Madeleine McCann, the subject of our most recent Martinis & Murder podcast, went missing while on vacation with her family in Portugal’s Praia da Luz, only a few days before her 4th birthday. Called "the most heavily reported missing-person case in modern history” by The Telegraph, Madeleine still hasn't been found 10 years after her disappearance.
On May 3, 2007, Kate and Gerry McCann, Madeleine’s parents, went to dinner at a tapas restaurant with a group of friends with whom they were also vacationing. At 8:30 PM, according to BBC, Kate and Gerry put their children to bed. They left Madeleine, along with her 2-year-old twin siblings, Sean and Amelie, asleep in their apartment about 75 yards away from the restaurant, so they could easily check on them throughout the night.
At 10 PM, it was Kate’s turn to check on her children. She says she walked through the patio door of apartment 5A and opened the door to the children’s bedroom.
During an interview in BBC’s documentary “Madeleine McCann: 10 Years On,” the McCann family spokesman Clarence Mitchell explained, “[I]n the darkness, [she] didn’t immediately realize Madeleine wasn’t there. She realized the curtains were flapping in the window to the street, and it was open, which was not how they left it. They left the shutters down and the window closed.”
Kate reportedly panicked, searched the apartment for Madeleine and then ran out the apartment and shouted that somebody had taken her daughter. The McCanns and their friends quickly searched the resort looking for her, and when they couldn’t find her Kate called the police.
Over the years, countless theories have been explored about what happened to Madeleine. The Telegraph has summarized some of those theories: “[T]hat Madeleine was abducted by a pedophile; that she was killed during a bungled burglary and her body dumped; that she was abducted by traffickers and sold to a childless couple; that she wandered out of the apartment and died in a tragic accident.”
The Portuguese police, referred to as Polícia Judiciária (or simply PJ), were the first to investigate, and they initially had a different idea about what happened than later UK investigations. The PJ didn’t believe Madeleine could have been abducted through the apartment’s bedroom window like Kate had claimed. They said the window shutters could only be opened from the inside. There was also no forensic evidence of anyone climbing through the window.
However, a witness named Martin Smith claimed he saw a man carrying a child on his shoulder near Kate and Gerry McCann’s apartment the night Madeleine went missing. According to The Telegraph, “Mary and Martin Smith, from Ireland, told police they saw a man carrying a child matching Madeleine's description at around 10pm on Rua da Escola Primaria, 500 yards from the McCanns' apartment. He was heading towards the beach, did not look like a tourist and did not seem comfortable carrying the child, they said.”
Still, the original lead detective on the case said in the BBC documentary, “All the clues showed there weren't signs of someone breaking into that apartment. There is no evidence that the window that Kate McCann told the police was open was indeed open. As far as the abduction is concerned, the possibility of an abduction is materially impossible.”
Three months after Madeleine was reported missing, two cadaver dogs were also brought in to search the McCanns’ apartment and rental car, which they had rented 25 days after Madeleine’s disappearance. The dogs reacted in both locations, according to the BBC documentary.
As the BBC documentary explains, based on the reactions of the dogs, the official PJ report concluded, “Kate and Gerry McCann are involved in the concealment of the body of their daughter Madeleine McCann.”
According to The Telegraph, the Portuguese police came up with the theory that “Madeleine had been killed by her parents by accident, possibly by being given an overdose of a sedative to make her sleep, that they had hidden the body, faked her abduction and then used the hire car weeks later to move her body to a burial location.”
Both the BBC documentary and The Telegraph also wrote that the DNA tests on samples taken from the car proved inconclusive, but, according to The Telegraph, the Portuguese police wrongly told journalists they were a "100 per cent match" for Madeleine.
The McCanns were steadfast in maintaining their innocence. According to Reuters, Gerry McCann stated, “There's absolutely no way Kate and I are involved in this abduction.”
Also in the BBC documentary, a criminologist demonstrated one could open the window shutters from outside the apartment without making any noise or damaging the window, which undermined the Portuguese detectives’ previous claims.
The PJ shelved the investigation in 2008 and told the McCanns they were no longer suspects.
After setting up the Find Madeleine Fund to employ private detectives, the McCanns wrote an appeal that appeared on the front page of The Sun, which asked then-Prime Minister David Cameron to have Scotland Yard (the British police) review all Portuguese material from Madeleine's case. Shortly after, Scotland Yard launched Operation Grange to investigate the case.
According to the BBC documentary, Scotland Yard believed Madeleine McCann disappeared as part of a burglary went wrong. It was discovered that in the weeks leading up to the McCanns' arrival in Praia da Luz, three burglaries with the same modus operandi (the opening of a side window) occurred on the block of the McCanns’ apartment.
Though Scotland Yard questioned multiple local men who were regarded as burglary suspects, none of them were ever charged with Madeleine’s disappearance, according to the BBC documentary.
More than 11 million pounds, according to BBC, has been spent on the search for Madeleine, and a few weeks ago, an additional 154,000 pounds were approved to fund Operation Grange up until the end of March 2018.
According to police, there have been about 8,500 reported sightings of Madeleine McCann over the years, though none have led to Madeleine being found.
On the eve of her 14th birthday, her parents pledged on the Official Find Madeleine McCann Facebook page: “[W]e’re waiting for you and we’re never going to give up.”
[Photo: Getty Images]
Hosts Daryn Carp and John Thrasher chat about creepy crimes and mysterious murders... while mixing up martinis! Each episode will focus on a new crime, the crazy details and the theories about how -- and why -- it all went down.