The Hunt For Madeleine

The Hunt For Madeleine
10 July 2007
Press Association National Newswire
Aislinn Simpson, PA

The search for Madeleine McCann continues. Here are the key events around her abduction in the Algarve:

Thursday May 3

Kate and Gerry McCann leave their daughter Madeleine and her two-year-old twin brother and sister Sean and Amelie in bed in their apartment and head for dinner at a nearby tapas restaurant.

The couple check on them regularly and at around 9pm, Mr McCann finds nothing amiss when he returns to their room in the seaside resort at the Ocean Club in Praia Da Luz.

His wife Kate goes to check on them again at 10pm and finds the shutter slid up, the bedroom window open and Madeleine gone.

They carry out their own quick search for Madeleine but find nothing and inform the police.

Fellow holidaymakers, staff at the resort and police spend most of the night searching frantically.

Friday May 4

Sniffer dogs are brought in, the Spanish and border police and airports are notified and volunteer teams continue to comb the village, resort and beach for clues.

Fears grow that Madeleine has been taken against her will and her parents accuse the Portuguese police of not doing enough to find her.

The Policia Judiciaria - the Portuguese CID - refuses to comment on the investigation into the girl's disappearance.

Relatives including Madeleine's grandparents start flying out to Portugal to offer support to her parents as they continue to wait for news.

The British Ambassador to Portugal, John Stephen Buck, and director of Mark Warner UK Operations, Craig Mayhew, also travel to the Algarve.

The McCanns later make an emotional plea, directly appealing to their daughter's abductors, and speak of their 'anguish and despair'.

With his wife at his side clutching Madeleine's favourite teddy, Mr McCann asks: 'Please, if you have Madeleine, let her come home to her Mummy, Daddy, brother and sister.''

Saturday May 5

Three Family Liaison Officers (FLOs) from Leicestershire Police arrive in Portugal to support the family.

Madeleine's aunt Philomena McCann criticises the Portuguese police, claiming they had played down her disappearance and were being 'uncommunicative'.

Detectives reveal they do now believe she was abducted but is still alive and in Portugal, and say they have a sketch of a 'suspect'. Police also reveal they are considering she might have been abducted for sexual abuse.

Mr McCann makes a fresh appeal for help and thanks the police for their efforts.

A colleague of Madeleine's mother offers a £100,000 reward for help in finding the missing girl.

Sunday May 6

The McCanns attend an emotional Mother's Day service in Praia Da Luz and prayers are said for Madeleine and her family in both Portuguese and English.

Mrs McCann then breaks down with emotion as she addresses reporters to express her gratitude for the local community's support.

Questions arise about the police's sketch of a 'suspect'' with one newspaper reporting the image is based only on the rear view of a man seen with a child in the area.

Monday May 7

Police begin investigating a claim a man was seen dragging a girl towards a marina a short drive from the Portuguese resort where she went missing.

Portuguese media later report that police think the abductor may have been British but this remains unconfirmed by officers involved in the investigation.

Mrs McCann makes another personal plea to anyone holding her daughter, saying: 'Please, please do not hurt her. Please do not scare her. Please let us know where to find Madeleine or put her in a place of safety and tell somebody where.''

Portuguese police later hold a chaotic press conference where they say they cannot give Madeleine's family any firm assurance that she is still alive or still in the region.

Tuesday May 8

People in Madeleine's home village of Rothley, Leicestershire, hold a silent vigil for the family.

Portuguese reports claim detectives are investigating British paedophiles with links to the Algarve.

Football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo makes his own appeal for help in tracing the missing three-year-old, and is later followed by fellow footballers John Terry and Paulo Ferreira.

Portuguese police say an apparent sighting of the youngster is a false alarm, and also reveal that more than 350 suspicious incidents have been investigated.

British Ambassador to Portugal John Buck defends the Portuguese investigation after meeting with the McCanns.

Wednesday May 9

Gerry and Kate McCann say in a short statement they continue to 'remain positive'' and thank all those taking part in the search.

Police examine a CCTV tape from a service station just a few miles from Praia da Luz showing a woman with a girl fitting Madeleine's description.

An internet appeal in English, Portuguese and Spanish is launched while Crimestoppers also creates an international number for people with information.

Madeleine's grandmother says that mistakes could have been initially made in the police investigation due to 'inexperience'.

Thursday May 10

Kate McCann leads villagers and holidaymakers in prayer at the local church in Praia Da Luz a week after Madeleine disappeared.

Crimestoppers says it has passed on four pieces of 'very useful'' information from hundreds of calls made to the special number set up by the charity.

