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The images I had of our Madeleine no sane person would want in their head

Original Source: SUN: SATURDAY 07 MAY 2011
By KATE McCANN Published: 07 May 2011


SURROUNDED by photos of Madeleine, brave Kate McCann spent months writing her heart-rending book based on diaries kept after her daughter disappeared.

Kate said: "My reason for writing is simple - to give an account of the truth. The book was written for Madeleine for when she comes back and also for her brother Sean and sister Amelie, so that as they grow up they can read it too.

"Along the way there were often tears and I would not be able to carry on. But I was determined to do it. Every penny we raise through its sales will be spent on our search for Madeleine. Nothing is more important than finding our little girl."

In this extract, edited and abridged by ANTONELLA LAZZERI and OLIVER HARVEY, Kate tells how in the early days she was tormented by thoughts of Madeleine's possible fate at the hands of a child sex offender:

THE truly awful manifestation of what I was feeling was a macabre slideshow of vivid pictures in my brain that taunted me relentlessly.

I was crying out that I could see Madeleine lying, cold and mottled, on a big grey stone slab.

Looking back, seeing me like this must have been terrible for my friends and relatives, and particularly my parents, but I couldn't help myself.

And all this needed to come out. I dread to think what it might have done to me if it hadn't.

Later on it was the nights that were the worst. Not only did lying awake in the dark take me straight back to the most awful night of all, but my brain, finally free of the preoccupations of the day, would wander unbidden down black and terrifying avenues.


I struggled constantly to think nice thoughts and drift off to sleep, but the demons had me in their grip and would torture me mercilessly with images too frightening and painful to share.


Where is my Madeleine? Please, God, do something!

An entry in my diary from that time: "Crying in bed again - can't help it . The thought of Madeleine's fear and pain tears me apart. The thought of paedophiles makes me want to rip my skin off."

Shortly after Madeleine went missing I recall Bill Henderson, the British Consul for the Algarve at the time, telling me that there had been several recent cases of men getting into bed with children, but no known abductions.

I don't know why this didn't ring a million alarm bells. As it was, it remained locked away in the dungeons of my mind for many months.

At the time my brain simply couldn't connect such cases with Madeleine's. These were abuse victims, and as awful as such crimes were, Madeleine's was much worse. Our child had been stolen.

Saturday May 5 was the day we should have been going home. Gerry and I awoke at 4am, having slept for barely a couple of hours, still feeling wretched and utterly abandoned by the Portuguese Judiciary in Portimao.

Both verging on hysteria, we were incapable of comforting each other. It was clear we were struggling to keep our heads above water. We rang holiday company Mark Warner's overseas manager and asked if the trauma psychologist Alan Pike could come and see us.

Alan is a clinical partner at the Centre for Crisis Psychology, pioneers in psychological trauma aftercare following disasters at home and abroad. He got us talking, encouraging us to think rationally about what we were saying, and we talked a lot, for hours. We faced our biggest fear - that Madeleine had been taken by a paedophile and killed.

Alan pointed out that these thoughts could be no more than speculation. We didn't know what had happened.

"Madeleine might walk through that door at any minute," he said. "You need to be ready for that."

Having spent much of the previous few days cooped up, first with the police and then with the lawyers, by the Sunday afternoon Gerry and I felt the need to escape into the open air. We decided to go for a walk along the beach. I remember this walk well. It had been a chaotic and confusing ten days, shot through with unremitting cold dread and dark thoughts.

I asked Gerry apprehensively if he'd had any really horrible thoughts or visions of Madeleine. He nodded. Haltingly, I told him about the awful pictures that scrolled through my head of her body torn apart.

Although I knew I had to share this burden, just raising the subject out loud to someone else, even Gerry, was excruciating.

Admitting the existence of these images somehow confirmed them as a real possibility, and with that came renewed waves of fear.

Everybody has their own mechanisms for self-protection and surrounding yourself only with "nice thoughts" is one. I wished I could do that. The pictures I saw of our Madeleine no sane human being would want in her head, but they were in mine.

