Response to the disappearance of Madeleine McCann

Response to the disappearance of Madeleine McCann

On the evening of Thursday, 3 May 2007, shortly before her fourth birthday, a British child, Madeleine McCann, went missing from a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz in the Algarve in Portugal, in which she was staying with her parents. The initial investigation by the Guarda Nacional Republicana, the first police to be called to the scene, concluded that she had been abducted. cite news|url=|title=Holiday girl abducted, police say|publisher=BBC News|date=2007-05-05|accessdate = 2007-05-14] After further investigation, the Polícia Judiciária (Portuguese criminal investigation police) subsequently stated that there was a strong hypothesis that she might have died in her room. [cite news | title= Madeleine McCann assumed dead | publisher = "The Daily Telegraph" | author=Richard Edwards | date = 2007-08-06 | accessdate = 2007-08-06 |url =]

Over the subsequent weeks, Madeleine's parents implemented a successful publicity campaign that kept the disappearance in the public eye in many countries, resulting in a response to the disappearance that was wide reaching both in terms of the media and public reaction, though there was criticism that the media attention was excessive. There was also comment that the UK media had unfairly criticised the Portuguese police.


By the family

An official [ web site] for the search has been set up and the McCann family have released two video appeals. [cite web | title = News Items | work = | publisher = McCann Family | date = May 21, 2007 | url = | accessdate = 2007-05-21 ] The first is a photograph and video montage set to Simple Minds' song "Don't You (Forget About Me)" and includes an animation of the word LOOK in uppercase with a reproduction of her coloboma as a radial line inside the first letter O, which blinks. [cite video | people = Madeline McCann | title = Picture Video | publisher = McCann Family, Sky News | url =,,31200-1266128,00.html | date = 2007-05-18 ] The second features a montage of images with a voice-over by actress Zoë Wanamaker mentioning her coloboma, asking for information of her whereabouts, and to download and display a poster of her from the official site. [cite video | people = Madeline McCann, Zoë Wanamaker (voice) | title = Video Appeal | publisher = McCann Family, Sky News | url =,,31200-1266568,00.html | date = 2007-05-21 ]

The family have said that some of the money raised from Madeleine's Fund would go towards hiring campaigning professionals with the aim of achieving the same saturation level of publicity across Europe as they have attained in the UK and the Algarve. [cite news | last = Tremlett | first = Giles | title = Multinationals get behind hunt for Madeleine | publisher = "The Guardian" | date = May 18, 2007 | url =,,2082626,00.html#article_continue | accessdate = 2007-06-03 ] The family based themselves in the same holiday resort from the time of the disappearance, at the time stating they would remain there until Madeleine was located, though as part of the campaign the McCanns have visited Vatican City, Spain, Germany and Morocco to raise awareness and on 5 June they made an appeal on the British TV programme "Crimewatch". [cite news |first= |last= |authorlink= |author=Ian Herbert |coauthors= |title=Madeleine 'sightings' mount as the agony goes on and on |url=|format= |work=The Independent |publisher= |id= |pages= |page= |date=May 20, 2007 |accessdate=2007-05-21 |language= ] [cite news | last = Edwards | first = Richard | title = No answers as McCanns' campaign marches on | publisher = "The Daily Telegraph" | date = June 06, 2007 | url = | accessdate = 2007-06-06 ] However, shortly after being named as arguidos, the McCanns returned to the UK on 9 September.cite news | title = Madeleine parents head back to UK | publisher = BBC News | date = 2007-09-09 |accessdate = 2007-09-09 |url =]

Madeleine's father had already made a brief trip to the UK on 20 May to help finalise the campaign for the search for his daughter. [cite news |first= |last= |authorlink= |author=Staff and agencies |coauthors= |title=Madeleine's father returns to UK |url=,,2084699,00.html |format= |work=The Guardian |publisher= |id= |pages= |page= |date=May 21, 2007 |accessdate=2007-05-21 |language= |quote= ] Gerry McCann visited the United States between 22 and 25 July 2007 when he met U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and experts from the National and International Centres for Missing and Exploited Children. During interviews on network television programmes Gerry was forced to defend leaving the children alone. [cite news | last = Moult | first = Julie | title = Madeleine's father quizzed over decision to leave her on her own | publisher = "Mail on Sunday" | date = 25 July, 2007 | url = | accessdate = 2007-07-26 ]

The family announced on 15 September that, beginning in a fortnight, they would be spending up to £80,000, from Madeleine's Fund, on a new publicity drive, involving newspaper, television and poster advertising in order to further publicise Madeleine's disappearance. [cite news | title = Push for Madeleine ad publicity | publisher = BBC | date = 15 September, 2007 | url = | accessdate = 2007-09-16 ] This will include posters in rural parts of Portugal and Spain and television advertisements, in Arabic, in Morocco. [cite news | author=Mark Townsend and James Robinson| title = Arabic advertisements aid Madeleine hunt | publisher = The Observer | date = 30 September, 2007 | url =,,2180221,00.html | accessdate = 2007-09-30 ] In late October the McCanns set up a hotline + 34 902 300213, manned by private detectives, for people in the Iberian Peninsula and north Africa to phone with information. [cite news | title = McCanns set up phone line | publisher = The Scotsman | date = 24 October, 2007 | url = | accessdate = 2007-10-27 ]

Over Christmas 2007 the family made a further television appeal. This had produced, by 27 December, 347 phone calls with information with more subsequently. [cite news | title = Hundreds ring hotline after Madeleine plea | publisher = The Times | date = 2007-12-27 | url = | accessdate = 2007-12-27 ]

By others

After the disappearance many unofficial webpages were created, notably on social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace, offering support to the McCanns. An unofficial one minute's silence was held for Madeleine on 21 May 2007 but since it was organised by an anonymous viral email, it was not thought to be widely observed. [cite news|url=|title=Silence Held For Missing Madeleine McCann|publisher=Sky News|date=2007-05-21|accessdate=2007-05-21]

