Saturday, 3 May 2014

Madeleine McCann

3rd May 2007

This day in history... British girl Madeleine McCann disappears from her bed in a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal 

This has been a worldwide, ongoing investigation since 2007 and shows no signs of stopping until Madeleine McCann is found. This is of course a very sensitive subject as the young girl is still currently missing, but the investigation has gained momentum over the years and has continued to discover new evidence and shock the general public along the way.  The media, of course, has made a massive impact on the investigation, for better and for worse, in all hopes at finding Madeleine. It is believed that the cases' international interest and the sheer mass of media coverage in the UK has been reminiscent of the death of Princess Diana in 1997. The Daily Telegraph called the investigation "the most heavily reported missing-person case in modern history."

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Madeleine Missing
The McCann's Background

Madeleine was born in Leicester in 2003 and lived with her twin siblings and parents in Rothley. Interpol described Madeleine as having straight blonde hair, blue-green eyes, a distinctive dark strip on the iris of her right eye - possibly a coloboma - and a small brown mark on the calf of her left leg. The McCanns released several age-progressed images in 2009 of how Madeleine may have looked at age 6. Another image was released by Scotland Yard in 2012 of her at
age 9. 

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Computer-progressed images of what Madeleine possibly looks like from 2012 onwards
Madeleine's parents were both physicians and practising Roman Catholics. Kate Marie McCann (born 1968 in Huyton, Liverpool), attended All Saints school, Notre Dame High School, Everton Valley and graduated in 1992 with a degree in medicine from the University of Dundee. She moved briefly into obstetrics, gynaecology, anaesthesiology and finally general practice. Gerald Patrick McCann (born 1968 in Glasgow), attended Holyrood Secondary School and obtained a BSc in physiology/sports science from the University of Glasgow in 1989 and qualified in medicine in 1992. He also obtained his MD from Glasgow. He was a consultant cardiologist in Leicester. The couple met in 1993 in Glasgow and married in 1998. Madeleine was born in 2003 and the twins, a boy and a girl, two years later.

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Gerry and Kate McCann
The McCanns were on holiday in Praia da Luz with a group of 7 friends from the UK and 8 children in all, including Madeleine, Sean and Amelie. Several of the friends had studied medicine together at the University of Leicester. The group consisted of Russel O'Brien and his partner Jane Tanner; Matthew Oldfield and his wife Rachael; Fiona and David Payne and Fiona's mother Dianne Webster. The 9 adults met up most evenings during the holiday at 20:30 in the resort's tapas restaurant, as a result the friends were dubbed as the Tapas Seven by the media. 

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The Tapas 7: Jane Tanner, Dianne Webster, David Payne, Fiona Payne,
Russel O'Brien, Rachael Oldfield, Matthew Oldfield

The McCann's Apartment, Portugal

The McCanns arrived in Praia da Luz 28th April 2007 and stayed at G5A Rua Dr Agostinho da Silva for a 7-night break. G5A was a 2-bed apartment on the ground floor of the fifth block of grouped apartments known as Waterside Village. The block lay on the perimeter of Mark Warner's Ocean Club resort and overlooked its pool, tennis courts, tapas restaurant and bar. G5A was located on the corner of Rua Dr Agostinho da Silva and Rua Dr Francisco Gentil Martins and was accessible to the public from all sides. Sliding patio doors at the back faced the Ocean Club; the patio doors could be accessed from a short set of steps and a gate on the side. The front door was situated on the non-resort side of the block and led to a walled car park and street. The 3 children slept in a bedroom next to the front door. The room had one waist-high window with an exterior shutter that looked onto a narrow walkway. 

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Aerial view of the McCann's apartment block and facilities

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Will removeat owner's request.
Madeleine's bed and the
twins' travel cots

The night of Madeleine's disappearance, the McCanns had left the patio doors unlocked as they could only be locked from the inside and it was quicker and easier for the McCanns to enter that way to check up on the children throughout the night. Gerald also ensured the window shutters were down and that the window was shut. He also ensured that the children's bedroom door was left slightly ajar so that the light from the living room could peak through.

Thursday 3rd May 2007
This was the penultimate day of the family's holiday. The children spent the morning at the resort's Kids' Club while the parents went for a walk and to the pool. Kate took the last known photo of Madeleine by the pool that afternoon.

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One of the last photos of 'Maddy' taken on the
family's holiday

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The last photo of 'Maddy' by the pool with her father, Gerry and sister, Amelie

At 18:00 the children were collected from the Kids' Club, where Kate has described Madeleine looking pale and washed out. Kate took the children back to the apartment whilst Gerald went to play tennis. The children were put to bed at around 19:00. Madeleine was left asleep next to her pink comfort blanket and a pink soft toy - Cuddle Cat. She was wearing a pair of short-sleeved, pink-and-white Marks and Spencer's Eeyore pyjamas.

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Gerry and Kate McCann holding a copy of 'Maddy's' pyjamas

Kate and Gerry left the apartment at 20:30 to dine with their friends at the Taps restaurant, 50 metres on the other side of the pool and a walk of 30-45 seconds according to Kate. The staff at the restaurant had left a note in a staff message book asking that the same table, which overlooked the apartments, be block-booked for 20:30 for the McCanns and the Tapas Seven for several evenings during the holiday. The message also said that the group's children were asleep in the apartments and the staff book was left at the swimming-pool reception area. Kate believes that the abductor may have seen the note.

