Donegal gets behind campaign to find Madeline

25 May 2007
Donegal News
C.J. McGinley

AS an appeal fund was launched in Donegal to help find missing Madeleine McCann her Donegal born aunt has paid tribute to the people of the county for their support in the search for the missing four years- old.

Philomena McCann told the Donegal News despite their ordeal they were heartened by the messages of good will and support from Donegal. Madeleine's grandfather, John McCann was from St Johnston while her great grandmother was Bridget Ferry from Tully, Dungloe. Madeleine was abducted from her parents' rented holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, in the Algarve, Portugal on the evening of May 3.

Philomena, who was born in St Johnston where the family ran a pub until they moved to Glasgow, said the McCann family had 'very strong ties' with the county and the people of Donegal had offered great support. She spoke of how the family had spent Easter in the county, visiting Dungloe and St Johnston.

"Forty six of us met in Dungloe at Easter, including, Madeleine, her parents, Gerry and Kate and the couple's twins for a get together. We're really heartened by the messages of support from Donegal by phone and e-mail. Friends from St Johnston are also offering to put up posters while on their holidays and one family friend Liam Toland wanted to go to Portugal for a fortnight to help in the search for Madeleine," she said.

Her comments came as a family friend, Katriona Fernandez from Dungloe, confirmed details of an appeal fund which was launched this week.

"I've been friends with the McCann family for over fifteen years and was with them when they were here in Dungloe at Easter. We were at the beach together. The fund will be used first and foremost in the search for Madeleine, then to help with legal costs for the family and if there is a surplus it will be donated to similar charities such as Bernardos and ChildLine," Katriona said.

"Last weekend we had a bag pack in Super Valu in Dungloe and raised ¤2,500 and also a collection around the local pubs and gathered another ¤1,500. We have now set up an account with the AIB and people can make a donation that way. It is vital to keep up the momentum in the search for Madeleine. This is an extremely difficult time for the McCann family but they are adamant they will find Madeleine," Katriona added.

"Anyone wishing to make a donation can do so at the AIB. The account number is xxxx. The sort code is xxxx or people can just go into any AIB branch. The details are also on the website at www.," she concluded.

Meanwhile, in Glasgow Philomena McCann spoke of the anguish the family were feeling.

"There hasn't been any concrete news. There has been reported sightings and information continues to stream in through the website. We just hope and pray that something will turn up. Gerry and Kate are in agony but they are trying to keep a daily routine for the sake of the twins while spearheading the search for Madeleine," Philomena said.

"The police are swamped with the information coming in through the website. For us it is vital to keep the story in the news in the search for Madeleine. We are just trying to keep things as sane as possible," she said.

Madeleine's father returned alone to Britain for the first time since his daughter's disappearance on Sunday night to meet campaign organisers and discuss whether private detectives might be deployed across Europe in the hunt for the four-year-old.

Gerry McCann left his wife, Kate, with the couple's twins at the resort where Madeleine disappeared for a flying visit to Leicestershire. He returned to his family on Tuesday morning. The McCanns are said to be convinced that their daughter is outside Portugal and are prepared to leave Praia da Luz and travel around Europe to boost efforts to find Madeleine. The importance of deploying resources outside Portugal became clear at the weekend when police indicated that dozens of sightings of Madeleine - from Spain to Switzerland - were impeding their inquiry. A woman who reported seeing Madeleine in southern Spain last week claimed local police had shown no interest in what she was saying.

Though the McCanns have continually stated their confidence in Portuguese police, detectives in Britain are astonished by some aspects of the unfolding inquiry and are willing to step in and help. The investigation of the main suspect, the Briton Robert Murat, has been haphazard, they say, pointing to the way that Mr Murat's villa was searched last week in the suspect's presence.

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