. Someone knows what happened to Madeleine. What are the parents to do? (Three days or so after Madeleine disappeared, and the media circus was already in full flow, an enterprising reporter drove over the border to Spain with a photograph of her. He was met with only blank looks: despite nonstop coverage of the story here, no one he spoke to had any idea who she was.) The McCann family’s story is like any other in this respect: you can think what you like. You can be interested, you can be bored. You can leave News 24 on in the background, or you can watch Big Brother instead. You can hope for the best, or fear the worst. You can say a prayer, or rant about the Pope. It’s up to you, because you can always turn the page and move on to something you consider more interesting or more cheerful, something that makes you feel more “comfortable”.

That luxury does not exist for the McCanns. They can’t turn the page. They can only generate more headlines, because they believe that the end of headlines is the end of hope. Who among us would look them in the eye and condemn them for it?

From TimesOnline September 21, 2007
Madeleine McCann: the key questions

Why are the "Tapas 9" key to solving the Madeleine mystery?

David Brown and Steve Bird examine the puzzles and mysteries at the heart of the four month investigation

Why are the “Tapas 9” key to solving the Madeleine mystery?

Kate and Gerry McCann were dining with seven British friends at a tapas restaurant in the Ocean Club resort when Madeleine was reported missing. The friends are crucial witnesses but have said very little publicly. Police sources have claimed there are inconsistencies in their statements to officers. The friends are Matthew and Rachael Oldfield, Russell O’Brien and his partner Jane Tanner and David and Fiona Payne and her mother Dianne Webster.

Did any of them see anyone taking Madeleine?

Jane Tanner told police that she saw a man walking away from the McCanns’ apartment at 9.15pm. Sources close to the couple have previously said that the man had a child wrapped in the blanket and was walking in a southerly direction. However, the London Evening Standard reported yesterday that Ms Tanner had seen man carrying a girl dressed in Madeleine’s distinctive pink-and-white pyjamas walking eastwards, towards the house of the official suspect Robert Murat, 33.

Do police believe this was a man abducting Madeleine?

Detectives refused to publicise the sighting for three weeks. Another witness, Jeremy Wilkins, is reported to have told police that he was in the area talking to Mr McCann and did not see the mystery man.

Did anyone else in the Tapas 9 notice anything strange?

Matthew Oldfield said he had checked on the McCanns’ apartment at 9.30pm. A source close to the McCanns had said he did not look into the bedroom where Madeleine was sleeping with the two-year-old twins Sean and Amelie. But the Evening Standard report claimed he saw the twins but did not have a view of Madeleine’s bed.

Was there anything strange about the room after Madeleine disappeared?

Mrs McCann was sure Madeleine had been abducted because the bedroom window was open and the security shutter was forced open, a source close to the family has insisted. Tests on the shutter showed no sign of forced entry. However, another friend claimed yesterday that the shutter had been left open.

When will the Portuguese courts decide what to do in the Madeleine case?

Pedro Daniel dos Anjos Frias, a criminal instructional judge in Portimão, has decided that there is no need for the McCanns to be reinterviewed at this point, hence the prosecutor’s statement last night. The threat of them having to return to the Algarve in the near future has been lifted. The judge must complete his rulings by today on a variety of issues. It is believed that he has already authorised the use of Mrs McCann’s diaries as evidence.

Could the couple still be charged soon?

Unlikely. LuÍs Armando Bilro Verão, the lead public prosecutor, must now decide if there is sufficient evidence to bring charges against them, if he needs to request the PolÍcia Judiciária to carry out further investigations or if the case against them should be dropped.

Why is it all taking so long?

Portuguese detectives are still waiting for the results of tests on samples being carried out by the Forensic Science Service laboratory in Birmingham. They are also believed to want to carry out further searches in the Algarve and possibly at the McCanns’ home.

So how long will the McCanns have to wait?

The couple can remain as arguidos, or official suspects, for eight months before the Portuguese police have to apply for a four-month extension. After this time they automatically cease to be suspects, but there is no requirement for the prosecutor to clear them formally.

Robert Murat, a British self-employed property consultant on the Algarve and the only other official suspect in Madeleine’s disappearance, has been an arguido for four months.

Why has there been so much confusion?

Portugal’s strict laws of judicial secrecy mean that nobody involved in a criminal investigation is allowed to reveal any of the evidence in the case. However, Portuguese police sources are regularly quoted giving incriminating details about the McCanns’ role in their daughter’s disappearance. Friends of the couple have increasingly been attempting to challenge these reports with their own interpretation of events. Both sides are actually breaking the law and could face up to two years in jail.

Who is who in Team McCann

Clarence Mitchell

Former BBC journalist appointed on Monday as Kate and Gerry McCann’s official spokesman. Represented them in May and June after being sent to Praia da Luz by the Foreign and Commonwealth Offic

Michael Caplan, QC

One of few solicitors to be appointed QC, expert in extradition and international criminal law. Prevented extradition to Spain of former Chilean president General Augusto Pinochet

Angus McBride

Leading criminal solicitor with expertise in dealing with media and protecting reputation of individuals subject to media or criminal investigation

Carlos Pinto de Abreu

One of Portugal’s best-known lawyers with reputation for taking on controversial cases. Lodged McCanns’ libel action against Portuguese newspaper which said they were police suspects

Esther McVey

Former GMTV presenter and Conservative parliamentary candidate, trustee and spokeswoman for Madeleine Fund. Has known Mrs McCann since they did their A levels together

Father Haynes Hubbard

Anglican priest at church of Nossa Senhora da Luz (Our Lady of the Light) in Praia da Luz and his wife, Susan, have become close friends and confidants of McCanns

Calum MacRae

18-year-old internet expert runs Find Madeleine website which has attracted more than 400,000 unique users and helped to raise more than £1 million in donations for campaign

Philomena McCann

Mr McCann’s sister, a headteacher, has been key family member to publicise hunt for Madeleine and to defend her parents

Trish and Sandy Cameron

Mr McCann’s sister and brother-in-law have been frequent visitors to the couple in Praia da Luz and Rothley. About 30 other relatives and friends also visited them in Praia da Luz

Why are the McCann’s early television interviews being scrutinised?

Commentators have seized on the lack of emotion shown by Kate and Gerry McCann during a series of televised statements and interviews in the weeks after Madeleine’s disappearance. It is claimed that this was an unnatural response and indicated that the couple were hiding something. In fact, criminal profilers had advised them to display no overt emotion in case Madeleine’s abductor “got off" on the sight of her parents in obvious distress. Off camera, they were deeply distressed and received help from counsellors.

How can the police establish Mrs McCann’s state of mind?

Prosecutors are reported to want access to Mrs McCann’s medical records to see if there is any history of illness such as depression which could explain why she would kill Madeleine. They are also said to want British police to carry out investigations into the couple’s relationship and personal history.

Could Mrs McCann’s handwriting be used as evidence?

A judge has authorised police to seize Mrs McCann’s diary and detectives want a graphologist to study the handwriting, it was reported yesterday. Alberto Vaz da Silva, a criminal psychologist and a handwriting expert, told the newspaper 24 Horas: “It would be possible to discover the temper and the character of the person in question. You can see if someone is lying or hiding something.” However, handwriting evidence is usually used only for forensic science purposes, not to determine a person’s emotional state.

Why could Mrs McCann’s newspaper interview lead to jail?

Mrs McCann could be prosecuted under Portugal’s laws of judicial secrecy for telling the Sunday Mirror that police had seized her bible. She said: “One of the pieces of evidence is that a page from a passage in Samuel about having to tell a man his child is dead is crumpled - so I must have been reading it.” The 24 Horas newspaper said that the public prosecutor could accuse Mrs McCann of breaking the secrecy law, which carries a maximum two years' jail sentence. Varradas Leitao, a member of the Superior Council of the Ministerial Publico, said: “A witness or an arguida, the law is the same for everybody. You cannot divulge procedural acts.”

What are the police doing to find Madeleine or her body?

Portuguese police are reported to be preparing for a new series of searches using sniffer dogs and infra-red equipment in an area between Praia da Luz and the village of Burgau, about two miles to the west. It has also been suggested that they will search the church in Praia da Luz and the town of Arao, where a big operation was carried out after an anonymous tip-off to a Dutch newspaper.

Who is advising Kate and Gerry McCann?

British lawyers Michael Caplan, QC, an expert in international law, and Angus McBride, a solicitor who specialises in protecting the reputation of individuals subject to media or criminal investigation. They have also hired a Portuguese lawyer, Carlos Pinto de Abreu, who filed the libel action against a newspaper which said the police suspected them of involvement in their daughter’s death.

How can the couple win the battle of public opinion?

Clarence Mitchell, 46, has been appointed as their official spokesman. He resigned yesterday as head of the Government’s Media Monitoring Unit and had previously been seconded to the Foreign Office to help the McCanns in the weeks after Madeleine’s disappearance.

What can Mr Mitchell do to help the McCanns?

His job at the Cabinet Office has given him contacts among senior members of the Government and Civil Service. He also has extensive contacts with journalists in both Britain and Portugal and more than 20 years’ experience as a reporter.

Are the McCanns paying for his services?

No. He has been employed by one of their wealthy backers and will continue to work for that person after the Madeleine case is over.

What action will the police take this week?

Portuguese detectives are due to arrive in Leicester to work with a British police team investigating Madeleine’s disappearance. It has been reported that Kate McCann could be interviewed again this week. A Portuguese judge must decide by Thursday whether to approve requests by Portuguese police to secure more evidence.

Who’s advising British police on the case?

Tony Connell, a member of the Crown Prosecution Service’s special casework unit, has been advising the “Gold Group” of senior detectives at Leicestershire Police, which is investigating the Madeleine case. Mr Connell led the review which led to the conviction of Damilola Taylor’s killers.

Could the McCanns be prosecuted in Britain?

It is possible to prosecute a British citizen for a murder or manslaughter abroad under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. This was last done in 2005 when Christopher Newman was convicted at the Inner London Crown Court of murdering Georgina Eager in Dublin.

Can the public support Kate and Gerry McCann’s legal battle?

A fighting fund to help to pay their legal costs is expected to be announced within the next few days. A source close to the family told The Times: “It will be getting set up and formalised as a proper fund. It has to be meticulously thought through.”

Why is the McCanns’ hire car pivotal to the investigation?

Portuguese police claim they have found traces of Madeleine’s hair and bodily fluid in the boot of the Renault Scenic, indicating that it was used to transport Madeleine’s body after her death. Scientists have said that it should be possible to establish whether the hair came from a dead or living person.

Does this mean the scientific results hold the key to the case?

Not necessarily. Kate and Gerry McCann used the Budget rental car to move apartments, taking with them all their children’s toys and clothing, which would have contained large amounts of genetic material. It was also used by friends, relatives and people who worked on the campaign to find their daughter.

Where is the car now?

When the McCanns left Britain they drove the car to the airport. They have since said they will hold on to the vehicle to get their own independent scientific examinations done.

Under what circumstances was the car searched?

Police seized the car last month and took it to an underground car park opposite their offices in Portimão. Police sources say this is an unusual place to carry out such a delicate search.

Is there any other explanation about how the material could have got there?

If the DNA samples did come from Madeleine’s corpse it would seem an amazing coincidence that the McCanns hired a car used by their daughter’s abductor and killer. However, friends of the McCanns claim that the couple are being framed. It has also been suggested that the samples may have been labelled incorrectly.

Why do Portuguese police want to read Kate McCann’s personal diaries?

