Express 07 May 2007
[Now removed from internet]
12-HOUR delay in alerting border police
could have allowed kidnapped British
three-year-old Madeleine McCann to have
been taken out of Portugal.
It took that long for officers to warn
police on the frontier with Spain and to
issue them a picture of Maddy.
Last night, members of Maddy’s family
vented their anger at the slow response
in the critical early hours after she
They claimed it was left up to
holidaymakers and hotel staff to carry
out the first searches for her.
Police believe Maddy is in the clutches
of a paedophile who snatched her from
her bed on Thursday night while her
parents dined at a restaurant just a few
They think she is still alive and could
even be in a lair no more than three
miles from the Ocean Club holiday
complex on the Algarve, where the family
Police have identified a prime suspect
and his description has been circulated
to local bar and hotel workers. The
Daily Express knows full details of the
man but has agreed not to publish them
at the request of the Portuguese police.
They fear the kidnapper may panic and
harm Maddy if he believes detectives are
Maddy’s GP mother Kate broke down
yesterday as she spoke for the first
time, appealing emotionally for her
little girl’s safe return.
Clutching Maddy’s favourite toy, a pink
cuddly kitten, Mrs McCann, 38, stood
beside husband Gerry after a church
service to pray for Maddy, who will be
four on Saturday. Her voice choking with
anguish, Mrs McCann said: “Gerry and I
would just like to express our sincere
gratitude and thanks to everybody,
particularly the local community here
who have offered so much support.
“We could not have asked for more. Thank
you. Please continue to pray for
Madeleine. She is lovely.” Consultant
cardiologist Mr McCann, also 38, added:
“From today’s service the things we are
going to take are strength, courage and
hope. We continue to hope for the best
possible outcome from this for us and
The family spoke out as one of their
friends offered a £100,000 reward for
information that could lead to the
return of Maddy.
Yesterday the couple released a photo of
her taken just days ago during their
week-long holiday. It shows the smiling
little girl wearing a floppy sun hat and
clutching three yellow tennis b*lls.
A witness at the resort saw a man
leading a little girl away from the
complex by the hand – but he did not see
Yesterday the family, who are devout
Catholics, turned to their faith for
support to try to help them through
their ordeal. They attended the
90-minute service at a 16th century
church in the upmarket resort of Praia
Agonisingly, yesterday was Dia de Mae in
Portugal – Mother’s Day.
Traditionally, children hand their
mothers a posy of flowers as a sign of
love and to say “thank you”.
A 14-year-old altar girl took
Madeleine’s place and walked up the
aisle to present tearful Mrs McCann with
red and pink roses.
Before the service, Father Jose Pacheco
warned Mrs McCann of the tradition where
children give their mothers flowers,
fearing it may be too heartbreaking for
But she insisted that she wanted to be
The couple, from Rothley, in
Leicestershire, were joined by eight
members of their family and friends as
they were driven the short distance to
the church from their apartment.
Their two-year-old twins, Sean and
Amelie, were being looked after by other
When she arrived at the church Mrs
McCann wept as she spent eight minutes
kneeling in silent prayer. She
repeatedly kissed Maddy’s cuddly toy.
Her husband put a comforting arm around
her as they sat in the front row. Father
Pacheco told the 150-strong congregation
: “We were with the family from the
moment of the event. You can’t be
indifferent. Our heart is full of
Emily Seromenho, who has an English
mother and a Portuguese father, was
chosen to give Mrs McCann her posy of
Emily said: “It is Mother’s Day in
Portugal. It is traditional at Mass that
we bring flowers and give them to our
mothers and they lay them at the feet of
a statue of the Virgin Mary.
“It is a way of saying, ‘Thank you for
being my mother’. It is a special day.
It is nice – but today it was sad too
because of what is happening to
Last night three family liaison officers
from Leicestershire police were helping
the couple through their ordeal.
Two specially-trained counsellors have
also travelled from Britain to offer
Maddy was snatched while the family were
on a holiday organised by upmarket firm
She was taken as her parents were dining
at a tapas restaurant just the other
side of the club swimming pool.
Mark Warner offers a crèche and
individual babysitters but the McCanns
chose not to use either.
Instead the couple were taking turns to
check on the children every half-hour.
Yesterday the firm said six British
families had asked for their holidays to
be switched to another Mark Warner
resort in Greece.
Two other families have cancelled their
holiday at the Ocean Club and another
group have returned home early.