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The 2.6m global hunt

Filed on May 15, 2007

ARM IN arm, Madeleine McCann's parents made short but heart-felt speeches this morning about their missing daughter. A determined Kate McCann vowed they would not leave Portugal without Madeleine, who has now been missing for more than 11 days.

And Gerry McCann revealed they were receiving help from a trauma consultant and were keeping a positive outlook.

"Until we have concrete evidence to the contrary we believe Madeleine is safe and being looked after," he said.

He also thanked those who made financial offers to help Madeleine and the media for covering the case.

Day before they took a stroll down the beach; a brief break from the heartbreaking search for their missing daughter Madeleine.

Friends say "a tidal wave" of devastation has torn the couple apart but that they have been gaining strength from the support of family, friends and the many church services they have attended.

A day after what should have been the fourth birthday party for the "miracle child" they desperately sought through IVF treatment, the couple were hoping for another miracle, her safe return.

Millions of people across Portugal joined them as the Catholic nation marked the 90th anniversary of the famous "Fatima visions" in which the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to three peasant children in central Portugal. Yesterday Madeleine was added to the usual prayers as 300,000 attended a service at Fatima.

Her abduction has taken a heavy toll on Mrs McCann's health and she looked frail, visibly having lost more weight.

The 38-year-old GP wore a yellow and green ribbon in her hair, green being the colour of hope in Portugal.

The investigation has suffered a setback however with police ruling out the prime suspects they had been seeking for four days. Detectives had been looking for a blonde woman and two men seen at a motorway service station with a girl similar to Madeleine.

This trio, caught on CCTV, along with a suspected paedophile seen taking pictures of children on a beach, have now been discounted, said Chief Inspector Olegario Sousa. He added that his officers did not have a single suspect in the 11-day-old case.

According to Portuguese newspapers, police sources believe the "key" to the mystery lies with ten witnesses - including the McCanns - who have been questioned over the past week.

Some or all of them are expected to be questioned by an investigating magistrate in a courtroom this week.

The McCanns, who have twins aged two, have hired two UK lawyers who have flown to the Algarve. As well as advising them over the court proceedings, they may be involved in setting up a fund to pay for investigators to look for Madeleine around the world.

Mr McCann, 38, and also a doctor, is taking personal charge of his media campaign to secure the return of his daughter.

Alex Woolfall, a spokesman for Mark Warner, the travel firm the McCanns booked their villa with, said: "The walk on the beach by Kate and Gerry this afternoon is all part of their desire to show they're in charge.

"They're showing that they're going to bring people out to Portugal, they're going to get the resources in, and they're going to stay in Portugal for as long as it takes. Knowing the determination that Gerry has, I have every hope he will succeed."

UK police have compiled a detailed photofit of a suspect, based on interviews with returning holidaymakers. The man, who is about 5foot 8inch tall and aged 30 to 35, has a partly-shaved head and wore light trousers and a blue top. He was seen loitering outside the family's apartment.

The description could signify he works in the resort, where kitchen staff and waiters wear white trousers.

The search has also been widened to North Africa after suggestions that Madeleine might have been spirited across the few miles of Mediterranean to Morocco.

Internet experts in Britain involved in the hunt have issued online appeals in Arabic after receiving many "hits" from computers in Morocco.

Another theory aired in the Portuguese press is that Madeleine's abductor marked her out before the family even left Britain. Detectives are said to have questioned the McCanns about anything in their past that might have inspired a revenge mission.

Meanwhile, police and media organisations have been deluged with offers from self-proclaimed psychics with various claims. Police are not believed to be taking them seriously, nonetheless two "psychic trackers" from Hertfordshire have flown to the Algarve to begin their own hunt.

Madeleine vanished from her family's holiday flat in the village of Praia da Luz on the south coast of Portugal at 10pm on May 3.

Her family, devout Roman Catholics from Rothley in Leicestershire, have been visibly lifted by a series of special services in the Our Lady of the Light church in Praia da Luz.

Mrs McCann managed a smile as she attended the packed morning mass at the church, supported by a friend and accompanied by Father Paul Seddon from Formby near Liverpool.

Father Seddon, who helped celebrate mass in the church, married the McCanns and baptised Madeleine.

