a swimming pool in the Algarve on that May evening Gerry and
Kate McCann were enjoying themselves. The tapas bar of the
Mark Warner holiday resort in Praia da Luz was buzzing with
holidaymakers and it was quiz night.
were favourites to win the contest organised by the resort's
aerobics teacher Najova Chekaya. After all, the two doctors
had brains on their side. Around their table were seven
friends from England, three of them also doctors and one a
top medical research fellow.
of nine were holidaying in Portugal and wanted to have a
good time. As one of the doctors, Matthew Oldfield, was to
recall: "We drank. So what! We were on holiday."
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Madeleine: Questions about her disappearance are
yards away on the other side of the swimming pool, the
group's children were sleeping alone. In the bedroom of one
ground floor apartment was Madeleine, the McCanns'
brother and sister, Sean and Amelie, two, lay in cots either
side of her. They had been tucked up at 7pm. Half an hour
later the McCanns had joined their friends for dinner at the
happened next has mystified the world.
Kate McCann got up from the table to check on her children.
She slipped in through the patio windows to find the twins
safely asleep - and her daughter's bed empty.
and calling out Madeleine's name, she ran back to her
friends to tell them: "They've taken her, they've taken
has not been seen in the 100 days since May 3. Last night
Portuguese police said they were concentrating on what they
call the "missing hour" before Mrs McCann found her daughter
gone. They say it is possible that she was kidnapped after
her father last checked her at 9.05pm and her mother's
the campaign to keep the public aware of Madeleine's name
goes on. It has involved her Roman Catholic parents visiting
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Staying on: Gerry and Kate McCann in Praia da
And, on the
instructions of JK Rowling, posters of Madeleine were
distributed at British bookshops as they opened for the sale
of the new Harry Potter book.
the donations from the public to a Madeleine fund, financing
the PR campaign and global search for the little girl from
Rothley in Leicestershire, was nudging £1 million.
50 million people visited the Find Madeleine website in the
48 hours after its launch.
like this has ever been seen before, and probably never will
campaign has been organised by the McCanns, both 38. Today
they believe their daughter is still alive and was abducted
by a stranger. Whether the motive was paedophilia, the sale
of Madeleine for adoption or even the trade of her organs,
they have no idea. Nor do they speculate.
McCann wrote on his website the other day: "The Portuguese
police have assured us on numerous occasions that they are
looking for Madeleine and not a corpse."
week attitudes towards the McCanns underwent a seismic
shift, the questions growing more aggressive by the day. The
scenario of a small girl being kidnapped without warning on
a spring holiday in a family friendly resort is now the
subject of lurid debate - particularly in Portugal.
questions are being asked about the behaviour of the McCanns
and their friends.
catalyst was the discovery this week, by British police with
sniffer dogs, of specks of blood on a wall in the family's
is now being analysed in this country, raising unpalatable
speculation that Madeleine was killed where she slept and
was then carried off to the beach or bundled into a car
reluctance of Gerry and Kate McCann or their friends to
speak publicly, or in any detail, about the minutiae of the
evening has fuelled the controversy, although they insist it
is illegal in Portugal to comment on any police
uncomfortable development the Portuguese press, including
the respected newspaper Dairio de Noticias, has claimed that
interviews given by the McCann group to police contain
discrepancies. Their stories and the timings of their
movements on the night do not tally.
Furthermore, emails and phone messages sent between the
group - and intercepted by the Pol̀cia Judiciaria and
British detectives helping the inquiry - are reported to
contain conversations that contradict earlier statements.
spotlight is equally falling on the seemingly woeful
response of the Policia Judiciaria. They only arrived two
hours after the alarm was raised. A British expert on child
abduction who visited the resort a few days later said it
the worst preserved crime scene he had ever witnessed.
people - including resort workers and other holidaymakers -
are believed to have entered the McCanns' apartment after
the disappearance. The patio windows at the rear, and the
closest point to the tapas bar, were touched by searchers.
had been left open by the McCanns in case of fire and, it
appears, so that they could easily check the children.
But what of
Madeleine's bedroom? It was situated next to the apartment's
front door which is around the corner and a further 30 yards
on, next to a road into the resort and a busy carpark.
bedroom, completely out of the sight of the tapas bar, had
heavy, metal window shutters. These were also contaminated
in the search.
bedtime toy Cuddle Cat - which is now carried by Mrs McCann
- was not isolated for forensic analysis.
newspapers and television have criticised the McCann group,
who left their children alone for two and a half hours as
they wined and dined.
question being asked is why didn't the parents put their
children in the evening creche which is open until 11.30pm?