Reports say police are investigating the possibility that Madeleine was snatched by a group of three - two men and a woman.

The footage from the petrol station is also described as possibly holding the 'key'' to the investigation.

Police say in a press conference that the search for Madeleine is being wound down. They also issue an image of a pair of pyjamas identical to those which Madeleine had been wearing when she disappeared.

It is thought the McCanns may have been shown pictures of two suspects during a visit to a police station in Portimao.

Four other people, believed to be friends of the McCanns, are also questioned.

Friday May 11

Madeleine's father vows his family will leave 'no stone unturned'' in the search for her.

On the eve of Madeleine's fourth birthday, Mr McCann says he and his wife were grateful for the worldwide support.

Three British people are believed to have been taken in by police for questioning. It is believed they are potential witnesses rather than suspects.

A businessman offers a reward of £1 million for information leading to the return of Madeleine.

Owner of Scottish health spa, Stobo Castle, Stephen Winyard, 57, who lives in Monaco, said he was moved to come forward by photographs of Madeleine's distraught parents.

Former England captain David Beckham makes a television appeal for information from the public.

In the broadcast, shown on Sky News, he says: 'If you have seen this little girl please go to the local authorities or the police with any genuine information. Please, please help us.''

Saturday May 12

Madeleine turns four.

Residents in Rothley were considering baking a cake and holding a party to mark the milestone - but relatives say they would only want the celebration to take place when she returns and the birthday is postponed.

Her parents mark the day by calling for people to redouble their efforts to find her.

A group of business figures, celebrities and a national newspaper offer a reward of £1.5 million for information leading to Madeleine's safe return.

Entrepreneurs including Sir Richard Branson and Sir Philip Green are among those who join together to offer the huge sum, bringing the total amount of money now being offered in the search to more than £2.5 million.

Chancellor Gordon Brown expresses his sympathy for Madeleine's parents and says his thoughts are with them.

Sunday May 13

It emerges London lawyers from the International Family Law Group have flown out to Portugal to assist Gerry and Kate McCann, and are setting up a special 'fighting fund'' to allow members of the public to make their own financial contribution to the search.

Monday May 14

In a statement to the media, Mr McCann says that 'until there is concrete evidence to the contrary, we believe Madeleine is safe and is being looked after'. Mrs McCann says they cannot consider going home at the moment.

The home of a British man 160 yards from where Madeleine was snatched is searched by police. Robert Murat has been living there with his mother Jenny, who is believed to own it.

The Policia Judiciaria says two or three people are being questioned but stress no-one has been formally arrested.

Tuesday May 15

Robert Murat is officially classed as a suspect by police in Portugal. He claims he is being made a scapegoat in the investigation.

Robert Murat's family friend says the suspect's daughter could be the 'twin'' sister of missing Madeleine.

Tory Euro MP Struan Stevenson demands an immediate ban on the free movement of convicted child sex offenders across Europe and said Madeleine's disappearance 'highlighted the ludicrous loopholes in current legislation covering the movement of convicted paedophiles'.

The National Missing Persons Helpline says that more than 450 children have gone missing in the UK since Madeleine was snatched.

Gerry and Kate McCann pray for police leading the search at a low-key private church service in Praia da Luz, Portugal.

Wednesday May 16

Madeleine's aunt Philomena McCann travels to Westminster to lobby for support.

Gordon Brown pledges to help 'in any way he can'.

A fighting fund is officially launched at Leicester's Walkers Stadium to support Madeleine's family and 'bring her abductors to justice'.

New video images of Madeleine are broadcast at half-time during the Uefa European cup final between Sevilla and Espanyol in Glasgow.

Detectives in Portugal swoop on the home of 22-year-old Russian computer expert Sergey Malinka, who designed a website for suspect Robert Murat, in Praia da Luz.

In an interview with the BBC on Robert Murat's behalf, his cousin Sally Eveleigh says he claimed: 'I am totally, totally innocent.''

Thursday May 17

Portuguese police investigate telephone calls between Sergey Malinka and Robert Murat on the night Madeleine was abducted.

More than 25 million people visit the official website set up to help find missing Madeleine McCann.

A relative of the McCanns, Michael Wright, pays tribute to the McCanns' determination. He revealed details of the scope of their campaign and says: 'This is just the start'.

Posters protesting the innocence Robert Murat appear around the Norfolk village where he lived.

At the first Test match against the West Indies at Lord's, England cricket captain Andrew Strauss and his team all wear yellow ribbons in support of efforts to find the four-year-old.

Thursday May 24

The last photograph known to have been taken of Madeleine before she was snatched is released by her family.

