It is an arrogance to think that everyone would have heard of the 2007 abduction of this little girl in Portugal. As youngsters get old enough to start looking at cold cases many will not know the name.
Madeleine McCann, a bubbly child, was about to turn four years old. On 3rd May 2007 she was asleep in a holiday apartment at the Ocean Club resort, Praia da Luz on the Algarve. Her parents, both doctors, were part of a group of friends on a week long family orientated holiday. There were other children in the group and several apartments had been rented by the adults.
They went out for the evening having booked dinner at the onsite Tapas Bar. The problem with the arrangement was though the area they dinned in was onsite, the apartment the McCanns had was only barely visible from where they sat 50 metres away. It could be accessed from the street on two sides and they had left it unlocked.
The plan was to have various adults check on the children every half hour or so. The meal began at about 8.30pm. It ended at about 10 pm when Madeleine’s bed was found to be empty. This child has not been seen since.
The Circus That Was The Search For Madeleine McCann
You could fill volumes with the aftermath of that discovery. You could absorb yourself into this mystery for life. It makes the enduring hunt for ‘maybe’ killer Lord Lucan look like a routine burglary at a corner store.
The cops were called and a search started. Later there were allegations of police incompetence and counter allegations of family collusion. At the start there was a small child who technically could have awoken and wandered off. As the searches made that unlikely you had two options. Either a third party had abducted her or the family had done something with her.
Some say the McCanns were cunning and well connected. Others, including me, say they were connected and the type of people who were pragmatic and a little naïve. They had someone in the media they could contact directly and publicity exploded. Their motive for doing this was to inject urgency into what they saw was a poor police response. Critics say this was to distract attention from them to a shadowy abductor.
Within days you had everyone and their tennis partner with a theory. The world heard the name Maddy McCann. The cops at first followed the abductor theory then started to drift more into the family collusion line.
Years ago I read the publicly available police file. Last time I looked you had to pay for it. The cops were not happy with how the parents or the friends had acted. One issue, for example, was a shutter over the child’s bedroom window. It was said to have been the point of entry or exit. Only Dr Kate McCann’s fingerprints were found on it. The police alleged that the parents were overly histrionic. The public said that Dr Gerry McCann was cold and had something to hide.
A dog trained to find traces of dead humans reacted to items and a car that was hired by the McCanns. Kate and Gerry were increasingly the focus of the investigation. They stopped talking to the police which made the public view all the more scathing.
Meanwhile, no trace of the child was found that could be verified. Of course people saw her or at least thought they saw her. On the night a man was seen carrying a child of the right size in two separate parts of the resort. One close to the apartment at about the right time and another several streets away after Madeleine went missing. The second sighting was said to have been Gerry himself. An Irish family had seen the man and child and later saw TV footage of Gerry McCann. As far as I know they still believe it was him.
No Parent Would Leave Children In An Unlocked Apartment
Outrage, both hypocritical and genuine, was started first by the fact the parents had left three children in an unlocked apartment. Madeleine had younger twins in the bedroom with her. They were safe and well and slept through the whole thing. Some found that very unusual as they are reported to have remained asleep during all of the drama that unfolded.
So three children, all very young, left like that. What parent does that? I am no supporter of the McCanns though I am not anti Kate and Gerry either.
I wouldn’t have done that, most people wouldn’t. No-one should, yet it has to be said that doesn’t make them complicit in Maddy’s fate. It doesn’t even make them bad parents, it means they were naïve. It means they made a mistake that will haunt them for the rest of their lives.
I have been around bad people all my life. I mean those that will do harm to you and in some cases your kids. I was brought up on the idea of threat. Gerry McCann was a heart surgeon, Kate McCann a GP. Their friends were what is called these days ( rather loftily) professionals. I would take their advice on many things but crime prevention is not one of them.
Most of us are brought up recognise threat. I find those of high education to be more naïve about threat than those of us with little or no high education. Many people simply think such things cannot happen to them. The McCanns only ‘crime’ is probably just that.
However, many other factors fed into this mistake to turn public opinion against them. Gerry, a heart surgeon, did seem dispassionate on many occasions. They did stop talking to the cops, probably on the wise advice of their legal representation. The police were zoning in on them. Their explanations were not sufficient and the police made it clear they felt they were involved.
They hung around for a while and pushed to find Maddy from Portugal but then left the country to return home. The British police and Foreign Office were very hands on or in the opinion of the Portuguese interfering. The situation was a mess.
Meanwhile, there was still no clue as to what had happened to the kid.
Huge amounts of money was raised and funnelled into looking for the little girl and that effort remains ongoing today.
In a pretty much unprecedented move disproportionate money was made available for a British police effort to track down the offender. I have heard £12.5 million suggested regarding the British public purse alone. Then you have the cash the McCann’s charity has put up and the Portuguese police costs. I call it disproportionate because I cannot think of any other similarly financed case. Sadly, I can think of endless numbers of vanished children though.
I am not criticising the McCann’s or the police for this. I just wish all children were treated to the same effort. On this site alone I can think of many. A few are Amy Fitzpatrick, Genette Tate, Deorr Kunz and Vishal Mehrotra. Comparisons are also made with the disappearance of Ben Needham in 1991 on the island of Kos. This toddler was taken or wandered of from his grandparent’s place on the Greek holiday spot. In 2015 £800,000 had been spent looking for him while at the time £11 million had been spent looking for Maddy McCann. As a result of the publicity cops from the UK were sent out to Greece to try and kick start a hunt for the boy.
