British girl Madeleine McCann, who vanished during a 2007 family vacation in Portugal, may still be alive, London’s Metropolitan police said Wednesday, citing a yearlong review of the case.
Madeleine was a few days shy of her fourth birthday when she disappeared from her family's holiday apartment in Praia da Luz while her parents dined in a nearby tapas restaurant with friends. Despite a huge police investigation, massive coverage in the Portuguese and British media, and a public riveted to social media, she remains missing.
Metropolitan Police on Wednesday released a new image of the girl, created in collaboration with the family, that shows how Madeleine might look at age 9. Her ninth birthday is May 12.
Here is a timeline of the Madeleine McCann case:
May 3, 2007:
- Madeleine’s parents, Gerry and Kate McCann, report that Madeleine has disappeared. The couple go on to campaign internationally to secure the safe return of their daughter, including having a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI and securing support from soccer star David Beckham.
May 14, 2007:
- Portuguese police name Robert Murat, a British man living in Portugal, as a suspect in the case.
September 7, 2007:
- Portuguese police name Kate and Gerry McCann as suspects in the disappearance of their daughter, after reportedly finding suspicious DNA in a car the family rented 25 days after reporting her disappearance. The Sunday Mirror quotes Kate McCann as saying Portuguese police are trying to get her to falsely confess that Madeleine died in an accident and that the parents panicked and disposed of the body. The McCanns deny any wrongdoing.
September 9, 2007:
- The McCanns, with their two younger children, leave Portugal for their home in Britain.
- Portuguese police investigator Goncalo Amaral is removed from the McCann case after a newspaper reports he accused British police of favoring Madeleine’s parents.
- Gerry McCann returns to his job as a cardiologist in Leicester, England, nearly six months after he stopped work to conduct a massive and public search for his missing daughter.
- The McCanns accept $1.1 million in libel damages and front-page apologies from the London newspapers the Daily Express and the Daily Star over stories alleging the parents were involved in the disappearance or death of their daughter. The money goes to Madeleine's Fund, a nonprofit company set up to find the girl and bring to justice anyone who played a role in her disappearance.
- Portuguese investigators close the case. A spokesman for the Portuguese prosecutor’s office says authorities have found no evidence of involvement by the McCanns or Murat. Police turn their case file – containing up to 30,000 pages – over to attorneys and private investigators working for the McCanns.
- Kate McCann says she thinks being named as a suspect by the Portuguese police had a devastating effect on the case.
- A spokesman for the McCanns says they believe their daughter is alive, in part because the files from the Portuguese police probe into her disappearance do not reveal evidence she has been killed.
- The Portuguese police files, which police released to the McCanns after they closed the investigation, show a senior British forensic scientist said it was impossible to conclude whether a DNA sample from the family’s rental car in Portugal came from Madeleine, a family spokesman says. The spokesman says that Portuguese police had claimed to Gerry McCann that his daughter's DNA had been found in the vehicle. “You have to ask what the police were trying to achieve by over-presenting evidence that they did not have, and clearly could not claim to have," the spokesman tells the BBC.
- The McCanns launch a video appeal for information about their daughter's disappearance, featuring previously unseen footage of Madeleine at home with her family in Leicestershire, central England. The video ends with the message: "This is our second Christmas without Madeleine. Please help us make sure we don't have a third."
- The McCanns unveil a digitally enhanced picture showing what Madeleine might look like if she still is alive. At this point, Madeleine would be 6.
- Kate McCann tells “The Oprah Winfrey Show” that she keeps Madeleine's room ready for her and says she visits it twice daily, "just (to) say hello ... just (to) tell her we're still going ... to do everything we can to find her."
- A Portuguese judge issues an injunction against Amaral, the Portuguese police investigator who was taken off the case and then wrote a 2008 book alleging that Madeleine may have died accidentally, with the McCanns’ knowledge, at the Portuguese resort. The judge orders unsold copies of the book to be returned to the publisher, and orders the ex-investigator not to repeat his allegations. Amaral was taken off the McCann case in October 2007.
- The McCanns publish a book, titled “Madeleine,” detailing their account of Madeleine’s disappearance. They say they’re hopeful that the book will prompt others to come forward with information about the girl's disappearance, and that profits from the book will be directed toward furthering the investigation.
- In an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan, the McCanns talk about being accused of killing their own daughter, the moment they realized Madeline disappeared, and their frustration over criticism by some people about the safety of the apartment from which Madeleine disappeared.
- London's Metropolitan Police forms an investigative review, aimed at going through details from the case.
- A report of a girl in India bearing a resemblance to Madeleine creates a frenzy on social media. But a spokesman for the McCanns says there is no reason to believe the girl is Madeleine, and that the report is no more credible than other tips that proved incorrect over the years.
November 23, 2011:
- Kate McCann tells the Leveson inquiry into British press practices that she felt “totally violated” when she saw her diary had been published in the News of the World newspaper. The publication of the diary came after the editor of the now-defunct newspaper verbally beat her and her husband, Gerry, "into submission" to make them do an interview with the newspaper, Gerry McCann said.
April 25, 2012:
- London’s Metropolitan police say Madeleine may still be alive, citing a yearlong review of the case.