It has been over 9 years since Madeleine McCann disappeared from her bed in Praia da Luz, a resort in the Algarve region of Portugal. Police have received some last minute funding in order to continue the search. Due to some recent developments, Madeleine’s parents hope police can finally uncover the truth of what happened to their daughter.
1. She was Only 3-Years-Old
Madeleine McCann was born in Leicester and lived with her family in Rothley. Madeleine is the daughter of Parents Kate and Gerry, and older sister of twin-siblings Amelie and Sean. She was three-years old when her family decided to go on that fateful vacation to Portugal, with friends.
2. The Last Place Madeleine Was Seen
The McCanns arrived on Saturday, 28 April 2007, for a planned 7-night stay in the Praia da Luz village. The village had a population of 1,000 and was known as “Little Britain” due to the high number of British homeowners and tourists. They were placed in 5A Rua Dr Agostinho da Silva. 5a is a ground-floor, 2 bedroom apartment. Their friends were placed near-by.
3. Last Picture Of Maddie Ever Taken
The McCann family had no idea that tragedy was about to strike. In the morning, Maddie and her two siblings went to the Ocean Club’s Kids Club. Once they were picked up by Kate and Gerry, they went to the pool. This is where the last picture of Maddie was ever taken (pictured below). The children later returned and ate dinner at the Kids Club. They were once again picked up by their parents.
4. Why Was She Left Alone?
The McCanns were on holiday with seven friends. All together with the McCann’s 3, there were 8 children total. The 9 adults ate most evening at 20:30 in the resort’s Tapas restaurant. As a result, the adults would go to dine and check on the children sporadically, throughout dinner. The adults who dined together were dubbed by the media the “Tapas Seven.”
5. Who Were The Tapas Seven?
The “Tapas Seven” consisted of marketing manager Jane Tanner and her partner Dr. Russell O’Brien, who had come on vacation with their two children. The second couple was Dr. Matthew Oldfield and his wife and recruitment consultant Rachel Oldfield, who also brought their daughter. The last family was the Paynes: David and Fiona Payne, their two children, and Fiona’s mother, Dianne Webster.
6. Timeline of Dinner
Kate and Gerry leave their 3 sleeping children in the apartment while they dine at the tapas restaurant. Gerry went to check on the children around 21:00, everything was fine. She intended to check at 21:30, but Matthew Oldfield had volunteered to do so, as he was going to check on his children next door. He noticed the children’s door was open, however, after hearing no noise, he left. He never went far enough into the bedroom to see if Madeleine was still there.
7. Her Bedroom Window Was Open
Kate went to check on her daughter around 22:00. Kate entered the apartment, from the unlocked back patio doors. She noticed the children’s bedroom door was wide open. When she walked in, she noticed the window and shutters to the children’s room were also wide open. Her siblings, her stuffed cuddle cat, and pink blanket were still in the room. After briefly searching the apartment, she ran back screaming Madeleine had gone missing.
8. Police Alerted
Police were called soon after Kate could not find her daughter. The Guarda Nacional Republicana arrived at the resort around 23:10. After searching for a short time, they alerted the Policia Judiciaria (the criminal police). Two patrol dogs were brought in around 2am. Police officers began searching all waterways, caves, and sewers.
9. Staff Note Could Have Tipped Off Abductors
The “Tapas Seven” liked to reserve the same table every night, that was closest to their apartments. There was a note written at the reception desk as to why this needed to be done. The staff note said the parents would be leaving their young children alone, but would be checking on them intermittently. Kate McCann fears that this note could have tipped off anyone that Madeleine was alone and vulnerable.
10. Crucial Mistakes Were Made By Police
Many mistakes were made by local police, that could have potentially ruined any chance of finding Madeleine. The crime scene was never secured properly. Twenty people had entered the apartment before it was closed off. A crowd gathered near the apartment and near the children’s window, potentially trampling any evidence outside. Finally, police were not wearing protective gloves when dusting for fingerprints.
11. Police Wasted So Much Time
Madeleine’s mother said police did not do their job well. Border nor Marine police were not immediately given a description of Maddie. She has also reported that roadblocks were not put up until 10am the following morning. The company that monitors local roadways said Police did not approach them to ask for pictures of vehicles leaving the area.