The McCanns and their friends left the table throughout the evening to check on their children. Gerry carried out the first check on 5A at around 21:05. He said everything seemed normal apart from the children's bedroom door being wide open, instead of ajar as he had left it. He pulled it back to how it was, before returning to the restaurant.

Events leading up to the disappearance:
Jane Tanner, one of the Tapas Seven, left the restaurant at 21:15 to check on her own daughter. Tanner noticed a man with a child cross the road, walking away from the direction of the apartments. Tanner said the man was carrying the child, who was barefoot and wearing light-coloured pyjamas with a floral pattern and cuffs on the legs. Tanner described him as white, dark-haired, 35-40 years old, wearing beige trousers and a dark jacket. 

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The suspect spotted by Jane Tanner

When Scotland Yard were brought in on the investigation they came to the conclusion that Tanner's sighting was a red herring. In October 2013 a British holidaymaker had been identified as the man that Tanner had seen. He had been returning to his apartment nearby after picking up his daughter from the Ocean Club night crèche. Scotland Yard took similar photos of the man wearing the same clothes that he was wearing on the night and standing in a similar pose as Tanner's sighting. The sighting was ruled out. 

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Innocent British holidaymaker disproves Tanner's suspect
Martin and Mary Smith, who were on holiday from Ireland, reported seeing a man at around 22:00 about 500 years from the McCann's apartment, carrying a young girl and walking towards the beach. They described the girl as 3-4 years old, wearing light-coloured pyjamas, with blonde hair and pale skin. They said the man was mid-30s, tall, slim build, with short hair, wearing cream trousers. He appeared not to be comfortable carrying the young child. E-fit images were prepared based on the couples' descriptions. 

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E-fits of the same man, described by the Smiths

At 21:30 Kate went to check on the children, but friend Matthew Oldfield offered to check on them when he checked his own children. He noticed that the children's bedroom door was wide open but after hearing no noise left without checking the room. Kate made her own check at around 22:00. She recalled entering the apartment through the patio doors and noticed the bedroom door wide open. When she tried to close it slightly, the door slammed shut as though there was a draught. Kate then entered the room to find the bedroom window and exterior shutter open. Madeleine's Cuddle Cat and pink blanket were still on the bed, but Madeleine was gone. After briefly searching the apartment, Kate ran back to the restaurant screaming that someone had taken Madeleine. At around 22:10, Matthew Oldfield asked the resort's reception desk to call the police and the missing-child protocol was activated. 60 staff and guests searched until 04:30, at first assuming that the girl had wandered off. 

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Plan view of apartment 5A - sniffer dog analysis

Among the men described by Tanner and the Smiths, there were also other witness statements reporting unusual, suspicious behaviour leading up to the night of Madeleine's disappearance. One holiday maker told the Polícia Judiciária that a bedraggled-looking man had rung her doorbell on 20th April 2007 to say in broken English that he was collecting money for a nearby orphanage. She described him as 38-45 years old, dark hair, a moustache and large teeth. On the day of the disappearance, between 15:30-17:30, 2 black-haired men visited apartments close to G5A, again claiming to be collecting for orphanages. On Monday, 30th April, several different witnesses saw a blonde-haired man on different occasions around the area; leaning against a wall behind the apartments; near the car park by the pool and across the road looking at G5A. The man, or possible men, were described as uneasy, "ugly", Caucasian, mid-30s and wearing a black leather jacket and sunglasses. 

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E-fits of the men described above
Witnesses also noticed at 14:30 on another day, 2 blonde-haired men on the balcony of 5C, an empty apartment down from 5A. Throughout the day the men were spotted near and around 5A. At 23:00, an hour after the disappearance was reported, 2 blonde-haired men were seen in a nearby street speaking in raised voices; when they realised they had been noticed, they lowered their voices and walked away. 

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E-fits of other 
Many leads and trails were followed and so far nothing has been confirmed entirely. The media have along the way attempted to help the case, however some of the newspapers soured at one point after some of the Portuguese police blamed the McCanns for Madeleine's disappearance. Many conspiracy theories have surfaced over the years, some of which claimed that the McCanns had used sedatives to make sure the children slept whilst they were out. The theory suggests that the McCanns accidentally overdosed Madeleine, hid her body and then removed it a month later in a rented car. These theories have never been confirmed and newspapers have had to pay a lot of damages in false accusations. Some negative media also portrayed the McCanns in a bad light arguing that they shouldn't have left their children in an unlocked apartment and that they should have been charged with abandonment of a child. Kate also revealed that the Madeleine had turned to her parents the night of the disappearnace and asked why her parents were not home last night when her and her brother were crying.

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The Sun 
 The theories are endless and most of the tabloids have twisted some of the evidence in their favour so it is hard to decipher what is relevant and what is true. The Scotland Yard investigation, Operation Grange, has made successful progress, it told Crimewatch in 2013, and statistics believe that the younger a child is abducted, the more likely they are still alive. There have been hundreds of suspected sightings of Madeleine and a few have believed to have been truthful leads. The McCann family still have the highest hopes of finding Madeleine and it is essential that if anyone has any information regarding this, that they come forward. Even if the public think it was just something small they noticed, or something they hadn't thought as a potential risk before, any information is more than helpful. Of course, this is an ongoing and desperate investigation to find the McCann's little girl. So if you do have anything helpful you can call Crimewatch on 0800 555111. Have a little look at the special episode on Madeleine McCann here.

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'Madification' of UK media

What are your thoughts on the Madeleine McCann case? Do you have any theories? Do you have any helpful information? Leave your comments below.

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