Robert Murat, a suspect in the investigation, has tried to generate his own publicity by selling his story. However, publicist Max Clifford indicated that he would only represent Murat if he was cleared of suspicion of kidnapping. [cite news|url=|title=Kidnap suspect looks to cash in on ordeal|publisher="Gulf Times"|date=2007-05-23|accessdate=2007-05-23] Within the virtual world Second Life, a virtual "Madeleine's Garden" has been created. [cite web|url=|title=Inside MaddieWorld|publisher=The First Post|accessdate = 2007-05-31] In early July, Bryan Adams dedicated his concert on Malta to Madeleine. [cite news | title = Singer To Dedicate Gig To Madeleine | publisher = Sky News | date = June 26, 2007 | url =,,91210-1272365,00.html | accessdate = 2007-06-26 ]

J. K. Rowling arranged with her publishers for a poster bearing the face of the missing child to be made available to book sellers when "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" was launched on 21 July. Rowling said that she hoped that the posters would be displayed prominently in shops all over the world. [cite news | title = Rowling in Madeleine poster plea | publisher = BBC News | date = 2007-07-16| accessdate = 2007-07-17 | url =]

Political reaction

The Portuguese Ambassador in London, António Santana Carlos said on 8 May 2007 that the case was of "great concern" to Portugal and asked people to trust the police,cite news|url=|title=Portugal defends Madeleine police|publisher=BBC News|accessdate = 2007-05-08] amidst growing criticism of their handling of the case.cite news|url=|title=CLUELESS - We reveal errors made by police in kidnap hunt for Maddy|publisher="Daily Mirror"|date=2007-05-09|accessdate = 2007-05-09] President Aníbal Cavaco Silva announced on 9 May that he was following the case "with great concern", adding that the police were "doing everything to find the child alive."cite news|url=|title=Video tape may show missing Maddie||date=2007-05-09|accessdate = 2007-06-08]

On 9 May, Tony Blair's spokesperson said that the then Prime Minister was following the case closely and that "we are helping in whatever way we can". On May 16, coinciding with the launch of the fighting fund former Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown (now PM) told relatives of Madeleine that he would help "in any way he can".cite news | title = Brown offers help over Madeleine | work = BBC News | publisher = BBC | date = 2007-05-16 |url=| accessdate = 2007-05-26 ] Former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott also commented on the case, saying at Prime Minister's Question Time "I'm sure that the thoughts of the whole House will be with them at this terrible time."

On 26 May, a spokesman for the McCann family confirmed that Gordon Brown had telephoned the McCanns.cite news | title = Brown offers support for McCanns | work = BBC News | publisher = BBC | date = 2007-05-26 | url = | accessdate = 2007-05-26 ] Though the spokesman stated that the details of the conversations would remain private, he did confirm that "During them, Mr Brown offered both Gerry and Kate his full support in their efforts to find Madeleine." In late September Foreign Secretary David Miliband telephoned Gerry.cite news |url= |title= McCanns send sleuths to Morocco |author=Steven Swinford, John Follainin and Mohamed El Hamraoui |publisher=The Times |date=2007-09-30|accessdate = 2007-09-30]

Germany's Justice Minister, Brigitte Zypries, said at a meeting of G8 justice ministers in Munich on 3 June, that it should be assumed that Madeleine had been abducted by a gang that passes on children to be abused. [cite news | title = Madeleine paedophile gang theory 'is likely' | publisher = "The Scotsman" | date = 2007-06-03 | url = | accessdate = 2007-06-04 ] But the Portuguese prime minister, José Sócrates, praised investigators in September 2007, following criticism in the British media of the police handling of the case. Sócrates said that he had total confidence in the work carried out by the Portuguese police. [cite news | title = Madeleine prosecutors seek diaries and toys, reports say | publisher = "The Guardian" |author= David Batty, James Sturcke |date = 2007-09-12 | url =,,2167511,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=networkfront | accessdate = 2007-09-12 ]

Theories by experts

The disappearance provoked differing analyses by experts. Shortly after Madeleine went missing two former Scotland Yard commanders expressed the view that she had been abducted. Roy Ramm considered that it was a carefully planned kidnapping by someone who had been watching the child. [cite news | title = Britons join search for lost toddler | publisher = "The Times" |author= John Follain and Jon Ungoed-Thomas |date = 2007-05-06 | url = |accessdate = 2007-10-13] John O'Connor was of the view that Madeleine had wandered out of the apartment on her own and was subsequently abducted. O'Connor opined that she was likely to be nearby and recommended a thorough search of surrounding occupied premises. [cite news | title = Madeleine's Eye Holds Vital Clue | publisher = "Sky News" |date = 2007-05-14 | url =,,91210-1265416,00.html|accessdate = 2007-10-13] This hypothesis was also supported by Criminologist Mark Williams-Thomas who said, in May 2008, that he believed what happened was that Madeleine woke up, walked around the apartment, found the back patio door was insecure and wandered out. It was at this point that she was most likely abducted by an opportunistic predatory paedophile. [cite news | title = Madeleine: 'My Theories On Missing Girl' | publisher = Sky News | author=Mark Williams-Thomas | date = 2008-05-01 | accessdate = 2008-05-25 |url =,,30000-1314624,00.html]

Paulo Sargento, a criminal psychologist at Lusófona University in Lisbon, however had produced in October 2007 a 3D reconstruction of events at the Ocean Club on the evening Madeleine disappeared. His view was that that kidnapping would be inconsistent with the evidence. [cite news | title = Reconstruction 'casts doubt on Madeleine McCann kidnapping' | publisher = "The Times" |author= David Brown |date = 2007-10-09 | url = |accessdate = 2007-10-12] [cite news |title = Desaparecimento de Madeleine McCann | publisher = "Videos.sapos" |date = 2007-10-08 | url= |accessdate = 2007-10-12] The case was also reviewed by the notable forensic investigator Professor David Barclay of Robert Gordon University. [cite news |url= |title=World renowned forensic investigator and 'Waking the Dead' advisor joins RGU |publisher=Robert Gordon University|date=2007-04-03|accessdate = 2007-10-20] His opinion was that the police were right to consider the McCanns as suspects and that the child is probably dead. [cite news |url= |title=Forensic expert defends Portugese police involved in Madeleine case |publisher=STV|date=undated|accessdate = 2007-10-15]

