Portugal reopens case of missing British girl Madeleine McCann

Kate and Gerry McCann's daughter Madeleine disappeared from a vacation rental apartment in Portugal's Algarve region in 2007. Above, they are shown last year holding a computer-generated image of how Madeleine would likely look at age 9.
Kate and Gerry McCann’s daughter Madeleine disappeared from a vacation rental apartment in Portugal’s Algarve region in 2007. Above, they are shown last year holding a computer-generated image of how Madeleine would likely look at age 9.
(Sang Tan / Associated Press)

Portuguese prosecutors on Thursday ordered police to reopen their investigation of the 2007 disappearance of Madeleine McCann, the 3-year-old British girl who went missing from a resort in the Algarve, local and British media reported.

British investigators reopened their official probe of the child’s disappearance in July. After distributing computer-generated images of two men wanted for questioning, they received more than 2,400 phone calls and emails with tips and fresh leads.

Portuguese authorities had declined to reopen their investigation, which was closed in 2008 without charges being brought against any suspects.


On Thursday, the Portuguese attorney general’s office announced “new indications” in the case that justified fresh investigation, the Algarve Resident newspaper reported.

Portuguese police initially considered the girl’s parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, to have been involved in her disappearance from a vacation rental apartment in Praia da Luz on May 3, 2007. Madeleine and her younger twin siblings had been left sleeping in the apartment while the McCanns dined with a group of friends at a nearby tapas bar. Kate McCann said she discovered her daughter missing when she looked in on the children around 10 p.m. that evening, less than an hour after her husband had made a similar check.

The McCanns were eventually allowed to leave the Algarve resort more than three months after Madeleine’s disappearance to return to their home in Leicestershire. A public campaign to find the missing child continued to dominate British tabloid headlines for months, and new inquiries were opened in Britain in 2011.

Review of new evidence and leads this past summer prompted Scotland Yard to produce and publicize digital images of the two men wanted for questioning. One of the persons of interest had been seen soliciting for a charity near the vacation rental on the day of Madeleine’s disappearance, and the other facial image was based on information from a witness who reported seeing a man carrying a blond child away from the area, the BBC reported in its time-line of the case.

“This is a welcome development, but both sides of the investigation are at relatively early stages, with much work remaining to be done,” London Metropolitan Police said in a statement after the Portuguese decision to resume the hunt for Madeleine or information about her fate. “This new momentum is encouraging, but we still have a way to go, and as with all major investigations, not all lines of inquiry that look promising will yield results.”

Kate and Gerry McCann, both physicians, also issued a statement saying they were “very pleased” by the Portuguese move to reopen Madeleine’s case.

“We hope that this will finally lead to her being found and to the discovery of whoever is responsible for this crime,” the couple said, according to the Associated Press.

The fate of long-missing children has received renewed attention in recent days with the discovery in central Greece of a young blond girl living with a Roma couple who claimed to be her parents until DNA testing proved she was no relation.

Two other fair-skinned children were found with Roma, or Gypsy, parents in Ireland this week and initially taken away by child protective authorities. Genetic testing in both of those cases, though, showed the parents and children were related and the families were reunited.

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Twitter: @cjwilliamslat