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    

The Sun One Year Anniversary Review *

Complete review of the case by The Sun newspaper
This is a very disappointing review by The Sun, which fails to address any of the serious issues, concerns and inconsistencies inherent within the case.
The events of the 'abduction' and Jane Tanner's sighting are skated over with indecent haste in the rush to build up a glowing character reference for the McCanns.

Maddie - One year on, 27 April 2008
Maddie - One year on The Sun
'One year since the disappearance of Madeleine McCann The Sun has produced a compelling multimedia special report looking back on the 12 months of a story that has captivated the attention of people around the world.
The Sun's Chief Foreign Correspondent Nick Parker, who led our team of reporters in Portugal, provides the background and insight into the still unsolved case of Maddie.'

Maddie - A year in the darkness, 28 April 2008
Maddie - A year in the darkness The Sun
Published: 28/04/2008 
LISBON, Portugal -- Portuguese police searched Friday for a three-year-old British girl who went missing from an upmarket resort in Southern Portugal where she was on vacation with her family, officials said.
WITH one momentous sentence on May 4, 2007, the Associated Press broke one of the biggest news stories of modern times.
Almost exactly a year on, it continues to fascinate and horrify. To send chills down the spine of every parent. To turn us all into armchair detectives harbouring pet theories on what really happened.
Its complexities, moral and forensic, are still talked about in every home, office and factory, and in every newspaper.
None of us had heard of Madeleine McCann until she was already gone. But we feel we know her now.
Since last May, millions of words have been written about her disappearance and the continuing torment of her parents Kate and Gerry. In three Sun specials this week, JOHN PERRY sorts the fact from the fiction in the most complete account to date.


THREE weeks short of the first anniversary of Madeleine McCann’s abduction, her mother Kate spoke publicly for the first time in months. Whatever pain she and her husband Gerry continued to endure, she said, was as nothing compared with that of their daughter, which began on May 3, 2007 and which, for all they know, is ongoing.

“The pain of separation, the confusion, the fear, the absolute fear she has had to endure and is still enduring. She is only four years old,” said Kate.

Only four years old. But on May 12 she will be five. Madeleine was three when she last saw her mum and dad.

Her kidnapping, carried out without leaving a trace — at least none Portuguese police have managed to detect — shocked the world.

It was not just the abduction, nightmarish though that was. It was that two parents would leave their children alone in an unlocked apartment in a foreign land while they had dinner nearby. The anger directed at the McCanns was amplified because here were two educated, well-paid doctors who should have known better. For some, their middle-classness worsened their guilt.

They were seen as having led a privileged life, having effortlessly produced three perfect children and then having casually, selfishly left them at the mercy of a predator.

For many reasons this could not be further from the truth.

Kate and Gerry McCann are self-made people, not born to privilege. Kate, 40, is a down-to-earth Scouser from a modest home in Liverpool. Gerry, also 40, is the youngest of five children raised in a south Glasgow tenement.

Their brains and talent won them lucrative careers, she as a GP and he as a hospital consultant cardiologist.

Their children were the result of considerable effort and emotional trauma for a couple who could not conceive naturally.

Kate and Gerry met as young doctors working in different departments of Glasgow’s Western Infirmary in the early 1990s.

The attraction was obvious, but any chance of a long-term future together looked doomed from the start when Kate’s wanderlust took her to a job on the other side of the world — in Wellington, New Zealand. Gerry had also landed a dream post — in America. But he is a man of steely resolve, as his relentless hunt for Madeleine would later prove. He wasn’t giving up on Kate. At the last minute, his heart ruled his head. He dropped everything and spent his savings flying Down Under to be with her.

It was quite a gamble. Gerry admits: “It was really only then that we started going out together.” And he joked: “I saw Kate on the other side of the river and I crossed it! She made sure that I followed her. I must have courted her for a long time.”

Kate reciprocated his devotion with hours spent on the touchlines as he captained amateur Kiwi soccer side Napier City Rovers. He had once been Scottish universities 800 metres champion and was a decent footballer tipped for a professional career before opting for medicine.

His team-mate and close friend Ian Gearey said: “He was such a down-to-earth, natural guy. Kate was a doctor in Wellington and Gerry was a surgeon here in Hawke’s Bay. Everyone said he was very talented and he was well regarded.

“But the work wasn’t the real reason for him coming to New Zealand. He told us he’d come for her, to woo her, really. He won her heart and they got together here.”

Kate was never in doubt about Gerry after he followed her more than 11,000 miles. By the time they returned to settle in Glasgow in 1998 they were already planning their wedding.

It took place that December, at Our Lady of the Annunciation in Catholic Kate’s home city of Liverpool.

Two years on, Gerry got a job as a registrar at Glenfield Hospital, Leicester, and the family moved south.

Kate, desperate for children, gave up on a high-flying career in anaesthetics and gynaecology and started as a part-time GP in Melton Mowbray.

Natural conception proved beyond them. Kate said: “The one thing I had always been definite about is that I wanted a family. I wanted to be a mother. Then, when we were trying for a baby and it wasn’t happening, it was really hard.

“The longer it went on, the harder it was. I saw my friends having children and I was delighted for them, but it made me sad too. We tried unsuccessfully for several years to conceive.

“There came a point when we admitted we needed help. I was so desperate to have a child I’d try anything. I know IVF isn’t everyone’s choice but I wanted to try it.”

An initial IVF cycle failed, but the couple remained united and strong. Kate finally fell pregnant with Madeleine in 2002. “It was just fantastic. It didn’t seem true,” she said.

“I did a test at home so I could handle the result if it wasn’t good. I was looking at it thinking, ‘I don’t believe that’. Then I went to the hospital and they checked it. I was really excited.

“It was a really uncomplicated pregnancy — I had no sickness, nothing.”

Madeleine was born on May 12, 2003. “There she was, perfect,” said Kate. “She was lovely. She had the most beautiful face. I’d thought I was going to have a boy, just based on instinct. That actually made it even more special that she was a girl. She took us by surprise.”

Gerry said: “It was incredibly special because we had been waiting for a long time.

“Others thought we were getting old and might end up not having our own children.

“She was close to the perfect child. I know all parents think that, but Madeleine really was.”

A friend, Alan Grieves, said: “After many years of hope, the birth of their beautiful Madeleine made their lives complete.

“We have never seen Kate and Gerry as happy as they were that day.”

Kate said: “The first five or six months were really difficult. Madeleine had very bad colic and cried about 18 hours a day.

“She had to be picked up all the time, so I spent many a day dancing round the living room holding her. Sometimes she looked so sad with colic and the three of us would cuddle together trying to get her through it.

“But you go through that difficult, bad stage and it tightens the bond. We’ve both got an incredible bond with Madeleine.”

The McCanns and their baby girl moved to Holland for a year while Gerry worked on new heart imaging techniques.

They came back briefly for Madeleine’s baptism, carried out by Father Paul Seddon, who had married the couple five years earlier.

“It was a big family occasion — a wonderfully happy day,” said Father Seddon. “Madeleine had a whale of a time and really loved being the centre of attention. She had not long been walking and I have some great memories of trying to keep up with her as she ran around the church.”

In 2004, still in Holland, Kate fell pregnant again through IVF and the family moved back to England, buying a substantial home in rural Rothley.

Their twins, Sean and Amelie, were born in February 2005 and left little Madeleine awestruck. “She was amazing,” Kate said. “She was only 20 months old — still a baby herself — but she handled it all so well.

“Madeleine came in to see them for the first time and, oh . . . her little face! It was lovely.”

Madeleine was as bright as a button, outgoing, loving towards her brother and sister and prone to tantrums, as toddlers are.

“She’s got bags of character, that’s for sure,” Kate said. “She’s very loving, caring, she’s very funny, very chatty, very engaging, but she has her moments, like all children do. I do think she’s pretty special.”

Gerry added: “She is very funny and often a little ringleader in nursery and with her friends. She was running around shouting, ‘Be a monster, be a monster’ and we would chase her.”

The couple wanted a big family and were planning to try for a fourth baby. Kate’s dad Brian Healy said: “Children are the most important thing in their lives. Having another was something they’d been thinking about.

“But that was before Madeleine went missing.”

A grainy family video shot on April 28, 2007, is heartbreaking to watch now. Madeleine, wearing a pink Barbie backpack and holding another little girl’s hand, clambers excitedly up the steps of the plane taking the McCanns on their fateful holiday to Portugal.

The angel-faced three-year-old slips and grazes her shin on the third step, but cries for only a few seconds. It would take more than that to dampen her enthusiasm about the prospect of a week in the sunshine.

Madeleine, Kate, Gerry and two-year-olds Sean and Amelie were part of a group of 17 flying from East Midlands Airport to the Algarve resort of Praia da Luz. They caught the bmibaby flight at 9.30am.

They landed at Faro and hopped aboard the airport shuttle bus.

The video footage continues. Madeleine, a tiny blonde figure still holding her Barbie bag and wearing pink shorts, a pink top and trainers, swings her legs cheerfully as she sits next to Sean. Kate ruffles Sean’s hair and holds Amelie’s arm.

For some reason Gerry looks sombre. “Cheer up Gerry,” a friend jokes, to much laughter. “We’re on holiday.”

Gerry said later: “Madeleine was dead excited about going away with the rest of the kids. It was her first time to Portugal. She had her Barbie rucksack with a pull-up handle. It’s a really girlie one. We all had to have our own rucksacks — even Sean and Amelie — it was quite funny.”

The McCanns’ group arrived at the upmarket Mark Warner Ocean Club resort in Praia da Luz, on the coast 120 miles south of Lisbon. They intended to stay for a week, returning home on May 5. The four families, nine adults and eight children, had rented apartments in Waterside Gardens Block 5. The McCanns’ flat, 5a, was on the ground floor, on a street corner. The other families had two flats next door, 5b and 5d, and another on the floor above.

That first evening, Saturday, April 28, the group ate dinner at the Millennium Restaurant and Terrace, another Ocean Club property ten minutes away. For the rest of their stay they established a practice of giving the kids tea, playing with them for an hour and then putting them to bed in their apartments before going out to the nearby tapas bar for dinner.

The bar was within sight of the apartments and less than a minute’s walk away.

They took it in turns to make regular checks on the kids. Whatever doubts they should have had about this arrangement were quelled by the sense of security the resort gave them. They could barely imagine a safer place for the children.

But on the morning of May 3, the date the McCanns’ lives changed for ever, Madeleine gave her parents pause for thought.

At breakfast she told them she and the twins had been awake and upset in bed the night before, but no one came to help.

“Mummy,” she said, “Why didn’t you come when we were crying last night?” Kate said later: “Gerry and I spoke for a couple of minutes and agreed to keep a closer watch over the children” — which meant more frequent returns from the tapas bar to check on them.

“With hindsight Kate and Gerry think someone could have disturbed Madeleine that night,” their spokesman Clarence Mitchell said later. “But they felt she and the twins were safe and secure.

“They decided to be even more careful in the times they checked on the children.”

Madeleine spent a happy day at the resort’s children’s club, where she was left with Sean and Amelie while Gerry and Kate had a stroll. “She had a ball,” Kate said. “They did swimming, went on a little boat, went to a beach, did lots of colouring-in and face painting.”

The couple collected the children at 12.30pm for lunch at the apartment, then took them back to the kids’ club while they played tennis. Madeleine had tea with staff at 5.30pm and was picked up just before 6pm.

All three kids were put to bed at about 7pm. Madeleine was in her pink Marks and Spencer pyjamas featuring a picture of Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh.

Kate said: “Before she went to bed, Madeleine said, ‘Mummy, I’ve had the best day ever. I’m having lots of fun’. They had a little dance prepared for Friday. I don’t know what it was. I never got to see it.”

By 8pm Kate and Gerry were enjoying a bottle of white wine he had bought from the local supermarket. It was a Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc, a favourite from their days in New Zealand.

