acts after parents voice their concern at the lack of disclosure by Portuguese
Gordon Brown has personally intervened in the search for missing four-year-old
Madeleine McCann after her parents became frustrated by the lack of progress in
the police investigation.
After a series of telephone conversations with Madeleine's father, Gerry
McCann, in recent days, the Chancellor requested assistance from the Foreign
Office and the Home Office. He asked that pressure be brought to bear on the
Portuguese authorities to allow more information about the inquiry to be made
Gerry and his wife, Kate, have been desperate for a description of a man seen
carrying what appears to have been a child on 3 May to be made public, but
Portuguese police refused for three weeks because of the country's laws, which
forbid the details of an investigation being released.
The Observer understands that Brown gave the McCanns an assurance he would do
'anything he can' to help. The British embassy duly applied pressure on the
Portuguese authorities to find more flexibility in their secrecy laws. British
ambassador John Buck visited the Algarve last Thursday. A day later
Portuguese police made a U-turn and issued a detailed description of the man,
said to be white, 35 to 40, 5ft 10in and of medium build, with hair longer
around the neck, wearing a dark jacket, light beige trousers and dark shoes.
Asked whether Brown had influenced the decision, Clarence Mitchell, a Foreign
Office spokesman for the McCann family in the Algarve, said: 'Draw your own
conclusions.' He said in a statement: 'I can confirm that telephone
conversations have taken place between Gerry McCann and Chancellor Gordon
Brown. During them, Mr Brown offered both Gerry and Kate his full support in
their efforts to find Madeleine, although details of the conversations will
Although they have praised the efforts being made to find their daughter, the
McCanns were said to be increasingly frustrated in recent days at delays and
communication problems. The family have met lawyers in the Algarve and
threatened legal action to push for the information to be released because of
the exceptional circumstances.
The Observer can confirm that a top law firm in London had been asked late last week to seek
legal avenues through which the McCanns could be kept up to date on the latest
developments in the investigations.
The couple yesterday emerged from their apartment - Kate clutching Madeleine's
pink cat - to say that they had had an 'amicable and very constructive' meeting
with police. 'We very much welcome the decision of the police authorities to
release details of a man seen by witnesses here in Praia da Luz on Thursday, 3
May, the night of Madeleine's disappearance,' Gerry said in a statement.
'The release of this important information followed an earlier meeting we had
with senior police officers. We feel sure that this sighting of a man with what
appeared to be a child in his arms is both significant and relevant to
It emerged that the couple plan to widen their search across Europe.
The McCanns are expected to visit Seville and Madrid before moving on to Berlin
A source said that the reasoning behind the visits is that, 'after Britons,
Spanish, Germans and the Dutch are the most frequent visitors to the Algarve', and
the most likely to have seen something suspicious.
The campaign fund is now well over £300,000, according to Mitchell. He stressed
that the McCanns 'never asked for a single euro'.
In a new interview yesterday the McCanns spoke about their feelings since the
night they left their three children asleep in a holiday complex apartment
while they dined with friends in the complex's grounds, returning to find
Madeleine had been abducted, and their refusal to give up hope of welcoming her
back with 'a very big hug'. Asked if she forgets for even one second that her
daughter is missing, Kate said: 'Madeleine is such a huge personality it is obvious
when she is not there.'
Gerry, wearing yellow and green ribbons on his wrist to accompany those his
wife has tied to her hair for more than three weeks, said: 'My waking thought
is that the phone by the bedside has not rung. And that means Madeleine has not
Kate added: 'I am better in the morning, it seems like a fresh start. Evenings
are harder. I haven't been able to use the camera since I took that last
photograph of Madeleine.'
The McCanns are drawing strength from their twins, two-year-old Sean and
Amelie. Kate said: 'The twins are so young they just get on with things, but
obviously we don't want them to forget about Madeleine. We are hoping to see a
child psychologist next week to explain what has happened to Madeleine to the
twins. Amelie looks so like me, but you should see Madeleine. The family call
her "Mini Kate". She is the risk taker. Sean is much more careful and
cautious, but Madeleine is the daredevil.'
She added: 'The twins sleep in the bed with us now. They help us to get through
this. We are a strong family and they were so close to Madeleine, only 20
Gerry said: 'We could have lost the twins too. There were three children in the
room. That's the worst nightmare ... This is so rare. It's a million to one. We
really have to make sure it doesn't affect the twins growing up and their
normal childhood. 'This is not a time for grieving. We believe she is still
alive, so grief is not the appropriate emotion. We are absolutely determined to
get her back. It's a bit like we are waging a war. It's a backs-to-the-wall
His eyes welled up with tears when asked the first thing he would do if
Madeleine returned home.
'I think we will be having a very big hug. Hope, strength and courage are our
motto. There is nothing more I would like than to see Madeleine walk in, so we
could use the fund to help find other missing children.'