11 May 2009


Why it's hard to warm to ice-cold McCanns




STILL SEARCHING: Kate and Gerry McCann

DID any of you see the McCanns on Oprah on Thursday night?

Two years on and isn't it amazing how we're still all glued to watching Gerry and Kate discuss the disappearance of their young daughter Maddie?

While I couldn't even begin to imagine their anguish, I couldn't help but be shocked at the size of their palatial home in Wales.

After all, these were a couple who left their three young children alone in a small apartment, while they went off to enjoy themselves for the evening at a bar down the road.

Surely a family of their obvious wealth could have afforded a nanny to help them out, or at the very least a babysitter for each of the evenings they went out and left the kids?


I've said it before, but what would have happened if they weren't both influential doctors? What if they were just working-class people who scraped up enough money for the holiday, couldn't afford a babysitter and just took a chance?

The McCanns have always seemed to me to be a little cold in their dealings with the world's media in their quest to find their daughter.

So I couldn't believe my ears when Oprah asked how they now treated their twins. "Are you afraid to let them out of your sight?" asked Oprah. I assumed, like everyone else, Kate would say, "Of course!"




But instead, Kate looked a bit distant for a moment before coming back with, "Eh, well... we have to let them live their lives. And we have to let them grow."

I nearly fell off the seat! Anyone who I've discussed the situation with before would agree that you'd have the other kids tied to you at all times.


Hopefully for the sake of Maddie's younger brother and sister, the mystery of her disappearance will be solved sooner rather than

Like in the case of Philip Cairns, whose remains Gardai were once again searching for this week in Dublin, I'm hoping for both families' sakes that these latest developments might put an end to their nightmares. No family deserves to continue with not knowing where their child may be.

8 May 2009


compliments of Joana Morais, the truth about the twelve year old witness and what she really saw as opposed to the rubbish on "Madeleine was here" Did Kate prepare this comedy e-fit loosely basing it on Gerry, if so, good subliminal message Kate, now get to the point! I wonder how much Kate is paying her very own little keystone cops? Funny it took Kate nearly a year to find this in the PJ files, it took Joana Morais just a few hours, I think and she even got the real e-fit!

Deposition of 12-year-old girl according to case files

Deposition of T. M. S., aged 12, a resident in Luz, on the 9th of May 2007, 4 p.m.
Page 800-804, volume III of process 201/07.0GALGS

"Comes to the process as a witness. Understands the Portuguese Language, as she has been living in Portugal since the age of two months (approximately eleven years ago). Still, an interpreter is present [name withheld].

Her parents are separated, she initially resided in Monchique, and now in Praia da Luz, since 2005, at the address that is stated above, with her Mother.

She also mentions that she lived in the apartment where the missing child was staying, that belonged to her Grandmother, who is already deceased. That she didn’t actually reside there, but spent extensive and repeated periods of time there, with her Grandmother and her Mother. The apartment was bought in 1994 and sold in 2002 and therefore she knows it perfectly, both from the inside and from the outside.

She wishes to clarify. On the 30th of April, Monday, at around 8 a.m. and when she was walking to the bus stop for the school bus that leaves at 8.15, a path that she walks every day when there is school, she noticed the presence of a male individual, at the back of Madeleine’s house, on a little pathway to the apartments that exists there, looking in an ostensive manner at the house’s balcony. This happened when she was walking down the street, on the left side, which was right in front of the balcony, and the distance between them was the width of the road. That when she was walking down she decided to look at the pathway, because as she lived there, she likes to watch the house and the neighbouring garden. She walked with her mother, that she is certain she didn’t see the man, and she was walking two dogs on a leash, which forced them to cross the road, a bit further down. At that moment she saw the man more closely, as they crossed the road, and then lost visual angle when they finished crossing.

Says that the man didn’t see the deponent, because he was staring at the balcony.

She presumes that nobody was on Madeleine’s house’s balcony, but she cannot state it beyond doubt.

After crossing, she caught the bus and went to school and her mother went on the beach to walk the dogs.

When she returned from school, at around 5.30/5.40 p.m., after leaving the bus, she walked a different path, because the bus has a stop on the street where she lives, and therefore she doesn’t need to walk down to the ‘Ocean Club’. She didn’t see the man again at that time, nor did she see him again until the 2nd of May, Wednesday, after the bank holiday.