They were six days into their holiday and chatted about how it was all working so well — they were relaxed and the children were loving it.

Madeleine, Sean and Amelie were asleep in the front bedroom of the apartment, overlooking the small car park and the street beyond. Madeleine had a single bed nearest the door. The twins were next to her in two travel cots.

At about 8.30pm the McCanns, as they had done since their second night there, strolled to the tapas bar about 50 metres away.

“For us, it wasn’t very much different to having dinner in your garden, in the proximity of the location,” Gerry said later. “We’ve been assured by thousands of people who’ve either done exactly the same or say they would have done the same.”

But the sense of security the McCanns felt proved false.

From the tapas bar they could just see the rear of their apartment, where closed but unlocked patio doors led to the lounge and kitchen. They could not see the children’s bedroom, next to the locked front door.

The diners at the table, later nicknamed the “Tapas Nine”, were Gerry, Kate, Dr Russell O’Brien, then 36, (a consultant from Exeter and a friend of Gerry), his partner Jane Tanner, 37, Dr Matthew Oldfield, 37, wife Rachael, 36, David Payne, 41, a research fellow in cardiovascular sciences at Leicester University, wife Fiona, 34, and her mother Dianne Webster.

During a fun-filled evening they drank four bottles of wine between them.

The meal was punctuated almost constantly by one parent or another leaving the table to check on their children. They often crossed paths on their way to the apartments and back.

Gerry went back to 5a to check on Madeleine, Sean and Amelie at about 9.05pm. They were safely asleep. Gerry saw Madeleine snuggled up with her favourite toy, Cuddle Cat, bought by her godfather. The blanket was up near her head.

Something was slightly odd. Gerry was sure he’d shut the children’s bedroom door when he left for the tapas bar. Now it was open.

In hindsight he is convinced her abductor had opened it, then hurriedly hid inside the flat as he heard Gerry enter.

At the time, though, Gerry had no reason to worry — he assumed Madeleine had opened the door earlier to get a drink of water and gone back to bed. The window was closed and the shutter down. All was fine. Gerry closed the bedroom door again and left the apartment through the patio doors to rejoin his friends. Madeleine, it now seems, was snatched in the few seconds that followed.

The kidnapper had only one viable escape route — the bedroom window — since the front door was locked and Gerry had only just left via the patio doors.

On his way back to the bar, Gerry came across Jeremy Wilkins, another holidaymaker he had met at the resort’s tennis courts.

They chatted for a few minutes and were seen doing so at 9.15pm by Jane Tanner, a “Tapas Nine” friend. She was on her way back to her flat to check on boyfriend Russell O’Brien, who was nursing their sick child.

As she passed them she saw up ahead a man walking briskly across the top of the road, away from the apartments and towards the outer road of the complex. He was swarthy, about 5ft 7ins, between 35 and 40 and with dark, curly hair.

A little girl wrapped in a blanket hung limply from his arms.

All Tanner saw of her was her bare feet dangling down and pink and white pyjamas. Such a sighting was not unusual in a family holiday resort. “There is a crèche nearby,” she said later. “I thought he might be a father picking up his child.”

Unknown to her, Madeleine’s pyjamas were pink and white.

Tanner thought nothing further of it. Aside from anything else, she knew Gerry had just looked in on his kids and presumably found all was well. When she returned to the tapas bar around 9.25pm she understandably did not think it significant enough to mention.

The next check took place shortly after 9.30pm. O’Brien went back to look in on his child, accompanied by another friend, Matthew Oldfield, who had offered to save Kate the trouble by checking on her children as well as his.

Oldfield went into the McCanns’ apartment and found the children’s door open but had no reason to suspect anything — he was not to know Gerry had closed it half an hour earlier.

During his quick check he saw Sean and Amelie asleep but did not set eyes on Madeleine, whose bed was behind the door. However, the room was silent and he assumed everything was fine.

The men rejoined the table just before 10pm. Not long afterwards, Kate decided to make her own check. It took less than a minute to walk to the apartment and enter through the patio doors.

She knew something was wrong right away. The window was open, causing a draught which slammed their bedroom door.

A friend said later: “She knew the window had been closed. She then saw Madeleine was missing but it took a few seconds to register.

“She searched the flat three times and realised she was gone.” Cuddle Cat was abandoned in the bedroom. Kate was frantic. She searched the apartment but knew immediately Madeleine had been abducted. “I never thought for one second that she’d walked out,” she said. “I knew someone had been in the apartment because of the way it had been left. There wasn’t a shadow of a doubt in my mind she’d been taken.

“There was about 20 seconds of disbelief when I thought, ‘That can’t be right.’ I was checking for her. Then there was panic and fear. I was screaming her name.”

Her screams echoed round the complex. She ran from the apartment to the restaurant, crying: “Madeleine has gone. Someone has taken her.”

Gerry ran to 5a and rechecked everywhere Kate had looked, then dashed round the apartment block.

A friend was despatched to the resort’s 24-hour reception desk to phone the police.

The call was made at around 10.15pm — but the local police, ill-equipped for anything of this magnitude, began a catalogue of incompetence by taking almost an hour to arrive. The two officers who turned up at 11.10pm spoke no English and needed a translator.

Panic set in. Kate was already sure Madeleine had been taken by paedophiles and would be dead. Gerry tried his best to comfort her but his fears were identical.

At 11.40pm he rang his sister Trish in Scotland. He was almost incoherent — and Trish tried to calm him down. It is hard now to imagine this of a man who has remained so calm and measured in public ever since.

At midnight the Policia Judiciaria, the PJ, who investigate serious crimes, were called in, arriving at 1am. They, along with the McCanns, their friends, other holidaymakers and locals, scoured the area for two and a half hours.

At 3am Kate rang friends Jon and Michelle Corner, Sean and Amelie’s godparents, at their Merseyside home. Jon said: “She just blurted out that Maddie had been abducted. She said, ‘They’ve taken my little girl’.”

Child abductions are so rare in Portugal that there was a general feeling among the authorities that Madeleine would turn up asleep under a bush. Apathy and incredulity set the tone for the police investigation.

The PJ gave up the search for the night at around 3.30am.

Gerry went back out again at about 4am with his friend David Payne.

At 6am Gerry and Kate held hands as they walked around scrubland on the outskirts of the village calling Madeleine’s name.

The British embassy issued a statement declaring Madeleine missing. But there was no physical evidence she had been kidnapped. Gerry and Kate alone were convinced of that.

The backlash against the McCanns began immediately. Most parents wondered why an educated couple left three tiny children unattended to sleep in their holiday flat while they went out to dinner nearby. Many wondered if they would have done the same and most concluded they wouldn’t.

Most also concluded that the point wasn’t worth making publicly while Madeleine was still missing and her parents enduring a living hell. Accusations of neglect wouldn’t help her or them.

But in Portugal and the UK a vocal minority wasted no time. The speed and ferocity of the attacks was astonishing. BBC’s Radio Five Live held an ill-judged debate on the McCanns’ parenting standards only 24 hours after Madeleine was snatched. Only a few callers found that their sympathy outweighed the urge to attack the couple for “abandoning their daughter” to her kidnapper.

It was just the beginning. On May 6 a senior Portuguese cop said the McCanns might be charged for leaving the children alone, which he said was illegal there.

In Britain the NSPCC said babies and children should never be left alone even for a short time.

The chorus of disapproval grew, especially when the McCanns admitted they had left the children the same way several nights running. Some newspaper columnists could not resist kicking the good-looking middle-class doctors while they were down.

Not all parents disapproved, however — many sent messages of support to Kate and Gerry saying they would not have hesitated to do the same thing.

Some newspaper commentators, too, saw nothing wrong with it and pointed out that the chances of a kidnapper snatching a child from their bed were almost infinitesimally small.

It was a debate Kate and Gerry were by now having endlessly in their minds. “Every hour now, I still ask, ‘Why did I think that was safe?’ But it did feel safe and so right,” Kate said later. Her mum Susan Healy defended them: “They know this was a mistake. But it wasn’t child neglect, it wasn’t not caring for your children.

“Why would you think something like this would happen? You make a decision and think it’s OK. This time it wasn’t and Kate and Gerry have to live with that. That’s dreadful and they don’t need pressure from other people.

“Kate and Gerry went to a family-friendly resort where there has never been any crime or any trouble.

“They felt their children were safe, with the shutters down. They were also maybe lulled into a false sense of security by the fact they went on holiday with three other couples.

“They were quite happy about the checks they were doing on the children. You couldn’t have more caring parents.

“Kate and Gerry are absolutely devastated. I have heard my daughter wailing like a wild animal.”

The police hunt for Madeleine was a shambles from the outset. For several crucial days detectives failed even to take seriously the idea she had been abducted — a stance that infected every aspect of the probe.

Evidence was contaminated, Portugal’s borders left wide open and the investigation fatally compromised in virtually every conceivable way by a local force ill-equipped to handle it.

It was bad enough for the McCanns that their child was snatched. It was worse luck still for it to happen in a backwater policed by incompetents.

In Britain and America, such an abduction would have triggered an almost instant police dragnet — sniffer dogs and helicopters would have scoured the area while the child’s picture would have been handed to the Press and TV to make public as fast as possible.

None of this happened. The Portuguese police decided an almost total LACK of publicity was the best option, to keep suspects in the dark about the investigation’s progress. In the first and possibly most elementary blunder, police failed to seal off the crime scene — the McCanns’ apartment — until 10am the morning after Madeleine went missing. Before then family, friends and a wide variety of police officers and “helpers” traipsed through the property, rendering any DNA clues found there as good as useless.

A friend of the McCanns said: “On the night Madeleine was taken there were loads of people in and out. Once it was obvious she had not wandered off it should have been immediately sealed.

“Then there were police officers smoking and dropping ash and butt ends.”

Even one of the first officers to arrive admitted the area was “totally contaminated” within an hour because his bosses failed to secure it. The apartment was trampled “by the world and his dog”, the cop, speaking anonymously, told The Sun.

“By the time we got there it was chaos,” he said. “When we arrive and see our superiors on the scene we expect the situation to be under control. It was like they weren’t even there.

“Family, friends, neighbours, staff, people off the street — everyone was in and out of the bedroom to check under the bed. The damage had been done.”

His partner added: “Any disappearance should be treated as a potential crime. It’s not brain surgery.”

Portugal’s top forensic expert Jose Anes later said he doubted anyone would ever stand trial because the evidence was too contaminated for any safe prosecution.

One of the cops leading the search blamed the McCanns. Police chief Olegario Sousa said more than 20 people entered the apartment early on, touching furniture and opening and closing doors and windows.

He added: “The presence of so many people — especially in the room where the little girl slept with her brother and sister — could have at least complicated the work of the forensic team.

“At the very worst they would have destroyed all the evidence. This could prove to be fatal for the investigation.”

The McCanns hit back via a friend, who said: “Of course the family are going to search the apartment. If your child goes missing, you search under beds, in wardrobes, behind doors — everywhere.”

Yet another gaffe within hours of the abduction only emerged months later.

Police allowed Robert Murat, who later became their first suspect, to sit in as translator at the first witness interviews. They never checked his background or his alibi — they used him simply because he spoke Portuguese. Regardless of Murat’s innocence, the information he heard would have been like gold-dust for anyone constructing a cover story.

One of those quizzed was holidaymaker Bridget O’Donnell, an ex-BBC producer who worked on Crimewatch and was horrified by the amateurish investigation.

She was questioned the day after the kidnapping in her apartment near the McCanns’. Bridget said: “Murat was breathless, perhaps a little excited. He reminded me of a boy in my class at school who was bullied.

“Through Murat we answered a few questions and gave our details, which the policeman wrote down on the back of a bit of paper. No notebook.

