McCann, bottom right, with her parents and twin
are searching for a 3-year-old British girl who went missing on
a family holiday in Portugal last
night and may have been abducted.
Madeleine McCann disappeared from
her family's hotel room at the Ocean Club in Praia da Luz, in
the Algarve, while her parents were eating tapas just 50 metres
According to friends and
relatives, her mother, Kate McCann, came back to check on her
three children and found Madeleine's 18-month-old brother and
sister asleep in cots on either side of her empty bed. The
window had been forced open and the door left ajar.
"They were all sound asleep,
windows shut, shutters shut," said Trish Cameron, Madeleine's
aunt. "Kate went back at 10pm to check, the front door was lying
open, the window had been tampered with, the shutters had been
jammied open, and Madeleine was missing."
"It looks as if somebody has come
in the window, that's either been watching or they've targeted
The McCanns, from Rothley,
Leicestershire, are on holiday with eight other couples and
their young children. Madeleine, described by Ms Cameron, as an
"absolutely gorgeous, wee girl", is almost four and due to start
school in September.
"Everybody has been praying all
night," Ms Cameron told BBC News 24. "Everybody's just... We
can't believe this has happened."
John Hill, the manager at the
British-run Mark Warner resort, said Madeleine's parents and
twin siblings were distraught and that sniffer dogs had been
brought in to comb the resort, while border police in
had been alerted to her disappearance.
He denied reports that the
windows to the apartment had been forced open, while another
spokesman said a set of French windows had been left unlocked.
"It was a very emotional and very
frantic night and everyone did a fantastic job of getting
involved and trying to search the area," said Mr Hill, who added
that residents of the Portuguese village joined hotel guests and
staff to trawl along the beach and local roads, looking for
signs of the girl.
"As you can imagine, Madeleine's
parents are distraught and not doing very well at all."
Mr Hill said there was no
physical evidence as yet that the girl had been abducted and
that the staff at the Ocean Club, a holiday resort of
villa-style rooms, boutiques and restaurants, were still hoping
to find her nearby.
"It's still questionable as to
whether it's an abduction," he said. "We are hoping that
Madeleine is found as soon as possible and safe and well.
Everybody here is just wishing that she is found as soon as
The Foreign and Commonwealth
Office said that the alarm had been raised immediately by the
girl's parents and that the British Consul in Portimao, Bill
Henderson, had gone to the resort to offer what support he
A spokesman for Mark Warner,
which has run the Ocean Club for two years, said that a drop-in
creche was available to look after children while parents ate
their dinner between 7 and 11.30pm at the resort but that Mrs
McCann and her husband, Gerry, chose not to use it. Instead they
ate very close to their room and went back to check on their
children every half an hour.
The spokesman said that the
holiday company was willing to fly out members of the McCann
family to help with the search.
"Our priority is to find the girl
and to make sure that the parents are OK and there are masses of
people working on that," he said. "Our staff are looking after
them at the moment in whatever way they can but we can only
imagine how awful it is for them. We are all hoping that she is
asleep under a bush somewhere and we will find her soon."
The spokesman said that apartment
the family were staying in was surrounded by other villas, all
of which have "quite sophisticated" locks on the doors. Guests
are being asked if they saw anyone acting suspiciously in the
area, he said, adding that Mark Warner, which has a reputation
for running family-friendly holidays, has never had cases of
missing or abducted children before.
"We are hoping it's not that,
though," he said. "It's the last thing we want but we have to
investigate all avenues."
Neighbours in Leicestershire,
where Mr McCann works as a cardiologist and his wife is also
believed to be a doctor, described the family as "delightful".
"We are absolutely devastated.
They are a really nice family and good neighbours," said Penny
Noble. "They are delightful. We see them take their bikes up and
down and going for walks. Madeleine is a very happy-go-lucky
Tracey Horsfield, a nurse, said:
"They seem a really lovely family, protective of their children.
I see them going up and down the crescent. They are a protective
family who idolise their kids. I am hoping and praying that she
has not been abducted and that she has wandered off. They would
not let her out of their sight."