Detectives want to check for inconsistencies with the information previously given to police and for clues about the personal relationship between Mrs McCann, her husband and other members of the party who went with them to Portugal. Mrs McCann was seen regularly writing several pages a day in the diaries.

What evidence could be held on Gerry McCann’s laptop computer?

Mr McCann sent and received dozens of e-mails almost every day from friends and people involved in the campaign to find his daughter. It may be possible to retrieve those e-mails, which detectives hope could provide information about the events surrounding Madeleine’s disappearance and the couple’s connections with other people.

Why does a Portuguese judge need to authorise the seizure?

Portuguese police must get an authorisation from a judge to request items which are abroad or to retain items taken without the owner’s permission. Mr and Mrs McCann are believed to have taken most of the objects home to Britain. There are also reports in Portugal that police seized a copy of Mrs McCann’s diaries before the couple left the country to ensure they could not be destroyed. A judge must be asked to authorise a seizure without the owner’s consent within 24 hours.

Why didn’t the Portuguese police seize these items in Praia da Luz?

It may be that the items left Portugal some time ago when Mr or Mrs McCann made previous trips to Britain, or a friend may have taken them. The couple left the Algarve on Sunday morning at very short notice. They notified the Portuguese authorities but perhaps police did not have the opportunity to ask a judge to authorise the seizure of items without the couple’s consent.

Has the judge been asked to authorise any other seizures?

Portuguese papers reported yesterday that officers wanted to obtain Madeleine’s favourite soft toy, which Mrs McCann took home. It is also claimed that police seized the Renault hired by the McCanns 25 days after Madeleine’s disappearance. The car contained samples of the girl’s hair and “bodily fluids”.

What else has the judge been asked to do?

It has been reported that detectives want to search the church in Praia da Luz where the couple regularly prayed after Madeleine disappeared. They would only require an order from the judge if the priest or bishop in charge refused to authorise the search. It has also been suggested that police want to search a cemetery beside the church and to excavate roads where sewers were being replaced at the time of Madeleine’s disappearance.

Who is revealing details about scientific evidence?

By law Portuguese police are prevented from revealing details of investigations. However, some officers have been secretly briefing Portuguese journalists.

What scientific evidence have police collected?

In a briefings on Monday night detectives said that they found traces of “bodily fluids” in the car which had probably come from Madeleine with a large amount of Madeleine’s hair in the boot of the car.

Why are the “bodily fluids” significant?

When pathologists refer to bodily fluids they usually mean the putrefying substance created during the decomposition of a body tissue and blood. This “fluid” is evidence that a corpse has been present, but DNA samples are required to identify the body. It is unclear what “fluids” have been found. It might be traces of urine, dried blood or vomit, which would not conclusively prove Madeleine had died.

Does a large quantity of hair prove that Madeleine’s body was in the car?

No. The hair must show evidence that it came from a decomposing body. Other hair could be “transmitted” from items of Madeleine’s clothing and belongings.

Is anyone else confirming these reports?

Sources in Britain who are assisting the Portuguese investigation have agreed that there is “significant” scientific evidence linking Mr and Mrs McCann to their daughter’s death. However, Portuguese officers took the highly unusual step of publicly denying a report which was allegedly based on sources in Britain.

Does the scientific evidence prove that Madeleine was killed?

Because the samples have degraded over time the scientists can never be 100 per cent certain that they came from Madeleine.

What happened in the four hours before Madeleine was reported missing?

Kate and Gerry McCann claim that while they dined at a restaurant with friends regular checks were made on Madeleine and their two-year-old twins, Sean and Amelie, at their nearby holiday apartment. Mr McCann told police he saw his daughter asleep at about 9pm. A friend, Matthew Oldfield, entered the apartment at about 9.30pm but did not look in the bedroom Madeleine and the twins were sharing.

It is not known if anyone apart from Mr and Mrs McCann saw Madeleine alive between 6pm and 10pm, when she was reported missing by her mother. The timing is crucial but would be only circumstantial evidence in any prosecution. Although a small child could be killed quickly it would take time to hide a body so that it was not discovered in the biggest search in Portuguese history.

Why did Kate McCann cry out “They’ve taken her?” when she discovered Madeleine missing?

Portuguese police are reported to find it suspicious that Mrs McCann immediately believed that more than one person had taken her daughter. This could suggest that she knew who had taken Madeleine, perhaps people who thought they were helping Mrs McCann by removing her daughter’s body.

Alternatively, it could be an off-the-cuff remark by an hysterical mother or perhaps was misheard or misunderstood in the confusion of the night.

What were the movements of the McCann’s friends on the night Madeleine disappeared?

The McCann family had stayed at the Ocean Club resort with three other British couples and their five children, and a single woman. Russell O’Brien, a doctor from Exeter, left the restaurant for half an hour to look after his own daughter, returning shortly before Madeleine was reported missing.

His wife, Jane Tanner, was the only witness to report a man carrying away child from the McCann’s apartments. There is confusion about when members of the party arrived at the tapas restaurant and left to check on their own sleeping children.

How much alcohol did the McCanns and their friends drink on the evening Madeleine disappeared?

Kate and Gerry McCann and their friends are reported to have told detectives they shared four bottles of wine, with another two barely touched before Madeleine was discovered missing.

However, it is claimed detectives have recovered a bill showing they downed eight bottles of red wine and six white during the afternoon and evening.

Why was Madeleine’s bedroom window and shutter open?

Kate and Gerry McCann told police that the window shutter in Madeleine’s bedroom, which could not been seen from the restaurant, had been forced open.

Police tests showed the heavy metal shutter had not been forced up from the outside, so must have been pulled open from inside the room. Assuming that the abductor entered through the apartment’s unlocked patio windows, why would he or she not leave by the same way or the use the front door?

Or was the window opened to make it appear as if an intruder had used it to enter the bedroom?

Why did Madeleine’s sister and brother sleep through her “abduction”?

Sean and Amelie were heavy sleepers who were not disturbed by their sister’s abduction, claim their parents. However, they also slept through their mother’s hysterical response to Madeleine’s disappearance and the presence of dozens of people who joined the search before being carried out by a female police officer. Kate and Gerry McCann have strenuously denied sedating their daughter.

Why were the McCanns allowed to leave Portugal if they are suspects?

The Portuguese authorities allowed the McCanns to return to the UK after they agreed to reside only at their home in Rothley and to return for further questioning if necessary.

Portuguese law states that after someone is declared a suspect, police have eight months to conclude the investigation into that individual. If they require further time officers can apply to the courts for a four-month extension.

If the McCanns refused to comply with a request to return to the Algarve for interview, Portuguese police could issue a European Arrest Warrant under which extradition can be carried out within six weeks.

Why has it taken so long to find the evidence that could implicate Kate and Gerry McCann?

The material was only collected at the end of July and early August in a review of the investigation carried out by Portuguese detectives with the help of British police and two sniffer dogs. Many of the samples are very small, containing just a few cells, while others are of poor quality because of damage by cleaning or simply the passing of time.

A full report of the findings will not be ready for weeks, but many results have already been passed to the Portuguese authorities.

What evidence were police looking for?

Detectives are searching for any evidence that proves Madeleine is dead or contradicts the accounts of Mr and Mrs McCann and other witnesses.

What is the most important forensic evidence?

It appears the Forensic Science Service believes it has discovered compelling new evidence, possibly from more than one source. Portuguese detectives told Mrs McCann repeatedly that they found traces of Madeleine’s blood in a Renault Scenic hired three weeks after she disappeared, suggesting that the missing girl’s parents used the vehicle to carry her body. It is possible to tell if the blood came from a living person or from a corpse, and even the time of death. However, some reports suggest that the quality of the blood sample was too poor to confirm the origin while others have denied any blood was found in the vehicle and claim it was other “bodily fluids”. Unless a body had been placed in a freezer, it would have badly decomposed during the warm weather; leaving a mass of traces invisible to the human eye.

Does any trace of Madeleine in the hire car prove she was killed?

No. Mr and Mrs McCann hired the car to buy new clothes in the town of Portimão a day before they flew to Rome to see Pope Benedict XVI. They then used it regularly for family outings and to collect friends and relatives from Faro airport. They continued using the car until shortly before flying home yesterday. Kate and Gerry and their two-year-old twins would have often carried in the car items used by Madeleine. These items could easily certainly carry Madeleine’s hair and minute traces of skin, dried blood, saliva and vomit. The same could be said of the holiday apartments used by the McCanns and their friends in the Ocean Club resort. However, if the blood came from Madeleine’s corpse the only other highly unlikely explanation would be that a previous hirer had moved the body.

One report suggested yesterday that Madeleine’s DNA had been found on the floor of the McCanns holiday apartment, but because of degredation it was based on an incomplete picture, with only 15 of the 20 genetic markers usually used for such analysis.

What is the DNA evidence that has supposedly been found by the Portuguese investigators?

Newspapers in Portugal have been reporting that “biological fluids” with an 80 per cent match to Madeleine’s DNA have been found underneath upholstery in the boot of the McCanns’ rented Renault Scenic. Some media reports claimed that another DNA sample with a 100 per cent match to that of Madeleine’s profile had been found in the car.

What would this tell us?

Perhaps nothing. If it was sourced from something such as a hair follicle or skin cells then that could have been one of Madeleine’s hairs that had stuck to the clothes of a family member or her “cuddle cat” toy that her mother carries. If it was from Madeleine’s blood or corpse, that could be more significant. The most important issue is the size of the sample found. If there was a substantial amount of material it is unlikely to be from accidental contamination and would indicate that Madeleine had been in the car.

Can investigators establish if the DNA sample comes from someone who was alive or dead?

Unlikely, according to British experts. A DNA profile does not change just because someone dies. You can tell if DNA has degraded but that can happen if, for example, it had been exposed to sunshine.

Does an 80 per cent match with biological fluids indicate that Madeleine was definitely in the car?

No. The sample will have been tested against a definite sample of Madeleine’s. A 80 per cent match indicates that profilers could find only 16 of the 20 markers usually used for such analysis and suggests that the biological traces are tiny and degraded. Additionally, the twins Sean and Amelie could share a high percentage of DNA characteristics as most siblings do.

What complicates the matter further is that all three of the McCanns’ children were born through IVF and it is unknown whether the couple’s sperm and eggs were used for conception.

What about the discoveries of the “cadaver” sniffer dog?

Mr and Mrs McCann were shown a police video of a sniffer dog used to find corpses “going crazy” when it approached the hire car. Reports also claim that is discovered the scent on the vehicle’s key fob. Mrs McCann is reported to have explained that in her work as locum GP she came into contact with six corpses in the weeks leading up to Algarve holiday.

This seems a high number for a locum GP working just a couple of days a week but would be easy to check against surgery records.

The crucial difficulty with the sniffer dog “evidence” is that it cannot distinguish between corpses. This type of dog is trained to find bodies, not identify where dead bodies have been. Crucially, they can become excited by other scents.

Any evidence of Madeleine’s death on Cuddle Cat?

The cadaver dog is alleged to have become excited when shown Madeleine’s favourite soft pink toy, called Cuddle Cat. The cat had become poignant symbol of a mother’s loss as Kate McCann carried it with her at all time from the night of Madeleine’s disappearance.

She washed it four days after the police tests, claiming it had become dirty. The toy was potentially crucial evidence and should have been seized by police very early in the investigation.

What evidence can be found in Mrs McCann’s Bible?

