A picture of courage

A picture of courage; Noddy, Shrek, Thomas The Tank Engine and Cuddle Cat help Maddie's parents hold it together
Carole Aye Maung & Ross Hall in Praia da Luz
20 May 2007
The News of the World

It looks for all the world a picture of idyllic family life.

Mum and Dad cuddle their precious little ones on the sofa as they read their favourite stories to squeals of delight.

But this is no ordinary family scene.

For the parents are Gerry and Kate McCann and the smiles they show for their two-year-old twins Amelie and Sean mask the ache of longing for their missing daughter Madeleine.

In Sean's lap is Cuddle Cat, the toy Maddie took to bed every night and turned to whenever she was upset.

Kate has kept it close since she was snatched on May 3, drawing strength and comfort that she can still smell her daughter on it.

The very personal photo-one of several taken inside the McCanns' apartment at The Ocean Club in Praia Da Luz, Portugal-demonstrates the courage Kate and Gerry are showing in the face of their unimaginable agony.

In one touching picture Gerry tenderly kisses Amelie's plastic doll as she dresses it in her mum's necklace.


In another, the family watch as Sean takes centre stage and shows off, roaring with laughter as he plays with his Thomas The Tank Engine train set.

The children's favourite toys, games and books were brought from their Leicester home by family members at Gerry and Kate's request last week.

As well as Thomas, the delivery included a Shrek DVD and Amelie's favourite pink Snow White spoons.

Noddy's The Birthday Book, unwrapped last week at the private fourth birthday party held for Madeleine, lies just feet away.

On the wall, just like at home in Leicester, are the children's drawings. And just as they would at home the twins are treated to their favourite meal-sausages and beans.

In one picture, Amelie sits on her mum's knee as Kate helps her eat with a Snow White spoon. Next to her is another plateful for Madeleine. The family include their missing daughter in all their mealtimes and treats.

On Kate's wrist is a child's beaded bracelet. She ties her ponytail with the now-familiar yellow ribbon together with a green ribbon, the colour of hope in Portugal. Round Gerry's wrist are twisted yellow and green strings.

Amelie too wears green hair slides and her bunches are tied with two hairbands, one green and one yellow.

The McCanns' have recorded their struggle to cope with everyday life for the sake of their twins in an extraordinary handwritten diary.  Here is a typical day.

"Our day starts around 6.30am. We have breakfast with Sean and Amelie and our close family and friends who are here with us. Then it's clean nappies and clothes for Sean and Amelie followed by showers etc for the rest of us. Usually there's free time for a few stories or games with the twins before heading out."

9am-9.15: "We take Sean and Amelie to Kids' Club. They really enjoy it and run in.

Amelie particularly likes to look after 'babies'. We use the club a bit like nursery at home but Sean and Amelie still think they are on holiday!"

9.30am-12.15pm: "We return to the apartments, usually for meetings with our press officer, Mark Warner reps, occasionally consulate staff, lawyers and British liaison officers. We catch up with family and close friends, usually by phone and discuss ideas how to keep Madeleine's profile high especially throughout continental Europe."

With the vital jobs attended to the McCanns, both 38, again put the twins first, somehow putting their gut-wrenching worry and dread to one side.

12.30pm: "Time to pick up Sean and Amelie from Kids' Club then head back to apartment for lunch."

1.30pm-2.30: "Time spent playing with the twins either in the apartment or in the play area next to Kids' Club."

2.30pm-3.00: "We usually take the twins back to Kids' Club although Sean has had the odd afternoon in the apartment as it's a bit cooler and he's not much of a sun worshipper! They have been taking part in activities including painting, singing, stories, swimming, trips to the beach and they have lots of toys."

3pm-5.00: "We try to get some time together alone, going for a walk to talk things over or getting some exercise. This is often the time for quiet trips to the church for prayers."

5pm-5.30: "Meet kids for high tea with other mums and dads. They love pasta and have been doing really well with their vegetables although a few chips have been squeezed in."

5.30pm-6.30: "Games with kids at play area. Amelie loves trying to get in the baby pool!"

6.30pm-7.30: "Bath and story time with the twins."

8pm: "We put the kids to bed."

Now it is time to turn their attention, once more, to finding Madeleine.

8.30pm-11: "We try to sit down for a family meal, chat about the day's events and plan the next day."

11pm: "Bed and prayer for Madeleine that she will be returned to us safely ASAP."

Robert Murat, 33, left, the prime suspect in the Maddie case, was in hiding last night.

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