Madeleine McCann: Horrific Drama Turned Reality TV?

Family's campaign to find daughter takes them to Rome, raises questions.

ByABC News
May 29, 2007, 9:54 AM

May 29, 2007 — -- Madeleine McCann was snatched from her bed in a Portuguese vacation resort as her parents ate dinner in a nearby restaurant. When Kate McCann checked on her kids, she found only Madeleine's twin siblings, Sean and Amelie.

As scuba divers, police on horseback and volunteers scoured the surrounding land and sea, the McCanns mounted a media campaign.

"Words cannot describe the anguish and despair that we are feeling as the parents of our beautiful daughter Madeleine," Gerry McCann told reporters at a torch-lit news conference.

"Please continue to pray for Madeleine. She's lovely," added his tearful wife.

But it's now been nearly four weeks since Madeleine disappeared. The Portuguese police are giving out little information. Suspects have been interviewed, but there have been no arrests. While the search continues and the trail cools, Madeleine's parents are waging a media campaign to keep their daughter in the headlines in the hope that attention will trigger a memory or spark a lead.

"It might not be physically searching," Kate McCann said, "but we have been working really hard and doing absolutely everything we can, really, to get Madeleine back."

Today the McCanns released cell phone video of their excited daughter boarding the plane to fly to Portugal on vacation. Also today, they will fly to Rome for an audience with the pope to discuss her disappearance. The McCanns are devout Catholics and have already visited the shrine at Fatima to pray for their daughter. There were, of course, camera crews in tow.

"I think they have been incredibly canny, media savvy," said Caroline Hawley, the BBC's correspondent in Portugal. "They have been, for example, giving the media the images that they need to keep the story going. We were tipped off when on Madeleine's fourth birthday they were going for a walk along the beach."

"Just as they got wind of the media dramatically scaling back their presence here in Portugal, they agreed to give interviews to British TV stations," Hawley said.

In those interviews the couple answered critics who questioned why Madeleine and her two younger siblings had been left alone in their hotel room. The parents said they checked on their kids every half-hour.