Madeleine McCann timeline: 13 years since her disappearance

New evidence has been brought to light


by Emma Dodds |
Updated on

Ever since Madeleine McCann went missing aged just three on 3 May 2007, her disappearance has been dubbed 'the most heavily reported missing-person case in modern history'. Tragically, despite the media spotlight, her whereabouts are still unknown.

Kate and Gerry McCann took their daughter and their twins, Sean and Amelie, on holiday to the Portuguese resort of Praia Da Luz in May 2007, just over a week before her fourth birthday.

Madeleine disappeared whilst on holiday in Portugal with her family (Credit: Facebook/ Official Find Madeleine Campaign) ©Facebook/ Official Find Madeleine Campaign

The story took the world by storm, with sympathy and monetary donations pouring in for the McCann family.

But it wasn't long before they themselves were put under scrutiny, with the Portuguese police branding them "arguidos" – suspects.

Police have now announced that there is absolutely no evidence to suggest they had anything to do with her disappearance, and British police do not class them as suspects.

Kate and Gerry McCann were devastated by her disappearance (Credit: Getty Images) ©Getty Images

Here's a timeline of everything that has happened with regards to the disappearance of Madeleine McCann since she went missing ten years ago.

Thursday 3 May 2007: Madeleine is discovered to be missing

Kate and Gerry McCann went out for dinner with their friends to a Tapas bar on the complex where they were staying. They left the apartment at 8:30pm, with members of the group returning throughout the night to check on the children.

Gerry McCann checked on his children at around 9pm, noticing that the door was slightly more open than when they left. After seeing all three children were safely tucked up in bed, he thought nothing more of it and went back to the restaurant.

Jane Tanner, one of the group, told police she saw a man carrying a sleeping child who was wearing pink pyjamas close to the apartment where the children were sleeping at around 9:15pm, but this has been discounted by police who are almost certain that the man was on holiday and carrying his own child.

Jane Tanner spoke to the BBC about what happened on that night (Credit: BBC/ Panorama – The Mystery Of Madeleine McCann) ©BBC/ Panorama – The Mystery Of Madeleine McCann

Kate got up to check her children at 9:30pm, but Matthew Oldfield, another member of the group, was also getting up to check his own children, and offered to check the McCanns too. He also noticed that the door was slightly open again, but didn't think anything of it. He saw the twins in their cot, but didn’t specifically check Madeleine. When questioned later by police, he couldn't say for sure whether she had been in her bed. He also couldn't remember whether the window was open.

At 10pm, Kate McCann returned to the apartment to check the children – discovering that the window was open and Madeleine had gone.

The alarm was raised at 10:15pm, and police arrived at 10:30pm.

Kate McCann returned to find her daughter missing (Credit: Getty Images) ©Getty Images

4 May 2007: The search for Madeleine begins

The Portuguese police bring in sniffer dogs to assist in the search for Maddie. The border police and Spanish police teams were alerted to her disappearance and volunteers came together to search the surrounding areas for the little girl. Friends of the McCanns also accused the police of not doing enough to find Maddie.

14 May 2007: Robert Murat is taken in for questioning

Portuguese police took property developer Robert Murat in for questioning and give him "arguido" status – this means he is a suspect. His home that he shared with his mother was searched, only 100 yards away from where Maddie disappeared.

11 August 2007: Police admit Madeleine may be dead

On the 100th day since Madeleine disappeared, police acknowledged for the first time that the little girl may, in fact, be dead. Kate McCann said in a TV interview that she would rather know her daughter was dead: "I've never liked uncertainty and this is the worst kind of limbo. Gerry and I have spoken about this and in our heart of hearts we'd both rather know - even if knowing means we have to face the terrible truth that Madeleine might be dead."

The McCanns say they would "rather know" if Madeleine was dead (Credit: Getty Images ©Getty Images

31 August 2007: Kate and Gerry launch libel case against newspaper

The McCanns launched a libel action against Tal e Qual, a weekly Portuguese newspaper who claimed that Kate and Gerry McCann killed their daughter.