Mrs McCann, a devout Roman Catholic, claims that police told her that a crumpled page in her Bible was evidence that she was involved in the death of her daughter. The page contained a passage from Samuel II, chapter 12, verses 15-19, which recalls how man’s child is stricken with illness after he “scorns” the Lord.

The man fasts for seven days, refusing to get up off the ground, to try to gain redemption — but eventually his child dies. Mrs McCann claims that detectives told her that damage to the page proved she had been reading it.

Why are the McCanns suspects in their daughter’s killing?

Portuguese police refuse to say why the couple have been made official suspects. Under Portuguese law police can not question someone as if they had committed a crime unless they are a “suspect”. It could simply be that police wanted to ask the couple about the evidence they had collected, and that the seriousness of the process has been misunderstood and exaggerated by cultural and language differences. The McCanns believed that they were about to be charged with Madeleine’s death, but it does not appear police disclosed any crucial evidence to them.

All parties have strenuously denied any wrongdoing.

TimesOnline October 27, 2007

Distinguished participantsat Lisbon, Portugal, which was the venue of the World Telecommunication Policy Forum in 2009 for a global discussion of strategies and policies of high current policy interest in the changing telecommunication environment. (from left to right): His Excellency, Ambassador Luis Gallegos, Ambassador of Ecuador to the United States, former Chair of the UN Ad Hoc Committee and G3ict Chairman; Rachel Hurst, OBE, Director, Disability Awareness in Action; Dr. Roger Berry MP, Co-Chair of the Disabilities All Party Group; and Mohammed Al-Tarawneh, Chair, Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

You have many more abductions than Portugal, but nobody talks about that Lisbon’s ambassador to London tells our correspondents how the Madeleine McCann case left him heavy-hearted

Alice Miles and Helen Rumbelow

An ambassador’s postbag usually consists of a few gold-edged invitations to state occasions – instead, Antonio Santana Carlos is swamped by emotional letters from the British public about the disappearance of a little girl.

After Madeleine McCann went missing, the onslaught was overwhelmingly negative. Now, he says, it is mixed – the impassioned camp of Portuguese-blamers, joined by those who condemn the parents, with a lunatic fringe unhealthily excited by the case and who think that they know where the body is. Six months on the mail keeps coming.

Perhaps initially it was some relief for Mr Santana Carlos to come to London after years of conducting highly sensitive negotiations over the hand-over of Macau to China. But only six months after he arrived in Britain the McCann case broke and he was back in a diplomatic minefield.

Some reports in the British press branded the Portuguese police as lazy, inept, secretive and drunk and, in the hysteria, an impression was created that the place was a haven for paedophiles. Relaying these reports back to his home country gave Mr Santana Carlos a heavy heart – they caused uproar among his fellow citizens.

The drowning of a group of British holidaymakers in the Algarve this week has added to the tensions. Britain and Portugal have, as he said, “the oldest alliance in the world” between two states, dating back to 1386, still flourishing in the form of two million British tourists visiting Portugal every year. Now things are looking jittery.

Although he appreciates that both countries have a free press, Mr Santana Carlos is concerned at the hostile tone of some of the coverage of the Madeleine investigation, with insults bandied back and forth.

“If you like to see Madeleine back then we have to work together and to stop blaming one or the other . . . to blame the other side does not give Madeleine back to the parents.”

At a political level, the two countries were as close as ever, he insisted, but as for public opinion: “I have been approached by people that, of course, don’t understand why we couldn’t find Madeleine McCann. Some other people blame the other side. And so there are some mixed feelings but again I think that we continue to do our utmost to find her.”

Even in the earliest days the intense publicity was causing problems. “The issue became so hot and so high on the news that, in a way, could be conducive to get those that have abducted Madeleine McCann perhaps to fear that they will be prosecuted and they could not escape.”

This isn’t the most diplomatic of remarks, to suggest that the publicity for the case sought by the parents might have harmed their hopes of a rescue. Mr Santana Carlos’s conversation is peppered with comments that could, in the present overwrought mood, make you draw breath. It seems impossible that he is unaware of the sensitivities. Maybe he is unusually frank, or perhaps just frustrated?

Take his main message: that Portugal is safe and, in particular, safer than Britain. It has an exceptionally low crime rate, he says, and Lisbon was judged the safest capital in the EU in a survey by the UN and Gallup this year. London was the most dangerous. “You have many more cases of abductions than Portugal, and nobody talks about that, but this case has come up very, very high in the news.”

It might be “interesting”, he suggested, “to investigate and show the statistics”. According to his press attaché, there have been three missing children in ten years in Portugal. According to a Home Office analyst, there have been dozens of abductions by strangers in Britain, although most of those children were found within 24 hours.

The ambassador added: “We are a peaceful country. We don’t have terrorism in Portugal.”

The British are the second most important tourism market for Portugal, after visitors from Spain. Although holiday bookings are holding up, it probably won’t be clear until next year whether the McCann case has hit the industry. But this week the news was again dominated by tragic reports of British holidaymakers in the Algarve.

Pictures of rescued children shivering on a beach as they waited to hear that their parents had died trying to rescue them were beamed on to the front pages, amid criticism that the dangerous beach had inadequate warning signs, and only in Portuguese.

“Unfortunately, that beach was very close to a cape,” said the ambassador, with a rueful shake of the head. “I know it because I’m a sailing man. Sometimes the seas there can be somewhat rough. Perhaps they were not aware. That’s very unfortunate. And they tried to rescue their children, and they died. So very unfortunate.”

He conceded that warning signs might need to be clearer outside of the summer season, during which all beaches in Portugal are manned by lifeguards.

He dismissed suggestions, hyped up by British newspapers, that the surviving adults could face criminal prosecution in Portugal. “Some people always like to explore the negatives. I’m not informed about that, but I don’t think the Portuguese police will do something like that.” And suddenly he added: “Regarding Madeleine McCann, even in this country I think that there could have been some judicial procedure against the parents because they left the children alone. According to British law, as far as I know, such an initiative could have been taken.”

His point is that the authorities are sensible enough to gauge when “for human reasons” prosecution would be inappropriate – and he did immediately add that the McCann parents were dining “so near by”.

There were, Mr Santana Carlos said, cultural differences that made the behaviour of the parents hard to justify to the Portuguese. It is far less common there for children to be left behind while parents go out.

“As Latins, we have the concept of the nuclear family – that the family lives all together. I think the children in this country are more independent than they are in Latin countries. That was a cultural problem. Normally, the kids are always surrounded by the parents, by the family. This is a different pattern.”

Did the Portuguese find it difficult to understand why the McCanns left the children alone? “For some people, yes. For those people, in particular, that live in the countryside who have that concept of the nuclear family.”

It is hard not to sense an implicit note of disapproval of British ways in the comparison. But he quickly added: “For Portuguese people that live in urban centres perhaps that is different you know, because their day-to-day lives are not that easy, and their children have to live somewhat on their own. But again, what I think is essential is that we have to work together and stop blaming the other side.”

What could he do to repair the British trust in Portugal, if indeed it had been damaged? Reassure the British that “we continue to do our utmost to find her. That is our main objective.”

He respects the McCanns for their resolve. “We shall not lose hope and that’s something I admire in the McCanns. They are very determined.”

Mr Santana Carlos is going to have to live with them for many months to come. Would it ever end? “I think the only way out is to find her.”

TimesOnline  10, 2007

Madeleine: more than one family’s tragedy
Melanie McDonagh

We’re still at it. No fewer than 130 days since the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, the subject animates dinner parties, gets women talking to each other in the street, provokes rows within families. The returning home of the McCanns is just the most recent twist in a story which has, to an extraordinary extent, taken us over. It’s something we all have an opinion about. For four months there’s hardly been a day when the McCanns have been out of the news. And the suspicion that the Portuguese police are attempting to convert the McCanns from victims into villains has turned sympathy to downright partisanship.

Why are we obsessed? This is an extraordinary phenomenon. Is it a further example of the Diana syndrome – the mass transference of public empathy on to individuals we don’t know, made all the more creepy by our increasing alienation from the people we live next door to? Is it a symptom of the contemporary, unbalanced sentimentality about children? Is it – as hundreds of The Sun’s readers suggested to the paper’s former Editor, Kelvin McKenzie, when he wrote a column sympathising with the McCanns – an example of a kind of collective bias in favour of the middle classes? Scores of children disappear every year yet not one has received a fraction of the attention given to little Madeleine.

Personally, I think the public interest over this one child is extraordinarily heartening. It’s a sane human reaction to a case that brings home a child’s vulnerability. Of course, it helps that the McCanns have been steely and hard-hitting in their publicity campaign. It also helps that this particular child is blonde and blue-eyed. Not to put too fine a point upon it, if Madeleine had been an ugly girl, or her mother less photogenic, the temptation to replicate their image would have been less compelling.

Then there’s chauvinism. That this has happened to Britons abroad strikes a chord – as Gerry McCann remarked, “in a system you don’t know and don’t really trust, it’s incredibly frightening”. Moreover, the accusation of Portuguese police incompetence, inviting unflattering comparisons with Inspector Clouseau, has confirmed popular suspicion that, flawed as the police are here, they’re worse there. Now that – in the common take on events – the police are attempting to make scapegoats of the parents, national exasperation has turned this case into a them and us affair with the McCanns, as it were, the British team.

Yet the real reason why people care about Madeleine is fundamentally decent. Everyone who is fond of a child thinks, with a shudder, “it could be mine”. It’s one of those “there but for the grace of God” moments that has turned a personal tragedy into a national object lesson. And that collective compassion for a child is anything but shallow – it is people showing the best of themselves.

September 16, 2007

Madeleine McCann: You are all guilty
India Knight

The public is to blame for the heartless abuse being heaped on Kate McCann. The internet has blurred the lines of news and hearsay and the result is trial by global gossi

What do you think? Post your comments in the reader feedback section at the bottom of this article

Do you find yourself strangely drawn to articles about the McCanns? I do. It’s not edifying: most of us are uncomfortably aware that the slender line where personal tragedy becomes popular entertainment was crossed some time ago. But, like every other person in the country, the story is permanently at the back of my mind. I want to stop reading, listening, watching, Googling, amateur sleuthing; I nauseate myself with my own prurience. My appetite for commentary – which is all that’s left, in the absence of hard facts – has been sated many times over. But I can’t stop.

Did they do it? They couldn’t have. And yet . . . And if they did do it, do they have superhuman powers, such as invisibility and Oscar-worthy acting skills? And if they didn’t, and are innocent and probably bereaved, what in God’s name have we done to them? By that “we”, I don’t for once mean the (British) press, which seems to me, despite its inevitable mawkish descents into sentimentality, to have acted pretty responsibly. The press has urged caution, expressed compassion and been reluctant to judge the McCanns, if not the apparently sham-bolic Portuguese police.

No, by “we”, I mean the public. Forget that old chestnut “I blame the media”: now that everyone has an opinion and an embarrassment of outlets in which to express it, “I blame the public” is going to become the refrain of the coming decades. There is no shortage of online places where people may freely and anonymously air their opinions, even if their opinions are vile or demented or both; and there are millions of these newly voluble people. They have made it all right to say unspeakable things, to air the most shameful thoughts, always to think the worst, and never to give anyone a chance. With the McCann story, this has, for the first time, resulted in a complete blurring of the boundaries between news and gossip. Sky News lists Madeleine McCann as a “category” on its interactive content screen: news, business, sport, Madeleine. We have been here before with appalling crimes that grip the nation – we may have discussed, say, the James Bulger case among ourselves, watched the news and read the headlines, but then the news was on twice a day, the headlines came only in the morning, and the internet barely existed.