“Then he pointed to the photocopied picture of Madeleine on the table. ‘Is this your daughter?’ he asked. ‘Er, no,’ we said. ‘That’s the girl you are meant to be searching for.’ My heart sank for the McCanns.”

Worse was to come. It emerged that police failed to send Madeleine’s bedding for forensic tests. By the time they revisited the apartment 24 hours after she was taken, cleaners had washed the sheets, blankets and pillowcase. Vital fibres from the abductor’s clothing, or even their fingerprints, may have been lost.

Only hair samples were sent for testing at a Portuguese forensic lab. An insider there said half the evidence needed to find out what happened was not tested.

He said: “It is obvious it would have been good if they had sent sheets, blankets, pillows and even the mattress. Some important clue could have been found.”

It took 48 hours for police to take witnesses’ fingerprints. Some were carried out so shoddily they had to be redone.

To their horror the McCanns discovered another glaring error. The frontier with Spain is almost 100 miles from Praia da Luz, about 1 hour 45 minutes’ drive. But border guards were only alerted to Madeleine’s disappearance 12 HOURS later, giving her abductor ample time to flee with her to Spain and beyond.

Even more disgracefully it was 48 hours before police got round to searching vehicles at the border. Incredibly, weeks later the border was closed almost immediately after reports of a CAR being stolen.

Further errors eroded the McCanns’ confidence in the investigation. With police keeping silent about any leads to avoid alerting suspects, Kate and Gerry were forced of their own accord to invite TV crews to their apartment to broadcast an appeal for information.

It was THEY, not police, who decided to release details of the pink and white Eeyore pyjamas Madeleine was wearing.

The mistakes went on and on.

A police description of Madeleine’s suspected kidnapper was released, based on Jane Tanner’s sighting of the man carrying a child outside the apartment.

Cops said he was 5ft 10in. But Tanner saw a man of about 5ft 7in — they had simply given out the wrong height in the description. It might have been crucial.

British crime experts remain convinced Portuguese police were simply not up to such a major investigation.

Retired Det Chief Supt Chris Stevenson — who nailed Ian Huntley for murdering Soham girls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman — conducted a three-day review of the Madeleine probe alongside other British crime experts for a TV documentary.

He insisted: “The intention was never to do a hatchet job on the Portuguese police — but the inescapable conclusion was that they were totally ill-equipped for the job.

“If you don’t immediately realise what you are dealing with, you can get caught and make major forensic errors.

“That’s what appears to have happened in the Maddie case. This was a child missing from home but they didn’t seem to have thought anything suspicious might have happened at first.

“In Britain we refer to this period immediately after a child vanishes as the ‘golden hours’.”

On Friday, May 4, the day after Madeleine’s disappearance, police brought in sniffer dogs and finally alerted border authorities and the Spanish police.

Gerry and Kate, clearly distraught but maintaining their dignity, faced the Press outside apartment 5a. They realised right away that their most valuable aid in finding Madeleine was publicity. Kate was clutching Cuddle Cat for comfort.

Gerry said: “Words cannot describe the anguish and despair we are feeling as the parents of a beautiful daughter.

“We request anyone with any information relating to Madeleine’s disappearance should please contact Portuguese police to help us get her back to safety.

“Please, if you have Madeleine, please let her come home to her mummy, daddy, brother and sister. Everyone can understand how distressing this current situation is.”

Portuguese police, however — in a taste of what was to come — announced that under the country’s secrecy laws they could not reveal any details of the investigation.

This vacuum of information was to result in unsubstantiated police theories and claims being leaked daily to the Portuguese Press and re-reported in Britain.

Relatives including Madeleine’s grandparents flew to Portugal. Britain’s Ambassador to the country, John Stephen Buck, went to the resort, as did Craig Mayhew, director of Mark Warner UK Operations.

By Saturday, May 5, the McCanns’ family were already expressing misgivings about the police. Madeleine’s aunt Philomena McCann claimed they were playing down her disappearance and being “uncommunicative”.

Gerry, by contrast, issued a new appeal and diplomatically thanked police for their efforts.

Despite their initial reluctance to face reality, detectives announced that they DID now believe Madeleine was abducted.

They further revealed that they believed she was still alive, in Portugal and may have been kidnapped to be abused by paedophiles. They revealed they had a sketch of a “suspect”.

It was one of a host of bold and unsubstantiated announcements they were to make.

Three Family Liaison Officers from Leicestershire Police arrived in Portugal to support the McCanns and a colleague of Kate’s offered a £100,000 reward for help in finding Madeleine.

The McCanns attended a Mother’s Day service on Sunday, May 6, in Praia Da Luz where prayers were said for Madeleine in English and Portuguese. Kate broke down while telling reporters how grateful she was for the support of locals.

The police sketch, meanwhile, appeared to be little more than the back of a man’s head.

Four days after Madeleine’s abduction, on Monday, May 7, Kate made a personal plea to her kidnapper on TV. Comforted by Gerry and holding a picture of their daughter, she said: “We would like to say a few words to the person who is with our Madeleine, or has been with Madeleine.

“Madeleine is a beautiful, bright, sunny and caring little girl. She is so special. Please, please, do not hurt her.

“Please do not scare her, please let us know where to find Madeleine or put her in a place of safety and tell somebody where. We beg you to let Madeleine come home.

“Sean and Amelie need Madeleine and she needs us. Please give our little girl back.”

She repeated that sentence in Portuguese: “Por favor, devolva a nossa menina.”

Gerry leaned towards her, bowed his head and rested it on her cheek.

In the first of many wild theories reported in Portugal, it was said that police believed Madeleine’s kidnapper to be British.

Officers did not confirm it. Instead they held a chaotic Press conference where, contradicting earlier remarks, they said they could not reassure the McCanns that Madeleine was still alive or still in the area.

The following day Manchester United’s Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo made an appeal for help in tracing Madeleine, followed by Chelsea’s John Terry and Paulo Ferreira.

A silent vigil was held in the family’s home village of Rothley and detectives were said to be probing British paedophiles with links to the Algarve.

The same day British holidaymaker Amanda Mills revealed that she saw a prowler tampering with bedroom window shutters yards from Madeleine’s holiday flat days before she was abducted. The “weird” man, middle-aged, dark-skinned and unshaven, tried to grab a child’s buggy but ran off when confronted.

What seemed the first real breakthrough came on May 9. CCTV footage from a petrol station near Praia da Luz appeared to show a woman with a girl resembling Madeleine. Police were investigating the possibility she was snatched by two men and a woman. The CCTV footage, they said, was “the key”.

Gerry and Kate insisted they remained positive and an internet appeal was launched in English, Portuguese and Spanish. Crimestoppers created a hotline for information.

A week after Madeleine’s disappearance, on Thursday, May 10, Kate led villagers and tourists in prayer at the church in Praia Da Luz.

Crimestoppers passed on four pieces of “very useful” information from hundreds of calls to their hotline and police issued a picture of pyjamas identical to Madeleine’s.

Moved by images of her distraught parents, tycoon Stephen Winyard offered a £1million reward on Friday, May 11, for information leading to Madeleine’s return.

David Beckham made a TV appeal, saying: “If you have seen this little girl please go to the local authorities or the police with any genuine information. Please, please help us.”

Gerry said he was grateful for the worldwide support and said he would leave “no stone unturned”.

On Saturday, May 12, Madeleine’s fourth birthday, The Sun launched a campaign for people to wear yellow in her honour and to show they stood side by side with her parents. Locals near the McCanns’ home in Rothley had already tied yellow ribbons to railings in the village.

Gerry and Kate launched an international appeal using posters and a logo highlighting Madeleine’s distinctive right eye, the pupil of which runs into the blue-green iris. “We want to make the most of it, because we know her hair potentially could be cut or dyed,” Gerry said.

Gordon Brown, then Chancellor, said: “We’ll be thinking of Maddie today and praying for good news.” Tory leader David Cameron said: “I feel desperately for the McCann family. Of course I want to mark her birthday by wearing a yellow ribbon.”

Gerry and Kate urged people to redouble their efforts to find her. Business tycoons, celebrities and newspapers swelled the reward fund to £2.5million.

But by Sunday, May 13, ten days on, the hunt was nowhere.

Police chief Olegario Sousa admitted there were no leads nor suspects. “Everything that we have looked at so far has been discounted,” he said.

Tormented Gerry and Kate walked hand-in-hand along the bay at Praia da Luz. Kate wore a yellow ribbon and carried Cuddle Cat, holding it to her nose to smell Madeleine’s scent.

On May 14 Gerry issued a statement: “Until there is concrete evidence to the contrary, we believe Madeleine is safe and is being looked after.”

Kate said they would not consider returning to the UK while she was missing.

London lawyers from the International Family Law Group set up a “fighting fund” to allow the public to donate to the search.

Then, dramatically, it was revealed that a Briton living with his mother just over 100 yards from the McCanns’ holiday apartment was being quizzed.

He was Robert Murat.

MURAT’S life changed for ever the moment police knocked on the door of his mother’s villa, Casa Liliana, at 7am on May 14, 2007. He was interrogated for 19 hours.

The house was sealed off and searched from top to bottom and the swimming pool drained. Murat’s computer was seized. Two cars used by the Murats were examined.

Later he was named as an “arguido” — the Portuguese legal term for a suspect — but there was not enough evidence to arrest him or keep him in custody. He was never charged with any offence.

So why him?

Murat, 34, is a half-Portuguese, half-English property salesman whose daughter Sofia is Madeleine’s age and lives with his ex-wife Dawn in Norfolk. They had all lived at Casa Liliana until two years earlier when Dawn took Sofia back to the UK. She had found life hard in Portugal and the marriage had broken down.

Murat insisted the first he knew of Madeleine’s disappearance was when his sister phoned him about it the next day. His alibi never changed: On the evening of May 3 he went to bed early at his mother’s home after dinner with her. His mother, Jennie, 71, backed him up.

As Madeleine’s kidnapping cast the spotlight on his town, Murat, once an interpreter for Norfolk police, began getting involved in the case. Using his language skills he volunteered to help detectives and acted as a go-between with Madeleine’s parents. His mother set up a poster stall appealing for witnesses.

Murat was also keen to help the Press and claimed to have been inside the McCanns’ apartment as the probe began.

Some reporters dismissed him as an attention-seeker. Others were more suspicious.

One reported him to the police, who put him under surveillance. He was watched and his phone calls logged.

Murat’s business associate, Russian computer expert Sergey Malinka, 22, was also questioned but quickly cleared.

Murat’s German girlfriend Michaela Walczuch and her estranged Portuguese husband Luis Antonio were questioned as witnesses.

There was nothing to connect Murat to the abduction, despite many hours of questioning and comprehensive checks on his background, movements and property.

British holidaymakers, including the McCanns’ friends, repeatedly claimed they saw him near the complex on the night of May 3, seemingly contradicting his alibi.

But in January it emerged that a local estate agent, also in Praia that night, is a remarkable lookalike of Murat. Perhaps it was him they saw and not Murat — and thus his alibi was sound.

Murat’s loyal band of friends insist he is an entirely innocent man enduring a long nightmare. Former work colleague Veronica Fennell said: “He is a perfectly normal, outgoing, friendly guy.”

Another ex-workmate, Gareth Bailey, said he would trust Murat with his own daughter. He added: “He’s one of those overly helpful people who like to get involved.

“It sounds exactly what he’s done with the police and reporters. It is the way he is. I can see how it could be misconstrued.”

Murat’s lawyer Francisco Paragete defended him to the hilt, even by making a vitriolic attack on the McCanns.

He said: “If the police never clear this matter up, Robert Murat will always be pointed at in the street as the No1 suspect. It has been a nightmare for him and a long one.”

Of the McCanns, he said: “They deserve to be cursed for leaving three children unprotected. I only lament that there are people funding a couple who abandoned three children and who swan around with bulging bank balances.