12. First Sighting
Jane Tanner, one of the “Tapas Seven,” was one of the first to come forward with a possible sighting. She had left the restaurant around 21:00 to check on her own daughter. She said she passed Madeline’s father on Rua Dr Francisco Gentil Martins on his way back to the restaurant. He had stopped to talk with a fellow Brit. At about 21:10 Tanner noticed a man with a child in his arms at the corner of Rua Dr Francisco Gentil Martins and Rua Dr Agostinho da Silva. She described the man as white, with dark hair, around 1.70m tall, 35-30 years of age, and he did not look like a tourist. Artist impression of what Jane saw is pictured below.
13. Second Sighting
Martin and Mary Smith, from Ireland, were the next to come forward with a possible sighting. The Smiths testified they saw a man, around 22:00, who was 457 meters from the McCann’s apartment, carrying a girl aged 3-4 years. She girl had pale skin and was wearing light-colored pajamas. They believe the man was in his mid 30s, 1.75–1.80 meters, with short brown hair and wearing beige trousers. A very similar description to Jane Tanner.
14. Television Plea
In May 2007, Kate and Gerry appeared for the first time to speak on TV, since their daughter’s disappearance. They pled for Maddie’s safe return. Kate McCann pled to her abductors through the screen saying “Please, please do not hurt her.” Hoping to connect to the possible abductors, they asked him or her to just leave Madeleine in a safe place and tell someone where she is.
15. First Arguido (Suspect)
The first suspect was local British-Portuguese property consultant, Robert Murat (pictured below). He was given arguido status 12 days after Madeleine’s disappearance. Murat was staying at his mother’s home, 137 meters from the McCann’s apartment. He became a suspect, after a British tabloid told police he was asking questions about the investigation. All of his properties and housing were thoroughly searched. Nothing was found to link him to the disappearance. He was cleared on 21 July 2008.
16. Second Arguidos (Suspects)
Two Sniffer dogs were brought in – one searched for traces of blood and the other was trained to find cadavers. Both dogs had apparently found something in the McCann’s resort apartment as well as in their trunk. On 7 September 2007, both parents were given arguido status. After lots of media chaos and leaked information by the Portuguese police, the Portuguese Attorney General announced that there was no evidence to link the McCanns to their daughter’s disappearance.
17. Madeleine’s Fund: Leaving No Stone Unturned
In May 2007, the McCanns set up Madeleine’s Fund: Leaving No Stone Unturned, a company that would raise finances for Madeleine’s search. Over £2.6 million was raised, and there was a£1.5 million reward being offered. Funds from multiple public figures poured into the foundation. The McCanns hired multiple private investigators.
18. McCann’s Hire Private Investigators
In 2008, Madeleine’s Fund hired private detective agency, Oakley International. The agency cost £500,000 for six months. The agency sent over a group of 5 investigators. However, the fund and the agency butted heads, essentially over money. However, the McCanns asked their findings be kept confidential. The owner of the agency, Kevin Halligen (pictured below), was later arrested on charges of fraud.
19. McCanns Sue British Police
In 2008, the McCanns took a case to High Court, in order to receive documents, from the British Police. The McCanns were fighting to see files that related to Madeleine’s disappearance. The files had information on witness testimony, in the days immediately after their daughters disappearance, and possible sightings. They were granted limited access and dropped the case. The McCanns handed over all of the information to their team of private investigators. There was a total of around 80 files, the McCanns hoped this may be a final step in finding their daughter.
20. Police Chief’s Book Blames Parents
In 2008, former Police Chief Gonçalo Amaral published a booked titled “The Truth of Lies.” The book recounted his version of the investigation, of Madeleine’s disappearance. In the book, it appears that Madeleine’s parents are the ones to blame. They sued on grounds of libel and won. Amaral was ordered to pay Kate and Gerry McCann €500,000 (£394,000). Amaral’s lawyer immediately said she would fight to have the decision repealed.
21. One Year Anniversary
In May 2008, a handyman at the resort allegedly found a note in the doorway of the McCann apartment. In the note, it claimed to the know the final resting place of Maddie. He gave the note over to Portuguese Police. She was apparently buried in a reservoir in Praia da Luz. Unfortunately, no discovery was made after this letter.
22. Madeleine Tried To Warn Her Mother
In 2011, the Kate McCann published a book called “Madeleine.” The book discusses her daughter’s disappearance, and was released on Madeleine’s eighth birthday. In the book, Kate discusses a moment where her daughter asked her why she did not come to her room when she cried the night before. Reflecting back on the moment, Kate feels Madeleine may have seen an intruder and she was trying to warn her mother. The sales from the book were to be used to fund the search.
