helped find 160,000 missing children, we must not give up hope of
finding Maddie says ERNIE ALLEN
President of National Centre for
Missing and Exploited Children
... Madeleine McCann as she was and how she is predicted to
girl gripped her mother’s hand and huddled closer as the woman ranted at
As she protested at her arrest on a trivial charge, the group of
officers tried to calm the mum — with one exception.
One cop scrutinised the child before slipping away to phone America’s
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).
Yesterday the group’s president, Ernie Allen, revealed how that phone
call ended a seven-year international hunt for the little girl.
And he believes Madeleine McCann’s family can have a similar happy
Mr Allen said: “It turned out the girl had been snatched from her home
in Southern California and taken thousands of miles to Puerto Rico. When
I asked the policeman why he called, he replied, ‘Because something just
didn’t seem right’.
“That’s what could happen in Madeleine’s case. Just one person thinking
‘That’s not right’.”
Mr Allen, a lawyer, has become close to Kate and Gerry McCann since
their daughter was taken from a holiday flat in Praia da Luz, Portugal,
on May 3, 2007, aged three
Team ... Gerry McCann, right, and Ernie Allen Albanpix.com
He has given the couple, from Rothley, Leics, advice about how to keep
their search going.
And as Kate, 44, and Gerry, 43, face the fifth anniversary of Maddie’s
disappearance, on Wednesday, he has told them never to give up.
Speaking from the Washington offices of his non-profit organisation,
funded by the US state, Mr Allen said: “You don’t ever close missing
child cases, these children are still out there. I have told Kate and
Gerry the story of that girl from California and many others.
“Miracles happen. It doesn’t matter how long a child has been missing.
Until Madeleine is found, or we know for certain what has happened to
her, we will not give up.”
Mr Allen firmly believes Maddie could be alive and well.
He said: “She was very young when she was taken and young children are
easily manipulated. She may have been told all manner of lies, for
example that her parents are dead. Children are taught to obey and
“People assume that children are always abducted by paedophiles, but
they can be taken by someone who just wants a child to bring up as their
“A child becomes conditioned by their abductor. We had a nine-year-old
girl who was found after ten months. She was very bright but when I
asked her why she never tried to escape, she said, ‘Because the lady
told me not to’.”
Mr Allen, 66, spoke to The Sun days after Portuguese authorities refused
to reopen the Maddie inquiry despite Scotland Yard detectives
identifying 195 new leads.
Last night the McCanns’ lawyer in Lisbon insisted cops there missed
vital clues. Isabel Duarte says key forensics work was not carried out
after a sniffer-dog picked up Maddie’s scent at a car park near the
Ms Duarte said a witness description of a man seen looking into the
family’s apartment, and records of local mobile calls made at the time,
were also not followed up properly.
Mr Allen co-founded NCMEC almost 30 years ago, to help parents do
everything they can to find their children, after working as a lawyer on
a missing child case.
The group has helped develop vital technology including the
age-progression technique used to create images such as the newly
released picture of Maddie aged nine.
It also runs a 24-hour hotline and has trained 300,000 US law
enforcement officers, and works closely with international police
Mr Allen said: “Since 1984, we have been involved in 174,000 cases of
missing children — and recovered 160,000. We are proof that the vast
majority of missing children around the world come home safely.”
He added: “I think about Maddie every day. Kate and Gerry have been
criticised for being so public about her, but you need to keep reminding
people a child is still missing.
“We had a taxi driver who came forward after seeing an appeal ten years
after a child was snatched. He believed he had picked up the abductor
and child soon after the abduction.
“The case was solved thanks to him. That so easily could happen in
“I believe it will be solved with that one simple phone call.”