The purpose of this site is for information and a record of Gerry McCann's Blog Archives. As most people will appreciate GM deleted all past blogs from the official website. Hopefully this Archive will be helpful to anyone who is interested in Justice for Madeleine Beth McCann. Many Thanks, Pamalam

Note: This site does not belong to the McCanns. It belongs to Pamalam. If you wish to contact the McCanns directly, please use the contact/email details campaign@findmadeleine.com    

Lori Campbell/Ross Hall Articles to Sept 2007 *

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Articles by Lori Campbell (Sunday Mirror) and Ross Hall (News of the World) from May to Sept 2007.

The net's closing in, 06 May 2007
The net's closing in Sunday Mirror (paper edition)

Search for missing Maddy

• Police in hunt for a man acting strangely at complex
• Dad: I'm sure she'll be at 4th birthday next week

Lori Campbell Kate Mansey and Jon Clarke in the Algarve Portugal
6 May 2007

Detectives were last night closing in on a man they suspect of snatching little Maddy McCann from her holiday apartment.

They said they believed she was being held within three miles of the complex where she had been staying at Praia da Luz on Portugal's Algarve.

Guilhermino Encarnacao, chief of police in the region, said he had an artist's impression of the abductor but he feared that releasing it may put the three-year-old's life in danger.

He said he believed that Maddy had been taken by a sex offender, but there was also a possibility she had been kidnapped for a ransom - Maddy's parents are both doctors, her father a highly-paid heart specialist.

Mr Encarnacao said: "We have a prime suspect. A man has been seen acting strangely and we have a sketch, but we are not releasing it yet. We do not want to put the girl at risk.

"We believe the girl is still in Portugal, and probably nearby. I cannot rule out it was a paedophile who took her."

Police raised the hope that Maddy could be found as her anguished parents spent a second night waiting for news of their daughter.

Gerry and Kate McCann, both 38, of Rothley, Leics, are staying two doors down from the apartment that Maddy was taken from between 9pm and 10pm on Thursday.

Yesterday Gerry went into the apartment and emerged carrying a suitcase and a bucket and spade for younger twins Amelie and Sean, two.

The couple were later seen walking between apartment blocks in the resort with the twins, accompanied by friends.

They are being comforted by family and specially-trained officers from Leicestershire who have flown to Portugal.

One senior Portuguese detective told the Sunday Mirror yesterday: "We know of two or three local paedophiles living between Lagos and Praia da Luz. We have their names and addresses. We also have a list of English and German sex offenders living in the area from Interpol. We are following up every lead."

Yesterday Maddy's heartbroken grandmother told how the family were clinging to the hope she will be able to attend her fourth birthday party on Saturday.

Susan Healy told the Sunday Mirror: "We were looking forward to seeing her next weekend and giving her her presents, but this is just so awful.

"Her father is adamant that she will be found."

Relatives have made her a special Dr Who cake in honour of her favourite programme. Maddy had been asleep on a bed next to her brother Sean when she was snatched.

Her parents had been eating dinner at a restaurant in the Ocean Club resort 100 yards from the apartment.

They had been taking turns to check on the children every half hour as they slept. But a frantic search was launched when Kate went back to the apartment at 9.45pm and found Maddy gone.

More than 100 locals and holiday makers took part in the hunt.

Hotel workers from the Mark Warner Holiday complex held hands in a line and combed the beach while others scoured the resort and nearby roads.

A police source said they had been studying CCTV footage in petrol stations and on motorways near the resort.

There were also reports from expats that a young girl was seen walking down a road with a couple.

Last night 150 extra officers were drafted in to help with the search, as well as people from the Red Cross, Maritime Police and firemen.

It is thought someone had been spying on the apartment and broken in by forcing the shutters on the patio doors and entering the apartment when he knew the adults had gone.

The ground-floor apartment was on the edge of a public road so Maddy's abductor would have been able to make a quick getaway.

Yesterday family and friends flew in to the popular holiday resort from Liverpool, Glasgow and Canada to comfort Maddy's parents.

Looking tired and distraught, her mum Kate clasped her husband's hand as they walked out of the apartment with their twins between them to collect their belongings.

Last night the little girl's great uncle, Brian Kennedy, said: "We fear the worst, but we are hoping for the best."

Mr Kennedy insisted that the couple had acted responsibly when they left the children in the room while they had dinner at the restaurant. He said: "The children were left only in the sense that when you put your children to bed, you don't stay in the room all night.

"Madeleine is a lovely little girl, an intelligent, bright child. As parents, they are absolutely devoted to their children. You won't find more caring parents anywhere."

The seven other adults, who had been on holiday with the McCann family, left yesterday as planned, leaving the parents free to spend time with worried relatives.

Meanwhile, questions were being raised on how secure the apartments were. There was also criticism of how quickly the police reacted to Maddy's disappearance.

Paula Jones, 34, who manages the apartments where the McCann family were staying said the properties were a hot spot for burglaries. She said: "We have a real problem with break-ins at the apartments because lots of holiday makers don't double lock the patio doors.

"Burglars wait and watch the apartments so they know who is coming and going and they strike when tourists are out at the beach or in the restaurants."

Hunt at Black Rock, 06 May 2007
Hunt at Black Rock News of the World (article no longer online)

Ross Hall & Carole Aye Maung in Praia da Luz, Portugal
6 May 2007

POLICE hunting for missing Maddie McCann have dramatically widened their search to an extinct VOLCANO, the News of the World can exclusively reveal.

Teams of officers with sniffer dogs were last night scouring what one called a "sinister" area called Black Rock near sea cliffs just over a mile from the resort where the youngster was snatched on Thursday.

The search was widened as the detective leading the hunt claimed they had a good idea who the kidnapper was - and that he believes Maddie may still be ALIVE.

A source close to the Portuguese investigation also told the News of the World that the abductor is believed to have spent days watching Maddie and staking out the McCann family's apartment at the Ocean Club resort in the seaside village of Praia da Luz.

Meanwhile more than 500 British tourists, expats and locals have joined in the ongoing search for the blonde youngster along a six-mile stretch of the coastline.

Last night - 48 hours after Maddie was snatched - that search shifted to Rocha Negra - a remote area feared by the local community and an ideal hideout.

Furriel Louis Costa, one of the policemen involved in the search, told us: "You would call it Black Rock. It is a very scary and chilling place. The local Portuguese people do not like to go up there. They are too frightened.

Captive

"It is very big and extends high up above the sea which makes it seem very threatening. You can go up there. But no one ever does. It's not a nice place. It is sinister."

He spoke as hopes rose that Maddie might be alive and held captive following a statement earlier in the day from the head of the investigation, Director of the Judicial Police Guilhermino Encarnacao who hinted that they KNOW the kidnapper's identity.

He said: "There is a prime suspect and we have a portrait sketch of the suspect.

"But I am not going to reveal it because it may put the girl's life in danger. We believe that she is still alive and still in Portugal."

More than 150 police officers have been drafted into the area-and yesterday British detectives from the McCann's home county of Leicestershire flew in to join the hunt which also took in the Boavista golf course, again a mile from where she was abducted.

All ports, airports and borders have been put on high alert for any sign of the missing tot.

Maddie disappeared from the Ocean Club in the Praia da Luz resort of Portugal as her doctor parents Gerry and Kate McCann, both 38, ate in a restaurant 50 yards away.

They had chosen not to use the babysitting service provided by holiday company Mark Warner and instead were checking on her every half hour as she slept between her two-year-old twin brother and sister, Shaun and Amelie.

A police source last night told us the kidnapper must have KNOWN there was no babysitter in the apartment-and could have been watching the family's movements for days.

He said: "It wasn't just coincidence that this person took her while her parents were out. They would have been watching and waiting and picked the ideal time to take her without disturbing anyone or raising any attention.

"They were only yards away and could see the balcony to the apartment but whoever took Maddie went through the front window which would have been out of sight."

Some sources in the area suggested last night that Maddie may have been snatched by a Russian or Eastern European gang to be sold for up to Pounds 250,000.

Police are also investigating a British businessman's revelation that he spotted a couple carrying a young child just hours after Maddie disappeared.

Liverpool-born George Burke told cops he saw a couple carrying a young child at around 6am, seven hours after the abduction, as he drove home from nearby Lagos.

When his headlights lit them, he said they "scurried down a side road and out of sight".

Yesterday the News of the World joined the search for Maddie by putting up and handing out large posters calling for help in tracing the youngster to the masses of volunteers turning up to join the hunt.

Manchester man Dave Shelton, 38, who lives in the village and is co-ordinating the local searchers, said: "People have just been coming and coming. The response has been fantastic."

Last night Maddie's distraught extended family gave us a series of loving pictures of the happy tot - who was conceived with the help of IVF treatment - at her home in Rothley, Leicestershire, as they prayed for her safe return.

Her aunt Philomena McCann, 54, said: "It's great to have some hope from the police-but we need something to happen. We want her back. We need to keep strong, for everybody's sake."

Maddie's great uncle Brian Kennedy (pictured left), who lives in the same village as the family, told how Gerry and Kate had already planned her fourth birthday party next Saturday before leaving for Portugal.

"We asked a friend to make her a Dr Who cake. We've told her to carry on making it. We have to think for the best."

Letter from Leicester Constabulary to Portugal Incident Room/Madeleine McCann, 06 May 2007
Letter from Leicester Constabulary to Portugal Incident Room/Madeleine McCann PJ Files

02-Processo VOLUME IIa, page 307

05/06 '07 18:06 NO.634 01/01

TO: PORTUGAL INCIDENT ROOM/MADELEINE MCCANN

FROM: DC4078 Hardy

REF: MADELEINE MCCANN

DATE: 6/5/07

Sir,

Lori CAMPBELL a reporter from the Sunday Mirror has contacted Leicestershire Police to report the following.

Lori has been speaking to an interpreter who has been helping authorities with the investigation into Madeleine's disappearance. He has only given his name as 'ROR' [sic] and has not given any background information about himself.

Lori has become suspicious of Rob as he has given conflicting accounts to various people and became very concerned when he noticed his photo being taken by the Mirror's photographer.

'ROB' stated to Lori that he is going through a messy divorce in the UK at the moment and that he had a three year old daughter just like Madeleine, who he is separated from at the moment. He made a big show of telephoning his daughter in front of reporters, and Lori felt that he was being too loud and making a big thing of speaking to his daughter on the phone.

The things that 'ROB' has said to Lori have raised her concerns about him.

Could you please call Lori who is still in Portugal to establish further details to identify 'ROB' in order to eliminate him from your enquiries on 07xxx xxxxxx.

Submitted for information

DC 4078 SOPHIE HARDY

'Keep hoping, keep looking, keep praying, don't give up', 13 May 2007
'Keep hoping, keep looking, keep praying, don't give up' Sunday Mirror (paper edition)

The search for Madeleine Day 11

• Mum's birthday plea
• Dad tells of a 'tidal wave' of devastation for her family
• Nine Brits quizzed over 'middle man' in abduction
• Intruders crept in via the unlocked patio doors

Lori Campbell and Simon Wright in Praia da Luz and Susie Boniface in London
13 May 2007

IT was the cruellest day any mother could face.

She should have been celebrating her little girl's fourth birthday at a party packed with friends, family and laughter.

Instead Kate McCann had to endure yet another day without her precious daughter, managing only a brave and grateful smile as Portuguese children gave her presents and messages for missing Madeleine after a special church service last night.

As the hunt enters another unbearable week today, Kate began Saturday with a growing despair.

In a statement read on her behalf she pleaded: "On Madeleine's birthday, please keep looking, please keep praying, please help bring Madeleine home."

It has now been 11 days since Madeleine was snatched from her hotel bed during the family holiday on the Algarve.

Last night Kate and husband Gerry arrived at the 16th Century Our Lady Luz church for evening mass. Green and yellow ribbons were tied to the door - green as a symbol of hope for their daughter's safe return, yellow in remembrance that she's missing.

As the couple walked into church, Kate clutched Madeleine's Cuddle Cat toy. It has not left her side since the daughter vanished.

During the service, Gerry spoke of the "tidal wave" of devastation wreaked by the abduction, telling villagers he and his wife Kate had drawn "strength, hope and courage" from friends, family, the community in Praia da Luz, at home, across Europe and even around the world.

Shaking with emotion, he said: "We are looking forward to the day when Madeleine returns to us as a joyous one."

And after the service he added: "We walked out of this church believing that we will see Madeleine soon and she will be safe and well and we will continue to hope.

Kate managed her first smile in many days as the congregation formed a Guard of Honour to applaud them.

Carrying flowers and presents for Madeleine, she kissed on the cheek by women wellwishers after the two-hour mass. The couple were visibly moved as they walked past the line of villagers and holidaymakers showing their support.

Red and yellow balloons were released into the air bearing the words "I Love You", and children gave out pieces of paper with birthday messages to Madeleine.

Earlier in the day, Kate prepared a new statement for the media. But in the end she was just too broken to face the TV crews.

Instead a spokesman for holiday firm Mark Warner read the statement for family.

The rest of it said: "Today is our daughter Madeleine's fourth birthday. We would like to mark today by asking people to redouble their efforts to help find Madeleine. We know that there is already a huge amount of effort and resource being put into the search for our daughter. We also know that offers of support are being made daily. It is this that gives us hope."

Yesterday was the first time Kate's strength, which had held up through countless public appeals in which pain was clearly written on her face, had deserted her.

For the first time she had begun to fear Portuguese police could wind up their search with her daughter still not returned to her and no clear leads.

Her uncle Brian Kennedy, 68, said: "She just couldn't put herself through it. We have all urged her to stay inside, to regain her strength."

Kate's family fear that the 38-year-old GP is near collapse.

Mr Kennedy said that she was becoming dangerously frail. He said: "We don't know how long she can go on like this. She's going through unimaginable misery. Madeleine is the centre of her world and she feels an unbearable void to be without her on her birthday. We're all deeply worried - she's lost a lot of weight and looks gaunt, almost skeletal."

Kate spent most of yesterday privately in the villa she and Gerry and their two-year-old twins Sean and Amelie have now moved to.

They appeared briefly when they went to the Mark Warner complex Madeleine was abducted from.

Meanwhile, a newly-released poster of Madeleine shows her distinctive right eye - where the pupil runs into the blue-green iris - which could easily identify the little girl if her captors try to disguise her.

Portuguese detectives now believe nine British holidaymakers hold the key to finding her kidnapper.

Police sniffer dogs have tracked Madeleine's scent to a local supermarket and two apartments where the group were staying, only yards from where she was snatched.

The nine Brits have been helping police with their inquiries over the last three days. Police believe they may have unwittingly come into contact with a "middle man" of Madeleine's abductor or abductors at the Ocean Club in Prai da Luz, Portugal.

There is no suggestion the nine are suspects, but they are seen as important witnesses.

The news fuelled speculation that a holidaymaker the McCanns may have met was involved in the abduction.

A police source said: "We are hoping we can reach the kidnapper or kidnappers' middle man through these nine. They have all been questioned as potential witnesses. They were staying at two apartments that the sniffer dogs have tracked Madeleine's scent to."

MADELEINE was snatched from the family's apartment at 10pm on May 3 while her parents were having a restaurant meal just 50 yards away.

Two men and a blonde woman seen at a petrol station driving a car with UK plates last week have emerged as prime suspects.

Witnesses say all three seemed to be English and were driving a car with yellow-and-black registration plates like UK cars.

Local shopkeepers have also been shown CCTV printouts of three people, including a man aged about 40 with dark hair down to his shoulders, a blonde woman of about 40 with her hair in a ponytail and an older woman with collar-length hair. The three were clearly not Portuguese and "looked English".

There are now just 30 police officers assigned to the investigation, scaled down from the original 150 that scoured the surrounding area for clues.

Detectives - who have come under attack for a series of blunders - are working late into the night at the area's police headquarters in the town of Portimao. Some have even been sleeping at the office.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Mirror can reveal that Madeleine was snatched through patio doors which had been left unlocked.

It was originally thought shutters at the front of the villa had been broken and jammed open by the kidnappers. But Chief Inspector Olegario Sousa confided in former British Chief Inspector Albert Kirby that neither the windows or their metal shutters had been tampered with.

Mr Kirby, who led the Jamie Bulger inquiry and is currently in Portugal, revealed it was the sliding patio doors of the ground floor apartment that allowed Madeleine to be quietly and quickly kidnapped.

