Madeleine McCann

Madeleine McCann vanished into thin air when she was three years old. In 2007, the young British girl vanished from her family’s hotel room in Portugal. The confounding incident has since become “modern history’s most heavily reported missing-person case.”

There were no signs of forced entry or a logical explanation for how it occurred. Over the next few weeks, theories ranged from a stranger abducting Madeleine to her own parents covering up her accidental death. A child sex-trafficking ring was also mentioned.

Madeleine McCann

Four months after Madeleine McCann’s disappearance, her parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, were named as formal suspects by the Portuguese police. However, due to a lack of evidence, that designation was later revoked. The incident quickly took on an international dimension, with authorities and publishers from all over the world weighing in.

Scotland Yard launched its own investigation in 2011, while the Portuguese police investigated new theories. Meanwhile, the British media circus surrounding this story was only matched by Princess Diana’s death. Tottenham Hotspurs even got involved, wearing Madeleine McCann t-shirts before a big soccer game.

Madeleine McCann
Players of the Tottenham Hotspurs lined up in Madeleine McCann shirts before a Barclays Premier League match against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. August 11, 2007. Sunderland, England.

As recently as January 2020, some people, including former detectives, called Madeleine McCann’s disappearance “unsolvable.” However, just five months later, police in Braunschweig, Germany, named a new suspect in the case, Christian Bruckner. Prosecutors there remain convinced that he is their man and hope to file charges against him in 2022.

However, with that investigation still ongoing and a flurry of conspiracy theories running parallel to the official investigations, the truth remains elusive. Madeleine could be gone for good, and the mystery surrounding her disappearance may never be fully solved.

When Did Madeleine McCann Go Missing?

Kate and Gerry McCann took their three-year-old Madeleine and her two-year-old twin siblings on vacation to Praia da Luz (“Beach of Light”) in Portugal in 2007. They rented an apartment on the ground floor.

Madeleine McCann
On the left is Madeleine McCann at age three. The image on the right is an age-progressed depiction of how she may have looked at age nine

Madeleine McCann vanished from that room at 8:30 p.m. on May 3, 2007, when her parents left to meet friends for dinner at a tapas restaurant. They left the girl and her siblings sleeping in the room.

The McCanns only remembered Maddie asking over breakfast that morning, “Why didn’t you come when [my brother] and I cried last night?” This led them to believe that an uninvited guest had entered the room — possibly more than once.

Madeleine McCann
On Madeleine McCann’s fourth birthday, just days after she disappeared, onlookers gather outside the Ocean Club apartments in Praia da Luz.

Because the restaurant was so close to the apartment, the McCanns kept an eye on their children throughout dinner. Kate McCann noticed her daughter was missing around 10 p.m. Their lives would never be the same after that. Since then, Madeleine has not been seen.

The Disappearance Of Madeleine McCann

Robert Murat, 33, was one of the first suspects in Madeleine McCann’s disappearance. The McCanns’ apartment was close to the British-Portuguese real estate consultant. Around 9:15 p.m. that night, a man carrying a child was seen walking in the direction of Murat’s house.

Of course, no one knew Madeleine was missing or that the child being carried was possibly her. Murat’s status as a suspect was later lifted after no solid evidence linked him to the case.

An artist’s impression of the man seen carrying a child the night Madeleine McCann disappeared

Four months after Madeleine McCann went missing, police in Portugal added Madeleine’s parents to their list of arguidos, or suspects. Some cops believed the girl died in their apartment and that the alleged child abduction was fabricated entirely to cover up her death.

While that may seem harsh to parents whose child has been missing for an agonizingly long time, authorities had reasons to suspect them. British police reportedly brought two sniffer dogs to the scene in July 2007.

One canine was specifically trained to detect human blood, while the other was trained to detect the scent of dead bodies. The animals were walked through several locations, but only inside the family’s apartment — and while inside the Renault Scenic rental car that the McCanns rented 24 days after their daughter went missing.

According to authorities, Gerry and Kate McCann may have hidden their daughter’s body, staged the abduction, and then placed the body in the car weeks later. With the body still undiscovered, police believe the two adults hid it in an unknown location.

On the first anniversary of Madeleine McCann’s disappearance, ribbons and messages were tied to a fence in Madeleine’s hometown of Rothley, Leicestershire.

