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Original Source:  PEOPLE: SUNDAY 13 MAY 2007
13 May 2007 Rachael Bletchly In Praia Da Luz



MISSING Madeleine McCann's parents put on brave smiles yesterday as an emotional church service helped them cope with their agony.

At times during the weekend, distraught mum Kate clutched a rag doll she had bought for the tot's fourth birthday - but never got the chance to hand over.

And dad Gerry spoke of a "tidal wave" of devastation caused by her abduction ten days ago. What should have been a day of joy was agony as her family waited for news on the kidnapped little girl.

Maddie should have been blowing out candles on her Dr Who cake. But the only candles flickering were at sombre vigils for her.

Kate and Gerry, both 38, drew huge comfort from mass at the church in Praia da Luz, Portugal, where they were on holiday when Maddie vanished.

Gerry told villagers who have given heartwarming support: "We are looking forward to the day when Madeleine returns to us as a joyous one. We believe that we will see Madeleine soon and she will be safe and well and we will continue to hope."


As they left they were greeted by children holding balloons and a crowd of villagers, who applauded them.

Mr McCann told the congregation: "Today we should be celebrating the fourth birthday of our daughter Madeleine.

"Instead we have had to remember what a normal, beautiful, vivacious, funny, courageous and loving little girl that we are missing today.

"I like to think about the effects of Madeleine's abduction from us nine days ago like a tidal wave. The devastation which was tremendous was greatest for Kate and me."

And he added: "The devastation affects everyone we meet here in the resort and has affected this community.

"The tidal wave did not stop here, it has travelled many miles across Europe, across the sea to Glasgow, Liverpool, Leicester, Ireland, America, Canada, New Zealand and continental Europe, where we have many friends and family."

Gerry also spoke movingly of the "tremendous outpouring of warmth" from people in Portuguese.

GP Kate has lost almost a stone in weight since Maddie was abducted and is unable to eat properly or sleep without sedatives. She looked frail, gaunt and haggard yesterday.

At an earlier service, the couple followed a Portuguese tradition of wearing green and carrying green branches to the 16th Century church as a sign of hope.

Local mechanic Pedro Melo, 25, explained: "We want Madeleine's parents to know how much we care. We feel like crying for them. Their pain must be so great."


A picture of Maddie, whose face can be seen on lamp posts and in shop windows across the town, was pinned near the altar - set in a red heart.

As the service neared its end, a single piece of green string was passed through the crowd right to the back of the church until everyone was holding it - uniting them with the McCanns.


Back in the UK Maddie's relatives and family friends were also anxiously awaiting news.

A party in Glasgow planned for her birthday by uncle and aunt John and Philomena was put on hold. John, 48 said: "There was no point in having a birthday party without Madeleine - but the party has only been postponed, not cancelled.


"We are going to have it when she comes back and then it will be a massive party."

Philomena, 43, spent the day handing out 15,000 posters to football fans outside Glasgow's Celtic Park ground, hoping to jog the memory of supporters who may have visited Portugal.


Maddie's grandparents in Liverpool, Brian and Susan Healey, told last night how they were "storming heaven" for her. Susan, 61, said: "Please God she will be back to blow her birthday candles out. She loved to blow out candles.

"It is hard for everybody but with the help of our friends it's possible to keep going. We have to keep Madeleine in the spotlight, we have to have Madeleine brought home."


Brian, 67, pleaded to Maddie's kidnappers: "Please just bring her home. The support we have had is immense. We are storming heaven trying to find her." Friends in Liverpool have tied yellow ribbons and pink balloons to their fences. The village square inRothley, Leics, where the McCanns live, has become a place of pilgrimage for hundreds of people wanting to show support.

The war memorial has been decorated with a thousand yellow ribbons. Next to it stands a 3ft pink and white rabbit, flanked by dozens of teddy bears. Among the hundreds of scrawled notes were many from children, not much older than Maddie.


One from Alex, eight, and Cameron, five, read: "We are thinking about you on your birthday and hoping you will come home safely. Hope you get to cuddle the teddy soon."


Staff at Leicester's Glenfield Hospital, where Gerry is a cardiologist and at Kate's GP surgery in Melton Mowbray have held vigils.


The McCanns arrived back at their resort apartment at 4pm yesterday after spending the day with their twins Sean and Amelie, two, in a brave bid to carry on as normally as possible. Amelie was carrying a red balloon. Kate hugged Sean, who was carrying a green balloon. Gerry smiled and paused for photographs and kissed Amelie gently as they walked into the apartment.

Last night Kate arrived for Mass clutching a blanket from her missing daughter's bed. She was wearing shorts and a yellow top and held Maddie's Cuddle Cat tightly as she held her husband's hand. Green and yellow ribbons have been tied to the church doors - green the Portuguese symbol of hope and yellow in remembrance of missing Maddie.


Chancellor Gordon Brown expressed his sympathy for Maddie's parents.

At a meeting in Gillingham, Kent, the PM-in-waiting said: "Every parent will be sympathising in their hour of need."

Hundreds of ex-pat Brits gathered in Praia da Luz yesterday to tie yellow ribbons wherever they could in support.


The railings in front of their holiday complex were covered in the colourful tributes, alongside bunches of yellow flowers and cuddly toys.

Claire Borges, originally from Banbury, Oxfordshire, said: "We feel like we've been hit in the stomach. Every day you pray for good news."

Today is a Portuguese religious holiday known as Miracle Day - in which the faithful pray for lost causes.

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