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PostPosted: Tue Sep 01, 2009 7:14 am 
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With many thanks to Bren, Scylla and Impersonal


Friday May 4,2007

The father of missing three-year-old Madeleine McCann made a fresh emotional plea for help in tracing his daughter.

Following criticism of aspects of how the case had been handled he also expressed the family's thanks to the police for their efforts.

Appearing before a bank of cameras and a crowd of reporters Gerald McCann stood arm in arm with his wife Kate who was again clutching a pink teddy bear as she was earlier when the family were first seen in public following the disappearance which police are now treating as an abduction.

Dr McCann said: "First of all we would like to thank everyone here in Portugal, the UK and elsewhere for all your support during this extremely difficult time for our family.

"We are pleased that the family liaison officers from Leicestershire are now working closely with the Portuguese police in keeping us informed.

"We have no further information regarding the investigation but appreciate the significant effort everyone is making on our behalf.

"We would again like to appeal for any information, however small, that may lead to the safe return of Madeleine.

"Finally we would like to thank the media for respecting our privacy especially that of Madeleine's little brother and sister."

Detectives in the Algarve earlier said they are hunting a "suspect" after evidence appeared to rule out the possibility that Madeleine had gone missing by herself.

While Portugal's Judicial Police - the equivalent of Britain's CID - refused to give precise details of who they are hunting, they revealed that they believed Madeleine was still alive. Hundreds of tourists, British expats and Portuguese residents joined a search for her.

PostPosted: Tue Sep 01, 2009 7:14 am 
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Saturday May 5,2007
Mark Reynolds

THE three-year-old daughter of two doctors is feared kidnapped today after disappearing during a family holiday in Portugal.

Police are investigating whether little Madeleine McCann was snatched from their ground-floor holiday apartment while they dined out.

Kate McCann, a GP, and her husband, Gerry, a heart specialist, had left the toddler – dressed only in white pyjamas – sleeping with her two-year-old twin brother and sister.

As the parents ate in a tapas restaurant just yards away in Praia da Luz, western Algarve, on Thursday night, intruders are feared to have broken through shutters into the bedroom and abducted Maddy as she slept. The twins, Amelie and Sean, were not disturbed.

Specialist anti-kidnap officers from Britain’s Serious Organised Crime Agency were heading to the resort last night to help the Portuguese police.

Sniffer dogs scoured the area for any signs of the missing youngster. One dog, after smelling a piece of the child’s clothes, appeared to pick up the scent before it disappeared some 50 yards away outside a local supermarket.

The store’s CCTV was checked – but it had not been working.

The McCanns, both 38, from Rothley village, near Leicester, were due to celebrate Maddy’s fourth birthday next week.

They issued an emotional statement, saying: “We have received lots of support from friends, family and the public and the family are very grateful for that support.

“At this time, all the family’s focus is in assisting the UK, and in particular the Portuguese, authorities in securing Madeleine’s safe return.”

The youngster’s aunt, Trish Cameron, of Dumbarton, near Glasgow, said: “The phone went last night and it was my brother Gerry, distraught on the phone, breaking his heart.

“He said, ‘Madeleine’s been abducted, she’s been abducted’. They kept going back to check the kids every half-hour.”

On the last visit, at 10 pm, Mrs McCann went into the apartment, then ran out, screaming.

Mrs Cameron said: “The door was lying open, the window in the bedroom and the shutters had been jemmied open. Nothing had been touched in the apartment, no valuables taken, no passports. They think someone must have come in the window and gone out the door with her. It looks as if somebody has either been watching, or they’ve targeted her.”

Police were keeping an open mind about what happened. They were also investigating whether Maddy could simply have wandered off.

The apartment block in the Mark Warner complex is just 200 yards from the sea, and it was dark by the time the alarm was raised. But kidnapping remained the most likely explanation for the disappearance.

The McCanns had not employed a baby-minder, although the holiday company offers a free drop-in creche service or a paid-for private babysitter.

Dr McCann is a cardiologist at Leicester’s Glenfield Hospital. His wife is a popular family doctor in Melton Mowbray. A Portuguese police spokesman said: “They immediately raised the alarm and a search was begun, but so far there has been absolutely no sign of the girl. The fear is she has been abducted.”

Police sealed off the five-storey block and began taking fingerprints. Three police vans and three police cars were at the scene as four uniformed officers searched the family apartment. Forensic specialists fingerprinted the window sill of the McCanns’ ground-floor apartment.

A patio at the back of the block, believed to be attached to the family’s room, was sealed off with tape.

