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The Disappearance of Madeline McCann

A Case Study Looking Into the Theories, Events, and Mistakes Around the Young Girl's Disappearance

On the 3rd of May, 2007 at 22:00, Madeline McCann was reported missing. She was 3 at the time, staying in an apartment on a family holiday in Portugal with her parents, Kate and Gerry McCann and her younger twin siblings, Sean and Amelia McCann. The family was in apartment 5a at the Ocean Club apartment. On the holiday, they were accompanied by seven family friends and five other children.

Prior to beginning this study, I had lack of knowledge and only had a handful of information about this case from the media. From this, I had my opinions saying that the parents and the friends were involved with the case. I had thought that the parents were the reasons behind Madeline's abduction; however, my opinions have certainly changed upon further research. I went into this with an open mind and tried to allow myself to change opinions.

The 3rd of May was the last day of the McCann's 7-day holiday to Praia Da Luz, Portugal. Madeline's room, along with her siblings, was near to the front door—which the McCann's said was left locked along with windows and shutters in her room throughout the holiday. The apartments were not gated at all, which left the public able to get into 5a from two sides. One of the doors on 5a was only lockable via the inside; the McCann's left this unlocked but closed so they could check on their children. The area in which they stayed was known as "Little Britain" due to it being heavily populated by Britons. Its population was approximately 1,000.

During the morning of the 3rd of May, young Madeline asked her parents, "Why didn’t you come when me and [Sean, Brother] were crying last night?" This quote leads to many theories later on.

At 19:00, all of the eight children were put to bed in apartments 5a, 5b, and 5d. 5b and 5d were rented out by the family friends of the McCann's. It was said that all of the parents each went every 30 minutes to check on their children.

20:30 – the group had gone to dine at a Tapas Restaurant 55 meters from their apartments. They all left their children asleep.

At 21:05, Gerry (Father) went to check on them; he recalled leaving the bedroom door slightly open before he went out with the group. However, when he entered it was wide open. He closed it slightly again before leaving. This leads to people thinking that the abductor had already been in the room or was currently in the room upon Gerry entering.

At 21:15 the Tanner Sighting occurred, which Jane Tanner, one of the friends on holiday with them, said to have seen a man carrying a child away from the apartments. Also, she said to have seen Gerry talking to a British holiday-maker on his way back, although Gerry does not claim to have seen Jane. This led people to think that she had made this sighting up. Also, the man that she had thought to have seen was apparently carrying back his child from the Ocean Club. Police said this sighting has no correlation to the abduction of Madeline.

At 21:30, Kate (Mother) went to check up on the children. Although, Matthew Oldfield (friend) offered when he went to check up on his children in the room next to 5a. When he entered, Matthew said that the door was wide open but he heard no noises, so he left and went back to the Tapas restaurant. Matthew said he did not enter far enough to see if Madeline was in the room. The Portuguese police accused him of involvement.

22:00 - the Smith sighting. Martin and Mary Smith said to have seen a man carrying a child 500 yard away from 5a. They said the man looked "uncomfortable" carrying the child. Scotland Yard said in 2013 during "Operation Grange" that this gave an approximate time for the abduction.

As well as the Smith Sighting, at 22:00, Kate had entered the room to find her daughter was gone. Kate said she quickly searched the apartment before running back screaming "Madeline's gone, somebody has taken her." When she went to enter the room, the door was wide open and it slammed shut due to wind since the window and shutter was wide open. This lead to the police believing she had been handed through the window by Matthew Oldfield.

22:10, Gerry asked Matthew to tell the resort staff to call the police. 20 minutes later, the resort activated the missing person protocol. Over 60 staff members and guests searched until the early hours of the next morning. One of them told Channel 4 that "you could hear her name called from one end [of Luz] to the other." According to the mother, the police arrived at 1 AM, yet the police say they arrived 10 minutes after being alerted.

The police had brought two search dogs by 2 AM, and a further 2 by 8 AM. The dogs searched everywhere, like waterways, wells, and caves.

Madeline was nowhere in sight. What could have happened to this young, innocent girl?