23. Operation Grange Opened
At the request of British Home Secretary Alan Johnson, in 2010, the Home Office with the Association of Chief Police Officers began setting up a new investigation. In May 2011, Scotland Yard launched a new review call Operation Grange. The operation consisted of 29 detectives and 8 civilians. The operation was financed by a government fund at the request of Prime Minister David Cameron.
24. 2013 Leads to New Developments
After Operation Grange began investigation Madeleine’s case again, new information had been found. In 2013, investigative teams announced they had identified 38 people of interest, including 12 Britons.
After TV appealed in the UK, Holland, and Germany, Scotland Yard began receiving thousands of calls and e-mails with new tips. In October, Portuguese Police also decide to reopen the case, and in late November British and Portuguese police join forces.
25. Bogus Charity Collectors – Possible Suspects
In 2013, the Yard announced it was looking for links between Madeleine’s disappearance and men who were posing as charity collector and knocking on doors in Praia da Luz at the time. The day Madeleine disappeared, there were 4 separate sightings of the men collecting money for an orphanage. The police believe th esemen may have been surveying the apartments, to plan for a possible abduction or burglary. They released their efits during the investigation.
26. More Sightings Lead To More Suspects
Also during 2013, Scotland Yard said they were looking for a blond-haired man who had also been seen around the area. He was described as ugly with a spotty complexion and a large nose. Two blond-haired men had been seen on the balcony of the empty apartment 5C at 14:30 the day of the disappearance. Then blond men were seen again near 5A around 16:00 and 18:00 that early evening.
27. Tanner Sighting Ruled Out
Jane Tanner had one of the first reported sightings of Maddie, soon after she disappeared. She said a white man in tan trousers, was seen carrying a child close to the McCann’s holiday apartment. However, in October 2013, police ruled that out. Although it was one of the best leads, police discovered it was an innocent British holidaymaker carrying his daughter home from a creche.
28. Police Search Phone Records
In October 2013, Police announced they would be tracking mobile phones, in the area of Praia de Luz, at the time of Madeleine’s disappearance. They gathered a manageable list of numbers that were identified as present, in the area. However, multiple numbers were not attributed to a named person. The police created a log showing all the calls being made around the time of Madeleine’s disappearance.
29. May Have Been Taken By A Sex Offender
In March 2014, the yard announced it could possibly now be searching for a lone intruder who had previously sexually assaulted 5 girls between the age of 7-10 years. The man was never caught. Among the 12 incidents, four of them included men entering holiday apartments including 2 in Praia da Luz. They had 38 people of interest, and looking into the backgrounds of 530 sex offenders, of which 59 were considered high interest.
30. Possibly Taken During A Botched Burglary
British police believe that Madeleine could have possibly been taken by a gang of thieves during a botched burglary. One of the gang members worked for the resort, where the McCanns were staying. Police say the man who drove the bus for the complex had previously admitted to robbing other apartments. Police believe the driver may have been working with a 16-year-old and 2 other men. Mobile calls place all men at the scene.
31. Police Begin Digging To Search For A Body
In June 2014, police began excavating an area of scrubland, in close proximity to the McCann’s vacation apartment. Police used ground-penetrating radar, in order to search for disturbances in the soil. Kate and Gerry decided not to travel to Portugal to oversee the search. However, they were kept well-informed. Both British and Portuguese police participated in the excavation of the scrubland. However, nothing was found.
32. Original Suspect Brought Back In For Questioning
In November 2014, former suspect Robert Murat was once again brought in for questioning. Both Robert and his wife His wife, Michaela Walczuck, were being considered a “person of interest.” He was originally questioned in 2007, as he was living with his mother in very close proximity to the McCann’s apartment. However, nothing was able to link Robert to the disappearance.
33. Rally Behind Child Rescue Alerts
Also in November 2014, Kate and Gerry McCann began petitioning for British citizens to download an app for “Child Rescue Alerts.” The McCanns, Hugh Grant, and other families of missing children all banded together for the cause. Gerry McCann said “Every parent has lost their child, even if it is momentarily – in a playground, in a supermarket – and knows how terrifying it is.”
34. Body Possibly Found
In July 2015, a body was found in a suitcase in South Australia. The remains in the suitcase were said to be of a girl between 2-4 years and it also had girl’s clothing, like a tutu and coat. British Police contacted Australian Police to see if it could possibly be Madeleine. However, by the end of the month, Police had announced the body found was definitely not Madeleine.