I simply couldn't rid myself of these evil scenes in the early days and weeks. That walk with Gerry was, however, a small watershed. The mutual acknowledgement of such delicate and deeply upsetting responses drew us even closer.

It would be some time before we could get far enough past the terrible scenes seared into our minds to think logically about that night.

Once we did begin to function within what felt like an endless bad dream, we started to comb through our memories, searching for something significant.

When she was first stolen, paedophiles were all we could think about, and it ate away at us. The idea of a monster like this touching my daughter, stroking her, defiling her perfect little body, just killed me, over and over again. It didn't make any difference that this might not be the explanation for Madeleine's abduction (and, please God, it isn't). The fact that it was a possibility was enough to prevent me from shutting it out.

I would lie in bed, hating the person who had done this to us - the person who had taken away our little girl and terrified her.

I hated him. I wanted to kill him. I wanted to inflict the maximum pain possible on him for heaping all this misery on my family.

I was angry and bitter and I wanted it all to go away. I wanted my old life back.

On Monday July 21 2008 the Portuguese attorney general's office announced that the investigation of Madeleine's disappearance was to be archived, pending further evidence.

The case files were to be released. One of the most concerning and upsetting pieces of information to emerge quite early was the record of sexual crimes against children in the Algarve.

This discovery made me feel physically sick. I read of five cases of British children on holiday being sexually abused in their beds while their parents slept in another room.


In three further incidents, children encountered an intruder in their bedrooms, who was presumably disturbed before he had the chance to carry out an assault.

I guessed these were the reports that Bill Henderson had told me about. These incidents had occurred within an hour's drive of Praia da Luz over the three years prior to Madeleine's disappearance.

The PJ had never mentioned any of them to us. In fact, I gathered from the files, some hadn't even been recorded by the authorities.

So they might never have come to light if the parents of these children hadn't been brave enough to come forward to the British police after Madeleine was taken and relive their nightmares.

They did so in the belief there could be a link between what had happened to their children and what had happened to her.

It broke my heart to read the terrible accounts of these devastated parents and the experiences of their poor children.

Unbelievably (or maybe not, by this time), there was a familiar thread running through them all.

The parents had called the police. They hadn't felt that the crime was taken seriously, by the police or by their tour operators. Statements were often not taken. DNA and fingerprint evidence was frequently not sought. In most instances there was no sign of a break-in.

I cried for hours after reading a letter of complaint from one mother regarding the sexual abuse of her daughter and the lack of proper attention paid to it.

The final line in particular has haunted me ever since:

"It is difficult to see with this lack of investigation or interest how a profile of this man can be built up.

"It did not appear to us that there was any great incentive or determination to find the offender and bring him to justice.

"Furthermore, it could all have been so much worse... indeed this man could go on to do much worse to another child if he's not stopped now." Six months later, our beloved Madeleine was grabbed from her bed. Of course, none of these children was abducted and these crimes may be completely unrelated to what happened to Madeleine. We do not know who has taken our daughter and for what purpose.

What these cases do demonstrate, however, is that British tourists in holiday accommodation were being targeted.

At the very least, the possibility of a link between these incidents and Madeleine's disappearance should have been investigated.

It is so hard not to scream from the rooftops about how these crimes appear to have been brushed under the carpet.

The authorities have known of them for a long time and yet the perpetrators, as far as the families are aware, remain free. Children are involved and they need to be protected.

We are extremely grateful, however, to their parents for having the courage and compassion to share their experiences with us to try to help us find our daughter.


Night after night, I read of depraved individuals, British paedophiles, Portuguese paedophiles, Spanish, Dutch and German paedophiles, and of the horrific crimes they'd committed.

The police went to visit some of them, looked around their apartments and recorded merely, 'No sign of the minor'.

Was that enough to eliminate these vile characters from the inquiry? If more had been done, there was certainly nothing in the files about it.

No description, no photograph, no alibi, no DNA. Just 'No sign of the minor'.

Entry in my diary: "August 27. A late night. Depressing reading. So many child molesters! Dear God, please don't let this have been what's happened to Madeleine. Please, God."  


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