Mother's plea for missing Madeleine

THE mother of missing Madeleine McCann yesterday made a desperate appeal for her abductors not to hurt the child.

Fighting back tears, Kate McCann begged those holding the "funny and caring" three-year-old to let her go.

Speaking at Praia da Luz, on the Algarve, she called for anyone holding her daughter to put her in a "place of safety".

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

However last night, at a police press conference, detectives who had previously said they believed the little girl was still alive were unable to reassure her parents that this remained the case.

Earlier in the day, with husband, Gerry, beside her, Mrs McCann said: "We would like to say a few words to the person who is with our Madeleine, or has been with Madeleine.

"Madeleine is a beautiful, bright, funny and caring little girl. She is so special. 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.We beg you to let Madeleine come home.

"Please give our little girl back." Mrs McCann repeated this in Portuguese, saying: "Por favor, devolva a nossa menina."

On Saturday, Portuguese judicial police offered hope to the family, saying that they believed she was still alive and may still be in the Algarve region.

But last night, Chief Inspector Oligeario Sousa said: "It is very difficult to give you an answer because we have no facts to sustain that the child is alive or not. We are searching for the child until the moment she appears. We can say nothing more. All the authorities involved are doing the best to recover the child."

Mr Sousa said he could reveal little about the case because of the restrictions of Portuguese law. He would not confirm that police believed Madeleine had "definitely" been kidnapped. But he insisted that, as a father himself, police were doing everything they could to find Madeleine.

Speaking of the McCanns' pain, he said: "What they are feeling now I can't imagine, I am a father too, all the police, we are fathers and mothers.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"It is probably pain with no measure they are feeling. I want to assure the family and all the people involved that the professionals are doing the best they can."

Mr Sousa repeatedly said he could not publish an artist's impression of a man seen acting suspiciously because he feared it could harm the case.

Asked whether he was keeping the family themselves fully informed, he said: "The family is the number one interest in the case but even then, they must be a little far from the investigation."

Mrs McCann's plea came on the fifth day of her family's nightmare ordeal after Madeleine was snatched from their holiday apartment. The girl disappeared as she was left sleeping with her brother and sister, two-year-old twins Sean and Amelie. Her parents were checking on the children every half-hour as they dined in a restaurant nearby.

Madeleine was wearing white pyjama bottoms with a small floral design and a short-sleeved pink top with a picture of Eeyore on it when she vanished.

The hunt for the girl was extended yesterday by up to nine miles around Praia da Luz.

There was speculation in the Portuguese media that police suspect a Briton or Britons had taken the little girl.

Broadcaster RTP interviewed Barra da Costa, a former inspector in the judicial police,

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

who said investigators told him a working description of the suspect being used by detectives suggested someone of English appearance.

The former police officer said the apparently meticulous planning, without leaving forensic evidence, could also point to a British rather than Portuguese intruder.

It was also reported that police are investigating a claim that a man was seen dragging a young girl along towards a marina in the nearby town of Lagos.

Around the marina at Lagos, which was busy with British tourists yesterday, bars and restaurants were displaying photographs of Madeleine to jog customers' memories.

Marques Pereira, harbour captain at Lagos, admitted the search was for a body as well as other evidence.

He told Portuguese newspaper Diario de Noticias: "We can't afford to discard or abandon evidence such as clothes, shoes or even a body."