Breaking a silence lasting several months, the father of missing toddler
Madeleine McCann this week spoke exclusively to The Portugal News about
the ongoing search to find his daughter. He also spoke of the effects
Madeleine’s disappearance has had on his family. Gerry McCann singled
out the local community for praise and expressed appreciation for all
the sacrifices they have been forced to endure the past two years, such
as the negative impact the case has had on jobs and tourism in the area.
He also admitted that cash in the Find Madeleine Fund is now only a few
months away from being exhausted.
Shortly before leaving for Faro Airport on Sunday afternoon culminating
what had been a whirlwind visit to Praia da Luz, Gerry McCann sat down
in a Praia da Luz hotel room for his first media interview in months.
“I can totally
understand that people want to move on”, said Mr McCann when questioned
over the apparent animosity towards him on Saturday when he visited the
site of his daughter’s disappearance.
“They don’t want the
media intrusion and the negative association with Madeleine’s abduction.
For me, and this is going right back to 2007 – I didn’t feel any evil
around Praia da Luz or anywhere else in Portugal. What happened here
could have happened anywhere in the world”, argued a composed and
soft-spoken Mr McCann.
“Actually, the amazing
response we had from the community was incredibly important to us”, he
As for the heckling by
a small group of middle-aged locals who had been monitoring filming
closely since Saturday morning, Mr McCann said: “That aspect was
everything I had hoped could be avoided”, by keeping the visit under
He had demanded the
utmost secrecy from all those involved in the weeks leading up to the
filming of the television documentary by Mentorn Media for the May 7th
showing of the programme Cutting Edge on Channel 4.
expressed regret at the negative impact his daughter’s disappearance has
had on the region.
“I am sorry for any
harm caused to Praia da Luz”, he said, before repeating an earlier
request: “I specifically want to thank the local population for all
their support and tolerance.”
But news of the
sacking of more than half of the staff at Ocean Club resort shortly
before his fleeting visit was met with regret by the man whose leftist
political stance is well-documented, while his background includes
growing up in a working class family on a council estate in Glasgow.
There have also been
murmurings that former employees are contemplating legal action against
the McCanns for loss of income, especially as the ‘Maddie Case’ is cited
as one of the reasons for their dismissal. Mr McCann put this down to
“the need to blame someone” for what has happened, saying that if any
legal proceedings were to be instituted, they should be directed at
On his return to Praia
da Luz and the absence of his wife Kate, Mr McCann explained: “Kate and
I have been desperate to come back to Praia da Luz, but we haven’t done
so due to the media exposure and the controversy such a visit would
pose. We want to come back and meet the people, without it being
highlighted. There is nothing bad about this resort, it is beautiful. In
these difficult economic times we don’t want to worsen things. But I do
hope people understand why we are doing what we’ve done. This is a key
factor in an investigation strategy. Madeleine is still missing. We need
to do everything reasonable to get any information. The best thing for
everyone is that she is found and that whoever took her is caught”.
Mr McCann ruled out
any other visits to Portugal in the near future and as for Madeleine’s
mother, said: “She’d love to come back. But we will not be returning for
the anniversary. We wanted to come here and do this as quietly as
possible and not to disrupt”, with last weekend’s media attention not
aiding this desire.
“We want to get to the
stage where Kate and I coming to Portugal is not a news story”, he said.
“Walking down into the
Ocean Club felt like we were going backwards, that bit of it at least -
I was the story with the media focussing on me.
“The reason we are
doing this documentary is that it should be about Madeleine. I can
understand why people don’t like it or that our level of child care was
not to their standard, but the focus should be on an innocent child and
that someone has taken her.
“There’s one thing
that has been revealed in the case files which is that there is no
evidence that Madeleine is dead and there is no evidence to suggest that
Kate and I were involved in any theories. It’s about Madeleine. As her
parents, I hope people understand that we have to do what we are doing”,
argued Mr McCann. Visibly uncomfortable
at the question, Mr McCann, when asked about the toll Madeleine’s
disappearance has had on his marriage, responded by saying: “We are
united in our search for Madeleine and we are very strong in our
And how have the twins
been coping with their sister’s prolonged absence?
“They talk about her
everyday. They are great. Literally, saying: ‘When Madeleine comes
home…’. When we are having bad days [these comments] drive you on”.
But Gerry McCann
refused to answer a question on whether or not Madeleine’s room has been
left unchanged in the event she is found.
“If Madeleine came
through the door, Sean and Amelie would react like she went missing
yesterday. She is still a huge part of their life and it’s refreshing”.
What have they been
told about where Madeleine might be?
understand she is missing and they understand someone has taken her.
There is not a lot more. We had counselling on how to cope with the
twins, given to us by a child psychologist who has dealt with child
abduction who said we should fill in the gaps as they get older. But,
with us, the psychologist said the problem you have is that there is
very little to fill in. The fact remains, she was there one minute and
gone the next”.
