Three-year-old British toddler Madeleine McCann was reported missing from the Portuguese holiday apartment in which she was staying with her family on this day in 2007.
Madeleine’s disappearance prompted numerous investigations – by both Portuguese and British police as well as private investigators – and lawsuits. Her parents Gerry and Kate McCann have never given up hope of being reunited with their daughter.
It should have been a family holiday like any other, but the McCanns’ May 2007 trip to Praia da Luz on the south coast of Portugal turned to tragedy.
While Kate and Gerry were out dining with friends at a nearby restaurant, their three-year-old daughter Madeleine disappeared from the family’s rented apartment where she and her twin siblings were sleeping. The apartment was situated just 160 feet from the restaurant.
Both parents and their friends had regularly checked on the children throughout the evening before Madeleine was discovered to be missing at 10pm. Although Portuguese police initially followed the child-abduction hypothesis, they soon came to consider the McCanns as suspects – suggesting that Madeleine had been killed in an accident which had later been covered up.
This led to months of anguish for Madeleine’s parents, until the Portuguese attorney general cleared them in July 2008.
There have been many claims of mistakes being made in the initial investigation – including accusations that the apartment and its surrounds were not adequately sealed for forensic tests and that evidence may have been lost this way.
Since 2011, Scotland Yard’s Operation Grange has been assisting with the search for clues. In December 2016 it was reported that Met detectives had received an important tip which may have strengthened the kidnapping theory.
In the aftermath of Madeleine’s disappearance and beyond, Kate and Gerry McCann have fought to keep the case in the public eye – their campaign has often centred around Madeleine’s distinctive eye blemish, a coloboma, which is said to affect just 0.007% of the population.
At Christmas 2016 – their 10th without Madeleine – the couple said: “Thank you so much to everyone who hasn't forgotten about Madeleine, for all of your help and continued prayers.
"The support we continue to have from so many people, friends and strangers will, we're sure, keep us strong and afloat during the difficult months to come.
"Somebody knows. We just hope they find the courage and compassion to let us know too."
Despite reported sightings of ‘Madeleine’ over the years since her disappearance, she still has not been found.