What happened to Madeleine McCann?

Every parent’s worst nightmare is that something terrible happens to their child. For Gerry and Kate McCann, the nightmare began in 2007 with the disappearance of their 3-year-old daughter, Madeleine McCann. It has been going on for more than 15 years with no sign of an end.

The hope remains that her kidnapper will one day be identified and arrested. However, Madeleine, who would now be 19, is unlikely to be found alive.

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We return to May 3, 2007 and uncover what is known about the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. But first, let’s try to address another, less tangible question: Why do cases of missing children attract public attention?

From the Lindbergh baby to Etan Patz to JonBenét Ramsey, missing children draw our attention because they bring out both the best and the worst in us. Our hearts are with the family that we might like to help. But the lurid details of the case can be intriguing; We are able to treat a missing child as a topic of interest because the child is not our own.

In some cases, there is a safe return, as with the 18-year-old kidnapping and imprisonment of Jaycee Lee Dugard. But in too many other cases, the child is never seen alive again.

Madeleine McCann disappeared while on family vacation

Madeleine McCann

In late April 2007, Kate and Gerry McCann from Rothley, England, and their three children (3-year-old Madeleine and 2-year-old twins) traveled to Praia da Luz, Portugal on holiday. They were staying in a rental at the Ocean Club.

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The adults visited the region with friends and set up a rotating system to check on the sleeping children while they ate dinner just a hundred yards from the apartment. The May 3, 2007 meal was to be the last the group shorn while on vacation. And as we now know, it was the last thing the McCann family got to enjoy before the unthinkable tragedy.

That hard, sad fact aside, the details of the case soon become murky. We know that around 9:05pm Gerry McCann found Madeleine and her siblings safely asleep in their room. But at the next check-in, around 10 p.m., Madeleine (or Maddie, as she was often called) was gone. Only her blanket and stuffed animal remained.

Maddie’s absence was discovered by her mother, Kate McCann, who reportedly whined so loudly that she was heard by patrons at the restaurant. Police were called and began a search that continues to this day, to varying degrees.

The days after Madeleine McCann disappeared

From The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann (Picture: Netflix)

The property and the surrounding area were searched that night and the next day by police, Madeleine McCann’s parents, her friends, and hotel staff and guests. No usable evidence was found.

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Over the next few days, the search expanded to include border police, airport staff and hundreds of volunteers. It had become painfully clear that Madeleine had been kidnapped and not just taken off. Portuguese authorities announced on May 12, 2007 that they believe Maddie is still alive. However, they had no evidence to locate the girl or any suspects.

Maddie’s parents described themselves as wracked with grief and despair. These days, the disappearance and search for Madeleine McCann caught the world’s attention. The case spread through traditional media such as newspapers and TV shows, but was fueled by the then fledgling social media platforms Facebook and Twitter.

EEvidence and a possible suspect emerge

Image: Netflix

In late May 2007, police in Portugal released a description of a suspicious man who was spotted near the resort on the evening of Maddie’s disappearance. He was described as possibly pregnant with a child.

Unfortunately, the police also had to admit that potential forensic evidence from the kidnapping scene could have been damaged or destroyed due to improper procedures.

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Then, in mid-September 2007, police found a perfect DNA match for Madeleine McCann in the trunk of a rental car, although they could not link the vehicle to a positively identified person.

The McCanns were questioned as possible suspects later that month but were free to return to England. In November, Gerry McCann released a statement saying her family had been stalked by a predator for days before the kidnapping. In January 2008, the family released a composite sketch of the man they believed to be responsible for Maddie’s kidnapping.

It was not until July 2008 that Portuguese authorities officially revoked Maddie McCann’s parents’ “arguido” or “suspect” status.

Years pass and Madeleine McCann remains missing

Digitally enhanced photo showing what Maddie might look like at age 9

In the Madeleine McCann case, there were no breaks for years. In 2009, police released a digitally enhanced photo showing what Maddie might look like when she was 6 years old. That same year, the McCanns publicly expressed their outrage that the search for their daughter in Portugal had ended.

In 2011, the McCanns signed on to write a comprehensive book about their daughter’s disappearance, simply titled madeleine. Additional digitally enhanced images were released the following year, showing Maddie up to the age of 9.

Then, in the summer of 2013, Scotland Yard announced new evidence in the Maddie McCann case. By the fall, detectives revealed they had identified as many as 41 possible suspects. There was a new sense that justice might come for Maddie’s kidnapper and most likely murderer. Portuguese authorities reopened their own case and began cooperating with Scotland Yard.

However, several years passed without any realizable updates. The police searched for new evidence and interrogated and cleared up a number of suspects, but came up with nothing of substance.

Finally a break in the disappearance of Maddie McCann?

A split ensued long after it seemed like there was no hope of justice in the Madeleine McCann case. In June 2020, German police unveiled a prime suspect: a 43-year-old man identified as Christian B., who was being held there. Some more details have been released.

As of 2022, Portuguese authorities also identified the German inmate, now known by his full name Christian Brückner, as a likely suspect. However, he remains in German custody and has not yet been officially charged with kidnapping Maddie McCann. Brückner is in prison for rape after a crime took place in the same region of Portugal where Maddie McCann was last seen.


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https://www.goalcast.com/madeleine-mccann-disappearance/ What happened to Madeleine McCann?

Sarah Y. Kim

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