three-year-old believed abducted from holiday apartment
The telephone rang at around 11pm at Trish Cameron's home near
Glasgow. She picked it up to hear the voice of her younger brother.
"He was distraught, breaking his heart," Mrs Cameron said. "He said:
'Madeleine's been abducted, she's been abducted.'"
Hundreds of miles
away in Portugal's western Algarve Gerald McCann, whose job as a
heart surgeon demands a calm, steady nerve, had lost any semblance
of control and was crying down the telephone to his older sister.
Just an hour earlier he and his wife Kate had returned to their
ground floor apartment in the Ocean Club holiday resort to find that
three-year-old Madeleine, the little girl they had left asleep in
her white pyjamas, had disappeared.
two-year-old twins, Sean and Amelie, lay undisturbed in their cots
beside the bed, making the absence of the child they call Maddy all
the more haunting. Nothing appeared to have been stolen from the
room, but the shutters seemed to have been forced, the window was
open and the main door unlocked, according to the family.
It was Mrs McCann
who walked in first. Minutes later she ran out screaming, according
to her sister in law. In the confusion and melee that followed, the
police were called and other holidaymakers woken to carry out a
search for the three-year-old, amid hopes that she was merely
But by the time
Mr McCann picked up the phone to his sister in Dumbarton the thread
of hope that Maddy had simply climbed out of the window and wandered
off had been eclipsed by the growing certainty that she had been
snatched while he and his wife ate tapas just 100 yards away within
the holiday complex.
The luxury resort
in Praia de la Luz, where Moorish-style villas sit amid sub-tropical
gardens overlooking a beach of white sand, was transformed into a
crime scene yesterday.
used a sniffer dog to check around the complex. The five storey
block where the McCanns were staying was sealed off and forensic
experts were dusting the shutters and windows of their two bedroomed
apartment for fingerprints. Those holidaymakers who were not taking
part in the continuing search for any sign of the child were handing
out photographs of her in the hope that someone either within the
resort or outside in the small village of Praia de la Luz would have
"She is an
absolutely beautiful wee blonde girl with blue green eyes," said Mrs
Cameron. "Her one distinguishing features is that one of her pupils
runs down into the iris of her eye, her right eye."
Office said a liaison officer from the Serious and Organised Crime
Unit was in touch with the Portuguese chief of police. Two officials
from the British Consulate in nearby Portimao were with the family
to help them as they dealt with the police, a spokesman said.
The couple were
being interviewed yesterday afternoon by Portuguese detectives, who
took them through their movements on Thursday night in detail.
Mrs McCann, a GP
in Leicester and her husband, who works in the world renowned
cardiac unit of Glenfield Hospital, in the city, flew out to the
Algarve with eight friends last Saturday for the week-long break.
eldest child, was going to be four next week and was due to start
school in September. Family friend Jill Renwick said it was the
first time they had been away somewhere with the children and that
they had chosen the resort with care. "This is the first time they
have done this. They are very, very anxious parents and very careful
and they chose [the resort] because it is family-friendly," she
week the family enjoyed the facilities in the resort, which boasts
four swimming pools, the beach and childcare from 7.30pm to 11.30pm
for those parents who want it.
On Thursday night
the McCanns went out after 8pm, having put their three children into
their pyjamas and seen them fall asleep in their bedroom in the
apartment. "They weren't out for long, and they could see the
apartment from the restaurant" said Brian Healy, Madeleine's
Mrs Cameron said
the couple checked on the children every half hour; the last check
was made after 9pm by Mr McCann. Some time between then and around
10pm when his wife walked into the room to find Madeleine missing,
the family believes an intruder broke in and snatched the girl.
Mrs Cameron said:
"Nothing had been touched in the apartment, no valuables taken, no
passports. They think someone must have come in the window and gone
out the door with her."
Paul Moyes, 47,
from Cheshire and his wife Susan, who own a holiday apartment in the
same block as the McCanns, said they were woken at 11.30pm by a
knock on the door and asked to join in a search for a missing girl.
"We went down to
the beach with scores of other people to look for her," said Mr
Moyes. "The police arrived at around midnight and by that stage we
were already out looking. There were uniformed police, plain clothes
and even off duty local officers who joined in.
"The search went
on all night, people were using torches, and in the morning police
sniffer dogs arrived."
exhausted holidaymakers began drifting away, having found no sign of
Madeleine. Back home in Dumbarton, Mrs Cameron spoke to her brother
again at 10am yesterday.
frustrating for him then because between 5am and 7am the police
seemed to do nothing, they were standing about," she said.
But the manager
of the resort, John Hill, said everything was being done to try to
trace Madeleine. "It was a very emotional and very frantic night and
everyone did a fantastic job of getting involved and trying to
search the area," he said.
yesterday the search continued for Madeleine. Mrs McCann's parents,
Brian and Sandra, flew out in the afternoon from Liverpool to join
their daughter and son-in-law, who met as young doctors in Glasgow
and married nine years ago in Liverpool. Mrs Cameron also packed a
bag to fly out to help her younger brother.
At the McCanns'
family home in the village of Rothley, Leicestershire, neighbours
and friends were praying that Madeleine would be found alive and
well. "We are absolutely devastated," said Penny Noble. "They are a
really nice family and good neighbours. They are delightful. We see
them take their bikes up and down and going for walks. Madeleine is
a very happy-go-lucky little girl".
neighbour, Tracey Horsefield, said that the family "idolised" Maddy
and the twins. She said: "They were really protective of the
children. I'm just praying that she's not been abducted. Let's hope
that for some reason she just wandered off."
At the cardiac
unit in Glenfield Hospital, staff were at work yesterday with one
eye on the phone - hoping to receive the call which would tell them
their colleague's child had been found safe and well.
Doug Skehan, a
consultant cardiologist who works with Mr McCann, said: "The mood in
the hospital is one of great concern and we hope that Kate and Gerry
will have their daughter back very soon."