thirteen years of investigations for a mysterious disappearance

Kate and Gerry McCann at the launch of Kate McCann's book “Madeleine” on May 12, 2011 in London.
Kate and Gerry McCann at the launch of Kate McCann’s book “Madeleine” on May 12, 2011 in London. CARL DE SOUZA / AFP

After thirteen years of false hope and twists and turns in the mysterious disappearance of Madeleine Beth McCann, German police announced on Wednesday June 3 that they will investigate a new suspect. The man, suspected of the murder of the British girl who disappeared in southern Portugal in May 2007, is a sex offender who has been convicted on several occasions, including for having sexually abused children.

This is the latest runway for the multi-drawer affair that sparked diplomatic tensions between the UK and Portugal. And of new hope, none of the many hypotheses explored so far by the Portuguese police and Scotland Yard to find Maddie having been unsuccessful.

  • May 3, 2007 Maddie McCann Disappears

The apartment hotel where little Maddie disappeared on May 3, 2007 in Praia da Luz, Portugal.
The apartment hotel where little Maddie disappeared on May 3, 2007 in Praia da Luz, Portugal. Armando Franca / AP

On May 3, 2007, little Madeleine Beth McCann disappeared, a few days before her fourth birthday, in a seaside resort in the south of Portugal. Her parents, British nationals Kate and Gerry McCann, had arrived a few days earlier, on April 28, in Praia da Luz, in the Algarve, for a week of vacation with their three children. They stay in a bungalow in a hotel complex. On the night of the crime, the parents put Maddie and Sean and Amelie – their 2-year-old twins – to bed, then go out to dinner with a couple of friends in a restaurant some 100 meters from their bungalow.

During the evening, Gerry McCann checks that the children are sleeping peacefully in their bedroom. Around 10 p.m., Kate, the mother, goes in her turn and will recount having discovered her daughter’s empty bed, the shutters and windows open. Helped by their friends, the McCann parents prospected in the surroundings, in vain. They then give the alert.

  • A mobilization of unprecedented scale

Claiming to be convinced of his abduction, his parents, both doctors, are mobilizing exceptional financial resources and are setting up a media campaign of unprecedented scale to find Maddie. The smile of the little girl with the big eyes goes around the world thanks to the energy deployed by the couple.

Fearing above all else that the world would soon lose interest in their little girl’s fate, the McCann spouses launched the “Find Madeleine” campaign and hired a full-time spokesperson, Clarence Mitchell, a former BBC journalist. The fund collects from mid-May 2007 more than 1 million pounds sterling in donations.

Read also The “Maddie” affair: all the ingredients to fascinate the public and the media

The meeting of these two fervent Catholics, on May 30, 2007 at the Vatican, with Pope Benedict XVI, who gives them his blessing under the flashes of photographers, and the support of celebrities from around the world are spinning the press of English tabloids and the foreign press. At 50e the day of the disappearance, balloon releases are organized in several European countries.

Read also Maddie Affair: The McCann Machine
  • September 7, 2007, McCann parents indicted

September 7, 2007, drama. Kate McCann and her husband Gerry are under investigation by the Portuguese police who suspect them of having accidentally killed Maddie. These are traces of blood found in a rental car that raise suspicion on the couple, who claims his innocence. According to the Portuguese Code of Criminal Procedure, a person can be charged if there is sufficient evidence of his participation in an offense or a crime, without it being compulsory to specify a count.

Authorities have so far identified only one suspect, Robert Murat, a Briton living in Praia da Luz, whose house has been searched twice, to no avail. The McCanns, who, despite being indicted, are free to leave Portugal, return to the village of Rothley in central England to organize their defense. Kate McCann implicates in an interview with Sunday Mirror, on September 9, 2007, the Portuguese police, affirming that he was offered a suspended prison sentence in return for confessions:

“I was told that if I admitted that Madeleine had an accident and that I had panicked and hid the body in a bag for a month, and then got rid of it in a rental car, I would have a two or three year suspended prison sentence. “

Gerry McCann says on his blog that his wife is “Totally innocent” and that the couple is determined to “Fight by all means” and continue to “Seek Madeleine”.

