The purpose of this site is for information and a record of Gerry McCann's Blog Archives. As most people will appreciate GM deleted all past blogs from the official website. Hopefully this Archive will be helpful to anyone who is interested in Justice for Madeleine Beth McCann. Many Thanks, Pamalam

Note: This site does not belong to the McCanns. It belongs to Pamalam. If you wish to contact the McCanns directly, please use the contact/email details    

HELLO! magazine *

Articles from HELLO! magazine

'HELLO! is supporting Kate and Gerry's European Parliament campaign to set up a better alert system for child abductions - something that might have helped their little girl Madeleine'

Why we're supporting AMBER Alert, 29 April 2008
HELLO! is adding its full weight and support to Kate and Gerry McCann's campaign to introduce a wide-reaching, missing children AMBER Alert system.

Over the next year, we will not only report on the couple's progress with the European Parliament, but also highlight the families of other child victims and lobby MEPs in conjunction with the McCann family.

The editor of HELLO! Kay Goddard says: "We have had a series of discussions and meetings with the McCanns and have the ideal platform to back this campaign. The figures speak for themselves. In America, nearly 400 children have been recovered since 2002. If common sense prevails, this scheme will be put in place sooner rather than later. That is why we are co-ordinating this campaign across all 13 of our editions around the world, which includes our titles in European countries such as Spain, Greece and Turkey.

We would like to make it clear that no money has been paid to the McCanns


Exclusive interview: Madeleine one year on, 29 April 2008
Cover of Hello! magazine
Click to enlarge

Hello! magazine No. 1019, 6 May 2008
(issue date: 29 April 2008)
Exclusive interview: Madeleine one year on
This week's magazine also contains details of HELLO!'s support for Kate and Gerry McCann's campaign to introduce a Europe-wide missing children alert system. To coincide with the first anniversary of their daughter Madeleine's abduction, the couple talk about how the so-called AMBER system would work, and how they find the strength to go on.



Why every parent must read this


On the first anniversary of Madeleine’s disappearance


Kate and Gerry McCann talk exclusively about their campaign to help missing children – backed by Hello! Magazine


'There's a very good chance that Madeleine is alive out there and she needs to be found. That drives us on'


This Saturday will mark the most traumatic milestone in the lives of Kate and Gerry McCann. For it was on 3 May, one year ago exactly, that their daughter Madeleine disappeared from their holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal.


What a difference a year has made to their former, happily anonymous existence. After their family of five suddenly became a family of four, they were variously perceived as both victims and villains, caring and careless, emotional and detached.


As they still come to terms with this ambivalence towards them, another date on their calendar looks closer. On 12 May, Madeleine will be five years old. She should, of course, be at school in their village of Rothley in Leicestershire, making friends and playing with sibling twins, three-year-old Sean and Amelie. But 40-year-old Kate and Gerry, 39, have in no way given up hope.


Meeting Kate today, she looks physically strong, her skin is glowing and her eyes have regained their sparkle. Contrary to accusations of coldness in her manner, she comes across as warm, friendly, emotional.


Only when Madeleine's name is mentioned does her face cloud over with sadness. As we talk, Kate unconsciously strokes Cuddle Cat, Madeleine's favourite toy, which sits at the top of her handbag, a poignant reminder of the little girl who has not hugged it for a year.


Gerry, meanwhile, is methodical, linear and focussed in his thinking, a stoic Scot. "There's no use running around like a headless chicken in a crisis," he declares. "You need to plan your goals and put them into action. That’s what’s helped me this last year." 


He is also determined not to be punished any further for what he acknowledges, in hindsight, was the couple's "mistake" in leaving their children alone (but frequently checked) on the night that Madeleine disappeared. "We are paying more for that than anyone could ever possibly imagine," he said last week.


Now, Kate and Gerry would like to use their public profile to help other missing children. While the Find Madeleine campaign remains their number one priority, the couple are also dedicating much of their time to publicising the AMBER Alert system, which is immediately activated when a child is abducted.


So successful is this scheme in America that Kate and Gerry recently lobbied the European Parliament in Brussels to implement an identical system across Europe.