As soon as the disappearance was discovered, hotel guests joined a frantic search of the grounds until 4.30am.

Resort hotel manager John Hill said: “It was a very emotional and very frantic night and everyone did a fantastic job of getting involved and trying to search the area. As you can imagine, Madeleine’s parents are distraught and not doing very well at all.”

A Mark Warner spokesman stressed that the resort offered a “dining out service” providing creche facilities for children aged four months to nine years.

“We are all hoping that the child is asleep under a bush somewhere, and that we will find her soon,” he said.

He added that there was no physical evidence that the girl had been abducted. And he said Mark Warner had never had a child missing or abducted before.

Yesterday, Maddy’s grandparents, Brian and Susan Healy, from Mossley Hill, Liverpool, flew to join their daughter Kate. They said she felt the Portuguese authorities were not doing enough to find Maddy.

But Portuguese police said every possible theory was being investigated.

A close friend of the McCanns, Jill Renwick, said the parents were adamant their daughter had been abducted.

“They were just watching the hotel room and going back every half-hour,” she said.

“They went out about eight, went back in at nine, they were fine, went back in at 10 – and she was gone. They are very, very anxious parents and very careful and they chose Mark Warner because it is a family-friendly resort.”

Another friend, Pat Perkins, 61, said: “Gerry and Kate are fantastic parents and could see the bedroom from the hotel restaurant.

“Madeleine’s a beautiful little girl. It’s her fourth birthday soon. They were supposed to be flying home tomorrow to celebrate. We can’t believe what’s happening. We’re sat by the phone waiting to hear news. We’re all going through hell.”

Praia da Luz resident Mark McCarrick said the girl might have simply walked out of her room.

“The parents left the door ajar so they could keep going over and looking at her,” he said. “We are hoping that because the door was open, she just walked out.”

The resort, set in sub-tropical gardens, is made up of self-catering cottages and low-rise apartment blocks. Though a popular, quiet holiday haven for Britons, it has also attracted “unsavoury types”, mainly burglars, who target holidaymakers.

Last night, the Foreign Office confirmed that the British anti-kidnap unit was in contact with the McCanns’ local police force and a liaison officer based in Lisbon was in contact with Portugal’s police chief.

PostPosted: Tue Sep 01, 2009 7:15 am 
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Sunday May 6,2007

By Matt Drake and David Paul
KIDNAPPED toddler Madeleine McCann is in the clutches of a paedophile, Portuguese police said last night.

Detectives are convinced the three-year-old is still alive and they believe she is being held in a lair no more than three miles from the luxury holiday apartment where she was snatched from her bed.

A prime suspect has been identified, thanks to more than 30 witnesses contacting police with his description and a desperate hunt to find him was under way yesterday. But detectives were last night refusing to release copies of a sketch of Madeleine’s kidnapper in case he panics for fear of being caught and kills her.

Dozens of tourists in Praia da Luz in the western Algarve abandoned their holidays yesterday to join police search teams and local residents looking for golden-haired Madeleine.

And volunteers from more than an hour’s drive away from the seaside village of Praia da Luz have been turning up at the Mark Warner resort in the village offering their services.

I cannot deny we are looking for a paedophile
Director of judicial police, Guilhermino Encarnacao

Search co-ordinator Dave Shelton, 38, from Manchester, who has lived in the village for more than 16 years running an air conditioning company, said: “I came here first on Friday morning, I speak a little Portuguese and was helping police knock on the doors of all the apartments. Then people just started coming out of the woodwork saying, ‘We’ve heard, what can we do to help’.”

But despite the news of a prime suspect there was mounting criticism of the Portuguese police’s failure to respond quicker and more decisively when the youngster was first found to be missing at 10pm on Thursday.

Friends and relatives of the McCanns alleged yesterday that the search was only upgraded to a major investigation after the intervention of John Buck, Britain’s ambassador in Portugal.

Despite being convinced – for reasons they have refused to make public – that Madeleine is still in the Algarve, Interpol have been alerted about her disappearance and checks were being made at every Portuguese port and airport.

At a chaotic press conference held on the steps of a police station in Portimao yesterday, Guilhermino Encarnacao, director of the judicial police in the Faro region of Portugal, confirmed that the search is centred on an area no further than three miles from the swish Mark Warner Ocean Club resort where the McCanns had hired a ground-floor holiday flat for £1,600 a week.

“There is a prime suspect,” said Mr Encarnacao. “There is a portrait sketch of the suspect but I am not going to release it because it may put the little girl’s life in danger.”