The McCanns would have used the patio doors as they checked on their children during their meal. They had a direct line of sight to the apartment from their table at the restaurant opposite, but their view of the doors was obscured by a hedge.

Mr Kirby told the Sunday Mirror: "I had a very interesting chat with the officer in charge. The window shutters are not at all involved. The door was left unlocked. The window's shutters are almost impossible to open from the outside."

The McCanns have vowed to remain in Portugal until their daughter can come home with them.

Madeleine's grandparents Susan and Brian Healey last night described the little girl as "a special gift from God".

Susan said: "It would take a lifetime for us to thank all the people who have offered support. Now we just want our Madeleine brought home.

"We don't know how long Kate and Gerry are going to stay out there for.

"At the moment it is just a frightening thought that life could ever go on again without Madeleine."

14 May 2007 - Robert Murat

At 7.00am, police launch simultaneous raids at Casa Liliana, the home of Robert Murat's mother - situated 150 yards away from the McCann's apartment - Murat's German girlfriend's apartment and several addresses with which Murat is believed to have had a connection.

Lori Campbell on Robert Murat, 14 May 2007
Lori Campbell on Robert Murat

Transcript

By Nigel Moore

Lori Campbell: I called Leicestershire police, back in the UK, on Monday.

Reporter: Why?

Lori Campbell: Because I was very suspicious about this man and his behaviour, some of the stories that was he was telling didn't ring true; his facts didn't add up. He was being very vague about his background and he seemed far too interested and ready to give information to the media.

Lori Campbell talks to Ian Woods from Sky News, 14 May 2007
Lori Campbell talks to Ian Woods from Sky News

Transcript

By Nigel Moore

Lori Campbell: I was so suspicious by the Monday that I just felt I had a duty to pass those suspicions on. I spoke to my news desk back in London and then they said they thought that that was the right thing to do.

Ian Woods: Now, let's discuss why we were a little suspicious of him, because your suspicions were aroused first of all and you shared those suspicions with me. I then talked to him, investigated it, tried to find out whether his story was true and I have to say I came back and said his story checked out. What first of all made you suspicious of the fact that he was spending so much time around the scene?

Lori Campbell: It was just very reminiscent of the Soham murders was my first instinct. There was a local guy. He was hanging around the scene an awful lot. He was asking us questions about what was going on in the investigation, maybe trying to find out what we knew and he just seemed to be giving an air that he was authoritative and he was working in an official capacity for the police. And I was just very suspicious about that, that they would take on board a man who was just a local guy. They have many people, I am sure, who speak Portuguese and English. Why would they ask him to, you know, go into the apartment, speak to the family and have that sort of contact with them?

Ian Woods: Now, how co-operative was Robert when you were talking to him, because first of all he wouldn't do any interviews with me. I have asked him to do interviews on camera. He declined and you approached him to do a proper interview and asked his identity and things like that?

Lori Campbell: Well, he was very vague when I tried to ask about his background. He would chat to me quite openly, but he wouldn't give me his surname. He wouldn't tell me really where he was from, where he lives over here. He wouldn't give me a telephone number for him. And then I asked him what he did for a living. He was very vague. He said he worked for real estate. And I just had a really uneasy feeling about him from day one.

Ian Woods: You reported him to who and what was the response?

Lori Campbell: My first call was to Leicestershire police back in the UK and they took all my details. A detective constable called me back and she suggested that I also speak to somebody out here. We didn't really have a police contact last week. So, I called the British Embassy and they said to speak to a policeman on the scene. So, I walked up to a GNR policeman and said, you know, "I've got suspicions about a gentleman who's been near the scene and I'd just like to pass those on." And one of my main suspicions was that he said he was translating witness statements and I asked them if that could be true and they said, "No, that's highly unlikely."

Lori Campbell on Robert Murat, 15 May 2007
Lori Campbell on Robert Murat

Transcript

By Nigel Moore

Reporter: Robert Murat had laughed off the idea that people were asking questions about him but one British newspaper journalist was concerned about his interest in the case and alerted the police.

Lori Campbell: He was very vague about his own personal circumstances; he wouldn't give me his surname or his mobile phone number but most bizarrely, which, errm... actually led to me calling the police, was that we took his photograph and he became very nervous and actually came up to me and asked me to delete it.

Why I shopped Maddy suspect - Lori Campbell, 20 May 2007
Lori Campbell
Lori Campbell

Why I shopped Maddy suspect Sunday Mirror

The search for Madeleine: Day 18

By Lori Campbell Sunday Mirror reporter who shopped Murat to Portuguese police
20/05/2007

I HAVE no idea if Robert Murat is guilty of the kidnapping of Madeleine McCann.

But I would never have been able to live with the guilt had I not told police of my grave concerns about his behaviour.

Which is why I reported him to British police, the British embassy here in the Algarve and to Portuguese police.

At first, little came of it and I began to wonder if I had maybe been wrong to speak up. Then, on Monday, when Murat was arrested, my heart raced and I was gripped by a terrible sense of foreboding. Within minutes, I was thrown into the epicentre of her disappearance.

TV crews from around the world were desperate to hear what it was I told police - and what police said to me. Since then, I have replayed over and over again in my head what the prime suspect in this case said to me, desperate for any more clues that could help police.

It was on the third day of Madeleine's disappearance that I interviewed Murat - and what he said left me deeply troubled.

Having seen him with police, I assumed that he was part of the investigation and asked him for any news. He gestured at me to sit with him on the pavement outside the McCann apartment.

He told me: "Officers have turned this whole area inside out looking for her. They have thoroughly searched a 3km radius around the apartment and found nothing. Soon they will abandon hope of finding her here and look further afield.

"It is likely that whoever kidnapped Madeleine is far away by now. They could have changed her appearance. The Portuguese police didn't take her disappearance seriously at first. They thought she had just wandered off. Because of this, it was 15 hours before they alerted the Spanish border police. It is only a couple of hours' drive to Spain. The poor little thing could be long gone by now."

I found it strange that he would criticise the police operation he seemed to be part of, so I asked what his role was. He said "I've been acting as a translator for the police. I live here and speak fluent Portuguese and English. I wanted to do anything I could to help."

I then asked him when he had first heard of Madeleine's disappearance and he said: "It was first thing Friday morning. I went to the McCanns apartment and immediately offered my services to police as a translator."

He added with pride: "I helped the McCanns communicate what had happened the night before to the police. They were frantic with worry and frustrated that they were not being understood.

"I have also been translating witness statements for the last few days from Mark Warner workers and holidaymakers."

Much of that, we now suspect, was not true. But at the time, he made it sound like the police knew him very well and he was trusted enough to assist them.

Since Murat's arrest, the McCanns have said they have no memory of even meeting him. One family member said: "He is talking lies and rubbish." But it is what he said next that really set my alarm bells ringing.

I asked why he was so touched by her disappearance. "I have a daughter of the same age," he replied. "In fact, she's the spitting image of Madeleine. I felt sick to the stomach when I heard. I rushed here as soon as I could to offer my help."

WHEN I pushed him further on his background, he suddenly became uncomfortable.

He said: "I'm going through a divorce at the moment so I don't see my daughter much."

There was an evasiveness and unease about Murat that left me feeling extremely uncomfortable.

Murat was reluctant to tell me what he did for a living when I asked. After pausing for several seconds, he said: "I'm in real estate. I've just bought a couple of properties in the Algarve which I'm doing up." Why all the mystery? At this point I still knew him only as Robert, so I asked him his surname. Again he stonewalled. "It's not important," he blustered. "I'm no one really. I'd rather not say."

One minute he was desperate to talk up his role in the investigation, the next he was acting coy.

I asked him for his phone number, hoping he might be a useful source of information.

"No." he replied. "I'm not giving it out to people. I don't want to be quoted. I'm just trying to help. I'll be here quite a lot for the next few days if you need me."

More mystery, more contradictions, more mixed messages.

While we had been speaking, Sunday Mirror photographer Alban Donohoe had taken our picture.

MINUTES after we said goodbye, Murat came back to our car, agitated. He was desperate for Alban to erase the photos.

"I saw you take my picture," he blurted. "I really need you to erase it. I'm not important in the investigation."

He was polite as always, but I sensed panic in his voice and it made me uneasy. Why would a man so apparently keen to attract attention suddenly be so concerned about a couple of pictures?

Like so much else about him, it just didn't add up. Later, as we drove past I deliberately glanced at him and waved goodbye.

He was holding court as usual at the centre of a dozen film crews. He stood, hands on hips, just yards from the police tape which cordoned off the crime scene. But as he caught my eye, he appeared to freeze for just a moment and his expression changed to one of a man exposed.

My encounter with him played on my mind that night. I rang my office in London and we agreed I should pass on my concerns.

I called Leicestershire Police and they took a statement and advised me to speak to the Portuguese authorities. I called the British Embassy in the Algarve and then approached an officer for GNR - the local police force - who was guarding the McCann's apartment.

I told him I had suspicions about a man called Robert who said he was translating for police. He knew instantly who I meant and assured me he would be checked out. I told him Robert had claimed he was translating witness statements and he replied: "That is very unlikely to be true."

My decision to report Murat had nothing to do with being a journalist. It was based on gut instinct and a natural sense of duty that I should share my suspicions. Given the unimaginable horrors which Madeleine's parents were enduring, it seemed the very least I should do.

Murat insists he is innocent, a scapegoat for the failure of police to find Madeleine. He also claims he is a victim of a smear campaign orchestrated by me.

Nothing could be further from the truth, or more absurd. I have no grudge against Murat - just a desire to see Madeleine found.

All I did was pass on information I thought the authorities should be privy to. The rest is in the police's hands.

A picture of courage, 20 May 2007
A picture of courage  News of the World (article no longer online)

Noddy, Shrek, Thomas The Tank Engine and Cuddle Cat help Maddie's parents hold it together

Carole Aye Maung & Ross Hall in Praia da Luz
20 May 2007

It looks for all the world a picture of idyllic family life.

Mum and Dad cuddle their precious little ones on the sofa as they read their favourite stories to squeals of delight.

But this is no ordinary family scene.

For the parents are Gerry and Kate McCann and the smiles they show for their two-year-old twins Amelie and Sean mask the ache of longing for their missing daughter Madeleine.

In Sean's lap is Cuddle Cat, the toy Maddie took to bed every night and turned to whenever she was upset.

Kate has kept it close since she was snatched on May 3, drawing strength and comfort that she can still smell her daughter on it.

The very personal photo - one of several taken inside the McCanns' apartment at The Ocean Club in Praia Da Luz, Portugal - demonstrates the courage Kate and Gerry are showing in the face of their unimaginable agony.

In one touching picture Gerry tenderly kisses Amelie's plastic doll as she dresses it in her mum's necklace.

Sausages

In another, the family watch as Sean takes centre stage and shows off, roaring with laughter as he plays with his Thomas The Tank Engine train set.

The children's favourite toys, games and books were brought from their Leicester home by family members at Gerry and Kate's request last week.

As well as Thomas, the delivery included a Shrek DVD and Amelie's favourite pink Snow White spoons.

Noddy's The Birthday Book, unwrapped last week at the private fourth birthday party held for Madeleine, lies just feet away.

On the wall, just like at home in Leicester, are the children's drawings. And just as they would at home the twins are treated to their favourite meal - sausages and beans.

In one picture, Amelie sits on her mum's knee as Kate helps her eat with a Snow White spoon. Next to her is another plateful for Madeleine. The family include their missing daughter in all their mealtimes and treats.

On Kate's wrist is a child's beaded bracelet. She ties her ponytail with the now-familiar yellow ribbon together with a green ribbon, the colour of hope in Portugal. Round Gerry's wrist are twisted yellow and green strings.

Amelie too wears green hair slides and her bunches are tied with two hairbands, one green and one yellow.

The McCanns' have recorded their struggle to cope with everyday life for the sake of their twins in an extraordinary handwritten diary.

Here is a typical day.

"Our day starts around 6.30am. We have breakfast with Sean and Amelie and our close family and friends who are here with us. Then it's clean nappies and clothes for Sean and Amelie followed by showers etc for the rest of us. Usually there's free time for a few stories or games with the twins before heading out."

9am-9.15: "We take Sean and Amelie to Kids' Club. They really enjoy it and run in.

Amelie particularly likes to look after 'babies'. We use the club a bit like nursery at home but Sean and Amelie still think they are on holiday!"

9.30am-12.15pm: "We return to the apartments, usually for meetings with our press officer, Mark Warner reps, occasionally consulate staff, lawyers and British liaison officers. We catch up with family and close friends, usually by phone and discuss ideas how to keep Madeleine's profile high especially throughout continental Europe."

With the vital jobs attended to the McCanns, both 38, again put the twins first, somehow putting their gut-wrenching worry and dread to one side.

12.30pm: "Time to pick up Sean and Amelie from Kids' Club then head back to apartment for lunch."

1.30pm-2.30: "Time spent playing with the twins either in the apartment or in the play area next to Kids' Club."

2.30pm-3.00: "We usually take the twins back to Kids' Club although Sean has had the odd afternoon in the apartment as it's a bit cooler and he's not much of a sun worshipper! They have been taking part in activities including painting, singing, stories, swimming, trips to the beach and they have lots of toys."

3pm-5.00: "We try to get some time together alone, going for a walk to talk things over or getting some exercise. This is often the time for quiet trips to the church for prayers."

5pm-5.30: "Meet kids for high tea with other mums and dads. They love pasta and have been doing really well with their vegetables although a few chips have been squeezed in."

5.30pm-6.30: "Games with kids at play area. Amelie loves trying to get in the baby pool!"

6.30pm-7.30: "Bath and story time with the twins."

8pm: "We put the kids to bed."

Now it is time to turn their attention, once more, to finding Madeleine.

8.30pm-11: "We try to sit down for a family meal, chat about the day's events and plan the next day."

11pm: "Bed and prayer for Madeleine that she will be returned to us safely ASAP."

Robert Murat, 33, left, the prime suspect in the Maddie case, was in hiding last night.

At night we sleep with our twins to be sure they're safe, 27 May 2007
At night we sleep with our twins to be sure they're safe News of the World (article no longer online)

Maddie's mum can't be apart

Sara Nuwar & Ross Hall in Praia da Luz, Portugal
27 May 2007

Missing Madeleine McCann's parents last night told how they now have their twins sleeping in their bed - so they can keep a constant eye on them.

Mum Kate revealed she is so haunted by the disappearance of four-year-old Maddie, snatched from her bed while the couple ate, that she hates to be parted from two-year-olds Sean and Amelie.

In the couple's first newspaper interview, Kate spoke about keeping their other children safe and admitted: "The twins sleep in the bed with us now. They help us to get through this."

But she and husband Gerry, both 38, are trying not to be too over-protective towards them in the aftermath of Maddie's abduction.

Gerry said: "We really have to make sure it doesn't affect the twins growing up and their normal childhood."

The couple, both doctors, from Rothley, Leics, revealed Sean and Amelie will see a child psychologist next week.

Heartbreak

Kate said: "They are so young they just get on with things but obviously we don't want them to forget about Madeleine. We are hoping to see a psychologist to explain what has happened to Madeleine to the twins."

Yesterday the family looked like any other as they played in a park close to the apartment in Praia da Luz, where Madeleine went missing on May 3.

Sean played on a slide while his sister went on the swings.

Kate, wearing the now-familiar yellow and green ribbons in her hair, pushed as Amelie shouted, "Higher, Mummy, higher. Good fun".

But behind the smiles lurks the continuing heartbreak of Madeleine's disappearance.

Gerry said: "My waking thought is that the phone by the bedside has not rung. That means Madeleine has not been found."

Kate said: "Madeleine is such a huge personality it's obvious when she's not here. I'm better in the morning. It seems like a fresh start. Evenings are harder."

The couple confessed they still cannot think about returning home without Maddie.

On a flying visit to Rothley this week, Gerry was unable to go into the house, let alone Maddie's room.

He confessed: "As I drove into the village I was thinking, 'There should be five of us coming home'. But this is not a time for grieving. We believe she is still alive so grief is not the appropriate emotion.

"We are absolutely determined to get her back. But it could have been worse - we could have lost the twins too. There were three children in the room. That's the worst nightmare."

Tears welled in Gerry's eyes as he thought about the first thing he will do when Madeleine returns home. He said: "We will be having a very big hug."

The couple will make trips around Europe to keep the hunt for Maddie in the headlines and then return to Portugal.

