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Has Madeleine McCann's kidnapper been found?

It’s been six years since Madeleine McCann, then 3, was abducted during a family holiday in Portugal and her parents Kate and Gerry have never given up hope that she will be found alive.

I once lost my son for two minutes once while Christmas shopping and the feeling of terror, helplessness and manic fear is something I'll never recover from.

For the McCann's, that feeling continues.

They are hoping a new BBC Crimewatch documentary will help them find their daughter. The TV program features a number of revelations. It is a must-see for all parents.

Madeleine was conceived through IVF and her parents were delighted by the arrival of their special little girl. Then when they had their twins Sean and Emily, the family of their dreams were complete.

“It was perfect,” Kate says of that time.

But now, Kate McCann looks like a broken woman, haunted by the abduction of her daughter and weighed down by guilt.

The Praia da Luz apartment complex in Portugal is popular with European travellers but is now famous for one of the most brazen and shocking kidnappings the world has ever witnessed.

Each evening the parents would put their children to bed and eat dinner in a restaurant 50 metres away. After the first night, Madeleine said to her parents, “Where were you when Sean and I cried last night?” Kate and Gerry were thrown. They made sure to check on the kids regularly after that during dinner so the children weren’t looking for them.

The family spent the day in the pool. They say they didn’t realise that while they swam and splashed around they were being watched by a gang of criminals who targeted children. They believe the gang had their eyes on Madeleine.

That night during dinner the parents took turns checking the children every half hour. During the last check just after 9pm Gerry saw the bedroom door that had previously been closed was open. All the children were in the room and fast asleep.

A few minutes later Kate and Gerry’s friend Jane walked past the McCann’s apartment on her way to check on her own children.  A man carrying a sleeping child crossed her path.

It was later at around 10pm when Kate went to check her children that she saw the children’s door was wide open. It slammed shut. She walked in and saw that Madeleine was gone and the window was open. She checked her own bed. Madeleine wasn’t there.

The panic instantly set in.

The pain was still very raw as the McCanns described the day to the BBC. The couple are shadows of their former selves. They have endured accusations against them by the public and the Portuguese police, criticism over their decision to leave the children in the apartments while they ate dinner and intense regret that Madeleine is no longer with them.

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The Portuguese police investigation went nowhere. They wrapped it up in two years. The McCanns had to petition for the investigation to continue.

Now, six years later, new information is coming to light. It must be hard to keep hoping but what else can you do when one of your children goes missing?

As I watched the documentary I kept thinking of Bruce and Denise Morcombe who never gave up their search for son Daniel. They too had to fight for the investigation to continue and it was only after they pushed for a coronial enquiry that a suspect was arrested and Daniel’s body was found.

He has since been laid to rest.

In 2011 the McCanns begged UK Prime Minister David Cameron for help. Scotland Yard’s top detectives were instructed to review the evidence. What they found was enough for a full-blown investigation to be launched.

They discovered:

  • The man seen carrying a sleeping child wasn’t the abductor but a dad collecting his child from the night time crèche which means Madeleine could have been taken much later than first thought;
  • At 10pm a family saw another man carrying a child, walking towards the beach. This is now thought to have been Madeleine and her abductor. This is where the suspect image came from;
  • A number of blonde-haired men were seen near the McCanns apartment, some more than once, outside the apartment and in the stairwell;
  • Police now believe the abduction was pre-planned and could have involved a gang.

A third important point is that during January and when Madeleine was taken there was a noticeable increase in robberies in the area. Could Madeleine have disturbed a burglar? Or, was she abducted by a gang of men?

Is she still alive?

We encourage you to watch the documentary. Nobody knows where Madeleline is so anyone could help this family become whole again.

Have you seen this man? Police  have released two e-fits (below) of a mystery man two new witnesses say they saw in the Portuguese resort of Praia da Luz around the time Madeleine went missing.

Have you seen this girl? (Below are age progressed images of what Madeleine might look like now)

As for those who ask why the McCann's won't give up their search, they explain on their website:

Why do we continue?
There is absolutely nothing to suggest that Madeleine has been harmed.
Madeleine is still missing and someone needs to be looking for her.
She is very young and vulnerable and needs our help.
We love her dearly and miss her beyond words.

UPDATE: There have been British media reports in the last 24 hours that a man had been arrested in connection with the case, and that Madeleine had recently been seen alive.

The Sunday Mirror reported that a man had been arrested by Greater Manchester Police after a "respected barrister" said a man had told him that Madeleine had been "introduced" to him on an unnamed Mediterranean island this (northern) summer. Greater Manchester Police are yet comment on the report.

Most parents have lost their children, for a few minutes, an hour, a day. Tell us your story and the lessons you learned from that terrifying experience.