Fund raising

Madeleine's Fund

A fund-raising company, known as "Madeleine's Fund: Leaving No Stone Unturned", was launched in Leicester on 16 May 2007. The Fund is a limited company, not a registered charity, because its objectives are not wide enough to satisfy Charity Commission criteria for UK charities. [cite news|url=|title=McCanns may use Madeleine fund for defence
publisher=Daily Telegraph|date=2007-09-12|accessdate = 2007-09-12
] The objectives include helping the extended family with their expenses (to prevent abuse, payments can only be authorised by the independent members of the board who are not family members) and continuing the investigation independently should that prove necessary. Any excess funds would be used to help search for other abducted children [cite news|url=|title=Madeleine fighting fund launched|publisher=BBC News|date=2007-05-16|accessdate = 2007-05-16] The Fund's website reportedly received 58 million hits and 16,000 messages of support by 18 May, only two days after its launch. [cite news|url=|title=Madeleine film plan for Cup Final|date=2007-05-18|publisher=BBC News|accessdate = 2007-05-18] Over £1,095,000 had been raised by 30 October 2007. [ [ "Madeleine's Fund: Leaving No Stone Unturned"] ] Two £2,000 monthly re-payments on the McCanns' mortgage were made from the Fund in July and August.cite news |url= |title=McCanns used £1m fund to pay mortgage |author=Caroline Gammell
publisher=The Daily Telegraph|date=2007-10-31|accessdate = 2008-04-20

Legal costs funding

The trustees of "Madeleine's Fund" announced in September that the fund would not be used to pay the McCanns' legal costs. [cite news|url= |title=Parents will have to pay defence costs without Madeleine’s Fund |author=Adam Fresco, Patrick Foster and Fran Yeoman |publisher=The Times|date=2007-09-13|accessdate = 2007-09-13] Initially, the McCanns considered setting up a separate appeal fund for legal expenses. [cite news |author= Adam Fresco and David Brown |url=| title=Madeleine's parents consider new fund for legal battle |publisher="The Times"|date=2007-09-12|accessdate = 2007-09-12] However, Richard Branson created a fund for the McCann's legal expenses, including those of their current advisor, Michael Caplan QC, a solicitor and partner in the London firm of Kingsley Napley. [cite news|url=|title=Branson fund for McCanns' lawyers |publisher=BBC News|date=2007-09-16|accessdate = 2007-09-16] Stephen Winyard came out in December as having contributed £100,000 to the McCanns defence fund, which paid for DNA tests carried out on the Renault Scénic hire car used by the McCanns. He also revealed Brian Kennedy as another donor.cite news|url= |title=Scots tycoon attacks 'scurrilous allegations' as he comes out as McCanns' secret funder |author=Michael Howie |publisher=The Scotsman|date=2007-12-08|accessdate = 2007-12-09]

Potential frauds

A number of unofficial websites were registered which had domain names that contained slight misspellings of Madeleine's name, plus key words likely to be used in searches. This is a practice known as typosquatting and these websites contained content not related to Madeleine. [cite news | last = Mills | first = James | coauthors = Greenhill, Sam Rees, Gwyneth | title = Sick web hijackers cash in on Madeleine | work = Daily Mail | publisher = Daily Mail and General Trust | date = May 19, 2007 | url = | accessdate = 2007-05-22 ]

There have also been people collecting money on the false premise that they were representing Madeleine's Fund, one of whom, Debbie Clifton, was jailed for 90 days. [cite news|url=|title=AMadeleine cash theft woman jailed |publisher=BBC News|date=2007-07-09|accessdate=2007-07-10]

On 28 June 2007 police arrested an Italian man and a Portuguese woman at a villa in Sotogrande, Cádiz over allegations that they had tried to defraud the McCanns by claiming a reward for information about their daughter. However, police said that there was no direct link with Madeleine's kidnap. [cite news|url=|title=Italian arrest in Madeleine case|publisher=BBC News|date=2007-06-28|accessdate=2007-06-28] Then on 6 July police in the Netherlands arrested a man who allegedly demanded two million euros from the McCanns for information about their missing daughter. [cite news|url=|title=Man held over Madeleine McCann extortion|publisher="The Times"|date=2007-07-06|accessdate=2007-07-10]

Libel actions

The McCanns announced on 31 August that they were suing the Portuguese tabloid "Tal & Qual" for libel. The newspaper reported that the "police believe" that the McCanns killed Madeleine, suggesting she may have died in an accident or from a drugs overdose. [cite news
title = McCanns to sue Portuguese paper
publisher = BBC News
date = 31 August, 2007
url =
accessdate = 2007-08-31
] The McCanns' lawyer, Carlos Pinto de Abreu, said the couple's image had been "dragged through the dirt" by "character-assassinating, tabloid-style" news reports, adding that the press "has engaged in a horrific exercise in scandal-mongering, replete with rumours and lurid sell more TV time and newspaper space to advertisers". The police stressed that the McCanns were not suspects. [cite news
title = McCanns in legal move on newspaper
publisher = "The Guardian"
date = 31 August, 2007
url =,,-6888704,00.html
accessdate = 2007-08-31

"Tal & Qual" stood by the story. The journalist who wrote the article, Catarina Vaz Guerreiro, said "I can't reveal my source, but I have complete trust in them. I strongly believe that the person that gave us this information is telling the truth." [cite news
title = Top detective in Madeleine inquiry backs 'innocent' McCanns
publisher = "Daily Mail"
date = 31 August, 2007
url =
accessdate = 2007-08-31
] The paper ceased publication after 28 September 2007, because of a drop in circulation.cite news
title = Jornal "Tal & Qual" acaba amanhã
publisher = Público
date = 27 September, 2007
url =
accessdate = 2007-09-28

The ASFIC's (Associação Sindical dos Funcionários de Investigação Criminal da Polícia Judiciária) General Secretary, Carlos Garcia, declared on 10 August 2007 that the union representing the PJ intended to take legal action against those British journalists who had accused Portuguese police officers of forging evidence. He stated that, at the beginning of the investigation, a joint working group had been created with the British police, and that they had been working in close cooperation. Thus when the Portuguese police is criticised, so too is the British police. He claimed that the number of abductions resulting in murder was a decisive factor that determined the different methods of investigation adopted by the two forces. [cite news
title = Agentes da PJ querem processar jornalistas ingleses
publisher = "Público"
date = 18 August, 2007
url =
accessdate = 2007-11-01