That on that day she didn’t go to school because she was sick with an infection in her right ear. Still, and feeling somewhat better, at around noon she left on her own, as her mother was at work, with the dogs, and went to the ‘Alisuper’ supermarket which is located on a perpendicular to Rua Direita, where she bought chocolates for €3,63. Then she walked to the pharmacy, which is located below the ‘Baptista’ supermarket, on a lateral perspective, where she bought a box of tampons for her ears, to prevent water from getting in, and spent €4,55. Then she went to ‘Baptista’ supermarket to buy cereal bread, because they don’t sell it at ‘Alisuper’. She left the dogs tied at the back entrance of ‘Baptista’ and went in to buy the bread. She paid, left ‘Baptista’, collected the dogs, and walked across the supermarket’s hall to the main entrance, approximately four/five metres, which exits to the street where she had seen the man. She started walking up the street on the left side going up, and saw the man, this time in front of the ‘Ocean Club’s’ reception, once more looking at Madeleine’s house in an ostensive manner, where he stood he could observe, she thinks, the house’s two side windows and part of the balcony. She thinks that he could also be looking at the other residences that are located in the same direction.

That as she was walking up she walked right in front of the man, and observed him directly, an action that he did not retaliate, because he never looked at the deponent. The distance that she observed him from was the width of the road.

After walking by the individual, she walked towards her house, through the road to the right, and never looked back to the man, or turned around to observe him better.

After that day she never saw him again.

As she said before, she left home at 12 p.m. and returned at 12.35 p.m., which means she crossed with the man at around 12.25/12.28 (the rest of the walk takes about seven minutes).

On the next day, Thursday (03.05.2007) she walked the same path as on the 30th, at the same time, but didn’t see the man, and never saw him again, as she said before.

Concerning the individual, she describes him as being: Caucasian race, light skin, so he wasn’t Portuguese, but could be British, according to her criteria. Approximately 180 cm tall, thin complexion, 30/35 years of age. Short hair, like shaved with 1 cm of length and fair, but she isn’t sure if it was blonde because the sun was reflecting, and made perception more difficult. She didn’t see the eyes because he wore dark glasses of black colour, with a structure of mass, a thick frame. He had a large forehead. Nose of normal size, a bit pointy and sharp. Large ears, close against the head. Mouth with thin lips, she didn’t see his teeth. Chin pointing up, which stood out on a face that she describes as sharp. No beard, no moustache, a clean shave. No other special signs, apart from some small pimples on the face as a result of shaving. He looked ugly, even ‘disgusting’.

The first time that she saw him he was wearing a sports style jacket of thin black leather, with a zipper and several pockets also with similar zippers, in silver. She saw no label or inscription. The jacket was open, therefore she saw a white t-shirt, with a dark blue label near the waist, which she cannot identify very well.

Trousers, she thinks, of blue jeans, worn out. Sports shoes (trainers) in black and grey, with a wave, maybe ‘Nike’ in a colour that she can’t remember.

The second time, he wore the same jacket, this time zipped up, because the day was colder than the first one, windy. She didn’t notice the rest of the clothing. She says that on that day he had a pen with a string attached to one of his pockets.

The first time, he was leaning against the wall against his hands, and the second time, he had his hands in his pockets.

She never saw him with any photo camera, or any mobile phone, although the second time, he might have a device in his pocket, which she detected by the shape.

When asked, she says that she saw no vehicle near the man, only a few vehicles, but near the ‘Baptista’.

When asked she says that she saw Madeleine once, on a day that she cannot indicate, on the balcony where the man was staring at, the first time. She even waved at her because it was a small child, in a caring gesture.

A map of the area is added, where A is the spot of the first sighting and B the spot for the second one. The ‘Baptista’ supermarket and Madeleine’s apartment.

She said that she can recognise the man both personally and photographically, and create a photofit.

Therefore I interrupt the present deposition and show the deponent photographs of individuals with similar characteristics.

I resume the deposition where it is consigned that the diligence resulted negatively, according to a report that is annexed.

She didn’t say anything further. The deposition is read and approved, ratified and signed together with the interpreter that assisted.

The present deposition is written and signed."

What an excellent and honest critique on the drip feed from Team McCann of just what they want us to know and nothing else. Channel 4 were hardly Cutting Edge here!

They also exemplify the clear marital rift between Kate and Gerry with Clarence their spokesman refusing to comment!

Let us hope the British Press are going to continue to wake up and look at the reality!


