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Tycoon flies Maddie's parents to meet Pope

Original Source: SCOTSMAN: 29 MAY 2007
THE parents of missing Madeleine McCann will fly to Rome today for their meeting with the Pope in retail tycoon Sir Philip Green's private jet.

The Top Shop billionaire businessman offered the 12-seater Gulfstream jet to Kate and Gerry McCann following their daughter's abduction.

It will be the first time Mrs McCann has left Portugal since Madeleine disappeared.

The four-year-old was snatched 26 days ago from the family's holiday apartment in the Algarve resort of Praia da Luz.

Sir Philip's private plane and crew will be at their disposal for the entire two-day trip.

The couple, from Rothley, Leicestershire, were expected to leave from a private air terminal near Faro airport this afternoon.

They will be greeted by the British ambassador to the Holy See, Francis Campbell, and stay at the British residency in Rome.

Tomorrow morning they will attend a general audience at the Vatican and will be introduced to the Pope at the end of the session. Mrs McCann wants to give Pope Benedict XVI a photograph of her daughter and the head of the Catholic church is understood to be happy to accept such a gift.

After their meeting, they will hold a news conference for the international media to keep the spotlight on Madeleine's abduction.

The visit comes on the day the couple released new video footage of Madeleine captured on a family friend's mobile phone.

The two short clips show her sitting on an airport bus and boarding the flight to Portugal.

In the clips, blonde Madeleine, now four, can be seen wearing pink shorts, a light pink top and trainers and holding a pink Barbie rucksack.

Throughout their nightmare ordeal the McCanns, devout Catholics, have leaned heavily on their faith. They have attended church regularly, visited Portugal's holiest shrine, Fatima, last week and believe the trip to Rome will be spiritually uplifting. It is hoped the Pope will refer to Madeleine during prayers in St Peter's Square.

The visit will be the first of a number the couple are planning to make to countries including Spain, Germany, the Netherlands and Morocco to raise awareness about their daughter.

Support for the McCanns has been worldwide, with the Find Madeleine site receiving more than 135 million hits.

Meanwhile, a group of parents said today they are launching a version of the Neighbourhood Watch scheme aimed at keeping paedophiles out of their area.

A recent attempted child abduction in the Boscombe area of Bournemouth, as well as the disappearance of Madeleine McCann in Portugal, has prompted residents in the Dorset town to take the action.

Heidi Romero, a 37-year-old mother-of-three, is heading the new Parentally Aware Neighbourhood scheme which will involve adults donning yellow bibs to patrol parks and escort children to schools. And signs will be placed in windows and across the area warning paedophiles to stay away.

Mrs Romero said: "The message to anyone interested in abusing children is we're here and we're watching - so stay away."


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