KATE and Gerry McCann’s dramatic flight to
Britain was made within hours of agreeing the time was right
to leave their legal nightmare in Portugal.
The doctors, both now suspects in the disappearance of
daughter Madeleine, said they took the last-minute decision
for the sake of their two-year-old twins, Sean and Amelie.
But observers in Portugal said leaving so soon after being
made “arguidos” would only confirm local opinion that the
case against them was strong and they were running while
they still could.
The McCanns’ eleventh-hour decision to leave for East
Midlands Airport sparked an “emotional and extraordinary
night” for the family at their rented villa outside Praia da
Luz, according to a friend.
For the past two months, the secluded house on the Rua das
Flores has been a haven for the family and acted as the base
from which the Find Madeleine campaign was launched.
As Saturday evening merged into Sunday, a stream of friends
arrived to bid farewell to the couple.
In the time they have spent there, Kate and Gerry have
developed a network of close supporters in Praia da Luz’s
Among them were local Anglican vicar Haynes Hubbard and his
wife Susan, the couple whom Kate had asked to care for the
twins if she and Gerry were detained following their
As the night wore on, family members including Gerry’s
sister Trisha, mother, Eileen and brother-in-law Sandy, set
about packing the family’s essential belongings needed for
the journey to Rothley in Leicestershire.
In the weeks after Madeleine vanished, Kate stressed
repeatedly that she would not leave the Portuguese holiday
resort until her eldest daughter was found.
She said she would only return to their neat four-bedroom
home in the East Midlands as a family of five.
But since then, local sympathy has turned into a whispering
campaign, fuelled by vicious smears and outright lies in the
To add to their torment, the police force they turned to for
help in searching for their missing child has instead
switched its focus towards establishing the parents’ guilt
over her disappearance. It finally meant Kate was forced to
accept the previously unthinkable act of returning home
As friends and guests said their farewells the tears shed by
Kate and Gerry on Saturday night betrayed their own feelings
at abandoning the country where they saw their daughter
Those who visited the couple said the final frantic hours
probably helped stop them from dwelling too long on that
devastating fact. This allowed them to busy themselves in
preparation for the journey rather than grieve over what
they were leaving behind.
But the floods of tears shed by Kate on the easyJet flight
from Faro suggested the devastating fact that they were
without a beloved daughter was never far from her mind.
Last night, the family friend said: “The last few days have
been incredible and emotional. Yesterday evening and the
early hours were absolutely extraordinary.
“There was an awful lot to be organised in a short space of
time and there was so much to do – it went on right through
the night with people grabbing just a couple of hours’
“There had been plans in place to leave, in fact they had
told the police over a week ago that they had made plans to
leave Portugal on Sunday.
“But after the developments in the investigation on Thursday
and Friday, the couple had to do things that normally would
have taken a week in a very short space of time.”
She revealed that Kate and Gerry only managed to sleep for a
couple of hours as others raced around, finalising plans for
the family to leave. Evidence of the rushed departure could
be seen after the family’s dramatic dawn exit yesterday.
Boxes of toys donated by well-wishers were left in the villa
to be sent over later when the McCanns had re-settled in
Despite the hasty departure, friends were adamant that Kate
and Gerry were not fleeing from the law but keen to maintain
the impetus of the search for their daughter.
"They are not running away,” said one. “It’s a change of
location. They are very happy to help the police and plan to
come back regularly.
“They have made many friends in Praia da Luz and will
certainly keep in touch with them.”
She went on: “Last week they were very, very concerned about
what was going to happen but they are now feeling more
confident about things.
“Their legal team is working very hard and they feel more
upbeat and buoyant about that side.
Their departure is with the full agreement of the Portuguese
authorities and police. They feel they don’t have anything
Another friend, however, admitted that the decision to
return was difficult, despite the legal nightmare faced by
The friend said: “Obviously it’s going to be difficult for
them both, going back to their real home without Madeleine.
It will be particularly emotional for Kate.”
Other family members had visited the property, the friend
added, but “Madeleine’s bedroom is still as it was, ready
for her to come home.”