The father of missing girl Madeleine McCann, Gerry McCann, has said he has dreams of hugging his daughter again and believes she’s still alive.
Over 11 years since her disappearance from the family’s holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal, just four days before her fourth birthday, Madeleine’s father has described the ‘painful’ dreams he still has about his daughter.
Here’s a timeline of events of the fateful evening:
Gerry revealed his agony during a BBC Radio 4 programme about the bond between fathers and daughters.
It was broadcast last night (29 September 2018) as the Home Office considers whether to grant new funds to continue the £11.6million, seven-year British police investigation to find her.
More than £11 million has been spent so far on the probe, dubbed Operation Grange, to find the missing girl who vanished in May 2007, aged three.
There’ve been 9,000 reported sightings of Madeleine since she vanished, just nine days before her fourth birthday in 2007. She would now be 15 years old.
Thousands of so-called sightings of Madeleine have been assessed, in Brazil, India, Morocco and Paraguay, on a German plane and in a New Zealand supermarket.
Since her disappearance, Madeleine’s parents have dedicated themselves to finding their daughter.
Gerry, a 52-year-old surgeon who lives in Rothley, Leicestershire, broke down and sobbed as he told BBC Radio 4 he and his wife, Kate McCann, are ‘absolutely confident’ Madeleine is alive.
Speaking of the still unsolved case of her whereabouts, he said:
It’s almost like an instinctive reaction. It’s just a feeling, but I do feel we will be reunited. I just want to hug her and hold her and cry a lot.
I thought about it a lot early on and what I was absolutely confident about is whatever had happened Madeleine was still alive and is still alive.
Gerry recalled the moment reality dawned on the parents when they realised once and for all their daughter was gone.
He said they were plagued with dark thoughts of their eldest daughter being abused:
I remember just being in the bedroom – the two of us just completely distraught. It was almost feral, the reaction and the pain, feeling helpless, alone.
I couldn’t get the darkest thoughts out of our minds that somebody had taken her and abused her.
There’s never a day goes by I don’t think about Madeleine and what might have happened. I have dreamt about her, including in the last few months, but it’s not frequent. They’re painful when they happen.
This week, Scotland Yard applied to the Home Office for more funding in order to extend Operation Grange for another six months.
Officers have investigated 60 people of interest and 560 lines of enquiry, but the last funding for the four-person Operation Grange team is due to run out today, (September 30).
The probe was launched in 2011 after the original Portuguese investigation was ruled ‘not fit for purpose’.
Gerry gave an account of the moment he realised Madeleine vanished, and his immediate fear she’d been kidnapped.
Kate came running back from the apartment screaming, ‘Madeleine is missing, she’s gone’. I was like, ‘She can’t be gone’.
I was looking in the bedroom, I was in cupboards, checking everywhere – even places where I knew she couldn’t be, under the kitchen sink.
That first night felt like it lasted forever. Obviously we didn’t sleep and went out again first thing as soon as it was light. Kate and I went out walking the streets of Praia da Luz shouting Madeleine’s name.
I remember asking the police to get helicopters and heat seeking equipment and the thought somebody could be across the border into borderless Europe, driving her.
Or Africa – the ports are a couple of hours away. I remember thinking, ‘Get the borders closed’.
Gerry said he and Kate had felt like they were drowning over ‘that feeling of guilt we somehow let this happen… that we were partly responsible for allowing someone to steal our daughter’ and described the nightmare of being named suspects in the initial investigation.
In the midst of the pain, Gerry said Madeleine’s brother and sister – twins, Sean and Amelie, who are now 13 – helped him and Kate carry on.
Over time, he added, the family have adapted to a new way of life:
Now we’re 11 years down the line we’ve had a new normality that our day-to-day life is a family of four and not a family of five. And although Madeleine will always be part of it, you adapt.
It sounds cold, but you can’t live the way we lived for 15 months, that emotion on a day-to-day basis. We’re incredibly resilient for the most part… and time makes the pain ease.
Gerry also said the relationship he shared with Madeleine was ‘incredibly special’ and dubbed the bond between himself, Kate and Madeleine ‘an equilateral triangle’.
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