Why didn't they hire a babysitter, bookable at the Mark
Warner reception desk?
further twist, locals now claim that Madeleine did not
always settle well. One evening they allege she ran away
into the paths between the apartments, hiding for half an
hour when it was time for bed.
the truth, to begin to unravel the mystery one has to go
back to the seemingly carefree days at the start of the
Kate McCann and their friends are like-minded people, with
children of similar ages. And they knew each other in the
Midlands. Mr McCann is a consultant cardiologist at a
Leicester's Glenfield Hospital and his wife is a GP.
recently Dr Oldfield worked at Leicester general hospital.
David Payne is a senior research fellow in cardiovascular
sciences at Leicester University and his wife, Fiona, is a
doctor. Another of the holidaymakers, Dr Russell O'Brien,
also worked at Leicester University before moving this
they all went to Mark Warner's in Greece where they had
devised a plan of leaving their children to sleep while they
had dinner nearby.
McCann explained: "The distance is so small, it was so close
it was almost like having dinner in your garden. What we
were doing was rigorous with multiple people checking at
if Madeleine might have wandered out through the unlocked
patio windows towards the swimming pool, or beyond to the
beach, the McCanns dismiss it out of hand.
absolutely certain. We double and treble-checked and have no
doubt she was taken," said Mr McCann. Yet another scenario
is now emerging in the local press. It is built on the
recollections of other guests and workers at the resort.
official story from the McCanns is this. Mr McCann said he
checked on his three children at 9.05pm. He noticed that a
door in the apartment which had been left shut was ajar.
nothing of it but it may have indicated that a kidnapper was
already there. But his daughter was fast asleep so he went
back to the tapas bar.
the group, Jane Tanner, says she took her turn 10 minutes
later. She claimed later to police that she saw a
dark-haired man of about 35 carrying a child as she walked
back to the bar afterwards but thought nothing of it.
her return - at 9.45pm - Dr Oldfield did his round of the
bedrooms. In a first statement to police, it is unclear if
he actually went inside the McCann flat.
scenario is that many of the checks of the children were not
visible, but involved listening at doors or even from
outside the apartments.
a second statement Dr Oldfield insists he did look in
Madeleine's bedroom, believes he saw her there, and that
there was light coming in through the windows as though the
heavy shutters had been opened.
thought little of it until afterwards. Then, of course, it
was Mrs McCann's turn. She found Madeleine gone.
aunt Trish Cameron recalled that she received a call later
that night from her younger brother, Mr McCann, who told
her: "I went back to check the children at nine o'clock.
They were all sound asleep, windows shut, shutters shut."
related that when Mrs McCann went to the two apartment a
little under an hour later: "The shutters had been jemmied
open. They think someone must have come in the window and
gone out of the front door with Madeleine."
But what is
now perturbing Portuguese police is how could she be
abducted when the McCann group were checking so often? Or
have reports inadvertently exaggerated how vigilant the
parents really were?
A worker at
the tapas bar says that only a tall man, believed to be
Russell O'Brien, got up from the table during the entire
evening. Of course, this witness might be wrong. A busy
barman could not have eyes on the McCann party for two and a
And what of
Najova Chekaya, the aerobics teacher running the quiz? She
was invited over to the McCann table by Mr McCann himself
when the game ended at 9.30. She stayed for half an hour.
She later claimed to friends that nobody left the table.
another conundrum too. It concerns the sighting by Jane
Tanner of the man carrying a child. He was wearing beige
trousers and smart black shoes. Her report is taken
seriously by police.
British holidaymaker, Jeremy Wilkins, has given a deposition
that does not support her evidence. He knew Mr McCann
because he played tennis with him, and was walking his
eight-month-old son in the night air when the drama
that he met Mr McCann, who had come out of his apartment at
9.05pm, and had a word with him. Soon after that Jane Tanner
would have crossed paths with Mr Wilkins and his baby.
says he saw no man carrying a child or Jane Tanner herself.
"It was a very narrow path and I think it would have been
almost impossible for anyone to walk by without me
noticing," he said.
the questions remain. Was Madeleine kidnapped or killed? Or
unwatched, did she simply walk out and get lost? How could
there be a break in with a jemmy through metal shutters
without waking the twins or alerting a passerby?
somewhere must know the answers.