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Madeleine's parents: 'The guilt will never leave us'

Original Source: TIMES: 25 MAY 2007
From Times Online
May 25, 2007
The parents of Madeleine McCann have said that the “guilt will never leave” them for the failure to prevent the abduction of their daughter.

Kate and Gerry McCann used their first interviews to talk about how they felt 22 days after their daughter disappeared while asleep at their Algarve holiday apartment.

The couple were at a restaurant less than 50 meters from the apartment where Madeleine and their two-year-old twins, Sean and Amelie, were sleeping in Praia da Luz.

Mrs McCann returned at 10pm to find that their four-year-old daughter had disappeared.

Mr McCann said: “I think it's fair to say the guilt we feel having not been there at that moment will never leave us.

“We’ve tried to rationalise things in our head but ultimately what’s done is done, we have tried to look forward. If you think about the millions and millions of British families who go to the Mediterranean each year, really the chances of this happening are in the order of 100 million to one.”

His wife, a GP, said: “We were checking regularly on the children and it was during one of my checks that I discovered she had gone.

“I can’t really go into any details about but I’m sure any parent will realise how that felt. “Certainly the first few days the guilt was very difficult but as time goes on we feel stronger and we felt very supported.

“I think at worst we were naive. We are very responsible parents, we love our children very much. I don't think any parent could ever imagine or consider anything like this happening.”

Mr McCann, a consultant cardiologist, said that he was convinced that the children were safely asleep in a ground floor apartment on the Ocean Club complex.

“I think if you know the location here, we have been reassured by the thousands of messages from people who have either done exactly the same or said they would have done the same,” he said.

“For us it really wasn't very much different to having dinner in your garden, in the proximity of the location.

Mr McCann talked about the hurt the couple felt when they are criticised for their decision to leave their children alone in the apartment.

“No-one hurts you as much as the hurt that we had but we have tried to remain very positive in our outlook and even small levels of criticism make that hard when you're trying to do everything in your power to get your daughter back,” he said.

Mrs McCann clutched Madeleine favourite toy, a soft pink cat, throughout the interview this afternoon.

She has carried the Cuddle Cat with her everywhere since her daughter’s abduction.

“It’s something that Madeleine has with her every night. If she's upset or not well she has Cuddle Cat. It's provided me with a little bit of comfort, something of Madeleine close to me,” she explained.

The couple remained composed throughout the interviews with the British media. Criminal profilers have advised them not to show any overt emotions in public as Madeleine’s abductor could “get off” on images of the parents in obvious distressed.

Police in the Algarve issued their first detailed description of a possible suspect tonight.

Chief Inspector Olegario Sousa, of the region's Policia Judiciaria, announced that a man was seen carrying what could have been a child in the resort of Praia da Luz at 9.30pm on May 3, the night that the four-year-old was abducted.

The suspect - who was spotted near the scene of the child's abduction - is described as white, approximately 35 to 40 years old, of medium build, and 5ft 10ins tall.

The man was wearing a dark jacket, and had light beige trousers and dark shoes, Chief Inspector Sousa added.

The McCanns said that they did not see anything suspicious in the days leading up to their daughter’s disappearance and it had been their best family holiday.

Mr McCann said: “It was such a relaxing holiday, in fact, as a family unit up until that night it was as good a holiday as we have had with the children.”

His wife said that in the early days they did have negative thoughts about the welfare of Madeleine but they were now a lot stronger.

They said that in the first few days they felt like there was nothing “left in their tank” but the support network that they set up helped them.

Mr McCann said: “The analogy I like to use is when we were students and you got to your overdraft limit and went beyond it and there was nothing left in the tank. I think physically and mentally we were shattered but gradually as you get more on an even keel we got more into the black.”

Asked about the international response to his daughter’s disappearance Mr McCann told Sky News that it touched everyone, not just parents, as they were on holiday somewhere safe.

He said that he had seen so much good will and humanity that “one evil act has resulted in so much good”.

Next week the McCanns will start travelling abroad to promote the search for their daughter. The visits will begin with Spain, Germany and Holland as they have the greatest number of visitors to the Algarve. They may also go to Morocco and have been invited to Greece and the United States.

The couple will take Sean and Amilie on the trips in a private jet lent to them by the billionaire businessman Sir Philip Green, owner of BHS and the Arcadia Group.

Mrs McCann said that Sean and Amilie often talked about Madeleine but did not realise what had happened.

“They're really good, they're at an age where they're still quite young and it hasn't had the same impact as if they were a little bit older,” she said. “They do talk about Madeleine, they pick things up, and that's fine.”

Her husband added:” Many people say to us that this is a parent's worst nightmare and it is. It truly is, it's as bad as you could possibly imagine but if all three of the children had been taken it could have been even worse than your worst nightmare.

“We've got to be strong for them. They're here and they do bring you back to earth.”


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