In their first ever interview about their commitment to AMBER Alert, Kate and Gerry speak exclusively to HELLO! at a country hotel near their home. Their body language, frequent eye contact and occasional humorous and affectionate repartee belie the rumour that their marriage is under strain. If anything, their joint goals seem to have brought them closer together.


Kate and Gerry, when did you first learn about AMBER Alert?


Gerry: "The very night Madeleine was taken. A friend phoned one of his friends, asking for help, and he told us about this American system. I had a vague memory of hearing about AMBER Alert from a news item, but it was only after what happened to Madeleine that we started looking at what 'missing children' organisations there were.


"Towards the end of May after Madeleine was abducted, Kate and I read about the successful cases around AMBER Alert. What surprised me most was that, considering there had been so many child abductions and murders in the UK, we still haven’t implemented the system here."


Kate: "It seems a 'no brainer', really, that not just the UK but the whole of Europe should have it in place."


Do you think it would have saved Madeleine?


K: "There's a possibility it could have, but that's something we'll never know for sure. But it stands to reason that she would have had a better chance of being found, released or not being taken over the border to Spain if AMBER Alert existed there."


How does AMBER Alert work?


G: "When a child is abducted, a description of that child, plus any other information, such as the suspect's appearance or his car registration number, is flashed up on screens on motorways, outside petrol stations, on radios, television, text messages, emails and electronic traffic condition signs. If a child is not found within a certain time in a big metropolis, the AMBER Alert spreads across borders to local states.


"Although some European countries, such as France and Greece, have similar alert systems already, the scheme needs to be across the whole of Europe. At the moment, it is too easy for abductors and child traffickers to move children around without detection."


You recently lobbied European Parliament with your declaration on AMBER Alert. After the grief you've experienced, where do you gather your strength to see this through?


G: "Despite the negative comments we've had about the publicity surrounding Madeleine, we're committed to making a change for the better for the future.


"Here is a system so simple, that costs very little and yet is so efficient, and that could be used to save other children. The statistics speak for themselves. Around 393 children have been rescued in the US over the last five-and-a-half years because of AMBER Alert.


"Last year alone, 16 abductors released the children they'd taken when they heard the alert on radio or TV. They knew the net was closing in on them."


Are you both working on it together?


G: "Kate does most of it at the moment because I’m working all day. Over the last three months, there has only been one night a week when we haven't done anything in relation to AMBER Alert or Find Madeleine. But even on those nights off, when we have friends or family staying, the conversation soon turns to both subjects."


K: "I guess it's because of Madeleine that we can capitalise on this and turn our terrible experience into something positive for others. It's hard work, and we go to bed a lot later than we used to. We're usually so shattered that we sleep until Sean and Amelie run in to see us in the morning. They know we're looking for Madeleine…"


Do you help each other out of the abyss when you are feeling down?


K: "It is rare for us both to feel low on the same day."


G: "We encourage each other to think positive. There's a very good chance Madeleine is alive out there and she needs to be found. That drives me on, too."


What makes you believe Madeleine is still alive?


K: "The statistics and what we have learned from world experts on missing children. Madeleine doesn't fall within the expected age range – which is older than three – of children taken for sexual abuse. According to data in America, there are about 115 cases of a stereotypical kidnapping, where a child is taken by a stranger, or distant acquaintance. Only 40 to 50 of those children are killed. Although one murder is horrific, it means the majority of these children are kept alive.


"Last year, 15-year-old Shawn Hornbeck from Missouri was found after being abducted four-and-a-half years earlier."


G: "Who would have given him any chance of being alive? The police told Ed Smart, whose 14-year-old daughter Elizabeth was kidnapped from her bedroom in Utah in 2002, to give up hope. They said she was probably dead and buried in the desert. But she was found alive nine months later with a couple who wanted to make her the captor's 'second wife'.


"We can't give up, as parents, we just can't. I can't think of a single parent who would say, without evidence, that their child is dead. There would have to be absolute concrete evidence for us to believe that of Madeleine."


K: "I don't feel as if Madeleine is dead. I really feel she is out there and we will find her. The chances of her being alive are as good now, if not better, than they were after the first three days of her going missing."


