Alyssa Duff ’19, Website Editor-in-Chief
Over 11 years ago, on May 3, 2007, three-year-old Madeleine Mccann disappeared from an apartment in Portugal. To this day no one knows what truly happened to her.
Since Portugal was a popular spot for British tourists, apartments were often owned and rented to families. The Mccann family was one of the many who stayed, yet one of the few whose stay ended in tragedy.
The Mccanns took a vacation with seven friends and their kids in May of 2007. Each night they would put their kids to bed at 8:00 p.m. and after would head out to dinner. They would make their way to their nightly reserved table that offered a view of the apartments, but not of the doors. Every thirty minutes, the parents would head back to the apartments and check on their sleeping children.
After a long day of kids club, lunch, and swimming at the pool, the Mccanns decided to put Madeleine Mccann and her two younger siblings to bed. The previous night the Mccanns noticed when they would go to check on the children, due to where the door was located, it would wake the children up. This prompted them to go through the patio door instead. The patio door could only be locked from the inside, but nevertheless, the parents of Madeline, Kate and Gerry Mccann, left for dinner with the patio door unlocked, never expecting what would happen next.
Once dinner started, another friend went to go check on his kids, and shortly after, Gerry went to go check on Madeline and her siblings. When Gerry arrived at the apartment, he entered through the patio door and headed for the bedroom in which Madeleine was sleeping and noticed that the door was slightly propped open more than he had remembered. But with Madeleine still asleep in her bed, he left thinking nothing of it.
Later, Kate headed to the apartment to go check on her children, but when she went to open the door where Madeleine was sleeping, a large gust of wind slammed the door shut. This was the moment when Kate realized that the window had been opened, and Madeline was missing. She then proceeded to leave the other two children in the apartment, run to her friends, and scream, “She’s gone! They took Madeleine!” But the answer as to who the “they” is to whom she referred to has never been answered.
The police were then called at 10:00 p.m., and their arrival time was clocked at 10:15 p.m.. They organized a search team that included officers as well as other guests staying in the surrounding apartments. While others searched high and low for any sign of Madeline, Gerry and Kate stayed in their apartment and later released a public statement begging for someone to bring their daughter home.
Unfortunately, the investigation did not go seamlessly. The apartment in which Madeleine was last seen was never taped off as a crime scene, and because of that, more than 20 people went in and out, contaminating any evidence that could have been left. The police also failed to alert border guards of the missing person until hours after she disappeared. Lastly, Interpol, a network of police forces from 194 different countries, did not send out a global missing persons report until five days after the alleged abduction.
During the routine checks of the children, another friend on her way to her apartment remembered witnessing a man carrying a little girl, in pink pajamas, who looked limp as if she was sleeping. She assumed that it was just a dad carrying his kid back to the apartment, yet later realised it might be important and told police only after she found out Madeleine was also wearing pink pajamas. An Irish couple, also vacationing in Portugal, claimed they saw the a similar man. Separately, they had sketches drawn based on each one of their descriptions, and it was apparent that it was the same man. The mystery man was described as being slim to medium build, having brown hair, aged 35 to 40, and likely Portuguese.
Police searched for the man for years, but after no leads, they released a statement saying they believed that it was just a tourist carrying his sleeping child back to the apartment, disregarding that the two witnesses believed he was Portuguese.
The next suspect in the case was an individual by the name of Robert Murat. Murat lived in a villa with his mother which was located only 150 feet from the apartment from which Madeleine went missing. Previously, Murat was a helpful translator for the local police. After a journalist interviewed him, she told police she had a gut feeling that Murat was guilty of the Madeleine’s disappearance, and this is what started the investigation. His home was searched by police and dogs on May 14, Aug. 4, and Aug. 5 of 2007, but the police came up with no evidence. His alibi was also corroborated by his mother, and he was eventually acquitted as a suspect in the investigation.
Later, the police looked at the Mccanns as suspects due to the strange reaction that Kate had upon Madeleine’s disappearance. To begin the investigation against Madeleine’s parents, the local police flew in two cadaver dogs from Britain, one who specialized in finding blood and the other in human flesh.
The cadaver dogs had a strong reaction to the Mccanns apartment, but since that was where Madeleine went missing, it was not enough to prove Kate and Gerry guilty. However, the cadaver dogs also reacted to the back of the trunk of the rental car that the Mccanns had. Strangely enough, the car was rented weeks after Madeleine disappeared. Samples were taken from the trunk but the results came back inconclusive. The Mccanns also have spent over €11,000,000 on private investigators, and for that reason they were no longer considered suspects.
There had been no more leads for almost nine years, but retired investigator, David Egar, recently said, “There is every possibility that Madeline is still alive and could be hidden somewhere and having no idea she is the center of a worldwide hunt for her… She could literally be anywhere in the world, but my hunch is that she is in Portugal.” If this horrendous crime stopped at kidnapping, it is reasonable to believe, since she was so young, that she has no idea that she is a victim and people have been searching for her everywhere.
Another former investigator with the Portugal police claimed that he believes that while there was no proof she was killed, there was proof, however, that she was neglected by her parents and circumstantial evidence that they were hiding her body. But bizarrely, he said that British agents “for sure had an involvement” and even that former British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, was in on it.
This truly was a tragedy. It is unfortunate that they have not found any remains of the little girl who went missing one night while on vacation and have not found the perpetrator of this awful crime. The hunt for now 14-year-old Madeline Mccann has never stopped, yet the case remains cold.
Photo courtesy of BBC