From The Times
May 8, 2009
Cutting Edge: Madeleine Was Here; Tim Teeman
Cutting Edge: Madeleine Was Here (Channel 4)
There is a very macabre dance around Madeleine McCann, as we mark the second anniversary of her disappearance. There are no law enforcement agencies on the case. Instead, alongside Kate, Madeleine’s mother, two retired detectives are poring over recently released Portuguese police files. Last night’s Cutting Edge was called Madeleine Was Here and — to keep yesterday’s pre-transmission front pages furnished — revealed a suspect from deep within the files; a man who was, according to witnesses, watching the McCann’s Praia da Luz apartment.
Gerry returned to the apartment block and some reconstructions were filmed. Last week, the McCanns appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show with a computer-generated image of how their daughter would appear now.
To keep the chances of finding her alive, the McCanns have to keep the story alive, and Cutting Edge observed the McCanns at home: a picture of determinedly amiable domestic life emerged. But the family is uncomfortably beached between a desire for privacy and a desire for as much publicity as possible to find Madeleine.
This presents a problem for them, and for documentary-makers and journalists. The dripfeed of information (like the new suspect) and access to the McCanns is controlled by the family and their press representative Clarence Mitchell. The journalism of the Cutting Edge documentary was thus skewed to whatever the McCann’s agenda was. It was hard to see what material Cutting Edge had uncovered itself: it seemed to just record whatever the McCanns wanted us to see.
Oprah quite reasonably asked them how their marriage had survived the last two awful years. The documentary, despite its access and illusion of family intimacy, didn’t dare ask such things. When I asked Mitchell and the documentary-maker the same question at a screening on Wednesday, I received a curt dismissal: that wasn’t the intention of Madeleine Was Here, apparently.
But that doesn’t mean my question, or indeed any question is invalid just because it doesn’t fit with the McCann/Mitchell agenda, especially when TV cameras have been invited into their home to show how jolly nice everything is under the circumstances.
Kate and Gerry McCann may well feel their privacy has been invaded, but then they want the media to do their bidding on their terms. It’s a mess — a very unhappy, tragic one. The McCanns need the media and the media needs the McCanns, but it’s a scrappy, compromising relationship for both sides. Let’s hope it yields the desired result.
ER (More4)

1 May 2009


What an incredibly brave and intelligent little girl to get this sickening animal locked up for life, but how on earth did we think it was justice to subject her, aged 4 to cross examination? That is frankly appalling, has this child not suffered enough. It really just adds to the trauma and horror at her treatment that she has faced this again to secure a second conviction for this animal.

But read the article, is there a warning to all of us in there about continuing to comment on the McCann case, David Payne etc?

Baby P monster raped girl of two: Stepfather faces life in jail after tiny victim makes legal history in court ordeal

By Vanessa Allen
Last updated at 2:23 AM on 02nd May 2009

The man responsible for the death of Baby P was yesterday convicted of the rape of a two-year-old girl.

The sadistic 32-year-old was found guilty after the girl became, at the age of four, the youngest rape victim in legal history to give evidence.

She endured 45 minutes of cross examination by two defence barristers after her filmed police statement had been played to the Old Bailey.

Police and children's charities reacted with fury last night over the fact she was subjected to such an intimidating court ordeal.

Baby P's stepfather was found guilty of raping a two-year-old child today

Baby P's stepfather was found guilty of raping a two-year-old child today

The girl was attacked by Baby P's stepfather while she was supposedly being monitored by Haringey Council. This is the same London borough which also failed Baby P and an earlier victim of abuse, Victoria Climbie.

The stepfather - convicted last year of causing or allowing Baby P's death - is now facing a possible life sentence for rape and will be placed on the Sex Offenders' Register.

Psychiatrists have warned he will always be a danger to children, and police are investigating concerns that he abused two other girls. An independent investigation has begun into how he was able to target the girl, seemingly under the nose of the local authority.

His dramatic conviction meant a ban on reporting the trial was lifted. It came as:

  • Baby P can be named for the first time as Peter, at the request of his real father,
  • A report into his death said it could have been prevented,
  • Haringey issued a grovelling apology over its failures to protect the children,
  • The Attorney General investigated an internet 'name and shame' campaign which risked derailing the trial and led to the defendants being given false names.
Sharon Shoesmith, who was head of children's services at Haringey council at the time, was sacked in December last year

Sharon Shoesmith: Sacked in December over the Baby P scandal

Baby Peter's mother had faced a charge of cruelty in relation to the rape, but was found not guilty by the jury of eight men and four women.

The girl had told the Old Bailey that the 28-year-old woman walked in during the sex attack, but made no attempt to stop it or to rescue the helpless child.

The victim claimed the mother had only turned to her boyfriend and wagged her finger at him, telling him: 'Don't do that... Don't do it.'

The couple, who inflicted months of agonising torture on Baby Peter, will now face sentencing later this month along with their former lodger Jason Owen, 36, of Bromley, Kent, for causing or allowing his death.

Legal experts have warned that Peter's mother will face a relatively low sentence and could even be freed as early as next year. His stepfather will be sentenced for the girl's rape at the same hearing.

Detectives believe the convicted child rapist may have sexually abused the two-year-old girl at least three times in 2007, before his arrest over Peter's death in August 2007.