When asked if he thought Madeleine was still alive he added: “Yes, I believe she is still alive. However, in Portugal such kidnappings are not only just for money, they can be for sexual abuse. I cannot deny we are looking for a paedophile.”

Forensic experts have sealed off the apartment, in a three-storey block, where Madeleine disappeared. Her parents had been dining at a Tapas bar several hundred metres away but had checked on Madeleine and their other children, two-year-old twins Sean and Amelie, every 30 minutes.

It was when Kate McCann returned to the flat that she found the shutters of the front window had been jemmied open and the door left wide open. Madeleine was taken while her brother and sister slept either side of her.

At one point yesterday morning sniffer dogs were taken into the apartment where Madeleine had been sleeping to pick up her scent before heading off around the Ocean Club complex and into the nearby village.

Yesterday the McCanns faced the grim task of returning to the apartment to take away Madeleine’s toys and clothing. The family have moved to another flat a few yards away while the increasingly desperate search continues.

Doctors Gerry and Kate McCann, both 38, from Rothley, Leicestershire, looked shattered as they collected buckets and spades, suitcases and other items from their holiday home.

Meanwhile, Gerry’s sister Philomena slammed Portuguese police for not doing enough to find Madeleine’s faster.
Speaking from her home in Glasgow she said Gerry was furious with the way the inquiry was being handled. “My brother is at his wits’ end. They’ve just played it down from the minute he first approached them.

“I mean, you can hear his voice breaking. His wife, she can barely stand up. She can’t sleep, she can’t eat.

“They spent seven hours in the police station yesterday. What for? It took three hours just to get a statement from Kate, and Kate is an extremely articulate young woman. What’s going on?”

The McCanns could have dropped all their three children off at a drop-in creche provided by the Mark Warner holiday firm at the Ocean Club while they dined out last Thursday, or paid for one of the firm’s staff to babysit for them at the apartment, but chose not to use either option.

That has sparked a wave of criticism of the couple, but yesterday their friends and family hit back.

Madeleine’s uncle, retired head teacher Bryan Kennedy said: “Kate and Gerry are highly responsible parents, very much devoted to the family idea.”

He added: “We understand that it is a pleasant resort which is supposed to be safe for families – just the type of place where you can put your children to bed and keep popping back to make sure they were safe.”

What do YOU think? Should Maddy's parents face criminal charges? Comment NOW on Have Your Say.

PostPosted: Tue Sep 01, 2009 7:16 am 
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Monday May 7,2007
David Pilditch

A 12-HOUR delay in alerting border police could have allowed kidnapped British three-year-old Madeleine McCann to have been taken out of Portugal.

It took that long for officers to warn police on the frontier with Spain and to issue them a picture of Maddy.

Last night, members of Maddy’s family vented their anger at the slow response in the critical early hours after she vanished.

They claimed it was left up to holidaymakers and hotel staff to carry out the first searches for her.

Police believe Maddy is in the clutches of a paedophile who snatched her from her bed on Thursday night while her parents dined at a restaurant just a few yards away.

They think she is still alive and could even be in a lair no more than three miles from the Ocean Club holiday complex on the Algarve, where the family are staying.

Police have identified a prime suspect and his description has been circulated to local bar and hotel workers. The Daily Express knows full details of the man but has agreed not to publish them at the request of the Portuguese police. They fear the kidnapper may panic and harm Maddy if he believes detectives are closing in.

Maddy’s GP mother Kate broke down yesterday as she spoke for the first time, appealing emotionally for her little girl’s safe return.

Clutching Maddy’s favourite toy, a pink cuddly kitten, Mrs McCann, 38, stood beside husband Gerry after a church service to pray for Maddy, who will be four on Saturday. Her voice choking with anguish, Mrs McCann said: “Gerry and I would just like to express our sincere gratitude and thanks to everybody, particularly the local community here who have offered so much support.

“We could not have asked for more. Thank you. Please continue to pray for Madeleine. She is lovely.” Consultant cardiologist Mr McCann, also 38, added: “From today’s service the things we are going to take are strength, courage and hope. We continue to hope for the best possible outcome from this for us and for Madeleine.”

The family spoke out as one of their friends offered a £100,000 reward for information that could lead to the return of Maddy.

Yesterday the couple released a photo of her taken just days ago during their week-long holiday. It shows the smiling little girl wearing a floppy sun hat and clutching three yellow tennis b*lls.

A witness at the resort saw a man leading a little girl away from the complex by the hand – but he did not see his face.

Yesterday the family, who are devout Catholics, turned to their faith for support to try to help them through their ordeal. They attended the 90-minute service at a 16th century church in the upmarket resort of Praia da Luz.

