Police profile abduction suspect as hunt for
missing toddler widens
She should have returned home safely this weekend. Instead, on
the boulevards and whitewashed apartments of the Algarve
yesterday, pictures of Madeleine McCann's three-year-old face
were fluttering in the warm coastal breeze.
Along with her parents, Gerry and Kate McCann, who are both
doctors, and her close-knit extended family, it seemed that
everyone in the resort of Praia da Luz was keeping a vigil for
her safe return. They were praying that she would be home to
blow out the candles on her birthday cake next Saturday.
'Everyone knows what it's like when a child goes missing for a
short while and you worry like mad,' said Brian Kennedy, Kate McCann's uncle.
'As the days go by it gets harder because you
start by hoping for the best and then begin to start fearing the
'Friends are planning a party for her birthday on Saturday and
baking her a cake on the Dr Who theme because it's one of her
favourite programmes. I've told them to continue with those
plans. We've got to remain optimistic.'
Guilhermino Encarnacao, head of the judicial police in Faro,
said that Madeleine had been abducted from the Ocean Club
complex on Thursday evening. She is believed to have been taken
as she slept alongside twins Sean and Amelie, her two-year-old
brother and sister, in their apartment in the Mark Warner
complex. Her parents had been dining with friends at a tapas bar
nearby, checking on the children every half hour.
An image of a suspect was being drawn up by police. Encarnacao
believed the three-year-old was still alive. Searches were going
on including at two campsites a few miles away.
In a televised statement broadcast across Portugal
yesterday, Gerry McCann, a hospital cardiologist from
Leicestershire, appealed for the safe return of his daughter.
'Words cannot describe the anguish and despair that we are
feeling,' he said. 'Please, if you have Madeleine, let her come
home to her mummy, daddy, brother and sister.'
McCann and his wife, both 39, yesterday walked hand in hand
through the apartment complex. They had lunch with the twins at
the same tapas bar as the evening before. McCann returned alone
to the apartment, emerging with a suitcase and a bucket and
spade for the twins.
A friend at the resort, who did not wish to be named, said: 'It's
a nightmare. Every time the parents see Madeleine's face on
television they fall apart. We all do. We haven't slept for 24
hours. Please God they find her. The longer it goes on, the
worse it is. All we can do is pray.'
Police were conducting checks at airports and more than 150
officers were searching the area. Hundreds of tourists, British
ex-pats and local Portuguese were also helping with the search.
Madeleine's relatives and crime experts now suspect that she was
targeted by someone who had been watching the family during
their holiday. Roy Ramm, a former Scotland Yard commander, said:
'This is somebody who has planned this abduction quite
carefully. He has probably looked and observed this child during
McCann, a consultant at Leicester's
Glenfield hospital, and his wife, a part-time GP, were on a
week-long holiday with three other couples and five other
children when Madeleine was abducted shortly before 10pm on
The children could have been left in a free cr'he in the
complex. A babysitting service was also available for between
'12 ('8) and '15 an hour.
But the McCanns were eating only about 150ft from their
apartment. It is thought they felt they were close enough to
watch over their children.
Hotel sources said the apartment's french doors ' which faced
the restaurant where the McCanns were eating ' were unlocked by
the couple. Their line of view was, however, obscured by
bougainvillea and palm trees.
At 9.30pm Gerry McCann checked his children and they were sound
asleep, with Madeleine lying with her comfort blanket. Thirty
minutes later his wife returned and found Madeleine gone and the
shutter of the rear window open.
Trish Cameron, McCann's sister, said: 'Kate came screaming back
to the group crying, 'They've taken her, they've taken her'.
Gerry was crying and roaring like a bull.'
John Hill, the Ocean Club manager, said the alarm was raised by
the family between 10pm and 10.15pm: 'The staff, many guests and
the best part of the village started looking right away, a total
of 40 to 65 people. The police were called and started taking
details from the family and then took the decision to escalate
Silvia Batisa, head of administration at the complex, helped to
comfort the family and interpret their interviews with the
police: 'The parents were devastated, in a panic. They wanted
more police and dogs immediately. Kate said all the time,
'Please find my daughter' and 'Madeleine is beautiful'.'
She recalled that the twins were still asleep in their two cots
and there was the small, bright pink wool blanket that Madeleine
likes to hold when she sleeps. 'We walked out quickly so as not
to wake up the twins. The parents immediately said, 'She's been
kidnapped',' said Batisa.
Paul Moyes, 58, from Middlewich, Cheshire, was among those who helped to look
for the missing child: 'At 11.30pm there was a knock on the door
and there was a distressed gentleman saying that a child had
been abducted and could we help with the search. Everybody got
It is not known how the abductor entered the flat. Staff believe
it was likely that entry would have been through the french
doors because the shutters would have been damaged if they had
been prised open.
From the outset, the McCanns were convinced their daughter had
been abducted. There have been complaints from relatives that
the police were slow to respond to the situation.
Speaking from her home in Glasgow, Philomena McCann, Madeleine's aunt,
said: 'The local policeman was doing very little. The area was
not cordoned off for hours and hours. Kate and Gerry [were]
frustrated at the lack of activity. [The police] tried to
downplay the enormity of it and said Madeleine had perhaps
wandered off. That is the most ridiculous suggestion.'
Nigel Ragg, head of marketing at Mark Warner Holidays, defended
the police operation. 'It was felt by our staff that the police
reacted quickly. The search was escalated throughout the
evening,' he said.
The McCanns, who are both Roman Catholics, met as medical
University and were
married nine years ago. They spent a period working in Holland and moved to their home in Rothley,
Leicestershire, about two years ago.
Father Keith Tomlinson, the priest who baptised the twins a year
ago at the Sacred Heart church in Rothley, the family's church,
said: 'They are a lovely family. This is a terrible time and our
hearts here are with them. We will be praying for them.
'They came here most weeks and brought Madeleine. She is a nice
bouncy happy little girl. They are friendly and open and
obviously love one another and you sense that this is a husband
and wife who are united in love and who adore their children.'
Julio Barroros, the local mayor, said: 'We all hope that Maddy
will come home for her family and that England can breathe when she
Additional reporting: Will Iredale
British law does not set out the minimum age when parents can
leave children alone, but it does stipulate that it is an
offence if doing so might put them at risk, writes Jonathan
Experts are divided on just what this means in practice. The
National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children
believes that babies and toddlers should never be left alone,
whether asleep or awake, even for a few minutes.
Madeleine McCann, the three-year-old apparently snatched from
her bed, was in an apartment in a Portuguese holiday complex
while her parents dined and checked on her at least every half
'It doesn't take long for unsupervised young children or babies
to injure themselves,' said Chris Cloke, head of child
protection awareness at the charity. 'Put simply, it is too
risky to leave them alone at all at such a young age.'
Other experts take a more flexible view. 'It's the context that
is important,' said Professor Carolyn Hamilton, who runs the
Children's Legal Centre, a charity concerned with law and
policy. 'This couple had . . . clearly made a responsible
assessment of the risks and decided that they were minimal. They
could not have predicted the possibility of abduction.'
Accidents are the biggest cause of death for children over the
age of one. In 2005 about 250 children aged under 15 died in Britain
and more than 2m were taken to hospital, with about half of
accidents happening in the home.
However, many accidents happen while children are under
supervision and are caused by, for instance, lack of stair
Ben Needham, who vanished on the Greek island of Kos
in 1991 aged 21 months, was being supervised by his grandparents
who lost sight of him for only a few minutes. He has never been