“My client, his mother and his girlfriend, who have nothing to do with the case, see their names daily dragged through the mud and they are virtually bankrupt.”

Murat’s aunt Sally Eveleigh said: “Robert’s life has been ruined by the most disgusting, cruel allegations imaginable.

“His only crime was wanting to do anything he could to help find a missing four-year-old girl.

“As a father, he knew Kate and Gerry McCann must have been going through hell. Robert has gone through some very dark moments and wondered if there was any point carrying on. But then he says, ‘I’ve got my daughter to think about’.” Under Portugal’s strict secrecy laws, Murat was barred from defending himself publicly. But he did say this: “I can’t carry on living like this, no human being could.

“I am an innocent man. I am not a paedophile or any of the other things I have been called. I have done nothing wrong. I wake up with this nightmare every morning and I go to bed with it every night.”

The next three and a half months saw the McCanns go from victims of a predatory child-snatcher to suspects in their own daughter’s killing. With no leads or solid evidence, the increasingly desperate Portuguese police decided they disposed of her body and concocted an elaborate lie to dupe the world.

Even supposedly rational people began wondering aloud if the detectives were on to something. The theory held that they knew they would lose their jobs, home and children if found to have killed Madeleine — and would go to any lengths to avoid it.

It was nonsense. But the McCanns, in the midst of their torment, had to fend off the allegations again and again.

'A year in jail and you can go home', 29 April 2008

'A year in jail and you can go home' The Sun

THE abduction of Madeleine McCann has gripped the world for a year. This three-part Sun series provides the most comprehensive account to date.

Part One yesterday described how Kate and Gerry McCann met and started their family. It gave a detailed description of their holiday in Portugal, the night Madeleine was taken, the naming of Robert Murat as a suspect and the global appeal for information.

In Part Two, JOHN PERRY examines how the tide turned against the McCanns, how they reluctantly returned home and the tormented lives they now lead.


THEY had no leads nor evidence, so the Portuguese police turned on the McCanns. After more than a month covertly investigating them, they brought the couple in for questioning — and officially made them suspects in their daughter’s disappearance.

It was the culmination of a propaganda campaign against Gerry and Kate that began within hours of Madeleine’s kidnap on May 3, 2007.

Despite keeping in line with Portugal’s secrecy laws which decree that the public be kept in the dark about an investigation, a string of leaks was given to Portuguese reporters in the hope of panicking the McCanns into giving themselves away.

Publicly, the police insisted the McCanns were merely witnesses. But as early as May 4 one Portuguese newspaper reported that, behind the scenes, police had doubts the toddler was snatched at all. The McCanns’ story was “badly-told”, it said. There was ludicrous speculation about the McCanns and their friends being swingers and claims that they had drugged their children to sedate them.

Another local newspaper said police were convinced Madeleine was already dead. Unnamed sources claimed the alibis of the McCanns and their friends were riddled with contradictions.

On May 13, a Portuguese former detective, briefed by ex-colleagues working on the investigation, openly speculated on TV that Madeleine died from an overdose of sedatives and argued that her parents’ jobs as doctors lent weight to the theory.

It held that the McCanns had used drugs to ensure their kids slept as they dined out at the tapas bar.

As the investigation developed, detectives believed they had unearthed harder evidence. Blood was said to have been found in a car hired by the McCanns 25 days after Madeleine’s disappearance.

A sniffer dog allegedly smelled death in their apartment on August 1 as well as on Kate’s T-shirt, jeans and on Cuddle Cat, Madeleine’s favourite soft toy.


For most of the last 12 months Kate McCann has been the embodiment of suffering — her face wracked with the unbearable agony of a mother whose child was taken to an uncertain fate. The slideshow pictures below show her pain, month by month.

Click here for slideshow



Kate pointed out that, as a GP, she was present at several deaths just before flying to Portugal.

A friend said: “It’s ludicrous to try to trap Kate on the basis of forensics when there has been so much contamination since Madeleine vanished. Kate has been holding Madeleine’s clothes, stroking them and smelling them to get the scent of Madeleine and comfort herself.

“The twins have been playing with Madeleine’s toys. It would be strange if her DNA was not all over the parents, the twins and everything they touch, including the hire car.”

Police were also suspicious when Kate washed Cuddle Cat. They believed she was trying to hide forensic evidence. The move was also questioned in the British Press by commentators convinced most mums would want to keep their missing child’s smell as long as possible.

Kate said she washed it simply because it was covered in dirt and suntan lotion.

A behavioural expert hired by police added to the suspicions.

While the McCanns made clear at the outset that they would do everything to keep Madeleine in the public mind, the “expert” was convinced it was an attempt to distract themselves from their “crime”.

Their apparent lack of emotion in public betrayed a couple focusing on a cover-up, the expert said — though their friends and family insisted their grief in private was real and overwhelming.

On September 6, the gloves came off. Police called Kate in for questioning — and later made her an “arguido”, an official suspect like Robert Murat. At one stage they asked her straight: “Did you sedate Madeleine?”

Kate, in a white top and clutching Cuddle Cat, arrived at the police station in Portimao at 1.55pm. Gerry, who drove her there, kissed her on the lips and she walked nervously the 50 yards to the station door.

She was kept waiting for an hour and 15 minutes by formalities before the interview began.

At her side was Lisbon-based lawyer Carlos Pinto de Abreu. Kate picked a translator from an accredited list and a marathon grilling began.

Each question was asked in Portuguese and translated before Kate gave her answer. Her responses were written out in longhand, typed up and read back to Kate for her to agree.

The question-and-answer session became highly charged. At one point she was offered a two-year jail sentence if she confessed to killing Madeleine.

Cops outlined the forensic evidence they claimed to have against her and said they believed Madeleine died accidentally after being given too much of a children’s painkiller in the apartment.

They said they believed Kate then panicked and hid the body before moving it to its final resting place weeks later in the family’s hire car.

Kate was told she would receive between two and three years in jail if she signed a confession and could expect to serve 12 months in “supervised custody”.

Police tried to tempt her into signing by saying Gerry would immediately be freed without charge to take Sean and Amelie back to Britain. The deal was: “Do a year for accidental death and your family can go home.” Kate was appalled, insisted she was innocent and screamed “No!” She branded their claims “bloody ridiculous”.

She emerged at 1am looking pale and shattered. Two hours later the police phoned the villa she and Gerry had rented and repeated their plea-bargain offer.

Kate was heard by a relative shouting “No, no, no!” to her lawyer.

She was then ordered back to the station on September 7 and bombarded with 22 questions about Madeleine’s disappearance. Police demanded: “Tell us what you did with her.” Kate hit back: “You must be insane to think we’d put ourselves through this.”

Police told Kate DNA from Madeleine’s bodily fluids was found under the seat of the McCanns’ hired Renault Scenic. They claimed her blood was found on the window and under a sofa in the flat where she vanished.

They even found “evidence” in the devout Catholic’s Bible, open at the Old Testament story of how King David’s general killed his son Absalom. A friend of the McCanns said: “The officers were suggesting that Kate was driven to kill her child after reading it, or that she read it as solace after committing the act. It is completely crazy.”

The aggression increased. The plea bargain offer turned into a threat. If Kate did not sign their confession, they told her, she would lose Sean and Amelie too.

Detectives said they would charge her and Gerry and could hold them for a year without bail before trial. They would lose their jobs, home — and children.

Within hours the spotlight fell on Gerry. He was grilled for eight hours at the police station in Portimao and also declared an arguido. He walked out just after midnight on September 8 looking exhausted.

His lawyer Mr de Abreu said: “Kate and Gerry have been declared arguidos with no bail conditions. No charges have been brought. The investigation continues.”

Earlier Gerry rebutted accusations that his wife killed Madeleine — and said she was “completely innocent”. He said: “The suggestion that Kate is involved in Madeleine’s disappearance is ludicrous. Anyone who knows anything about May 3 knows that Kate is completely innocent.”

Kate’s dad Brian Healy said: “It’s unbelievable, obscene and disgusting that the police think Kate or Gerry were involved. My daughter is incapable of harming Madeleine.”

Kate’s mum Susan accused police of planting evidence. She insisted: “This is a set-up. Maddie is Kate and Gerry’s world. They would never do anything to harm her.

“It’s absolutely ludicrous that Kate and Gerry have been named as suspects.

“The police are trying to frame them for murder. If there is any evidence to implicate Kate and Gerry in any way then it has been planted. I don’t know how, what or when, but something has been put in place to bring about this bizarre line of questioning.”

Brian blasted the police for “time-wasting” instead of looking for Madeleine. Gerry’s sister Philomena branded them “imbeciles”.

She said: “It’s inconceivable what’s happening to them out there. There they are, victims of this horrendous crime, and now they’re trying to sully their name in this disgusting manner with this smear campaign. Some of the things that Kate has been asked are just incomprehensible.”

But back in the UK too the tide was beginning to turn against Gerry and Kate. The result of the police’s refusal to make any evidence public — combined with their long questioning of the couple they now considered suspects — made many think they knew something we didn’t.

Were the couple hiding something? Even some seasoned journalists admitted they were beginning to “think the unthinkable”.

The change of mood was not lost on the Vatican, which erased all mention of the McCanns’ visit on May 30 from its website.

A family source admitted: “This has been their worst week since Madeleine vanished.”

Being treated as suspects was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Gerry and Kate. Once, they had vowed never to return home without Madeleine. On September 9, 2007, they did just that.

The McCanns gave cops just a few hours’ notice that they would be flying home. The police had no choice, since they could not hold them and their British address was listed as their home on all official documents.

Gerry angrily told a pal before boarding the plane: “I don’t care if the police say we are fleeing. I don’t care if people think we’re fleeing. We’re being set up and I’ve had enough. We’re going home.”

The couple and their twins set off for the grim journey home as daylight broke. Gerry’s sister Trish and her husband Sandy had helped them pack.

Hundreds of journalists gathered in the tiny lane leading to the McCanns’ villa at 4am.

A van arrived to take away 20,000 letters from supporters. Two boxes full of toys were seen outside.

As camera crews jostled for position, police cordoned off the street. Local vicar’s wife Susan Hubbard went in and out of the villa. She had grown close to the family — and babysat the twins while Kate was being grilled by police.

Gerry inched the McCanns’ Renault through hordes of pressmen on its way to the airport. Kate’s hand was supportively on his thigh. Sean and Amelie were in the back with Cuddle Cat beside them.

Just under an hour later they arrived at Faro Airport and handed back the keys of the hired car.

By 8.30am the McCanns had cleared security for the 9.30am Easyjet flight to East Midlands Airport.

Kate and Gerry played with the excited twins in the VIP lounge and were then the first passengers to board.

Kate, wearing a lapel badge showing Madeleine’s face, held Amelie. Gerry put Cuddle Cat on his shoulder for Sean.

The first two rows of the aircraft were reserved for them. It took off a few minutes late. Kate wept.

Gerry remained calm throughout the three-hour flight but as the plane neared the UK became more pensive and chewed his nails.

“We didn’t imagine coming home like this,” he said. “I can’t describe it.”

The McCanns were last off the jet, which touched down just after noon. Each parent carried a twin in their arms as they descended the steps and set foot back in Britain for the first time as a family since late April. A family, but missing one child.

They were collected by police in a people carrier with blacked-out windows.

Just under half an hour later it pulled into the driveway of their Rothley home, which was guarded by more police.

Kate led the way inside, carrying one of the twins. Gerry was a few steps behind with the other.

There to greet them with a hug and a kiss were Madeleine’s great uncle Brian Kennedy and his wife Janet. Brian told reporters: “I am just here to give them a meal, here to support them.

“I have spoken to them. Their mood is not buoyant but quite steady and they are very, very glad to be coming home. It is not going to be easy.

