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Endless search: with the disappearance of the British girl Madeline McCann passed 11 years, but the police do not give up

The parents of the missing Madeline McCann hold a computer-generated image of what their daughter might look like when she was nine. PA pictures
The parents of the missing Madeline McCann hold a computer-generated image of what their daughter might look like when she was nine. PA pictures

May 3, 2018 will turn 11 years old with the disappearance of a three-year-old Briton, Madeleine McCann. In 2007, she and her parents were vacationing in Portugal, when in the evening she mysteriously disappeared from the apartment. Her relatives were in the restaurant about 50 meters away and checked her daughter every 30 minutes – in the interval between the checks she disappeared. In her search, investigators of the two countries participated, spending more than $ 19 million on the investigation (according to other sources , about $ 15 million).

Despite the futile efforts of detectives and the inability to test all possible leads, the UK continues to closely monitor the development of the case. In March 2018, the authorities allocated an additional $ 200,000 to continue the investigation, which is considered one of the most bizarre and incomprehensible in modern history of the country.

Disappear from own bed

In the spring of 2007, the couple McCann and their three children, three-year-old Madeline and younger twins, came from the UK to the resort village of Praia da Luz in Portugal. They were housed in an apartment on the first floor of a multi-storey building – several times its inhabitants complained about the black-haired men of unpleasant appearance who allegedly looked in the windows or went into the building under the pretext of collecting alms.

Two unknowns visited the apartments four times in the neighborhood of the McCanns shortly before Madeline’s disappearance, among them a man with a rash on his face and a big nose, as his two witnesses described him. The third woman allegedly saw the same man while he was looking at the house where the British family settled, while a white van was parked nearby.

On May 3, at about 8 pm local time, parents packed the children to sleep in the apartment and went to the restaurant about 50 meters from the building. The couple left the sliding doors to the courtyard covered, but not locked-they went out to the pool, the stairs and the gate leading to the road. Every half an hour a married couple, Kate and Jerry, took turns to visit the children – in one of these checks they found that Madeline was missing.

As recalled friends McCann, who saw them immediately after the disappearance of her daughter, they were in deep shock. The girl’s mother almost immediately began to sob loudly and fell into a stupor, and her husband ignored people and looked under every parked car, in the hope of finding a child there. Parents sought a daughter before five in the morning and agreed to go to bed only after repeated persuasions. By this time the apartment was already studied by the police.

“Worst crime scene protection”

In Portugal, the case of the disappearance of Madeline was closed in 2008 for lack of evidence, after which the parents of the disappeared began their own investigation. For several years they hired private investigators, but their efforts were futile.

Kate and Jerry McCann, with a portrait of her daughter in May 2007. Getty Photos
Kate and Jerry McCann, with a portrait of her daughter in May 2007. Getty Photos

Everything changed in 2011 with the presentation of the current British Prime Minister Theresa May, who at that time was the Minister of the Interior. She filed a request to Scotland Yard to launch an investigation into the disappearance of the British filed, the investigative group of which included 28 detectives. The British police managed to convince the Portuguese colleagues to return to work on the case and join forces.

“The main and most unfair thing is that after the initial investigation in Portugal no one did anything significant to find Madeline,” says Jerry McCann. The spouses approved the intervention of the British police, explaining that after that, clear lines of investigation appeared in the case, rather than dozens of fragmentary versions.

According to representatives of Scotland Yard, during the first search of the apartment the Portuguese police behaved unprofessionally and made many mistakes. For example, investigators notified border guards about the loss of a child only 24 hours after the investigation began – this deprived local services of the opportunity to intercept the alleged kidnappers of the girl. In addition, the Portuguese law enforcement authorities did not remove fingerprints on the spot in time, did not establish a cordon around the apartment and as a result did not prepare enough evidence, which led to the initial closure of the case.

Portuguese investigators are searching the territory where the McCann family used to be. PA pictures
Portuguese investigators are searching the territory where the McCann family used to be. PA pictures

“This was the worst protection of the crime scene,” – described the work of the Portuguese police in Scotland Yard. British representatives added that in the house where McCann’s apartment was located, the CCTV camera in the corridor did not work, and the initial team of investigators did not check the records of the street cameras.

As the tabloid The Sun wrote , 16 minutes after the report of the disappearance of the child to the Portuguese police came information about the robbery in another part of the city – this led to the fact that the patrol car, along with the bloodhound dogs, went to more, as it seemed to investigators, an important challenge, which led to delays in the investigation for an hour. Although it may seem that 60 minutes is an insignificant time, in fact the pursuit of intruders on the “hot pursuit” could play a key role in the search for Madeline. Especially considering that she disappeared between the 30-minute checks of the parents.

In April 2012, the British police published a photo of 9-year-old Madeline created on the computer to involve passers-by in the search for a girl. At the same time, the investigators stated that five years after the disappearance, she could still be alive.