On the night of the abduction, there were not all that many witnesses that saw something happening around 5a. Although, there are few that could possibly lead to what happened to Madeline. There was the Smith Sighting and the Tanner Sighting, which has already been covered. Few had said a group of men had been acting suspiciously near 5a prior to the days of her abduction. In addition, men had been going around the area asking for money for an orphanage—but there were none in the area. On the day of the abduction, there were four accounts of charity collections made by two men around the streets of 5a.

Somebody staying near to 5a had said to have seen somebody leave 5a; typically nobody would think more of that. But the witness said they saw the person look around the area before quietly closing the gate with two hands. Why would they have done this if it wasn't somewhat suspicious? A couple of men had also been seen on the balcony of 5c, which was empty at the time of the McCann's stay. Individuals reported seeing two blonde men talking loudly to each other an hour after she was reported missing, though once they were seen, they imminently spoke quieter and left. One of the suspect's mothers said to have driven past 5a on the night, she claimed she saw a woman acting suspiciously outside 5a, as well as a car driving the wrong way towards the apartment. Could these people be involved with Madeline's disappearance? Or was it just in the wrong place at the wrong time?

12 days after the abduction, a man called Robert Maurt was made a suspect by the Portuguese Police. He offered to translate things for the police since he could speak English as well as Portuguese. He asked many questions about the case, which made people believe he wanted to know the developments so he could see if he was safe from prison. Once questioned by police, he said he was only interested because he had a daughter of the similar age living in the UK.

Three of his friends as well as a career, two holiday-makers, one barrister, and a businesswoman had said to have been Robert near 5a. This didn't shock police since he lived so close to the area. On the night of the abduction, his mother said he was home all evening.

On the 15th of May, his home was searched. His pool was emptied; cars, computers, and phones were taken as well as video examined. They had dogs looking around and his garden was made a search ground. A year later, somebody had torched his car and wrote "fala" (speak) in red spray paint. Could have this been a message to others that he had something to do with it?

Although, on 21st July 2008, the suspect status was lifted due to him not having a link to the case. He received £600,000 in an out-of-court settlement for libel (damages).

2 search dogs had been brought to the scene by 2 AM; furthermore another 2 by 8 AM. The police took the dogs through waterways, wells, caves and other things to try and find Madeline. They found nothing. They needed more. So, on 31st of July in 2007, 2 British sniffer dogs were brought over to Portugal to try and help. There was Keela, who was taught to smell the scent of human blood and stop still with her nose pointing to it. There was also Eddie, who barked at the scent of a human corpse—even if the body had been buried or was in water.

The dogs were taken to 5a, a wasteland and a beach. Both of the dogs were alerted to behind the sofa in 5a. Eddie went on to be alerted to the wardrobe in the main bedroom. A warrant was later obtained to search the house the McCann's rented 24 days after the disappearance. The dogs searched it on the 2nd of August. Boxes of their belongings were taken, which the dogs later searched. Eddie was alerted to one of the boxes with Kate's clothing in. Their lawyer said there would be a corpse smell to her clothing because she was a family doctor.

The police took away their rental car on the 6th of August, which the dogs were sent to search too. The dogs were taken to an underground car-park with 10 cars, including the McCann's and Robert Murat's. Each car was 20-30ft apart. Eddie was drawn to the McCann's car, specifically the driver's door. Keela stopped at the rear driver's side in the boot and in the map compartment where a keyring was. The keyring was later hidden in some sand, yet Keela was still stopping at it. An argument for this is because they were doctors and could have had their keys on them at the hospital they worked at—but why would the keys get blood on them?

Fibers were taken from where the dogs had been alerted to. On the 8th of August, it had become a murder inquiry by the Portuguese police without any DNA evidence suggesting this theory. Once DNA analysis was completed, it had 15/19 matches and with a possibility of 5 people that the DNA belonged to. It was taken as too complex and they couldn't be 100-percent sure that it was Madeline's. The fibers were far too minor and had to go through LCN (Low Copy Number) and the police couldn't be sure it had been contaminated either.

