Interior still haunted by Madeleine McCann’s disappearance on her 18th birthday – world news
The late spring sun reflects off the whitewashed wall of a church where two desperate parents prayed for the return of their missing three-year-old daughter.
That was 14 years ago and their prayers still have not been answered.
Madeleine McCann turns 18 on Wednesday and parents Kate and Gerry and their teenage twins will mark the day without her.
The church, Nossa Senhora da Luz, is where the McCanns were able to “seek comfort” in the days and weeks following Madeleine’s disappearance.
In the months and years since their heartbreaking loss, this is where Kate feels closest to her missing daughter.
But now Nossa Senhora, like the rest of Praia da Luz, is eerily calm.
It’s the start of the tourist season, but the Covid-19 pandemic is pushing vacationers away. Locals are hopeful that including Portugal on the England Travel Green List will mean that many visitors will be heading there this summer.
But the tragedy of the disappearance in May 2007 continues to haunt this beautiful seaside resort in the Algarve.
Kate, 53, and Gerry, 52, asked their friends to mark the moving moment of Madeleine’s birthday in a low-key way.
Instead of celebrating her happy transition from childhood to adulthood, the family will leave gifts and cards in their untouched bedroom in Rothley, Leics, and light a candle in her memory.
Madeleine’s great-uncle Brian Kennedy, 81, said they still believe they will find out what happened to their beloved daughter.
The retired manager said: “Kate and Gerry asked family and supporters to quietly remember Madeleine’s birthday.”
He added: “They continue to hope for a final outcome to the ongoing investigation.”
Kate and Gerry still think she’s alive somewhere and will one day be reunited with them.
Despite millions of pounds spent on a Scotland Yard operation and private investigators, the fate of the world’s most infamous missing child remains a mystery.
Her disappearance technically becomes the case of a missing person from Wednesday since she is now classified as an adult.
But for Kate and Gerry, she’s still the bubbly three-year-old who went on vacation to Praia da Luz and never came home. The station has changed little over the past 14 years.
But for the people here, the painful memories of that fateful night are more vivid than ever. Mentioning the case of the Madeleine elicits two reactions here: sympathy for her family or anger at what she did in Praia da Luz.
Holiday bookings plummeted after her disappearance as British families feared taking their children to the resort.
Graffiti still adorns some stop signs in the streets of the station. They read “Stop McCann Circus”.
David Jones, 76, creator of children’s character Fireman Sam, has lived and worked in Praia da Luz for 34 years. He helped in the first searches for Madeleine the night she disappeared.
He told the Daily Mirror on Tuesday: “I remember that night very well. I arrived in town around 9 p.m.
“Everyone was looking, so my kids and I did the same for at least the next two days. It brings back extremely sad memories to me and it’s hard to believe that she would be 18.
“Regardless of what anyone says if she was left alone that night, she was a child and she is still missing.”
David, from Ealing, West London, said: “Praia da Luz is a wonderful place but has undoubtedly suffered.
The Mirror newsletter brings you the latest news, exciting shows and TV reports, sports updates and essential political information.
The newsletter is sent early every morning, at noon and every evening.
Never miss a moment by signing up for our newsletter here.
“The tourists stayed away for the first two years, people were too scared to bring their children here.
“My friend is a former SAS and used to vacation here all the time, but I remember in 2008 even he said he wasn’t coming. A few companies never recovered from this tourism slump and went bankrupt, but gradually things got better. ”
Maria Silva, owner of Hugo Beauty bar, said: “Nobody really talks about Madeleine now unless it gets on the news.
“It brings back bad memories for everyone and although it is very sad people prefer not to think about it.
“Covid has been difficult for all of us business owners, we have been closed for a long time, hope we can open soon.”
Local resident Leonor Coval, 23, added: “A lot of people here can be very negative about Madeleine’s parents. But it’s unimaginable not to know where your child has been for the past 14 years and to have to mark their 18th without her.
The McCann’s vacation apartment on Rua Dr Agostinho da Silva has changed owners since Madeleine’s disappearance.
It is currently owned by a British woman who declined to comment when approached by the Mirror on Tuesday. The waist-high side fence, where Madeleine’s kidnapper entered the apartment, has been replaced with a 6-foot gate.
Kate and Gerry were having dinner with friends at the Ocean Club tapas restaurant when she disappeared. Like much of the resort, this too was closed on Tuesday.
German investigators are convinced that convicted pedophile Christian Brueckner is responsible for his disappearance. Prosecutors claim to know Madeleine is dead, but have not released the evidence they have.
Scotland Yard’s hunt for its captor continues, with four detectives still working on Operation Grange. A summit between German, British and Portuguese detectives is due to take place in Lisbon this summer.
Brueckner, 44, was named the prime suspect in Madeleine’s disappearance by German prosecutors last June.
They think he kidnapped and killed her. He is currently serving a seven-year sentence in a Hanover prison for raping a pensioner in Praia da Luz in 2005.
His lawyer Friedrich Fulscher insists that the German has nothing to do with the youngster’s disappearance.
The McCanns are being kept informed of the investigation through a Scotland Yard Family Liaison Officer.
And as they celebrate their 18th birthday on Wednesday, they continue to pray that they will one day be reunited with Madeleine.