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Madeleine McCann: how the story unfolded

Original Source: TELEGRAPH: THURSDAY 04 OCTOBER 2007
Last Updated: 1:45am BST 04/10/2007
Last Updated: 2:23AM BST 13 Sep 2007

October 3
The Portuguese detective leading the Madeleine McCann investigation is
sacked from the inquiry after launching an astonishing public attack on his British counterparts.

October 2
The head of Portugal's police federation
launches an astonishing attack on Gerry and Kate McCann, accusing them of "hindering" the investigation into their daughter's disappearance.

September 30
Kate McCann tells close friends
she is willing to risk jail to find her daughter after she is told by her legal team that she faces a year-long jail sentence if she flouts Portuguese law to discuss details of the four-year-old's disappearance in public.

September 27
The McCanns are dealt a blow as the girl in the photograph taken in Morocco is named as
five-year-old Bushra Binhisa and the woman identified as her mother Hafida.

September 25
A photograph is published of a woman in Morocco carrying
a child who bears a resemblance to Madeleine McCann. Spanish police say they are taking the sighting seriously.

September 20
The McCanns fear that their mobile telephones have been
bugged by Portuguese police when they were in the Algarve and since they returned to Britain.

The public prosecutor in Portugal admits the case has hit an 'impasse'. Sources say all lines of inquiry remain open.


September 19
Kate and Gerry McCann's bid to prove their innocence
receives a major boost after a Portuguese prosecutor ruled there was not enough evidence to re-interrogate the couple.

The couple also disclose that they talk to their two-year-old twins about Madeleine constantly as the first indications of how they intend to challenge police suspicions that they killed their daughter emerge.

September 18
The couple's new spokesman,
Clarence Mitchell, begins the family's fightback by stating that the McCanns are the victims of a "heinous crime" who have been cruelly and unjustly accused of harming their daughter.

September 17
The McCanns' legal team contacts American lawyers over a case where
key sniffer dog evidence was thrown out of court in the hope that it may help them fight any charges that they were involved in the killing of their daughter.

September 16
Portuguese police appear to take a step back from
charging Madeleine's parents after a senior officer said they had "nothing concrete" to implicate them in her disappearance, a week after they were made formal suspects. Media tycoon Richard Branson offers '100,00 to fund the McCanns' legal fight, after the couple said they would not seek to use the money in the Madeleine Fund.

September 13
A French newspaper reports that Madeleine died from an
overdose of sleeping tablets. But British forensic experts said the samples were unlikely to be good enough to show this. Gerry McCann hit out at the 'ludicrous allegations' being reported.

September 12
A Portuguese prosecutor has made an urgent request relating to the seizure of a potentially vital document in the Madeleine case, believed to be
her mother's diary. A police source says the authorities also want the judge's permission to access other items, including Madeleine's favourite toy Cuddle Cat.



September 11
Reports allege that DNA samples that are a
"100 per cent match" to Madeleine have been found in her parents' hire car and holiday apartment. Portuguese police pass their file containing evidence against Mr and Mrs McCann to the public prosecutor, who almost immediately passes the file to an "instructional judge"

September 9
Kate and Gerry McCann leave Portugal with their two children and go home to Rothley in Leicestershire.

September 7
Kate McCann returns and is given "arguida" status as she is asked 22 key questions by police. Gerry McCann arrives at 2pm to be questioned separately. He is officially made an"arguido" about 12 hours after his wife.

September 6
Kate McCann is formally questioned by police in Portimao.

September 1
Portuguese police receive "significant"
results of forensics tests carried out in Britain. Sources say a key piece of DNA had been found in an "area where it should not have been." Mr McCann is called two days later and told he and his wife would be required for further questioning.



August 29
Mr McCann makes
the first direct appeal to the abductors since the first week, urging them to end the nightmare. He storms out of an interview on Spanish television when asked probing questions about the investigation, and says the couple will sue a Portuguese newspaper after it publishes a front page story claiming detectives believe the couple was responsible for Madeleine's death.

August 25
Gerry McCann appears at
the Edinburgh International Television Festival and appeals to the media to end its obsession with his daughter's disappearance.

August 21
Detectives leading the investigation admit off the record their main theory is now that
Madeleine died by accident. They say the apartment has "all the answers" to the case and that all leads on it being a possible kidnap have been exhausted.

August 15
Portuguese police announce that a British sniffer dog has detected
the scent of a body inside the apartment, leading them to the assumption that the four year old was dead.