Now we have streaming information, an unstoppable torrent of truth, fiction, theory and gossip that is accessible 24 hours a day. The result is that, incredible as it may sound, there is, online (and the real world is catching up quickly), little difference in the tone of the remarks about Britney Spears’s failed comeback, and the comments made about Kate McCann, despite the fact that one is a pop star and the other the mother of a missing girl who may be dead. But there is no thought for Kate McCann’s suffering in the deluge of abuse heaped upon her; the McCanns’ local newspaper’s support website in Leicester-shire had to be closed. We seem to have lost track of why Kate McCann’s picture-editor-pleasing face – blonde, thin, wounded, Diana-like – is in the papers in the first place. By orchestrating the kind of media campaign more usually associated with a multi-million-pound film or music launch, the McCanns have catapulted themselves into the gossip fodder league. That means suffocating 24/7 media interest; it means your choice of earrings is going to be scrutinised and discussed by millions of strangers – it means you have declared open season on yourself when it comes to public consumption.

But the public doesn’t just consume: it devours. And once you’ve invited it in, it doesn’t sit down politely and make small talk: it makes itself at home and rifles through your underwear drawer. You can’t ask it to leave, to “respect your privacy”. It’s there for the duration. If the McCanns are innocent, and even if they aren’t, it may well cause them to lose their sanity. Despite popular thinking about journalists “making things up”, the traditional media are regulated. Things have to stand up from every angle. Facts matter. We have lawyers; we try not to libel or slander; to keep objective. The public, through the internet, can – and does – say anything, no matter how degrading or toxic, and keeps on saying it until, by a sort of insane osmosis, it stops being an outright lie and becomes a half-truth. The theory that Kate McCann, a doctor, accidentally oversedated her daughter, causing death, has existed on the internet for months. People write about it LIKE THIS, in indignant capitals, as if it were so obvious as to be a given, and as though they were explaining something simple and obvious to somebody mulishly stupid who refused to see the truth staring them in the face. Behind the capitals, you can almost feel their quickening breath and their peculiar excitement as they comprehensively trash the reputation of a grieving woman who is a stranger to them. Power to the people!

Things are ugly out there – there aren’t many things uglier than gossip about infanticide, which is what this story has become, and why it feels so extraordinary. But they have been ugly from the start. The news of Madeleine’s disappearance broke on a Friday evening. I wrote about it the following morning, assuming – naively, in retrospect – that people’s default mode would be compassion or pity. By Sunday evening my e-mail inbox was full. A handful of the e-mails agonised on the McCanns’ behalf. The greater part more or less said, “If you leave small children alone to go and eat tapas, you deserve everything that’s coming to you.” I know from colleagues on other newspapers that they had the same angry reaction, which they also found themselves disconcerted by.

I’ll get back to the tapas point, because it’s central to the whole thing, with opinion dividing into people who see leaving a child as stupid, but not the world’s greatest crime – such people are broadly sympathetic to the McCanns – and people who find it inexcusable, criminal and indicative of all sorts of dark possibilities. This latter group is among the 17,000 who signed an online petition recommending that Leices-tershire social services take into care the McCanns’ remaining two children, Sean and Amelie. The petition was not set up in the past week or so when things became murkier and question marks started mushrooming, but in May, when all we knew of Kate and Gerry McCann was that they seemed hollow-eyed with grief. The McCann story may end up being about the death of empathy. So here we are, obsessed, in the throes of one of those weird national seizures; sitting in judgment, wallowing in what the novelist Philip Roth (apropos Bill Clinton’s infidelity) memorably called “the ecstasy of sanctimony”. The woman at the checkout at Tesco has a view, as does the dinner party guest. The hitherto unsayable – “Do you think they killed their own child?” – has become commonplace. You hear it everywhere. We’re gossiping about a four-year-old child who may be dead, or abducted and raped, or both, and there are no holds barred any more. What brutal thing does this say about us?

It’s always risky attempting to analyse the nation’s psyche based on one apparently seismic event: often, when everything settles down, you realise that underneath all the emoting, there wasn’t anything terribly unexpected happening. One thinks of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales: all that was going on was that everyone felt sad and shocked, and then got over it. But the national fixation with the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, and the incendiary emotions it has provoked, is another thing altogether. It isn’t to do with empathy, because it seems to be thin on the ground. Prurience, yes; ghoulish curiosity, certainly – but there are, alas, dozens of hideous crime stories to pick from: why focus so obsessively on this one? Sentimentality, because of the involvement of a small, photogenic child? Perhaps at first – though much of the public commentary on this story is so condemnatory that sentiment doesn’t seem to come into it. That says something peculiar about our monstrous appetite for this tragedy – because, no matter what happened or who did what, a much-loved child has vanished.

Much of our fixation has to do with fear, and with the public’s desire to “own” a story. Within 24 hours of her disappearance, Madeleine McCann had become “Maddie”, as though we all knew her. Aside from what she looked like, we knew nothing about her whatsoever – not what toys she liked, “Cuddle Cat” aside, or what her favourite book was, or what she liked eating, or wearing (I am sorry to use the past tense, and mean nothing by it; the present tense looks even odder). But in those early days of the investigation, she became a version of all of our children, a blank to superimpose our own child’s face onto as we peered into the abyss. This was, of course, terrifying: the idea that an ordinary-seeming family could go on holiday and have a child vanish into thin air was more than most of us could cope with.

The natural human instinct, when faced with a terrible fear, is to list the things that make us different from the victims of the frightening situation, and in this particular case there were few. Much was made at the time of the McCanns’ social class (working class gone middle), and of the fact that if a single mother from a housing estate had gone out on the razz and left her child alone, sympathy would be in short supply. This is another way of saying that if a person is recognisably different from us, the bad thing that happened to them couldn’t possibly happen to us. The problem with the McCanns is that they were so terrifyingly normal-seeming, so middle-classly resonant, with their neat Boden-esque clothes and their responsible jobs and their three little children. How to differentiate ourselves from them, and thereby reassure ourselves that their misfortune would never be ours? By focusing obsessively on the one questionable thing they did: leaving their children alone in a strange place. Phew – instant relief. “I’d never do that,” the thought process went. “I’m safe. My children will never be harmed.” This is clutching at straws, frankly – as everyone surely knows by now, children who come to harm usually come to harm from a person known to them, more often than not in their own home. But we chose to clutch at this one particular straw, hence, I think, the disproportionate outpouring of vitriol against Kate McCann, who, regardless of her guilt or innocence, was, is and will continue to be punished because she had the temerity to seem so much like us.

She has also (more straws) been accused of seeming “unfeeling”, of looking “too groomed” (“I’d look a mess, therefore we’re not the same, therefore it could never happen to me”), of seeming strangely “calm” (or tranquillised, surely?), of, basi-cally, not falling to her knees screaming like an animal in pain – it’s “Show us you care, Ma’am” all over again. In some internet chatrooms and message boards, women bitch about Kate McCann for not reacting exactly like them – not that they’d know how they’d react in her situation, since they have never been in it. No matter: weird, isn’t it, how she seems so composed – and let’s not call it composure, let’s call it “arrogance” (this from the country that invented the stiff upper lip). Must make her a child killer, and not have anything to do with being told that visible distress might give pleasure to a hypothetical abductor.

And why are her clothes nice? Who thinks about clothes at a time like this? Why does she wash her hair? Couldn’t she wear rags, or sackcloth and ashes? Or – any day now – tar and feathers? And what was that nonsense with the Pope? (Who’d have thought the devout Catholic/Pope combination would be so perplexing and aggravating to so many people?)

Our fascination also exists because this story is centrally concerned with what many people perceive as a failure of parenting, a topic we are obsessed by as a nation. We are, collectively, eaten up with anxiety about raising our children. It’s a relatively new thing – people just used to have children and get on with it – and is reflected by the deluge of television programmes, books and publications devoted to how to be a parent. Women, especially, have become almost pathologically insecure on the subject: am I a bad person if I bottle-feed; have I failed if I have a caesarean; do I harm my children by going out to work; have they got enough friends; do they sleep too much or too little; do they eat enough super-foods and fish oils; do they need to learn Mandarin; do they play outside enough; and so on and on. With that insecurity comes the strongest desire to judge, as a means of self-reassurance: you see it every day in the ongoing working mothers versus stay-at-home ones debate. “Well, she barely sees her children because she’s in the office all day, so I’m better than her and my children will be happier” versus “She’s going out of her mind with boredom because she’s stopped working, so I’m better than her” – nobody can win, and the crazy thing is that nobody needs to: it’s hardly a competition.

Into this comes Kate McCann, who admits to a failure of parenting, to doing a stupid thing, and we fall on her like a pack of hyenas, weirdly pleased to leave behind our own failings and insecurities for a minute and concentrate on hers. The fact is that while I would never leave small children alone, I know dozens of people who routinely do, and I do not find them irresponsible, just tired.

There are so many of them that a whole service industry has built up around them: “family” hotels with a baby-listening service where someone cocks an ear at the bedroom door every now and then while harassed parents try to grab the semblance of a date together in the dining room; holidays, like the McCanns’, with kids’ clubs attached, where children are parked with what amounts to a stranger while parents try to sunbathe in peace for a couple of hours; skiing trips where the chalet comes complete with a random nanny; gyms with crèches; restaurants with some weird bloke in a clown suit “entertaining” the children in another room; and so on. A certain section of society routinely leaves their children in the care of somebody else whom they don’t know terribly well, no matter what the nanny agency has murmured soothingly about police checks. You can think what you like about this, but it is a fact of middle-class life, trying to reconcile loving your children with still having a life of your own, and an omnipresent source of anxiety for many people – if it weren’t, you couldn’t buy teddies with cameras hidden in them to check up on your child carer, and many women wouldn’t have the unpleasant niggling feeling that they don’t entirely trust their nanny to bring up their child.

The McCanns were foolish and wrong to leave three small children – babies, really – alone in a strange apartment. But doesn’t the subsequent calamity override the initial human error? Apparently not: only a fifth of Britons think they are completely innocent, according to a poll for this paper today. And 76% think they were wrong to leave them alone. And yet we all take risks: you take a risk every time you let a child out of your sight, every time they board a bus or a train, every time they’re a bit evasive about their whereabouts. If your house is burgled and you stupidly didn’t switch on the burglar alarm, does that mean you deserved it? Does it make your distress, your sense of violation and the loss of your goods any less significant?

Meanwhile, with hideous inevitability, the focus has shifted to Kate McCann’s being “volatile”. She “visi-bly lost control” while being questioned for 11 hours, we are told. It’s such a depressingly familiar scenario: a woman in an untenable situation is pushed to breaking point, and then when she does lose it – as lose it she will, because she’s not a robot or a monster – her sane response to an insane, unbearable set of circumstances becomes evidence with which to condemn her.

Impound her diary, call in all lap-tops: she must have done it if she shows any feelings. And she must have done it if she doesn’t. QED: she’s had it either way.

We are now told, by Portuguese newspapers who claim to have published extracts, that her diary, which the police want to see, shows she “struggled to control Madeleine”, that her children were “hyperac-tive”, and that looking after them exhausted her.

She also allegedly wrote that her husband left her to look after them too much on her own. Show me a woman with three children under four who doesn’t express the same frustrations, and I’ll show you an improbability. But even this utterly normal maternal response to child-care – it’s knackering, I wish he’d help out more – is being used as an indication of Mrs McCann’s “instability”.