G: "The experts with the most experience of child abduction anywhere in the world told us this, and not just to make us feel better. Some people think we're mad, that we’re living in a dream world, but actually experts are telling us that there is a very good chance Madeleine is alive.


"Somebody knows what happened to her that night. They don't live in isolation, so someone close to them must know, too.


"The problem is finding her. We are under no illusion that this will be difficult. But there are cases where children have been found alive years later. We have the resources and are looking at every possible avenue, and will continue to do so."


Kate, in your research into child abductions you said that the horrors you discovered "burst the bubble of your life". In what way did it affect you both?


G: "In most European countries it is legal to watch child pornography. I think it's only illegal in about 30 countries in the world, the UK being one of them. Few people seem to be aware of this.


"We were astounded when we read about the proportion of young children exploited in child pornography. Nineteen per cent of images involve children younger than three. We've been told twice that this proportion is increasing as perpetrators use children who are too young to verbalise what’s happening."


K: "It's a billion-dollar industry. In the States alone there are 100,000 child pornography websites. How can this be acceptable in a so-called civilised society? Children need to be protected."


As parents of a missing child, these shocking facts must have been doubly painful for you to digest?


G: "Yes, it's really difficult because when we started reading around these things, we didn't – and don't – know what happened to Madeleine. Then you start entering into the realms of speculation and why children are abducted. A large proportion of children are abducted for financial gain, trafficking, prostitution and child pornography.


"I've learned that it doesn't help find Madeleine if we dwell on this; it just makes us feel worse, so we try to remain focussed and active."


K: "I have my bad days but at the same time I find myself wanting to know what happened. It is the not knowing that is particularly difficult."


G: "We knew the night she was taken that some children are murdered and, of course, that was our worst fear. But I try to focus on the positive instead of moping ad wallowing in self-pity. What I've learned, the sickening truths about child abduction, spurs me on. It makes me feel all the more determined that something good has to come out of it, that we have to make a difference. When there was no evidence of any serious harm to Madeleine we became more positive."


Tell us about your visit the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.


G: "We met the artist who does age progression portraits at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) and he showed us a picture that went out of a missing girl. Although it didn't look like her once her appearance had changed, a friend of hers in class at school recognised her.


"NCMEC sends out 80 million cards every week across America with two missing children on. One little girl was having breakfast with her mum and said, 'That’s Sophie. Why are they calling her by another name?'"


How did you feel addressing the European Parliament in Brussels?


K: "I felt less nervous than I anticipated because I hate speaking in public. I did have a photograph of Madeleine clipped to my notepad to keep me focused and remind me exactly why we were there. Just looking at her face gave me confidence."


G: "Obviously in my job I do a lot of lecturing and presenting, although it is not my favourite aspect of the job. But in the context of everything that has happened to us in the last year these events are really not as nerve-wracking as they could have been ordinarily. The presentation was 15 to 20 minutes long and the questions lasted for another 20 minutes. We both felt pleased with how the day went."


When might AMBER Alert become official European policy?


K: "We'll know in three months' time if our declaration has been successful. We need 393 out of 785 MEPs to support this declaration by the end of July. We would like people to lobby their MEPs. Only seven declarations out of 116-plus over the last five years have been successful. That's why everyone needs to contact their MEP about it.


"France has had an abducted child rescue system in place since 2006 called 'Alerte Enlèvement'. It has been used five times and all five children have been recovered alive, which is a fantastic achievement. With France taking over the EU presidency in July this year, we're hopeful they will make it a policy priority and encourage other member states to implement similar systems."


G: "After the presentation we also met with representatives of the EU commission, the Slovenian presidency and the British Ambassador to the EU to ask how we could get the system taken up throughout Europe."


K: "It is really important to emphasise that we are only a small part of a coalition, including Missing Children Europe, Parents and Abducted Children Together (PACT), Missing People and the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (MCMEC), campaigning for this change. A lot of hard work has already been done but we are frustrated at how slow and bureaucratic the process can be. Hopefully more parents are now aware of what an AMBER Alert is and that is now higher up the political agenda."


G: "It can be frustrating. What are people waiting for? Let's get this rolled out and set up."


Finally, how do you envisage the future?


