Shutters had been jemmied.. Maddie was gone

Shutters had been jemmied.. Maddie was gone
John Askill and Julie Moult in Praia da Luz, Portugal, and James Clench in London
5 May 2007
The Sun


Sun team: John Scott, Guy Patrick, Antonella Lazzeri, Alastair Taylor, John Coles, Gary O'Shea, Emma Cox, David Goodwin, Tom Worden, John Clarke and Doug Seeburg.

SHATTERED relatives and friends told last night of the heart-stopping moment mum Kate McCann discovered her precious daughter was missing.

Kate and her husband Gerry had left blonde three-year-old Maddie asleep with her baby brother and sister as they ate at a tapas restaurant just 50 yards from their holiday apartment in Portugal's Algarve.

The pair took turns to check on the children every half hour. But when Kate returned to the room at 10pm on Thursday there was no sign of her angel-faced girl.

As a desperate police hunt continued in the resort of Praia da Luz last night, Maddie's aunt Trish Cameron told how distraught Gerry described the scene in a frantic late-night phone call.

Trish, of Dumbarton, Scotland, said:
"The kids were all sound asleep, windows shut, shutters shut.

"Kate went back at 10pm to check. The front door was lying open, the window had been tampered with, the shutters had been jemmied open and Maddie was missing.

Kate came out screaming."

Maddie's brother and sister -two-year-old twins Sean and Amelie -were left safely in their cots.


Trish, who plans to jet out to help with the search, went on:
"Kate ran and told my brother. He was distraught on the phone to me, breaking his heart.

"He said, 'Maddie's been abducted, she's been abducted'. It looks as if somebody has come in the window, who's either been watching, or they've targeted her."

Describing Maddie, Trish added:
"She's an absolutely beautiful wee blonde girl, with blue-green eyes.

"One distinguishing feature is that the pupil of her right eye runs down into the iris."

Cops yesterday cordoned off the apartment and officers with sniffer dogs were leading the search.

The Sun has offered a Pounds 10,000 reward for information that may lead to the youngster being found.

Kate and Gerry, both 38-year-old doctors from Rothley, Leics, are believed to have been on holiday with a group of other medical workers. The party comprised nine adults and eight children.

It is understood Maddie, whose full name is Madeleine and who turns four next Saturday, is due to start school in September.

Distraught Kate rang long-time friends Jon and Michelle Corner, the twins' godparents, at their Merseyside home to break the news.

Jon, whose wife grew up with GP Kate in their home city of Liverpool, revealed:
"She phoned at about three in the morning.

"She just blurted out that Maddie had been abducted. She said, 'They've broken the shutter on the window and taken my little girl'.

"She was incredibly upset. I've spoken to her since, and she's still completely devastated -as we all are for them.

"She's very upset that the police do not seem to be doing anything. She expected more to be done to find Maddie in such a terrible situation. As far as she is concerned, there is too little happening."

The McCanns were staying at the Ocean Club in Praia da Luz, western Algarve -a popular spot with Brits. They booked the break with holiday firm Mark Warner.

The complex consists of individual villa-style accommodation mixed with small bars, restaurants, cafes, boutiques and shops.

Resort boss John Hill said 70 staff and guests searched until 4.30am after the family raised the alarm, while border police, Spanish cops and airports were notified.

He said:
"It was a very emotional and frantic night and everyone did a fantastic job of getting involved and searching the area."

But he insisted there was NO physical evidence Maddie had been abducted from the apartment.

He said:
"It's still questionable as to whether it's an abduction.

"We are hoping that Madeleine is found as soon as possible and safe and well. We are hoping that she is asleep under a bush somewhere and we will find her soon."

He said the family's apartment was surrounded by other holiday homes, all of which had "quite sophisticated" door locks.

Guests were quizzed to check if they saw anyone acting suspiciously in the area.

Mr Hill said Mark Warner offers families a babysitting service where they can leave children for the night.

He added:
"Those facilities were available but were not being used."

Counsellors were being flown out from Britain to assist the stricken parents, he added.

John Buck, the British Ambassador in Portugal, drove in from the capital Lisbon to be with the family after they begged him for help.

A spokesman at the embassy said: "He is driving down to do everything for them that he can."

Maddie's family said in a statement:
"This is a particularly difficult time and we are all comforting each other. We have received lots of support from friends, family and the public and the family are very grateful for that support.

"At this time all the family's focus is in assisting the UK and in particular Portuguese authorities in securing Madeleine's safe return."

Among those who joined Thursday night's search for the tot were British expats, holidaymakers and off-duty police officers.

Paul Moyes, 47, from Cheshire, owns a holiday apartment with wife Susan in the McCanns' block.

Paul said:
"There was a knock on our door at about 11.30pm from a hotel guest telling us a girl was missing and asking us to help.

"We joined in searching on the beach and the hotel grounds with scores of other people. The police arrived at around midnight and the search went on all night."

Family pal Gill Renwick revealed how panicking Kate sent her a text saying: "I need help."

She said:
"Kate was at the police station in hysterics. She texted me saying she needed help.

"When we spoke she said the police weren't doing enough. They seemed very slow off the mark."


Speaking about the Pounds 1,500 family holiday, pal Gill went on:
"It's the first time they have done this.

"They are very, very anxious parents and very careful. They chose Mark Warner because it is a family-friendly resort."

Gill spoke as Maddie's worried grandparents flew into Portugal to join the search.

Brian and Susan Healy said as they headed for the airport: "We're worried sick."

The couple had earlier been comforted by friends at their smart semi in Mossley Hill, Liverpool.

Family friend Pat Perkins, 61, said:
"Susan can barely speak. We're just trying to stay positive.

"Kate and Gerry often visited Liverpool with the children. They are such good parents.

"It's a very loving family, they didn't leave their children in any danger. You just don't expect something so awful to happen.

"I recommended Portugal as a holiday destination, I go every year. It's such a friendly country, they love children over there."

Neighbour Penny Noble said the McCanns' village was in shock.

She said:
"We are absolutely devastated. They are a really nice family and good neighbours.

"They are delightful. We see them take their bikes up and down and going for walks. Maddie's a happy-go-lucky little girl".

Nurse Tracey Horsfield, 32, lives near the large detached home shared by consultant cardiologist Gerry and his family.

She said:
"They are very protective of their children. This is the last thing you'd have thought would have happened to them."

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