LONDON — Kate and Gerry McCann clutched a small poster with an age-enhanced image of their missing daughter. The words below the photo read: “HAVE YOU SEEN ME?” as the face of nine-year-old Madeleine stares out.
In fact, no one has seen Madeleine since she disappeared five years ago, on May 3, 2007, during a family holiday in Portugal. If she is alive, she will turn nine next week.
Yet for the first time in years the McCanns are allowing themselves to hope. That’s because Scotland Yard has agreed to review the case.
“Comparing to this time last year,” said Kate McCann at a news conference in London this afternoon, “at that point we didn’t have the review in place, and now we do. Such progress has been made, that’s definitely given us a lift and makes things more hopeful.”
Scotland Yard detectives have identified 1,995 potential new leads after sifting through 40,000 pieces of information. Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood, who is leading the review, said last week he believes it is possible that Madeleine was abducted from the vacation rental apartment where the family was staying while her parents had dinner at a restaurant nearby.
But there’s a problem: Portugal shelved the investigation barely a year after the girl disappeared and while a team of detectives has been appointed to re-examine the case, Portuguese authorities are showing no interest in re-opening it.
“I have no doubt about that. It will get reopened,” said Gerry McCann today. “I think the most important thing is that a lot of the investigation opportunities are in Portugal. I think it’s fairly clear that the case will have to be reopened for those to be pursued adequately. We weren’t expecting a knee-jerk reaction by any means. This is an ongoing dialogue, and I am sure the investigation will get opened again in due course.”
When the couple looks at the photo that shows what Madeleine might look like today, they each see a little of themselves her age-enhanced face.
“I think the most important thing is challenging the assumption that Madeleine is a three or four year old,” said Gerry McCann. “She’s nearly nine now. People around us certainly see Madeleine in it, and see elements of us in it, and I think that’s a good thing. It’s certainly a useful tool, and we’re pleased with the image.”
The McCanns say they have tried to give Madeleine’s younger sister and brother, twins Sean and Amelie, now seven, as normal a life as possible.
“We talk about it, and they know that tomorrow will be five years since Madeleine was taken, and they understand what’s happening,” said Kate.
“I suppose they’ve grown up with Madeleine missing. It’s part of their life,” Gerry added.
The parents briefly were suspects in their daughter’s disappearance, but they were exonerated. They sued the Portuguese detective who published a book accusing them of faking Madeleine’s abduction.
Asked how they have survived these last five years without knowing what happened to their daughter, Gerry McCann said the time has gone by both achingly slowly and yet so quickly.
“In some ways it’s the longest and shortest five years,” he said.
The McCanns just want to know what happened to their daughter. “The only way everyone will be able to move on is for the case to be solved,” said Gerry, “and that is for Madeleine to be found and the perpetrators brought to justice. Until then it’s not going to go away. It can’t go away.”