Although, Madeline could have been found by now. The Portuguese police made numerous mistakes in what is called the "Golden Hours" which could contribute to the prolonged missing status Madeline holds. Upon taking a poll which over 100 people answered, only 18 percent of those asked thought the Portuguese police did enough with this case. One of these mistakes had been mentioned earlier, where the police supposedly arrived 3 hours later after being told about the child's abduction. If the police arrived soon after the call, it had a higher chance that Madeline would still be in close proximity to 5a and would have been found quickly, preventing the parent's suffering. Although, this was only one of many mistakes made later on.

Another mistake was not interviewing every member staying at the resort, one of these members could have had vital information which could have assisted into her being returned home. Those who were British and staying in that hotel contacted the British Police to say that they hadn't been interviewed. Furthermore, they did not close the scene or put roadblocks up instantly or make house to house searches. A crowd had gathered near 5a, and in June of 2007, DNA from a stranger had been discovered within 5a. Over 20 people had entered 5a so it was near enough impossible to find out who the DNA belonged to. Could it have been the person that kidnapped Madeline that night? Kate McCann also mentioned that the police only put tape across the place but left at 2 AM (only 2 hours after they reportedly arrived) and did not secure the apartment at all.

The police put roadblocks up at 10 AM the next day, 12 hours after Madeline was reported missing. Within 12 hours, she could have been anywhere. The police did not request motorway CCTV of vehicles leaving and entering Luz that night.

With all the chaos going on in this once quiet town, a crowd gathered around to see what was going on. People crowded around near the window where the suspect may have climbed through to escape with Madeline. When looking for fingerprints, the officer doing that did not wear any sort of protection like gloves. The evidence was trampled and left no possibility for anything to be recovered - which would have given this villain more of a chance of not being caught.

However, the Portuguese police were nowhere near as developed aa the UK police were. Their officers and detectives did not know what to do and what protocol to follow since they weren't trained. Despite their very public failures, the police tried to take the frame off of themselves and decided to plant it onto somebody else, specifically the parents.

The Portuguese police had said that from the start they had been suspicious of the parents and friends. They questioned Kate saying "they've taken her" as to say that a group of people they knew had taken their daughter. Personally, I would say that she could have been so terrified that she didn't know what she was saying—her child was missing and she couldn't have possibly known what to say. This was evident in the appeals both parents made, where she was often looking at the floor in silence looking distraught.

The Portuguese had a theory that Madeline died due to the 'sedation' the parents had rumored to do to their children (which was a claim made with no evidence by the media) and she had died from that. The parents of the children did not want to get into trouble, so the whole Tapas Seven (what the media named the group of friends since they had dined at a Tapas restaurant) had formed a pact of silence to avoid them all being punished. The police thought that the group had hidden the body, which would go along with the dogs smelling human corpse and blood around the apartment.

The police also said that the shutters were open when they arrived, which were said from the outside, they had to be opened with force, which there was no evidence of. (Prior to the McCann's stay, there had been multiple burglaries in and around 5a. If it was the same people who committed those burglaries and those who took Madeline, could they have been so skilled at entering this certain apartment that there would be no signs of force anyway?) Which lead to them accusing Matthew Oldfield of handing her through the window to those who planned to take her.

Near to the time the dogs were involved, the police had made it a murder inquiry without any evidence suggesting so. They had abandoned the abduction theory and moved onto getting the parents framed for the murder of Madeline. They had nobody, no DNA evidence, no leads suggesting towards a murder. The only evidence they had which could have meant murder was the dogs. Yet that wouldn't have been enough to call it a murder. The police were desperate. As well as this, a detective for the Portuguese police, who sadly died in 2010, was found to be a source of leaks against the McCanns. They also said that Kate's memory was "faulty" which showed that the police didn't really have any sympathy for her saying the fact her child had just been abducted.