Is it a case of who you know? If you look on the internet you will find all manner of theories. Some say the McCanns were part of dark conspiracies and their connections were frightened into the appearance of an earnest search.
Others say doctors and their class level receive more effort from the elite than ordinary folk like you and I. Lastly others say that they did know who to call and because of those connections they were able to get a better response for their daughter’s search. I’m of the latter view.
I think that the very lack of street wisdom caused them to make the mistake of leaving the child unsupervised. I think their slightly elevated position and natural organisational skills helped them plan out a campaign to find Maddy.
Gerry McCann appeared to be aloof and cold. I say he was a heart surgeon who recovered from the initial panic and set his mind to dealing with it all. I would be surprised if an emotional person would be much use as a heart surgeon. Besides what is the natural state to be in if your three year old is abducted? Is there one acceptable state?
Many will disagree with me and I am more than happy to debate it all. None of it is all that relevant though. What is, is where is Maddy McCann?
The End Of The Trail?
I just read that the British police have announced they are to end their full on efforts to find her. That does not mean the enquiry is closed. It does mean the search is being scaled down.
I don’t know if the naming of a credible suspect by the Germans has been accepted by the British enquiry as the end of the trail.
A creature called Christian Brückner, 45, was about in the Algarve in May 2007. The German authorities are pretty sure he knows what happened to the little girl. The details are withheld and there was some confusion, but they seem certain. Of course lawyers for the convicted sex offender deny his involvement. I have read lurid tales about him and saw really lurid convictions. He was even said to have familiarity with the apartments Maddy had been staying in.
Equally it could be that the money has run out. We are now post Covid pandemic and new crimes are being committed in the Ukraine as I write this. There is only so much money in the pot I guess.
Last Thoughts And Loose Ends
As I say you can dive into this case for the rest of your days. At the centre is a child’s fate. Whoever took her and may well have hurt her is the lowest of us. The story is so clouded that I would humbly suggest we cannot create a clean theory.
You will find, if you look, fraudster private investigators, false leads, horrendous human behaviour to children and lies. Lies that shouldn’t come from professional investigators or ordinary people. The media were at times marvellous and at others sensational and plain exploitative. YouTube is a wash with false narratives and ‘facts’ that are at odds with the evidence.
One aspect I found distasteful and bordering on malicious was the idea that Maddy had been killed several days before. Another version has it she was passed to paedophiles before 3rd May 2007. I watched a four part documentary saying just that. When I read the police file it is full of statements from workers at the resort who saw her on the day she disappeared.
I am a writer, I like fictional scenarios. I can think of one way that the McCann’s could have killed the little girl and gotten away with it. I can weave this narrative that explains the cadaver dog reaction etc. I’m not going to describe it because it is fiction. Most of the theories I have seen fervently declared as ‘truth’ are fiction yet that does not stop people coming out with them.
During the day of 3rd May people were knocking on doors collecting for an orphan’s charity that it turned out did not exist. This was in the apartment block that Maddy later disappeared from. The family had followed the same routine re the unlocked and unsupervised children for several days. The place was busy, the street was busy during the day. The complex was the hub of many people’s lives. It is far more likely that this unfortunate child attracted the attention of really bad creatures and they took her.
The area was not shut down for hours as the cops followed an assumption she had wandered. Hindsight is marvellous though is it not? As an ex cop would I have acted differently?
I believe I would, but I would have had to search close before declaring a road block type emergency. Often a child in those circumstances would have wandered. The shutter being up would have been a red flag, but as I have said it being up or down is still a point of controversy. My best guess would have been 30 minutes after I arrived on scene. I would have got the story and checked who had searched where. Then I might have acted more determined but of course by then an hour or more could have gone by since she was taken. How far can you travel in an hour? Especially if you had planned it. Also as I understand it took a while for two cops to arrive.
The Portuguese cops have been maligned as much as the McCanns. Often the two groups have been the worst critics of each other. In there is a truth. One that I hope one day will surface.
I am aware of the list the friends put together of their movements before the cops arrived. Some say it is proof of their collusion in the killing of Maddy. I say they were putting it together to narrow down who did what and when so they could present it to the cops to short cut delays.
I know of the tiny DNA blood spot that was found and the pedigree of the cadaver dog. I respect the point but I would nod to the fact their actions are not held as evidence. I am aware of the trunk of the car being open for a long period because of spoiled meat. I’ll happily debate those points with anyone following a logical and open mind.
I am also aware of darkness when witnesses say what they saw. I have been in situations of panic and know that the chaos is ridiculously confusing. I have read of an intruder entering one of the apartments and talking to a child when her parent came downstairs around the date of this incident. I am aware of the freedom of movement in Europe that is exploited by paedophiles and others.
There are so many other aspects to this case. I allow for the possibility of sinister family actions though I find them highly unlikely. It does happen I agree.
Now having stated my position what is yours? I will remove any email etc from any comments you put up so speak freely. I would ask you use the word alleged if you are pointed a specific finger. Also please quote your sources.