The parents of abducted toddler Madeleine McCann have vowed not to lose hope as
International Missing Children's Day is marked around the world.
In a message carried this morning in the Portuguese press, Gerry and Kate
McCann identified with parents of missing children in all countries.
The couple thanked "everyone throughout Portugal and beyond for the
overwhelming love, support and hospitality they have shown us since Madeleine's
The youngster was abducted from her holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, on the Algarve, Portugal, just over three weeks
ago, as Mr and Mrs McCann dined nearby.
The couple also praised Portuguese police for "their hard work and
determination" during the investigation.
They added: "We, like parents of missing children around the world, will
not lose hope. The only thing that will make us happy is Madeleine's safe
return, something every parent will understand."
To mark International Missing Children's Day, a picture of the missing
four-year-old was beamed onto Marble Arch in London last night.
Later, Mrs McCann is expected to attend a private lunch with a children's
charity as Madeleine becomes the focus of events across Europe.
In Britain, Mr McCann's
brother John will visit the London
head office of the National Missing Persons Helpline to highlight its work.
International Missing Children's Day originates from the disappearance on May
25, 1979, of six-year-old Etan Patz in New
York. According to the US Department of Justice
797,500 children are reported missing each year.
EU figures show that in Italy
around 1,850 minors go missing each year, with just over 1,000 in Belgium. In the
Home Office estimates show 210,000 people reported missing each year with up to
two-thirds under the age of 18.
The figures include runaways and family tug-of-love snatches.