A factor that the police and the public had been putting against the McCanns was the fact that Kate had failed to answer 48 "simple" questions about Madeline's disappearance in an interview which was 11 hours long. Which I find a bit odd too. The interview happened in September of 2007, 4 months after her abduction. I cannot give a reason that she may not have answered the questions, besides still grieving. Personally, and I am sure many would agree, I would give all the information I could to the police in hope that they could get a lead or find them with that information. She said she refused due to them being 'distracted' and should have been working to find Madeline. But the question is if given the chance, would she answer them now?

The British police were heavily criticized by Portuguese media and several officers for only following leads which helped the McCanns. Although it has no correlation with the case at all, the Chief of the Inquiry in Portugal was a suspect in another kidnapping case, along with 4 officers had reportedly beaten the victim's mother. As well as this, the police in Portugal signed a 9-page reported stating that Madeline died within the 5a apartment and the meal was a cover-up for their mistake.

With going through the grief of their daughter missing, the McCanns have done a lot to help the case too. They have done things like appeals, hired Private Investigators (PIs) and created a fund along with a £2.5 million reward if Madeline is returned home. With these good things, also came the bad like accusations made by the media with no evidence, court cases which they sued those media companies for libel, the public sending continuous hate to the family, being made suspects in their own daughter's abduction and their daughter still not being returned home. Although, in a poll I conducted 90 percent of people think the parents should be made suspects, as well as 75 percent thinking the friends were involved and should be suspects too.

On the 15th of May, a fund was set up by the parents and it received over 58 million hits in only 2 days. Many famous faces like Simon Cowell and Wayne Rooney donated to the cause. Things like putting Madeline on the front of newspapers sold over 30,000 extra copies. By June of 2008, there were over 7 million posts and 3,700 videos came up after searching her name. One of the PIs hired, David Edgar, released an e-fit image in 2009. Also, a ground radar made by a South African developer in 2012 said there were bones beneath the driveway of a house in Luz.

Kate was also worried that the abductor drugged their twins, so the police conducted a drugs test on the children and Kate too upon arriving back in the UK, no drugs were found at all.

Scotland Yard also opened up their own investigation in 2011. Since then, over £11 million had gone into funds, as well as a further £100,000 being granted recently. The senior officer of this case thought it to be a "criminal act by a stranger, a planned abduction or burglary that had gone wrong." In 2017, they were said to have had significant leads. Recently, Scotland Yard cut 56 officers on the case to a small 4 officers.

Continuing with what over 100 people thought of the case, only 71 percent have heard of it and only 37 percent think she is still alive. With few people saying their opinions, they have said that it just doesn't make sense at all. They think there are so many holes in the story and so much information which had been missed. Personally, upon completing research and completing this study, I get it. I get both sides and I don't think we are going to find out what happened to her any time soon. Many people's opinion sway to the way that the parents did it. But why? What could have been their motive? They were both intelligent people, both being doctors yet—we still hear stories of "good" people doing bad things. They wouldn't have done it for money either, saying that even with the funds they are putting in towards things to do to help the search. I do not think the parents murdered Madeline. Though I do believe that there are some parts of the night and the days leading up to the abduction that is not being told which is preventing the case from going anywhere.

Also, I disagree with how much the government is funding into this case. I disagree with the continuing amount of tax payer's money going into this case when there are thousands of missing children all across Britain that aren't getting the same attention and funding as Madeline's case. I understand the parent's, with help from the media, did make a lot of appeals and brought a lot of attention to the case but even with it being as big as it is, I don't think that much money should be going towards it. I know parents wouldn’t ever stop looking for their child, but only one case getting that much money isn't right. (67 percent of those asked agree.)

Also, I do not think she is still alive. Once the case got known and Madeline's unique features were known, I think the abductor killed her because she was too recognizable. She would have been found easily with the unique feature like the broken iris. But, even recently missing children have been found alive and well.

 In conclusion, the Madeline McCann case is a very tricky case to form an opinion on. It is one where information is given, yet with many flaws. Things aren't always a simple route to the answer; many people have many opinions yet none of them have been proven right. With the hundreds of theories, which one could be right? Which intelligence could eventually lead police officials to the discovery of Madeline? If the police didn't make so many mistakes, could have that prevented this 10-year case? Finally: Will Madeline ever be found?

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