Agonisingly, yesterday was Dia de Mae in Portugal – Mother’s Day.

Traditionally, children hand their mothers a posy of flowers as a sign of love and to say “thank you”.

A 14-year-old altar girl took Madeleine’s place and walked up the aisle to present tearful Mrs McCann with red and pink roses.

Before the service, Father Jose Pacheco warned Mrs McCann of the tradition where children give their mothers flowers, fearing it may be too heartbreaking for her.

But she insisted that she wanted to be there.

The couple, from Rothley, in Leicestershire, were joined by eight members of their family and friends as they were driven the short distance to the church from their apartment.

Their two-year-old twins, Sean and Amelie, were being looked after by other relatives.

When she arrived at the church Mrs McCann wept as she spent eight minutes kneeling in silent prayer. She repeatedly kissed Maddy’s cuddly toy. Her husband put a comforting arm around her as they sat in the front row. Father Pacheco told the 150-strong congregation : “We were with the family from the moment of the event. You can’t be indifferent. Our heart is full of compassion.”

Emily Seromenho, who has an English mother and a Portuguese father, was chosen to give Mrs McCann her posy of flowers.

Emily said: “It is Mother’s Day in Portugal. It is traditional at Mass that we bring flowers and give them to our mothers and they lay them at the feet of a statue of the Virgin Mary.

“It is a way of saying, ‘Thank you for being my mother’. It is a special day. It is nice – but today it was sad too because of what is happening to Madeleine.”

Last night three family liaison officers from Leicestershire police were helping the couple through their ordeal.

Two specially-trained counsellors have also travelled from Britain to offer them support.

Maddy was snatched while the family were on a holiday organised by upmarket firm Mark Warner.

She was taken as her parents were dining at a tapas restaurant just the other side of the club swimming pool.

Mark Warner offers a crèche and individual babysitters but the McCanns chose not to use either.

Instead the couple were taking turns to check on the children every half-hour.

Yesterday the firm said six British families had asked for their holidays to be switched to another Mark Warner resort in Greece.

Two other families have cancelled their holiday at the Ocean Club and another group have returned home early.

PostPosted: Tue Sep 01, 2009 7:16 am 
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Friday May 11,2007
By David Pilditch and Matt Drake in Praia da Luz

THE parents of missing Madeleine McCann faced fresh agony last night when police announced they were scaling down the search.

Police and volunteers have been hard at work scouring the 150-square-mile area around the Algarve resort of Praia da Luz where Maddy was snatched from the family’s holiday apartment eight days ago.

But the officer in charge of the investigation has decided to call off the local hunt because nothing has been found.
The shock decision prompted increased criticism of their bungled inquiry into the abduction of the three-year-old Briton and the way the hunt for the toddler has been conducted.

Police spokesman Chief Inspector Olegario Sousa, said: searches of the local area “initiated as soon as the disappearance was reported” were “coming to an end”. He added: “All the places have been checked. The results are zero.”

But he added that police were “still looking” for Maddy. “We are pursuing lines of investigation. It was a decision of the officer in charge of the case. So I think they have changed something.”

Mr Sousa refused to confirm if police now believe Maddy is being held in another part of Portugal or has been smuggled abroad. “I will not speculate on this,” he said.

Maddy’s parents also faced the harrowing task yesterday of scanning CCTV film for a glimpse of their kidnapped daughter.

Footage at a garage in Portugal captured an image of three suspects, including a woman, with a girl who matched Maddy’s description. The camera also caught the car’s British number plate and the registration has been circulated by Interpol and British police.

We are pursuing lines of investigation. It was a decision of the officer in charge of the case. So I think they have changed something
Chief Inspector Olegario Sousa

Kate and Gerry McCann were driven at speed from their holiday apartment to a police station in Portimao to help officers examine the tapes after Mrs McCann again went to the local church to pray for her daughter.

Bill Henderson, the British Consul in the Algarve, was seen leaving the police headquarters while Mr and Mrs McCann were still inside.

Two of the three suspects in the CCTV footage that may show the missing girl have been identified by a man who claimed he caught them photographing his own child two weeks ago.

The witness, Portuguese-born Nuno Lourenco who lives in Germany, said the gang attempted to abduct his own young daughter.

He told detectives that he saw a man of English appearance photographing his daughter, described as strikingly similar in appearance to Maddy, on April 30 in Sagres, a town just a few miles from the holiday complex where the McCann family was staying.