Mr McCann also
admitted that their approach to raising their other two children has
been significantly altered by Madeleine’s disappearance.
“I am undoubtedly much
more aware of potential danger or a threat to the kids now and things
which we previously considered safe, and probably still are, are no
“It’s a horrible
balance we as parents now face between being cosseting and allowing the
kids freedom, and at what age. I grew up in a very child-orientated
environment, playing in parks, with minimal adult supervision. I think
that’s healthy”, he explains as he leads up to the question about
regrets they have over their actions as parents on the evening Madeleine
“Obviously what we did
[leaving the children alone while dining at the nearby restaurant] we
thought was safe.
“The whole aspect of a
foreign child being abducted while on holiday never entered our thought
process for even one moment, because if it had, we wouldn’t have done
what we did”, he said.
An Ocean Club employee
has said you were playing tennis on the Monday after your daughter’s
disappearance while others were looking for your daughter, is that true?
“That is not true. The
first time I think I hit a tennis ball was about three weeks later. We
stayed in the Ocean Club for two months. What we were told in terms of
counselling was that it was really important we get back into doing
things for our mental well-being. Jogging was the first thing we did. It
was only weeks later that we played tennis and that was primarily
because my sister was over and she plays more tennis than I do.
“About six weeks after
returning home, I played some golf due to the solitude and privacy it
affords me, but I was followed onto the course by a photographer and
that was just horrible - the invasion of privacy. I think Kate has
played tennis once in the two years - it has become much harder for us
to enjoy the simple things in life”.
On returning to the
apartment last Saturday and how he felt re-entering it almost two years
after last being there, Mr McCann said: “The apartment doesn’t hold any
bad karma. It was just a couple of thoughts really, it was about
re-enacting [the events on the night of her disappearance] and it was
where I last saw Madeleine. But actually, I felt more emotional at
church this morning [last Sunday] with the support and seeing the
photograph of Madeleine with the words ‘Help me’ along with the green
and yellow ribbons around it was more difficult to cope with.”
Gerry McCann explained
his involvement with the documentary, which will be aired next month and
shown in several European countries including Portugal shortly
afterwards, was purely aimed at finding Madeleine.
He also recalled that
failed attempts to stage a police reconstruction were not of their
“We would have been
obliged to come back [due to their status as arguidos that was only
lifted last July]. It did not fall on us to do it, but other people.
Don’t get me wrong, we had major concerns as to why the reconstruction
was being done. As opposed to this reconstruction, which will be
broadcast with a view to getting new information, the police
reconstruction was not aimed at finding Madeleine, but rather to look
for inconsistencies. There were 12 or 15 people involved and it is
inevitable there would be inconsistencies”, he said. A response which
led to the question over his disagreement with Jane Tanner [a member of
the so-called Tapas 7] over where he was standing as Miss Tanner walked
passed him the night she spotted a man taking what she believed to be a
man carrying a child:
“In my mind, I am 100
percent certain I was on the other side of the road, though Jane Tanner
and Jez Wilkins said I was on the side closest to the apartment. I can’t
resolve that, I remember making a conscious decision to cross the road”.
Mr McCann also
revealed that the family has made peace with the fact they might never
see Madeleine again, but would never give up the search for her.
“We have always known
that’s a possibility and that is why we have to rely on other people.
And we have that incredibly difficult balance between doing this
[filming the reconstruction] and the human interest aspect. While we
also want our lives to be private and normal for the sake of Sean and
Amelie, we also need to do as much as we can. It’s a possibility we
might never see her again, but until we have absolute definitive
evidence of what happened to Madeleine, we can’t stop searching.”
Do you think the
Portuguese PJ police did everything within their powers to find
“I think the way you
are asking the question is right. PJ did more in this case than on many
other occasions and worked extremely hard. And there were many different
pressures. If you look back there were probably mistakes made on all
As for the role of
private investigators and reconstructions, Mr McCann said it was a way
of ensuring no stone is left unturned in the search for his daughter.
“At the minute there
is no law enforcement agency actively looking for Madeleine and by that,
I mean looking at the evidence saying; where are the gaps and what more
can we do? And that’s what we need. We have severe limitations and
issues of jurisdiction and we realise we have to work with the
authorities. We will hand over all relative information we obtain as we
do not want to waste resources nor do we want to duplicate things.”
The Find Madeleine
Fund, which has received around 2.5 million pounds since it was set up
shortly after Madeleine’s disappearance in 2007, now appears to be
Brendan de Beer
out of financial
“There’s still money
in it”, says Mr McCann, adding: “I can’t give you the exact figure, but
we have spent and continue to spend a lot of money with the aim of
trying to enhance the chance of finding her.
On the chances of the
Fund drying up completely he responded: “It won’t dry up in the next few
months, but probably by the end of the year, at the rate we are
He concluded that
fundraising is presently being considered as an option to boost funds
and thus ensure an ongoing interest in finding Madeleine.
Brendan de Beer
© The Portugal News