Gerry explained: "It's important to make sure Madeleine's profile and image is as well-known as possible.

"We have to cover Spain because we are so close to the borders. But I hope she is still in Portugal because if that's the case it should just be a matter of time before they find her."

Late yesterday Gerry welcomed the decision to release details of a man seen by a witness with what appeared to be a child in his arms in Praia da Luz on the night Maddie disappeared.

The McCanns had threatened legal action if the man's description was not released.

He is described as 35 to 40, 5ft 10ins, medium build, wearing a dark jacket, beige trousers and dark shoes.

Meanwhile, the only officially named suspect surfaced for the first time since being quizzed over her disappearance. Robert Murat, left, 33, drove off yesterday morning from his mother's villa 150 yards from where Maddie was snatched.



Alternative version (with Gordon Brown contact added):

Maddie's mum can't bear to leave them News of the World (article no longer online)

At night we sleep with our twins to be sure they're safe

Sara Nuwar & Ross Hall in Praia da Luz, Portugal
27 May 2007

Missing Madeleine McCann's parents last night told how they now have their twins sleeping in their bed - so they can keep a constant eye on them.

Mum Kate revealed she is so haunted by the disappearance of four-year-old Maddie, snatched from her bed while the couple ate, that she hates to be parted from two-year-olds Sean and Amelie.

In the couple's first newspaper interview, Kate spoke about keeping their other children safe and admitted: "The twins sleep in the bed with us now. They help us to get through this."

She was speaking as it emerged PM-to-be Gordon Brown has had a series of phone conversations with her husband Gerry. A spokesman for the family said: "Mr Brown offered Gerry and Kate his full support in their efforts to find Madeleine."

Kate and Gerry, both 38, revealed they are trying not to be too over protective towards the twins in the aftermath of Maddie's abduction.

Hoping

Gerry said: "We really have to make sure it doesn't affect the twins growing up and their normal childhood."

The couple, both doctors, from Rothley, Leics, revealed Sean and Amelie will see a child psychologist next week.

Kate said: "They are so young they just get on with things but obviously we don't want them to forget about Madeleine. We are hoping to see a psychologist to explain what has happened to Madeleine to the twins."

Yesterday the family looked like any other as they played in a park close to the apartment in Praia da Luz, where Madeleine went missing on May 3.

Sean played on a slide while his sister went on the swings.

Kate, wearing the now-familiar yellow and green ribbons in her hair, pushed as Amelie shouted, "Higher, Mummy, higher. Good fun".

But behind the smiles lurks the continuing heartbreak of Madeleine's disappearance.

Gerry said: "My waking thought is that the phone by the bedside has not rung. That means Madeleine has not been found."

Kate said: "Madeleine is such a huge personality it's obvious when she's not here. I'm better in the morning. It seems like a fresh start. Evenings are harder."

The couple confessed they still cannot think about returning home without Maddie.

On a flying visit to Rothley this week, Gerry was unable to go into the house, let alone Maddie's room.

He confessed: "As I drove into the village I was thinking, 'There should be five of us coming home'. But this is not a time for grieving. We believe she is still alive so grief is not the appropriate emotion.

"We are absolutely determined to get her back. But it could have been worse - we could have lost the twins too. There were three children in the room. That's the worst nightmare."

Tears welled in Gerry's eyes as he thought about the first thing he will do when Madeleine returns home. He said: "We will be having a very big hug."

The couple will make trips around Europe to keep the hunt for Maddie in the headlines and then return to Portugal.

Gerry explained: "It's important to make sure Madeleine's profile and image is as well-known as possible.

"We have to cover Spain because we are so close to the borders. But I hope she is still in Portugal because if that's the case it should just be a matter of time before they find her."

Late yesterday Gerry welcomed the decision to release details of a man seen by a witness with what appeared to be a child in his arms in Praia da Luz on the night Maddie disappeared.

The McCanns had threatened legal action if the man's description was not released.

He is described as 35 to 40, 5ft 10ins, medium build, wearing a dark jacket, beige trousers and dark shoes.

Meanwhile, the only officially named suspect surfaced for the first time since being quizzed over her disappearance. Robert Murat, left, 33, drove off yesterday morning from his mother's villa 150 yards from where Maddie was snatched.

Suspects did talk after abduction, 03 June 2007
Suspects did talk after abduction Sunday Mirror (paper edition)

Exclusive The Search for Madeleine Day 31

By Lori Campbell in Praia da Luz and Olga Krepysheva in Russia
3/06/2007

THE two men at the centre of the investigation into Madeleine McCann's abduction both misled police, the Sunday Mirror can reveal.

Chief suspect Robert Murat and Russian IT expert Sergey Malinka DID talk by phone the night she disappeared.

Previously they had insisted they were not close friends, just occasional business associates. But yesterday Murat, 33, confirmed an 11.40pm phone call on the critical night of May 3.

"It lasted 30 seconds, so we must have talked, but I honestly can't remember what about. He was setting up my website, so it was probably that," he said.

Malinka, 22, has also changed his story, according to his family.

His grandmother Lilia said he and Murat were good friends and did talk on the phone that night.

Speaking from her home in Saratov in southern Russia, she said: "Sergey was always good with computers, it was his great hobby, and in Portugal he opened a tiny company doing something with computing. For some time he dealt with Murat, this British man who was selling property, the one who is the main suspect now.

"It was a year ago when Sergey stopped working with him, but they exchanged phone calls from time to time because they had a good relationship. This Englishman called Sergey on his mobile exactly after the little girl was kidnapped. I heard it was about 11.30pm that day."

Retired teacher Lilia, 71, said Malinka made the confession about the call to his dad Igor.

She said: "It was Igor who told me all this and later Sergey even forgot somebody called him at that hour and what it was about.

"But then the police came and took away his car and his computers. The car is back now but not his computer hard drive yet." Murat and Malinka both strenuously deny they had anything to do with Madeleine's disappearance.

But parents Gerry and Kate McCann, both 38, were "distraught" yesterday after Murat was reported to have accused them of breaking the law when they left their young daughter unattended.

He was quoted in a newspaper as saying: "It may sound harsh, but if anyone has broken the law, then the McCanns have.

"Portuguese law says that you cannot leave young children unattended. They say they were eating in the complex but the apartment was outside across an alley so, I'm sorry, but they broke the law. I would never leave my daughter, I would not let her out of my sight because she gets up and tends to walk off.

"That said, I would not criticise them because children are different and only they know how their kids behave."

However Murat's spokesman disputed the words attributed to him in the article calling them "absolutely untrue".

"The family has been through enough and Mr Murat is disgusted with the way this has been reported," he said.

Yesterday, after weeks of solid campaigning, the McCanns stepped out of the media spotlight to spend time with their two-year-old twins Sean and Amelie at the beach.

We hope whoever took her is sad & not bad, 03 June 2007
We hope whoever took her is sad & not bad Sunday Mirror (paper edition)

The search for Madeleine Day 31

Lori Campbell in Praia da Luz, Portugal
3 June 2007

THE parents of Madeleine McCann told last night how they are clinging to the hope that the person who snatched her is sad, not bad.

Mum Kate says: "We know there are bad people out there, but we know there are also a lot of sad people. We hope it's the latter."

At the couple's apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal, dad Gerry adds: "You can imagine different people wanting children for different reasons. Some of those reasons are much more sinister than others. We try not to think about that. There are a number of scenarios and it is safe to say we have thought about all of the possibilities. Until we actually know who has taken her and what's happened to her, it's hard to think it through."

Exactly a month after Madeleine was snatched on Thursday, May 3, Gerry and Kate have opened their hearts for the first time about their darkest fear... that their precious daughter may no longer be alive.

But they are bravely determined not to be dragged into what they call a "spiral of despair" by dwelling on such a negative possibility - or to even think about pointing the finger of blame at each other.

Gerry says: "We are in this together. Of course we feel guilty. We feel that we have let her down. We were not there at that moment she was abducted. But we have never subconsciously or consciously thought, 'It's Kate's fault, it's my fault'.

"We are responsible parents. When something terrible happens, in any walk of life, people look to blame people. We are a couple. We are her parents, we love her absolutely desperately. We certainly don't go along with blame and divisiveness."

Gerry and Kate, both 38, have impressed the world with their show of courage, determination and dignity during the hunt to find their daughter. But yesterday they revealed the inner torture they are enduring as they battle against thoughts of what may have happened to her.

Gerry says: "Of course we believe Madeleine is still alive, but you would be incredible if you hadn't considered the worst scenario that she's dead."

Looking down at her lap and holding Gerry's hand tightly, Kate says: "Everybody has considered that."

Gerry says they have allowed themselves to think about the person who snatched Madeleine from her bed. They just pray that she is being cared for.

"Madeleine did not deserve this," he says. "She did not deserve to be abducted.

"It is heart-wrenching for everyone involved and we pray constantly that she is well and being looked after."

In their fight to remain positive, Gerry says they try to block out their thoughts of Madeleine's kidnapper.

"It is pure speculation that leads us into negative thoughts," he says. "We don't think for any length of time about who might have her or why they have her. Therefore it is hard to generate our anger."

Kate, still clutching the Cuddle Cat toy that has not left her side since four-year-old Madeleine disappeared, adds: "We have anger. But it is anger at the situation. I think that is part of the normal grieving process."

Gerry says: "It's like the same as having a bereavement, being diagnosed with cancer. There's a lot of mixed emotions, and anger is one of them."

Giving a rare glimpse of the anger he feels towards Madeleine's kidnapper, Gerry says: "There is no doubt that it is an evil act. That is the simplest way to say it without getting into very strong words." But he says they refuse to think for long about their worst fears and cling to the hope that Madeleine is alive.

"Until we are sure what has happened, it is hard to sort any of these thoughts," he says.

Kate, wearing green and yellow ribbons on her belt for hope and remembrance, spoke of the terrible guilt they feel for having left Madeleine on the night she was taken.

The couple, from Rothely, Leicestershire, took turns to check on their three children every half hour as they ate at a Tapas restaurant 50 yards from their holiday apartment. But when Kate returned at 10pm, Madeleine was gone.

Kate also reveals that they find thinking about Madeleine too painful, but that too has left them plagued with guilt.

"In the first three days it was virtually impossible to shut the negative thoughts out, but you realise that as a coping strategy you have to do that," she says. "We both said you feel guilty for not thinking about her.

"Normally we'd be thinking about her all the time. It's important for us and for her that we don't become negative, and we're not."

Gerry says: "You'd be inhuman if you were able to block this out completely. But I have become good at blocking it out because when I get into the negatives it takes me back, it sort of spirals downwards into despair. We have our low moments, but we have been very positive. We will not give up until there is absolutely no hope."

Kate says: "We don't know where she is - that is the bottom line. We'd like to think she's still in Portugal. But we know there's a possibility she's gone over the border or several borders."

Asked how he imagines Madeleine, Gerry says he cannot bear to think about where she is now. His image of her is stuck in time. He remembers her as the happy, giggling little girl she was when he last saw her.

He says: "When I think about her now, it's thinking about the little happy three, nearly four-year-old running around doing things, and us playing with her. It is all the things which were so special to us, and not where she is now."

The couple, who are devoting nearly all of their time to the international campaign to find Madeleine, say they remain buoyed by hope that they will be reunited with her.

Kate says: "We still have hope because we don't have any news to suggest otherwise. It's really important that we do have that hope, that we remain positive, because that is the way we are going to get her back.

"As time goes on, everyone gets quite negative. Every day is one too many."

Gerry adds: "If we knew who had her, and they had a track record, we'd say the chances of her being alive are diminishing. But even then, there are cases where someone comes out well at the end of it."

The couple, who have found great comfort in their Catholic faith and met the Pope in a special Vatican audience last week, say they cannot consider forgiving Madeleine's abductor until they know what happened to her.

Gerry says: "Forgiveness is something we will address when we've found her and we know what's happened and who's taken her."

Portuguese detectives have faced growing criticism over the way the investigation has been handled. Despite the hunt for Madeleine being publicised worldwide, they have uncovered few clues and appear to be no closer to finding her.

But, determined to remain positive, Gerry says: "Of course we are frustrated and desperate that we don't have her. I can understand why some would say that there has been a lack of progress, but the police are working through things systematically.

"The investigation now is as good or almost as good as it ever can be. Expert help from the UK has added to the strong desire and hard work of the Portugese detectives. This is possibly one of the biggest investigations ever in Portugal. There is a huge amount of information being processed by the Portugese and British police."

However, it took police three weeks to release a description of a man seen carrying a child away from the McCann's apartment on the night, even though it was a family friend of the McCanns who reported the sighting.

Gerry says: "We all supported each other during the traumatic period. We are very good friends and continue to support each other."

Kate, who has visibly lost weight since Madeleine's disappearance, said they have tried to look after their health for the sake of their two-year-old twins, Sean and Amelie.

She says: "In the first few days your appetite just goes and you can't sleep. I think that's a normal reaction. Then something kicks in and things return."

Gerry says: "For the first three days I was forcing myself to eat and drink. But now, apart from when I have blips or the dark, negative thoughts kick in, I feel pretty normal physically. Night times are always the hardest. When you go to bed you tend to be more contemplative. But we are usually so tired by then we fall asleep quite quickly."

Kate says looking after the twins has given them some small relief from their constant nightmare. "They are young enough to not have a great concept of what's going on, or of time. They are a lot of fun and keep us going."

Gerry says: "The fact that Sean and Amelie are twins helps. They are too young to know Madeleine has been missing for a long time. We have to make sure we give them the love and attention they need."

The couple now plan to visit European cities to publicise the hunt for their daughter. They are also planning a global Madeleine Day to raise awareness that she is still missing. Gerry says they hope to hold a massive concert or sports event to mark the day later this year.

Meanwhile, he says they still can't bear to think about returning home to the UK without Madeleine. "I would have to feel that the investigation in Portugal was exhausted," he says. "This is where she was abducted from - the investigation is centred around here. We want to be close to that.

"We have never once thought of blaming each other."

We HAVE feared Maddie may be dead, 03 June 2007
We HAVE feared Maddie may be dead News of the World (article no longer online)

Parents admit they've faced worst terror of all

Ross Hall in Praia da Luz, Portugal
3 June 2007

Maddie McCann's anguished parents today open their hearts in an emotional interview - and reveal the agony over their missing daughter is "like a cancer" eating away at them.

And for the the first time they speak of their worst fear of all...that their little girl may be dead.

Sitting side by side on a beach not far from the Portugal apartment complex where Maddie was kidnapped 31 days ago, Gerry and Kate McCann still cling desperately to the word that pervades almost ever sentence they speak - hope.

But Gerry, 38, confesses: "There are a number of scenarios and it's safe to say we've thought about all of them.

"Of course we have considered Maddie is dead. But there is still hope. You might argue that the hope is diminishing as time goes on but there is still an investigation and that is still active.

"We will not give up until there is absolutely no hope left. We have got to believe she's alive and out there somewhere. If you give up hope you're basically saying she's dead.

"But everything is pure speculation and that leads us into negative thoughts and one thing that we don't think about for any length of time is who might have her, and why they have her.

"The feeling is like having a bereavement or being diagnosed with cancer."

Kate, still clutching tightly onto Madeleine's favourite toy Cuddle Cat just as she has done every day since her disappearance, adds: "We still have hope because we don't have any news to suggest otherwise.

Coping

"It's really important that we have that hope and remain positive, because that's the way we're going to get her back."

"In the first three days it was virtually impossible to shut out the negative thoughts. But you soon realise that as a coping strategy you have to do that. It is important for us and for her that we don't become negative - and we're not."

Gerry nods knowingly: "I think you would be inhumane if you were able to block these things out completely. But I know that it doesn't help me, and it doesn't help us influence the search for Madeleine.

"We have our low moments but generally what you see with us is what you get. We have been very positive, we know it helps us, we know it helps other people looking for Madeleine."

They have given themselves little time to be negative amid the whirlwind of the international campaign they have launched to find their beloved four-year old.

In the past few days the couple have been to Rome to meet the Pope and made a TV appeal in Spain.

But despite a huge poster campaign, a well-visited website findmadeleine.co.uk, personal appeals from dozens of celebrities and a £1.5million reward offer from the News of the World, there has been no concrete evidence to lead to Maddie's whereabouts - or any clues to who may have her.

"You can imagine different people wanting children for different reasons," says Gerry. "Some of those reasons are much more sinister than others, but we really don't try to think about that. We pray constantly that Madeleine is well and being looked after."

