Amelie McCann has spoken out for the first time since her older sister Madeleine went missing 16 years ago during a family vacation.
On May 3, 2007, nine days before her fourth birthday, the three-year-old went missing while on vacation with her family in the resort of Praia de Luz in Portugal’s Algarve region.
Amelie, now 18, fought back tears as she lit a candle in her sister’s memory at a vigil held in Rothley, Leicestershire, McCann’s hometown, on Wednesday.
“It’s nice that everyone is here together, but it’s a sad occasion,” Amelie said at the vigil, where pictures of her sister were hung on railings, according to The Mirror.
Amelie was joined by her friend Georgina, who assisted her in reading messages left for Madeleine by well-wishers.
She later joined her parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, who remained silent during the vigil.
Kate’s close friend Fiona Payne, who was on vacation with the McCanns in 2007, was also present.
“We are here this evening to show our loving concern for Madeleine and for all young children who have been taken away from their families against their will,” said a priest attending the vigil on behalf of the local church.
“We are also here to encourage one another to keep hope alive and to pray for a renewal of strength after such a long time.”
After the event, Kate’s uncle, Brian Kennedy, 84, addressed attendees, saying, “Kate and Gerry are very moved by the size of the group who turned up.”
“People still gather after all these years – some come every time, some are new, and we are very grateful.”
“Sixteen years without someone and still not knowing where they are is a very long time,” he continued. Even if it was bad news, it would provide us with some closure. But even without a resolution, there is still hope.”
The toddler’s parents had left their three children sleeping in the apartment while they went to a nearby restaurant in 2007, returning frequently to check on McCann and her siblings.
When her mother went to check on the kids at 10 p.m., she was astounded to find the door and window to their bedroom wide open and the toddler nowhere to be found.
Last year, European authorities formally named German rapist Christian Brueckner as an official suspect in McCann’s disappearance.
Prosecutors previously stated that they believe the missing girl, who will turn 20 next month, was murdered.
However, he has not been charged.
Brueckner, who is currently serving a seven-year prison sentence, was accused of other sex crimes in the same resort region of Portugal as McCann was taken from her parent’s villa.
In 2022, Brueckner was charged with three counts of aggravated rape and two counts of sexual abuse of children.