And the people who’ve been there and ought to be able to sympa-thise – other women – are the ones sharpening their knives. As Madeleine Albright, the former US secretary of state, once said: “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” If that is so, hell must have got pretty crowded over the past four months.

The McCanns did themselves no favours when they embarked, deliberately, on a gigantic, modern publicity campaign. And that has contributed in no small part to making this case seem so compelling now. It is hard to criticise their original motive for hyping up the publicity, but in the process the McCanns unwittingly turned themselves into a soap opera: available to view on a screen near you 24 hours a day. As I write, there are reports that they’re looking for a new, bigger “campaign manager” to try to stem the tide of negative comment. (In what world did Gerry McCann think it was a good idea to put in an “appearance” at the Edinburgh television festival?) But it’s too late. The tide won’t be stemmed and the appointment of a Max Clifford figure will make things worse, not better. Every soap needs a baddie and since we seem to have forgotten that we’re not, in fact, watching a brilliantly scripted and plotted episode of Portuguese Holiday, it was only a matter of time before the goodie turned bad. What a twist! How compelling! More, more. Give me the inside story. One of these mornings, we’re going to wake up and see just how ghastly a part our own voyeurism has played in all of this. At least, I hope we are.

Vitriolic rants of the online rabble

IF you haven’t read what is on the internet about the McCanns you wouldn’t believe it. Here are a few examples of the kind of vitriol out there. Trawling through the sites to find these quotes is like a trip through the darkest recesses of people’s most ungenerous minds.

‘I never believed in your pain – the Find Madeleine McCann website

- Kate McCann is an ineffectual, weak and total washout of a mother and probably mentally unbalanced. Pathetic woman should never have had kids if she couldn’t cope – Mulderx, Mirror forum

- Gerry McCann does come across as a thug to me. I have no idea if wifey is involved but either way she is still as guilty as sin for leaving her children alone – Halibutswift, Mirror forum

- The McGrubs are terrible examples of parenting and should be prosecuted. At the very least, they should have to attend parenting classes. The day you put tapas and alcohol before the health and wellbeing of your offspring is a very bad day!!!! – Dr Kildare, HaloScan

- The people who must shoulder the burden of responsibility for the Maddie disappearance are Gerry and Kate McCann. If they did it, they are sick and evil and deserve to rot for ever. If they didn’t, they let her down by being selfish and indulging in their own pleasures leaving her alone and vulnerable – Val, Skynews

- The parents are a disgrace. They were on the razz every night after leaving their children in the crèche all day every day. Much wanted children? More like little fashion statements that they couldn’t be bothered to look after properly. The children unfortunately got in the way of their “me time” – Proud Parent UK, Alpha Mummy

- These people are doctors and in their professional lives would not hesitate to point the “abuse” finger at any other parent who left their children alone like they did. They should hang by their own noose – Arthur, Alpha Mummy

- I do think the McCanns have acted somewhat oddly throughout this investigation – particularly the mother. I can’t quite see it as natural for a mother in her position to make one of her immediate priorities in the days immediately following the disappearance of her daughter a visit to the Pope – without her remaining children – Krazykoolkazza, Mumsnet

- Even female doctors are subject to domestic abuse whether it be mental, physical or psychological bullying. Kate looks to me to be very submissive to Gerry. Her eyes dart towards him when the couple are questioned by the media. It’s as though she can’t speak up for herself. The running is another strange one. I’m a keep fit nut but the last thing on my mind would be to run if one of my kids were abducted. I would be spewing venom and ranting. – Ragna, Mirror forum’

TimesOnline September 9, 2007

Victims of the rumour mill?

David James Smith, Steven Swinford and Richard Woods

After a dramatic twist, are the Portuguese police close to solving the most extraordinary disappearance of recent years?

As Gerry McCann emerged from Porti-mao police station at midnight on Friday, he stared unblinkingly into the distance while his lawyer read out a statement. The consultant cardiologist, said the lawyer, had just joined his wife as a prime suspect in the death of his daughter, Madeleine, who went missing four months ago.

Beneath his unflinching exterior, Gerry was in a state of turmoil and fury. “We are being absolutely stitched up by the Portuguese police,” he had told a friend after his wife Kate had earlier been named a suspect after hours of interrogation. “We are completely f*****, we should have seen this coming weeks ago and gone back to Britain.”

Barely six days earlier the McCanns had been preparing to do just that: to end their vigil in Portugal and return home to Rothley in Leicestershire. They had informed the police who had reacted calmly enough.

Detectives had warned their lawyer that the McCanns might be made arguidos - suspects - in the investigation, but had emphasised that it would be a purely “technical” move. The status would give the McCanns greater rights in interviews.

The couple were going to need them. Kate was the first to be summoned and on Thursday was questioned for 11 hours. Drained and exhausted she left the police station at 12.55am, only to be back for a further five hours of questioning on Friday, before which she was named an arguida (the feminine form).

The archaic procedures made her grilling all the more arduous. Instead of taping the interviews, an officer took hand-written notes in Portuguese of Kate’s comments, which were then translated back into English at regular intervals for her approval.

The police have said nothing publicly about the evidence they are reported to have. But according to friends of the McCanns who spoke to them after their interviews, the police told Kate they had found “bodily fluids” in a Renault Scenic car hired by the McCanns.

The police implied the forensic traces had come from Madeleine - yet the McCanns had only hired the car 25 days after their daughter disappeared. The implication was clear: Madeleine had died and the McCanns had later used the car to dispose of her body.

The police added that a sniffer dog brought in from South Yorkshire police to help with the inquiry had detected the “scent of a corpse”. During questioning they repeatedly played footage of sniffer dogs becoming animated around the Renault Scenic. They are also said to have found Madeleine’s DNA on items of clothing bought by Kate after her daughter’s disappearance.

The police declared that the elements were enough to make them believe that Madeleine was dead and to make Kate a suspect. They even offered her a deal: if she confessed to killing her daughter accidentally, she would receive a “lenient sentence” of just “two to three years”.

After all the weeks of grief and pressure, it might have been too much for some to bear. Kate, although worried sick, stayed strong. “How dare you,” she told the police. “How dare you use blackmail to get me to confess to something I didn’t do.” Gerry returned distressed and tired. His sister Philomena McCann, who spoke to him after his interrogation, said: “He’s adamant that he’s done nothing wrong. Every question he was asked, he answered. Gerry didn’t seem particularly worried. He’s more concerned that the investigation seems to have moved away from finding Madeleine alive.”

She added: “Kate and Gerry have not been charged. They are free to leave Portugal, which is what I would want them to do - because I am sick of seeing them persecuted in this shameful manner.”

This weekend their fate hangs in the balance. A source at Britain’s Forensic Science Service said that the whole edifice of suspicion against the McCanns may rest on sand. Forensic samples, he cautioned, may have been too small or too contaminated to prove anything.

A senior British police source said he was astonished by the decision to accuse Kate of killing her daughter just on the basis of the forensic tests. “It sounds over the top. What we do is to get an independent review of the forensic evidence and bring someone in from the outside. You independently review what is going on and you certainly don’t make an arrest off the top of one specific piece of evidence,” he said.

On the other hand, a Portuguese newspaper yesterday claimed that Kate is accused of homicide, negligence and “preventing the corpse from being found”. Reports also claimed that police sources said Kate is mentally unstable, displayed “aggression” and has been using her right to remain silent.

The Portuguese authorities are considering whether to suspend the McCanns’ passports - and the police may yet lay charges.

To appreciate the McCanns’ extraordinary predicament, you have to go back to the night in question, Thursday, May 3, and in particular the three hours between when Madeleine was last seen by a nonfamily member and when she was reported missing. What happened in this period is regarded by police as the key to solving the mystery.

AFTER a series of interviews in Praia da Luz in recent weeks, The Sunday Times has established new details of what happened that night and how the police inquiry took its dramatic twist this weekend.

The McCanns had travelled to the Ocean Club resort in Praia da Luz with a group of friends, predominantly doctors like them. Altogether, four families, comprising nine adults and eight children, set out.

At the Ocean Club all four families had apartments in Waterside Gardens Block 5, which overlooked one of two pool and restaurant areas on the resort. It was not a gated site and Gerry’s and Kate’s ground floor apartment, 5a, was on a street corner. The group occupied two of the neighbouring apartments, 5b and 5d, and another on the floor above.

On the first night, Saturday, April 28, the adults and children all ate together at the Ocean Club’s other location, some 10 minutes away, the Millennium Restaurant and Terrace. But the next night, and for all the nights thereafter, all four families settled the children in their apartments and then walked down to the nearby Tapas restaurant with its open air tables offering a clear line of sight to the apartments, about 50 metres away.

You could see the rear of the apartments where french windows opened out of the lounge and kitchen area. In the McCanns’ apartment there was a master bedroom next to the lounge, a bathroom and, furthest away from the Tapas restaurant, at the front, next to the front door, the second bedroom where the three children were put to sleep every night.

Each evening the group followed a pattern of giving the children tea together and then playing with them for an hour before putting them to bed. The children, worn out, were soon asleep.

For the adults, the evenings were fun, although not excessive, despite some of the more excitable reporting. The Portuguese magazine Sol, for example, claimed 14 bottles of wine were consumed on the night of May 3 - adding the supposedly persuasive details of eight bottles of red and six of white. In fact, according to Gerry, the group had drunk only four bottles; another two stood barely touched on the table.

Each set of parents took responsibility for checking on their own children, so there was fairly constant traffic up and down from the table, the parents often crossing paths. Gerry and Kate took turns to check every half hour.

On the evening of May 3, the last moment when Madeleine was definitely seen alive by anybody other than the McCanns was at about 7pm as the group put their children to bed.

As the adults dined, Gerry went to check on Madeleine and the twins Sean and Amelie at just after 9pm, perhaps at 9.05pm. He says all the children were safely asleep.

As he was returning to the table he encountered Jeremy Wilkins, an English fellow holidaymaker whom Gerry had befriended at the resort’s tennis courts. They chatted for a few minutes in the street outside the McCanns’ apartment.

One of the party, Russell O’Brien, was away from the table for much of the evening, caring for his sick child. At about 9.15pm Jane Tanner, his girlfriend, went to their apartment to see how things were. As she did so she passed, right on the street corner by the McCanns’ apartment, a man carrying a child wrapped in a blanket.

The man was crossing the road, walking away from the apartment complex. At the time Tanner thought nothing of it; it seemed a perfectly normal spectacle in a family resort.

At 9.30pm Kate was due to check on her children, but another of the party, believed to be Matt Oldfield, was getting up from the table to make his own check. Oldfield said he would look in on the McCanns’ children, according to a source close to the McCanns.

When Oldfield reached the corner apartment he entered through the closed but unlocked french windows and checked on the sleeping children. Afterwards, with the terrible agony of hindsight, he could clearly recall seeing the twins lying there, but could not say for sure that he had seen Madeleine. But that was afterwards. The evening went on.

O’Brien rejoined the table shortly before 10pm. Not long afterwards Kate got up to make the next check on her three children. The walk must have taken her less than a minute. Madeleine was not in her bed.

Left behind was Cuddle Cat, Madeleine’s comfort toy. She was never separated from it, especially at night.

According to Kate, the bedroom window was open and the shutter up, yet they had been closed and down when Gerry checked at 9pm. Kate searched the apartment and the area immediately outside.

She ran down the hill and into the restaurant, where Gerry recalls her shouting or screaming either “Madeleine has gone. Somebody has taken her” or “Madeleine has gone. Someone has taken her”. Other reports suggest she shouted, “They've taken her.”