7 September 2007: The McCanns are made "arguidos"

Kate and Gerry faced questioning by Portuguese police, and were given the status of "arguido" – suspect. Two days later, they flew back to the UK with their two-year-old twins.

25 December 2007: McCanns make Christmas appeal

On what was their first Christmas without their daughter, Kate and Gerry made a public appeal for information on the whereabouts of Madeleine. They said: "Our only Christmas wish is for you to be back with us again."

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Kate and Gerry McCann with Madeleine and McCann twins Sean and Amelie. ©Facebook/ Official Find Madeleine Campaign

21 July 2008: Portuguese police drop investigation

Authorities in Portugal dropped the investigation into Madeleine's disappearance and lifted the "arguido" status of Kate and Gerry and also Robert Murat. Three days later, Goncalo Amaral, who led the Portuguese investigation until he was taken off it in October 2007, published a book entitled The Truth Of The Lie, alleging that Madeleine died in the apartment at the hands of her parents who he says then hid her body.

1 May 2009: Computer-generated image of Maddie is released

Nearly two years after her disappearance, the McCanns released a computer-generated image of what Maddie might have looked like at that point.

12 May 2011: Kate McCann's book is published

Kate McCann wrote a book about her daughter's disappearance, which was published on Madeleine's eighth birthday. On the back of this, Scotland Yard launched a review into the investigation after then-Home Secretary Theresa May made a request which then-Prime Minister put his support behind.

Kate wrote a book entitled "Madeleine" all about her disappearance (Credit: Getty Images)

25 April 2012: New computer-generated image of Madeleine is released

Scotland Yard officers announced that they thought Maddie might still be alive, and released a new image of what she might look like as a nine-year-old child. Portuguese authorities refuse to reopen the case as they have found no new evidence.

4 July 2013: Scotland Yard launch their own investigation

Two years after launching a review of the case, Scotland Yard launched their own investigation into what happened to Madeleine. They announced that they had new lines of inquiry and 38 people of interest – including 12 people from the UK.

17 October 2013: Television appeal yields important information

A new television appeal was aired in the UK, after which Scotland Yard received over 2,400 calls and emails from people in the UK, Germany and Holland. A week later, the Portuguese police team announced that a review of their original investigation also uncovered new lines of inquiry and reopen the case. A month later, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe calls for the two forces to work together on the case.

Various computer generated images of what Madeleine might look like have been released (Credit: Getty Images) ©Getty Images

28 April 2015: Goncalo Amaral is ordered to pay the McCanns damages

Goncalo Amaral, author of The Truth Of The Lie, was ordered by a court in Lisbon to pay Kate and Gerry McCann a total sum of £418,000 in damages over claims he made in his book. Sales of the book were then banned.

16 September 2015: Government announces total cost of Madeleine McCann case

The UK Government made an announcement that the Madeleine McCann case had cost over £10 million. Just over a month later, Scotland Yard reduce their team members working on the case from 29 to four.

3 April 2016: The investigation is given more money

Then-Home Secretary Theresa May granted the Metropolitan police an extra £94,592 for Operation Grange – the name given to Maddie's case. A spokesperson for the Home Office at the time said: "Following a request from the Metropolitan Police Service, we have agreed to provide nearly £95,000 of further funding for Operation Grange."

Just over two weeks later, a Portuguese appeal court overturned Goncalo Amaral's libel conviction.

Goncalo Amaral, author of The Truth Of The Lie, claims the McCanns were responsible (Credit: Getty Images) ©Getty Images

31 January 2017: Supreme Court back up Goncalo Amaral

The Supreme Court in Portugal ruled against Kate and Gerry's libel claim, saying that the claims Mr Amaral made in his book are protected by freedom of expression.