“This is the first time Kate has returned to the house since they left on holiday, although Gerry has been back for a short time.

“They’ve come back now primarily for the children, to get back to something like a stable environment.”

Gerry and Kate walked together into Madeleine’s bedroom. It was just as she had left it four months earlier when they set off for what was meant to be a blissful week in the Portuguese sunshine.

They sat side by side on Madeleine’s bed and prayed.

A friend said: “They spent some time in prayer together.

“It was a very emotional moment. But it was also very comforting to be surrounded by all her belongings. It helped Kate and Gerry feel close to her.

“Madeleine’s bedroom is as it was, ready for her to come home. It is obviously an emotional step for the family — particularly for Kate. But it’s home and they very much want to be in their own home, surrounded by familiar things.

“They are still very focused on the belief Madeleine is alive and will be home with them soon.”

Brian, a former headmaster, said: “If they are asked to go back to Portugal they will, but they don’t expect that to be soon.

“It’s lovely to have them home. Inevitably people in Portugal will say they are running away but they are not.

“They are willing to go back whenever required. The search for Madeleine will go on. The support they will receive here in the village is just what they need.”

Gerry’s sister Philomena said: “He is relieved to be home and glad to be among family and friends. But they’re desperately sad to leave Portugal because that is the last place they were with their daughter.”

A family friend said: “The ball is now in the court of the Portuguese police. Kate and Gerry have nothing to hide.”

The McCanns had secretly hired experts to do independent forensic examinations because they were so convinced the police’s evidence was flawed.

A friend said: “They were very fearful they will be charged, but actually now the family and Kate and Gerry are quite upbeat and buoyed. They know they’re innocent and the truth will come out.”

But the following day brought more bad news. British forensic scientists were reported to have discovered that blood found in their hire car was a perfect DNA match to Madeleine. Blood on the window-sill of the McCanns’ apartment was also a 20/20 match, it was said.

It also emerged that police had bugged their phones and intercepted their emails.

The McCanns explained that they used the car to move belongings, including Madeleine’s, when they left their holiday apartment. A friend said: “It’s to be expected that specks of her DNA would transfer on to the interior of the car.”

A day later, police claimed “substantial” quantities of Madeleine’s hair were found in the hire car’s boot.

Ten boxes of paperwork on the case were handed to the public prosecutor, and then on to a judge.

Gerry hit back, calling the allegations “ludicrous”. A friend said: “There are large craters in every one of these theories.”

The police’s suspicions also fell on the McCanns’ tapas bar friends. There were reports they might become suspects too. The absurd new theory was that they helped the McCanns dispose of Madeleine’s body and cover their tracks.

September 17 saw some light at the end of the tunnel. The Portuguese judge presiding over the investigation said the evidence was too thin even to bring the McCanns back for further questioning. That included the alleged findings from DNA samples and hair in the hire car. Instead the couple were to be questioned by British police.

Gerry phoned Gordon Brown to reassure him that the case against them was flawed.

Madeleine’s DNA could have come from her unwashed pyjamas, thrown in the boot of the hire car when they moved from the holiday apartment, the McCanns said.

It could also have come from a bag of the twins’ soiled nappies, which would have left DNA traces almost identical to their sister’s.

In their first interview since arriving home Kate and Gerry revealed how they spoke to the twins about missing Madeleine “all the time”.

Gerry said: “It’s not a hidden subject. We answer their questions if people mention her. The twins are also surrounded by all of her toys, her belongings, and there are lots of pictures of her in the house.

“There is no attempt to shield them from Madeleine.”

Kate described how she had been to church the previous Sunday.

“I found it very uplifting,” she said. “It was nice to see everybody from the local community. They were very supportive. That meant a lot.

“Of course there are constant reminders of Madeleine, but nevertheless we can still see that Sean and Amelie are happy to be home. It was uplifting to realise they were back in their own environment.” Gerry added: “We have brief uplifting moments, then there’s a report, or something happens which damages that sense. It’s a mixture of emotions.

“The only thing which will make us truly happy is that we find Madeleine or what happened to her.”

By now the family had hired a new spokesman in Clarence Mitchell, a former BBC reporter who, while working for the Foreign Office in Portugal, spent a month with the family.

He said: “I never saw or heard anything that gave me cause for concern or suspicion.

“All I witnessed was a loving family that had been plunged into the most dreadful situation, and two parents trying to cope amidst their loss.”

But now that the McCanns were back in Britain, the Portuguese police’s claims against them grew ever more outlandish. Here is how the story unfolded:

September 27: Police claim Kate and Gerry buried Madeleine during a “missing two hours” while putting up appeal posters in Spain. A friend of the couple said: “Kate and Gerry have had enough of these horrible accusations. There are sightings of Madeleine which they want properly investigated.”

September 28: The sickest slur yet. Police allege the McCanns kept Madeleine’s body in a FRIDGE before dumping her. They are still holding to the theory that Kate killed her and Gerry helped cover it up.

September 30: The theory changes. Now police are “100 per cent certain” Madeleine died from a bang on the head falling downstairs at their flat.

October 2: The officer in charge, Chief Inspector Goncalo Amaral, is sacked for telling a Portuguese newspaper the McCanns were duping British police. Portugal’s Justice Minister Alberto Costa was outraged.

October 11: Gerry is forced to make a statement rebutting claims in a Portuguese paper that he was not the father of Madeleine, conceived by IVF.

October 18: Kate and Gerry demand to be cleared by police after a new leak from detectives reveals they have no evidence. A high-ranking police source admits: “Nothing which allows us to make a definite accusation against the McCanns has emerged.”

Gordon Brown asks Portuguese PM Jose Socrates to assure him local cops are up to the job.

October 19: Forensic tests on the hair of Sean and Amelie reveal they were not sedated, further denting the theory that they and Madeleine were given drugs to get them to sleep, and that Madeleine was accidentally given an overdose.

October 24: Kate and Gerry hire Metodo 3, one of Spain’s best-known firms of private investigators, to hunt for Madeleine.

October 25: An artist’s impression of the man Kate and Gerry believe abducted Madeleine is released. It is based on Jane Tanner’s description of the man she saw carrying a child away and is drawn by a female forensic artist commissioned by the McCanns.

Although Tanner gave Portuguese cops a detailed description, they never released an e-fit.

October 30: A nanny tells investigators she saw a man lurking in bushes outside the holiday apartment where Madeleine disappeared several months before the McCanns stayed there. Her description appears to match the man seen by Tanner. The McCanns’ spokesman Clarence Mitchell says: “This evidence backs up what we have always said, that Maddie was taken from her bed by an abductor.”

November 1: Gerry returns to work as a cardiologist at Leicester’s Glenfield Hospital, where he is greeted by a bunch of yellow ribbons and Madeleine’s photo. He says he is pleased to be back to a “degree of normality”.

Kate says she may never work again. Spokesman Mitchell says: “All Kate wants to concentrate on now is being a stay-at-home mother for Amelie and Sean. She wants to be as close to them as she can be.”

November 3: Kate collapses in tears at a service to mark six months since Madeleine disappeared. With green and yellow ribbons in her hair and Cuddle Cat hanging limply from her hand, Kate weeps uncontrollably in a female friend’s arms at the church in Rothley, whispering: “I just want her back, I just want her back.”

About 250 people are at the service. One says: “Some have accused Kate of faking tears in a TV interview. There was nothing fake about the tears here. It was unbearable to watch.”

November 6: A new rant from the Portuguese police, claiming people are sick of having the Find Madeleine campaign “rammed down their throats”. One officer tells The Sun: “People used to look at her picture and well up with tears. Now it gets no reaction. It’s time to stop.”

Clarence Mitchell says: “We have done our absolute best to make people aware Madeleine is out there.”

November 18: Sensational allegations are made against Michaela Walczuch, girlfriend of Robert Murat.

Metodo 3, the detective agency hired by the McCanns, has a witness who claims they saw a child handed over in central Portugal on May 5. Three adults were involved. Gerry and Kate insist the information was made public by Metodo 3, not them.

November 25: Murat’s friends accuse the McCann camp of being behind a “smear campaign” against him and his girlfriend.

One says: “These continuous unfounded attacks are taking the focus away from the areas that should be investigated. I would think someone from the McCann camp would want to put a stop to it.”

The alibi of Murat’s girlfriend, that she was at a Jehovah’s Witness meeting at the time, is apparently undermined by revelations that she was not at a meeting in Lagos. A friend clears it up: “She belongs to a church in Portimao, not Lagos.”

November 26: A “root and branch” re-investigation by a team headed by top Portuguese cop Paulo Rebelo reveals a radical “new” theory: A pervert sneaked into the McCanns’ apartment and killed Madeleine to shut her up when she screamed. The astonishing U-turn means Kate and Gerry may not now be suspects.

November 27: It emerges that forensic experts found NO blood, hair or body fluids from Madeleine in her parents’ hire car, despite the claims of Portuguese detectives.

Scientists hired by Kate and Gerry say there is no evidence Madeleine’s body was in the Renault Scenic.

November 29: DNA “evidence” against Kate and Gerry collapses. British forensic experts tell Portuguese police at a meeting in Birmingham that tests have shown nothing conclusive.

December 2: It emerges that three witnesses claim they saw Murat outside the McCanns’ holiday apartment the night Madeleine vanished, apparently contradicting his alibi. He insists he was not there.

December 11: Locals strip Praia da Luz of posters of Madeleine — an indication that they want life to return to normal and that support for the McCanns has dwindled since they became suspects and went home.

December 12: The town’s mayor Domingues Borba accuses Gerry and Kate of “extreme negligence” over Madeleine’s disappearance.

December 13: An incredible claim by Metodo 3 that Madeleine is alive and could be home by Christmas. Boss Francisco Marco claims to know who snatched her and predicts she will be rescued in North Africa or the Iberian Peninsula.

December 21: Kate and Gerry send a Christmas TV message to Madeleine. Kate says: “Madeleine, it’s Mummy and Daddy here. Just know how much we love you, Madeleine. We miss you so much. Sean and Amelie talk about you all the time every day. We’re doing everything we can, Madeleine, to find you and there are so many good and very kind people helping us. Be brave, sweetheart.” Meanwhile the McCanns are furious with Metodo 3 for claiming Madeleine might be home for Christmas. A source says: “They want their private detectives private.”

December 23: A TV documentary claims a missing blue tennis bag belonging to Gerry and big enough to hold a child could be the key to Madeleine’s disappearance.

It is claimed Portuguese police have been hunting for the hold-all, which disappeared at the same time as Madeleine. Clarence Mitchell denies Gerry ever owned one.

December 25: Kate and Gerry’s Christmas TV plea pulls in 347 calls after being shown around the world.

December 26: The McCanns launch a publicity blitz across Morocco involving 11,500 letters and posters after reports that Madeleine has been spotted in the region.

December 31: A sixth witness, this time a barrister, appears to challenge Murat’s alibi by claiming he saw a man resembling him near Kate and Gerry’s flat the night Madeleine vanished. Murat has always insisted he was at his mother’s all evening.

Metodo 3 claim to be following up “significant” new leads in Morocco.

January 10, 2008: A storm erupts as it is revealed that a London-based “doubles” agency is hoping to make millions hiring out a three-year-old girl with a remarkable resemblance to Madeleine. Agency chief Shona Adams reckons the girl could earn £9million starring in a feature film about Madeleine — and she’ll take 20 per cent.

She says: “It’s not sinister — it’s entertainment. If the McCanns are upset, there’s nothing they can do . . . it’s a democracy.”

January 15: A girl of five, Mari Luz Cortes, goes missing in southern Spain, 90 minutes’ drive from Praia da Luz. Her dad, and police, say it may be linked to Madeleine’s disappearance.

