Nearly two years after a 3-year-old British girl named Madeleine McCann went missing from a Portuguese resort town, her parents vow to keep the search going. They have launched a new appeal for information about her whereabouts, including the creation of a new "age progression" photograph that shows Madeleine as she would look now, a few days shy of what would be her sixth birthday.
The picture, to be released during the McCanns' appearance on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" Monday, was produced by the U.S. National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
On their Web site, Kate and Gerry McCann said, "It is impossible for us to ignore the day-to-day heartache of missing Madeleine, but there is, however, a very important and positive fact that remains -- in spite of all the investigative work done, there is still absolutely nothing to suggest harm to Madeleine and therefore, a very real likelihood that Madeleine is alive and well. We will never, ever give up."
It's been nine months since Portuguese authorities closed the case and cleared Kate and Gerry McCann -- both official suspects -- of any involvement in her disappearance. And there are reports that the money from the fund the family has used to publicize its efforts to find Madeleine has begun to dry up.
But if Madeleine's parents have wearied at all of the drawn-out search and the occasionally negative press attention surrounding the case, they don't show it.
Family spokesman Clarence Mitchell said the McCanns agreed to speak with Winfrey because of the global reach of her show, and the pretaped interview is said to be emotionally charged.
In another television appearance, Gerry McCann reportedly traveled back to the Portuguese resort town, Praia da Luz, where Madeleine disappeared, to participate in a reconstruction of the events surrounding her disappearance. According to the McCann's Web site, the "reconstruction of key sightings" will appear in a documentary, which the U.K.'s Channel Four will air May 7.
In addition, the McCanns are making a renewed effort to publicize the case in Portugal, launching a local campaign in and around Praia da Luz at the end of March.
"We have had leaflets delivered to local households as well as A-vans, buses and billboards with posters in Portuguese asking for people with information to come forward. The message is that we must not give up on Madeleine, and that if someone knows something, it is not too late to do the right thing," Gerry McCann wrote on the Web site.
He also expressed the hope that the Channel Four documentary would be broadcast in Portugal and "generate new leads," adding, "since the case has officially closed, it is vital for Kate and me that we continue to try to discover new information that may help us find Madeleine."
McCann was reportedly heckled by Praia da Luz locals during his visit to film the documentary, and he told a local newspaper that he understands the reasons for some of the negative press surrounding the family. McCann told The Portugal News that he "can totally understand that people want to move on. They don't want the media intrusion and the negative association with Madeleine's abduction."
"But," he said, regardless of how people felt about him and his wife, Kate, "the focus should be on an innocent child and that someone has taken her."
Cash Running Out to Fund Campaign: What Next?
The cash is running out to support the Find Madeleine campaign, Gerry McCann confided to The Portugal News. "It won't dry up in the next few months, but probably by the end of the year, at the rate we are running."
Figures released in March 2008 showed that the campaign fund had already fallen from a reported $3.7 million to $894,000.
Mitchell told reporters that were it not for newspaper libel settlements worth $1.3 million won by the McCanns, the money "would have probably run out some months ago."
The family insists it will continue to search for Madeleine, regardless of the status of the fund.
On "The Oprah Winfrey Show," Kate McCann shared her grief over her missing daughter and said that she visits her bedroom daily. "Not a day goes by when I don't think about her. I feel Madeleine is still close to me and alive."
Speaking to the The Portugal News, Gerry McCann said, "It's a possibility we might never see her again, but until we have absolute definitive evidence of what happened to Madeleine, we can't stop searching."
New Warning System
The McCanns have been campaigning for improved warning systems across the continent since Madeleine's disappearance, visiting the European Parliament twice last year to win support from parliament members.
The family had a small victory of sorts Thursday, when the European Commission pledged $1.34 million toward the creation of a Europewide "Amber Alert" style warning system to trace missing children.
In a statement released by Mitchell, the couple said, "We are really pleased that the European Commission has committed such a significant amount of funding to improve joint procedures whenever a child is abducted in Europe."
But, they added, "This is just the first step that needed to be taken toward achieving a European Amber Alert system, and we are determined that the momentum is kept going. There's still a long way to go."
Two years since Madeleine's shocking disappearance made headlines from the United Kingdom to the United States to as far afield as Morocco, the McCanns show no signs of letting up in their quest to find their daughter.