1 March 2017: Karen Matthews brands Kate McCann a "dreadful mother"

It came to light that Karen Matthews, the mother who kidnapped her own daughter Sharon as part of a money-making scam, had called Kate McCann a "dreadful" mother. According to her friend Julie Bushby, who went to visit her in prison, she said: "I've been judged and I'm paying for it but Maddie's mother was bad too. At least my daughter was never left alone!"

"There seems to be one rule for them and another for us but she was a dreadful mum.

"She left one, two, three babies alone while she was out eating and drinking with her mates. My Shannon was kept away from her family but she was never left alone."

11 March 2017: Operation Grange is granted an extra £85,000

The Home Office granted the team looking for Maddie an extra £85,000 which will cover the cost of the search until September 2017. A Home Office spokesperson said: "As with all applications, the resources required are reviewed regularly and careful consideration is given before any new funding is allocated."

Madeleine would now be 13-years-old (Credit: Getty Images) ©Getty Images

16 March 2017: Portuguese crime expert claims Maddie "died in the apartment"

Portuguese crime expert Moita Flores alleged that Maddie "died in the apartment" to a Portuguese website. He said: "Maddie died in that apartment, I have no doubt. Why this child when there are so many others who have disappeared?

"It would have been impossible to get through a window with a child."

27 March 2017: British detective claims Maddie is "still alive"

Detective Dave Edgar was hired by Kate and Gerry to look for their daughter for three years, and told The Mirror: "Until such time that a body is found, it is a live investigation and there is always hope." Detective Edgar then announced that he thought Madeleine might still be in the Algarve, where she went missing ten years ago.

Speaking to Sunday Express, he said: "There is every possibility that Madeleine is still alive and could be being hidden somewhere. When you get up beyond the main strip of the Algarve, there are countless isolated properties where Madeleine could be being held."

Detective Dave Edgar thinks Maddie may still be in the Algarve (Credit: Getty Images) ©Getty Images

18 April 2017: Madeleine McCann's babysitter speaks out for the first time

Almost ten years on from Maddie's disappearance, a babysitter who worked at the resort and who looked after Maddie spoke about her disappearance for the first time. Speaking to The Mirror, she said: "I walked into Kate crying, friends comforting her, Gerry looking under cars, and it just blew up. She was pacing up and down. The worst possible thing had just happened to her.

"She was crying, but almost in a catatonic state, and Gerry was very distressed. That’s the one thing I really remember from him, looking under the cars. I can’t forget that. We were told to start looking in bins in case her body was in there. It was at that point we realised this was serious."

24 April 2017: Goncalo Amaral claims that MI5 covered up Maddie's death

Goncalo Amaral made a wild claim that MI5 had gotten involved in Madeleine's disappearance, even involving former-Prime Minister Gordon Brown in his bizarre accusation. He said: "There is no hint or proof the child was kidnapped. On the contrary, there are hints the parents were negligent, and there are hints they were hiding the body."

25 April 2017: Kate McCann pens open letter about her daughter's disappearance

Kate McCann wrote a heartbreaking open letter on the official Find Madeleine Facebook page two weeks before the 10th anniversary of her daughter's disappearance. In it, she asked the media to respect her and her husband's privacy at the difficult time. She wrote: "Ten years - there's no easy way to say it, describe it, accept it. It's a horrible marker of time, stolen time."

Kate recently wrote an open letter, asking the public to respect her family's privacy (Credit: Getty Images) ©Getty Images

26 April 2017: Met Police think Maddie was "abducted"

Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley revealed in an interview about the case that Scotland Yard had considered the possibility that Madeleine may have been abducted in a burglary gone wrong. He said: "One of the working hypotheses we've got was could this be a burglary that's gone wrong. Somebody's doing a burglary, panicked maybe by a waking child and that's what leads to Madeleine going missing.

"In my experience, if you try to apply cold, rational logic of what someone sat in their front room might do compared to what criminals do under pressure, you tend to make mistakes."