August 11
The 100th day since Madeleine disappeared. The McCanns attend a poignant service of prayers for Madeleine at a church in Praia da Luz. Without telling the parents, Portuguese police acknowledge publicly for the first time that Madeleine could be dead



August 8
The Portuguese press start accusing the McCanns and their friends. A family spokesperson says they are disgusted at an apparent smear campaign against them. The couple are frustrated that police have started to take a more formal tone with them, and fear the investigation has gone back to "square one".

August 7
British detectives using specially-trained sniffer dogs and ultra-violet technology discover
traces of blood in Madeleine's bedroom. Samples are sent away for DNA testing.

August 3
Belgian police release a sketch of a couple seen with a girl who looks like Madeleine in the Flemish town of Tongeren. Meanwhile, Portuguese police conduct another search of Robert Murat's house, digging up his garden.

July 23
Gerry McCann flies to America, where he meets US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to discuss how America is tackling child abduction.

July 10
Mr Murat returns to the police station in Portimao for further questioning. He returns the next day for a "confrontation" with three friends of the McCanns - Russell O Brien, Rachael Oldfield and Fiona Payne - who claim they saw him at the scene helping with searches on the night Madeleine disappeared.

July 7
A man claiming to know the whereabouts of Madeleine McCann is
arrested in the Netherlands for attempting to defraud the parents of the missing girl.


June 28
Spanish police arrest an Italian man and a Portuguese woman suspected of
attempting to extort money from the McCann family by pretending to have key information about the child's whereabouts.

June 21
The first of a series of sightings of a girl resembling Madeleine are
reported in Malta. Other alleged sightings are reported in Morocco, Spain, France, Switzerland, Belgium, and even as far away as Argentina and Guatemala.

June 15
Police abandon their search of scrubland and conclusively rule out the tip-off. Gerry McCann states he believes Madeleine is still alive.

June 13
An anonymous tip-off published in a Dutch newspaper suggests that Madeleine's body is buried in deserted scrubland nine miles from where she went missing.

June 6
On a trip to Berlin, the parents are shocked when asked for the first time in public if they had anything to do with their daughter's disappearance. They deny any involvement.

May 31
In a sign of increasing desperation, police say they are trawling through two dossiers of emails and
messages from clairvoyants who claim to know where Madeleine is. They say they are trying to find out if any of the messages could be from her kidnapper.

May 30
Mr and Mrs McCann launch the start of a campaign to raise awareness of Madeleine's plight by attending
an audience with the Pope at the Vatican. They go on to give press conferences and meet officials in Germany, Morocco, the Netherlands, Spain and the United States.

May 25
their first interview, the McCanns tell of how the "guilt" of not being with Madeleine when she was abducted will never leave them. Police finally release the description a man seen carrying a child on the night of Madeleine's abduction near their apartment at the time she disappeared. It has been known since the night itself but was only issued after pressure from the McCanns, their legal team and the British Government.

May 23
Gerry and Kate McCann leave the village of Praia da Luz and travel to the holiest site in Portugal -
the Marian shrine of Fatima - to pray for their daughter's safe return.

May 17
An official website and fund is launched. The website has more than 125 million hits within a week and raises a fund of more than '1 million.

May 16
Detectives swoop on the home of Russian computer expert
Sergey Malinka, who designed a website for Mr Murat, and interview him as a witness.


May 14
In the first major development, police launch a search at the home of Anglo-Portuguese man
Robert Murat, just 100 yards from where Madeleine disappeared. Mr Murat is taken in for questioning and made an "arguido" or formal suspect, the next day. He says he is being made a "scapegoat" in the investigation.

May 12
Madeleine's fourth birthday. Mr and Mrs McCann attend a special birthday mass in the village where they say they are convinced Madeleine is alive. Celebrities including JK Rowling and Sir Phillip Green donate towards a '2.5 million reward being offered for Madeleine's safe return. Gordon Brown, then Chancellor, expresses his sympathy for the parents and later talks to them offering to do "anything he can to help".

May 10
Police admit the ground search for Madeleine is
being wound down. Around 350 potential leads - including sketches of potential suspects - have been followed up and produce no breakthrough.

May 7
Kate McCann makes
an emotional television appeal to her daughter's kidnapper, telling whoever has taken her "please, please do not hurt her".

May 5
Detectives say they believe Madeleine was abducted and say they have a sketch of
a potential suspect.

May 4
Sniffer dogs are brought in, the Spanish and border police and airports notified and volunteer teams comb the village, resort and beach for clues. The McCanns speak publicly for the first time, directly appealing to their daughter's abductors and speaking of their "anguish and despair".

May 3
Madeleine disappears from the family apartment at the Ocean Club resort in Praia da Luz, while parents Kate and Gerry dine at a tapas bar 200 yards away. Kate McCann raises the alarm at 10pm.

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