G: "As long as we're looking for Madeleine, we will continue to work with AMBER Alert and child safety measures. Even after Madeleine is home with us, we will continue with it."


K: "I try not to look too far into the future. It's best to take one day at a time."


Interview: Sally Morgan

Maddie Hello! Campaign

Amber alert takes off, 06 May 2008
Hello! magazine No. 1020, 13 May 2008 (issue date: 06 May 2008) (No online link)

Amber alert takes off – As we urge all HELLO! readers to support our campaign


All week long, Kate and Gerry McCann have been highlighting the benefits of a European-wide alert system in cases of child abduction. The couple, who are marking the first anniversary of the disappearance of their own daughter Madeleine, started the ball rolling by talking to HELLO! magazine last week.


Since then, the McCanns have done a round of TV and radio interviews to publicise their plans to introduce a system based on America's AMBER Alert, which instantly notifies the community, media and law enforcement agencies when a child is snatched. It is a system that has saved hundreds of children in the US.


For AMBER Alert to be adopted across Europe, a majority of MEPs need to sign the Introduction of an EU Missing Children Alert declaration that the McCanns presented to the European Parliament last month. HELLO! has pledged to do everything in our power to help them achieve their goal by publicising details of their campaign in all 13 of our worldwide editions.


Today, we urge you, the public, to do your bit by contacting your regional MEPs and calling on them to sign the McCanns declaration. All you have to do is add your signature and name to our 'Sign Here for Madeleine' petition (opposite) and send it on. Details of how to contact your regional MEPs are available by visiting the website


Strong support


Our further support comes after the couple were encouraged by figures that show their campaign is already gathering momentum. The declaration opened for signatures just two weeks ago and has already won cross-party support from 127 MEPs across the EU – which is one third of the figure they require for their proposal to have formal status.


The key date is the end of July, when they need to have support from 393 of the 785 MEPs. The McCanns are hoping the figure will grow this week when the European Parliament – which was closed last week – reopens.


Kate and Gerry said of the 127 signatures gathered so far: "We are delighted with the start of our campaign and would hope that everybody across Europe will ensure that their MEP adds their name to those who have already signed the declaration. We also would like to thank HELLO! for its continuing support with our campaign."


Among those who have already pledged their support for the child alert declaration is Portuguese MEP Ana Gomez. She even told the McCanns, whose daughter was taken while they were holidaying on the Algarve, that Portuguese police should be retrained in dealing with child abductions.


She said: "I urge you to call for the re-training of police and the judicial authorities in Portugal. If police had acted immediately, it could have had more impact. Madeleine could have been found. Our officers need proper training in this type of crime, which is becoming more frequent."


She also told the Leicestershire doctors: "I support your initiative with all my heart. Your dramatic case will, I hope, help us move on in a positive way."


British politicians from all parties have also pledged their support for the declaration. Tory MEP Edward McMillan-Scott, vice president of the European Parliament, told HELLO!: "It is very important that the McCanns through their tragic circumstances are promoting a scheme which could prevent further events of this kind.


"In America about 400 children are still alive because the AMBER Alert system has recovered them, mostly within the first three days. If we can afford a severe weather warning, we can afford a similar system for missing children, which will cost next to nothing to implement."


Labour MEP Richard Corbett added: "It is a political no-brainer and I have added my name to their declaration. This scheme should be put in place as a matter of priority. I would urge people to support their campaign immediately."


And Lib Dem MEP Diana Wallis commented: "Given the nature of our borders I think this is an idea worth supporting and a good example of where Europe-wide action can really add something."


The declaration also has the support from German and Italian representatives, and French Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie has urged MEPs to sign the declaration.


Meanwhile, the President of the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children, Ernie Allen, has told how Kate and Gerry McCann's trip to his Washington HQ in March led to the AMBER Alert fight being taken to the European Parliament.


Keep the campaign alive


He explains: "I told the McCanns that it is very important to keep cases like theirs alive and in the public domain. Even with such a high-profile case as theirs, it is very easy for the public to forget. It may be a mystery what has happened to Madeleine, but somebody knows what has happened to her and where she is now."


Mr Allen also explained how AMBER Alert had a good success rate in reuniting abducted children with their parents. "The system is proven to work and is something they and I want for Europe."


