The parents of Madeleine McCann have advocated for their daughter’s safe return for more than 10 years, and have attracted the support of other high profile child safety advocates, like Elizabeth Smart, in the process.
Kate and Gerry McCann’s story is chronicled in Netflix’s recently released true crime docu-series, “The Disappearance Of Madeleine McCann.” Madeleine, then only 3 years old, went missing on May 3, 2007, during a family vacation to Portugal. The McCanns were staying at a resort in Praia da Luz with family friends who had also brought their children along for the trip, and on the night of Madeleine’s disappearance, the adults were dining at a restaurant 50 yards away from the apartments where the children were sleeping. When Kate went to check on the children that night, Madeleine’s siblings, two-year-old twins, were sleeping, but Madeleine was nowhere to be found.
The investigation that followed captured global attention, as local Portuguese authorities and investigators from the McCann’s native U.K. got involved in the case. What happened to Madeleine remains a mystery to this day, but her family has the support of others who have been in their shoes.
During an interview one year after Madeleine’s disappearance that was included in the new Netflix documentary, Ed Smart, whose daughter Elizabeth was kidnapped from her home in Utah in 2002 and found the following year, said that he’d been in contact with Kate and offered her words of encouragement.
“As I spoke with Kate, she said to me that she’d had some dreams recently and that, you know, she felt that Madeleine was there and that she was gonna come back and I told her that’s what I had thought about Elizabeth,” he said.
“Keep the faith. Keep hope alive,” he said.
Elizabeth Smart commented on Madeleine’s disappearance years later, during a 2012 interview with Anderson Cooper, according to The Daily Mail.
Watch Out Of Sight: The Disappearance Of Madeleine McCann Friday, March 29 at 9/8c, only on Oxygen
“With her being as young as what she was, I think there is a great chance of her still being alive and being out there whether she’s been sold or whether someone’s trying to take her or raise her as their own,” she said.
She went on to call the McCanns a “wonderful family,” adding, “But at the same time, it’s very saddening seeing this gap in their family that’s been left by Madeleine. She still is very much a part of their lives.”
Months into the Portuguese police’s investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance, they officially named Kate and Gerry as suspects in the case, or “arguido.” Portuguese authorities offered Kate a plea deal of two years in jail if she admitted to accidentally poisoning the child and then disposing of her body, according to the documentary.
Police cleared the couple 10 months later.
“It’s hard to describe how utterly despairing it was for us to be named arguido and to subsequently portrayed in the media as suspects in our own daughter’s disappearance,” the couple said in a statement in 2008 after being cleared.
Just as with the McCann’s, Ed Smart was also a suspect in his daughter’s disappearance before she was found. In footage of the interview not included in the Netflix doc, Smart discussed how it felt to be in the McCann’s position.
“It’s difficult. ‘What do they think they’re gonna get from me? I know it’s not me.’ But at that point in time, it’s kind of like it doesn’t matter,” he said. “You know, ‘Polygraph me. Ask me whatever you want because all I wanna do is find my child.’”
Kate and Gerry continue to search for Madeleine, and said in a recent update on their website that the police investigation into their daughter’s disappearance is still active.
Searching for the best true crime podcasts? Subscribe to Martinis & Murder and join hosts Daryn Carp and John Thrasher as they chat about creepy crimes and unsolved mysteries... while sipping on killer drinks from our murderous mixologist Matt the Bartender. Each episode will focus on a new true crime, with all the gory details, and a cocktail recipe to get you through.