Fighting back tears Kate adds: "We have anger but it's anger at the situation.

"We know there are bad people out there but there are also a lot of sad people. We just hope it's the latter."

Meanwhile Gerry admits he gets the strength to go on by holding onto his memories of Maddie - her big bright smile and long blonde hair etched in his mind.

"When I think about her now it's thinking about the little happy three, nearly four-year-old, doing things. It's playing with her and all the things which are so special to us. It's not about where she is now," he says.

"Night time is always the hardest. When you are going to bed you tend to be more contemplative. But we're usually so tired we do actually fall asleep quite quickly."

Their greatest solace, apart from the overwhelming public support they have had, has been their faith. Both Catholics, their meeting with the Pope gave them a huge lift.

Kate says: "We think our faith has been very important. We've had a lot of support from the local community and the local church. And meeting the Pope was a great comfort."

The worst thing about going to Rome was having to leave their two-year-old twins Sean and Amelie behind. Although they were being looked after by close family, it was the first time they had left them overnight.

"It was very difficult. You know you want them with you," says Kate. "Leaving them is not ideal, but then none of this is. But we're doing it for Madeleine."

Since she was snatched from their apartment in Praia da Luz, while Gerry and Kate ate dinner with friends in a nearby restaurant, there have been harsh accusations aimed at them.

But the couple are unwavering in their support for each other. With his arm around Kate, Gerry says: "We are in this together. Of course we feel guilty. We feel we have let her down. We were not there at that moment that she was abducted.

Fault

"We love her absolutely desperately, but what we're focusing on is what we can do to influence things. We have never subconsciously or consciously thought 'It was Kate's fault' or 'It was my fault'.

"We're a couple in this. We are responsible parents. When something terrible happens in any walk of life people look to blame people.

"What we need to look at is the person who took her. It's not our fault."

The McCanns - who are expected to fly to Berlin, Amsterdam and Morocco next in their bid to raise the profile of Madeleine's case - have no intention of heading back to their home in Rothley, Leics.

"To go home I would have to feel that the investigation in Portugal had been exhausted," says Gerry. "I think we are a long way from that.

"We are frustrated and desperate that we don't have Madeleine, but the Portuguese police are making progress.

"We want to be here. This is where she was abducted from. And while there is hope we will not give up."

McCanns: Hunt on hold to grieve, 10 June 2007
McCanns: Hunt on hold to grieve Sunday Mirror (paper edition)

The search for Madeleine Day 38

• It will be so hard to go home.. but it is time to grieve - Dad Gerry
• I feel close to her here. I can't bear to think of going back - Mum Kate

Lori Campbell in Praia da Luz
10 June 2007

MADELEINE McCann's shattered father Gerry told yesterday how he needed to put the campaign to find her on hold to take time to grieve.

In an emotional interview the heartbroken dad - from Glasgow - said: "Kate and I need to grieve.

"Not because we fear the worst but to grieve her not being with us. We just need to take stock and decide what is best to do from now."

The couple - who have worked tirelessly since their daughter went missing 38 days ago - know they have done everything they possibly can in Portugal.

And after one last trip, this time to Morocco where a tourist is convinced she spotted Madeleine, they both desperately need a break.

In Morocco, they will meet with politicians and child welfare charities before returning to Portugal on Tuesday.

But if the decision to come home is difficult for Gerry, it is proving virtually impossible for his wife.

"Although we're talking about what we will do next week, we still hope every morning that this will be the day we get her back," said Kate.

"I do actually feel close to Madeleine here. Of course, she could be even further from here than she is from the UK, but I feel emotionally close to her here.

"People have told me that I could do the same if not more back in the UK, but I can't face leaving here yet."

However Gerry, 39, knows that the heartbreaking decisions must present itself sooner or later. "The time has come to have a contingency plan," he said. "We'll have to start working on that. We will not give up, but
there will be a different way of doing it.

"I can see myself having to go back to the UK to meet with people. It is just more efficient to do things over there. But it will be very, very hard going home.

"The last time I was back I couldn't even go into the house. I found it hard enough going back to Rothely. It was very emotional."

Speaking from their apartment in Praia da Luz, he said they are now ready to face up to the darker emotions they have so far been able to  shut out.

He said: "Early on, I was absolutely driven by a focus I've never had before in my life.

"All my energies have been channelled into anything I can do. I was concentrating on organising the main visits.

"When we're making appeals, we don't want anything to cloud that. It's given us focus and helped us keep our emotions in check. The overriding desire is to get the message out for people to come forward and that
suppresses other stuff."

He added: "We have been seeing a psychologist who has helped us. We are still in regular contact with him.

"In the first few weeks, when I slipped into dark moments of despair, I was finding it quite easy to emotionally switch a light back on.

"But I've been finding that increasingly difficult to do. More importantly, I don't want to do that anymore, I want to be able to grieve and let those emotions out. There have been a lot of tears in private but we keep our emotions in check in private."

Kate, 38, added: "Certainly I find when I'm alone I feel a lot of anxiety. When I'm speaking in public it helps take my mind off things.

"For that moment I'm not thinking, 'Where is Madeleine, how is she feeling?'

"It's a distraction because you know that might help. But it's time to step back from that."

Squeezing her hand tightly, Gerry added: "We've made a vow to each other that we would take time for ourselves."

The couple, both doctors, will then take a break as they feel they will have done everything in their powers to publicise the hunt for Madeleine. And Gerry said it is likely he will return to the UK at least for a short time. He said: "When we get back from Morocco we want to sit back and take stock of what we're doing. We have not got any other visits planned because we think we've covered all the main areas.

"In terms of the investigation, all the specific appeals have been done. We would have covered the two countries in close proximity with Portugal which are Spain and Morocco.

"Then I think that Kate and I personally and also family and friends who have been campaigning will need a break.

"We just need to take stock and decide what is best after that."

Gerry said they will remain in constant contact with police, but need to take time to reflect on what to do next, and to spend time with their two-year-old twins Sean and Amelie.

He said: "We'll still meet with the Portuguese police as we have done fairly regularly, and with the British police.

"But it is definitely going to be a period of reflection. We can't keep doing the same thing week after week. The coverage will dwindle away. What we want to be sure of is that what we put our energy into is
effective.

"We need to know that our objectives are going to help in the search for Madeleine.

"We don't like the limelight and would never have chosen to do all this, but we're driven by the fact we think it's helping Madeleine."

Kate has found it particularly difficult facing the cameras.

Still wearing her trademark green and yellow ribbons for hope in her hair, she said: "At work, I could never stand up and say something in front of people, I never volunteer for that kind of thing.

"But here I have to get over that because this situation is bigger than we are.

"I feel a great deal of anxiety speaking in public, but it pales into insignificance here because nothing can compare to the trauma of losing your child."

Kate, still clutching the Cuddle Cat which has not left her side since Madeleine went missing, said it has been agonising not knowing what happened to their daughter. She said: "We don't know who has taken Madeleine or why they've taken her or where she is now. That is the hardest part." Gerry added: "That is the hardest thing to deal with, the not knowing."

Kate said she wanted to visit Morocco because her instinct told her it could be important.

She said: "It's mostly the ease of access. We know we can get there in a couple of hours."

Gerry added: "For us, and Kate in particular, Morocco is important. There are a lot of things that I drive forward, but in this case it's Kate who has felt very strongly about it."

Kate added: "We don't want to look back and think maybe we should havegone there or maybe we should have done that.

"We don't know whether any of what we're doing is helping or making a difference, we're just doing everything we can."

Kate said they have been comforted by the gestures of support from holidaymakers in Praia da Luz.

She said: "It's good that people have come up to us.

"They are enjoying their holiday and we don't want to ruin that. But the support they have shown us has been great." Gerry added: "People on holiday can't forget that Madeleine went missing from here, but they
still want to stay here.

"At half term it was really busy, there was lots of noise with kids enjoying themselves and that made us feel better."

Kate said: "People aren't sure whether to come up to us, but many have and we take great strength in that.

"We've had thousands of emails and letters, but it's nice to meet real people who express their support for us."

POLICE believe a mystery caller claiming to know Madeleine's where-abouts is a conman.

The man, a known criminal in Argentina, had hoped to extort a million dollars from Madeleine's parents - despite having no knowledge of where the little girl is.

A police spokesman in Cordoba, Argentina said: "Although he is a professional thief, neither he nor his accomplices would have been able to commit an abduction like this and to hold a little girl being searched for in Portugal, Spain and Great Britain."

We want to grieve in peace, 10 June 2007
We want to grieve in peace News of the World (article no longer online)

Maddie's tired parents put campaign on hold

Ross Hall in Praia da Luz, Portugal
10 June 2007

The exhausted parents of Madeleine McCann last night revealed they are putting their campaign to find her on hold so they can finally grieve for their missing daughter.

Kate and Gerry McCann have worked ceaselessly to keep their four-year-old's plight in the public eye since she was snatched from their holiday flat in Portugal 37 days ago.

But last night Gerry, 39, revealed: "In the first few weeks when I slipped into dark moments of despair I was finding it quite easy to emotionally switch a light back on, but I've been finding it increasingly difficult to do that.

Emotions

"More importantly I don't want to do that any more. I want to be able to grieve and let those emotions out."

Kate, 38, still clutching Maddie's favourite Cuddle Cat toy, said: "I find when I am alone I feel a lot of anxiety.

"When I'm speaking to people it takes my mind off things. I'm not thinking, 'Where is Madeleine, how is she feeling?' It's a distraction and it helps, but it's time to step back from that."

Today the couple will travel to Morocco in the last phase of their campaign before considering what to do next.

Gerry said: "After this we've not got any other visits planned because we think we've covered all the main areas. Kate and I and also family and friends who have been campaigning will need a break. We need to take a step back and work out how we can help in the search for Madeleine.

"We have to ask ourselves whether this is a long-term campaign. We never wanted it to be one, we want her back as soon as possible.

"But we are thinking of the wider issues now, that Madeleine's disappearance might be linked to organised abuse of children."

The McCanns are expected to return to Praia da Luz from Morocco on Tuesday.

Then Gerry will go home to Leicestershire for a short time while Kate stays in Portugal.

She said: "I feel close to Madeleine here. She could be further away from here than she is from the UK but I feel emotionally close to her here. I can't face leaving here."

West Ham soccer star Carlos Tevez made an appeal last night to a mystery caller who rang police with what they thought was "credible" information about Madeleine which may link her to a kidnap ring.

The caller, using a mobile phone registered in Argentina, promised to ring back to talk to the McCanns but did not.

Last night there were claims the call had been made by a known criminal in Cordoba. Police sources claimed the alleged informant has been involved in kidnappings by gangs operating between Spain and Argentina.

Crime

Argentinian Tevez, 23, said: "I have a two-year-old daughter of my own and my prayers go out to the McCann family. I would urge the person who called the Spanish police with information about the kidnap to ring again."

Meanwhile, the owners of the flat Maddie was snatched from on the Mark Warner complex are returning to Portugal next week for the first time since her abduction.

The couple, believed to be English, have been told their ground floor apartment is no longer a crime scene.

My Father's Day agony over Maddie, 17 June 2007
My Father's Day agony over Maddie News of the World (article no longer online)

Ross Hall in Praia da Luz, Portugal
17 June 2007

Madeleine McCann's dad has revealed he cannot bear to celebrate Father's Day today while his daughter is still missing.

Speaking from the family's apartment in Portugal, Gerry McCann said: "I can't think about last year's Father's Day and how we spent it. I honestly can't.

"My thoughts are focused on looking forward. I can't think about anything other than how we can help try to get Madeleine back."

Upsetting

Gerry, 39, and wife Kate, 38, took their two-year-old twins Sean and Amelie to a nearby zoo yesterday to avoid bumping into families celebrating today.

And from today, the News of the World will not show the twins' faces at the family's request.

Gerry explained: "Kate and I will have to remain in the public eye if this drags on for months.

"But we don't want Sean and Amelie to be instantly recognisable as they grow up."

Gerry also spoke about the heartache he and Kate endured as police searched wasteland nine miles from where Madeleine was taken after a "credible" tip-off this week.

He said: "The thought of a very public search with Madeleine coming out of it dead was extremely upsetting. Kate wasn't good during that time."

Friday will mark 50 days since Madeleine was abducted from the Mark Warner resort in Praia da Luz. To keep her plight in the public eye, the family are planning to release 50 balloons bearing Maddie's face in 50 countries.

The News of the World has launched a Pounds 1.5million reward for information leading to the safe return of the four-year-old.

Maddie mum and dad send thanks to The News of the World, 24 June 2007
Maddie mum and dad send thanks to The News of the World News of the World (article no longer online)

Ross Hall
24 June 2007

Missing Madeleine McCann's parents have written a heartfelt letter of thanks to the Irish News of the World for our support in the campaign to find their daughter.

Gerry and Kate sent the message as they marked the 50th day since their four-year-old was snatched.

Addressed to the Editor, it said: "We are writing to express our deep gratitude for all that your organisation and reporters have done to raise worldwide awareness of the abduction of our beautiful daughter.

"It is hard to express how much your support and the support of your readers have meant to us personally at this terribly difficult time. It has strengthened our resolve and supported our campaign enormously."

Soon after Madeleine was taken from her Portugese holiday apartment, we launched a 2million reward to help secure her release and arranged a poster campaign.

McCanns move out, 01 July 2007
McCanns move out Sunday Mirror (paper edition)

They find new home near holiday resort

Lori Campbell in Praia da Luz
1/07/2007

MADELEINE McCann's parents have made the heart-wrenching decision to move out of the resort where their daughter was kidnapped.

Gerry and Kate were yesterday packing boxes at the rented apartment just a few doors from where Madeleine went missing 59 days ago. The couple have found a modest property near Praia da Luz to use as their base as they continue their campaign to find her.

Their new location will remain secret as they try to rebuild a normal family life with their two-year-old twins, Sean and Amelie.

Gerry, 39, said yesterday: "Kate and I are staying in the Algarve, continuing to search for our daughter, but we will be moving shortly.

"We remain convinced that Madeleine is alive and will be returned to us safely and well. At this point we are determined to stay in Portugal."

The couple will take with them several boxes containing thousands of letters of support from wellwishers.

Kate, 38, said: "Gerry and I want to thank everyone who is supporting us. We have had thousands of letters and we know that people all over the world remember Madeleine in their prayers."

The McCanns have vowed not to return to their home in Rothley, Leicestershire, until they have some news of their daughter.

Scum, 01 July 2007
Scum News of the World (article no longer online)

Maddie monsters face justice over evil plot

Ross Hall In Spain
1 July 2007

THE evil couple accused of plotting to swindle the huge Madeleine McCann reward are led off to face justice yesterday.

Grey Danilo Chemello, 61, looked scruffy in a green polo shirt and grubby white shorts as he was escorted from a Spanish police station.

Aurora Vaz, 54, his girlfriend of ten years, skulked in the back of a car as she was driven to a nearby court.

The couple were seized on Thursday at their swanky rented villa in Sotogrande after police got a tip they were plotting to claim the £2.5million reward-including £1.5million from the News of the World-despite knowing nothing about Maddie's disappearance.

Today we can reveal the extent of the couple's criminal past.

Chemello and Vaz were jailed for five years in Italy in 2001 after her ex husband Alberto Tana was shot four times in the knee from point-blank range.

The couple were said to have planted drugs and a gun in Tana's car while he was locked in a bitter battle with Vaz over custody of their daughter.

Chemello and Vaz were later cleared of the shooting but convicted of perverting the course of justice.

The couple have also been investigated for alleged child-trafficking.

Chemello, an Italian construction millionaire, was yesterday being taken from Algeciras, southern Spain, to Madrid where he is expected to be extradited to France.

Authorities there want him for allegedly blackmailing a judge who jailed him and Portuguese Vaz for the horrifying abuse of their five-year-old daughter when they lived in the French Riviera. But sources say it could take weeks before a decision is made about charging the couple.

Yesterday the Spanish Interior Ministry said: "Police investigated them to establish if they have tried to contact Madeleine's parents in order to claim the reward on offer.

"The facts point to them being fraudsters, although the police investigation is not closed."

Maddie has now been missing for 59 days since being snatched from her family's holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal.

30 July 2007 - Specialist sniffer dogs arrive

The Enhanced Victim Recovery Dogs (EVRD), Eddie and Keela, arrive with their handler, Martin Grime.