Gerry told HELLO! that his visit to Washington had given him new inspiration. He said: "Kate and I had been in contact with the Centre almost since the day Madeleine was taken. Going to Washington helped us understand more the work being carried out to reduce child abduction across the world.


"By the time we came home, Kate and I were so buoyed up that we felt as if we'd been injected with a shot of vitamins."

McCanns to fight neglect charges, 03 June 2008
Hello! magazine No. 1024, 10 June 2008 (issue date: 03 June 2008) (No online link)

McCanns to fight neglect charges


Kate and Gerry McCann have vowed to vigorously contest neglect charges after court documents revealed that they have not yet been put in the clear over their missing daughter Madeleine.


Papers released last week show that police in Portugal have failed to rule out homicide, abandonment, concealment of a corpse and abduction. The couple's spokesman Clarence Mitchell told HELLO! "Kate and Gerry have received legal advice both in Portugal and England that they did everything within the bounds of reasonable parenting. They vigorously deny the neglect charges." Kate and Gerry are both still arguidos, official suspects in the investigation.


It was also reported last week that their friends, dubbed the "The Tapas Seven", will not return to Portugal to take part in a reconstruction of Madeleine's disappearance a year ago, days before her fourth birthday. They fear that they too will become suspects and that the exercise will not achieve anything.


Meanwhile, the McCanns are considering heading to Strasbourg in two weeks to bolster support for the campaign, backed by HELLO!, to introduce a European-wide child abduction scheme, based on the AMBER Alert system in the US.

211 MEP's sign up for AMBER Alert scheme, 10 June 2008
Hello! magazine No. 1025, 17 June 2008 (issue date: 10 June 2008) (No online link)

Kate and Gerry McCann have won the backing of 211 MEPs in their campaign backed by HELLO! to introduce a Europe-wide child alert abduction scheme based on the US AMBER Alert system. The couple, whose elder daughter Madeleine disappeared in Portugal more than a year ago, need a total of 393 signatories by the end of July.


Politicians sponsoring the move in the European Parliament are still confident that they will reach their goal. A spokesman for the McCanns said "They will be urging every MEP to sign in coming weeks".

Kate and Gerry are buoyed by support, 24 June 2008
Hello! magazine No. 1027, 01 July 2008 (issue date: 24 June 2008) (No online link)

Kate and Gerry buoyed by support


More than 300 MEPs have signed up to Kate and Gerry McCann's campaign to introduce a EU-wide response system when a child is abducted, similar to America's AMBER Alert. The couple, who lobbied MEPs in Strasbourg last week, need 393 MEPs to sign the motion by the end of July for the scheme to be implemented.


"While we remain confident that the declaration will have been signed by a majority of the MEPs by the deadline, we have also learnt that we still have much to do to increase awareness," said Kate.

Kate and Gerry McCann hire new team of detectives, 08 July 2008
Hello! magazine No. 1029, 15 July 2008 (issue date: 08 July 2008) (No online link)

Kate and Gerry McCann hire new team of detectives


Kate and Gerry McCann are said to have hired a new team of private British detectives after it emerged that Portuguese police had filed their "final report" on the case of their missing daughter Madeleine. The Portuguese public prosecutor's office is reviewing the file and will decide whether to close the investigation. If they do so, the couple will have their status as 'arguidos' - suspects - lifted.


"Kate and Gerry will not comment on anything until they hear it officially," said their spokesman Clarence Mitchell. Lawyers acting for the couple will reportedly demand access to the police files, which they will hand over to the couple's team of investigators.


"Any active leads it is felt the police have not followed up properly or left open-ended, they would move on," said a source.

McCanns celebrate getting a step closer to alert system, 15 July 2008
Hello! magazine No. 1029, 22 July 2008 (issue date: 15 July 2008) (No online link)
HELLO! has been backing Kate and Gerry's European Parliament campaign. Meanwhile, the couple tirelessly continue their search for daughter Madeleine.
Fourteen months after Madeleine vanished

Kate and Gerry McCann

Celebrate getting a step closer to seeing an 'AMBER Alert' system introduced across Europe


For Kate and Gerry McCann, it was the second best news they could have wished to hear: their battle to implement an alarm system to find missing children, which they kick-started with an exclusive interview in HELLO!, was last week declared a success.