30 April 2017: Police files show the 48 questions Kate McCann was asked in the original investigation

In never-before-seen police files that were recently released, the 48 questions that Kate McCann was asked in the original investigation became public knowledge. Interestingly, she answered only one of the questions: " Are you aware that in not answering the questions you are jeopardising the investigation, which seeks to discover what happened to your daughter?" – to which she responded: "Yes, if that’s what the investigation thinks."

30 April 2017: Kate and Gerry McCann give rare interview about their daughter to mark the decade since she disappeared

Kate and Gerry decided to give a rare interview about the disappearance of their daughter Madeleine. Speaking to the BBC's Fiona Bruce, they explained their point of view of the last ten years, including Goncalo Amaral. Kate revealed that she still buys birthday and Christmas presents for her daughter, just in case she comes home. She said: "There's a lot of thought goes into it. But I couldn't not, you know, she's still our daughter, she'll always be our daughter."

Kate and Gerry McCann did an interview to make the 10th anniversary of Madeleine's disappearance (Credit: Getty Images) ©Getty Images

4 May 2017: New witnesses describe chaotic and emotional scenes on the night of her disappearance

Witnesses who were there the night that Maddie was taken have now revealed what happened the moment that Kate returned from dinner out with her friends to find Madeleine gone. Paul and Susan Moyes, from Middlewich in Cheshire, were staying two floors above the McCanns in the Ocean Club Complex on that fateful night in May 2007. The couple, who were asleep at the time, were woken up by one of the Tapas Nine - the group of friends that Kate and Gerry had gone out with when their children were sleeping in the apartment. They immediately came down to join the search and were up until 4am looking for the little girl.

12 May 2017: Kate and Gerry McCann share heartbreaking message to mark Madeleine's 14th birthday

On what would have been her 14th birthday, Kate and Gerry shared a defiant but devastated message to their daughter on Facebook.

They changed the Facebook cover photo of their page, Official Find Madeleine Campaign, to a now-famous shot of little Maddie clutching tennis balls.

It read: "Happy 14th birthday, Madeleine! We love you and we're waiting for you and we're never going to give up."

23 August 2017: Kate and Gerry McCann plead with trolls to stop writing 'awful and upsetting' comments

The devastated parents issued a statement through the digital co-ordinator of their website and Facebook page asking for people to think twice before writing comments about Madeleine McCann's family online.

The unnamed person, who is a friend of the family, uploaded a statement on a new section of the Official Find Madeleine Campaign page called Rules of the Road.

One which stood out read: "Please don't post your opinion on leaving children alone. Doing so will result in you being banned. No questions asked."

29 September 2017: Madeleine McCann police team Operation Grange are granted an extra £150k at the eleventh hour

The Home Office have granted Operation Grange – the police investigation into Madeleine McCann – another £154,000 in funding to continue the search for her.

The funding has been granted at what some might say is the very last minute, as the £85,000 they were granted in March as due to run out at some point this month.

The money, which brings the total to over £11m spent on finding Maddie, will fund the investigation through until next March.

3rd June 2020: German suspect revealed by police

An unnamed 43-year-old German man, currently in prison, is the latest suspect named in the Madeleine McCann case.

He is believed to have been travelling in the area of Portugal where Madeleine went missing in 2007.

A spokesperson for Kate and Gerry McCann said the family felt the latest breakthrough was "potentially very significant."

The Met police are still treating the case as a "missing persons" investigation, but German police have classed it as a murder enquiry.

The suspect, who is not named due to German court privacy rules, is 6ft1 and blonde with a slim build at the time.

The suspect was known to have two vehicles, a VW camper van and a Jaguar car, and he transferred the Jaguar into another name the day after Madeleine disappeared in 2007.

He also had a house in Portugal and had a "transient" lifestyle, travelling around the country.