January 20: A new sketch of a suspect — drawn by an FBI-trained artist and based on a description from British tourist Gail Cooper — is released. He was seen three times near the McCanns’ holiday flat a month before they stayed there. He was 38-45 and long-haired, with a handlebar moustache and big teeth. He may have been North African.

The sketch brings a flood of new calls. Metodo 3 say they are chasing dozens of new leads.

January 23: The man suspected of seizing Madeleine may have had an accomplice, it is reported. A second prowler was seen at the McCanns’ resort using the same bogus cover story as the scruffy man shown in the sketch released by the family.

Meanwhile it is revealed that Robert Murat has a lookalike who sells property in the apartment complex where Madeleine went missing.

The Sun publishes photos showing that Murat and the estate agent could easily be confused. The agent confirms he was in the resort last May 3. He is not suspected of any wrongdoing.

January 25: Pig farmer Joaquim Jose Marques, who was quizzed after the release of the sketch of a suspect, is revealed as having served time for raping a British teenager. He has already been eliminated from the probe by police, however.

February 3: Portugal’s top cop Alipio Ribeiro lands in hot water for admitting that the decision to make Kate and Gerry suspects was “hasty”.

February 19: Kate’s mum claims her daughter is being “crucified” over Madeleine’s disappearance. Susan Healy says: “Kate and Gerry know they shouldn’t have left the children, but they certainly don’t deserve what has happened to them. It’s like being crucified day by day.”

March 20: Express Newspapers pays the McCanns £550,000 damages for falsely suggesting they killed Madeleine. The couple put the cash in the Find Madeleine fund.

March 27: A convicted paedophile is arrested in Spain for the murder of Mari Luz Cortes, who vanished in January, 90 minutes’ drive from Praia da Luz. Kate and Gerry demand to know where Spaniard Santiago del Valle Garcia was last May 3.

April 9: Portuguese police want the McCanns to return to the Algarve for a harrowing, Crimewatch-style reconstruction of the night their daughter went missing.

April 10: Kate and Gerry lobby MEPs in Brussels for a new Europe-wide “Amber Alert” system to track snatched children and deter would-be abductors.

April 13: The McCanns urge the Government to seek an international investigation into the Portuguese police’s botched probe.

Almost every day after May 3, 2007, it seemed police had a wild new theory about who took Madeleine. Publicly, the detectives were saying nothing — but each new whim was leaked to the Portuguese Press and reported in Britain.

The Sun’s Jane Moore, in her column of October 3, superbly summed up the fickle and directionless nature of the probe. She wrote:

The Madeleine McCann “investigation” so far: “She’s wandered off on her own and may have drowned. Oops, bit late now, but maybe she’s been abducted. Ah, it might have been that bloke down the road so let’s dig his house up. Er, maybe not.

“Perhaps the parents did it? That’s it! She was crying a lot so one of them slapped her too hard and killed her.

“No, wait, they sedated her too much and she died, or she may have fallen down some steps and banged her head. Either way, they hid her body in a mini-fridge then disposed of it 25 days later. Or maybe they didn’t kill her but the abductor was in the flat when the father last checked her, in which case he’s a negligent parent.”

Here is a selection of the leaked police theories, the wild goose chases, the dead ends and the baseless and ridiculous public pronouncements as the probe unfolded:

  • Madeleine was taken by a Briton. Apparently the “meticulous planning” of the abduction suggests a Brit — the implication being that Portuguese paedophile child-snatchers are inherently less well organised.

  • Some 130 British paedophiles who could have taken Madeleine are in the frame. British police send over a list of convicted perverts known to have travelled to Portugal.

  • CCTV footage from a petrol station near Praia shows a little girl with three adults, thought to be Brits. Police get the car registration number and announce it is British.

  • Police try to trace a mystery man spotted secretly taking pictures of Madeleine and other little girls on a Portuguese beach. The suspect drove off in a grey Renault Clio with British plates and was identified on the petrol station’s CCTV footage.

  • Despite these many early theories, police admit they do not have a single genuine lead nor suspect.

  • Robert Murat is questioned. He is given the status of “arguido”, or official suspect, but insists he is innocent. He is never charged.

  • Murat’s Russian pal Sergey Malinka is also quizzed and quickly ruled out.

  • Norwegian holidaymaker Mari Pollard is 99.9 per cent certain a little girl she saw in Morocco was Madeleine. Pollard became suspicious when the “lost-looking” tot asked a man in a petrol station in Marrakech on May 9: “Can I see Mummy soon?” She calls Leicestershire Police, who pass the information to Portuguese police. Nothing comes of it.

  • Police find a stranger’s DNA in the McCanns’ holiday apartment. It could belong to Maddie’s abductor, they say. It turns out to belong to another guest who cut himself shaving while staying in the flat.

  • A mystery caller, making a “credible” call to police using an unregistered mobile phone, claims to know where Madeleine is. The line is cut and police try in vain to re-establish contact. They have no idea whether it was genuine or a hoax. A police source insists it “remains an important new lead".

  • A Spanish investigative journalist is “100 per cent certain” Madeleine was snatched by a shadowy paedophile kingpin dubbed The Frenchman. Antonio Toscano claims he has tipped off police but has still not been quizzed. He refuses to give the Frenchman’s identity but claims the man has stolen children before. It’s another dead end.

  • A letter and map sent to police claims to pinpoint a spot nine miles from Praia da Luz where Madeleine is buried in a shallow grave. It was sent anonymously to Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, and was almost identical to one in 2006 which successfully led cops to the bodies of two missing girls. An investigation at the site comes to nothing. The McCanns are upset “that the credibility of this letter had not been examined”.

  • Holidaymaker Andre van Wyk reports seeing a fair-skinned little blonde girl in the back of a horse-drawn gipsy cart three weeks earlier in Portimao. A woman in the cart quickly covered the sleeping youngster’s face with a shawl.

    “It’s been playing on my mind ever since. The little girl looked so out of place,” he says. He is also suspicious about an encounter with a gipsy woman at Faro airport who told him no one would find blonde Madeleine because her hair had been dyed black and cut short.

  • There are five alleged sightings of Madeleine in one week in Malta. Every cop in the country has her photo.

  • British tourist Ray Roberts says he saw a child resembling Madeleine and heard an Arab-looking man tell her in English: “Get up, little girl.” He says she had on a jet black wig.

  • Soon there have been 14 “sightings” in Malta. Police there are searching high and low for her.

  • Swiss cops scour Geneva airport, Switzerland, after two sightings of a child resembling Madeleine.

  • The Maltese trail goes cold. Detectives now reckon she was never there. The 20 “sightings” differed wildly.

  • A “highly credible” sighting at a café in Tongeren, Belgium. A witness sees a nervous British girl with an English-speaking woman and a Dutch man. Tongeren police have a description of the couple and their car, including its number plate.

    A DNA test is carried out on a bottle used by the girl. The witness is 100 per cent sure she was Madeleine.

    Cops say the DNA does not match Madeleine’s. The girl turns out to be Sjanneke Hofstede, four, who was playing her dad Ed up because she was meeting his girlfriend for the first time.

  • Police say tiny traces of blood were found in Madeleine’s holiday bedroom by a sniffer dog that stopped dead and barked at the wall. It seems to support the theory in the Portuguese press that Madeleine died in the flat, possibly by accident.

  • A new police leak reveals that the “accidental death” theory is now their favourite. It leaves the door wide open to wild speculation that the McCanns or their friends know what happened to the youngster.

  • Kate becomes a suspect. So does Gerry. Both are questioned for hours by police.

  • A bombshell claim — that blood found in the McCanns’ car, hired 25 days after the toddler disappeared, is a perfect DNA match to Madeleine. Cops have also been bugging their phones and intercepting their emails. The DNA claim proves false.

  • The wildest theory yet: Police intend to dig up roadworks outside the Portuguese church where Madeleine’s parents prayed for her safe return.

    They believe she was temporarily buried there, after being killed by the McCanns, before being moved in the hired Renault to her final resting place.

  • Police also claim there are significant findings from toxicology tests carried out on samples of Madeleine’s hair allegedly found in the car. They believe the child died of an accidental overdose.

    The world’s media begin to swallow the police line and some turn on the McCanns.

  • Detectives plan to seize Cuddle Cat for forensic tests.

    Cops believe Kate either slapped Madeleine, or she banged her head and died, or she had a reaction to sedatives dispensed by her GP mum to help her sleep or even took an overdose of medicine left lying around the apartment.

    They say the McCanns feared going to prison in a foreign country, having their other children taken away and losing their livelihoods so they concocted an elaborate cover-up story, possibly involving friends.

  • Madeleine was dumped in the sea in a weighted sack thrown from a British-owned yacht, police now say.

    They appear to be resorting to this theory because they haven’t found Madeleine on land. And most of the yachts moored nearby are British-registered.

  • The DNA in the hire car turns out to have been from the twins, not Maddie.

  • A sensational picture emerges of a fair-haired girl being carried along among a group of dark-haired adults in Morocco. The photo is blurred — but it could be Madeleine. Hope is dashed the next day. She is Moroccan farmer’s daughter Bouchra Benaissa, three.

  • Police claim Kate and Gerry buried Madeleine during a “missing two hours” while they put up posters in Spain. The McCanns are furious.

  • The craziest notion of all — Madeleine’s body was kept in a fridge before being dumped by her parents. Detectives are “locating apartments with fridges”.

  • Police say six other kids were with Madeleine the night she disappeared. The McCanns’ spokesman says: “If you put seven children together you are going to have a far harder time getting them to sleep than three.”

  • Gerry is not Madeleine’s natural dad, police sources claim. Gerry insists he is.

  • Police plan to drag the desolate Barragem da Bravura lake — dubbed the “Reservoir Of The Wilderness” — looking for Madeleine’s body. It is 15 miles from the resort.

  • A huge swoop on dozens of Portuguese paedophiles draws a blank.

  • Madeleine was left alone for up to three hours a night by her parents, a waiter at their holiday tapas bar claims, in the face of all evidence to the contrary.

  • A British nanny tells investigators she saw a man lurking in bushes outside the holiday apartment where Madeleine disappeared months before the McCanns stayed there. Her description matches the snatcher in the artist’s impression.

  • Investigator Francisco Marco, of Barcelona’s Metodo 3 detective agency hired by Madeleine’s parents, vows: “I’ll find her in five months.” He doesn’t.

  • A child matching Madeleine’s description, spotted being “bundled” screaming into a car in Bosnia, turns out to be hyperactive three-year-old Tea Dedic.

  • A trucker tells Metodo 3 he saw Madeleine being handed over by her kidnappers to a gang in Silves, Portugal, 25 miles from Praia da Luz. He says he saw a blonde woman pass a child wrapped in a blanket to a man in a rental car on May 5.

  • Forensic experts admit they found no trace of Madeleine’s DNA in her parents’ hire car.

  • British witnesses claim they saw Murat outside the McCanns’ holiday flat the night Madeleine vanished. He denies it was him. His alibi — that he spent the evening at his mother’s house nearby — never changes and he is never charged.

  • A girl matching Madeleine’s description, including her distinctive eye defect, is seen in a motorway service station cafe in Montpellier, France. It is described as the most significant sighting yet. But it proves another false trail.

  • A Portuguese cabbie ludicrously claims he took Madeleine on a trip with Murat the night she disappeared.

    The McCanns dismiss the story. Spokesman Clarence Mitchell says: “The timings are entirely wrong.”

  • Maddie: Special report part 3, 30 April 2008
    Maddie: Special report part 3 The Sun
    Published: Wednesday April 30, 2008
    A TEARFUL Kate McCann talks tonight about how she is tormented by "if onlys" over the disappearance of Maddie.

    An emotional Kate, 40, reveals for the first time how she and husband Gerry had planned to have a family dinner on the night their daughter vanished.

    But a last-minute change of plan led them to leave her and her twin sister and brother alone in their holiday apartment in Portugal.