Since their daughter Madeleine was abducted from their holiday apartment in Portugal last year, days before her fourth birthday, the couple have been keen to introduce an American-style "AMBER Alert" scheme across Europe.


The original scheme, which began in the US five years ago and operates by flashing up details of missing children on motorway billboards, radio and TV, is said to have saved 400 children.


But trying to start a similar scheme in Europe has been an unrelenting struggle for Kate, 40, and Gerry, 39 – whose campaign has received the unswerving support of HELLO!


Only when they made an emotional plea four months ago to the European Parliament in Strasbourg to launch an American-style scheme did they realise the size of the task facing them. A declaration requiring 393 MEPs' signatures was launched to back their call – but last year, only 12 of the 116 declarations tabled gathered the required number of signatures to proceed.


"What’s more," said Gerry, "we were surprised to learn that some MEPs remained unaware of the declaration and its aim of improving child welfare, despite the international publicity surrounding it."


However, after their appeal, and a series of meetings, members vowed to add their names and persuade their colleagues to join them before the 24 July deadline.


"If we can afford to put out severe weather warnings, we can afford to save children's lives," said Edward McMillan-Scott, Vice-President of the European Parliament.


Kate and Gerry were thrilled when 417 MEPs – over half of the European Parliament – backed the declaration. It will now be put forward to the European Commission to be "actioned".


"This is a small step in the right direction," said Gerry. "But a lot of work will be needed to get national AMBER Alert systems implemented."


The abduction and murder of Amber Hagerman 12 years ago led to the creation of the AMBER Alert scheme in America. She was nine when she was snatched while cycling near her grandparents' Texas home. The police had a good description of her abductor but they couldn't alert the community in time. The results were tragic.


When residents heard of the communication problem, they demanded action. Two years later, the first AMBER Alert scheme was set up with broadcasts over the radio.


Amber’s mum Donna has followed Madeleine's disappearance closely. She is convinced that if an alarm system had been in place, her parents might have been reunited with their daughter.


"The first two hours after a child goes missing are the most vital," she says. "The police have to rely on the public for information, but if the public doesn't know, they cannot help. AMBER Alert is the greatest protection against child predators. It makes sure everyone knows a child is missing.


"I miss my Amber every day but I know nothing will bring her back. But I  feel such joy when, thanks to AMBER Alert, parents are reunited with their kids. My heart goes out to Kate and Gerry as I know what they’re going through. But their campaign will help save lives."


Emotionally and physically exhausted after the last 14 months, Kate and Gerry, and twins Sean and Amelie, three, recently took a holiday, the first since Madeleine disappeared.


Under a veil of secrecy, they booked a low-key trip to Vancouver in Canada to stay with Gerry's sister, Norah Paul.


It was Norah who flew to Portugal to support Kate and Gerry soon after Madeleine went missing. She released 50 yellow balloons over Vancouver’s Jericho Beach to keep Madeleine's memory alive and focus on her search.


"Sean and Amelie had a brilliant holiday," said Gerry. "It was great to spend so much time with them. Although it was a relaxing break, it was incredibly difficult for Kate and me to be on holiday without Madeleine. It’s all too apparent what is missing…"






Note: Norah Paul is Kate's aunt, not Gerry's sister.

Broadcaster and ex-Crimewatch host Nick Ross on the shameful treatment of the parents of Madeleine McCann, 29 July 2008
Hello! magazine No. 1032, 05 August 2008 (issue date: 29 July 2008) (article not available online)

Broadcaster and ex-Crimewatch host Nick Ross on the shameful treatment of the parents of Madeleine McCann


A leading current affairs journalist, Nick, 60, has specialised in crime reporting. He hosted the flagship BBC show for more than 20 years, until leaving in 2007 


I have just won a £100 flutter. The wager – rather tasteless in retrospect – was made last year with one of Britain's best investigative reporters, who bet that Madeleine McCann had been murdered by her parents. I have always been sure she was abducted by an intruder and that the case against Kate and Gerry would come to nothing.