The happy family snap, taken seven hours before she was abducted exactly three weeks ago, shows carefree Madeleine laughing in the sunshine, dangling her feet in the swimming pool.

It also emerges that the Catholic bishop of the Algarve, Manuel Neto Quintas had offered to become a go-between with any kidnapper.

In a Portuguese radio discussion, it was reported, he said he would make himself available if Madeleine's abductor chose to contact him.

A fighting fund for their campaign reaches almost £300,000 and 125 million people have clicked on the website.

Thousands of green and yellow wristbands symbolising the plight of missing Madeleine McCann go on sale sale across Leicestershire for a minimum donation of £1.

The bands - coloured yellow to reflect the ribbons used to mark Madeleine's disappearance and green, the Portuguese symbol of hope.

Friday May 25

The first detailed description of a possible suspect is issued by police.

The man is described as white, approximately 35 to 40-years-old, of medium build and 5ft 10ins tall. He was wearing a dark jacket, light beige trousers and dark shoes.

He was seen walking in the area of Praia da Luz at around 9.30pm on the night Madeleine was snatched.

A 'witness'' reported seeing a man carrying 'an object that could have been ... a child'' around that time, sources said.

A previously unseen picture of Madeleine playing happily on holiday shortly before she was snatched was released by her family.

The snap, taken by a family friend, shows Madeleine in bright pink trousers, a white T-shirt and pink top, smiling as she plays in a garden.

Police in Portugal speak of an attempt to snatch a girl similar to Madeleine McCann last year.

Three-year-old Carolina Santos, who is blonde with blue eyes, was found being led away by a man from the family cafe near the town of Silves, just half an hour from Praia Da Luz.

The European Commission marked International Missing Children's Day with a plea not to forget the plight of Madeleine McCann and her family.

Tuesday May 29

The last moving pictures of Madeleine are released.

The Mobile telephone images show Madeleine excitedly clambering up the steps to the aircraft for her holiday.

She is clasping her pink Barbie rucksack and holding hands with another little girl. She loses her footing and slips, grazing her shin on the third step. She cries for a few seconds and carries on.

Wednesday May 30

Kate and Gerry McCann attend an audience with the Pope at the Vatican.

Thursday May 31

Portuguese police say they are trawling through two dossiers, 8cm thick, of emails and messages from clairvoyants who say they know where Madeleine is and trying to find out if any of the messages could be from her kidnapper.

Saturday June 2

The parents of Madeleine McCann pledge to stay in Portugal to look for their daughter until there is 'absolutely no hope'.

Wednesday June 6

Madeleine's parents are forced to deny any involvement in her abduction when asked by a German journalist, while in Berlin, if they had anything to do with her disappearance.

Thursday June 7

A mystery phone call from a man claiming to know Madeleine's whereabouts is received.

The caller provides such detail that Kate and Gerry McCann put their European search for their daughter on hold in case they need to act.

The call is later traced to a mobile phone registered in Argentina.

Wednesday June 13

An anonymous letter sent to Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf claims Madeleine's body is buried in deserted scrubland only nine miles from where she was abducted.

Chief Inspector Olegario Sousa says the information was being taken seriously and 'everything necessary'' was being done to validate the allegation.

Friday June 15

Portuguese police with sniffer dogs search scrubland just north of the village of Arao where Madeleine's body was reported to be but the hunt is called off after just four hours.

Sunday June 17

Portuguese police say Madeleine's friends and family may have unwittingly destroyed vital evidence in the first few hours after her abduction, during their search for her.

Chief Inspector Olegario Sousa says their well-meaning actions could prove 'fatal'' for the investigation.

Tuesday June 19

Gerry McCann returns to the UK for the second time since his daughter was kidnapped for a series of meetings about the campaign to find the four-year-old.

Friday June 22

Detectives in Malta say they are investigating two fresh claims of sightings on the island and reveal they have received details of 11 sightings in total, dating back to May 27.

Madeleine's parents declare that they 'convinced'' she is still alive in an open letter, thanking British news organisations for their help.

Hundreds of balloons bearing her picture are released across the world as a tribute to mark the 50th day of her disappearance.

Monday June 25

Malta Police say they have received eight fresh reports in the past two days from people claiming to have seen the four-year-old.

Thursday June 28

Spanish police arrest an Italian man and a Portuguese woman suspected of trying to extort money from Madeleine's parents by offering them information about the missing girl.

They are not believed to have anything to do with her disappearance.

Tuesday July 10

The only named suspect in the case, Robert Murat, returns to the police station for questioning.

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