He also has "numerous" previous convictions for "sexual abuse of children", according to Germany's federal criminal police office (BKA).

What do celebrities think about the Madeleine McCann case?

In the last ten years, many high-profile people have come forward and expressed their opinions about the disappearance of the three-year-old girl.

Vicky Pattison came out in support of the McCanns, saying that "everyone should back off", writing in a column: "I bet there's not a day that goes by where they don’t beat themselves up over what happened. Surely nothing anyone else can say can make them feel any worse."

Vicky Pattison has publicly supported Kate and Gerry (Credit: Facebook/ Official Find Madeleine Campaign) ©Facebook/ Official Find Madeleine Campaign

Katie Price blasted the McCanns on Loose Women, saying: "Doesn't matter who you are, you do not leave your children. In what right mind would you leave your kids alone? Doctors or not doctors, you do not leave your kids in a room."

Jodie Marsh launched a Twitter attack on the McCanns after an interview with a crime expert aired on This Morning. She wrote: "I must admit, if it were my child I'd be on my hands & knees digging up the earth with my bare hands! Nothing else would matter..."

Karen Danczuk followed Jodie on a Twitter rant, writing various controversial tweets and retweeting other people's opinions.

Following her own Twitter barrage, Jodie entered into a debate with Kerry Needham, mum to missing Ben Needham who disappeared as a little toddler whilst the family were on holiday in Greece.

Katie Hopkins recently branded it an "injustice" that the McCanns were never punished for leaving their children alone. In an interview with Jodie Marsh, Katie said: "The thing about the McCanns is that it's not what happened or the end bit that matters, it's the fact that as mums or as people that care for kids, we know – you just don't leave your kids. Whatever went on, no-one leaves their kids. Even if they were in sight in a hotel room, I wouldn't leave that hotel room."

Kate and Gerry McCann are still campaigning to find their daughter, vowing to "never give up hope".


Madeleine McCann's Abduction: Everything You Need To Know

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British police now plan to test DNA samples found in the McCann's holiday apartment in 2007. The move comes less than a week after convicted pedophile Roderick McDonald, 76, was arrested in Malta. He was believed to be living in the Algarve at the same time as Maddy went missing.

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On the 100th day of Madeleine's disappearance, police acknowledged publicly for the first time that Madeleine could be dead. Kate McCann tells a UK women's magazine that she would rather know her daughter was dead, than live in limbo forever.

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In 2008 The Daily Express and the Daily Star made front-page apologies for publishing more than 100 articles on the disappearance of Madeleine, some of which suggested her parents were involved in her death. The papers were forced to pay £550,000 in damages, which went to the Find Madeleine campaign.

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In 2011, on the day of Maddy's 8th birthday, Kate McCann published a book, simply entitled Madeleine, giving her account, in her own words, of her daughter's disappearance.

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In the seven years since, an international appeal for help finding Maddy has brought numerous reported sightings, none of them confirmed.

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She was abducted from her bed in the ground floor apartment she was staying in, while her parents Kate and Gerry were eating in a nearby tapas restaurant, checking regularly on her and her younger twin siblings.

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The McCann's have spoken out about their 'terrible regret' at leaving the children alone on the night Madeleine disappeared. Gerry admitted: 'We made a mistake, but we are paying more for it than anyone could ever possibly imagine.'

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Madeleine McCann was just three when she disappeared while on holiday in the Algarve village of Praia Da Luz, Portugal, on the evening of May 3 2007.

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The bill for the British police investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann is set to top £10 million this year. Several men, including a Cape Verde immigrant and heroin addict who died in 2009, have been considered as suspects- but no one has been charged over the Maddy's disappearance.

Read more

Madeleine McCann: Kate and Gerry spokesperson compares missing child case to ‘daily soap opera’

Mother of missing child pens emotional open letter: ‘Thank you for helping me find my baby’

Ben Needham's toy car found at dump hours before search was called off

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