In March 2008, the McCanns launched a libel suit against the "Daily Express" and its sister newspaper, the "Daily Star", as well as their Sunday equivalents, following the newspapers' coverage of the case. The action concerned more than 100 stories across the four newspapers, which accused the McCanns of involvement in their daughter's disappearance. One immediate consequence of the action was that Express Newspapers pulled all references to Madeleine from its websites. [cite news
title = Express titles cut back McCann coverage
publisher = The Guardian
author = Leigh Holmwood
date = 13 March, 2008
url =
accessdate = 2008-03-17
] In a settlement reached at the High Court of Justice, the newspapers agreed to run a front-page apology to the McCanns on 19 March 2008, publish another apology on the front pages of the Sunday editions of 23 March and make a statement of apology at the High Court. These apologies were described by media commentator Roy Greenslade as "unprecedented".cite news | url= | title=Damages due over McCann stories | publisher=BBC News Online | date=March 18 2008] In its apology, the "Express" stated that "a number of articles in the newspaper have suggested that the couple caused the death of their missing daughter Madeleine and then covered it up. We acknowledge that there is no evidence whatsoever to support this theory and that Kate and Gerry are completely innocent of any involvement in their daughter's disappearance." [cite news | url= | title=Kate and Gerry McCann: Sorry | publisher=Daily Express | date=March 19 2008 | accessdate = 2008-03-19] The McCanns also accepted £550,000 ($1.1 million) damages and costs. [cite news | url= | title=McCanns win $1M libel damages | publisher=CNN | date=March 19 2008 |accessdate = 2008-03-19] They promised to pay the damages into "Madeleine’s Fund".

Robert Murat instigated defamation proceedings against Sky News and 11 British newspapers, in April 2008. He used London solicitors Simon, Muirhead and Burton on a conditional fee agreement. The first paper to settle was The Scotsman who published an apology on 15 May but paid no damages. [cite news |url=|title=Scotsman apologises to Robert Murat for defamatory Madeline McCann story |date=2008-05-16 |accessdate=2008-05-18 |author=Patrick Smith |publisher=Press Gazette] The newspaper groups Associated Newspapers, Express Newspapers, MGN Limited and News Group Newspapers settled with Murat, on 17 July, for a £600,000 payout. They also issued a public apology in the High Court. Sergey Malinka, and Murat's girlfriend Michaela Walczuch, accepted more than £100,000 each. [cite news |url= |title=Robert Murat accepts £600,000 after Madeleine McCann allegations |date=2008-07-17 |accessdate=2008-07-17 |author=Nico Hines |publisher=The Times]


* "Maddie 129" is a book, ISBN 9789898028617, that covers the 129 days between Madeleine's disappearance and the McCanns' return to Rothley. The book claims to identify contradictions and unanswered questions in the accounts of the McCanns and their friends. It was published in early November 2007, in English by Prime Books, and written by two Portuguese journalists Hernâni Carvalho and Luís Maia. [cite news
title = Madeleine book notes the 'contradictions'
author = Ned Temko
publisher = "The Observer"
date = 4 November, 2007
url =,,2205019,00.html
accessdate = 2007-11-13
* "A Culpa dos McCann" (The Guilt of the McCanns), was published in Portugal in December 2007. Written by Portuguese daily newspaper Correio da Manhã editor-in-chief Manuel Catarino, it was published by Guerra & Paz. [cite news
title = Madeleine book notes the 'contradictions'
author = Alison Flood
publisher = ""
date = 3 December, 2007
url =
accessdate = 2007-12-09
* "Madeleine: A Heartbreaking and Extraordinary Disappearance", ISBN 9780850793482, was published in December 2007 by Express Newspapers and written by Robert Downing.
* "A Estrela de Madeleine" (The Star of Madeleine), written by Paulo Pereira Cristóvão, was published by Editorial Presença. [ [ The World According to Alsabella: The Star of Madeleine promisses the truth dressed up as an "enigma" ] ]
* "O Enigma da Praia da Luz" (The Enigma of Praia da Luz), was written by Francisco Duarte de Carvalho and was published by Editora Guerra & Paz. ISBN 9789898014917
* "Maddie, a Verdade da Mentira" (Maddie, the Truth of the Lie), written by Gonçalo Amaral, who had originally headed the police investigation, was published by Guerra & Paz on 24 July 2008. [cite news
title = Detective's book claims Madeleine McCann died in apartment
author = Haroon Siddique
publisher = "The Guardian"
date = 24 July, 2008
url =
accessdate = 2008-07-26

Film and television

BBC Panorama

The BBC Panorama current affairs programme screened an edition called 'The Mystery of Madeleine McCann' on 19 November 2007. It attracted 5.3 million viewers.cite news
title = McCanns mull ITV documentary offer
publisher = The Guardian
author = Leigh Holmwood
date = 11 March, 2008
url =
accessdate = 2008-03-11
] The programme reviewed the evidence that was currently publicly available but did not come to a conclusion on what happened to Madeleine. [cite news
title = The Mystery of Madeleine McCann
publisher = BBC
date = 18 November, 2007
url =
accessdate = 2007-11-30
] The original producer of the programme walked out, claiming that criticism of the media and the Portuguese police had been toned down for the broadcast version.

Proposed documentaries

The McCanns have given permission for talks to open about the possibility of the disappearance being made into a documentary film. Spokesman Clarence Mitchell confirmed that a meeting, with talent agency and production company IMG to discuss a possible film, was held in December 2007, but the proposal was abandoned. [cite news
title = Parents may turn Madeleine McCann story into a Hollywood movie
author = Rajeev Syal and Dominic Kennedy
publisher = The Times
date = 9 January, 2008
url =
accessdate = 2008-01-09

Mitchell also confirmed, in March 2008, that discussions were taking place with ITV and other companies over the possibility of the McCanns appearing in a documentary, which would focus on missing children in general and the different initiatives used to help look for them. The programme, "Madeleine, One Year On:Campaign For Change", was broadcast on ITV1 on 30 April 2008. The programme's producers said the McCanns had no editorial control and were not paid, although £10,000 was donated to the Find Madeleine fund. [cite web|author=Rachel Williams|title=Madeleine anniversary: McCanns tell of regrets in TV documentary|publisher=The Guardian|url=|date=2008-04-30|accessdate=2008-04-30]