According to one of the McCann's neighbours at their rented villa - a Portuguese lawyer - in the nights leading up to the dog exams, the McCanns frequently left the luggage door of their rented Renault Scenic car open.

31 July 2007
- Sniffer dogs alert in Apartment 5A

Eddie (cadaver dog) alerts in a number of places and Keela (blood dog) alerts behind the sofa.

'On that night, before 10pm, the investigators see Gerald McCann near the apartment, driving alone in the rented Renault with the face of one "who has few friends."'

- The Truth of the Lie by Gonçalo Amaral

01 August 2007 - Kate McCann interview

Kate is interviewed for the first time without Gerry. The interview, given to Lori Campbell was 'pooled' to other newspapers and published on 05 August.

02 August 2007 - Eddie alerts in McCann's rented villa

Eddie (cadaver dog) alerts to a number of items.

03 August 2007 - Huelva trip

The McCanns drive to Huelva despite it being a public holiday and the main shopping centre being closed.

I'm sorry Madeleine, 05 August 2007
I'm sorry Madeleine Sunday Mirror
 
POLICE MOVE IN.. AS KATE TELLS OF PAIN Every hour I ask myself 'Why did I think she was safe?' We have doubted what we did & I do feel regret we weren't there
 
Lori Campbell In Praia Da Luz, Portugal
05/08/2007
 
Heartbroken mum Kate McCann quietly sobs as she speaks for the first time of her guilt about leaving little daughter Madeleine alone the night she was snatched. "I feel desperately sorry to her that we weren't there," she says.
 
"Every hour now, I still ask myself, 'Why did I think that was safe?' But it did feel safe and so right. I do feel regret. I've gone through all my life and said I never want to have any regrets, but you can't not regret something like that."
 
Speaking without her husband Gerry at her side for the first time, Kate, 38, reveals how she is haunted by the unbearable regret that she wasn't there to protect her daughter.
 
In an emotional interview, in which she repeatedly breaks down in tears, Kate says that if she could tell her four-year-old daughter anything now, it would be that she loves and misses her.
 
Clutching the pink Cuddle Cat toy which has been a constant source of comfort to her since it was left lying in Madeleine's bed the night she was taken, Kate says: "I want to tell her we love her very much. She knows we're looking for her, that we're doing absolutely everything and we'll never give up."
 
Kate reveals how their happy girl had told her she'd had the best day of her life before she fell asleep on the evening she disappeared.
 
Madeleine had spent the day at a kids' club near the family's holiday apartment in Praia da Luz in Portugal, swimming, face-painting and colouring-in with other children.
 
But Kate now plays over in her mind the heart-wrenching words which could tragically be the last Madeleine ever said to her.
 
She says: "As I put her to bed, she smiled at me and said, 'Mummy I've had the best day ever. I'm having lots and lots of fun'."
 
Kate reveals Madeleine had been practising a dance at the club which she was looking forward to showing her mum the following day - "but I never got to see it".
 
After putting Madeleine and two-year-old twins Sean and Amelie to bed, Kate and Gerry joined friends at a tapas restaurant 50 yards from their ground-floor villa.
 
They took turns to check on the children every half-hour. But when Kate returned at about 10pm, she discovered Madeleine was gone.
 
Recalling the moment she found her daughter's bed empty, Kate says: "There was 20 seconds of disbelief where I thought, 'That can't be right'. I was checking for her. Then there was panic and fear. That was the first thing that hit. I was screaming her name. I ran to the group. Everyone was the same. It was total fear.
 
"I never thought for one second that she'd walked out. I knew someone had been in the apartment because of the way it had been left.
 
"But I knew she wouldn't walk out anyway. There wasn't a shadow of a doubt in my mind she'd been taken."
 
Kate says she saw that Madeleine's toy Cuddle Cat had been left behind, but was careful not to touch it in case it held a clue to who took her.
 
She says: "I knew straight away a crime had been committed, we had no doubt about that. We were very conscious of not touching things."
 
Speaking with moving honesty, Kate reveals how she asks herself every day whether she and Gerry were wrong to leave their children alone.
 
She says they felt so safe at the "family-friendly" resort they didn't think twice about leaving Madeleine and the twins - and she reveals how they'd left them alone every evening as they ate dinner in the week until Madeleine was taken on a Thursday night.
 
But she admits it was a decision that torments her with every waking moment. "We've doubted what we did," Kate says. "It's hard to answer the question, 'Were we wrong to leave them?' If I'd had to think for one second, 'Should we have dinner and leave them?' I wouldn't have done it.
 
"It didn't happen like that. I didn't have to think for a second, that's how safe I felt. It's not like we went down town or anything. That night runs over and over in my mind and I'm sure people will learn from our mistake, if you want to call it that. I love her and I'm a totally responsible parent and that's the only thing that keeps me going."
 
Her eyes falling to Cuddle Cat, which she has reluctantly washed after it became filthy from her carrying it around, Kate adds: "I feel desperately sorry to her that we weren't there."
 
But Kate says she and Gerry have never blamed each other for that night. She says: "We have a strong relationship. We don't row. We talk a lot and that is vital at the moment."
 
Kate, a GP, can't imagine ever returning to the family's home in Rothley, Leics, without Madeleine as it holds too many memories of the bright and playful youngster.
 
She says: "I can't bear the thought of it. We had lived in that house for a year and it was a really happy home. When we left it the last time we were so excited. I can't think about going back without her."
 
Speaking at a charity headquarters in Lagos, a 10-minute drive from the apartment where Madeleine was kidnapped, Kate says she had asked Gerry, 39, not to join her. She wanted to express her feelings as a mother, and to say thank you to all the mums who have sent her letters of support. Kate says: "Sometimes I want to speak, but I just can't. It's not natural for me. Gerry's used to having to speak at conferences and it's harder for me. I've had so many letters from mothers, really kind words. They have said, 'Kate, we've done this a hundred times over ourselves'. I wanted to say thank you for that support and reassurance."
 
Kate tells how she and Gerry had the agony of celebrating Madeleine's fourth birthday without her, eight days after she went missing.
 
She says: "She was due to have a party in the nursery, including her best friend. That went ahead and quite rightly. But it was hard to ignore the reason why they were there, because Madeleine wasn't. Not having her there was such a huge void."
 
Kate now wears a silver locket round her neck with a picture of Madeleine inside and the words "Tower of Strength" engraved on it.
 
She says a friend gave it to her because "that's what Madeleine was to us, a tower of strength".
 
The McCanns have moved from the apartment two doors from where Madeleine disappeared to a villa just outside the resort as they continue their campaign to find her.
 
And Kate says they are still clinging to the hope she will join them there. "We unpacked some of Madeleine's things. I've kept her clothes together. She has lots of presents to open that people have sent - mostly people who don't know her."
 
Kate also speaks for the first time of her first visit back to the UK for a family baptism two weeks ago.
 
She says: "The hardest thing wasn't being in the UK, it was to be with such close family and for Madeleine not to be there. She's such a big part of our lives."
 
Conscious to speak of her in the present tense, she adds: "Despite her small size she just has this huge presence. She brings a lot of joy."
 
She says the twins often ask about their older sister. "They know she's not there and they do miss her," Kate explains. "But on a day-to-day basis they are happy. They're lovely, like a little double act, they're so funny."
 
Smiling, she adds: "They talk about Madeleine's things and if they get a biscuit they say, 'One for Sean, one for Amelie, one for Madeleine'.
 
"There was an empty seat on the plane on our trip to the UK and Sean said, 'That's Madeleine's seat'. Amelie asked me afterwards, 'Where's Madeleine? I miss my big sister'.
 
"Amelie will point at the Cuddle Cat and say, 'Madeleine. Her Cuddle Cat. Looking after it'. She's probably heard me saying that. It catches me."
 
Kate reveals she still battles with nightmarish thoughts that Madeleine might be dead. "I still have moments of panic and fear. It's not as intense and unrelenting as the first five days. We have hope now and it's important to hold on to that."
 
And she says she is still not considering returning home to the UK. "It's a gut feeling. I'm aware there are probably things that would be easier at home, but at the moment this is the right thing for us."
 
With next Saturday marking 100 days since Madeleine was snatched, Kate reveals her heartache at each passing day without news of her.
 
She says: "I'm still hoping we're not going to get there. Every day I'm hoping we won't get to the next day without her. It's a long time. But we have to keep going for Madeleine."

We're so desperately sorry we left you, 05 August 2007
We're so desperately sorry we left you News of the World (article no longer online)

Kate's secret regret. In an emotional, tear-filled interview, Maddie's mum delivers a message to her little girl

Ross Hall
5 August 2007

Heartbroken Kate McCann sobbed last night as she spoke fully for the first time of her anguish and regret at leaving her daughter alone on the night she vanished.

In her first solo newspaper interview an emotional Kate, her eyes red and puffy from the endless sleepless nights, admitted: "We're just so desperately sorry to Madeleine that we weren't there.

"Even now, every hour I still question myself, 'Why did I think that was safe?'

"I do feel regret, and I've gone through all of my life saying I never want to have any regrets. But you can't not regret something like that."

As mum-of-three Kate, 38, spoke she repeatedly broke down, gripping tightly on to Maddie's favourite pink Cuddle Cat toy.

Asked what she would tell her missing daughter if she could, Kate said: "I'd tell her we love her. She knows we love her very much. She knows we're looking for her, that we're doing absolutely everything and we'll never give up."

In a heart-rending twist, Kate revealed four-year-old Maddie's last words on the evening she was snatched from their Portuguese holiday apartment, Thursday May 3, telling her mum she'd just had the happiest day of her life.

Fighting back tears Kate said: "We used the Kids' Club and Madeleine had a ball.

They did swimming, went on a little boat, went to the beach, did lots of colouring-in, face-painting, tennis. She was so happy.

"That night before she went to bed she said, 'Mummy, I've had the best day ever.

I'm having lots and lots of fun.'

"She had a little dance prepared for me for the Friday - they'd been working on it for days."

Her voice dropping to a whisper, Kate sobbed: "I don't know what it was - I never got to see it."

Since Maddie was snatched, GP Kate and her hospital doctor husband Gerry, along with their two-year-old twins Sean and Amelie, have remained in Praia da Luz to be near the search. Kate's voice breaks as she relives the gut-wrenching moment as she walked into the room and realised Madeleine was gone.

"There were about 20 seconds of disbelief where I thought, 'That can't be right'," she said. "Then there was panic and fear. I was screaming her name, it was just total fear.

"I never thought for one second she'd walked out. I knew someone had been in the apartment because of the way it had been left.

"There wasn't a shadow of a doubt in my mind she'd been taken. That's why the fear set in. Then you go through the guilt phase straight away.

"I can't describe how much I love Madeleine. If I'd had to think for one second, 'Should we have dinner and leave them?' I wouldn't have done it.

"It didn't happen like that, I didn't have to think for a second, that's how safe I felt.

"Maybe it was because it was family friendly, because it felt so safe. That week we'd left them alone while we had dinner.

"There's no way on this planet I'd take a risk, no matter how small, with my children."

She added: "This has touched so many people. I've had so many letters from mothers, really kind words.

"People have said, 'Kate, we've done this a hundred times over ourselves. Why would you for one minute think something like that would happen?'

"It's not like we went down to the town or anything. People have said to me, 'You're the unluckiest person in the world' - and we are.

"That night runs over and over in my mind and I'm sure people will learn from our mistake, if you want to call it that.

"But it's important not to lose sight of the fact we haven't committed a crime.

"Somebody has. Somebody's been there. Somebody's been watching. They took our daughter away and we can't lose sight of that." Pausing for a moment to choke back the tears, Kate continued: "How can someone do that to a child? I've just got to keep focused and positive."

Despite their young age, Madeleine's little brother and sister repeatedly ask about her.

"They know she's not there and miss her," said Kate. "They talk about Madeleine's things and if they get biscuits they say, 'One for Sean, one for Amelie, one for Madeleine.'

"When we went back to the UK for a family baptism there was an empty seat on the plane and Sean said, 'That's Madeleine's seat.' That caught me.

"The hardest thing wasn't being in the UK, it was to be with such close family and for Madeleine not to be there. I knew how much she'd have loved it.

"Amelie asked me afterwards, 'Where's Madeleine? I miss my big sister.'

"I don't know where that question came from, it could have been because it was a family day.

"I can be doing OK and then something like that catches me in the throat.

"Despite her small size, Madeleine just has this huge presence. She brings a lot of joy."

Occasionally Kate does allow herself to think of the worst-case outcome but she tries to remain focused and is sure she will see Madeleine again. Welling up, she said: "I still have moments of panic and fear.

"It's not as intense and unrelenting as the first five days. Now, obviously we have hope and it's important to hold on to that.

"I do go back to those dark moments. It would be abnormal never to touch on them.

I do feel panic and fear when I'm thinking about Madeleine. But it doesn't help her. It's important to channel those emotions into something positive."

Next Saturday is the 100th day since Madeleine was taken, and it will be an emotional milestone for the family. "I'm still hoping that we're not going to get there," added Kate.

"Every day I'm hoping we won't get to the next day without Madeleine. It's been a long time. But we have to keep going for her.

"We haven't talked about staying here for ever, we're just not looking that far ahead."

But Kate admitted she doubts she'll ever be able to return to the family home in Rothley, Leicestershire, because of the memories.

"I can't bear the thought of it," she confessed. "At the moment we feel happier staying here, closer to the investigation.

"We don't know where Madeleine is, we don't think she's in the UK but there's nothing to say she's any further from there than she is from here. It's a gut feeling. I'm aware there are probably things that would be easier at home, but at the moment this is the right thing for us.

"We've had so much support, mothers can empathise with me. Speaking now, on my own, is a way of saying thank you. They've given a bit of themselves to me.

"We've got three beautiful children. Madeleine is irreplaceable. I want her back.

We just have to wait and see what life has in store for us."

06 August 2007 - Examination of 10 vehicles by sniffer dogs

Eddie and Keela alert only to the Renault Scenic hired by the McCanns.

08 August 2007
- Portuguese police accuse Kate McCann, during informal interview

"There had been a shift in the investigation, they said [the police]... my breathing pattern altered...the sirens in my head were deafening...I was on my own and afraid...tell us everything that happened after the children went to bed...they proposed that when I put Madeleine to bed that night it wasn't actually the last time I'd seen her...the police responded by just staring at me and shaking their heads...I was reeling with confusion, disbelief and panic...they pressed me...Neves stated bluntly that they didn't believe my version of events...I was sobbing now, well past the stage of silent tears and stifled sniffs...I began to wail hysterically, drawing breath in desperate gasps...I was in no doubt now that they were trying to make me say I'd killed Madeleine."

- Madeleine by Kate McCann

Alive when taken, 12 August 2007
Alive when taken Sunday Mirror (paper edition)

Exclusive Madeleine: 100 Days of Hell

• Kidnapper put cuddle cat on ledge then picked her up
• The blood spots in apartment are not hers say cops

Lori Campbell in Praia da Luz
12 August 2007

Missing Madeleine McCann's favourite pink Cuddle Cat toy was taken from her arms as she slept and placed beyond her reach by her kidnapper. That is why police are certain Madeleine was snatched while she was asleep - and was NOT killed or injured in the holiday apartment.

When her mum Kate, 38, tucked Madeleine into bed, the four-year-old was cuddling the toy - but it was later found placed on a ledge that Madeleine could not have reached.

There is also further "concrete evidence" that Madeleine was still ALIVE when she left the holiday apartment. Her kidnapper had a window of just five minutes to strike - from when dad Gerry last checked on the children until family friend Jane Tanner saw a man carrying away a child she is sure was Madeleine wrapped in a blanket. The new revelations rubbish reports in Portuguese newspapers yesterday that she was murdered or died in an accident inside the villa.

However, local police Chief Inspector Olegario Sousa admitted for the first time that Madeleine could be dead. He said: "In the past few days there have been some developments and some clues that have been found that could point to the possible death of the little child. But until this moment we are waiting for lab results of the evidence collected and all lines of inquiry are open."

Now, the Sunday Mirror can give a true picture of what happened when Kate found her daughter missing. We can reveal:

• Police have specific evidence from the apartment that she was still alive

• Madeleine was kidnapped as the toy she had fallen asleep with was left on a ledge placed too high for a child to reach

• There was a window of less than five minutes for a kidnapper to pounce - not enough time to kill her and clean up

• Police do not believe blood found in the apartment was Madeleine's as it was not consistent with signs of a struggle

• The patio doors were unlocked but the intruder used the window to escape with Madeleine as the shutters were forced up.