    In an extraordinary ITV1 documentary, made to mark the anniversary of Maddie’s disappearance, Kate and husband Gerry, 39, speak as never before about that fateful night.


    HER face crumpled in despair, tears streaming down, Kate McCann lays bare her utter grief at being separated from her daughter.

    Speaking as never before, Kate says she cannot believe it has been a year since Maddie went missing.

    And she tells how seeing the little girl’s best friend in their home village makes her think about how much Maddie must have changed in those long 12 months.

    Her voice close to breaking, she says: "I see Madeleine’s best friend from time to time.

    "I can’t help but wonder what Madeleine would be like.

    "Would she be that much taller? Is her hair as long as that? Would she be writing her name too?"

    Always referring to Maddie, who is five in May, in the present tense, she describes her as "very loving. She’s a very bright little girl.

    "I had days when I’d go to a cafe with Madeleine and we’d go shopping together and she’d say, ‘Oh mummy, I like that top,’ or ‘Oh, I love your earrings, mummy’.

    "She’s good company, she’s like my — you know, she’s like a little buddy to me."

    In tonight’s ITV1 documentary, Madeleine, One Year On: Campaign For Change, the McCanns are seen sitting down to a happy family meal while three-year-old twins Sean and Amelie chatter away excitedly.

    Later, Kate tells how, when she first returned home from Portugal, she couldn’t bear "everyday things".

    She says: "I didn’t cook a meal — just couldn’t do it. I resented things like that because it was taking me away from Madeleine.

    "How can I hang up washing when my daughter’s not here?"

    Poignantly, she adds: "With three kids, there’s always lots of washing," and says that having to get up to deal with the twins helps her cope with Maddie being missing.

    She points out: "They need a happy normal life."

    Talking about life without Maddie, who he describes as "endless joy", dad Gerry says it is "a purgatory-type existence. We are kind of between something real and never finding out." He adds sadly: "Our little girl wasn’t even four and is now nearly five. She’s the victim and people should not forget that."

    Much of tonight’s documentary was filmed at the McCanns’ home in Rothley, Leicestershire.

    Poignantly, as the TV programme shows, there are reminders of Madeleine everywhere.

    Photos of her are plastered on the fridge, drawings she did at nursery are stuck to kitchen units and her name is spelt out in wooden letters on a mantelpiece.

    The twins are seen noisily playing in a playroom which is littered with Maddie’s things, including a toy kitchen and pink pram.

    Their gleeful laughter fills the house, and, watching them play, Kate smiles at the memory of Maddie joining in the fun.

    Kate says: "She was great with Sean and Amelie.

    "Even when they were born, you know she just stepped into the role really well, considering she was only 20 months when they were born, and she wanted to be involved and help. As they got a little bit older, because the age difference was so close, they just played so well together."

    Her voice trailing away as she wipes away tears, Kate adds: "And it was lovely seeing them together and that’s one thing that I struggle with — imagining how they would be now."

    Talking about the night when Maddie went missing Kate tells for the first time how she and husband Gerry had planned to dine with the children.

    She says: "We were all going to go up to the Millennium restaurant again. That was with the kids, which is what we did the first night.

    "It didn’t open till half past six in the evening and our kids usually go to bed around seven, so they were really tired."

    Talking about why they had changed their minds, she says that, on the first visit, "we ended up trying to carry three of them between two and we decided we couldn’t do that, really.

    "It was just because the walk was so long and we didn’t have a buggy and the kids were tired by that time."

    So, instead, the McCanns decided to dine at a tapas bar just across from their holiday apartment. They left the kids alone, checking on them every 20 minutes.

    Talking about the much-criticised decision to leave her children alone, Kate says: "I think if there’d even been one second when someone had said, ‘Do you think it’s going to be OK?’, it wouldn’t have happened.

    "I mean, there’s absolutely no way, if I’d have had the slightest inkling that there was risk involved there, that I’d have done it."

    Gerry adds: "It was so close. It didn’t feel that different to dining out in the back garden."

    Kate now admits that she is tormented by the fact they left their children alone.

    And she also feels guilty that they did not question Maddie further about a curious remark she made on the morning of the day she went missing.

    She says the little girl had asked her, "Mummy, where were you last night when me and Sean were crying?"

    The McCanns are convinced now that their daughter may have been woken up by an intruder for her to have said what she did the next morning.

    Wringing her hands, Kate says: "You know, I’ve persecuted myself over and over again about that statement because you think, why didn’t I kind of just hold her and say, ‘What do you mean? What do you mean you woke up?’

    "I do go back and it does upset you and you think, why didn’t I say, ‘Why did you cry?’ — and why didn’t we go back to the Millennium?"

    Breaking down in tears, she adds: "Then, as Gerry said, there is the guilt you feel for not being there and giving someone that opportunity.

    "But then I just have to kind of reel myself in and think, ‘I know how much I love Madeleine and I have no doubt that Madeleine knows how much I love her’."

    It was Kate’s turn to check on the children — at around 10pm — when she discovered that Maddie had vanished.

    She breaks down again as she recalls that moment, adding: "I just remember saying, ‘Not Madeleine, not Madeleine, not Madeleine’ — and I remember saying that over and over again."

    Kate admits she "just feared the worst at the beginning".

    She says: "It was really cold. I knew what pyjamas she had on and I just thought she’s going to be freezing.

    "And it was dark, and every minute seemed like an hour and, obviously, we were up all night and just waited for that first bit of light about six o’clock in the morning."

    Gerry says: "Then we just went out searching, the two of us, at daylight. We were saying over and over again, ‘Just let her be found, let her be found’.

    "It felt like you’re in the middle of a horror movie, really, a nightmare."

    At times during the documentary the couple’s tears turn to anger at the way the Portuguese police have handled their daughter’s disappearance.

    Talking about the moment she learnt she and Gerry had been made arguidos — official suspects — Kate says: "As soon as I realised the story, or theory, was that Madeleine was dead and that we’d been involved somehow, it just hit home.

    "They haven’t been looking for Madeleine. I was angry, you know. And I thought she deserves so much better than that, and I thought I’m not going to sit here and allow this.

    "I felt almost invincible at that point. I just thought my children deserve that — Madeleine deserves that.

    "Someone has to be fighting for Madeleine.

    "When I was going in to become an arguido I felt angry. I wasn’t scared. I felt like I was going to fight the world, to be honest.

    "My daughter was worth more than all that and I would do whatever it took to fight for justice and truth."

    For Kate and Gerry the picture of a happy three-year-old clutching a bundle of tennis balls evokes a carefree time before they became household names.

    Speaking in the documentary about the now-famous photograph, Kate says: "Gerry loves that photo.

    "As part of the kids’ club, they did mini-tennis and she really enjoyed it."

    Gerry smiles and adds: "One of the tasks was to gather all the balls up and she’d obviously managed to get three in and she turned round to Kate and she’s like, ‘Look, I’ve got them all’."

    He also speaks about the moment the last known picture of Madeleine was taken.

    It shows her sitting alongside her father and her younger brother Sean, dangling their feet in the swimming pool, just seven hours before her disappearance.

    Gerry says: "She was a little person becoming independent and a piece of just endless joy."

    Apart from the twins, the couple have been kept going in recent months by their involvement in the US-style Amber Alert system to keep children safe.

    They have recently been to Brussels to ask the European Parliament to adopt a similar scheme across Europe.

    At one stage in the documentary they are seen meeting Ed Smart in America.

    His daughter Elizabeth was found alive eight months after she was abducted.

    He tells the McCanns firmly: "Miracles do happen."

    As the first anniversary of Maddie’s disappearance dawns, Kate admits that she cannot imagine living with never knowing what happened to her daughter.

    And she says firmly that she and Gerry will never give up searching for her.

    At one stage she is seen reading a story in The Sun about a sighting of Maddie in France.

    She says: "There’s always that little bit of hope — thinking, ‘Where is she?’ and ‘Is it ever going to be one of those sightings that’s the real thing?’ "

    Her voice trembling, Kate says at the end of the documentary: "She’s out there. We’ve just got to find her.

    "It doesn’t feel like a year since I saw Madeleine.

    "She’s just so much, very much still there and she doesn’t seem so far away.

    "It feels like she’s still with me in some way and I’ve never felt like I won’t see her again."


    THE events of the night Maddie disappeared have divided the nation.

    Many people feel enormous sympathy over the McCanns’ loss, others feel anger that Gerry and Kate left their daughter and her siblings while they went out.

    Here two very different voices of The Sun give their views.


    'They deserve sympathy, not condemnation'


    I BELIEVE Kate and Gerry McCann are guilty of just one thing and that’s being stupid enough to leave their three little kids alone on the night Madeleine vanished.

    The idea, however, that this devastated couple have anything to do with their daughter’s disappearance is utterly absurd and has made their grief and sorrow even harder to bear.

    The McCanns have moved heaven and earth trying to find Madeleine.

    They have tried to remain dignified even when the Portuguese police and media spattered them with smears and false rumours, and when they have even been accused of murdering their own child.

    They have been at the mercy of cranks and deluded "mystics" who claim to know where their daughter is and have had to follow up every lead even when they knew deep down it was hopeless.

    It has been a year of sheer hell and utter despair for the McCanns. Anyone looking at bone-thin Kate, her face etched with sorrow, and Gerry trying to hold himself together but unable to talk about his daughter without his voice breaking, can surely see how much this couple are suffering.

    They have to try to have some sort of normal life for their twins and there might even be some brief moments during the day when they forget what has happened to their little girl, but her disappearance will be the first thing they think about when they wake up in the morning and the last thing they think about when they try to get to sleep at night.

    Like having good health, peace of mind is only really appreciated when you no longer have it, and the McCanns have had no peace of mind for almost an entire year and will have tortured themselves with guilt and "if onlys".

    I was shocked to discover last month that Madeleine had asked her mum and dad why she had been left alone and crying the night before she vanished. I found that utterly chilling and it must haunt Kate and Gerry.

    simply can’t for the life of me understand why they didn’t take their three kids with them to that nearby tapas restaurant.


    Since my daughter Rosie was a baby, she has always come everywhere with us when we go on holiday, especially to child-friendly countries such as Portugal, Spain and Greece.

    We wouldn’t have dreamed about leaving her behind to go for a meal because we go away to spend as much time as possible together as a family.

    The posters at the airports and in bars and cafes in Spain and Portugal are looking tatty and many have been taken down.

    It pains me to even think it, but realistically the chances of finding Madeleine alive after almost a year are non-existent and in recent months they have both admitted she might be dead, but they continue to remain hopeful.

    This is despite all leads leading exactly nowhere.

    No one knows if their little girl has been murdered, abducted to order or snatched by an opportunist with dark motives. I am sure the McCanns have tortured themselves with every possible gruesome and heartbreaking scenario.

    The McCanns have been vilified for using the media to find Maddie and for hiring private detectives to search for her, but if your child was missing you would move heaven and earth to find them.

    They are now trying to channel their energies into establishing a Europe-wide network to track down children who have been abducted, similar to the Amber Alert system in the United States. When a child goes missing there, messages are played on radio, TV and flashed on motorway signs, and it has helped to find hundreds of missing kids.

    France and Belgium already have their own Amber Alerts, but Kate and Gerry want this to be the law throughout Europe.

    They made an appalling and tragic error of judgment and no one knows that more than they do. They have been punished for their stupidity and thoughtlessness in the worst possible way. No one with any compassion could possibly want them to suffer more than they have done.

    With their daughter missing for almost 12 long, weary months, they deserve our sympathy and not our condemnation.


    'I have little support for them'


    LAST week I said that I believe the McCanns are guilty. Guilty of child neglect and no amount of soft news articles or TV documentaries is going to convince me or, judging by my mailbag, the majority of Sun readers otherwise.

