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Original Source:  EXPRESS: MONDAY 10 SEPTEMBER 2007
Monday September 10,2007
By Padraic Flanagan in Praia da Luz
KATE and Gerry McCann’s dramatic flight to Britain was made within hours of agreeing the time was right to leave their legal nightmare in Portugal.

The doctors, both now suspects in the disappearance of daughter Madeleine, said they took the last-minute decision for the sake of their two-year-old twins, Sean and Amelie.

But observers in Portugal said leaving so soon after being made “arguidos” would only confirm local opinion that the case against them was strong and they were running while they still could.

The McCanns’ eleventh-hour decision to leave for East Midlands Airport sparked an “emotional and extraordinary night” for the family at their rented villa outside Praia da Luz, according to a friend.

For the past two months, the secluded house on the Rua das Flores has been a haven for the family and acted as the base from which the Find Madeleine campaign was launched.

As Saturday evening merged into Sunday, a stream of friends arrived to bid farewell to the couple.

In the time they have spent there, Kate and Gerry have developed a network of close supporters in Praia da Luz’s tight-knit community.

Among them were local Anglican vicar Haynes Hubbard and his wife Susan, the couple whom Kate had asked to care for the twins if she and Gerry were detained following their questioning.

As the night wore on, family members including Gerry’s sister Trisha, mother, Eileen and brother-in-law Sandy, set about packing the family’s essential belongings needed for the journey to Rothley in Leicestershire.

In the weeks after Madeleine vanished, Kate stressed repeatedly that she would not leave the Portuguese holiday resort until her eldest daughter was found.
She said she would only return to their neat four-bedroom home in the East Midlands as a family of five.

But since then, local sympathy has turned into a whispering campaign, fuelled by vicious smears and outright lies in the Portuguese media.

To add to their torment, the police force they turned to for help in searching for their missing child has instead switched its focus towards establishing the parents’ guilt over her disappearance. It finally meant Kate was forced to accept the previously unthinkable act of returning home without Madeleine.

As friends and guests said their farewells the tears shed by Kate and Gerry on Saturday night betrayed their own feelings at abandoning the country where they saw their daughter last.

Those who visited the couple said the final frantic hours probably helped stop them from dwelling too long on that devastating fact. This allowed them to busy themselves in preparation for the journey rather than grieve over what they were leaving behind.

But the floods of tears shed by Kate on the easyJet flight from Faro suggested the devastating fact that they were without a beloved daughter was never far from her mind.

Last night, the family friend said: “The last few days have been incredible and emotional. Yesterday evening and the early hours were absolutely extraordinary.

“There was an awful lot to be organised in a short space of time and there was so much to do – it went on right through the night with people grabbing just a couple of hours’ sleep.

“There had been plans in place to leave, in fact they had told the police over a week ago that they had made plans to leave Portugal on Sunday.

“But after the developments in the investigation on Thursday and Friday, the couple had to do things that normally would have taken a week in a very short space of time.”

She revealed that Kate and Gerry only managed to sleep for a couple of hours as others raced around, finalising plans for the family to leave. Evidence of the rushed departure could be seen after the family’s dramatic dawn exit yesterday.

Boxes of toys donated by well-wishers were left in the villa to be sent over later when the McCanns had re-settled in Rothley.

Despite the hasty departure, friends were adamant that Kate and Gerry were not fleeing from the law but keen to maintain the impetus of the search for their daughter.

"They are not running away,” said one. “It’s a change of location. They are very happy to help the police and plan to come back regularly.

“They have made many friends in Praia da Luz and will certainly keep in touch with them.”

She went on: “Last week they were very, very concerned about what was going to happen but they are now feeling more confident about things.

“Their legal team is working very hard and they feel more upbeat and buoyant about that side.

Their departure is with the full agreement of the Portuguese authorities and police. They feel they don’t have anything to hide.”

Another friend, however, admitted that the decision to return was difficult, despite the legal nightmare faced by the couple.

The friend said: “Obviously it’s going to be difficult for them both, going back to their real home without Madeleine. It will be particularly emotional for Kate.”

Other family members had visited the property, the friend added, but “Madeleine’s bedroom is still as it was, ready for her to come home.”


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