35. Operation Grange Scaled Back
In October 2015, Operation Grange was now very costly to government and Scotland Yard announced it would be scaling back the operation of 29 detectives to just 4. The McCanns simultaneously begin to fund their own investigation. During Operation Grange detectives regularly travelled to Portugal to meet with their Portuguese counterparts.
36. Mom Believes She’s Still In Portugal
In February 2016, Kate McCann reported to media that she believed Maddie was still in Praia da Luz. Since Madeleine’s disappearance, Kate had studied a lot of cases files on abducted children. She feels one lesson she learned from this was abductors normally do not take the abductee far.
37. Operation Grange Gets Last Minute Funding
In April 2016, Operation Grange received £95,000 more from the Home Office to fund another six months of investigation. By June 2015, the operation had cost £10.1 million. The McCanns said they would have continued to use private detectives the the Operation had not received more funding.
38. Libel Case Overturned
In 2008, Kate and Gerry had sued Gonçalo Amaral for libel. He had published a book that blamed Kate and Gerry for Madeleine’s disappearance. They had originally won. However, in April 2016, Amaral won his appeal. The appeals court decided Amaral had the right to publish the book. He no longer had to pay the McCann’s. Unfortunately, another outlet of funds, for the search of Madeleine, had been closed.
39. McCanns Fire Senior Member Of Their Team
After the latest funding to Operation Grange, the McCanns had to take a hard look at their team. As the new funds were dwindling, they decided to axe one of the senior members of their team, Media guru Clarence Mitchell, in August 2016. Clarence had been the primary contact for the media, throughout Madeleine’s case. He understood the McCann’s position as they needed more money to help fund the search.
40. Police Losing Hope
By August 2016, 12 million pounds had spent in the search for Madeleine McCann. That same month, British police stopped their forensic investigation. They hoped hairs found, in the apartment where Madeleine disappeared, may lead somewhere. Unfortunately, it did not. Police said the investigation would most likely end in Autumn of the same year. However, Kate and Gerry still had hope, that more leads would arise and help continue the investigation.
41. A Final Lead
After going through tons of leads, Scotland Yard had discovered they received a tip in 2008, that “a Belgian paedophile ring had placed an order for a ‘young girl’ just three days before Madeleine vanished.” One of the men that were loitering around the resort could have been a part of a human trafficking gang and eventually targeting Madeleine.
42. One More Clue
Eyewitness accounts say they saw men taking pictures of Madeleine. The “spotters” apparently took pictures of her while she was with her family at the resort pool and at the local beach. This is an act that is done by multiple human trafficking rings. Below is an age progression photo of what Madeleine may have looked like at age 9.
43. Portugal Is A Easy Target For Traffickers
Portugal is an easy target of people to abduct, due to the ease people can be taken over the border. Following her disappearance, reports suggest, she could have been taken to Belgium or Morocco. According to the U.S. State department, 600,000-800,000 people are trafficked across international border each year. Of that number 80% are female and half are children. Human trafficking is the third largest international crime industry (behind illegal drugs and arms trafficking).
44. Police Spy on Dead Suspect’s Family
It was reported the Scotland Yard had planned undercover surveillance operations on the ex-wife and children of dead pedophile Raymond Hewlett (pictured below). Hewlett died in 2010 of cancer. He lived an hour away from where Maddie disappeared. He had originally denied any involvement. However, in a deathbed letter, to son his Wayne, he said Maddie had been “stolen to order” by a Belgium-based gang. Police were attempting to find a link between the family and the gang.
45. Alleged Sightings Since Disappearance
Since Madeleine’s disappearance, many people have reached out to police to report a possible sighting of the young girl. British police say that have received a total of 8,685 sightings across 101 different countries and territories. The most important, police say, were the ones very close to this disappearance. They report there were 29 reported sightings in Malta alone, which led to the lockdown of the capital city, Valletta.
46. Somebody Knows
December 2016 marked the 10th Christmas the McCann family celebrated without Maddie. On the family’s website for the search of Maddie, they posted how they are “tinged with pain and longing.” They also thanked everyone for their prayers and support. The family also said “Somebody knows. We just hope they find the courage and compassion to let us know too.”
47. Family Remains Hopeful
The McCann family started 2017 hoping for a new year’s miracle to reunite them with their missing daughter. A close friend tells news that Kate and Gerry haven’t given up hope and are starting the year with a renewed spirit. Investigators have only a few more months until all government funding is cut to the investigation. The McCanns are hopeful Madeleine is still alive and they will be reunited with her soon.