16 years later, police have apologised to Madeleine McCann's parents.

Content warning: This story mentions sexual assault and may be distressing to some readers.

Update: Portuguese police have apologised to the family of Madeleine McCann for the handling of the unsolved case, more than 16 years after the three-year-old's disappearance.

The BBC reported a delegation of officers travelled from Lisbon to London to apologise for the handling of the investigation and how the family was treated.

The McCanns have not commented on the apology.


At around 8.30pm on May 3, 2007, Kate and Gerry McCann left their three sleeping children in their holiday apartment in the quiet Portuguese resort of Praia da Luz and headed out for dinner.

They thought that Madeleine, three, and 18-month-old twins, Sean and Amelie, would be safe just 83 metres from where they were dining at a tapas restaurant with the group of friends they were holidaying with.

Throughout the evening, the adults took turns checking on the kids.

At 10pm, it was Kate McCann’s turn.

When she arrived at apartment 5A, she knew immediately something was wrong.

Madeleine was gone.

What happened next is well documented. The story of the blonde toddler’s unexplained disappearance became a global news story.

when did madeleine mccann disappear
Madeleine McCann went missing in 2007. Image: Getty.

It's now been over 16 years since the wide-eyed toddler's disappearance.

In 2022, Kate and Gerry McCann welcomed the news that a German man named Christian Brueckner had been formally made a suspect in their three-year-old's disappearance.

It was the first time Portuguese prosecutors were able to identify an official suspect in the case since Madeleine's parents were named suspects in 2007. They were later cleared of that suspicion.

Posting on the Official Find Madeleine Campaign Facebook page, Kate and Gerry wrote: "We welcome the news that the Portuguese authorities have declared a German man an 'arguido' in relation to the disappearance of our beloved daughter Madeleine.


"This reflects progress in the investigation, being conducted by the Portuguese, German and British authorities.

"It is important to note the 'arguido' has not yet been charged with any specific crime related to Madeleine's disappearance.

"Even though the possibility may be slim, we have not given up hope that Madeleine is still alive and we will be reunited with her."

Brueckner, a convicted child abuser and drug dealer, has denied any involvement and has not been charged with any crime related to the case.

He is currently behind bars in Germany for raping a 72-year-old woman in the same area of the Algarve from where Madeleine went missing.

Earlier this year, a German court threw out additional charges against him related to other Portuguese child rape and sexual assault cases, which meant the German prosecutors investigating the disappearance of Madeleine no longer had jurisdiction to investigate it.

Earlier this year, a three-day search of a Portuguese dam looking for evidence to link Madeleine's disappearance to Brueckner was carried out by German authorities.

Watch The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann trailer below. Post continues after video.

Video by Netflix.

How old would Madeleine be today?

Madeleine would have turned 20 on May 12.

Her parents previously marked what would have been her 18th birthday with an emotional message on Facebook in 2021. 

"Every May is tough — a reminder of years passed, of years together lost, or stolen," Kate and Gerry McCann wrote on their Facebook page. 

"This year it is particularly poignant as we should be celebrating Madeleine’s 18th birthday. Enough said."

"We hang on to the hope, however small, that we will see Madeleine again. As we have said repeatedly, we need to know what has happened to our lovely daughter, no matter what. We are very grateful to the police for their continued efforts."

They concluded: "We still receive so many positive words and good wishes despite the years that have gone by. It all helps and for that we are truly grateful — thank you."

In 2020, the McCanns farewelled the year saying it was one they "don’t want to remember but will find it hard to forget".

"There’s no doubt that 2020 has been tough for most people, and often distressing, with so much loss, worry and isolation," the couple wrote on the Facebook page. "Despite losing a parent each, we are aware we have been more fortunate than many, with our family unit at home and jobs to go to."

They added that the pandemic had forced the investigation into their daughter's vanishing to "slow down".


"It hasn’t stopped however and the hope, energy and determination to find her and uncover the truth remain steadfast. Let’s hope 2021 is a brighter, more positive one," they concluded their post. 

Who is Julia Faustyna?

In February 2023, Madeleine's parents agreed to a DNA test to be completed by Julia Faustyna (also known as Julia Wendell) — a Polish woman who went viral after saying she believed she may be their daughter.