I, like every parent, felt for the McCanns. As the drama unfolded we all wanted Madeleine’s safe return and, failing that, for someone to be held accountable. When the drip feed of press rumour turned on the family itself it was little wonder people felt unsettled. Remember those tearful appeals for missing people made by relatives or friends who were later convicted of their murder?


But my defence of the McCanns was more than a hunch. I have had no special access to the investigation but in more than 20 years of working with victims and police on Crimewatch I have spent hundreds of hours analysing evidence of major crimes alongside top detectives. I learned to look at probabilities, and from the start I was appalled at the rush to blame Kate and Gerry for their own daughter's disappearance.


Finger of suspicion


For them these last 14 months must have been the cruellest imaginable. To lose a three-year old child and then become a formal suspect, with the world pointing fingers, must be almost unbearable. If the family survives intact it will be a miracle, and a testament to quite exceptional fortitude. If it doesn't, we should hang our heads in shame at the way they have been treated.


A year ago I pointed out that all the indications were that Kate and Gerry were victims of rare and appalling circumstances and deserved our sympathy, not a baying mob outside Portimão police station when they were questioned. It is true that adults sometimes kill their children, but usually it is stepfathers or live-in lovers, and most often in dysfunctional families; or alternatively in the first year after birth when the mum has postnatal depression – this is why we have a special category of homicide called infanticide.


Madeleine was almost four, living happily in a stable family with no history of serious discord, let alone physical abuse. There were wild rumours that Kate and Gerry had given their children sedatives to keep them quiet, but it was simply a press invention.


In any case, you only need to look at the sequence of events, The parents were dining with friends just around the corner from their apartment, with all of the group occasionally checking on their kids. It is simply not plausible that having discovered Madeleine had died unexpectedly either Kate or Gerry cleverly disposed of the body – so brilliantly that it was never found – and was back at the tapas bar within moments, as though nothing had happened. Or are we to suppose that each of the other "tapas seven" hurriedly agreed to hush it up, a conspiracy that has stayed watertight?


I think it is almost certain that the forensic evidence is just as threadbare. Today we are used to hearing about microscopic particles and other scientific clues that it’s tempting to suppose they are infallible in identifying guilt. But the data you get out are only as good as the samples you put in, and in this case there was nothing of substantive evidential value.


No forensic experts were called in until the apartment had been comprehensively tramped through by well-meaning helpers and police. Almost another six weeks went by before minute traces of blood were found in the apartment – but it would hardly be surprising if a boisterous three-year old had a minor cut. In any case, why would that suggest that Kate and Gerry killed her? Are we to suppose that instead of overdosing her they bashed her to death or took a knife to her, before hurriedly agreeing a cover-up and heading back to finish supper?


And are we to take seriously the reports that a dog trained to sniff for bodies got excited when searching the McCanns' hire car? After all, they didn't rent it until more than three weeks after Madeleine disappeared. Are we to deduce that the couple shook off all the attention, dug up their own child's putrefying body from a temporary hiding place and drove around unobserved for a more suitable disposal? I know from dozens of cases I have looked into that truth is often stranger than fiction, but even so this macabre scenario simply isn't credible.


What then of the argument that there cannot be smoke without fire; that the Portuguese prosecutors would only have made the McCanns arguidos if there were grounds to distrust them? Well, unless we are to assume that every suspect is guilty, the arguido status is no more proof than some detectives had suspicions, suspicions which we now know have come to nought.


In any case the local police were hopelessly out of their depth. Child abductions are rare. Most are taken by a parent as part of a custody battle or by partners as a result of a dispute. But stranger kidnappings by paedophiles are even more extraordinary, so much so that a small country like Portugal inevitably has little experience of how to deal with them.


Looking the wrong way


Their police failed to convict because they were looking the wrong way – something that tragically happens quite a lot in major investigations – and Alipio Ribeiro, the former head of Portugal's police, was right to say the inquiry should not have been closed but should look "in other directions".


What's more it should be regarded as a murder case. I have no doubt that Madeleine has been dead since early last May, and we should acknowledge the utter implausibility of her survival. We all want to keep up hope, but it must be unhealthy for the McCanns to stretch their faith into continued anticipation that she is out there somewhere waiting to be found.


