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Parents' anguish for Maddie

Original Source: SUN: SUNDAY 06 MAY 2007
By ONLINE REPORTER  Published: 06 May 2007

THE mother of missing three-year-old Madeleine McCann wept for her daughter today at an emotional Mother’s Day service.

Kate McCann and husband Gerry were joined by family from the UK at a Portuguese mass in the resort of Praia da Luz, three days after the youngster disappeared.

Their visit to the church fell on Mother’s Day which is marked in Portugal with flowers which are laid at the feet of the Virgin Mary during the service.

In an emotional mass, Madeleine’s mother was quietly presented with a bunch of five roses by 14-year-old Altar girl Emily Seromenho, whose own mother is English.

At the end of the service, Mrs McCann then lined up with Portuguese mothers and walked to the Altar laying her flowers at the foot of the Virgin Mary.

Pausing momentarily and gazing up at the statue Mrs McCann rejoined her family and prayed silently for Madeleine’s safe return.

Portuguese police believe the missing three-year-old British girl was abducted.

Guilhermino Encarnacao, director of the judicial police in the Faro region, said police were hopeful she was still alive and believe she is still in Portugal, possibly even in the Algarve.

He added that detectives have a suspect in mind but refused to reveal any details other than to say that they had an artist’s impression, for fear of endangering Madeleine’s life.

It is not clear whether this means that police are looking for a specific, named individual, or simply someone fitting a description.

Speaking 24 hours after discovering three-year-old Maddie had vanished from their holiday apartment, distraught dad Gerry said: “Words cannot describe the anguish and despair we are feeling as the parents of a beautiful daughter.”

As wife Kate poignantly clutched Maddie’s pink teddy, he added haltingly: “We request anyone with any information relating to Madeleine’s disappearance should please contact Portuguese police to help us get her back to safety.

“Please if you have Madeleine, please let her come home to her mummy, daddy, brother and sister. Everyone can understand how distressing this current situation is.”

The couple, both 38-year-old doctors, looked red-eyed as they stood just yards from their holiday flat. Earlier, shattered relatives and friends told of the heart-stopping moment mum Kate discovered her precious daughter was missing.

Kate and Gerry, a consultant cardiologist, had left Maddie asleep with their baby twins as they ate at a tapas restaurant 50 yards from their holiday apartment in Portugal’s Algarve.

The pair took turns to check on the children every half hour. But when Kate returned to the room at 10pm on Thursday there was no sign of her angel-faced girl.

As a desperate police hunt continued in the resort of Praia da Luz last night, Maddie’s aunt Trish Cameron told how distraught Gerry described the scene in a frantic late-night phone call.

Trish, of Dumbarton, Scotland, said: “The kids were all sound asleep, windows shut, shutters shut.

“Kate went back at 10pm to check. The front door was lying open, the window had been tampered with, the shutters had been jemmied open and Maddie was missing.

“She came screaming back to the group crying, ?They’ve taken her, they’ve taken her’. Gerry was crying and roaring like a bull.

“Obviously someone has been watching them, watching the children, seeing where they stayed and seeing they were left alone. It just doesn’t bear thinking about.”

Maddie’s brother and sister ? two-year-old IVF twins Sean and Amelie ? were left safely in their cots.


Trish, who plans to jet out to help with the search, went on: “Kate ran and told my brother. He was distraught on the phone to me, breaking his heart.

“He said, ?Maddie’s been abducted, she’s been abducted’. Nothing else was touched in the apartment, no valuables taken, no passports.” Describing Maddie, Trish added: “She’s an absolutely beautiful wee blonde girl, with blue-green eyes.

“One distinguishing feature is that the pupil of her right eye runs down into the iris.”

Cops yesterday cordoned off the apartment and officers with sniffer dogs were leading the search.

The Sun has offered a £10,000 reward for information that may lead to the youngster being found.

If you live in Portugal you can download a copy of the poster, by clicking here, to play your part in the search for Madeleine.

Maddie ? also an IVF baby ? was reportedly wearing pink, short-sleeved pyjamas with a cartoon Eeyore on the top.

Last night local reports claimed dogs tracked her scent to a supermarket before the trail ran cold. The store’s CCTV cameras were so basic they did not make recordings.

Meanwhile British tourist George Burke claimed he had seen a couple carrying a young child early yesterday morning. Mr Burke, from Liverpool, was driving back from Lagos, just a few miles from Praia de Luz. He said: “I couldn’t see them clearly as it was dark and windy ? but I thought it was odd. They scurried down a side road.”

Kate and Gerry, from Rothley, Leics, are believed to have been on holiday with a group of other medical workers. The party comprised nine adults and eight children. It is understood Maddie, who turns four next Saturday, is due to start school in September.

Distraught Kate rang long-time friends Jon and Michelle Corner, the twins’ godparents, at their Merseyside home to break the news.

Jon, whose wife grew up with GP Kate in their home city of Liverpool, said: “She phoned at about 3am. She just blurted out that Maddie had been abducted.

“She said, ?They’ve broken the shutter on the window and taken my little girl’. She’s still devastated. She’s very upset that the police don’t seem to be doing anything.”

The McCanns were staying at the Ocean Club in Praia da Luz, western Algarve ? a popular spot with Brits. They booked the break with holiday firm Mark Warner.

The complex consists of individual villa-style accommodation mixed with small bars, restaurants, cafés, boutiques and shops.

Resort boss John Hill said 70 staff and guests searched until 4.30am after the family raised the alarm, while border police, Spanish cops and airports were notified. He said: “It was a very emotional and frantic night.”

But he insisted there was NO physical evidence Maddie had been abducted from the apartment. He said: “We are still hoping Madeleine is asleep under a bush and we’ll find her soon.”

He said the family’s apartment was surrounded by others ? all with “sophisticated” door locks.

Guests were quizzed to check if they saw anyone acting suspiciously. Mr Hill said Mark Warner offers families a babysitting service where they can leave children for the night.

He added: “Those facilities were available but were not being used.”

Counsellors were being flown out from Britain to assist the stricken parents, he added.

John Buck, the British Ambassador in Portugal, drove in from the capital Lisbon to be with the family after they begged him for help.

He confirmed that three family liaison officers from
Leicestershire Police had now arrived and were with the family.

Among those who joined Thursday night’s search for the tot were British expats, holidaymakers and off-duty police officers.

Paul Moyes, 47, from Cheshire, owns a holiday apartment with wife Susan in the McCanns’ block.

He said: “There was a knock on our door at about 11.30pm from a hotel guest telling us a girl was missing and asking us to help.”

Family pal Gill Renwick revealed how panicking Kate sent her a text saying: “I need help.”

She said: “Kate was at the police station in hysterics. When we spoke she said the police weren’t doing enough.”

Speaking about the £1,500 family holiday, pal Gill went on: “It’s the first time they have done this.

“They are very careful parents. They chose Mark Warner because it is a family-friendly resort.”

Trish Cameron added: “In hindsight, yes, Gerry and Kate wish they hadn’t left the children alone, but it’s hard when you’re on holiday. They’re excellent parents and very protective of their children.”

Maddie’s worried grandparents have flown to Portugal to join the search. Brian and Susan Healy said as they headed for the airport: “We’re worried sick.”

The couple had earlier been comforted by friends at their smart semi in Mossley Hill, Liverpool.

Family friend Pat Perkins, 61, said: “Susan can barely speak. We’re just trying to stay positive.

“Kate and Gerry are such good parents. It’s a very loving family, they didn’t leave their children in any danger. You just don’t expect something so awful to happen.

“I recommended Portugal as a holiday destination. They love children over there.”


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