Implications for television programmes and films

On May 9 2007, ITV announced it would be rewriting a planned child kidnap plot, despite having already filmed some scenes, from their popular soap "Coronation Street".cite news|url=|title=Street rethinks child kidnap plot|publisher=BBC|work=BBC News|date=2007-05-09|accessdate=2007-05-25] Similarly on 23 May, the BBC also announced that it was scrapping a storyline from rival soap "EastEnders", that had already been filmed, which also was to feature the kidnapping of a child.cite news|last=Nathan|first=Sara|url=,,2001320029-2007230631,00.html|title=Enders cancel Maddie plot|publisher="The Sun"|date=2007-05-23|accessdate=2007-05-25] In both cases these plot lines were removed or altered due to the parallel with the Madeleine case, and because the channels did not want to cause further distress to the McCann family. The BBC also stated that they did not want to upset other viewers and felt that the plot would have been "inappropriate" to broadcast at that time.

In September 2007, actor and director Ben Affleck postponed the UK release of his film "Gone Baby Gone", which had been scheduled for release on 28 December,to April 18 2008. Its plot centres on the abduction of a four-year-old girl who is left at home alone by her mother. The actress who plays the girl, Madeline O'Brien, reportedly resembles Madeleine. According to Affleck, the release of the film in Britain was delayed because those involved with the film don't want to "touch a nerve or inflame anybody's sensitivities." [cite news|last=Franklin|first=Katie|url=|title=US film pulled over McCann case |author=Neil Smith |publisher="BBC News"|date=2007-09-13|accessdate=2007-09-13]


Church services were held in Portugal and the UK on 3 May 2008, to mark the first anniversary of Madeleine's disappearance. [cite web|author=Esther Addley|title=Services to mark year since Madeleine vanished|publisher=The Guardian|url=|date=2008-05-03|accessdate=2008-05-03]


There were many appeals for Madeleine's safe return. These ranged from her family to celebrities, and included church leaders and the police.

From the family

Her father, Gerry McCann, said, "Words cannot describe the anguish and despair that we are feeling. Please, if you have Madeleine, let her come home to her Mummy, Daddy, brother and sister."cite news|url=|title=Abducted girl's parents pray for her safe return|publisher=Reuters|author=Axel Bugge|date=2007-05-06|accessdate = 2007-05-06] He went on to say that the family would leave "no stone unturned" in the search for Madeleine and that he and his wife "remained positive." [cite news|url=|title=Madeleine parents 'won't give up'|publisher=BBC News|date=2007-05-11|accessdate = 2007-05-11]

Madeleine's aunt, Philomena McCann, drew up a poster [cite news|url=|title=Copy of 'Missing Madeleine' poster|publisher=Sky News|accessdate = 2007-05-09] to circulate in a chain email to help find the child. She also commented during a live phone interview that there was little coverage of the case in other countries apart from the UK and Portugal. [cite news|url=,,91210-1264740,00.html|title=Madeleine's Family Send Out Email Poster|publisher=Sky News|date=2007-05-09|accessdate = 2007-05-09]

From the police

On 21 May 2007, the British Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) reported that British police are calling on visitors to the Ocean Club Resort, Praia da Luz, or the surrounding areas in the two weeks leading up to Madeleine’s disappearance on Thursday 3 May to provide copies of any relevant photographs taken during their stay, in an attempt to identify an abductor using a biometric facial recognition application, through which the features of bystanders in those photographs could be compared to those of international sex offenders and other criminals.cite news|url=|title=Help find Madeleine McCann|publisher=Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre|date=2007-05-21|accessdate = 2007-05-21] [cite news|url=,,30100-1266780,00.html|title=Madeleine's Dad Arrives Back In Portugal|publisher=Sky News|date=2007-05-22] By 1 June, over one thousand photographs had been uploaded. [cite news|url=|title=Madeleine McCann: Photos flood in|publisher=ITV News|date=2007-06-01|accessdate=2007-06-02]

From religious leaders

On 11 May 2007 Roman Catholic Archbishop Mario Conti of Glasgow said that his prayers would continue for the safe return of Madeleine [cite news|url=|title=£1m Reward Offered for Missing Madeleine|publisher=Christian Today|date=2007-05-11|accessdate = 2007-06-02] Then on 30 May, Pope Benedict XVI, at an audience in the Vatican with the McCanns, promised to pray for the girl's safe return. [cite news|url=,,2091210,00.html|title=Madeleine's parents meet Pope|publisher="The Guardian"|date=2007-05-30|accessdate = 2007-05-30]

From sport

From football

Manchester United footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, who is Portuguese, made a televised appeal on MUTV for her safe return saying "I was very upset to hear of the abduction of Madeleine McCann and I appeal to anyone with information to come forward - please come forward." [Cite news|url=|title=Star Ronaldo in Madeleine appeal|publisher="Irish Examiner"|date=2007-05-08|accessdate = 2007-05-09] Chelsea and England footballer John Terry and his Portuguese team-mate Paulo Ferreira said that they were "devastated to hear that young Maddy was abducted. Our thoughts and feelings go out to her parents, her family and we are urging anyone out there with any information at all, please, please, please come forward." [cite news|url=|title=Paedophile link probed in Madeleine hunt|publisher=ITV News|date=2007-05-09|accessdate = 2007-05-09] On 11 May 2007, David Beckham also made a public appeal. "If you have seen this little girl please could you go to your local authorities or police and give any information that you have," said Beckham, holding up poster with a photograph of Madeleine. [ [ "David Beckham appeals for information on missing toddler Madeleine McCann"] , "International Herald Tribune", 11 May 2007]

After a picture was released of Madeleine in an Everton shirt, Everton's Portuguese footballers Nuno Valente and Manuel Fernandes appealed for any news on her whereabouts and Phil Neville issued the following statement on behalf of the club. "Everton has fans all over the world and I know that they, along with everyone connected with the football club, are hoping and praying for Madeleine's safe return. Our thoughts are very much with the family at this extremely distressing time." Manager David Moyes added "Everybody here is desperately wanting to hear good news and my thoughts and prayers are with the family. If anybody out there knows anything, please come forward". [cite news|url=|title=Everton appeal for Madeleine|publisher=Everton F.C.|date=2007-05-11|accessdate = 2007-05-11] Celtic footballer Neil Lennon made an appeal for Madeleine's safety and yellow armbands were worn on 12 May 2007 against Aberdeen to mark her fourth birthday. [cite news|url=|title=Celtic players to wear yellow armbands|publisher=Celtic F.C.|date=2007-05-11|accessdate = 2007-05-11]

