Ahead of the seventh anniversary of her daughter’s disappearance, Kate McCann said yesterday she returns “quietly” to Praia da Luz at least once or twice a year to feel close to her elder daughter.
Madeleine, then aged three, went missing on 3 May 2007 from a holiday apartment in the Algarve village as her parents dined at a nearby tapas restaurant with friends.
Asked whether she would return to Praia da Luz, Mrs McCann said: “I do go back. I haven’t been since last April but I do go back for personal reasons. I might once or twice a year.”
She added: “It’s difficult because we don’t want to go back and generate publicity because I know that local people don’t like that and, while we have some really good friends in Praia da Luz, I know some people would like it to go away.
“So when I go to Praia da Luz, I go quietly.”
Asked if the visits were a chance to be close to Madeleine, Mrs McCann said: “It is – that was the last place we were with Madeleine, and I’ll still walk those streets and I guess try to look for answers. It helps me.”
Asked what she and husband Gerry would do to mark the seventh anniversary of Madeleine’s disappearance, she said: “We usually have a small gathering in the village, which we’ve done the last so many years.”
But she added that Madeleine’s birthday, which comes shortly afterwards, was more difficult.
Mrs McCann’s comments came as she backed a revamped alert system triggered when children are missing or their lives are at risk – known as child rescue alerts. She said: “When a child is abducted, families are devastated. The agony of not knowing where your child is, is almost impossible to imagine. The helplessness is at times overwhelming.
“But there is now something we can all do to help. Please sign up to receive alerts – you could save a child’s life.”
She also spoke of how she would prefer to know the truth about what happened to her daughter, even if it is “the worst-case scenario”.
She said: “If it was down to not knowing, or finding out news that isn’t what you want to hear? At the end of the day, I can’t change that. What would you rather?
“I’m not under-estimating the blow of hearing bad news that your child has been killed, because obviously we’re not going to go, ‘OK, at least we know’. But I’ve spent hours thinking about that and, each time, I still come up thinking ‘We need to know. Regardless, we need to know’.”
The new system will allow alerts to be issued via text, email, social media, digital billboards and to the media. Members of the public can already sign up to receive alerts, although the new system will come into play on International Missing Children’s Day on 25 May.