Gerry thought “that can’t be right, that can’t be right”. He went running up to the apartment with Kate and checked everywhere she had already looked, and made a quick run around the apartment block.

They decided straight away to call the police but had no idea what the emergency numbers were and, anyway, could not speak Portuguese.

They asked one of their friends in the group to go down to the main reception, which is manned 24 hours, and call the police. The call was made at 10.14pm or 10.15pm, according to the McCanns.

Two officers from the GNR local police arrived at 11.10pm, nearly an hour after the call. They could not speak English and a member of the Ocean Club staff had to translate.

The immediate assumption was that Madeleine must have wandered off, but Gerry and Kate were adamant that this could not have happened. Besides there were, apparently, obvious signs that an intruder had been there. What they were, however, is not clear. Apart from the open window and shutter, neither the McCanns nor the police have confirmed any other evidence of a break-in.

At midnight the local police called the Policia Judiciaria, the PJ, who investigate serious crimes. The PJ arrived at 1am, according to the McCanns. There was substantial searching involving tourists and locals for some hours. Kate remained in the apartment hoping for news, while Gerry went out and looked.

By 3.30am the police had packed it in for the night. The searching was pretty much over. Gerry and Kate were frustrated and desperate. Gerry went out at about 4am with David Payne, another of their group, hoping to find something.

Later, at about 6am, the McCanns went out alone and walked around the scrubland on the outskirts of the village, holding hands and calling Madeleine’s name. There was nobody else around and they felt utterly alone.

FROM the beginning the McCanns felt that they must keep faith with the Portuguese detectives who were investigating their daughter’s disappearance. Others around them were ready to criticise but, in public at least, the McCanns expressed their support.

They were also advised not to betray any emotion when making public appeals for help, which accounts for the even face which Gerry has presented to the media. Jim Gamble, chief executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, told them that if the abductor was watching he or she might take pleasure in the McCanns’ distress.

Behind the scenes, however, tensions festered on both sides. It was not always easy for the McCanns or their friends to maintain the veneer of confidence in the police. One forensics officer spent a long time in the McCanns’ apartment collecting exhibits, but wore the same gloves the whole time. The gloves should have been replaced regularly to avoid cross-contamination.

The Portuguese police were unused to the intense media interest and the McCanns’ highly successful and in some ways controversial strategy of keeping Madeleine’s story and image in the public eye in the hope that someone would recognise her. The PJ, steeped in a culture of secrecy dating back to Portugal’s dictatorship, which ended in 1974, resented the media attention and having to give a press conference.

There were further complications, too. The McCanns knew, as few others did, that the PJ had adopted a local expat called Robert Murat, who spoke English and Portuguese, as an official translator.

Murat lived in a villa with his mother just across the road from the Ocean Club and only a few hundred yards from the McCanns’ apartment - in the very direction that Tanner had seen a man with a child wrapped in a blanket. Yet he was given a position of trust by the police: when Murat told the police that some members of the press already suspected him, the PJ told him not to worry. He should keep away from the press, the PJ said, and help them as a translator.

He began informally translating for the PJ on Monday, May 7, and on the Wednesday signed an agreement as an official interpreter. He translated the interview of the McCanns’ holiday companion Rachel Oldfield, among others.

On the night of Saturday, May 12, he left the PJ offices in Portimao and realised that he was being followed by an unmarked police car as he drove home. On Sunday he tried in vain to find out from the PJ why they had changed their minds about him. He has still never been told why he became a suspect but the next day, at 7am, the police raided his house and took him off for questioning.

How could he be trusted one day and suspected the next? It made little sense, least of all to Murat. Police investigations into his movements and associates produced little of interest. Excavations at his mother’s villa turned up no sign of a body. The police investigation appeared to be going nowhere.

From the beginning the McCanns had been warned by the PJ that they could not speak about the details of the investigation or the circumstances of Madeleine’s disappearance. The “secrecy of justice” laws prevented anybody involved, including all police officers and witnesses, from talking about it to the press or anyone else. Both Gerry and Kate were meticulous in observing this rule.

The McCanns lived - and continue to live - on hope. They knew their daughter could have been abused and killed but, in the absence of certainty, they could have hope. When a German journalist asked in June whether they had had anything to do with Madeleine’s disappearance, it seemed an insulting aberration. The McCanns maintained their composure.

For many weeks even the identities of the McCanns’ holiday companions remained secret - nobody except the police knew who they were. Suddenly the friends began receiving telephone calls in England from a Portuguese journalist. It was a woman from Sol magazine who knew the names, addresses and telephone numbers of all the friends. It appeared that she could have obtained that information only from the police. Had the PJ, whose competence was being questioned by the British media, been stung into some sort of riposte?

Those first invasive telephone calls were the opening round of the campaign of speculation and suspicion that seems to have culminated in the extraordinary events of the last few days. Sol ran a series of articles that cast doubt on the behaviour and probity of the McCanns and their friends.

The articles were a mixture of straight facts from the police files and random inaccuracies, such as the 14 bottles of wine. Where Sol led, the rest of the Portuguese media followed - except they did not seem to be so well connected to the police and their information was even wilder.

The internet became rife with rumour and gossip. The holiday group were “swingers”, apparently, and had lied and contradicted themselves in their statements to the police. The McCanns had accidentally killed Madeleine and conspired with one or more of their friends to dispose of her body.

The most powerful rumour was that they had used their medical knowledge to sedate their children – presumably so they could go “swinging”.

There was no evidence to support any of the claims. The McCanns insisted they had given their children nothing more potent than Calpol, which is a painkiller and has no sedative effect. It is also paracetamol based so an overdose would take days to have an effect, with the child likely first to show signs of jaundice.

The febrile atmosphere persisted. In mid-August the Portuguese papers, apparently following a line from Sol, began to point suspicion at O’Brien, the friend who had been absent from the dinner for most of that evening.

In some cases the Portuguese stories became the next day’s British stories and the Portuguese journalists, seeing this apparent corroboration of their own work, would then report the stories again with an additional layer of speculation. In this way O’Brien went from innocent holidaymaker to prime suspect facing imminent arrest in less than a week.

He had driven Madeleine’s body to the coast to be disposed of, went the terrible fantasy. One morning the media descended on his Exeter home in the belief that he was about to be arrested. Not only was he not about to be arrested, the whole thing was an invention– based, it appears, on leaks to Sol from the PJ.

Was it possible, in some bizarre circle of fate, that the PJ had started to believe the exaggerations of the local press and decided that Gerry and Kate were not so innocent after all? In early August a Portuguese newspaper reported that sniffer dogs brought in by British police had found traces of blood on a wall in the McCanns’ apartment. It claimed that detectives believed that Madeleine had been killed accidentally. The blood traces are now thought to be those of a man, not of Madeleine (although the police have issued no confirmation either way).

After weeks of the McCanns’ publicity drive there was a drought of hard evidence and a flood of speculation about every suspected new twist.

The lawyer for Murat upped the ante by criticising the McCanns’ “strange” behaviour in leaving Madeleine alone. Then the police acknowledged for the first time that she could be dead.

The ugly mood culminated in a Portuguese newspaper claiming outright that the McCanns had killed their daughter with an overdose of a sedative. Stunned, the McCanns, who had already decided to start winding down their media campaign, said they would sue for libel.

Last week the results of forensic tests conducted in Britain were passed to the Portuguese police. Newspapers reported that Madeleine’s “blood” had been found in the McCanns’ hire car - rented 25 days after Madeleine had vanished. But it is not clear whether it was blood or some other substance, how much was found, where it was found - or indeed how it was found.

The car has remained in Portugal - bizarrely, it was returned to the McCanns after it was examined and they are still using it - and the tests were done in England.

Could Gerry or Kate, or both of them, have killed their daughter and later disposed of her remains using the car? The scenario has to be considered - if only because there have been previous cases of apparently grief-stricken parents turning out to be killers.

A forensic psychologist suggests it is unlikely that the McCanns could have kept up their united front for four months in the face of such attention if they were guilty.

“It is very difficult for two people to lie over a death, however that death occurred, whether it was accidental or deliberate,” said Mike Berry, senior lecturer in forensic psychology at Manchester Metropolitan University. “I cannot see two parents lying and lying consistently.”

A friend of the McCanns makes a more practical point: “Where would they have hidden the body for three weeks in front of the world’s press?”

In the meantime it is day 129, Madeleine is still missing and, as her parents keep reminding anyone who will listen, there is someone out there who knows.

Timesonline May 19, 2007

A very modern melodrama and our shrine to Madeleine 

David Aaronovitch

High-pitched emotions, fevered speculation and scapegoats – the harsh truths about a tragedy that’s become a national obsession

Situated in the hills behind the ancient town of Ephesus in Turkey is the House of Mary. Near the small chapel on the site where the Virgin is supposed to have died, the olive trees are covered in strips of cloth tied there by people wanting intercession, either to make something happen, or to stop it. It’s likely that this custom dates back beyond the Christian era, through the worship of Diana, past that of the Artemis of Ephesus to the Anatolian goddess Hecate.

For more than a week now, if you visit the village of Rothley, just north of Leicester, you can see something almost identical. On the railings by the war memorial, on the four benches nearby, on the bus stop to Birstall, hundreds of yellow ribbons have been attached, accompanied by flowers, cards, children’s drawings, soft toys and, above all, images of Madeleine McCann. “Expect a miracle,” says a card depicting hands clasped in prayer and draped with a crucifix. More typical is: “Maddy, we didn’t even know you, but you are with us in our hearts.”

On a wet afternoon mothers with toddlers appear every few minutes, examine the offerings, read some of the messages and add their own ribbons or flowers. If a more photogenic group arrives, then the cameramen from Sky or ITN, whose satellite vans are parked a few feet away, will squeeze off a few minutes of pictures, as they do now for two mothers and their four young children. The reporters are in the café round the corner, sheltering from the tedium, a tedium broken by the once or twice--daily appearances of Madeleine’s great-uncle, Brian. Otherwise, there is the ten-day-old ritual of Valerie, the landlady from the Royal Oak, which overlooks the memorial, bringing out the ribbons for those who want them. Now she kneels down and empties a heartshaped basket of donations and refills it with votives. If this isn’t a shrine, then what is? The shrine of Little St Madeleine.

The Rothley memorial is by no means the strangest thing about the McCann case, now in its third week. There is the huge fighting fund, supported by multinational companies and likely to raise money far beyond the family’s requirements. There are the footballers, cricketers, celebrities and politicians who have weighed in with appeals – ostensibly to people who might see Maddy, but better directed at the Almighty – and ribbon-wearing. About 90,000 have downloaded “Madeleine Missing” posters from the Sky News website, while a “Find Maddy” website has received 60 million hits.

In Praia da Luz, the British holiday village in Portugal where Madeleine went missing on May 3, the atmosphere is apparently surreal. Local people find it hard to sleep because of the noise made by the generators powering the dozens of satellite vans, or are maddened each morning by the overflights of media helicopters, like gigantic wasps, buzzing the town. Two weeks on and, far from the numbers diminishing, growing international interest means that more journalists are arriving. The 200 or more already here are frazzled: some of them, such as our own David Brown and Steve Bird, have been working 15-hour days for a fortnight on a story that is almost impossible to tell. It is partly so difficult because the Portuguese police have been reluctant to break their own strict rules and feed the voracious machine with tips and steers about the investigation. This is in contrast with the McCanns, who have endeared themselves to the press by being cooperative, having things to say and being tolerant, and who – in return – were permitted, on the day after Madeleine’s fourth birthday, to walk for a whole half-hour on the beach without harassment. Readers may not think that this is much of a concession, but readers do not have editors.