A video appealing for help with the search for Madeleine was broadcast to Spanish football fans visiting the city of Glasgow for the UEFA Cup final on 16 May. [cite news|url=|title=Spanish fans shown Madeleine film|publisher=BBC News Online|date=2007-05-16|accessdate = 2007-05-19] Another film was broadcast at half-time during the English FA Cup Final on 19 May. [cite news|url=,,91210-1266418,00.html|title=Candle-Lit Vigil And Prayers For Madeleine|publisher=Sky News|date=2007-05-18] Before their departure for the Champions League final on Monday 21 May, Liverpool FC's squad were photographed with a banner appealing for any information on Madeleine's whereabouts.cite news|url=|title=Minute silence held for Madeleine|publisher=BBC News|date=2007-05-21|accessdate=2007-05-21]

From cricket

The England cricket team wore yellow ribbons during the Lords' Test match against the West Indies, in May 2007, to show their support for Madeleine. A picture of Madeleine was also shown on the big screen at the match. [cite news | title = England cricket team join support to help find Madeleine | work = Daily Mail | publisher = Daily Mail and General Trust | date = 2007-05-25 | url = | accessdate = 2007-05-26 ]

From education

In an effort to publicise her disappearance, the pupils of Bishop Ellis Catholic Primary School, the school that Madeleine would have attended from September 2007, lined up in the school's playground on 18 June to spell out "Find Madeleine". This was easily readable from the air. [cite news | title = Schoolkids send heartfelt plea | work = The Sun | date = 2007-06-19 | url =,,2005320001-2007280257,00.html | accessdate = 2007-06-19 ] In August the school announced that they had saved a desk, coat peg and locker for the child. [cite news | title = A peg for Maddy | work = The Daily Mirror | date = 2007-08-19 | url = | accessdate = 2007-08-28 ] [cite news | title = Empty seat for Maddie on first day at school | work = Daily Express | date = 2007-08-31 | url ='s-school-seat-left-empty | accessdate = 2007-08-31 ]


Of the public and political reaction

The scale of the public reaction provoked negative comment from a number of media commentators. On 16 May 2007 on BBC Radio 4, Matthew Parris said that politicians' displays of concern were "hollow". He also claimed that politicians "read the common newspapers and they decide this is what the common people feel, and they get all caught up with it. But it's all to do with trying to associate themselves with the common herd and they're not part of it. They're politicians". [cite web|url=|title=There’s something hollow about it|author=Matthew Parris|publisher="The First Post"|date=2007-05-16|accessdate = 2007-05-31] He went on to say, in his column on 17 May, that MPs wearing yellow ribbons was mawkish and an attempt to "tap in to the emotions of the mob". [cite web|url=|title=Now no one will realise that I’m nuts about Hazel|author=Matthew Parris|publisher="The Times"|date=2007-05-17|accessdate = 2007-05-19] Then on 19 May, "The Guardian" described the public reaction as hysteria and drew a parallel with the response to the "News of the World"'s anti-paedophile campaign. [cite news |first=Emma |last=Brockes |authorlink=Emma Brockes |author= |coauthors= |title=In chatrooms and message boards, Madeleine hysteria grips the world |url=,,2083248,00.html |format= |work= |publisher="The Guardian" |id= |pages= |page= |date=2007-05-19|accessdate=2007-05-19 |language= ]

Writing in The Times on 16 September, India Knight criticised the on-line community for its censorious attitude and its willingness to rush to judgement whilst pointing out that the McCanns had contributed to the public's obsession with the case by their extensive and well-orchestrated media campaign. [cite news |author=India Knight |title=Madeleine McCann: You are all guilty |url= |publisher="The Times" |date=2007-09-16 |accessdate=2007-12-06] A debate on the disappearance was held at the London School of Economics on 30 January 2008. Though the debate was inconclusive, the stridently critical attitude of the on-line community towards the McCanns, noted by Knight, also manifested itself in the audience reaction. [cite news |author=Roy Greenslade |title=The McCanns' debate: from banality to an outpouring of bile |url= |publisher="The Guardian" |date=2008-01-31 |accessdate=2008-02-01]

Of the media coverage

Importance of the coverage

Some have suggested that the high level of media coverage could be attributable to Madeleine's race, nationality, or socio-economic status. "The Independent", in an editorial on 15 May 2007, described the media coverage as showing a warped sense of priorities and condemned the criticism of the Portuguese authorities as jingoism. [cite web|url=|title=Wild theories and a warped sense of priorities|author=Editorial|publisher="The Independent"|date=2007-05-15|accessdate = 2007-05-19] In his 17 May column in Portugal's "Público" newspaper, the former head of Portugal's bar association, José Miguel Júdice, said the enormous mobilisation was due to the fact that the little girl "is English, white, and the daughter of doctors."cite news|url=|title=Some Missing Children More Equal than Others|author=Mario de Queiroz|publisher=Inter Press Service|date=2007-05-18|accessdate=2007-05-19]

On 18 May, "Inter Press Service" drew attention to the fact that that some observers point out that Madeleine comes from a well-heeled British family (both of her parents are doctors), unlike so many Portuguese or immigrant children whose disappearance has drawn scant attention from the press. There has also been criticism of the weight put on this case in the light of many other, unpublicised, children's disappearances.cite news|url=|title=Some Missing Children More Equal than Others|author=Mario de Queiroz|publisher=Inter Press Service|date=2007-05-18|accessdate=2007-05-19]