It must also be unhealthy that a sacked detective is hawking his memoirs by implying – or allowing the implication – that the McCanns are guilty after all. Apparently, Gonçalo Amaral thinks Madeleine "died in the apartment", which for all I know may be true, though I strongly doubt there is sufficient forensic evidence to prove it. In any case, why would that implicate one person rather than another?


One day, with any luck, the truth will out, and the real culprit will be found. Meanwhile the family deserves our support in coming to terms with their loss and what, in all reason, must be a great deal of bitterness too.

On the third anniversary of Madeleine's disappearance Kate McCann talks about her renewed strength, 04 May 2010
On the third anniversary of Madeleine's disappearance Kate McCann talks about her renewed strength HELLO! magazine (appears in paper edition)

No. 1122, 10 May 2010 (published: 04 May 2010)

As the third anniversary of the disappearance of her daughter Madeleine comes around, Kate McCann has revealed how she has finally found new strength.

Speaking on BBC Radio 2, Kate said that the anger - "a horrible negative emotion" - which nearly destroyed her in the months after Madeleine's disappearance has now subsided.

"The wounds are less raw, but the pain doesn't go away and the anxiety is always there," she admitted. "But I am definitely a lot stronger than I was a year ago."

Kate confessed that her five-year-old twins, Sean and Amelie, and her husband Gerry, 41, have been a constant source of comfort to her, even during her darkest days. "They keep me going," the 42-year-old said, "and we've had amazing support from family and the public."

While the heart-wrenching milestone gives Kate a chance to reflect, she also believes it is a time to move forward, and she and Gerry are "thrilled to bits" that a campaign to help missing children - backed by HELLO! magazine - will be up and running in three weeks' time.

Thanks to the couple's push for a public emergency system, from 25 May - International Missing Children's Day - the whole of Britain will be put on alert if a youngster is abducted.

"We are delighted by the imminent introduction of a child-alert system within Europe and the UK and are very grateful to all the European politicians, police forces and other agencies who will now be working together to ensure this system works," Kate and Gerry tell HELLO!. "If it stops just one other child from going missing, then all our hard work will not have been in vain."

The couple are also appealing to HELLO! readers to continue helping them find their missing daughter.

"We are urging all HELLO! readers - particularly those in Spain and Portugal - to maintain awareness of Madeleine and keep searching for her and help us find her."

Kate and Gerry have been slowly rebuilding their lives ever since their eldest child vanished from a holiday apartment in Portugal's Praia da Luz on 3 May 2007, just nine days before her fourth birthday.

Choking back tears during the recent moving interview on Radio 2, Kate described her loss as like "experiencing hell on earth" and told of how she often imagines Maddie back "in the warmth and love of our family" and playing with the twins.

"They talk about Madeleine every day and they are very positive," she said. "Her relationship with Sean and Amelie, it's incredible really and that's something which still gets to me at times. Sean was digging in a sandpit, and I said, 'What are you doing?' and he said, 'I'm digging up buried treasure, Mummy, and I'm going to give it to Madeleine.' You think what it would be like if the three of them were together."

Kate has given up her part-time job as a GP to spearhead the global hunt for her daughter and work on lobbying the European Parliament in Brussels on her missing child's initiative.

The heartbroken mum - who is still painfully thin - confessed that at times she feels guilty about being able to cope. "Sometimes you beat yourself up," she admitted, "because I think, 'How come I am doing okay?'"

The devout Catholic revealed that she prays for her daughter every week at the local church - "I get comfort in that wherever she is, whoever she's with, God is protecting her" - and that she will try and find it in her heart to forgive her daughter's kidnappers. "I would like to hope I could forgive," she told radio listeners.

Last week, Kate and Gerry had a meeting with their lawyers in Lisbon. The trip followed a TV interview with GMTV's Lorraine Kelly in which the couple accused the British authorities of "essentially giving up" on their daughter. They are now urging the government to carry out "a comprehensive review" of the case.

As the family prepared for a low-key celebration to mark Madeleine's seventh birthday on 12 May, Kate insisted: "We've got a lot of hope that Madeleine is still alive.

"The difficult task is trying to find her, but we will certainly never give up."

With thanks to Nigel at McCann Files


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