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Haunted by Maddy's disappearance, Kate McCann spends three hours a day trawling files

HOMEPAGE NEWS REPORTS INDEX NEWS JANUARY 2009
Original Source: MIRROR: SATURDAY 31 JANUARY 2009
Exclusive by Rod Chaytor 31/01/2009
 
She is consumed with the hunt for her daughter. every day she will spend 3 hours reading documents, looking for the vital clue which will answer the question that has tortured her and Gerry for 21 agonising months. Where is our missing Madeleine'

Kate McCann sips her tea and then turns another page from the mountain of paperwork, looking for the one clue that could spark a breakthrough in the search for her missing daughter.

As her twins Sean and Amelie enjoy playing with friends at nursery, their 40-year-old mum combs through thousands of police documents stacked up in 17 massive files hoping to latch on to any nugget of information such as the names of witnesses that were never interviewed.

Raw pain is still sometimes clearly etched on her face. But this is Kate's life now.

No longer working as a GP, she has dedicated herself to the task of unearthing clues that will lead her to her daughter Madeleine who vanished 21 months ago.  

A family member said: 'She is there virtually every morning. It's her routine for two or three hours every day while the twins are in nursery.

'Sometimes I feel she is exhausting herself. I wish she would take a break. But she won't listen. She is driven, consumed with the task and the goal of finding Madeleine.'

While the agony of not knowing where Madeleine is or what has happened to her eats up Kate and husband Gerry, the  couple still have to provide a normal family life for Sean and Amelie. Tomorrow, the twins celebrate their fourth birthday and their parents will make sure it is a special day full of fun, laughter, gifts and games.

But, inevitably, one heartbreaking thought will haunt the couple throughout: 'We never got to do this with Madeleine.'

She vanished nine days short of her own fourth birthday from the family's holiday apartment in Praia da Luz on May 3, 2007, as her parents ate at a tapas bar with friends.

This year, the twins will start school ' another milestone Madeleine never reached.

She had been due to start at Bishop Ellis Catholic Primary at Thurmaston, Leics, in September of the year she vanished.

Kate has reached folder number 15 of the 17 she is searching through.

She will doggedly plough on line-by-line through the daunting pile of paperwork, forensically noting, computer filing, cross-checking, never giving up hope of stumbling across the key to her daughter's whereabouts.

Her desperate actions echo Gerry's words to the Mirror in his last UK interview in May last year as the Portuguese police closed their file. Back then, he vowed: 'We'll find her ourselves.'

So far, their hunt has been without success. But every new scrap of information gives the couple fresh hope that they will be reunited with their little girl.

The family member added: 'Kate has already found evidence overlooked by police and the names of witnesses never interviewed.

'On a day that happens, she is upbeat, positive, cheerful. When she comes across something negative however, she is down.

'Of the two of them, Kate is the most fragile. Her mood can change quickly.

'But she remains strong, resolute, determined to find Madeleine. Till the day she dies, she will never give up.'

According to friends, this has been Kate's daily routine for the last six months since the Portuguese authorities lifted the couple's arguido suspect status and handed over the written record of their bungled investigation. For Gerry, too, the work involved in finding Madeleine has become a second job. The 40-year-old heart consultant leaves home before 8am for the cardiac unit at the Glenfield Hospital on the outskirts of Leicester.

Despite his demanding work schedule, he strives to be home by 6pm to join in the nightly bath and bed routine of the couple's twins.

Like any devoted dad, he reads the children a bedtime story before lights out and then joins his wife for supper.

But then, instead of slumping in front of the TV, he goes into the study, spending a couple of hours each night taking his turn to scour the files or hit the phones.

He calls the couple's Portuguese lawyers, their UK-based investigators and consults their team of advisers and sponsors.

At weekends, the pair try to take a break, spending family time together, shopping, seeing friends. On Sunday, it's church at the Chapel of the Sacred Heart, just five minutes' walk from their home in Rothley, Leics, and a traditional roast.

Their family says the couple's ordeal has left their staunch Catholic faith undimmed.

Earlier this month, Gerry flew to Portugal for a face-to-face conference with their  lawyer Rogerio Alves to discuss progress in the hunt for Madeleine.

It was his first return since the couple were forced to come home from Portugal without her nearly 17 months ago.

Afterwards, Gerry said: 'We think there's a very good chance she is still out here and can be found, so we want the search to go on.

'We want to be positive and look forward. We want to find our daughter. This is the first visit but I expect it will be the first of several.'

Family members privately admit Kate was not strong enough to return.

One relative said bleakly: 'I don't know when, if ever, she will be able to go back.'

This week, figures showed that, in the financial year to March 2008, nearly '2million was raised by the Find Madeleine Fund to search for the missing youngster. More than '50,000 has been spent on professionally translating the Portuguese police files.

According to a friend, Kate and Gerry decided to switch their attention from the enormous media campaign they ran for over a year to concentrate on the investigation.

Gerry has not updated his blog on the Find Madeleine site since November. There have been no press conferences since last summer, when they won the battle to persuade the European Parliament to adopt a US-style Amber Alert system to warn cross-border countries of children going missing.

Their appeal this Christmas ' with Madeleine's presents again unopened under the tree ' was much more muted than in 2007 when Kate went on TV to talk directly to their missing daughter with the message: 'Be brave, sweetheart.'

But the pair reject fears that, as the second anniversary of their daughter's disappearance approaches, they are losing hope she will ever be found and are scaling back their campaign.

Their Christmas website message declared defiantly: 'We will NEVER give up looking for Madeleine.'

Family spokesman Clarence Mitchell said: 'They have not withdrawn. It's business as usual, finding Madeleine. They draw strength from the support of friends and family. They are not being distracted by stuff around the fringes.

'They are 110 per cent focused on the job in hand, working on the files, directing work going on behind the scenes and, when ready, they will take it up a gear again by coming out with any messages of tangible benefit in the search for Madeleine.

'We still get the odd piece of information coming in, a tip-off, the occasional sighting, and they are quietly checked out.'

For Kate and the family, the search still goes on...

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