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Missing girl: mother asks for prayers

Original Source: GUARDIAN:  07 MAY 2007
Steven Morris and Dale Fuchs in Praia da Luz, Portugal
The Guardian
, Monday 7 May 2007

Sketch of suspect held back in case he panics
Three British officers fly to Portugal to help inquiry

The mother of three-year-old Madeleine McCann yesterday begged people to pray for her daughter as the police effort to find the missing girl appeared to be floundering. Speaking in the upmarket Algarve resort from where Madeleine vanished last Thursday night, presumed abducted, Kate McCann said: "Please continue to pray for Madeleine." Her voice cracked as she added: "She's lovely."

Her husband, Gerry, said the family continued to "hope for the best possible outcome from this for us and Madeleine".

But the police hunt for the missing girl seemed to have hit a brick wall. About 150 police have been involved but the only lead appeared to be a fleeting glimpse of a man seen from behind with a blond girl not far from the apartment where the McCanns were staying.

Portuguese detectives have refused to release a sketch that has been prepared of the suspect for fear it might panic him if he is holding Madeleine alive. The picture is understood to feature a man with dark, parted hair and bushy sideburns.

Two other witnesses came forward yesterday. One was an English man who has told police he saw a couple behaving suspiciously at the side of a main road near the resort shortly after Madeleine disappeared. He had an impression they were carrying a child, but they turned away from him as his headlights caught them. A second was a foreign woman who may have seen someone acting suspiciously near the apartment on Thursday night. She only realised the girl was missing when she returned to the resort yesterday.


The police have been criticised for not reacting more quickly when Madeleine went missing. They did not inform border police until the following day, a delay that could have given a kidnapper time to cross into Spain. Three British police officers arrived in the Algarve at the weekend and will liaise with the family and the Portuguese police.


Madeleine vanished from an apartment inside a complex run by the holiday company Mark Warner as her parents dined at a tapas bar about 100 metres away within the same centre.


Mr and Mrs McCann, a cardiac surgeon and GP, were checking the girl, who was sleeping next to her two-year-old brother and his twin sister, every few minutes. But when they returned at the end of their meal, Madeleine's bed was empty.

Police have taken fingerprints from a metal shutter on a window that looks on to a narrow car park and street. One theory is that an abductor forced the shutters.

Mr and Mrs McCann, and members of their extended family who have flown to Portugal to offer their support, yesterday attended mass at the village's Catholic church. At the start of the service Mrs McCann knelt, clutching Madeleine's favourite cuddly toy kitten.

The priest, Jose Manuel Pacheco, told the family: "We are with you, the parish is with you." Later he said to the couple, who are Catholics: "Our hearts are full of compassion, like God's."

After the service, Mr and Mrs McCann, from Rothley, Leicestershire, were enveloped by parishioners, first elderly women, then mothers with their children. Mrs McCann, 39, said: "I would like to offer my sincere gratitude to everybody, particularly the local community here who have offered so much support. I couldn't have asked for more. I just want to say thank you. Please continue to pray for Madeleine. She's lovely."

Mr McCann, 38, added: "From today's service, the thing we're going to take from this is strength and courage and hope. We continue to hope for the best possible outcome from this for us and Madeleine."

The international child protection group Innocence in Danger claimed that corruption and indifference among the Portuguese authorities hampers the country's investigation of paedophiles and child traffickers. Homayra Sellier, founder of the group, said she had tried to set up an office in Portugal but gave up because of pressure from the authorities. "I stopped it because I thought I couldn't fight against a country where the people do not want to know the truth," she said.


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