This circumspection on behalf of the Lusitanian plod has meant everyone haring after the latest rumour – such as Thursday’s “red van in Lisbon”, because no one will advise them not to bother. It also increases the tendency for speculation to fill the huge gaps. When the star BBC presenter Huw Edwards arrived in the Algarve to anchor the 10 o’clock news, his first question must surely have been: “What on Earth am I going to say?”

Why is this happening? Some think it’s because Maddy is blonde, middle-class, cute and everyone’s archetype – the Hollywood endangered tot. And that’s where it begins to go wrong, because if this were a movie we’d know the story arc in advance. In the film some kid may even have been killed at the beginning, but the pretty one on whom we focus will invariably be saved.

Then there’s the partly true cliché that this is “every parent’s worst nightmare”. It is also, far worse than that, any child’s worst nightmare, and if there is a third “worst nightmare”, it would surely be to find oneself wrongly accused of abducting a child. That is a lot of nightmare, and with no resolution we are suffering from what a friend of mine described this week as “narrative anxiety”.

One way of dealing with this is by creating scapegoats. Early on the Portuguese police fulfilled this role, having been “slow off the mark” or “incompetent”, and thus possibly allowing Maddy to be moved far away from the scene of her abduction. Not surprisingly, Portuguese newspapers have preferred to speculate that the crime has been committed by a paedophile ring, conveniently based in Britain.

Then there have been the “suspects”, fingered as abducting types well before any concrete evidence. Robert Murat was “overly helpful”, just like Ian Huntley was. He lived with his mother, just like Norman Bates did, he had a girlfriend in circumstances recalling the relationship between Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. Then there was a Russian with computers, and rumours of bestiality.

The stories have come from everywhere. A woman calls the Leicester Mercury because of a sighting of a blonde child near Marrakesh, and a tale like this chimes with the desire that Madeleine be alive. This makes us – the press and the public – part of the trauma counselling being offered to the McCanns. Let us all behave as if the girl were alive. Let no one be so unhelpful or callous as to say the unsayable until such a time as we know what has happened.

Since 1991 Kerry Needham has opted to believe that her son Ben, abducted on the island of Kos in 1991, is still alive. She can call upon the examples of cases such as that of Shawn Hornbeck in America, who was found five years after having been kidnapped by a paedophile. Who, under those circumstances, is going to tell her that the chances must surely be that Ben died within hours of disappearing? So we coopt ourselves into the wellness business; the whole country has become one huge trauma counselling service.

It still leaves us trying to make sense of Maddy’s disappearance. We want to “learn lessons”, but there are twin problems. First, such an abduction could happen to anyone, not just a child left alone in a room for 20 minutes. The second is that it hardly ever happens to anyone. In other words, there may be no lessons to learn, just the void of the child’s disappearance and the pathology of the person who took her.

Yet the vacuum demands to be filled. The aunt impresses the Chancellor into the case, telling the BBC that she wanted “moral support and practical advice” from MPs, some of whom put on ribbons, and themselves become the scapegoats of those who are anxious about how we are reacting. The fund gets bigger, the posters go up everywhere. On the BBC Radio Leicester site you can leave prayers for Madeleine, and messages and prayers for the McCanns.

But why put a picture of Madeleine in your window, 500 miles from the Algarve? “If I thought it would help show solidarity”, writes one contribu-tor to the BBC website, “why not? I wear a poppy on Remembrance Day, a lapel badge for breast cancer awareness, why not a ribbon for Mad-die? So what?” Those who question this are described as “miserable devils”.

This next thing is hard to write. If I’ve heard one parent say that they’re now holding their own child a bit tighter, a bit closer, then I’ve heard a hundred. But it isn’t our child. Our child is safe. The mother who takes the toddler to the Maddy shrine may be congratulating herself on her own good fortune, as much as commiserating with the McCanns. Another, placing the poster in the window, may – like the supporter of a football team – be associating themselves with the big story, with the historic moment. They may, in short, be getting a subconscious thrill. They may, as they comb the papers or scan the bulletins, be feeling a pleasure.

There are many ways of being “overly helpful”, but all suggest the possibility of guilt. In our case it may be that the abduction of Madeleine McCann has become, essentially, a bad form of entertainment and that, deep down, we know it.

Search goes on

May 3 Madeleine McCann is taken from holiday apartment

May 4 Border police and airports notified, volunteers comb village. Kate and Gerry McCann plead for her return

May 5 British family liaison officers arrive in Portugal

May 6 McCanns attend church service; prayers said for Madeleine

May 7 Police investigate claim about a man seen dragging a girl towards a marina

May 8 Neighbours in Rothley hold silent vigil. Appeals by footballers Cristiano Ronaldo, John Terry and Paulo Ferreira. Police say sighting is false alarm

May 9 Police examine CCTV showing woman with girl fitting description. Internet appeal begins

May 10 Police say search is being wound down. They issue image of pyjamas identical to those Madeleine was wearing

May 11 Businessman offers a £1 million reward. David Beckham makes TV appeal for information

May 12 Madeleine’s 4th birthday. £1.5 million added to reward. Gordon Brown expresses sympathy

May 13 Family Law Group fly to Portugal, set up “fighting fund”

May 14 Robert Murat’s home is searched

May 15 Mr Murat officially classed as suspect. He claims that he is being made a scapegoat

May 16 Images of Madeleine are broadcast at half-time during the Uefa Cup final. Police search home of Sergei Malinka, 22, a Russian computer expert

May 17 Police investigate phone calls between Mr Malinka and Mr Murat on night Madeleine taken

Madeleine video gets 100,000 hits an hour 04-11-2009

Up to 100,000 people an hour around the world are viewing a web video, released in the search for missing Madeleine McCann.

Up to 100,000 people an hour from more than 150 countries are viewing a web video, released in the search for Madeleine McCann.

The clip targets people who may be close to the person who was involved in her disappearance in 2007. A Minute for Madeleine was released on Tuesday morning by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (Ceop) Centre. The film includes fresh images of how Madeleine might look now, aged six, including one with dark brown hair and tanned skin. It has already been spread across thousands of social networking sites, blogs, and search engines. On Twitter, celebrities including Jonathan Ross, Chris Evans, Alan Carr and Phillip Schofield have "tweeted" the link to their followers. Ceop Chief Executive Jim Gamble said: "We are delighted with the response so far but this is only the start." Madeleine was nearly four when she went missing during a holiday in Praia da Luz in Portugal.

New Madeleine footage released 21-12-2008

Kate and Gerry McCann have released new footage of their missing daughter Madeleine

In the video Madeleine is seen playing happily with her family before her disappearance. She dances around dressed in a fairy outfit, jokingly hits her father with a soft toy and speaks proudly of her new pink shoes. The clips were mostly filmed around Christmas 2006, the last time the McCanns were together with all three of their children over the festive period. Madeleine was nearly four when she vanished from her family's holiday apartment in Praia da Luz in Portugal on May 3 last year as her parents dined with friends nearby. The new video shows her sitting on the stairs of the McCanns' home in Rothley, Leicestershire, flanked by her younger siblings, twins Sean and Amelie. In the first recording of her speaking that has been made public, she encourages her brother and sister to copy her gestures, saying: "Clap your hands together and one, two, three." Madeleine then holds up her new pair of shoes and says: "These are my shoes." Behind the camera Mr McCann asks her what colour they are, and she answers: "Pink." McCann family spokesman Clarence Mitchell said: "This message is entirely focused on Madeleine, as it should be at this time of year. "This, they feel, is a timely and appropriate reminder that she is still out there and that somebody somewhere may still have that vital piece of information that may lead to her being found." Mr and Mrs McCann will spend Christmas with their twins and close family and friends, but their spokesman acknowledged it will be a "difficult time of year". The couple started 2008 with a cloud of suspicion hanging over them after Portuguese police named them as "arguidos", or formal suspects, in their daughter's disappearance. They then marked a series of painful landmarks, in particular the first anniversary of Madeleine's vanishing on May 3 and her fifth birthday nine days later. The McCanns were relieved when prosecutors announced in July that they were shelving the case and lifting the couple's arguido status.

Murat accepts Sky libel pay-out 14-11-2008
Robert Murat has accepted libel damages from Sky over claims there were grounds for believing he was guilty of abducting Madeleine McCann

Mr Murat was not at London's High Court for the settlement of his action against British Sky Broadcasting Ltd.

His solicitor Louis Charalambous told Mr Justice Eady that an article and video on the Sky News website claimed that in the early days after Madeleine's disappearance from Praia da Luz, Portugal, in May 2007, Mr Murat's behaviour was reminiscent of child murderer Ian Huntley. The article, which was published until April this year, and the video, which was accessible until this September, also suggested that Mr Murat had deliberately tried to mislead journalists by pretending to be acting in an official capacity for the police. Victoria Shore, counsel for BSkyB, which is also paying Mr Murat's costs, made an unreserved apology for publishing the false allegations, and the distress caused.

Mr Charalambous told the judge that the allegations were entirely untrue and it was accepted that Mr Murat had no involvement whatever in the abduction of Madeleine. "The defendant accepts that Mr Murat did not act like a child murderer nor did he try to mislead or lie to any journalists," he said.

"It acknowledges that Mr Murat's actions after the abduction were entirely proper and were motivated by a desire to help find Madeleine McCann."

He said that Sky's apology would appear on its website for 12 months.

Ms Shore said that it very much regretted the distress caused by the publications. Outside court, Mr Charalambous said that the settlement represented the final stage of Mr Murat's claims against those sections of the British media "which defamed him so terribly".

"He has been entirely successful and vindicated," he said.

"It was particularly important to him to nail this particular lie - that he acted in some way reminiscent to the Soham murderer Ian Huntley when, in fact, he was working flat out to help try to find Madeleine."

In July Mr Murat, 34, received a record settlement of £600,000 over "seriously defamatory" allegations in nearly 100 articles connecting him with the abduction.

He had sued Associated Newspapers, Express Newspapers, MGN Limited and News Group Newspapers

McCanns' first Christmas without Maddie 25-12-2007
Kate and Gerry McCann are enduring their first Christmas without their daughter Madeleine, who vanished in May.


Their four-year-old daughter went missing from the family's holiday apartment in the Portuguese resort of Praia da Luz, with the bid to locate her attracting worldwide media attention.
Her parents remain official suspects in the case, but deny any involvement in her disappearance.
Kate's aunt Janet Kennedy said they will never give up hope in the search for Madeleine.
She said: "Eight months on, we have become even more determined and resolute and it (the message) becomes that we never, never give up.
"We are still very much thinking of Madeleine and a lot of people are staying the course with us. People are showing that they are right in there with the family and that is very important."
"Kate and Gerry say that every day is a difficult day and we are just the same," Mrs Kennedy added.
Before Christmas the McCanns made a new video appeal for their missing daughter, saying their only Christmas wish is to have her back.
Mrs McCann said: "At this time of the year, when so many families are coming together, we beg you to help us be reunited with Madeleine. Please do the right thing and come forward."
She added: "We're doing everything we can, Madeleine, to find you and there are so many good and very kind people helping us."
"Our only Christmas wish is for you to be back with us again and we're hoping and praying that that will happen."
Gerry McCann said that Christmas was going to be a very difficult time for the family. He said: "This is usually a time of great joy, especially for children. Clearly for us and the rest of our family it's going to be the hardest Christmas imaginable without our Madeleine here."