  • July 21, 2008, Portuguese justice closes the case

If testimonies are multiplying to evoke the presence of the girl in Malta, in Belgium or in Morocco, there is no convincing indication that the girl is alive. Portuguese justice decides to close the case and to lift the indictments, in particular of her parents, after fourteen months of an investigation which did not allow to solve the mystery of the disappearance of the little Briton of 3 years old. Justice nevertheless reserves the right to reopen the investigation.

An investigation very criticized, in particular in the press of the United Kingdom, because of the many reversals of the police force, which initially privileged the track of the abduction, before leaning for the thesis of the death of the little girl. After the head of the investigators, Gonçalo Amaral, has been sacked, the Portuguese police will finally announce handing over “All the assumptions on the table”.

Read also Maddie: the filing of the file revives the controversy over the Portuguese investigation

Gonçalo Amaral will publish, in May 2009, a book entitled Maddie, the prohibited investigation, in which he claims that the child is dead and that his parents may have concealed his body. This book is withdrawn from sale after a complaint from the McCanns. Gonçalo Amaral put forward this thesis to justify their indictment in 2007.

  • May 12, 2011, publication of the book “Madeleine”
Kate McCann during a press conference for the release of her book, May 12, 2011 in London.
Kate McCann during a press conference for the release of her book, May 12, 2011 in London. Chris Helgren / REUTERS

In his book, titled Madeleine, written by herself, using her diary, Kate McCann, 43, said she immediately feared that her daughter was the victim of a pedophile. “The images I saw of Madeleine, no sane person would want to have them in his head”, she says then.

In this book, which appears on May 12, the birthday of the child, she also renews her criticisms of the way in which the investigation was carried out by the Portuguese police, who, according to her, neglected leads. Sales of this book will fuel the McCann’s subscription to private investigative services.

  • May 22, 2011, British police reopen the case

Ten days after Kate McCann’s book came out, British Prime Minister David Cameron asked Scotland Yard to reopen the case. About 30 police officers are investigating the entire procedure, both British and Portuguese, in an attempt to find new elements. Scotland Yard relaunches the investigation with a new lead: two men, imprisoned in Scotland for pedophilia, were in Portugal at the time of Maddie’s disappearance.

Read also Four years after Maddie McCann’s disappearance, mother releases book on the case

On April 25, 2012, Scotland Yard asked the Portuguese authorities to reopen the investigation. “We sincerely believe that it is possible that Maddie is still alive,” said Inspector Andy Redwood. British police say they found 195 news items ” tracks “.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Scotland Yard says Maddie McCann may still be alive
  • July 2013, British police launch their own investigation

In July 2013, the British police launched their own investigation into the disappearance of the girl. Scotland Yard broadcasts robot portraits during the BBC television program “Crimewatch” in October of the same year of a man seen carrying a child to the ” Blond hair “ the evening of the girl’s disappearance. Among the portraits are two German-speaking suspects, according to the popular daily Bild.

  • October 24, 2013, the Portuguese justice reopens the investigation in turn

Six years after the girl’s disappearance, Portuguese police have reopened the investigation. She is now following the trail of a former employee of the hotel where the family was staying, after the appearance of “New clues” highlighted by a team from the Porto police. But then again, the investigation is slipping.

Read also Maddie: Portuguese police on the trail of a former hotel employee
  • June 4, 2020, German prosecution opens investigation into murder
A journalist takes a picture on June 4 of the house in which the German suspect lived at the time of Maddie's disappearance.
A journalist takes a picture on June 4 of the house in which the German suspect lived at the time of Maddie’s disappearance. RAFAEL MARCHANTE / REUTERS

The prosecutor’s office in Brunswick, Germany, announced Thursday (June 4th) that an investigation has been opened for murder and has called for witnesses. “The Brunswick prosecution is investigating a 43-year-old German suspected of murder. You can deduce that we think the little girl is dead “, Brunswick attorney Hans Christian Wolters said at a press conference.

The new suspect is said to have lived for several years in a house near Praia da Luz and to have worked in the area between 1996 and 2007. Other evidence suggests that he also made a living in “Committing crimes, including burglaries in hotel complexes and holiday apartments”, as well as drug trafficking, according to the German police. The man is currently imprisoned in Germany for sexual offenses.

The McCann spouses “Congratulated” Wednesday of this new twist: “All we have ever wanted is to find it, find the truth and bring those responsible to justice. We will never give up hope of finding Madeleine alive. But whatever the outcome, we need to know, because we have to find peace. “

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