who once gave comfort to Kate and Gerry McCann has had his
church stripped of all memories of their missing daughter.
Manuel Pacheco ordered the removal of scores of green and yellow
ribbons which were put up as a symbol of hope in the days after
photographs of Madeleine which used to fill the windows of every
restaurant, bar and business in the village of Praia da Luz have
also been taken down.
the Algarve resort are finally trying to move on from the
tragedy more than seven months ago – and every trace of
Madeleine has been wiped away.
But the most
devastating turnaround has come from Father Jose, the Roman
Catholic priest whom the couple turned to in their hour of need.
for the priest’s health and tell how his life has been ruined
after he offered the couple solace.
46, came under police scrutiny after he gave the couple the keys
to his church so they could pray round the clock.
questioned twice by detectives, and the church and its grounds
were searched by police as they followed up leads into possible
hiding places for Madeleine’s body.
became convinced Kate had confessed to him – but the tormented
priest insisted he would stand by his vow to take the secrets of
the confessional to the grave.
He was given
a dressing-down by his superior, Algarve Bishop Manuel Quintas,
and allegedly tried to shift the focus on to worshippers who had
advised him to provide the McCanns with all the help he could.
In the days
after Madeleine went missing, locals flocked to the church to
show their support for the McCanns. They laid a sea of floral
tributes outside, while pictures of Madeleine and messages of
support were pinned to the wooden doors.
Now all that
is left are two faded green ribbons – the symbol of hope in
Portugal – still tied to the noticeboard outside the church.
night a close friend of the priest told the Daily Express:
“Father Jose can’t even hear the Madeleine case mentioned
without becoming irate.
closest friends must tread carefully when dealing with anything
connected to the McCanns. When they broach the subject he
immediately changes it.
“He says that
it is an extremely unpleasant situation and that the McCann
family only ever brought him problems. He told one friend they
ruined his life.
“As soon as
it was made public that he had given the key of the church to
the McCanns, everything changed.
“He said it
had been his flock’s decision. That was a mistake – the parish
didn’t react well. He no longer goes to the coffee shops that
were part of his daily routine.
wants to get on with his peaceful life before the McCann
whirlwind raped his world. He just wants it all to go away. This
has all been a very bad experience for him.
things he would like to tell and can’t, therefore he refuses to
speak of it at all so as not to be tempted into letting out more
than he should. I feel greatly for him. All he did was his best
for souls in need and this is his payment.”
friend said: “All this family brought him were problems. Talking
about Madeleine is a sure way to spoil his day. There are two
completely different Pachecos, the one before the McCanns and
this shell of a man after the McCanns.
nervous wreck. He’s hiding secrets that are destroying him.”
Father Jose refused to comment.
began to face local hostility after the Portuguese media pointed
the finger of suspicion at them in a smear campaign fuelled by
leaks from the police.
dubbed the “b****y McCanns” by locals who insisted they had had
enough of all the attention the case was bringing. Opposition
towards the couple intensified after they were named as official
left the country within days, raising further suspicions among
believe the search for Madeleine had become a charade because
they are convinced she is no longer alive. Residents who relied
on tourism to make a living raised concerns that the
high-profile case was turning away visitors.
say they want to return to the lives they had before. Canadian
Meri Hanlin, who has been in Portugal for four years and runs a
health food shop in the resort, said: “It was like a dark cloud
hanging over us for so long.
that the locals don’t care about what happened, but they just
want to get the village back to how it was. For the locals it
got a little too much.
there are a lot of businesses who have lost a lot of money
because people have stopped going.” Local resident Rui
Rodriquez, 34, said: “We’re sick of hearing about Madeleine. It
is time for everyone to move on.”
A cashier at
the Alisuper convenience store opposite the church said: “I took
down the posters and I no longer wear the bracelet that the
child’s father gave me.
“It no longer
makes sense to display symbols of the child’s disappearance when
the parents are suspects.” Another shopkeeper said: “Opinions
hardened when the McCanns went back to England and things have
changed since then. It’s not just the Portuguese, the views of
the English people also changed.
started taking the posters down because they did not believe
anything any more. There are too many doubts about the case, it
is best forgotten.”
the McCanns’ spokesman, Clarence Mitchell insisted the couple
had gained strength from the support of the local community
during their four months in Portugal.
He said: “The
people were incredibly supportive and we believe that affection
and support is still there.
Gerry have nothing but fond memories and remain very grateful to
the people of Praia da Luz. At some point the community in Praia
da Luz has to move on, just as it has in Rothley.
to Madeleine in Kate and Gerry’s home town were taken down some
help how people feel but they hope everyone will continue to be
vigilant in looking out for Madeleine. They believe she is still
alive and is out there somewhere.’’
and their holiday friends, dubbed the Tapas Nine, are set to be
questioned by British police in the presence of Portuguese
was reported that Robert Murat – the first official suspect –
has complained that British diplomats gave favourable treatment
to the McCanns.