The motive for this cold-blooded act committed by the McCanns was quite mundane: an accident and the resulting fear of prison. According to the theory, Gerry and Kate McCann, both doctors, gave their daughter too much sedative to put her to sleep.

While it appeared to be a harmless way to get an uninterrupted dinner with adults, the medication allegedly killed Madeleine, leaving her terrified parents desperate to stay out of jail. The hair and fiber analysis from the car and the apartment eventually led authorities to suspect the parents.

However, sniffer dog evidence is rarely impenetrable. In one case in the United States, a judge agreed with an analysis of three dogs’ performances, which revealed that they were incorrect 78 percent, 71 percent, and 62 percent of the time. The DNA analysis, on the other hand, was a little more convincing.

According to John Lowe of the UK’s Forensic Science Service (FSS), 15 of the 19 components of Madeleine’s DNA profile were discovered in the hire car. Nonetheless, there were enough caveats to cast some reasonable doubt.

Kate McCann speaks at a London book launch for her book about Madeleine McCann’s disappearance

“It’s critical to emphasize that each parent will receive half of Madeleine’s profile,” he said. “It is not possible to determine or evaluate which specific DNA components pair with each other in a mixture of more than two people… As a result, we cannot answer the question: Is the match genuine, or is it a chance match?”

Kate and Gerry McCann’s suspect status was removed in July 2008. They called the initial suspicion of them “ludicrous.” Meanwhile, nearly 13 years after her disappearance, they continue to hope that Madeleine will be discovered. Meanwhile, numerous alternative theories have emerged.

Where Is Madeleine McCann? Theories About Her Disappearance

Kate and Gerry McCann go to the Vatican for Pope Benedict XVI’s weekly audience. A photograph of Madeleine was blessed by Pope Francis.

One theory revolves around a botched burglary. After waking up and witnessing the crime, Madeleine is said to have been abducted. Scotland Yard hasn’t ruled it out, but it’s also possible that robbers would act in a panic, leaving obvious clues behind.

Nonetheless, police identified four Praia da Luz residents who appeared to fit the description. Their whereabouts at the time of Madeleine McCann’s disappearance fit a burglary pattern. The men were detained in 2014 but released after Scotland Yard discovered no concrete evidence against them.

Carlos Anjos, the former head of the Policia Judiciaria officers’ union, never thought this was a valid hypothesis in the first place.

“This burglary theory is ridiculous,” he declared. “Not even a wallet vanished, no television vanished, nothing vanished.” “A child has vanished.”

Another theory holds that Madeleine was kidnapped by a local paedophile. According to reports from 2009, the area was “awash with paedophiles” at the time of her disappearance. “There are 38 known sex offenders in the Algarve,” one source said at the time. The area attracts paedophiles.”

Madeleine McCann's disappearance
Praia da Luz is a popular holiday destination for many Brits. The town was said to be teeming with paedophiles at the time of Madeleine McCann’s disappearance.

“There have been seven sexual assaults involving children of tourists in the Algarve in the last four years,” the source continued. They all follow the same pattern as Madeleine’s disappearance: a break-in at a vacation apartment and child molestation. Five occurred prior to Madeleine’s kidnapping, and two occurred afterward. One occurred a month before she vanished.”

Strangely, former MP Sir Clement Freud, who had a vacation home there and knew the McCann, was later exposed as a paedophile. When one of his former victims discovered he knew Madeleine’s parents, she felt “uneasy”: “Nobody else would have thought Freud capable of abuse and rape, but he did it to me.”

Madeleine posters
In Rabat, Morocco, primary school students hold Madeleine posters. Kate and Gerry McCann flew there after hearing that their daughter had been seen in the area

Nonetheless, investigators noted that paedophiles rarely risk breaking into a home in order to gain access to a child. Another theory holds that Madeleine went outside after waking up and was hit by a car. The driver may have panicked and then dumped the body. That theory, however, is rather flimsy.

According to Maddie’s family, she couldn’t even open the heavy shutters of the window, let alone climb out to go outside. Most importantly, why would the girl have wandered into the darkness, which led to the road, rather than the festive restaurant area?

Madeleine McCann Case is Still unsolved

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