The generated image of Madeline McCann at the age of nine. Photos Scotland Yard
The generated image of Madeline McCann at the age of nine. Photos Scotland Yard

During the work on the case, the detectives received more than 8,000 messages from people who allegedly saw Madeline. The bulk of applications came from the United States, Britain, Switzerland, Mexico and Singapore. It is known that the investigation checked more than 100 such hooks, but information about them is either classified or false.

Versions of extinction

Accident and parental falsification

The Portuguese police for the first time officially named one of the versions of what happened four months after the disappearance of the girl, suggesting that parents are involved in the case. Allegedly Kate and Jerry (both working as doctors) accidentally killed her daughter, giving her too much of a sleeping pill in the hope that she would sleep before they returned. Presumably, after that, the close hid the body and created the impression of the public and police that Madeline was kidnapped. Since then they allegedly transported the corpse to a secret place and buried it.

This version is based on the reaction of two dogs-bloodhounds. One was trained to sniff the smell of blood, and the other – expansions: they were conducted through the territory where the family was, but the animals only voiced their voice inside the McCann’s apartment. One of the dogs smelled the stench of rigor mortis inside the car, which the couple rented 24 days after the girl disappeared.

Analyzes of hair and fabric inside the car and apartment also recorded something that caused suspicion of the Portuguese police. However, later the investigators announced that neither the DNA test nor the results of the check by the sniffer dogs are solid evidence of the parents’ involvement in the incident. Basically, because in 70% of cases, animals confuse the cadaver smell with another, and the DNA test was too inaccurate.

Former Portuguese investigator Gonzalo Amaral. PA pictures
Former Portuguese investigator Gonzalo Amaral. PA pictures
Despite the fact that the version about the involvement of Madeline’s parents to her loss was repeatedly denied by Scotland Yard, there is at least one person who still adheres to it. 58-year-old Goncalo Amaral (Goncalo Amaral) was the head of the initial investigation of the disappearance of Madeline and during it was convinced that the girl died because of the parents.

In July 2008, the investigator released a book and a subsequent documentary, “The Truth About Lie, ” claiming that the McCanns had falsified the disappearance of his daughter in order to cover up the traces of her murder. Amaral spoke of the book as a collection of official evidence, but close to Madeline described the work as “an absolute lie.” Despite this, in Portugal the work became a bestseller, bringing the publisher and author, according to The Sun sources, more than a million dollars.

After the book was published, the investigator distributed interviews to various TV channels, continuing to accuse Madeline’s parents of the incident and to assert that her body was still hidden in Praia da Luz. Later, he said that parents allegedly cremated a daughter in a church near the crime scene.

One of Madeline's recent photos before disappearing. Photo from the personal archive of the McCann family
One of Madeline’s recent photos before disappearing. Photo from the personal archive of the McCann family
In the spring of 2015, McCann won a lawsuit against Amaral for more than $ 450,000 for moral damage caused by the publication of the book. However, in April, a former investigator, who had been dismissed from the Madeline case after complaints from the British police, appealed and won. The court ruled that the parents of the disappeared can not be considered completely innocent, because the Portuguese police did not recognize them as such, but only closed the case about the loss of the girl for lack of evidence. Based on this, Amaral’s book does not contain slander, the judge said.

As friends of the spouses explained in July 2017, they abandoned their attempts to fight the investigator, as this took away a lot of “strength, time and money” from them. “This means that he will continue to spread his malicious lies about Kate and Jerry being guilty of the death of their daughter, which would sound ridiculous if it were not so painful and so harmful for Madeline’s search,” explained a friend of the couple who asked to stay unknown.

The robbery out of control

According to this theory , the robbers infiltrated the apartment and killed or kidnapped Madeline after she woke up and saw them. As of May 3, 2017 (there is no more recent data), Scotland Yard did not rule out this version, although it presupposes the presence of at least some evidence of a struggle, as the perpetrators had to act in a hurry. Also it is not clear why the twins did not wake up from the noise, and nothing valuable was missing from the apartment.

In 2014, British police questioned four people on suspicion of the disappearance of the girl, but later they were released.

Abduction by gypsies or pedophiles

According to a British journalist with 10 years of experience, Danny Collins, who once worked on the history of Madeline, the child could not be kidnapped from his bed. Most likely, she left the apartment in search of her parents, after which she was seized by strangers, the reporter believes. He backed up his version by the position of shutters on windows that were closed during the arrival of police officers and opened only from the inside. Traces of hacking on them were not found, as on the front door – this, according to Collins, indicates that the robbers or intruders did not enter the apartment.

