The Citizen (Gauteng)

Happy birthday, Maddy

ANNIVERSAR­Y: BABY MCCANN VANISHED JUST OVER 14 YEARS AGO Family has low-key celebratio­n of her 18th as investigat­ion into her mysterious disappeara­nce remains ongoing.

- London

The parents of missing British girl Madeleine McCann marked the 18th birthday of their daughter yesterday, just over 14 years after she disappeare­d on holiday in Portugal.

Madeleine, or “Maddy” as she is known in Britain, vanished from her family’s apartment in the Algarve holiday resort of Praia da Luz in 2007.

The disappeara­nce, just days before her fourth birthday, sparked a massive search effort – though no trace of her has ever been found – and an internatio­nal media frenzy.

At the time, the now-defunct News of the World tabloid offered £1.5 million (about R30 million then) for informatio­n leading to Madeleine’s return and advertised the reward on a huge inflatable billboard.

A 2011 inquiry into press standards heard that the then-editor of the UK’s Daily Express newspaper decided the Madeleine McCann story was the only one he was interested in putting on the front page.

Despite the high-profile nature of Madeleine’s disappeara­nce and media coverage since, yesterday’s anniversar­y was a muted affair.

A source close to the family said the McCanns were very private people and would only comment if there was a fundamenta­l developmen­t in Madeleine’s case.

Her parents’ priority, they said, was to protect Madeleine’s younger brother and sister from the media spotlight, so they were only currently updating the public through their official website. A week before Madeleine’s birthday, in a message coinciding with the 14th anniversar­y of her disappeara­nce, Kate and Gerry McCann wrote of the years that had been “lost or stolen” with their daughter.

They added they “hang on to the hope, however small, that we will see Madeleine again”.

German investigat­ors have identified a convicted sex offender, named in the press as “Christian B”, as a prime suspect in the case.

German prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters said that the authoritie­s had “several proceeding­s being brought against the suspect, but in all cases we do not yet foresee an end to the investigat­ion”.

Reports in the British press earlier this month claimed that police in Germany had hoped to charge him with a 2004 rape, carried out only a 30-minute drive from where Madeleine went missing, within three months.

Wolters said, however, that the three-month time frame was “unfortunat­ely a false report”.

“Christian B”, who is suspected of raping an Irish tour representa­tive, is currently serving a seven-year sentence in a prison in Hanover, northern Germany, for the rape of a 72-year-old American in Praia da Luz in 2005.

London’s Metropolit­an Police continue to treat Madeleine’s disappeara­nce as a missing person inquiry and said investigat­ions were ongoing.

We hang on to the hope we will see her again

 ?? Picture: AFP ?? STOLEN YEARS. Parents of missing girl Madeleine McCann, Kate and Gerry, pose with an artist’s impression of how their daughter might have looked at age nine. She turned 18 yesterday.
Picture: AFP STOLEN YEARS. Parents of missing girl Madeleine McCann, Kate and Gerry, pose with an artist’s impression of how their daughter might have looked at age nine. She turned 18 yesterday.

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