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McCann twins leave out food for Madeleine

Original Source: TELEGRAPH: 04 SEPTEMBER 2007
By Caroline Gammell in Praia da Luz
Last Updated: 8:20am BST 04/09/2007
Four months after her disappearance, the brother and sister of Madeleine McCann still insist on leaving a plate of food out for the missing girl, it was revealed yesterday.

Two-year-old twins Sean and Amelie often ask parents Gerry and Kate to lay a place for their older sister at meal times at the villa where they are staying in the Algarve.

The toddlers have also refused to unwrap some of the many presents from well-wishers – including a jigsaw and cuddly toys – so they can give them to Madeleine when she comes home.

The poignant image emerged as the McCanns, from Rothley in Leicestershire, turn their attention to returning to the UK.

The lease on their rented Portuguese home runs out in mid-September and soon they will have to make a decision about how long to stay.

They are reluctant to leave until the results of forensic tests undertaken last month are known.

Two weeks ago, they finally told Sean and Amelie that four-year-old Madeleine was missing and that “mummy and daddy were looking for her’’.

The couple, both 39, have done their best to make life as normal as possible, taking the twins to the creche in the morning and swimming or going to the zoo in the afternoon.

But despite the routine, Sean and Amelie are keenly aware that Madeleine is not there.

A family friend said yesterday that the twins recently set aside a plate of pasta salad for their sister as they enjoyed their own food.

“It has happened on a number of occasions – not every night.

“The kids love potatoes, meat and sweetcorn. Sometimes when given a plate of food, they will say 'this is for Madeleine’. It always comes from them.”

The McCanns have regularly taken advice from child psychologists about how to tell Sean and Amelie about their sister’s disappearance.

Originally they told them she had gone on a “short holiday’’ but have gradually introduced the idea that she might not be coming home.

The family’s spokeswoman said: “They have taken professional advice right from the beginning about how to handle this with the children.

“They are loving parents and take their parenting responsibilities very seriously. They would never do or say anything that would cause them distress or hinder their development.

“They have handled it extremely delicately over the four months, using careful language appropriate for their age given to them by experts to help the children understand why Madeleine is not with them.”

But in Portugal, there was criticism of their decision to tell the twins about Madeleine.

Clinical psychologist Louis Villas-Boas, director of children’s refuge Aboim Ascensao in Faro, told local newspaper Diario de Noticias that the couple had made an “error”.

He said the toddlers would have “no comprehension of what the disappearance of a person means” and should not have been told until the age of three or four.

“It is not necessary to use an adult language to communicate to the twins a situation which is strange or foreign to them,” he added.

Yesterday, Mr McCann asked holidaymakers to continue putting up posters for Madeleine even though the couple is trying to play down their own role.

The cardiologist said they had been advised by the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children that any signs highlighting Madeleine’s disappearance increased the chances of her being found.


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