Probably Madeline was stolen or sold to gypsies, the reporter believes. According to him, at least three witnesses saw a man carrying a child in pink pajamas, which the girl wore. However, he believes that the actual kidnapping went a little differently: the allegedly disappeared left the apartment and walked through the doors in the corridor, and then she was on the street where a stranger, seen by passersby, approached her and took her to the car. This version, the reporter believes, could easily be checked if the policemen had taken fingerprints from the doors, which, according to theory, opened Madeline.

Kidnapping of children by gypsies is a rather ambiguous topic, according to which there is practically no statistics. A year after the loss of Madeline in southern Spain (bordered by Portugal) recorded two attempts to kidnap the children from the apartment. Both cases assumed the use of machines by the attackers.

The McCannies rejected the Collins version of the kidnapping of their daughter by the gypsies, believing that she could not go out on their own. To do this, she would have to open the front door, go through the sliding doors and the iron gate, which was protected from children, and then close them behind her. The journalist parried it, noticing that the parents did not even know that the shutters in the apartment can not be opened from the outside (originally the couple stated that the shutters on the windows were open).

As the source told The Independent in Portugal, at the time of Madeline’s disappearance in the south of the country, there were about 38 sex offenders, including pedophiles. Before the disappearance of the girl, five cases of kidnapping of children were recorded and two more after – one happened a month after the disappearance of the British. The version about the pedophile was especially popular in 2016, when several girls accused the late (died in 2009) British politician and writer Clement Freud of child molestation.

Clement Freud. Photos of Shutterstock
Clement Freud. Photos of Shutterstock
As it turned out, the public figure had a house in Praia da Luz and he was friends with the McCann family. One of the alleged victims of the politician said that she was very surprised by his unexpected friendship with the British. “He was a very secretive person who would not become friends with people who were in the focus of the media. It really shook me, and I felt uncomfortable. No one would have thought that Freud was capable of harassing and raping someone, but he did it to me, “the woman said .

Some investigators believe that the circumstances of the disappearance of Madeline contradict the standard behavior of pedophiles. They very rarely “hunt in the open”, making their way to the victim’s house. In 2008, when the investigation was conducted by the Portuguese police, she checked an anonymous tip that the girl was allegedly detained by a group of pedophiles from Belgium.

Other theories suggested that the British were stolen from the apartment and taken to the coast of Portugal, from where they were put on a boat to Morocco. There, the kidnappers reportedly handed Madeline to the local slave traders who went to Mauritania, known for their underground sales business. “If someone wants to bring a three-year-old child to Africa, then there is an obvious route. There is an accessible infrastructure and contacts with people for transportation, ” explained the former Scotland Yard detective Colin Sutton.


If Madeline really went out in the absence of parents, then she could become a victim of several incidents. At that time, 180 meters from the McCann house, the workers were repairing the drains and for this they dug a trench of 182 centimeters and a width of 120 centimeters. The girl could fall into this hole and lose consciousness, and the next day, when the tunnel was buried, it might just not be noticed. This version was rejected by the responsible foreman, stating that his men and the police were checking the trench.

According to another version, Madeline was beaten down by a drunk driver, then decided to get rid of the body in a panic. For example, throw it in a pond or an old well, which are often found in that part of Portugal. However, it is unclear why the girl would walk the night street in an unknown direction, if there was a working restaurant nearby, where her parents were resting.

Life without Madeline

In 2015, the number of active investigators in the Madeline case fell from 28 to four, and by 2017 the British authorities have spent more than $ 19 million on the investigation. The public has repeatedly reproached the government for such a large outlay on the case, the chances of closing it are decreasing every year. Because of attacks on the Internet, the parents of the missing girl stoppedaccessing social networks, not wanting to listen to accusations in connection with embezzlement of budget funds.

Kate and Jerry McCann at a press conference, 2017. They promised never to stop looking for the missing daughter. Getty Photos
Kate and Jerry McCann at a press conference, 2017. They promised never to stop looking for the missing daughter. Getty Photos

In March 2018, Scotland Yard received an additional $ 200,000 to find Madeline. If the authorities do not stop financing the investigation, the next grant will be given to the department in the autumn. The development of the case continues to monitor the leading British media and tabloids, and in September 2017, the Netlfix service announced plans to remove an eight-part documentary about the disappearance of Madeline. The release date of the picture is not yet known.

Although immediately after the disappearance of the girl, the couple completely focused on her search, the last five years they are giving more and more time to the twins and work. McCannies support further investigation of the police and believe that one day their daughter will be found. Mother Madeline still buys her gifts for her birthday and Christmas. May 12, 2018 girl, if she is really still alive, will turn 15 years old.

I think about her age and what she might like, but otherwise I just can not, she will always be our daughter. Especially acute, we feel her absence during family holidays or some important achievements. Not a day goes by that Madeline would not be with us, if you understand what I mean.

Kate McCann
mother of the vanished Madeline McCann
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