We can also reveal that devastated Kate was reduced to tears several times by the aggressive questioning of Portuguese police this week. And yesterday the parents were hit by further cruel claims in Portuguese papers linking them to Madeleine's disappearance on May 3.

But our dramatic information confirms Madeleine was most likely to have been abducted by a stranger who had watched the family's routine for up to four days. And it shows Portuguese police from the beginning have had firm evidence Madeleine was still alive when she was taken from the ground-floor apartment.

The McCanns were told in a secret meeting with police within days of Madeleine going missing what this evidence is.

They have been unable to discuss it publicly in case it jeopardises the investigation - and have even been banned from telling close friends or family.

Kate has refused to say where she found the Cuddle Cat toy when she returned to the villa in Praia da Luz at about 10pm to find her daughter's bed empty.

But she has hinted the bedroom was left in such a way that she knew almost instantly Madeleine had been kidnapped.

Our police source said: "When Kate tucked Madeleine up in bed earlier in the evening, she had the toy tightly in her arms as she did every night. So Kate was terrified when she spotted it had been left in a place too high for her to reach. Kate also noticed the window was wide open and the shutters jammed up. It was because of these things that she had no doubt Madeleine had been kidnapped and she ran out to scream for help."

The Sunday Mirror has been told there was a window of opportunity of less than five minutes from the last time Gerry checked on their child to the reported sighting by family friend Jane of her being carried away by a man.

Our source said: "Although there has been much speculation about a 'lost hour' in which Madeleine could have been taken, it was actually less than five minutes. The kidnapping must have been meticulously planned. Police found no fingerprints or DNA on the Cuddle Cat or in the room, indicating the intruder wore gloves.

"There was so little time that whoever took Madeleine must have been watching the family closely for several days so they knew exactly when to strike.

"Kate and Gerry left Madeleine and the twins Sean and Amelie alone every evening of their week-long holiday to eat dinner 50 yards away and followed the same routine of checking on them. The kidnapper would have known this."

The patio doors at the back of the apartment were left unlocked so Kate and Gerry could check on the children easily. But police are unsure if the intruder used them to slip in or if the shutters to the window were forced open from outside.

Sniffer dogs flown over to Portugal last week by British police were taken into the apartment and found specks of blood missed in an initial search.

The results of DNA tests are expected this week but detectives are convinced it does not belong to Madeleine because if it was fresh, it would have been spotted when they first scoured the apartment.

But that has not stopped the Portuguese media leading a hurtful smear campaign against Kate and Gerry which reached a new low with the suggestion Madeleine was killed inside the apartment and that Kate was somehow involved.

The spiteful rumours forced Kate and Gerry to insist they would not be bullied out of Portugal. But yesterday there were more cruel accusations as they marked 100 days since Madeleine disappeared.

Portuguese newspaper Sol alleged the toddler died in the apartment before her parents went to dinner. It says British sniffer dogs picked up traces of her corpse and signs she was moved. An "unnamed specialist" told the newspaper: "For the dogs to detect a body, it would have to stay in place where it died for a minimum of two hours."

The report also alleged the McCanns' silver Renault Scenic hire car may have been used to get rid of Madeleine's body. A McCann spokesman yesterday dismissed the allegations as "complete nonsense".



Kate's plea: Please stay with us now Sunday Mirror (paper edition)

By LORI CAMPBELL
12 August 2007


KATE and Gerry McCann yesterday attended a poignant service of prayers for Madeleine to mark 100 days since she went missing.

The couple, who arrived holding hands for the sombre service at the tiny church in Praia da Luz, both wore the Portuguese colours of hope - yellow and green - and "Look for Madeleine" wristbands.

Scores of wellwishers gathered at the whitewashed Nossa Senhora da Luz church as the McCanns closed one of the most difficult weeks since Madeleine went missing.

Some locals stirred up by Portuguese press reports have begun to criticise their constant presence in the resort and a car parked opposite the church had a message in the window saying "Circus go home".

During the hour-long service, Kate thanked local people for their support and asked them to stay with her and her husband as they continued their "journey of hope" for their "precious" daughter.

The service - themed as "100 Days of Hope" - included prayers for Madeleine and other missing children as well as short addresses by both the McCanns.

Her voice breaking with emotion and still clutching Madeleine's favourite Cuddle Cat toy, Kate McCann said: "I would like to welcome you all here today to join us in some special prayers for Madeleine and all children who suffer around the world at this moment.

"As you are aware, it is 100 days now since our little girl was taken from us. Every day feels so hard without Madeleine. I could talk all day about how wonderful, how precious Madeleine is, but suffice to say we all miss her so much and our lives aren't complete without Madeleine.

"Please stay with us as we continue our journey of hope and please keep Madeleine in your thoughts and prayers."

Her husband struggled to hold back tears as he thanked the local community for its "overwhelming support". He said: "We have not given up hope that we will be reunited with her. We will not stop looking for her until she is found."

Many families with youngsters attended the service, which was drawn up with children in mind and included the hymn Away In A Manger. Members of the congregation lit candles and placed them on the altar.

In the McCanns's hometown of Rothley, Leicestershire, relatives and friends marked yesterday's grim milestone with a quiet vigil at the local Catholic church.

Meanwhile, Madeleine's grandmother Eileen McCann said rumours of her daughter's involvement in her disappearance were "obscene". She said anyone who knew the couple would be horrified. "The idea of Kate or Gerry being involved is ridiculous," she said. "They love those children more than they love themselves."

Stars from the worlds of rugby, football and horse racing yesterday urged people at major sporting events around the UK to continue looking for Madeleine.

In one of many shows of solidarity, Robbie Keane led out the entire Spurs team wearing Madeleine t-shirts for their game at Sunderland. And at Twickenham a video was shown at half-time of Jonny Wilkinson and other England stars giving their support to the hunt for Madeleine.

'We won't stop looking until Madeleine is found'



VOICE OF THE SUNDAY MIRROR Sunday Mirror (paper edition)

A criminal way to treat McCanns

TO have a beloved child snatched away is just about the worst thing it is possible to imagine happening to parents.

But in the run-up to the 100-day milestone since their daughter Madeleine disappeared, Kate and Gerry McCann have suffered even more than that. They have been subjected to a vile campaign by the Portuguese media, which has insinuated that they could have been responsible.

Today the Sunday Mirror reveals evidence which the police had from the very earliest days of the hunt for Madeleine which proves beyond doubt that she was abducted and not killed in her bedroom.

It includes her Cuddle Cat being placed on a shelf which only an adult could reach and a man seen carrying a child in a blanket away from the McCanns' holiday apartment.

It is impossible to escape the conclusion that the disgraceful media campaign against parents already suffering agonies was inspired by the Portuguese police. And that they did it to create a smokescreen to obscure their hopelessly inadequate performance in tracking down the kidnapper.

The Sunday Mirror has also discovered that Kate was reduced to tears by aggressive police questioning. That confirms how little compassion and understanding the Portuguese force has.

The McCanns deserve support and respect, not to be treated as criminals and smeared to cover up police inadequacies.

We must continue to pray for them and hope that Madeleine will return to make their family complete again.

MADDIE COPS: We're looking for her body, 12 August 2007
MADDIE COPS: We're looking for her body News of the World (no longer available online)
 
Exclusive: New clues on 100th day of search
 
By Ross Hall
Sunday August 12, 2007
 
POLICE hunting for Madeleine McCann last night admitted she could be dead as the News of the World uncovered a vital new clue that proves a kidnapper WAS in her room.
 
A hundred days after the four-year-old's disappearance a detective leading the investigation claimed there was now an "intensity" to the possibility that she had been killed.
 
Chief Inspector Olegario Sousa admitted new searches using British sniffer dogs could point to Madeleine's death. But we can reveal that:
 
CUDDLE CAT—the toy Maddie's mum Kate carried yesterday to a church service on the 100-day anniversary of her daughter's disappearance—is a key clue in the hunt.
 
THERE was NO "missing hour" in which Madeleine went unchecked as she slept with her twin brother and sister while Kate and dad Gerry ate with friends at a nearby restaurant.
 
MADDIE was NOT killed in the room—despite the presence of blood specks on the walls now being tested.
 
High
 
A source close to the investigation last night told us Maddie's toy cat was found HIGH UP in the bedroom—well out of reach of the youngster who went to sleep cuddling it.
 
Police believe the kidnapper put it there because it would have been used to help identify Madeleine when appeals to find her were launched.
 
Our source said: "A lot of people have always asked how Kate was so sure so quickly Madeleine had been snatched.
 
"It's because when she put her down to sleep her favourite toy was tucked up with her. When Kate found Madeleine missing the next thing she noticed was Cuddle Cat had been put high up out of the way—obviously by an adult."
 
Unreleased evidence also proves Madeleine was checked REGULARLY during the crucial hour between 9pm and 10pm—and that she was taken in a 'kidnap window' of under 10 minutes when a "RUNNING MAN" was spotted dashing from the apartment.
 
Dad Gerry checked on the children at 9pm and passed pal Jane Tanner—on her way to check her own children—as he returned to the restaurant. She returned before 9.25pm after seeing a man running with a child. Ten minutes later a male pal at dinner walked up to the McCanns apartment and listened at the door. Believing the children were asleep he returned to the table. It was only 20 minutes before Kate found Maddie gone.
 
Our source said: "When we're talking less than 10 minutes to grab a child, without leaving evidence, it is not just chance their parents were out. It proves whoever took her had watched the family for days."
 
A family friend said Jane Tanner (pictured left) was "devastated" she could have witnessed the abduction and did not stop it. It also emerged police do not think the blood found is Maddie's— because the pattern does not indicate a struggle. Our source said: "Police have concrete evidence she was alive when she was taken."
 
Yesterday the McCanns—whose continued presence in Portugal was criticised by some locals— were close to tears as they prayed at the anniversary service in a packed church at Praia da Luz.
 
Kate asked people to support their "journey of hope" for Maddie.
 
 
THIS is the 10-minute kidnap window in the crucial so-called "missing hour" when police believe Maddie's kidnapper struck.
 
9.10PM: After checking on the children, Gerry McCann heads back to the restaurant. He now passes his friend Jane Tanner as she walks to her own apartment near the McCanns' to check on her children who had been feeling ill during the day.
 
9.20PM: Jane is now returning to the restaurant after spending a few minutes with the children. She sees a man running with a child. At that time she has no reason to think it could be anything sinister.
 
 
BY SARA PAYNE
 
Few can imagine the pain that Gerry and Kate are going through. I know. I've been there. The guilt, the anguish, the wondering - the indescribable hurting that never goes away.
 
Yet, this couple are now also having to face a public and humiliating mauling by the Portuguese press and elsewhere.
 
Victims of a disgraceful smear campaign. Persecuted and bullied for doing what any loving parent would do in their dreadful situation – continuing the search for their missing daughter.
 
Three months on, I hear hostile questions being asked, insinuations levelled and the finger of blame pointed.
 
I'm shocked and appalled but most of all I am ashamed.
 
The McCanns are victims too. Their only crime was to make the wrong decision. A decision with dire consequences that nobody could have foreseen.
 
I often ask myself, were we wrong to let our daughter Sarah go out to play? Possibly, but as parents we made a decision that at the time seemed right. A decision I have to live with for the rest of my life.
 
Now is not the time for accusations and criticism.
 
Madeleine is out there somewhere. Her family desperately need her back.
 
Until that day happens, I beg you from the bottom of my heart to continue your support for them.

19 August 2007 - McCanns: 'We're coming home'

The following two reports suggest the McCanns had decided to return home due to 'finding the financial burden of staying on in Portugal too much to bear' and their desperate desire that 'their two-year-old twins...regain some form of stability and routine in England'. However, the reality was somewhat different, as is revealed in a later report, on 09 September 2007:

'We can also now reveal how Kate and Gerry knew the investigation was turning on them weeks ago. And they decided to announce they were going home this weekend to force the police's hand.

'The friend said: "Their last 'informal' interview was three weeks ago and the police became aggressive and hostile in their questions to Kate. She broke down in tears several times. Since then the police have kept them completely out of the loop, refusing to brief them on new leads in the investigation as they had before. Their relationship broke down completely. They decided that if the police had anything against them, they wanted to hear it. They called a senior detective and said they planned to leave Portugal. A couple of days later they were summoned for separate interviews."'

'We're coming home', 19 August 2007
'We're coming home' Sunday Mirror (paper edition)

Exclusive: Hard-up McCanns plan sad return to UK.. but search for Maddy goes on

Lori Campbell in Praia da Luz
19 August 2007

Madeleine McCann's parents are preparing to make the heart-wrenching move back to Britain next month.

Kate and Gerry, who are on unpaid leave from their NHS jobs, are finding the financial burden of staying on in Portugal too much to bear. And they desperately want their two-year-old twins to regain some form of stability and routine in England.

A close family friend told the Sunday Mirror: "The lease on their villa runs out in mid-September and they're coming close to setting a date to return home."

Although they are feeling the financial strain the McCanns have refused to dip into the £1million Find Madeleine Fund set up to help pay their living expenses while they hunt for their daughter.

They have instead emptied their own life savings to pay for their stay in Portugal and the mortgage and bills on their home in Rothley, Leicestershire.

Only £67,000 of the Find Madeleine Fund has been spent - the McCanns claim expenses only for flights and accommodation on campaign-related trips and for stationery to make posters.

And 108 days after Madeleine was kidnapped from their holiday apartment, the McCanns are now finding the costs of living in Portugal too much.

Gerry is on unpaid leave from his NHS job as heart consultant at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester and Kate, a locum GP, is also not earning a salary.

The couple are now making preparations to return home when the £1,200-a-month rent on their three-bed villa in Praia da Luz runs out next month.

Their campaign manager Justine McGuiness is due to step down at the same time.

But the most pressing reason for the McCanns to return home is their two-year-old twins Sean and Amelie. They have always tried to maintain a stable routine for them in Portugal, taking them to the daily creche, Kids' Club and playing with them in the afternoons.

But they feel they now need to return them to the UK.

A close friend of the couple said yesterday: "They have to make sure the twins are protected. That means giving them a stable home life and routine and they can only do that in the UK.

"At home there is a strong support network - with lots of friends and family around to help. They know their home is in Leicestershire."

But Kate has confided in close friends that she cannot face going back to work and wants to become closely involved with charities for missing children.

Their friend said: "She just can't imagine going back to work. She insists that returning to the UK does not mean they are giving up on Madeleine and she wants to work full-time on the campaign.

"She has learnt a lot about missing and exploited children and would like to devote some of her time to working with charities."

Gerry has always argued that it would be easier to run their Find Madeleine campaign from the UK but Kate, 38, has stood firm, saying she feels emotionally close to Madeleine in Portugal.

On Friday the couple broke the news to their two-year-old twins Sean and Amelie that their daughter is missing and their mum and dad are "looking for her."

They have still not decided whether to go back to their family home, or sell it because it holds too many memories of Madeleine.

The McCanns' decision to return home comes after Portuguese police chief Alipio Ribeiro said they are working on the "strong hypothesis" she is dead. But he said: "It would be frivolous of me to say we're near the end."

Unconfirmed reports in Portugese newspapers yesterday claimed police are moving in on a new "concrete suspect".

It is claimed "biological traces" were found in a hire car belonging to a man staying at the resort.

Madeleine McCann's anguished parents on their way back home, 19 August 2007
Madeleine McCann's anguished parents on their way back home News of the World (no longer available online)

Maddie parents coming home for the twins

By Ross Hall
Sunday August 19, 2007
 
MISSING tot Madeleine McCann's anguished parents are finally about to make the heartbreaking move home.
 
With still no clues to the four-year-old's disappearance 108 days ago, Kate and Gerry McCann have decided to return to Britain — for the sake of their two-year-old twins.
 
For more than three months they have stayed in Praia da Luz, the resort where Maddie was snatched from their holiday apartment, driving on the desperate hunt for her.
 
Dad Gerry has always said it would be easier to run things from the UK. But distraught mum Kate stood firm, saying she felt close to her lost daughter in Portugal.
 
Now friends say the couple are making arrangements to tear themselves away — and return home to Rothley, Leicestershire, next month.
 