Also on 18 May, "The Scotsman" commented that "... there was evidence that public opinion, while strongly supportive of the child's distraught parents Kate and Gerry McCann, was growing alarmed at what it viewed as relentless, almost prurient coverage." [cite news
last = Baker
first = Luke
title = Has Britain gone overboard for missing Madeleine?
publisher = "The Scotsman"
date = May 18, 2007
url =
accessdate = 2007-05-23
] Channel 4 News presenter Alex Thomson has said the Madeleine McCann story did not deserve its news ranking. "I've been sickened by the way the media have allowed themselves to be taken for a full-scale ride by the McCanns." He added that the parents' conduct, "a contributory factor in the abduction, was largely downplayed or ignored altogether by sycophantic, gullible blanket coverage." [cite news
last = Thomson
first = Alex
title = Paris Hilton? Not on my watch!
publisher = "Press Gazette"
date = 6 July, 2007
url =
accessdate = 2007-07-06

Raymond Snoddy wrote in "Marketing": "To what extent has all this coverage been kept afloat for so long because the child is white and photogenic, and has articulate, resourceful parents? Of course, the news value of the story was also enhanced by context - everyone's worst nightmare, a child snatched from an apparently secure apartment in an upmarket holiday resort. But the sad truth is that if a black child had been snatched from a sink estate in Liverpool or Glasgow, the chances are you would not know their name." [cite news
last = Snoddy
first = Raymond
title = Was TV coverage right for Madeleine?
publisher = "Marketing"
date = 13 June, 2007
url =
accessdate = 2007-07-28
page = 20
id = ISSN 00253650, ProQuest document ID: 1297467781

Gerry, who had encouraged media coverage, criticised "De Telegraaf" on 14 June for publishing a lettercite news | title = Madeleine police probing letter | work = BBC News | publisher = BBC | date = 2007-06-13 | url =] claiming to know the location of Madeleine's body, calling it "an irresponsible piece of journalism" and "insensitive and cruel". [cite news
last = Siddique
first = Haroon
title = Madeleine's parents condemn publication of letter
publisher = "The Guardian"
date = June 14, 2007
url =,,2103138,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=11
accessdate = 2007-06-14
] Portuguese police searched the site but found no trace of Madeleine. [cite news
last = Reis
first = Paolo
title = Detectives’ hunt for Madeleine ‘was illegal’
publisher = "The Times"
date = 25 August, 2007
url =
accessdate = 2007-09-01
] At the Edinburgh International Television Festival on 25 August, Gerry complained about the amount of media attention, on the disappearance, that he claimed was 10 times what he had expected. He also criticised wild speculation being erroneously reported as fact. [cite news
last = Kelbie
first = Paul
title = Madeleine's father appeals for restraint by the media
publisher = "The Observer"
date = 26 August, 2007
url =,,2156496,00.html
accessdate = 2007-08-26

There was criticism by the "Daily Express" of the stories run in the Portuguese media. In an article on 28 August that summarised the speculation, the "Daily Express" accused the local media of "a vile whispering campaign, which has led to them [the McCanns] suffering a daily torrent of smears" and described the stories suggesting that the McCanns had involvement in their daughter's disappearance as "lies". [cite news
last = Flanagan
first = Padraic
title = McCanns Rocked By Stream Of Vicious Smears
publisher = "Daily Express"
date = 28 August, 2007
url =
accessdate = 2007-08-29

Journalist Martin Bell accused the BBC of wasting hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money in its coverage of the disappearance. In January 2008 Bell said "I’m calling it the death of news. It is the stupidification of the news agenda. It is pretty obvious television news has lost its way not just with the McCann case but that has been extreme." [cite news
last = Nicole
first = Martin
title = BBC 'wasted money' covering McCann case
publisher = "The Daily Telegraph"
date = 16 January, 2008
url =
accessdate = 2008-01-16

A comparison was drawn, in early March 2008, between the publicity given to Madeleine with the much lower key publicity for the disappearance of Shannon Matthews. The Guardian explained this by stating that "Overarching everything is social class" but they added that Shannon going missing in the UK made a difference. The Independent took the same line saying "Kate and Gerry McCann had a lot: they were a couple of nice middle-class doctors on holiday in an upmarket resort" "Karen Matthews is not as elegant, nor as eloquent". [cite news
last = Greenslade
first = Roy
title = Why is missing Shannon not getting the same coverage as Madeleine?
publisher = "The Guardian"
date = 5 March, 2008
url =
accessdate = 2008-03-05
] [cite news
last = Nicole
first = Martin
title = Missing: The contrasting searches for Shannon and Madeleine
publisher = "The Independent"
date = 2 March, 2008
url =
accessdate = 2008-03-05

Objectivity of the coverage

In an interview published on 1 July Martin Brunt, a Sky News journalist who had covered the case extensively, conceded that the media's handling of the Madeleine McCann disappearance had been flawed. "It's the view of a few of us that when we look back over the first two or three weeks of the coverage we were in some ways over-sympathetic. We kind of adopted the tone and the language that the family did. I think we perhaps lost our objectivity a bit, we became a bit too subjective about the story." [cite news
last = Brunt
first = Martin
title = Brunt of the Yard presents his case
publisher = "The Independent"
date = 2 July, 2007
url =
accessdate = 2007-07-02

The British media has been criticised for being heavily critical of the Portuguese police and legal system. [cite news
last = Jenkins
first = Simon
title = The British media does not do responsibility. It does stories
publisher = "The Guardian"
date = 18 May, 2007
url =,,2082507,00.html
accessdate = 2007-09-10
] "The Guardian" noted that the British media compared the Portuguese procedures with British procedures unfavourably and unfairly. [cite news
last = Berlins
first = Marcel
title = Media have rushed to judge Portuguese police
publisher = "The Guardian"
date = 10 September, 2007
url =,,2165920,00.html
accessdate = 2007-09-10
] Likewise, "The Times" published an editorial entitled "Exactly how guilty are the Portuguese police?" and stated that there had been a rush to judge the Portuguese authorities. [cite news
last = Hume
first = Mick
title = Exactly how guilty are the Portuguese police?
publisher = "The Times"
date = 11 September 2007
url =
accessdate = 2007-09-11

Matthew Parris, writing for "The Times" in August, chastised the British and Portuguese media for what he described as "assassination-by-innuendo" of suspect Robert Murat, who those involved closely in the case believed was innocent. "For the rest of the world, however, glancing in passing at headlines and skimming news reports over its coffee, the name Murat is now synonymous with 'creepy oddball and obvious suspect'," Parris wrote. He concluded, "The whole disgusting business, the whole media-driven infatuation with this little girl and her parents, the whole sick, morbid, sentimental campaign of news generation and news manipulation, has been a disgrace to the British media." [cite news
last = Parris
first = Matthew
authorlink = Matthew Parris
title = The forgotten victim in the McCann case
publisher = "The Times"
date = 25 August, 2007
url =
accessdate = 2007-09-11

