It’s Been 15 Years Since Madeleine McCann’s Disappearance and the Search for Her is Far From Over
A family vacation in Portugal gone wrong when Madeleine McCann goes missing from her room while sleeping
Gone in an Instant
On a vacation at the Ocean Club Resort in Praia de Luz, Portugal in May of 2007, the McCann family experienced a terrible tragedy. One night, Gerry and Kate McCann went out for dinner at 8:30 pm with friends. They put their kids to bed, three-year-old Madeleine, and two-year-old twins Sean and Amelie. They planned to meet up with some friends, and take turns checking in on the sleeping children. Around 10 pm, Kate returned to their room and saw that Madeleine was not in her bed and was nowhere to be found.
The Portuguese police are soon involved, and they start their investigation a day later on May 4, 2007. They reported that Madeleine was likely abducted, as Kate noted the bedroom window was left slightly open after she noticed her daughter’s disappearance. Witnesses later claimed that they saw a Portuguese man carrying a child around 9:15 pm. That man was later identified as Robert Murat, and was named the official suspect. He was later ruled out and dismissed due to lack of evidence.
Madeleine’s disappearance turned into a worldwide phenomenon. Her tirelessly searched for Madeleine and her whereabouts and even traveled to see the Pope later that month to expand the search. At the same time, investigators looked into the nature of Madeleine’s parents and considered them likely to have been involved in their daughter’s abduction. The Portuguese and British press implied heavily that the McCanns were involved in Madeleine’s disappearance and knew where she was. This was later declared false, and the press issued £550,000 to the McCann family.
A Slew of Suspects
Throughout the next decade, authorities pinpointed countless suspects but didn’t have the evidence to properly convict any of them. The truth was, there was no conclusive evidence that tied anyone to Madeleine’s whereabouts. They based their suspects on witness reports, which did not point them in any definitive direction.
In 2012, the McCanns and investigators revisited the case. By this time, British authorities revealed that new evidence has been uncovered, which dramatically altered the course of the case. Portuguese police began to wonder if other factors had affected the case, including claims made by Goncalo Amaral, a former Portuguese police chief who had made accusations in a book that the McCanns faked their daughters’ abduction and hid her body. They also investigated the possibility of Madeleine being trafficked and then killed by a pedophile.
The most recent accusation made was against convicted child abuser and drug trafficker Christian Brueckner in 2020. Investigators believe he kidnapped Madeleine and placed her in his camper van, which is now under police possession and inspection. However, as of now, he has not been charged with Madeleine’s disappearance. He is currently in prison for raping a woman in the same area where Madeleine disappeared back in 2007. He is the first official suspect named since Madeleine’s parents in 2009.
Madeleine’s projected age progression (age 19)
More Questions Left Than Answers
As of today, the case is still yet to be solved. There are four main theories that could answer what happened to Madeleine. The first is that McCann’s holiday apartment was being robbed, and Madeleine woke up and discovered the burglars. In a moment of panic, the robber attacked and possibly killed her, prompting him to hide the body in an unknown location. While Portuguese officers have ruled out this theory, it is the one that makes the most sense considering the lack of evidence and suspects after nearly fifteen years.
The second theory is that Madeleine died inside the holiday apartment, by foul play or accidental, and her parents covered the death up by hiding her body. This theory is unlikely, due to the lack of evidence, and her parents’ efforts to draw as much attention and information towards her whereabouts as possible.
Another theory is that Madeleine’s abduction was planned. There had previously been numerous attacks by pedophiles in Portugal between 2004 and 2006, so many speculated that a pedophile had spotted Madeleine, tracked down where her family was staying, and abducted her.
Finally, and the most unlikely, is that Madeleine died trying to find her parents while they were out for dinner. Some theorists assume that Madeleine walked outside the apartment and fell into a construction hole, killing her or knocking her unconscious, and then the hole was filled the next morning before anyone had noticed her. This theory was disproved because there was no evidence that three-year-old Madeleine left the house or was awake during the night.
As the search bleeds into its fifteenth year, the McCanns still have hope that they will find out what happened to their daughter. As the McCanns celebrate what would have been Madeleine’s 19th birthday on May 12 this year, they grieve the years spent without witnessing their child grow up.