Faustyna, who started posting on social media under the handle @iammadeleinemccann, said she was kidnapped as a toddler and doesn't remember large parts of her childhood. 

The only parts she does remember, she says, are "holidays in a hot place where was [a] beach and white or very light coloured buildings with apartments."

In other posts, she pointed out their physical similarities, including the distinctive brown smudge on both or their right irises.

"I have similar eyes, shape of face, ears, lips, I had the gap between the teeth [as Madeleine]," she wrote. 

"I need to know the truth. I need [a] DNA test and I need to talk with Madeleine’s parents. Help me!"

Image: Instagram @iammadeleinemccan.


However, a DNA test later determined she is not Madeleine McCann. 

Pawel Noga, from the Police Headquarters in Wroclaw, Poland, told Polish news outlet, Gazeta that they have "ruled out" the truth of this claim.  

Neither Gerry nor Kate has commented on the update.

"Gerry and Kate are not issuing any statements or giving interviews unless requested by The Metropolitan Police," a spokesperson for the Official Find Madeleine Campaign said in a statement.

Private investigator, Dr Fia Johansson worked closely with Julia said, according to New Idea, that the 22-year-old is certainly not Madeleine.

"She is absolutely 100 per cent from Poland. She is a small percentage of Lithuanian and Russian but the test results show she is Polish," Johansson said. "This story is much more complicated than a simple girl from a small town in Poland making a claim to get attention."


Johansson continued, "She truly believed what she was saying, and with so many questions about her childhood it is easy to understand where she was coming from."

Listen to this episode of The Quicky: A Viral Photo & Many Conspiracies: Is This Really Madeleine McCann? Post continues after audio.

Who are Madeleine McCann's parents? 

Kate McCann (neé Healey) was born in 1968 in Huyton, near Liverpool. She graduated in 1992 with a degree in medicine from the University of Dundee. Gerry McCann, born the same year as Kate, was also a medical scholar, in Glasgow. After working in obstetrics and gynaecology, Kate became a GP. Gerry worked in sports medicine before moving into cardiology.

The couple, described by friends as "inseparable," met while working as junior doctors at the Western Infirmary in Glasgow.

They married in 1998 and had Madeleine in 2003 after IVF treatment. Twins Sean and Amelie followed two years later. The family moved to Rothey in Leicestershire, when Gerry got a job as a consultant cardiologist at Glenfield Hospital in 2005.

Did the McCanns split up after Madeleine McCann went missing? 

While the McCanns never actually split up, Kate has spoken about how close their relationship came to breaking point. 

In her book, Madeleine, Kate talks about how she withdrew into herself after Madeleine's disappearance, ceasing to read, play music, or even have sex with husband Gerry.

She said that the fears a paedophile had taken Maddie very much played into that.


"Tortured as I was by these images, it's not surprising that even the thought of sex repulsed me," Kate wrote. 

"I worried about Gerry and me. I worried that if I didn't get our sex life on track, our whole relationship would break down."

She also recalled how supportive Gerry was during the darkest days of their lives. "He would put his arm round me, reassuring me and telling me that he loved me," she wrote.

Kate and Gerry McCann in 2007. Image: Getty. 


Kate McCann, 55, and Gerry McCann, 55, remain together and continue to fight for information about Madeleine's disappearance.

In 2014, Kate told the BBC that she had returned to Praia da Luz on several occasions.

"I do go back for personal reasons," she said. "It’s obviously the last place we were with Madeleine and I still walk those streets and I guess try to look for answers. It helps me, most of the time."

After Madeleine vanished, Kate quit her job as a GP to work for children's charities. Gerry McCann is now a professor of cardiology and prides himself on having "established a national and growing international reputation as an expert in Cardiac MRI (magnetic reasoning imaging)" – or scanning, as reported by The Sun.

The McCanns have used AUD $308,000 made from sales of Kate's book about their daughter to continue the search for the little girl.

Their twins, Amelie and Sean, are now 18.

If this has raised any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. 

This article was updated with new information on October 31, 2023.

- With AAP. 

Feature Image: Getty.

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