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Madeleine McCann: parents relive pain of daughter's abduction two years on

Original Source:  TELEGRAPH: SATURDAY 02 MAY 2009
By David Harrison
Last Updated: 8:31PM BST 02 May 2009
Kate and Gerry McCann, parents of missing youngster Madeleine McCann, have told of their agony and hope on the second anniversary of their daughters disappearance.
Maddy's disappearance sparked an international search and endless heartbreaking  'sightings' that proved to be no such thing. Photo: PA
Gerry McCann in Praia da Luz, where daughter Madeleine went missing two years ago Photo: Reuters


It is a moment of unbearable poignancy. A distraught Gerry McCann stands at the door of the bedroom where he last saw his daughter Madeleine two years ago today.

As the pain of the last 24 months washes over him, Mr McCann pauses for a moment and then steps in to look around the bedroom in Apartment 5a of the Ocean Club in the Algarve resort of Praia da Luz.

It is the first time he has been here since Maddy went missing.

The room is silent and bare but Mr McCann can see his daughter's toys and hear the laughter that echoed around the apartment in the days before May 3, 2007 when Maddy was abducted while her parents ate with friends at a nearby tapas restaurant.

Mr McCann emerges from the apartment and solemnly retraces his steps to the tapas bar, a short but agonising journey, his mind racked with "what ifs" and "if onlys".

"We are a family and we're a happy family but we're not a complete family," he says, and goes on to use an image appropriate for a hospital doctor. "There's still a scar, a deep, deep scar that's kind of knitted at the minute, but you still think it might break or the stitches will come loose."

Mr McCann was back in Praia da Luz to take part in a reconstruction of the events of that fateful night in the hope of jogging somebody's memory and helping detectives find his daughter who would now be days away from her sixth birthday.

The reconstruction was filmed for a Channel 4 documentary that will be broadcast on Thursday.

The parents, both doctors from Rothley in Leicestershire, believe Maddy is still alive. Mrs McCann says: "I think we're far from normality. We need to get out there she's alive, she's out there, she's findable… She might look different, she could be speaking a different language, she might have her hair different, she might have different interests, but you know she's still our daughter."

Maddy's disappearance sparked an international search and endless heartbreaking "sightings" that proved to be no such thing. The young girl with the fair hair and distinctive marking on her right eye has not been seen since.

Her appearance will have changed in the intervening two years and that was why the McCanns commissioned an "age-progression image", released on Friday, to show how Maddy might look if she is still alive.

In the documentary, two former British police detectives investigating Madeleine's disappearance say they have found important new leads in the

30,000 case files released by Portuguese police last summer and now translated into English, at a cost of £100,000 to the Madeleine Fund.

Dave Edgar, a retired detective inspector, and his colleague Arthur Cowley, a former detective sergeant, who have more than 60 years' experience between them, say they are interested in a series of important sightings in and around the Ocean Club in the days before Maddy was abducted.

One key statement appears to corroborate a sighting by Jane Tanner, the McCanns' friend, who told police about a man she saw carrying a small girl near the apartment on May 3 at around 9.10pm.

Shortly afterwards on the same night, another family had also seen a man carrying a small blonde child nearby and gave descriptions similar to Mrs Tanner's.

The search team has also found a number of statements from tourists who all noticed a suspicious-looking man loitering around near the McCanns' apartment.

Statements from the files suggest that the McCanns may have been watched in the days before Madeleine was abducted.

Mr Edgar, who worked for Cheshire police and the RUC, says: "There's someone local, lives locally, has the answer to this, and not much wider than 10, 15 kilometres from Praia da Luz. So you don't start an investigation in Morocco or Spain or France, or even Lisbon.

"This offence happened in Praia da Luz, it's a very self-contained resort, and that's where we've started and that's where I think the answer is."

Mr Edgar adds: "We're not speculating on anything or theories, it's evidence that we've got from the file.

"In my experience random just doesn't happen, someone just doesn't go in, a passer-by, and pick up a child and take it.

"These things are planned. So someone will have been in the vicinity of apartment 5a, the Ocean Club. They may even have been watching the apartment for a week or more."

Mrs Tanner and Matthew Oldfield, both friends from the group known as the "Tapas 7", who were on holiday with the McCanns at the time, also returned to Portugal for the reconstruction.

The "age-progression image" of Maddy was done by a forensic imaging artist from the United States' National Centre for Missing & Exploited Children.

It was unveiled on Oprah Winfrey's Fridays Live show ahead of the broadcast of an interview with the McCanns on The Oprah Winfrey Show in the US tomorrow and in the UK on Tuesday.

The image shows Maddy as slightly thinner-faced and with darker hair and will be used on posters as part of a new effort to find Madeleine, although Mrs McCann says in the interview: "I only remember Madeleine when she was four."

Ms Winfrey asks: "Do you let yourself go to the worst?"

Mrs McCann replies: "I think it's natural. I know people mean well when they say don't let yourself go there, but as a mum, inevitably there are times when I do. And they're the times that I kind of dip down."

Asked about their marriage, Mr McCann says: "Child abduction, I think, could destroy any family. It's one of the most devastating things. But we've been supported tremendously well and I think that's helped us stay strong and stay together.

"We're really united in our goal and our love of Madeleine and Sean and Amelie."

Mrs McCann said she keeps Madeleine's room ready for her return and that she goes in there about twice a day "just to say hello, really, just to tell her we're still going to do everything we can to find her".

Cutting Edge: Madeleine Was Here, Channel 4, Thursday, May 7, 9pm.


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