The hunt for missing British toddler Madeleine McCann has gripped the nation this week, with prayer vigils being held all over the country. The little girl’s parents Gerry and Kate McCann have vowed to leave “no stone unturned” in the search for their daughter who went missing whilst the family were holidaying in The Algarve region of Portugal.
Gerry and Kate were staying at The Mark Warner Holiday Complex in Praia De Luz a self-contained holiday village, with their children (two year old twins and Maddy 3). The couple had decided to celebrate the last night of their holiday by going out for a meal at a tapas restaurant, a few hundred yards from the apartment complex where they were staying. The couple have come under fierce criticism for not taking advantage of the holiday complex’s babysitting service, preferring instead to keep returning back to the apartment to check on Maddy and her younger brother and sister, at regular half hourly intervals. It was on one of these check-up visits at 10.00pm, that Kate returned to find Maddy’s bed empty, the apartment door and window were wide open, with signs of a forced entry to the window shutters. The other two children were still sleeping in their beds.
Little Maddy has now been missing since Thursday 3rd May and there are fears that she may have been taken across the border into Spain. There are many theories as to what happened, with one being that she was being watched for several days before being snatched by an international child abduction gang. The media have focused on reports of two men and women with a little girl being caught on CCTV at a petrol station, driving a car with a British number plate. We can only imagine what this poor child’s parents, both doctors, must be going through right now. Described by a family friend as "living for their children and loving them to bits", they will probably regret not using the complex's babysitting service for the rest of their lives, but it can be argued that in the safe and supposedly secure environment of the holiday village, you can be lulled into a false sense of security. The holiday village is promoted as a safe and family friendly environment. Also leaving children to be cared for by strangers is not always the best thing either. To lose a child in these circumstances must be one of the worst things that can happen to a family. It was little Maddy’s 4th birthday yesterday. The special Dr Who birthday cake that she asked for is all baked and ready, a poignant and sad reminder of what would have been a happy family occasion. We can only hope and pray for Maddy's safe return. Businessmen and others including Richard Branson and writer JK Rowling have pledged large sums of money for information leading to her safe return. The reward being offered is now up to £2.5 million. Also footballer David Beckham has been on tv making an emotional plea for Maddy to be returned to her family. Madeleine's aunt and family have urged the public to join in their poster and e-mail campaign to help find the little girl. In the meantime, the search goes on and the wait continues for her distraught parents.