The family are renting a villa close to where Madeleine was taken. But its lease runs out in mid-September.
 
They have been reluctant to use any of the 1 million donated to the Find Madeleine fund and have had to use their savings to pay rent and mortgage.
 
Shattered Kate, 39, has told close pals she fears she will never be able to return to her work as a GP.
 
And with Gerry on unpaid leave from his post as a heart consultant, they are finding it hard to cope financially.
 
A family friend said: "Gerry and Kate are coming to terms with the fact they can't keep twins Sean and Amelie here forever. It seems like the right time to go.
 
"They are slowly realising going home doesn't mean they're giving up on Maddie."
 
Earlier this week Kate said: "We know we'll be going back and I guess one day we'll wake up and it will be right. We never thought we'd go before Madeleine came back."
 
The family's decision comes after Portuguese police admitted they have no idea what happened on the night Maddie disappeared.
 
Meanwhile, Code Madeleine, our ground-breaking initiative to find children abducted on holiday, continues to win worldwide approval.
 
The six-point plan ensures rapid action in the vital first hours after a child disappears. It is backed by British travel industry chiefs — and now top timeshare firms have adopted it, too.

Maddy dad's agony, 26 August 2007
Maddy dad's agony Sunday Mirror (paper edition)

His pain at coming home

Lara Gould and Lori Campbell
26 August 2007

Gerry McCann yesterday told of his heartbreak at having to return home.

Missing Madeleine's father, 39, is to go back to work as a hospital heart specialist in Leicester.

He says he and wife Kate, 38, have to balance their desperate wish to find Madeleine, four, with the needs of their two-year-old twins Sean and Amelie. He added: "The difficulty we have is emotionally leaving Portugal as a family of four when we came as a family of five."

Madeleine was snatched from her bed in the resort of Praia da Luz on the Algarve 115 days ago.

Speaking at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, Gerry stressed he still believes she is alive, but said the campaign to find his daughter would now be scaled down.

Meanwhile, the McCanns faced more wild accusations in Portuguese papers - with one claiming sniffer dogs had detected the scent of a corpse in their hire car. But a family pal raged: "It's rubbish."

Cops are bluffing, 09 September 2007
Cops are bluffing Sunday Mirror (paper edition)

Exclusive: The search for Madeleine Day 129

• No evidence to back claims against parents
• McCanns fear they'll be charged next week

Lori Campbell in Praia da Luz
9 September 2007

Portuguese police have no evidence linking Kate and Gerry McCann to Madeleine's disappearance.

And the Sunday Mirror can reveal that officers tried to bluff Kate McCann into making a confession during 16 gruelling hours of interrogation.

But even when she and husband Gerry were made formal suspects - "arguidos" - in the inquiry, the couple refused to buckle. They told police: "Charge us or let us go home."

Yesterday Portuguese papers reported that police will charge the couple next week. They say Kate will be accused of Madeleine's manslaughter and hiding her body, while Gerry will face claims of helping her to hide the body.

Kate and Gerry have taken a resilient stand against the Portuguese police and have demanded they reveal what evidence there is against them.

The furious couple came out fighting after long and intense separate grillings as the search for Madeleine took a dramatic twist.

The McCanns know police do not have any proof to support their accusations - and are trying to force them into a confession so they can close the bungled investigation.

During her interview in a stuffy, hot room at Portimao police station, Kate was repeatedly asked if specks of blood found in her hire car belonged to Madeleine.

But instead of telling her the blood was Madeleine's, detectives said: "We put it to you that the blood in the boot of your car belonged to Madeleine and that you killed her."

Kate turned the tables on them and asked them what evidence they have. She told them she knew the blood could not be her daughter's.

Police refused to say if forensic tests carried out in a Birmingham lab proved for certain that the blood was Madeleine's, or even if the sample was blood. So Kate refused to back down, despite the detectives putting the same accusation to her dozens of times.

A close friend said: "Kate knew they were bluffing. She asked them, 'Have tests shown the blood is definitely Madeleine's? Show me the proof. I know I didn't kill Madeleine so show me your evidence if you have any.' She wasn't going to be pushed around."

Police also accused Kate, a GP, of using a huge dose of sedatives meant for herself on Madeleine to help her sleep while she and Gerry ate at a restaurant. But she angrily replied: "I do not give my kids sedatives, I never have done and I never will do. I know you can't prove that because it is a ridiculous suggestion and it is not true."

The police suggested Kate used a Renault Scenic car - hired for the couple by a Mark Warner representative 25 days after Madeleine disappeared - to move her body after already having buried it once.

Kate was also told sniffer dogs had discovered the scent of a corpse on her jeans. But she said that could be easily explained because as a locum GP she had been near a dead person before the family's holiday.

The McCanns have been baffled by the flimsy evidence being used to vilify them. At the centre of the claims are DNA results from samples taken from the hire car and reactions of sniffer dogs. But in the UK, sniffer dog behaviour would simply be classed as "intelligence" - not evidence in its own right.

Despite maintaining a brave face in public, Kate and Gerry have regularly sobbed uncontrollably when behind closed doors.

Gerry burst into tears when he arrived back at the villa in the early hours of yesterday morning for an emotional reunion with Kate.

Their friend said: "It has been a gruelling experience for both of them."

Last night the couple cancelled plans to attend a church service to celebrate the Senhora da Luz (lady of light) festival. They instead chose to say quiet prayers at home.

The friend said: "They are trying to maintain as normal a life as possible for the twins. Kate and Gerry are bearing up really well, considering. But they are incredibly angry."

There are currently no bail conditions preventing Kate and Gerry from going home. And the couple have decided to return to Rothley, Leics, where they will continue to fight the allegations with the support of friends.

Their friend said: "They desperately want to go home but they do not want to look like they have something to hide, because nothing could be further from the truth."

The friend added: "They don't want to be seen as running away from all of this. Not only because it may look bad, but more importantly they want to put the focus back on the hunt for Madeleine."

The couple are concerned that the search for their missing daughter has been distracted by the inquiry shifting to them.

The friend said: "Kate and Gerry still believe Madeleine is alive and they are now worried that no one is looking for her as police are concentrating their efforts on them."

We can also now reveal how Kate and Gerry knew the investigation was turning on them weeks ago. And they decided to announce they were going home this weekend to force the police's hand.

The friend said: "Their last 'informal' interview was three weeks ago and the police became aggressive and hostile in their questions to Kate. She broke down in tears several times. Since then the police have kept them completely out of the loop, refusing to brief them on new leads in the investigation as they had before. Their relationship broke down completely. They decided that if the police had anything against them, they wanted to hear it. They called a senior detective and said they planned to leave Portugal. A couple of days later they were summoned for separate interviews."

Portuguese newspapers, which have led a relentless smear campaign against the couple, said yesterday that the police were carrying out a "war of nerves".

Local paper Sol said officers had withheld information on the investigation for as long as possible to put Kate and Gerry under pressure. It said: "The Policia Judiciaria used the strategy of pressure on the McCanns. They have treated Kate in an exhaustive manner, trying to exploit her weaknesses. They had used long interrogations, concentrating on the samples they have and inconsistencies in the statements of her friends."

It said police opted to interview her first to put pressure on Gerry as they thought he might crack under the strain of how Kate was being treated. "They have watched his media appearances and saw him storm out of an interview with Spanish TV," the paper added.

It also said the police strategy was to delay making Kate an arguida for as long as possible because the status gives her the right to silence and she is not obliged to co-operate. But none of the papers - who have been briefed by police sources - published any evidence against the McCanns.

Yesterday Kate and Gerry's relations said the allegations against them were "ludicrous". Kate's mother Susan Healy, 62, said: "We are reeling." Her father Brian added: "The worst thing is that it is detracting from the campaign to find Madeleine alive."

And Gerry's sister Philomena said: "People react badly when it comes to children who've been harmed or murdered and I fear people are going to turn against them, and against the family.

"We just have to hope their names can be cleared as soon as possible and we can get back to looking for Madeleine."

'The police don't want a paedophile murder here so they are blaming us', 09 September 2007
'The police don't want a paedophile murder here so they are blaming us' Sunday Mirror (paper edition)

The search for Madeleine Day 129

• Mum tells of nightmare

Lori Campbell in Praia da Luz
9 September 2007

Shell-shocked Kate McCann has given a dramatic, impassioned interview to the Irish Sunday Mirror to denounce claims that she killed her own daughter.

Breaking down in tears, distraught Kate said of the Portuguese police: "They want me to lie - I'm being framed.

"Police don't want a murder in Portugal and all the publicity about them not having paedophile laws here, so they're blaming us."

Kate was speaking on Friday morning - after her first police interrogation this week, but before police officially classed her a suspect in her daughter Madeleine's disappearance.

And she addressed head-on the extraordinary allegation that she accidentally killed Madeleine, then hid the body and engaged in a monumental cover-up to pretend she had been abducted.

Furious at the astounding claims, Kate, 39, said of the police: "They are basically saying, 'If you confess Madeleine had an accident, and that I panicked and hid the body in a bag for a month then got rid of it in a hire car, I'd get two or three years' suspended sentence.'

"I was even told, 'Think about it - Gerry would even be able to work again'. I was told that I could say I was stressed and I sedated Madeleine and it could be the best option for me. It is ridiculous. The worst nightmare".

Devout Catholic Kate revealed that the Portuguese police have even taken her Bible away - in the apparent belief that a crumpled page from it relating to a dead child indicates a guilty conscience.

Kate said: "One of the pieces of evidence is that a page from a passage in Samuel about having to tell a man his child is dead is crumpled - so I must have been reading it.

"I mean how ridiculous is that? My faith is sorely tested."

Under Portuguese law, she can say no more until her suspect status is lifted - making her interview with us her only and final comment on the mind-boggling police allegations.

KATE spoke to the Irish Sunday Mirror as she was being hauled back in for her second quizzing on Friday morning.

Later on Friday, she was officially classed a suspect - as was her husband Gerry, in the early hours of yesterday morning.

The couple have dutifully never discussed the police investigation until now, in accordance with Portuguese law - but besieged Kate felt that she had no option but to speak out.

Police offered the "confession" deal through her lawyer before Friday's police interview. Breaking down in tears, the GP from Rothley, Leics, said defiantly: "They're telling my lawyer this could be the best option for me and I was advised that, if I deny it, I'm now at the point of no return. But I will never lie for them."

She said her desire not to give in to police pressure was fuelled by the McCanns' burning desire for Madeleine to be found. "And I think, 'Sod us, what about Madeleine? This would mean people stop looking for her'." She added: "We were under 24-hour constant scrutiny after Madeleine was taken. Where would I have hidden a body? We had no vehicle even then."

Meanwhile, the Sunday Mirror has learned that Kate and Gerry, a surgeon, have made a pact not to cry in front of Portuguese police - however upsetting the questions they face.

"They have promised each other that they will not let the police break them," a friend said. "No matter how intolerable the questioning, they will maintain their resolve."

The police case against Kate and Gerry revolves around claims that traces of Madeleine's DNA were found in a Renault Scenic car hired for the McCanns by a representative of holiday firm Mark Warner 25 days after their daughter's disappearance.

Kate said: "The police are going to say they have found bodily fluids from Madeleine in the car. It's impossible. We hired the car three-and-a-half weeks later."

In fact, when Kate was grilled for the second time, police repeatedly told her they had found blood in the Renault car but wouldn't say it was Madeleine's.

Sources close to the family say that, if Madeleine's DNA was in the car, it would be quite possible the traces got there from Madeleine's clothes and toys which the McCann twins Sean and Amelie had been playing with.

HER DNA would also be on her parents' clothes from where they cuddled and played with her. Kate said: "Five weeks ago, they took away all our clothes, items people had sent out for us."

A police dog sniffed out traces of corpses on Kate's clothes, it is said. "Apparently the dog started barking at my jeans and in the apartment," said Kate.

Friends have pointed out that GP Kate was present at several deaths before she went away on holiday.

"It was us who instigated and pushed for the searches," said exasperated Kate. "Would we have done that if we had something to hide? The British police have been great, they are totally behind us."

But she can no longer contain her fury at the Portuguese police's behaviour.

Kate fears the cost of the inquiry means police in Praia da Luz are anxious to get it over as soon as possible. "The Portuguese police are running out of budget for this investigation and want it to end," she said. "The British have been paying."

The McCanns' relations are at their side, but Kate fears for her 67-year-old dad Brian Healy, who suffers from Parkinson's. "This is so hard on them," she said.

So fearful are the McCanns that they are being framed they got a message through to Gordon Brown's office on Friday about the cruel twist of events.

It is believed a British consular official contacted police in Portugal to protest at the confession deal being put to Kate.

The McCanns have also asked if the American FBI could undertake a review of the case - but have been told it won't be possible.

Kate McCann gave this interview to The Irish Sunday Mirror on Friday morning, hours before being made an arguida - official suspect - in the Madeleine inquiry.

THE BIBLE PASSAGE COPS SAY IS PROOF

THE passage of the Holy Bible that fascinated Portuguese police came from The Old Testament. In Samuel, Book 2, Chapter 12, Verses 15-19, David's child is stricken with illness after he "scorns" the Lord.

David fasts for seven days, refusing to get up off the ground, to try and gain redemption - but eventually his child dies.

His servants have a dilemma as to whether to tell him as they are afraid that "he may do himself some harm". Eventually he guesses.

Police took Kate's Bible away because they said the page with the passage on was crumpled - evidence that she had been reading it.

The cops could be out of telly Life On Mars, 16 September 2007
The cops could be out of telly Life On Mars Sunday Mirror (paper edition)

Exclusive: The search for Madeleine Day 136

• McCann pals slam Portuguese
• Hire car was used by 15 others
• DNA could be from the twins
• Gerry sister blasts press leaks

Lori Campbell and Simon Wright
16 September 2007

ADVISERS to Kate and Gerry McCann have blasted the chaotic investigation into their daughter's disappearance as "a cross between Life On Mars and The Sweeney."

Lawyers and friends of the couple say the Portuguese police case against them is so full of holes they are unlikely to be charged with Madeleine's death.

And one close friend told the Sunday Mirror: "The case is based on such flimsy evidence, it is as if Gene Hunt from Life On Mars is leading the investigation helped by Jack Regan from The Sweeney."

Today the Sunday Mirror can reveal how:

• The Renault Scenic car at the centre of the investigation was used by up to 15 people, making any DNA evidence unsafe.

• Police failed to interview key people close to the McCanns, including an adviser who kept a diary of events.

• The officer who fingerprinted Kate and Gerry hours after Madeleine vanished blundered, and had to take the prints again the next day.

Lawyers now believe Kate and Gerry may never appear in a Portuguese court - and will argue that if they do they will not get a fair trial.

The friend added: "What is happening is an absolute disgrace. There is not a jot of evidence to convict Kate or Gerry. We are told one day the DNA evidence is 100 per cent Madeleine's and then the next day that it is not.

"We are told there are Madeleine's body fluids in the car - but they could belong to the twins, Sean and Amelie.

"What they are left with is speculation, innuendo and implication. It is a deeply flawed process.

"Kate and her lawyer have repeatedly asked the Portuguese to reveal what evidence they have got, but they won't."

The case against Kate and Gerry apparently centres on traces of DNA found in the silver Renault Scenic car - which was rented by them 25 days after Madeleine went missing on May 3.

But as many as 15 people used the car before police finally took it away to have it searched by sniffer dogs and take forensic samples.

One search even took place in a public car park rather than a sealed area.

The McCanns used the car to pick up visiting friends and relatives from Faro airport 80km from Praia da Luz every few days.

It was also driven by Kate's cousin Michael Wright, another relative and one of their advisers.

A friend said: "How can this car, used by so many people for so long, contain any key forensic evidence?

"The people who travelled in it went from the apartment where the McCanns were staying. Madeleine's DNA could easily have been transferred to the car."

Police believe the McCanns had a sinister motive for hiring the car - to move Madeleine's body after they had already buried it once. The timing of the rental on May 28, two days before they flew to Italy to visit the Pope, led to lurid speculation in the Portuguese press.

But we can reveal it was rented for them on that day so they could drive to nearby Lagos to buy suitable clothes to meet the Pope.

A friend said: "Kate and Gerry searched Praia da Luz in vain for modest clothes. It was suggested they go to Lagos to shop and someone from their holiday firm Mark Warner arranged the car for them."

The friend added: "How can they possibly say the vehicle was involved when it was under 24-hour watch? It was parked in the open driveway outside Kate and Gerry's apartment.