McCanns issue Christmas appeal 22-12-2007

Kate and Gerry McCann have made a new video appeal for their missing daughter, saying their only Christmas wish is to have her back.


   Mrs McCann said: "At this time of the year, when so many families are coming together, we beg you to help us be reunited with Madeleine. Please do the right thing and come forward."

She added: "We're doing everything we can, Madeleine, to find you and there are so many good and very kind people helping us." "Our only Christmas wish is for you to be back with us again and we're hoping and praying that that will happen." Madeleine vanished on May 3 when the family were on holiday in Portugal. Her parents remain official suspects in the case but deny any involvement in her disappearance. The couple said they left Madeleine and her younger twin siblings asleep in their rented villa while they had dinner nearby. Despite a worldwide campaign, the child is yet to be found. Gerry McCann said that Christmas was going to be a very difficult time for the family. He said: "This is usually a time of great joy, especially for children. Clearly for us and the rest of our family it's going to be the hardest Christmas imaginable without our Madeleine here."

McCanns: 'We won't be bullied' 10-08-2007
The parents of missing Madeleine McCann have insisted they will not be bullied into leaving Portugal.

It is 100 days tomorrow since four-year-old Madeleine vanished during a family holiday in the Algarve.
Locally, there has been a growing backlash against the couple and Portuguese newspapers have claimed Madeleine was killed in the apartment rather than abducted. The lawyer of the only suspect in the case claimed locals in the Algarve resort of Praia da Luz wanted the family they referred to as "these bloody McCanns" to go home. But Kate McCann said she would not let the criticism drive them home. She said: "We will never go through anything worse than being parted from Madeleine. We will not be leaving or be forced out. I am not prepared to be bullied into doing something that I don't want to."
Their defiance came as the McCanns were helping to launch a new section on the YouTube website to highlight the search for missing children.
The new channel on the popular video-sharing site is called "Don't You Forget About Me" and will be managed and policed by the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children in Washington DC.
US First Lady Laura Bush has recorded a message of support and there is also a video by David Beckham.
Mrs McCann said: "With Madeleine's abduction, we have been concerned about her crossing borders, and the internet reaches the whole world.
"We have had so much goodwill and support from everyone, we wanted to give something tangible back to help others."
The McCanns have this week been besieged by a "huge gaggle" of Portuguese media outside their apartment in Praia da Luz, a family spokesman said.
The couple were forced to change their daily routine of taking their two-year-old twins Sean and Amelie to the creche at the Ocean Club resort in the seaside village.
The move followed concerns about photographers and film crews taking pictures of their children and disturbing holidaymakers using the child-minding facility.
Mrs McCann said: "We can cope with a lot and we still have a lot of strength, but this speculation and the actions of the Portuguese press has been hurtful, intrusive and disrespectful to our other two children. The press here have badly overstepped any reasonable line."
Madeleine's family are expected to mark tomorrow's grim 100-day milestone with a series of events, including a special Catholic prayer service in Praia da Luz.
The occasion will be marked in Britain by prayers and pledges of support by sports stars, including Jonny Wilkinson, Frankie Dettori and Everton Football Club.
Mrs McCann said: "It doesn't get any easier. The 50th day seemed like such a long time when we marked that. We have doubled that now.
"It is the 100th day but it is just another day without Madeleine for us and for Madeleine, another of being separated from her family."
Mr and Mrs McCann are said to have found recent suggestions in the Portuguese press that Madeleine was murdered on the night she vanished "very hurtful".
They have consistently said they believe their daughter is still alive. Chief Inspector Olegario Sousa, of Portugal's investigative Policia Judiciaria (PJ), stressed this week that the family were not suspects.
Lawyers for Mr Murat - who has always insisted he is entirely innocent - said he hopes to receive a letter formally clearing him of his status as a suspect in the coming days or weeks

Madeleine's parents meet the Pope 30-05-2007

The parents of Madeleine McCann have met Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican and asked him to bless a photograph of their missing daughter

Dressed in dark suits, Mr and Mrs McCann, who are Catholics, met the Pope in a special VIP section in front of St Peter's Basilica at the Vatican.
The meeting lasted a little less than 30 seconds but Mrs McCann - who was clutching Madeleine's pink toy cat - had a chance to give the Pontiff the picture. She spoke with him while Mr McCann bowed and kissed his hand. The couple had struggled to control their emotions throughout the ceremony which lasted more than an hour-and-a-half. At one point, an English-speaking priest issued a prayer on behalf of the Pope: "In a special way his blessing goes to your children and your loved ones." His words proved too much for the couple, who broke down and wiped back the tears with their heads bowed. At a press conference held later, Mr McCann said: "It was more personal than I could ever imagine it could have been. His touch, words and thoughts were more tender than we could have thought."
Mrs McCann added: "It was very emotional but it was a very positive experience really, it has been very helpful to us. He was very kind, he said he would pray for us and our family and continue to have faith for us." The visit to Rome is the first time Mrs McCann has been out of Portugal since the four-year-old was snatched from her bed nearly four weeks ago at their holiday apartment in Praia da Luz on the Algarve.
On Tuesday, the McCann family released two video clips of the youngster as she boarded their holiday flight on April 28. They were captured on a family friend's mobile phone the day the family left for their holiday in Portugal. Mrs McCann has watched them regularly over the 26 days since the abduction

Madeleine's parents head to Rome 29-05-2007

Madeleine McCann's parents have left the Portugal holiday resort where their daughter went missing to meet the Pope in Rome

It is the first time Madeleine's mother, Kate McCann, has left Portugal since the four-year-old was snatched from her bed nearly four weeks ago.

She was clutching Madeleine's pink toy cat as the couple climbed into a car for the journey to Faro airport where they boarded a private jet owned by Top Shop boss Sir Philip Green. They will be part of a general audience at the Vatican and will be introduced to the Pope at the end of the session. Mrs McCann wants to give Pope Benedict XVI a photograph of her daughter. Earlier, the McCann family released two video clips of the youngster as she boarded their holiday flight to the Algarve on April 28. They were captured on a family friend's mobile phone the day the family left for their holiday in Portugal. Mrs McCann has watched them regularly over the 26 days since the abduction. In the images, blonde Madeleine, can be seen wearing pink shorts, a light pink top and trainers. One clip - 13 seconds long - shows her sitting on an airport bus, the other - nine seconds - is of her boarding the flight. Holding hands with another little girl, she loses her footing and slips, grazing her shin on the third step. Speaking movingly about his daughter, Gerry McCann said she was so thrilled about going to Portugal, she refused to get upset about hurting herself. Holding her little pink rucksack, he said: "She was really brave. She started crying but stopped almost immediately. "When we got to the top of the steps I saw she had grazed her shin. It looked really sore - the step was just the right height for her leg. "It was something that usually would have caused ten minutes of crying rather than ten seconds."

Madeleine's parents will meet Pope 28-05-2007

The parents of missing Madeleine McCann have been formally invited to meet the Pope, a family spokesman said

Kate and Gerry McCann, whose daughter was abducted 25 days ago, will be part of a general audience with the Pontiff on Wednesday morning at the Vatican.
They said they were "delighted" by the decision.
Their spokesman, Clarence Mitchell, said: "This afternoon we have received confirmation that Gerry and Kate McCann will be able to attend the general audience with the Holy Father this Wednesday and they will be personally greeted at the end of the audience.
"The family members are delighted that this important spiritual support has been afforded to them."
Earlier on Monday, two hundred commercial radio stations across Britain played a special version of the Simple Minds song Don't You Forget About Me shortly after 8am in a bid to keep the search in the public eye.
The song featured audio clips and was inspired by a video shown at the recent Uefa Cup final in Glasgow.
Glasgow-based Radio Clyde said the broadcast was an initiative by commercial radio stations UK-wide, including stations in Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle.
The McCanns are embarking on a series of trips in the hope that their daughter may still be found.
The visit to Rome would be the first of a number they are expected to make including Spain, Germany and the Netherlands.
Madeleine was snatched from her bed in their holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, on the Algarve, Portugal, on May 3 as her parents were dining nearby.
It has emerged that a friend of Mr and Mrs McCann saw the child being carried off in the arms of a mystery man just before she joined the couple for dinner, but did not realise it was Madeleine being abducted.
There is still only one named suspect in the case - property developer Robert Murat whose house is just 150 metres from the McCann's apartment.
Clarence Mitchell, the Foreign Office liaison officer for the family, is helping the McCanns plan the trip.
Mr and Mrs McCann have received two offers of private jets to use at their disposal. One is thought to have been offered by the multi-million pound British tycoon Philip Green.
They will leave two-year-old twins Sean and Amelie in the care of relatives while they are away from Portugal. Other destinations being considered include Madrid, Seville, Berlin and Amsterdam.

Madeleine video screened at Wembley  19-05-2007

The FA Cup crowd fell silent as haunting images of missing Madeleine McCann were broadcast on a big screen

The FA Cup crowd fell silent as haunting images of missing Madeleine McCann were broadcast on a big screen.
Dozens of pictures of the little blonde girl, who turned four a week ago, were shown to 90,000 football fans.
Her face filled the screens at either end of the pitch - each one the size of 600 domestic TV sets - and dominated the ground.
The short two-minute video, set to the soundtrack of the Simple Minds hit Don't You Forget About Me, was shown at both half time and before the game.
It received a round of applause from fans of the two teams which both have close ties with Portugal, where the toddler was abducted while on holiday.
The same video was shown at the Uefa Cup final in Glasgow between Espanyol FC and Sevilla earlier this week.
The screening comes after a Norwegian tourist claimed she might have spotted Madeleine in Morocco.
Marie Olli, who lives in Spain and once lived in Leicestershire, says she saw a blonde girl who looked just like the four-year-old at a petrol station in the city of Marrakech nine days ago.
The "sad" girl initially appeared to be standing on her own, but Olli claims an "anonymous-looking" man in his late 30s then came over and the girl asked him: "Can I see mummy soon?"
Madeleine was abducted 16 days ago as she slept in her bed in her parents' holiday apartment in the seaside village of Praia da Luz, Portugal.
Her parents have restated their belief that their daughter will be found.
Family priest, Father Paul Seddon, who is in Portugal to support the McCanns, revealed that mum and dad, Gerry and Kate have never stopped believing that they will see four-year-old Madeleine again.
He said the initial shock of the disappearance lead to a "feeling of helplessness and devastation", but they had overcome it.
"Gerry and Kate would not allow it - they knew it would have simply destroyed them as people and reduced the chance of finding Madeleine," Father Seddon added.
Rewards amounting to £2.5 million have been offered to anyone with information which could lead to the safe return of the four-year-old


 Cup final returns to new Wembley 19-05-2007

A sell-out crowd of 90,000 fans will be celebrating the return of the FA Cup final at the new Wembley stadium later.

A host of great names are expected to attend the opening ceremony, while Prince William will be the chief guest in his role as president of the Football Association.
Manchester United and Chelsea will be the first teams to clash over the FA Cup at the £757 million stadium. Fans will be treated to a celebratory Red Arrows fly-past before the showpiece match is broadcast worldwide.
A two-minute video of missing Madeleine McCann will also be played on big screens at the final.
Players from both Manchester United and Chelsea have made televised appeals for help.
The match marks the end of a troubled period for Wembley bosses, who originally said the stadium would be open for the 2003 FA Cup final at a cost of £326 million.
The stadium has been completely redeveloped with its iconic twin towers replaced by a 133-metre tall arch and a host of modern facilities.
Wembley last hosted an FA Cup final in 2000 when Chelsea beat Aston Villa 1-0

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