The witness, who with his German wife has two children aged two and four, said he chased the man, who fled, jumping into a car with a woman and another man before speeding off. Mr Lourenco is believed to have provided the authorities with a photograph taken on his mobile phone.

The witness has told officers he was “100 per cent certain” they were the same people caught on CCTV with the girl matching Maddy’s description hours after she went missing.

The description of the woman also matches that given by a witness who spotted someone acting suspiciously outside Madeleine’s bedroom on the night of her disappearance. The CCTV footage from the garage shows a young girl with a blonde, middle-aged woman and two men. The child apparently wanted to say something, which made staff suspicious.

Crimestoppers has revealed that police are examining 14 potentially vital new leads after hundreds of calls from Portugal to a new number, 44 1883 731 336, set up because of problems with routing calls from Portugal to its normal 0800 555 111 number.

PostPosted: Tue Sep 01, 2009 7:17 am 
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Friday May 11,2007
By Geoff Marsh

THE DESPERATE father of missing Madeleine McCann insisted today his family would leave "no stone unturned" to be reunited with their daughter.

Gerry McCann, who was questioned by police yesterday and into the early hours of this morning, also said he had seen at first hand the resources being poured into the investigation.

He said that he and his wife Kate, who was standing by his side, were very grateful for all the efforts and offers of support they have received.

He said the couple had been moved by people’s willingness to do all they could to find the three-year-old, whose fourth birthday is tomorrow. More than a week after she was snatched from their Portuguese holiday apartment in the Algarve village of Praia Da Luz, he said the family continued to pin their hopes on a positive outcome.

His words of hope came after it was announced that the search efforts would be coming to an end. Volunteers have been told by police, who are organising the search mission, that police teams were being stood down.

After intense criticism of the Portuguese police in the British media, Mr McCann acknowledged the “strong desire” that officers had to find Madeleine.

Speaking briefly to reporters just a few metres from the spot where his daughter was abducted, we said: “We have now seen at first hand how hard the police are working in the search for Madeleine and their strong desire to find her.

“We have also seen the resources being put into the investigation.

“We are doing absolutely everything to assist the police with their investigation and will leave no stone unturned in the search for our daughter Madeleine.

“We are very grateful for all the efforts and offers of support that we have had from home and from around the world.

“We have been moved by the enormous willingness of people to do all they can to help find Madeleine.

“As we have said before, we remain positive and focused on the investigation.”

The couple were driven to the town of Portimao at lunchtime yesterday to be questioned.

While Mrs McCann arrived back at their apartment in Praia Da Luz before 11pm, her husband remained at the police station, which was otherwise shuttered down, continuing to work with police into the early hours.

But at 9.15 this morning the couple were already up and out, dropping off their twins, Sean and Amelie, at a creche nearby.

Four other people, believed to be friends of the McCanns, were also questioned yesterday.

It was reported in the Portuguese newspaper Correio Da Manha that police had two suspects in mind.

Although police said last night that there had been no arrests, the newspaper reported that the two suspects were at the police station yesterday and the McCanns had been shown them to see if they could identify them.

While the McCanns were out, there was intense police activity around the apartments.

At one stage officers from Portugal’s Guarda Nacional Republicana were seen dramatically leaping between third-floor balconies and climbing over rooftops, apparently examining possible access or escape routes for a child snatcher.

Local volunteers confirmed that the search has now been called off.

Dave Shelton, who has been co-ordinating volunteers and liaising with police, said: “They called me last night about 9.30 and said we are standing down the search.

“I’ve got to go and see some of the searchers, I have a few more coming out from England, but in all frankness I don’t see any point in us wandering aimlessly around without any co-ordination.

“I’m not a professional, I don’t know how long these things should go on for, how many days.

“But again, you don’t know if it’s because they have got other clues. They might have something else they are working on. I just don’t know and I don’t need to know.

“I think they are satisfied that the surrounding area has been scoured. She may be a lot further away or maybe still in this small area.

“Even the areas we were doing had been searched before.”

He added: “You’ve got to try and remain positive about it and just hope we’re going to find her.”

Earlier today a businessman offered a reward of £1 million for information leading to the return of Madeleine.

Stephen Winyard, owner of Scottish health spa Stobo Castle, made the offer earlier this week through The Times.

Mr Winyard, a 57-year-old father of three who lives in Monaco, said he was moved to come forward by photographs of Madeleine’s distraught parents.

He said: “When I saw their faces, I felt frustrated that no one else had yet come forward offering a substantial reward, and so felt compelled to do so myself.”

It was not the first reward to be offered in the case. On Saturday a colleague of Madeleine’s mother offered a £100,000 reward for help in finding her.