"It was so visible it might as well have had a neon sign on it."

Police have seized a copy of Kate's personal diary, started five days after Madeleine went missing, claiming it proves she was a stressed-out mum struggling to cope with her overactive children.

But they have failed to interview key people who spent hours with the McCanns at the time when they are claimed to have covered up their daughter's death and moved her body. Clarence Mitchell, the first media advisor sent to help the McCanns by the Foreign Office on May 21, is baffled that he has never been questioned.

He told a friend: "Why haven't police asked me for my diaries and monitored my email traffic? I spent every day with the McCanns, from 8am to late in the evening.

"I travelled many times in the hire car they are said to have used to dispose of Madeleine. I even sat in the seat they claim to have taken her DNA from. It is incomprehensible I have not even been approached."

The only time Portuguese police showed interest in talking to Mr Mitchell was when he told them of a psychic who claimed to have information on Madeleine's disappearance. They even went to the trouble of tracking the psychic down and taking a statement.

Lawyers believe police have made Kate the main suspect because she is emotionally weaker than Gerry and they can force her into making a confession.

They are accusing her of killing Madeleine with a dose of sedatives meant for herself to help her sleep. But we can reveal Kate has not resorted to any pills to help her cope since Madeleine went missing.

A friend said: "If Kate is not on Valium now, with all the strain she is under, why on Earth would she have been on anything while on holiday?

"Kate and Gerry would not, did not and could not have given their children sleeping pills or sedatives. To suggest otherwise is complete nonsense." The close friend also dismissed rumours Kate was suffering from depression in the months before Madeleine disappeared.

The friend said: "That is another slur. She is a strong, resolute person - and is even coping now."

One of the biggest police blunders was made by the first fingerprint expert to investigate the McCann's holiday apartment.

He took Kate and Gerry's fingerprints, but when the samples arrived at the lab they were so poor they could not be read and had to be redone.

The McCann's friend said: "How can they be presenting a case based on forensic evidence when they can't even take fingerprints properly?"

The McCanns are angry that they are learning supposed allegations against them from Portuguese newspapers which are quoting "police sources." Gerry's sister Philomena said yesterday: "The secrecy laws seem to apply to Gerry and Kate, but not to the Portuguese police.

"Where are all these leaks coming from? Gerry can't talk about anything because if he does he could face two years in jail."

The McCanns' team believe Portuguese police have a history of trying to cover up abductions in their country and throwing the spotlight of suspicion on the parents.

One element being worked on by their defence team is that they cannot be given a fair trial in Portugal because they have been persecuted by the Press there.

A friend said: "It is inconceivable they can be tried in Portugal and that it will be fair. And that is the first thing their legal team would say.

"They are being tried and convicted every day with stories in the Portuguese Press." Kate and Gerry have received no formal approach to return to Portugal yet.

Speaking in the couple's home village of Rothley, Leics, family spokeswoman Natalie Orringe said: "They won't be returning unless requested to do so - but the pressure on the family is very intense."

Yesterday two of Kate McCann's childhood friends - Linda McQueen, 45, and Nicky Gill, 39 - defended the beleaguered couple.

Asked if she had ever doubted Kate's innocence, Linda said: "No, not at all.

"They are the most loving, caring, family-oriented couple you could ever meet."

Maddie: The Secret Witness, 16 September 2007
Maddie: The Secret Witness News of the World (no longer available online)

TV boss holds vital clue to mystery

By Dominic Herbert & Ross Hall
16 September 2007

THIS is the secret witness whose bombshell testimony could clear the McCanns.

Pictured here for the first time, Jeremy Wilkins' evidence blows holes in the police theory that Gerry and Kate killed four-year-old Madeleine.

Wilkins — seen outside his north west London home — was the man heart surgeon Gerry McCann, 38, spoke with for up to 15 minutes outside the holiday apartments — moments after checking on his children for the last time.

What the TV producer witnessed makes the statement he gave to police a key piece of evidence in the event of a trial.

A friend of Wilkins told the News of the World: "He is entirely convinced of Kate and Gerry's innocence. He believes they are a decent family caught up in an unimaginable nightmare."

We can reveal Wilkins constantly INSISTED to Portuguese detectives that Gerry was totally calm and unflustered as they chatted—far removed from the behaviour that might be expected of a man covering up the death of his daughter.

But another part of Wilkins' evidence ironically helped shift the police focus AWAY from their original kidnap theory.

For the 36-year-old holidaymaker turned the investigation on its head when he revealed a VITAL FLAW in the statement given by key witness, Jane Tanner (right), who claims she saw a man carrying a child away from the apartment complex.

Based on what he has said, Portuguese sources confirmed that police have doubts about Miss Tanner's evidence.

One said: "Her account has raised more questions than answers. She is high on the list of people we need to speak to again."

Wilkins was refusing to expand on what he has told police. His girlfriend Bridget O'Donnell —who was in Praia da Luz with the producer and their eight-month-old son—said: "We have decided it's not appropriate to talk about what happened."

Wilkins' pal added: "He came back from the holiday totally shell-shocked. He was part of a British crowd which included the McCanns who became friends as they holidayed in Portugal.

"He played tennis with Gerry the day before Madeleine disappeared. He has barely said a word about the whole case. He feels as a potential witness that would be inappropriate."

Wilkins—whose production company Zig Zag has made a string of controversial TV programmes—is likely to be re-interviewed as Portuguese detectives desperately try to build a case against the McCanns.

Some of the seven diners who were at the tapas restaurant with the couple on May 3 have already travelled back to Portugal once before to go over events leading to Madeleine's disappearance.

Next time they may be quizzed in the UK by British police assisting their EU counterparts on the inquiry.

Wilkins' crucial encounter with Gerry took place at 9.10pm on the main street outside the apartments next to the McCanns'—and at the entrance to a narrow alleyway that runs past the back of them.

The two were both tennis fans and had played each other during the course of the holiday.

On the night Maddie disappeared Wilkins was taking his eight-month-old son for a walk.

When he bumped into Gerry the two men chatted for up to 15 minutes before the surgeon returned to the tapas bar.

It was during this period of time that Tanner, 37, another member of the McCanns' party, said she WALKED PAST the two men on her way back to her apartment to check on her youngsters.

She told police that she saw a dark-haired man, aged about 35, carrying a child who could have been Maddie's wrapped in a blanket at 9.15pm—when Gerry and Wilkins would still have been chatting.

But Wilkins, viewed by police as a completely independent witness, told cops he could not recall anyone walking past him. And in all the time he was there he saw NO MAN carrying a child.

The TV executive is convinced he would have seen Jane Tanner pass by.

He said: "It was a very narrow path and I think it would have been almost impossible for anyone to walk by without me noticing."

And he also believes he would have seen the mystery man and child who would also have been just yards away.

Cops asked mum-of-two Tanner—on the holiday with with her partner Dr Russell O'Brien, 36—whether it was possible that the man and child she saw was Wilkins with his son.

Check

But a source told us: "She was adamant that it was not Jeremy Wilkins and his child. She is certain she saw someone else and stands by her account."

Gerry and Tanner returned to the restaurant separately shortly afterwards and it was at 10pm that Kate McCann went to check on the children and found Madeleine gone.

Wilkins' importance in the inquiry has only been highlighted because police are troubled by possible inconsistencies in the McCann friends' statements, including discrepancies in the times various people recall arriving at the restaurant.

The Portuguese police believe the McCanns may have been involved in Madeleine's disappearance and think one may be covering up for the other.

Officers are probing an unlikely "three-hour window of opportunity" between 6pm and 9pm when they suspect Madeleine was killed in the apartment and her body hidden somewhere nearby. Forensic evidence gathered so far including DNA or body fluid samples is thought to be inconclusive.

Portuguese police say they could name more official suspects in the coming weeks.

Exclusive: Kate's in pieces inside, 16 September 2007
Exclusive: Kate's in pieces inside News of the World (article no longer online)

Friends say that her calm cool looks mask the anguish of a warm, caring mother

Sara Nuwar and Ross Hall
16 September 2007

FRIENDS of Kate McCann came out fighting last night to defend and praise her as a "fabulous mum".

Childhood pals Linda McQueen and Nicky Gill insist there is "not a shadow of doubt" in their minds that loving mother Kate is innocent of harming her missing daughter Madeleine.

And another friend admitted traumatised Kate, 39, is only just holding herself together at her Leicestershire home as the cruel smears against her continue to spread.

She confessed: "Kate may not have broken down yet in public but in private she's in bits.

"This is tearing her apart. She's in pieces. She is trying to remain strong but it's getting harder. She thinks if she does start crying in front of people, she'll never be able to stop."

Kate is devastated at allegations made by Portuguese police, claiming her diary depicts a woman struggling to cope with the demands of three young children.

Calm

Close friend Linda McQueen, 45, a teacher with a child of her own, stormed: "I have never ever seen Kate run ragged.

"If anybody was meant to have three children under three, it's Kate.

"She is cool, calm, laid-back, just very together. She's a mother who has lost her daughter. She needs support, understanding and help in finding her lost child."

The McCanns' close friends spoke out as the couple released fresh family pictures in a bid to re-focus attention on the hunt for four-year-old Maddie, who disappeared while the family were on holiday in Portugal on May 3.

In one stunning image, shown on our front page, the smiling tot, then aged two, stares straight at the camera-clearly showing the telltale mark on her right iris.

Snaps taken at the couple's wedding in Liverpool in 1998 show bride Kate wearing a tiara and lovingly cooing at her god-daughter Ellie, who is cradled by heart surgeon hubby Gerry.

In another shot, the fresh faced couple look happy and relaxed at a friend's wedding. It seems a world away from recent images of Kate, looking gaunt and pale with the stress written on her face.

Last night Linda McQueen, who has known Kate since she was just six months old and living close by in Huyton, Merseyside, said: "I want people to know who Kate is and what she is like.

"To have these words said about her is just so unfair and hurtful."

She rushed to her best friend's side in Portugal when little Madeleine first vanished. In the terrible aftermath she helped Kate look after the McCanns' two-year-old twins, Sean and Amelie.

It has been more than a week since Kate and Gerry were formally named as "arguidos" or suspects by the Portuguese police investigating Maddie's disappearance.

Portuguese sources claim Kate could have killed Madeleine by accident and conspired to conceal the body.

Proud

Sitting together and wearing Find Madeleine badges. Linda McQueen and Nicky Gill vehemently denied Kate or Gerry would ever hurt one of their kids.

Linda, who now lives in Formby, Merseyside, said: "Kate always wanted a large family so they mean the world to her. She's a fabulous mum."

Nicky, a personal trainer from Liverpool, went to All Saints primary school with Kate from the age of four. The mother-of-three said: "With all of our children as well, she's great. She's godmother to my youngest. She is just amazing, very caring and laid-back. We're proud to have the McCanns as friends."

Asked how she felt about one suggestion that Kate was "cold", Nicky said: "She is not cold at all. She is heartbroken. She is devastated.

"But she's also a strong person, really. We'll get her through it."

Pal Linda pointed out that the most important thing was to concentrate on the Find Maddie campaign.

She said: "We need to re-focus back on to finding Madeleine, and away from Kate and Gerry.

"We are not going to let Madeleine down."

Why did cops ignore link to Morocco?, 23 September 2007
Why did cops ignore link to Morocco? Sunday Mirror (paper edition)

Exclusive: The search for Madeleine Day 143

• They failed to act on second vital sighting at garage

Lori Campbell
23 September 2007

Portuguese police FAILED to follow up a key sighting of Madeleine McCann in Morocco which her parents believe is vital to solving the case.

It was revealed last night that a British tourist contacted police to say he saw a "lost-looking" youngster at a petrol station in Marrakech.

His testimony was identical to that of another tourist, Norwegian Marie Pollard, 45, who claimed she was "100 per cent convinced" she saw Madeleine at the same spot.

She said last night: "I still haven't been interviewed by Portuguese police and we're four-and-a-half months on. If this man saw Madeleine as well it adds weight to what I saw and proves I'm not going mad."

Both accounts were given to the police independently and without knowledge of the other. Yet incredibly police failed to follow either up at the time they were reported. When they did finally check out the leads, they found the garage's CCTV tape had been erased and didn't bother interviewing staff.

Both witnesses describe a little blonde girl standing near a man and asking him in English: "When can I see my mummy?"

The McCann family are livid at the blunder - always believing she could have been abducted and taken to Morocco. A family friend said yesterday: "Kate and Gerry believe the Morocco sightings were vital. They are furious they weren't followed up properly by police. They should have been fully investigated and publicised.

"Kate said her instinct from the start has been that Madeleine was smuggled into North Africa.

"The couple believe the information from the two witnesses is crucial and should have been released to the media immediately."

Like Mrs Pollard and her British husband Raymond, the unidentified witness was staying at the Ibis Hotel next to the petrol station.

It was only when he returned home to Yorkshire that he realised the significance of what he had seen and called police. He was unaware of Mrs Pollard's account of what happened on May 9, which she reported after she went home to Spain. The details of their statements matched.

Mrs Pollard, who lives in Fuengirola, said: "I didn't know about Maddie's disappearance then. I went in the shop to buy some water. My attention was drawn straight to her. She was a sweet, blonde-haired girl with a very cute face. She was wearing blue pyjamas with a little pink-and-white pattern, maybe flowers, on her top.

"She was standing alone with a man. She looked sad and a little lost. The man didn't look like her father. He was between 35 and 40, with dark brown hair, not very tall.

"She looked at me and then spoke to him, something like, 'Can I see Mummy soon?'. I don't think he responded."

Mrs Pollard said she called Portuguese police the day after she thought she saw Madeleine.

But it was another 10 days before they called her back to ask for any details.

It was only when she announced the sighting in the Press that they contacted her. "I contacted the police but no one has come to see me to take a statement," she said. "An Interpol officer rang me and asked for details and this is all I have heard.

"The British embassy said my sighting was being taken seriously but the police in Morocco have not contacted me."

Meantime a family friend revealed last night that police are working on the bizarre theory that Kate and Gerry McCann buried Madeleine's body near a holy shrine.

The McCanns - who made a pilgrimage to the Fatima 20 days after their daughter vanished - are stunned by the extraordinary claim. Police believe they used the trip to look for a suitable spot to dispose of Madeleine's body before returning in their hire car at a later date to bury her.

But a close family friend told the Sunday Mirror: "This allegation is not only ridiculous, it proves the Portuguese police are clutching at every last straw."

The McCanns' official spokesman Clarence Mitchell was with them on their journey to Fatima on May 23 but he has never been questioned by police.

Police plan to examine a pasture called the Cova da Iria, near the village of Aljustrel a mile from Fatima, which the McCanns would have passed on their car journey. A source close to the family said: "Police believe they used that trip as a reccie (reconnaissance mission). But they barely even glanced out of the window during the four-hour drive. They were both using laptops so they could work on the campaign to find Madeleine."

During the journey Gerry took a 45-minute phone call from Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who expressed his sympathy for their plight saying: "I've lost a little girl of my own. I know it's in different circumstances, but I can empathise with the pain you're going through."

Our source said: "It's ridiculous to think that while they were on the phone, Gerry was looking out for places to later bury his daughter's body." In the following week, the couple travelled to the Vatican to meet the Pope, and flew to Amsterdam and Berlin to publicise the hunt for Madeleine.

"It's madness to suggest they had the time to make a 500-mile return trip to Fatima to bury Madeleine's body," said our source, who also revealed how on September 3 they were called by a detective who asked them not to leave the country because they would be made "arguidos" later that week.

"He insisted the new status simply enabled police to give them more information on the inquiry," said the source. "But Gerry sensed the tables were turning against them and pleaded with Kate to flee Portugal. He told her, 'I don't believe them. We're being stitched up. We should get out of here'."

Kate convinced him to stay because she didn't want it to look like they were running away. But two days later, the couple were dramatically accused of playing a part in Madeleine's death.

During a break in her first grilling, Kate called Gerry to say police were telling her to confess to killing Madeleine in exchange for a lenient sentence. Soon afterwards a relative back in Leicester appeared on live TV talking about the development.

Our source said: "It was being shown in the interview room. The cops went mad and were swearing at the screen and they turned aggressive towards Kate."

The McCanns later learned it was Det Insp Luis Nevas who ordered the heavy grilling which left the couple feeling betrayed as he had previously befriended them.

With thanks to Nigel at McCann Files

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