15 years ago, Madeleine McCann disappeared from a holiday resort in Portugal and was never found. However, the discovery of a new suspect has sparked renewed hope for answers and closure.
On May 3, 2007, Madeleine McCann, a young girl of three years old, vanished from the Portuguese holiday destination of Praia da Luz on the Algarve. This case remains unsolved and continues to garner widespread attention from both the public and the media.
Kate and Gerry McCann, Madeleine’s parents, issued a statement on the Find Madeleine website in May 2021 to mark their daughter’s upcoming 18th birthday. They reiterated their desire to be reunited with their child someday.
“Each May is a difficult reminder of the years that have passed, the time we’ve lost, or had stolen from us,” they wrote. “Despite this, we hold onto the glimmer of hope, no matter how small, that we will be reunited with Madeleine once more.”
Kate and Gerry McCann have repeatedly stressed the importance of uncovering the fate of their beloved daughter, stating that they need to know what has happened to her, regardless of the circumstances. They have expressed their gratitude towards the police for their unwavering efforts in the ongoing investigation.
As they marked yet another sorrowful anniversary earlier this year, the McCann reiterated that discovering the truth about Madeleine’s disappearance remains essential. It is imperative for them to get to the bottom of what happened to their daughter.
The case of Madeleine McCann began when her parents, Kate and Gerry, who were both affluent doctors, went on holiday with their three-year-old daughter, Madeleine, and her two-year-old twin siblings, along with a group of seven family friends and their children. They stayed at the Ocean Club in the village of Praia da Luz on the southwestern coast of Portugal, starting from April 28, 2007.
On May 3, 2007, the adults in the party went out for dinner at the resort’s open-air tapas bar at around 8:30 PM, leaving the children asleep in their respective apartments. The doors were unlocked, and the parents had a rota system in place to ensure that someone checked on them every half-hour.
The recent emergence of a new suspect in Germany has rekindled the hope of finally solving the mystery of Madeleine’s disappearance. This serves as a reminder of the events of the case, which has captivated the attention of the public and the media for over a decade.
At around 10 PM, it was Kate McCann’s turn to check on the children, and upon returning to her apartment, she discovered that Madeleine was missing. She immediately rushed back to the restaurant and screamed, “Madeleine’s gone! Someone’s taken her!” The police were called immediately, and 60 staff members and fellow guests searched the complex throughout the night, calling out her name to no avail.
The authorities alerted the border police and airport staff, and hundreds of volunteers joined the search efforts in the following days, causing the case to gain widespread attention and become a sensation.
The Portuguese authorities faced scathing criticism for their handling of the initial hours of the Madeleine McCann investigation. Many accused them of making rudimentary mistakes that might have compromised the investigation’s progress. For instance, they failed to conduct a thorough search of every local residence or interview all of the guests at the resort, and were slow to establish roadblocks. Furthermore, their carelessness and incaution at the crime scene potentially compromised valuable forensic evidence.
Critics argue that these errors were made when the trail might still have been warm, suggesting that the authorities missed vital opportunities to identify suspects and gather evidence. The handling of the case by the Portuguese authorities has been a subject of intense debate and speculation, with many questioning the effectiveness of their investigative procedures.
As the investigation continues, the search for Madeleine McCann remains a pressing priority for her family and supporters around the world.
On the outset of the investigation, law enforcement officials made an initial assertion that Madeleine, the missing child, was alive and that she had been taken from her room by an unknown individual. Meanwhile, her parents were vocal about their heartache and misery over their daughter’s disappearance – a situation that is undoubtedly every parent’s nightmare.
As the inquiry progressed, police officers released a description of a suspicious-looking man seen on the night of the abduction. Jane Tanner, a dining companion of the McCanns, reported that she had spotted a Mediterranean-looking man with dark hair and beige pants carrying a child near the apartment when she went to check on her own children. However, this sighting was later discredited by Scotland Yard.
Despite the dismissal of Tanner’s testimony, the search for Madeleine persisted throughout the summer, and the case attracted a frenzied media frenzy, with massive fundraising events underway. The McCanns set up Madeleine’s Fund to generate finances to further the investigation, and to maintain public awareness of the case. The foundation drew the support of numerous high-profile individuals, such as Richard Branson, Simon Cowell, JK Rowling, and Coleen Rooney, who made generous donations. By May 30, the case was so prominent that they were flown to the Vatican in Sir Phillip Green’s Learjet to meet the Pope.
Later, Robert Murat, a local man, became the primary suspect in the case. Police officers searched his house and car, drained his swimming pool, and confiscated his electronic devices. Nonetheless, no evidence was discovered to link him to Madeleine, and the issue was subsequently dismissed.
As the summer wore on, Portuguese authorities acknowledged that they had not safeguarded potentially vital evidence at the scene, causing frustration as the lack of progress continued. The media began to question whether the McCanns themselves had played a role in their daughter’s disappearance, with tabloids publishing salacious allegations of the couple and their friends being involved in swinging. Others alleged that, as physicians, the McCanns had a history of administering sedatives to their children, while some pointed out discrepancies in their accounts of events.
Roy Greenslade of The Guardian once described the hostility directed towards the McCanns as a “sustained campaign of vitriol against a grief-stricken family,” with particular condemnation towards The Daily Express and Daily Star.
In July, former South African police officer Danie Krugel’s offer of assistance was debunked, while British police brought in two springer spaniel sniffer dogs to search for DNA. As Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan noted in their book Looking for Madeleine, relations with local authorities became increasingly strained as British involvement in the Portuguese inquiry grew.
By August, 100 days had passed since Madeleine’s disappearance, and police were forced to admit that they may never find her. At this point, the case was reclassified as a murder inquiry rather than an abduction case.
In September, the McCanns themselves were interviewed as suspects by Portuguese police, who had allegedly discovered DNA evidence from the missing girl in the boot of their rental car. The couple denied any involvement in their daughter’s disappearance, despite being treated as suspects until the following July.
On 9 September, the McCanns were allowed to return to Britain, but the following day, Chief Inspector Tavares de Almeida signed a damning report accusing the couple of concealing Madeleine’s body and faking an abduction. A public prosecutor subsequently applied for the confiscation of the McCanns’ personal belongings.
Chief Inspector Goncalo Amaral, who was leading the investigation, was removed from the case on 2 October after alleging that British police were biased towards the McCanns. Amaral would later publish a book, Maddie: The Truth of the Lie, which resulted in a lengthy libel battle with the McCanns that dragged on for years.
Back in Britain, Gerry McCann speculated in a video that his family had been watched by a “predator” during their stay in Praia da Luz, while his wife believed that a potential perpetrator could have seen a note in the resort’s guest book that detailed their dining arrangements on the night of Madeleine’s disappearance. In January 2008, the couple released a sketch of a “creepy man” that other holidaymakers had reportedly seen loitering around the Ocean Club.
As the one-year anniversary of Madeleine’s disappearance approached in April, Portuguese police conducted further interviews with the McCann’s friends in Leicestershire.