Ex-soldiers launch search for Maddy

26 May 2007
Yorkshire Post

Two Yorkshire ex-soldiers have embarked on their own personal search mission around the village where Madeleine McCann was abducted. Colin Sahlke, 46, from Keighley and Steve Taylor, 32, from Leeds are scouring rough ground and abandoned buildings around Praia Da Luz hoping for a breakthrough more than three weeks after the four-year-old went missing.

Mr Sahlke and Mr Taylor say they are not interested in rewards but just want to help find Madeleine.

The pair say their aim is to at least help restore the McCanns' "faith in humanity".

Mr Taylor, who is a father of five, said: "I can't imagine even an inkling how they are feeling." Describing the pair's mission he said: "We are here to help find or put pressure on the people who know where Madeleine is to either give her up or cock up and leave a clue." The former infantryman met Mr Sahlke while the pair were working at a shower factory in Nelson and have both given up their jobs for the search.

Mr Sahlke has also given up his rented flat and has sold possessions to raise £5,000 to fund their endeavour.

Since Sunday, kitted out in full army surplus gear including desert camouflage, with compasses, maps and binoculars they have been searching areas close to Praia Da Luz fanning out from the coastline to waste ground inland.

Mr Taylor said he was inspired by the sight of four-year-old Madeleine on television and contacted his friend, an ex-Paratrooper, to organise the mission.

He said: "I was just sitting in the living room seeing my youngest daughter Katie-Ann, who is two months younger than Madeleine, running around in a t-shirt and shorts and I was thinking what if that was one of my children?"

His friend, who has two children, lost his 18-year-old daughter Debbie six years ago in a car accident.

Mr Sahlke said: "A few years ago I lost my daughter and if I could give something back, if we even restore the McCanns' faith in humanity, it is a start."

The pair met the McCanns yesterday in Praia Da Luz and explained what they were doing.

The official search was called off around a week after Madeleine's disappearance on May 3.

The pair are financing the operation themselves with help from donations from friends and family and well-wishers.

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