Missing British Three-Year-Old 'Abducted'

Missing British Three-Year-Old 'Abducted'
5 May 2007

Press Association National Newswire
John Bingham, PA, in Praia Da Luz, Portugal

Detectives investigating the disappearance of British girl Madeleine McCann believe she was abducted, Portuguese police revealed today. Portugal's Judicial Police - the equivalent of Britain's CID - also said they believe that the three-year-old is still alive. Experts have put together a sketch of a suspect, but no further details were revealed for fear of endangering the Leicester youngster's life.

Madeleine went missing from her family's rented holiday apartment in the Algarve village of Praia Da Luz on Thursday night while her parents, Gerry and Kate, were eating their dinner less than a minute's walk away. The couple had been making regular trips back to the apartment from a tapas restaurant opposite to check on Madeleine and their twin son and daughter.

Police at first launched a missing person hunt, but revealed today that it was now a kidnapping investigation. Many elements pointed to an abduction, Guilhermino Encarnacao, director of the Judicial Police in the Faro region, said. Speaking to reporters in the town of Portaimao, he revealed that police had what he described as a suspect. But he refused to disclose further details other than to say that they had an artist's impression. It is not clear whether this means that police are looking for a specific, named individual, or simply someone fitting a description.

Asked what he believed the motive might be, he said that in Portugal, according to the law, 'kidnapping'' could mean either abducting someone for a ransom or for sexual motives. He said police believe Madeleine is still alive and still in Portugal, possibly even still in the Algarve. He said that airports in both Portugal and neighbouring Spain had been alerted. He added that yesterday the police had received more than 30 calls with possible new lines of inquiry, all of which were being followed up. And he said that today calls have flooded in from all over Portugal from members of the public reporting possible sightings of a girl matching Madeleine's description.

Asked about reports that one man had reported seeing a child with two people, he said this was one of the many pieces of information they were investigating. He would not go into what specific evidence there was to point to an abduction other than to say that 'many elements'' suggested that was the case.

British Ambassador John Buck was with Madeleine's family this afternoon. Speaking briefly with reporters, he confirmed that three family liaison officers from Leicestershire Police had now arrived and were with the family. Mr Buck was there to introduce the family liaison officers to the McCanns.

Madeleine's aunt, Philomena McCann, said the family was elated at the announcement today that police believed she was still alive. She told BBC News 24:
'It's more than hope. It's a distinct feeling of elation. 'It's really important to keep your emotions in check because the last couple of days have been like a rollercoaster. It's great to have some hope but we need something to happen. We want her back.''
She said Madeleine's parents had the support of family and friends but felt exhausted and 'helpless''.
'Kate and Gerry are doing their best. They've got their twins to look after as well but they've got the support of their family. 'They're living on nervous energy just trying to look after each other and the kids, but at times it's just exhausting to be living on their nerves all the time and not to be reacting to things.

'It's very difficult because one of the biggest problems is that they get snippets of things, they're not hearing something properly and they've concerns about not being told what's going on. It's that helpless feeling again, it's really difficult.''
She said Kate had been 'stunned'' by allegations that she had left the children alone while she and Gerry had dinner.
'Can you imagine, your daughter's gone missing, how hurtful must that be to concerned parents. People can be so cruel. It's just not true apart from anything else, but it's just very awful for them. It's terrible.''

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