Six Months Later, Maddie Search Goes On

Gerry McCann went back to work as a cardiologist at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester this week. Looking pale and drawn, he said that he and his wife Kate had done as much as they could in the search for their little girl.

"Unless Madeleine is found, we are not expecting any significant developments in the near future," Gerry McCann said, as he spoke into a battery of microphones at a press conference about his missing daughter.

Within hours of her disappearance in southern Portugal on May 3, the story of Madeleine McCann came under the scorching searchlight of the international media, and has remained that way ever since.

Madeleine, or Maddie as so many have come to know her, vanished from the family's holiday apartment in the resort of Praia da Luz while her parents -- both doctors -- were having dinner 100 yards away in the same holiday compound.

The Search Begins

Almost immediately, a huge publicity campaign went into gear, with celebrities including author J. K. Rowling and soccer player David Beckham appealing for help in finding the little girl , who has a distinctive black mark in the iris of her right eye.

The McCanns toured Europe to raise awareness of the case. They even had an audience with the pope. They gave dozens of interviews, as press and TV teams from around the world documented their every move.

"'Please, please continue to pray for Madeleine," Kate McCann cried during one television appeal.

"We are doing absolutely everything to assist the police with their investigation, and we will leave no stone unturned in the search for our daughter," her husband Gerry said.

In mid May, just after Madeleine's fourth birthday, Portuguese police named a British expatriate, Robert Murat, as an official suspect. Murat lived next door to the McCann apartment. But police didn't have enough evidence to actually charge him.

Then in mid-June, police admitted vital forensic clues might have been destroyed because of their failure to seal the crime scene properly.

Through the summer, the McCanns insisted on staying on in Portugal with their young twins, Sean and Amelie, who also were asleep in the room when their older sister was abducted.

From Sympathetic To Suspect

By August, the Portuguese media, which had so much sympathy for the McCanns, had turned against the couple. Police called Kate McCann in for 11 hours of questioning in September. She was hissed and booed by onlookers as she arrived at police headquarters.

The next day, she and her husband were both named as official suspects by the Portuguese authorities, adding a new wrinkle to the already complicated story of Maddie's disappearance.

In an interview with a British tabloid, Kate McCann said the police tried to get her to confess to accidentally killing her daughter with a sedative.

"I WAS TOLD BY THE COPS, JUST LIE. I'M BEING SET UP" said the headline in the Sunday Mirror.

Two days later, the McCanns were allowed to return to Britain. They were shaken and angry. Clutching their twins, they made a brief statement at the airport.

"Despite there being so much that we wish to say," said Gerry McCann, his voice breaking, "we are unable to do so except to say this: We have played no part in the disappearance of our lovely daughter Madeleine."

By then, an opinion poll in Britain showed that 70 percent of the respondents thought the McCanns were not innocent.

Where Things Stand

In the last two months, there have been no breaks in the case, apart from a false sighting in Morocco of a fair-skinned child with a striking resemblance to Madeleine. Another sighting was reported this week from North Africa by a woman who was convinced she saw Madeleine in a taxi with a middle-aged woman.

The Portuguese police chief in charge of the inquiry, Det. Goncalo Amaral, was removed from the case. This was partly because of his involvement in a similar case of another missing child in Portugal in 2004 where the child's mother ended up being convicted and jailed for her murder. The child's father claims his wife was tortured into a confession by Amaral.

Through their spokesman, Clarence Mitchell, the McCanns welcomed the appointment of a new man to lead the investigation in Praia da Luz.

"He seems to be going back to basics, looking at everything from scratch, and they are very confident that this would lead him to eliminating them from the inquiry as official suspects," the spokesman said.

Convinced that their child is still alive in Spain, Portugal or North Africa, the McCanns also hired a private detective agency in Spain and put out a new hotline number for information. Last week, they broke their recent silence in an emotional interview with Spanish TV.

"I feel in my heart really that she's out there, and I don't believe that Madeleine has been taken away from us permanently. I don't believe it," said Kate McCann, in a low, quivering voice. "I know I'm innocent. Gerry knows he's innocent. We know each other are innocent."

As the search for Madeleine goes on in southern Europe, the McCanns are trying to live a normal family life back home in the north of England. The truth is, they are both still living a nightmare. But tonight they will attend a special service in their local church and will offer prayers, not just for their child, but for all missing children everywhere -- hoping against hope that those prayers will eventually be answered.