PostPosted: Tue Sep 01, 2009 7:17 am 
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Saturday May 12,2007
By David Pilditch in Praia da Luz

TODAY the parents of missing Madeleine McCann should be celebrating her fourth birthday.

Instead, they do not even know if their beloved daughter is dead or alive.

For increasingly gaunt mother Kate, the pain is becoming almost too much to bear and friends fear for her health.

But she and her husband Gerry will have to summon what reserves of inner strength they still possess to endure the cruellest of days as they wait yet again for news of their child who disappeared from a resort in Praia da Luz, Portugal, on May 3.

Instead of celebrations, they have arranged a special vigil at a church close to their Algarve apartment where they will pray for Madeleine’s safe return.

The couple also face the harrowing task of telling their two-year-old twins, Amelie and Sean, why they will be without their sister on her special day.

Yesterday the grim hunt continued as a British couple were questioned by police, and Real Madrid and former England football star David Beckham was the latest celebrity to appeal for a happy ending to the McCanns’ ordeal.

Amid speculation that Madeleine could have been taken over the border into Spain, her parents said they would leave “no stone unturned” to find her.

Thanking wellwishers for the support they have received from around the world, Mr McCann said he and his wife remained “positive and focused”.

He said: “We have been moved by the enormous willingness of people to do all they can to help.”

Mr and Mrs McCann had planned to return to their home in Rothley, Leicestershire, a week ago to celebrate Madeleine’s birthday.

Dozens of relatives and friends had been invited and a close friend had baked a birthday cake with the theme of Doctor Who, her favourite TV programme.

There had even been suggestions that the party might go ahead without Madeleine in recognition of the day’s significance. But relatives last night said it would be put on hold until her safe return.

However, balloons will be released at nearby Queniborough Hall this morning to mark Madeleine’s day.

Wellwishers are also planning to leave birthday cards at Rothley’s war memorial, which has become a focal point for locals to pray for Madeleine’s safe return.

Pub landlady Valerie Armstrong, who organised a vigil at the monument, said: “People in the village would like to mark Madeleine’s birthday but it was felt inappropriate to turn it into a party atmosphere.

“The family felt it would be better to wait for Madeleine to come home and have a party and a cake then.”

Hundreds of yellow ribbons of hope and messages of support and cuddly toys have been attached to railings surrounding the memorial.

Mrs Armstrong said: “The village green here is continuing to be a focal point, not just for those in this village, but all other villages.”

On the Algarve, there was growing concern over how long 38-year-old Mrs McCann could stand the torment. A friend who has flown out to help said: “We are worried about the state of Kate’s health. She has not slept or eaten since the night Madeleine went missing.”

PostPosted: Tue Sep 01, 2009 7:17 am 
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Saturday May 12,2007

The father of missing Madeleine McCann has described a "tidal wave" of devastation wreaked by her abduction.

At a special Mass held in Portugal on Saturday - Madeleine's fourth birthday - Gerry McCann told villagers that he and his wife Kate had drawn "strength, hope and courage" from the support they had received in Praia da Luz, across Europe and around the world.

Speaking with emotion but determination, he told the packed church: "We are looking forward to the day when Madeleine returns to us as a joyous one."

It is the first time he has spoken at length about the tortuous days he and his wife have suffered as they wait for news. He told the congregation at the tiny 16th century church of Nossa Senhora da Luz: "Today we should be celebrating the fourth birthday of our daughter Madeleine. Instead we have had to remember what a normal, beautiful, vivacious, funny, courageous and loving little girl that we are missing today.

"I like to think about the effects of Madeleine's abduction from us nine days ago like a tidal wave. The devastation - which was tremendous - was greatest for Kate and I."

The couple were showered with kisses, hugs and flowers as members of the congregation queued to greet them at the end of the service. His wife, who in recent days has appeared increasingly drawn, smiled as scores of villagers lined up to kiss her on each cheek. Among the presents which had been left at the front of the church before the service were a yellow fluffy duck, a multi-coloured striped handbag and a fluffy pink flower with a yellow smiling face.

The McCanns had spent much of the anniversary in private and away from the ill-fated Algarve complex from where their daughter vanished nine days ago. Meanwhile, as messages of support continued to flood in, a reward of £1.5 million was offered for information leading to Madeleine's safe return.

Stars including author JK Rowling, footballer Wayne Rooney and music mogul Simon Cowell all contributed to the fund. The Harry Potter writer pledged the largest single amount, although the figure has not been revealed, while Cowell pledged £50,000 and Rooney, together with his fiancee Coleen McLoughlin, offered £25,000.