    Obviously, I have enormous sympathy for their plight but I am afraid like the majority of parents in this country I have little support for them.

    Of course, they didn’t deserve to lose Madeleine and the real villain in this whole story is the person who abducted her but the fact is that if Gerry and Kate hadn’t failed in the first basic responsibility of all parents, the protection of their off spring, than Maddie would still be here today.

    I’ve found the McCanns’ reluctance to admit their grave mistake both unsettling and weird and it has taken the best part of the last 12 months for Gerry to even concede they were in the wrong. But in the wrong they most certainly were.

    I also believe if this had been a Sun reader on holiday in a caravan park who had been drinking in the camp bar when their child was abducted, the Press would have been less supportive and more aggressive in their coverage.

    This thought has been echoed by lots of you including "Sxgirl" who posted the following on MySun after my article last week:

    "I am a young single mum and if I had gone on holiday with a bunch of my friends and left my son (who is the same age as Maddie) alone so I could have dinner, no doubt I would have been had up for child abuse/neglect and the public would have been in uproar. I don’t understand why these people have received so much public support.

    "Yes, the heartache they’re going through is unimaginable to me, but that is why I would never put my son at risk as they did. Checking on them every half hour is clearly not adequate! They should be held accountable for their actions and stop blaming everyone else for not protecting their children."

    From the other end of the age spectrum, Sun reader and granny Marion Barret wrote to me and said: "Children put their unconditional love and trust in their parents to keep them safe, their safety is the most important thing. I feel so sorry for the twins without a sister, however, I struggle inside to feel anything but anger for the parents."


    I agree with both these readers and thousands of others who have expressed similar views.

    However, the mainstream media has treated these two doctors with kid gloves, even when it was clear the British public were not buying the story. Internet sites were full of criticism of the couple but the mainstream Press reported little of this, suppressing all criticism of the McCanns and their parental failings.

    The British public sympathise with them but do not support them. If they did, the Find Madeleine fund would have raised millions more.

    However, there are still massive unanswered questions, some of which are only just beginning to surface. Why did they not use the nanny service when they could afford it? How many times did they go back and what kind of responsible parents still go out on the drink when their three-year-old asks them why they didn’t come in to the bedroom when they were crying the previous night?

    Do you remember when you put your first baby to bed with a listening monitor and sat downstairs watching the box almost with subtitles on so you could hear every heartbeat?

    If you heard an unexpected cough or belch you would sprint up the stairs faster than druggy Dwain Chambers on steroids to check on your little angel. That’s called parenting, isn’t it?

    I wonder if the McCanns were as casual with their passports and valuables when they went out at night because as far as I am concerned there is nothing more precious than your child and they appear to have had scant regard for their safety.

    That’s why I called last week for the McCanns and the Tapas Seven to return to Portugal for the reconstruction and for the Portuguese plods to stop spinning and leaking and either charge the McCanns or clear them.

    I’ve also found the globetrotting and the calls for an Amber Alert system slightly distasteful and I’m sure I’m not only one who thinks when I need tips on child protection from those two I’ll ask.


    Praia da Luz: One year on


    ON an ancient tree outside a whitewashed church in Praia da Luz, green and yellow ribbons still flutter forlornly in the breeze.

    They are faded now and most of the remaining Maddie posters dotted around the coastal resort are brown with age and discoloured by the sun.

    But for the residents of the picturesque Algarve village they are an unwelcome reminder that 12 months ago a little girl vanished from her bed during what was, until then, a perfect family holiday.

    The impact on the village has been immense and even now they struggle to understand how something so terrible could happen in such a peaceful and idyllic spot.

    Since Maddie went missing, most of the posters have been taken down — not out of disrespect but because the locals need to move on and concentrate on the new tourist season.

    But there is an overwhelming quietness pervading the fishing village and many businesses fear the "Maddie effect" may well be a lot more damaging than they first thought.

    Although it is not yet the start of the real holiday season, when thousands of tourists will flock to the region to enjoy the Portuguese beaches and fine weather, some locals are claiming there is a marked difference from last year.

    The Mark Warner-owned Ocean Club resort — where Maddie vanished on May 3 — looked almost empty during the day, with rows of untouched sunloungers by the pool.

    There are whispers around Praia da Luz that the company is suffering badly and bookings are down, although a spokesperson said they "had no reason to believe bookings were any different from previous years".

    But most of the shutters on the numerous holiday apartments dotted around the village remain firmly closed.


    A Praia da Luz car-hire firm operator, who did not want to be named, said yesterday: "It’s not like it normally is. This time last year I had loads more clients.

    "I’ve lost about 60,000 euros (£47,000) over this past year. The management companies are all deeply concerned about it, they normally have June, July and August fully booked by now and they’re not even half-booked."

    Most are reluctant to come forward and speak of the effect the missing four-year-old has had on the village for fear that even fewer people will come.

    But as the months slip by with no sign of her, their thoughts are turning to the future.

    Carlos Rodriguez, who runs the Fortaleza restaurant and a beachfront bar, said: "Business has been okay. It was affected at first but everything has evened out.

    "The locals tend not to talk about it any more, although you do hear the odd English people commenting.

    "But people who have businesses here really do want to forget about it. Every year there is something that people worry will affect their business, whether it is the World Cup, roadworks all over town, a missing girl or, this year, the terrible exchange rate.

    "We are all bitterly disappointed and upset about what happened but everyone here wants to move on."

    Beachfront souvenir shop worker Sandra Isabel, 29, said: "When Maddie vanished, it affected my business. But then a month or two later everything was back to normal.

    "You could see that some people were a bit afraid about leaving their children but it seems to be getting back to the way it was before she disappeared. It may have affected me more than others, as I sell children’s toys.

    "But the season doesn’t really start for another few weeks. It’s all been more or less forgotten now. There are still those who talk about it, but only tourists." Cleaner Tania Marie, 43, who brought her four-year-old granddaughter Nicole Christine to play on the beach for the day, said: "I used to see Maddie about with her family and when I heard what had happened I was absolutely terrified.

    "Since then, I have been so much more aware of where Nicole is at all times, it does worry me. Her mother rings me up to make sure I am watching Nicole — there was a real sense of panic after it happened and you could see that all the parents were being extra careful."

    But there is hope for the resort. Tourists are slowly returning — and most admit it has just made them more careful.

    According to Antonio Pino of the Algarve tourist board, after a few cancellations immediately after the abduction, tourism has risen in the region — home to 27,000 people.

    Buses can be seen dropping off day-trippers for a quiet walk on the beach or lunch in the beachfront restaurants.

    Brit Colin Milne, 29, was visiting Praia da Luz for the first time with his seven-month-old daughter Elly.

    He said: "The fact that a little girl went missing from here would not put me off from staying here at all. It would probably just make me a bit more vigilant." But for some, Maddie is never far from their minds — between five and 15 locals and ex-pats in Praia da Luz have visited Our Lady Of Light church every Friday over the past year for a special "service for missing children".

    Anglican parish priest Father Haynes Hubbard took up his post two days after Maddie went missing and met the McCanns while they were in Portugal. He said it was chaos in the weeks after Maddie vanished.

    His wife would not let their three children out of her sight and often went to bed in tears, double-locking the doors and windows.

    He said: "The locals here are no longer in that period of fear and apprehension that there was right away. It is possible to move on and yet remember it in our hearts.

    "That Maddie disappeared is a fact, we are just waiting for her to come home. We remembered her on 100 days and six months after she went missing and will do so again on Saturday, when it has been a year.

    "But we hope that it will not be necessary to have to do it again because everyone hopes that soon she will return to the heart of her loving family."


    Rothley: One year on


    A SMALL shaft of light pierced the heavy grey clouds and danced on the ground below the single small poster urging remembrance of Madeleine McCann.

    In the aftermath of her disappearance a year ago on Saturday, the war memorial in her home village of Rothley, Leicestershire, became a sea of yellow and green ribbons.

    Toys and teddy bears sent by well-wishers piled up in the village centre and a single candle glowed in a glass lantern.

    Now the ribbons are gone, the cuddly toys have long since been donated to children in Belarus, the "eternal flame" candle has gone out.

    The war memorial is pretty much as undecorated as it was on this day exactly one year ago, when three-year-old Maddie was just a child playing happily beside the sea on holiday in Portugal.

    Only the poster, attached to the fencing, today reminds the casual onlooker of the disaster which befell that holiday and plunged her family into the darkness of despair.

    But the light of hope still flickers in the village. Kate and Gerry McCann will not let it die, and nor will the people of Rothley.

    In Praia da Luz, the posters may have been removed in part as a backlash against the couple who are regarded there as suspects in their daughter’s disappearance, in part because the resort does not want to be forever remembered as the place where children are snatched.

    In Rothley, the ribbons have gone because life had to carry on. But Madeleine is far from forgotten.


    At the Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart, walking distance from the McCanns’ home, there are no posters or ribbons adorning the building but priest Father Keith Tomlinson, preparing to mark the anniversary of Maddie’s disappearance this weekend, said: "There will be a joint service for all the village in the parish church on Saturday, and on Sunday the parish Mass will be for Madeleine and her family.

    "I would expect Kate and Gerry to be at both but it is not just this weekend we remember them. We have been praying all the time, for the past year, and we will continue to pray.

    "Madeleine and her family are very dear to us and we worry about them. We want them to have a happy outcome."

    Both services are expected to be understated — just like the ongoing remembrance of Maddie throughout Rothley.

    Ministers from all the churches in the village will lead a joint service at the church of St Mary And St John for half an hour at lunchtime on Saturday but unobtrusive posters around the village invite people to drop in "for a few minutes" at any time from 9am to 5pm to say individual prayers "for all missing children, especially for Madeleine and her family".

    In a year when Madeleine’s face has become one of the most famous in the world, with posters of her around the globe, it is the absence of Maddie which is most striking to those closest to her.

    Her bedroom in her family’s £500,000 home in a private cul-de-sac remains exactly as it was when she, her parents and twin brother and sister first flew to Portugal.

    Her bed and toys are still there, her wardrobe still contains her clothes, undisturbed.

    At the Bishop Ellis Roman Catholic primary school in nearby Thurmaston, where Maddie had been due to start last September, a locker and coat peg remain reserved for her. The school’s website carries an aerial photo of all her would-be schoolmates forming the words "Find Madeleine" as they stand hand-in-hand in the playground.

    A message from head teacher Gail Neill says: "We are sorry that we are not yet able to welcome Madeleine to our Four Plus as we had hoped to.

    "Our thoughts and prayers remain very much with the McCanns as we continue to pray with them for Madeleine."

    Others are more forthright. In one of the handful of village shops, a woman who did not wish to be named said: "If people want to mark the anniversary they should use it to do something useful and make the Portuguese police pull their finger out.

    "We see Kate and Gerry. They come into the village from time to time and you can see what they are going through. It is terrible.

    "A lot of people feel helpless but we do not need a big public procession to show our support. We shall do it in our own way."

    The sunlight flickering on the discreet poster at the war memorial highlighted a small photo of Madeleine in her replica Everton football shirt, and appealed for all to "Light The Way Home For Madeleine".

    From 9.30pm to 10pm on Saturday, on the anniversary of her disappearance, people are invited to "shine a torch, turn on lanterns and light a candle" for the missing girl, now four years old.

    Once more, this weekend, the spotlight will shine worldwide on the search for Madeleine. The glare of publicity will be welcome if it keeps her name in the public consciousness.

    But in the streets and homes of Rothley, they’ll keep their own lights shining more discreetly.

    And in one particular home in the village the darkness will feel impenetrable.

    When all the prayers are said and candles extinguished, Kate and Gerry McCann will return home to the blackness of their own personal hell with only hope to light the way forward — hope that one day the light of Madeleine’s smile will light up their lives again like a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day.

    With thanks to Nigel at McCann Files


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