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Concern grows for missing child in Algarve

Original Source: Algarve Resident; 04 May 2007
Updated 17.41 May 4, 2007
Madeleine McCann - she is NOT wearing these clothes. Photo: Supplied
John Hill - Operations Manager for Mark Warner holiday resort, Praia da Luz. Photo: Mark Rawcliffe - The Resident
Dusting for fingerprints - the Polícia Judiciaria searching for a lead. Photo: Mark Rawcliffe - The Resident

Madeleine McCann, who will be four-years-old on May 12, along with her parents Katie and Gerry from Rothley, north Leicester in the UK, were staying in one of the Mark Warner holiday apartments in the Ocean Club complex which is in the Praia da Luz area near Lagos in the western Algarve.

The Resident spoke to John Hill - Operations Manager for Mark Warner, who told us the parents went for dinner at a tapas restaurant in the resort while the children Madeleine and 2-year-old twins, Amelie and Sean, were asleep.

John Hill said "They had not requested the 'dining out' service - a child minding service which allows parents to enjoy a meal while their children are being looked after by qualified personnel." While this service is available at the resort, the parents decided to check on the children at regular half hourly intervals themselves.

It has been rumoured that the parents did request the baby-sitting service available at the resort until 5pm on Thursday afternoon.

The parents left at 8pm for dinner and apparently when they returned during one of their half hourly checks at 10pm, fair haired Madeleine was gone.

There were no signs of forced entry, and the door to the apartment was undamaged and closed, although it is believed that one of the windows was open.

John Hill said to the PA news agency that around 60 staff and guests at the purpose-built complex had searched until 4.30am while police notified border police, Spanish police and airports. "It was a very emotional and very frantic night and everyone did a fantastic job of getting involved and trying to search the area," he said. "As you can imagine, Madeleine's parents are distraught and not doing very well at all."

He said there was no physical evidence that the girl had been abducted from the family's rented apartment while they ate at the tapas restaurant 200 yards away. "It's still questionable as to whether it's an abduction," he said. "We are hoping that Madeleine is found as soon as possible and safe and well."

But Jill Renwick, a family friend, told GMTV that the parents were certain that Madeleine has been abducted. Ms Renwick said of the holiday: "This is the first time they have done this. They are very, very anxious parents and very careful and they chose Mark Warner because it is a family-friendly resort."

A hunt by a number of visitors and local residents was carried out throughout the night looking for the pretty, fair haired girl, and an appeal has been made for volunteers to join the search - see Appeal for help to find missing Madeleine.

The Resident spoke to the GNR who told us that police tracker dogs were dispatched from Lisbon this morning to help in the search. Apparently,the Algarve does not have sniffer dogs that are trained to pick up human scent, but only to detect drugs. As soon as the dogs arrived, they are reported to have picked up Madeleine's scent from the apartment and followed it to Supermercado Baptista, where apparently the scent disappears.

The Resident spoke to an employee at Supermercado Baptista who told us that the PJ were in the premises to check the supermarket’s surveillance cameras in case they had registered images of Madeleine. However, the employee told us that the two cameras are unable to record images and are only used by staff to check the aisles for any suspicious customer behaviour.

The Resident has been informed that the Bombeiros, Maritime Police and a team from Lagos Câmara are also involved in the search operations in Praia da Luz. A special criminal investigation team from the Polícia Judiciária (PJ) is also travelling down from Lisbon to assist local police.

Police are currently concentrating their efforts in the centre of the village, but The Resident has been told that search teams will be covering a wider area around Praia da Luz. Helicopters are also flying over the area.

Manuela Romano de Castro, from the British Embassy in Lisbon, told The Resident that “we cannot give out details about the family at this time”. However, according to Leicester Mercury newspaper, the mother was a GP from Liverpool and the father is a top medical consultant from Glasgow. Manuela Romano de Castro informed us that “British Consul, Bill Henderson, has been in close contact with the family and visited them this morning. He has also been to police headquarters this morning.”

A source informed us that the child’s grandparents, as well as counsellors from Mark Warner in England, are flying to the Algarve tonight.


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