Among the others pledging money to the fund were business leaders like Sir Richard Branson (£100,000), retailer Sir Philip Green (£250,000) and Everton chairman Bill Kenwright (amount not disclosed). Mr Kenwright told the News of the World, which announced the reward: "If it helps towards the reunion it will be the best cheque I've ever written."

The group offer is in addition to rewards of £1 million already made by a Scottish businessman and £100,000 from a colleague of Kate McCann. But despite the massive rewards being offered for information which results in Madeleine's safe return, there remains no evidence of firm leads.

PostPosted: Tue Sep 01, 2009 7:18 am 
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Missing: Maddy McCann

Saturday May 12,2007
By Richard and Judy

JUDY WRITES...I know Praia da Luz very well; from the time our youngest child was two we had an Easter holiday there every year until she was in her teens. Why wouldn’t you? It’s just a short flight to Faro Airport, the weather is almost always fabulous and the little resort itself is just about perfect for a family holiday.

An enormous, beautiful, sandy beach, lots of family-friendly restaurants, apartments and villas to rent at very reasonable prices and usually splendidly built and equipped. And full of children – usually British – so lots of friends for your kids to make around the pool.

Above all, it felt safe. Everyone on holiday there seemed of a type – young, middle-class parents with well-behaved children. No yobs, no groups of teenage girls intent on getting drunk and getting laid, no frightening gangs of youths behaving raucously outside the bars. There was nothing for teenagers to do anyway. Just one, very sedate club.

Anyone over 14 would have been bored to death. Which is precisely why we stopped going there when our own offspring hit adolescence.

I don’t blame Maddy’s parents one tiny bit.


But until then, a family holiday in pretty Praia da Luz was the absolute ticket; a sure-fire success and always a good time had by all.

So to see little Madeleine McCann’s anguished mother pleading for her daughter’s safe return outside the picturesque village church with its dazzling golden altar filled our family with disbelief. Sure, you don’t leave small children alone but if there was one place in the world where you could imagine nothing but friendliness and benevolence towards all children, Luz was it.

So Praia da Luz has retained a huge amount of affection in our own family memories. The Portuguese love children. I cannot remember a hint of anxiety about paedophilia soiling the white bougainvillaea-covered walls. Small children played alone on the beach while their parents ate lunch at one of the beach restaurants. It never occurred to either of us to worry about little Jack and Chloe as they joyously ran along the soft sandy shore. The only potential anxiety was that they would get out of their depth in the sea.

I don’t blame Maddy’s parents one tiny bit for leaving her in their apartment while eating at a tapas bar a mere 40 yards away.

We never stayed in an apartment complex; our large brood meant we rented villas, often outside the town, so there was no question of eating out without the kids. But I know the holiday complex where the McCanns were staying and it really does feel spectacularly safe, with mums and dads and children everywhere.

The “checking” routine is one we have often used in hotels, you have dinner downstairs while the children sleep in their room and every half hour one of you goes to check on them. Until this terrible case I would have thought any parent unwilling to do that was being a bit paranoid.

No longer. I’m incredibly sad that a little piece of family paradise will now, for ever, be tarnished with fear.

RICHARD writes...

SO THAT'S that then. The last big gun with the calibre to take on Gordon Brown decommissioned himself on Sunday. John Reid’s intended resignation and Tony Blair’s graceful exit speech four days later seals the deal; Gordon’s got that job he always wanted.

Future historians may scratch their heads about it all. Blair had to bow out earlier than necessary because of Iraq; everyone agrees on that. But hang on… didn’t Gordon think that toppling Saddam was the right policy, too? And didn’t Blair win a third term – comfortably – despite what he himself described as the “blowback” from the post-invasion meltdown?

Iraq didn’t cook the Prime Minister’s goose. The bird was plucked, stuffed and roasted by his next door neighbour in one of the messiest, most protracted coups in British political history.

It is only when you hear the private views on Brown held by some top Labour figures that you realise how much they loathe him. This bodes ill for the party’s future.

For all Blair’s urbanity and style at Sedgefield on Thursday, this was a Premier defenestrated in an untimely fashion. A very bad mistake has been made. And we all know by who.

PostPosted: Tue Sep 01, 2009 7:19 am 
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Sunday May 13,2007
By Matt Drake in Praia da Luz

Kidnap family's birthday pleas as police reveal new clue

THE parents of kidnapped Madeleine McCann issued a poignant appeal on their daughter's fourth birthday yesterday: "Please keep looking, please keep praying, please bring Madeleine home."