Peter Horrocks, the head of BBC TV News, denied claims in September 2007 that the BBC was biased in favour of the McCanns. Some viewers had suggested that the McCanns had been treated in an overly positive light because they were white, middle class doctors. [cite news
last = Borland
first = Sophie
title = BBC: We are 'not biased' towards Madeleine McCann parents
publisher = "The Daily Telegraph"
date = 12 September, 2007
url =
accessdate = 2007-09-12
] Then Horrocks criticised rival broadcasters saying "I know that many other TV and radio networks have been absolutely extraordinary, always talking about it in terms of sympathy and their [McCanns] feelings. [cite news
last = Plunkett
first = John
title =Horrocks warns on biased McCann reports
publisher = "The Guardian"
date = 11 September, 2007
url =,,2166699,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=4
accessdate = 2007-09-11
] Writing in The Guardian, also in September, Marcel Berlins said that the investigation had generated a wave of negative comments in the UK media towards Portuguese society, and the authorities investigating the case, as the result of ignorance of the Portuguese legal system. Berlins called it "a touch of arrogant xenophobia". [cite news
last = Berlins
first = Marcel
title = Media have rushed to judge Portuguese police
publisher = "The Guardian"
date = 10 September 2007
url =,,2165920,00.html
accessdate = 2007-11-27

Of the publicity

In early July 2007, parents criticised a cinema advertisement about the disappearance of Madeleine which showed a still picture of the girl with the statement that she had been "snatched" from her room. The advertisement was being screened across Britain before the children’s film "Shrek the Third", and parents were complaining to the Advertising Standards Authority that it might scare young children and that it detracted from parents' ability to decide how much to tell their children. [cite news
last = Bennett
first = Rosemary
title = Mothers protest over Madeleine advert before showings of Shrek
publisher = "The Times"
date = 3 July, 2007
url =
accessdate = 2007-07-03
] Following the protests, the advertisements were quickly withdrawn. [cite news
last = Lane
first = Harriet
title = The power of mums
publisher = "The Times"
date = 2007-07-05
url =
accessdate = 2007-07-05
] Subsequently, however, the advertisement, which had received a British Board of Film Classification to be aired in U-certificate films, was cleared by the Advertising Standards Authority. [cite news
last = Sweney
first = Mark
title = Madeleine cinema ad cleared
publisher = "The Guardian"
date = 2007-08-22
url =,,2153412,00.html
accessdate = 2007-08-24

A plan to include bookmarks bearing Madeleine's image in copies of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" was shelved. After reflection, the publishers decided it would not be responsible to expose younger readers to the story of Madeleine's disappearance. [cite news
title = Harry Potter used in worldwide appeal to help find missing Madeleine
publisher = "Daily Mail"
date = 2007-07-17
url =
accessdate = 2007-07-18

Whilst the public response has largely been in support of the Find Maddie campaign, there have been instances where it has been criticised for drawing attention away from other missing children. [cite news
last = O'Hanlon
first = Ellis
title = Sorry to bore you, but Maddy is still missing
publisher = The Irish Independent
date = 2007-06-03
url =
accessdate = 2007-09-09
] Mark Lawson, writing in The Guardian on 26 October, criticised the McCanns for employing their own spin doctor, describing their use of what he termed "political methods" as a "terrible error". [cite news
last = Lawson
first = Mark
title = Spin is not the answer
publisher = The Guardian
date = 2007-10-26
url =,,2199439,00.html
accessdate = 2007-10-27

Carlos Anjos, president of the "Association of Criminal Investigation Staff", criticised the McCanns, on 6 November, for creating a "monster of information" that hindered the investigation. He also stated that they should not have publicised the coloboma in her right eye which he claimed put the life of the girl at risk. [cite news
last = Brown
first = David
title = Kate and Gerry McCann 'created information monster' that hindered search for Madeleine McCann
publisher = The Times
date = 2007-11-06
url =
accessdate = 2007-11-07
] This was echoed by Fernando José Pinto Monteiro, the Attorney General, who said that the worldwide campaign would have turned Madeleine into a liability if she had been abducted and that, if she had been kidnapped, it was likely that her abductor had already killed her. [cite news
last = Govan
first = Fiona
title = 'Madeleine McCann is probably dead'
publisher = The Daily Telegraph
date = 2007-11-23
url =
accessdate = 2007-11-24


Rewards offered totalled over £2.6 million including:
* £1,500,000 (2,200,000) including £250,000 by the "News of the World", £250,000 by Sir Philip Green, £50,000 by Simon Cowell and £25,000 by Coleen McLoughlin. Other contributors include Sir Richard Branson, JK Rowling, and Bill Kenwright. [cite news|url=|title=Madeleine reward rises to £2.5m|publisher=BBC|date=2007-05-12|accessdate = 2007-05-12] [cite news|url=,,91210-1265397,00.html|title=Rewards For Madeleine Info Top £2.5m|publisher=Sky News|date=2007-05-12|accessdate = 2007-05-12]
* £1,000,000 (€1,470,000) by British businessman Stephen Winyard. [cite news|url=|title=£1m reward over missing Madeleine|publisher=BBC News|date=2007-05-11|accessdate = 2007-05-11] [cite news|url=|title=£1m reward in hunt for Maddie|publisher="The Metro"|date=2007-05-10|accessdate = 2007-05-10]
* £100,000 (€147,000) by a colleague of Kate McCann.cite news|url=,,30100-1264342,00.html|title='Continue To Pray For Madeleine'|publisher=Sky News|date=2007-05-06|accessdate = 2007-05-06]
* 15,000 (£10,250) by Portuguese newspaper "Record". [cite news|url=|title=Record oferece 15.000 euros|publisher="Record"|date=2007-05-12]
* £10,000 (€14,700) by "The Sun". [cite news|url=,,2-2007200842,00.html|title=Sun offers £10k poster reward|publisher="The Sun"|date=2007-05-09|accessdate = 2007-05-09]


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