More than four years after her disappearance, Madeleine McCann is still missing despite one of the most intensive missing-person searches ever. Global News takes a look back at the events surrounding the case:
Madeleine went missing on May 3, 2007 from a Portuguese villa while her parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, had dinner with seven friends at a nearby restaurant.
Her parents said they checked frequently on their three children sleeping that night in the apartment in the town of Praia da Luz in the Algarve region. Kate McCann reportedly went to check on the children at 10 p.m. to find Madeleine had disappeared.
Portuguese police initially believed Madeleine wandered off, but several days later, said they had evidence she had been abducted. The girl went missing nine days before her fourth birthday.
The case captured the public’s attention, and celebrities spoke out about the case. David Beckham, the Pope and J.K Rowling appealed for the girl’s safe return.
Portuguese police first investigated Robert Murat, a British man who lived close to the complex where Madeleine disappeared. Murat was named as a suspect, and police questioned him and searched his home.
Portuguese media reports revealed that blood was found in the room where the girl went missing, but it was later determined not to be Madeleine’s.
Public sympathy waned as various theories emerged involving the girl’s parents. The McCanns were criticized for leaving their three children (Madeleine and her 2-year-old twin siblings Sean and Amelie) alone in the room, choosing not to use the babysitting service offered by the resort.
Some media reports alleged that the group drank up to 14 bottles of wine the night Madeleine disappeared and that, while the couple claims the children were checked on every half hour, the checks were more infrequent.
On September 7, Portuguese police officially named the McCanns as suspects and questioned Kate McCann for the second day in a row. The couple broke their vow not to return home without Madeleine, and left Portugal for England.
News leaked to the public the next day that the girl’s DNA was found in the trunk of a car rented by her parents 25 days after she went missing, prompting Portuguese police chief Alipio Ribeiro to publicly state that the DNA tests on the car were inconclusive.
Jane Tanner, a friend of the McCanns, said she saw a man with long hair leaving the resort complex carrying a child, and the girl’s parents released a sketch of the man in October 2007.
The following April, the couple’s first police interviews were leaked to the public. The interviews revealed that the morning before Madeleine went missing, she asked her mother, “Mummy, why didn’t you come when we were crying last night?”
The question reportedly prompted Kate and Gerry McCann to discuss how they would watch their children more closely at night.
By July 2008, Portuguese authorities had closed their investigation, and were no longer considering the parents or Murat as suspects. They released thousands of pages of evidence from the case, including a number of reported sightings of the girl.
Private investigators working for the McCanns began investigating a British man named Raymond Hewlett, a known pedophile who was staying about an hour away from the resort where Madeleine disappeared.
Hewlett was tracked to a hospital in Germany where he was undergoing treatment for throat cancer. Before being discharged from hospital, he denied having ever seen the girl other than on television.
In a May 2009 interview with talk show host Oprah Winfrey, the Kate and Gerry McCanns said they believe their daughter is still alive and will be found.
Kate McCann told Oprah her daughter’s room is “all ready, waiting” for when the little girl returns home.
“I go in (the room) about twice a day to talk to her, just to say hello really ... tell her that we're going to do everything we can to find her,” Kate said.
On August 6, 2009, private detectives released a sketch of a woman whom they believe might have information about Madeleine.
The woman, a “Victoria Beckham lookalike,” reportedly had an Australian accent and was spotted by two British men in Barcelona, Spain, three days after the girl disappeared in Portugal.
The woman reportedly spoke with one of the men, but investigators refused to give any details on the content of the conversation.
On September 23, 2009, Kate McCann retuned to Lisbon for the first time since her daughter’s disappearance in 2009.
Kate and Gerry McCann met with their lawyers to provide an update on the search for Madeleine. Their trip was brief. The McCanns also met with a local public relations agency to discuss a campaign to turn public favour back onside with the McCanns, who believe the Portuguese public was not forthcoming with information on Madeleine.
On November 3, 2009, UK police released a 60-second video of how Madeleine McCann might look now, aged six-years-old.
The video was released in seven languages and featured film footage of Madeleine and digitally enhanced images of what the young girl could look like, more than two years after she went missing.
The photos show Madeleine fair-skinned with shoulder length blonde hair, as well as tanned with darker hair.
Days later, the UK newspaper, the Daily Mirror, reports a businessman spotted a girl matching Madeleine’s description outside a shopping mall in Dubai. The man said he saw a girl who looked like the missing McCann with a man and two women.
In November 2010, the McCanns announced they’re writing a book about their daughter’s disappearance. Proceeds from the sale of the book, Maddie, will go toward funding a private investigation into the missing girl’s case.
In December 2010, the McCanns issued a Christmas appeal for help in the search for Madeleine. Kate and Gerry were due in Portugal later in the month ahead of a court case suing a former Portugeue investigator who wrote a contentious expose on the case of the missing girl.
In The Truth of the Lie, author Goncalo Amaral questions the McCann’s account of the evening their daughter disappeared. Amaral also claims Madeleine is dead.
In May 2011, the McCanns ask British Prime Minister David Cameron to launch an independent investigation into the disappearance of their daughter.
In an open letter in the Sun newspaper published on Madeleine’s 8th birthday, around the fourth anniversary of her disappearance, Kate and Gerry McCann urged the prime minister to secure a formal inquiry.
"It's not right that a young, vulnerable British citizen has essentially been given up on," the letter stated.
The McCanns told Cameron that "the benefits of pooling together different bits of evidence can be enormous" in the search for missing Madeleine.
By early July, a spokesperson for the McCann family confirmed he met with British police investigating allegations that Gerry McCann’s mobile phone had been hacked by the now-defunct UK tabloid, News of the World. The phone hacking attempts are believed to have occurred at the height of media attention on the McCanns following the disappearance of Madeleine.
On July 28, 2011, a British tourist in India claims she saw Madeleine in a market in the northern city of Leh. The tourist says the child was with a French woman and a Belgian man.
The McCanns said their private investigator is looking into the claims, but downplayed the credibility of the report. DNA testing was underway to determine if the sighting was in fact Madeleine.
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