Sunday May 13,2007
By Matt Drake in Praia da Luz and David Pilditch in London

MADELEINE McCANN is believed to be still alive but in the clutches of a British paedophile identified to police by holidaymakers in Portugal.

That is the grim scenario the toddler’s traumatised family are trying to come to terms with as the kidnap hunt enters its 10th day today.

Police are also working on the theory that a gang may have been stalking Madeleine even before her family flew to the Algarve for their sunshine break.

Nine British tourists at the holiday complex where she was taken have been shown photos of child sex offenders known to have been in Portugal in recent months.

Now the search for Madeleine, who should have been celebrating her fourth birthday yesterday, is centred on one paedophile believed to have been picked out by the witnesses from a dossier of more than 100 police photos.

As the reward for Madeleine’s safe return hit £2.5million, her GP mother Kate and heart surgeon father Gerry issued an emotional plea for people to redouble their efforts to find her.

“On Madeleine’s birthday, please keep looking, please keep praying, please help bring Madeleine home,” the couple said in a statement.

“We would like to mark today by asking people to redouble their efforts. We know there is already a huge amount of effort and resources being put into the search for our daughter. We also know that offers of support are made daily. It is this that keeps us strong and gives us hope.”

Tourists at the Mark Warner holiday apartments in Praia da Luz have had their cameras and video recorders taken by detectives in the hope they may have inadvertently caught the kidnapper on film.

We would like to mark today by asking people to redouble their efforts
Kate and Gerry McCann

It emerged yesterday that Madeleine may have been bundled into a white van after being taken as she slept at her family’s ground floor apartment at around 10pm on May 3, while her parents were dining at a tapas restaurant 100 yards away. A police source revealed the small van was spotted several days in a row near the apartment complex. It was not part of the maintenance team and the vehicle has not been seen since the child was taken.

The same source told how detectives are working on a theory that Madeleine was “marked” for abduction before she left Britain.

Mr and Mrs McCann, both 38, of Rothley, Leicestershire, were taken early yesterday from the apartment complex to a villa a few miles down the Algarve coast. Friends of the family are growing increasingly worried for Kate, who has barely eaten or slept since her daughter disappeared. She appeared close to collapse during a church service in Praia da Luz on Friday.

It is believed the couple wanted to spend time alone yesterday with Madeleine’s twin brother and sister, Sean and Amelie, aged 18 months.

More than 100 people have now been shown CCTV footage of three suspects – two men and a blonde woman – seen with a small child at a petrol station near Praia da Luz on the night Madeleine vanished. The trio were driving a car fitted with British number plates and were heading east on the A22 motorway towards the Spanish border.
The number plates turned out to be false. One of the men seen at the filling station resembles a man wanted by Spanish police for the attempted rape of a 10-year-old girl in Gran Canaria last year.

One witness who has seen the CCTV images revealed the blonde woman is aged about 40 and has her hair tied in a ponytail.

One of the men is also 40, with short dark hair. The other man is in his mid-30s. Three days before Madeleine was snatched the same three suspects were spotted on the same beach as the McCann family. They were chased away by another holidaymaker after being caught taking photographs of young children.

One of the most poignant moments yesterday was the release of 40 balloons tied to messages for Madeleine from friends of her parents in the Leicestershire village of Queniborough, where the McCanns lived until moving to nearby Rothley.

One balloon carried a note which read: “Mummy and Daddy, Sean and Amelie – We’ll see you soon” and was signed with two kisses.

Hundreds of Britons living in the Algarve gathered in Praia da Luz yesterday to tie yellow ribbons around the railings of the holiday complex where Madeleine was snatched as a symbol of hope that she will be returned alive.

Businessmen including Virgin tycoon Sir Richard Branson and retail billionaire Sir Philip Green boosted the reward fund yesterday to £2.5million, the biggest in British criminal history. In Liverpool, Madeleine’s grandmother Susan Healy, 61, wept as she said: “We just have to keep on praying.” In Glasgow, Madeleine’s uncle John McCann held an emotional vigil for the youngster, lighting four candles on a cake and singing happy birthday before breaking off to pray for her safe return.

But in a chilling development, a German mother told yesterday how her six-year-old son Rene had been snatched from a beach 20 miles from Praia da Luz 11 years ago and has not been seen since.

In a touching message to the McCann family, Anita B (surnames are not made public in Germany for legal reasons), of Bergheim-Elsdorf, near Cologne, said: “We know what you are going through and how painful it must be.”

Rene disappeared on a beach while walking just 20 yards behind his parents. Each summer they return to the Algarve hoping to find him.

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