Mrs McCann wept as in a Bible reading from John 14 she heard the lines: "Do not let your hearts be afraid. You heard me say, 'I am going away - and shall return'."

Mrs McCann left the church clutching a bouquet and Madeleine's Cuddle Cat, as local children handed out small pictures of her daughter with the words "Thank the Lord for the gift of Madeleine's life" handwritten on the back.

Madeleine's eyes

Madeleine's distinctive right eye could hold the clue to finding her, her family said yesterday.

People were told to watch out for the unusual "black flash" across her iris, left.

A new poster showing the abnormality was issued after fears that her abductor could have tried to change her appearance.

With millions looking out for her across Europe, altering her hairstyle, for example, could make her harder to recognise.

But her eye cannot be changed, and the poster clearly shows her pupil running into the blue-green iris.

Yesterday her grandmother Susan Healy urged people everywhere to look into children's eyes.

She said: "Please look at children, don't be afraid, go and look at children, look for this black flash that goes from her pupil to the iris of the eye.

"And if the people who have got Madeleine realise she has this distinctive marking, take her somewhere safe. Leave her - you can run off, we don't care. We just want her back."

Police now believe the abductor entered the family's-holiday flat by the unlocked patio doors and did not force the heavy shutters to the bedroom where Madeleine was sleeping.

It is believed the McCanns left the patio doors open because they could not be locked from the outside, and to allow easy access for their checks on their children while they dined with friends at a nearby tapas bar.

A record 2.6million reward is on offer for Madeleine's safe return.

Celebrities, business leaders and sportsmen have pledged the money.

Harry Potter author JK Rowling has promised a sum in excess of 250,000 while Top Shop tycoon Sir Philip Green has put up 250,000 and Sir Richard Branson a further 100,000.

There is also 25,000 from footballer Wayne Rooney, 50,000 from TV star Simon Cowell and a 20,000 whipround from the England cricket team.

The reward, which has been endorsed by the Portuguese police, was welcomed by Madeleine's father Gerry McCann.

He said: "We are very happy and pleased with what you are doing. Anything that can be done to publicise that Madeleine is missing and help with the search is very welcome."

Last week businessman Stephen Winyard, 57, who lives in Monaco, said he was offering 1million after seeing photographs of Madeleine's distraught parents.

His offer followed a colleague of Madeleine's mother putting up a 100,000 reward for help in finding her.

These have now been topped up by a further 1.5million from the celebrities, organised by the News of the World newspaper, which itself pledged 250,000 to the fund.

Runners in Glasgow's women's 10k race, among them Madeleine's aunt Diane McCann, wore T-shirts bearing her photo.

So did some of those taking part in Liverpool's annual 10k race, which was attended by the missing girl's grandmother Susan Healy.

Before yesterday's Premiership clash with Chelsea, Everton players also wore T-shirts with Madeleine's picture.

A constant stream of visitors, many with their young children, defied pouring rain at the family's home village of Rothley in Leicestershire to leave tokens and messages of support.

Scores of flowers, teddy bears, and birthday cards were left at the railings on the village green, which are barely visible beneath thousands of yellow ribbons.

One message said: "Little angel, I hope you are safe. Praying for you to come home."

Special prayers were once again said in all four churches in the village.

The disappearance of Maddy

Madeleine, who turned four on Saturday, was taken from her bed in the ground-floor apartment she was sharing with her parents between 9.30pm and 10pm on Thursday night in the Algarve resort, Praia de Luiz. Her parents had been checking every half hour on the toddler and her younger twin brother and sister, Sean and Amelia, who were sleeping in cots next to her.

When Mrs McCann checked on the children, she found the apartment door wide open, the window shutters jemmied wide and her daughter's bed empty. She ran screaming from the apartment, sparking a huge search involving 150 police, firefighters and Portuguese civil guard, along with villagers and guests at the Mark Warner Holiday complex.

Reward on offer

A record 2.6million reward is on offer for Madeleine's safe return. Celebrities, business leaders and sportsmen have pledged the money. Harry Potter author JK Rowling has promised a sum in excess of 250,000 while Top Shop tycoon Sir Philip Green has put up 250,000 and Sir Richard Branson a further 100,000. There is also 25,000 from footballer Wayne Rooney, 50,000 from TV star Simon Cowell and a 20,000 whipround from the England cricket team


 
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