But he was only charged with a single count of rape, because lawyers feared it would be too difficult for his young victim to try to give evidence about several different occasions.

Her harrowing account was at the centre of the trial, and without her key evidence the prosecution could not have gone ahead. The rape victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was placed on Haringey's child protection register in December 2006 over fears she was at risk of neglect.

The social workers in contact with her family had no idea she had been targeted by the same pain-obsessed brute who tortured Baby Peter.

She was later taken into foster care, and told her foster mother that Peter's stepfather had sexually abused her.

Sacked: Clive Preece, Maria Ward and Gillie Christou. Celia Hitchen (not pictured) was also dismissed

Sacked: Clive Preece, Maria Ward and Gillie Christou. Celia Hitchen (not pictured) was also dismissed

Police and social services were called but when detectives asked the girl, then aged three, if the man had touched her she shook her head, and the investigation was dropped - potentially wasting a vital chance to investigate.

Two months later the child made the accusation again and re-enacted the alleged rape to child psychiatrists, using a doll and a teddy bear to show what had happened.

Haringey Council last night made a grovelling apology for its failures over both children, and admitted: 'We have accepted that things went badly wrong with our child protection in 2007.'

Peter suffered more than 50 injuries including eight broken ribs and a snapped spine, despite being seen 60 times by social workers, police and health officials in the last eight months of his life.

Jurors in the rape trial were not told of the defendants' previous convictions over his death, because lawyers feared that public revulsion over that crime was so great that they would not receive a fair trial.

They were not even told the couple's true names. Instead they were tried using false names, a step normally reserved for gangland 'supergrasses' whose lives are considered at risk.

Tributes laid in the garden of remembrance in memory of Baby P at the Islington Crematorium, East Finchley, London.

Tributes laid in the garden of remembrance in memory of Baby P at the Islington Crematorium, East Finchley, London.

Court orders still prevent newspapers or broadcasters from revealing their identities. The couple have both received death threats.

Lawyers have asked the Attorney General to investigate a 'name and shame' campaign which led to their names and photographs appearing on hundreds of websites, including the social networking site Facebook, alongside calls for them to face vigilante-style 'justice'.

Local MP Lynne Featherstone called for Haringey to face a public inquiry over its failures to protect children.

Haringey said an independent investigation was under way, and admitted it had made 'failures of judgment, professional practice, management and supervision'.

There have been widespread dismissals at the council since the Baby Peter abuse scandal emerged, including the borough's former head of children's services Sharon Shoesmith, who is fighting her dismissal at an employment tribunal. Earlier this week four more officials were sacked.

The new report was the second serious case review, ordered by the Government after the first one was criticised for being too soft on Haringey.

The second review found his death 'could and should have been prevented' and said social workers, lawyers, police and doctors who dealt with him were 'lacking in urgency and lacking in thoroughness'.

What happened to this man's integrity, his original article was refreshingly honest, this one is fashionably sickening.

David Jones had his suspicions about the McCanns but two years on, he confesses he was horribly wrong

By David Jones
Last updated at 10:50 PM on 01st May 2009

Loss: Kate and Gerry McCann in the days after Madeleine's disappearance

Loss: Kate and Gerry McCann in the days after Madeleine's disappearance

Tuning the car radio into a late-night BBC phone-in programme during a long motorway drive, a heated debate caught my attention.

'What sort of parents would leave their three-year-old daughter alone in an apartment and go off for dinner?' one angry caller would demand to know.

Then someone else would counter: 'They did nothing wrong. This could have happened to anyone.'

As I listened, it slowly became evident that the girl in question had vanished a few hours earlier from a holiday resort in Portugal, and that she seemed to have been abducted from her bed as she slept.

By the following day, the first heart-melting photographs of 'Missing Madeleine McCann' had been published in the newspapers, etching this grimly compelling story into the national consciousness.

And soon afterwards, I was dispatched to the Algarve to report the hunt for the snatched-away cherub.

Tomorrow marks the second anniversary of Madeleine's disappearance, yet this saga has since taken so many twists and turns, and invoked such prurient fascination, that it might have happened only yesterday.

Two years and millions of words later, the questions show no sign of abating. 'What do you think happened to her? Could she still be alive? Where is she now?' I am invariably asked, if ever I mention that I spent many weeks investigating the Madeleine McCann mystery.

Like every other reporter who has striven to solve this perplexing case, not to mention all those expensive private investigators and the inept Portuguese police, I am no nearer to knowing the answers today than I was on that May afternoon when I first arrived in Praia da Luz.

But over recent months, having sifted again through my notebooks, scoured the internet, revisited old contacts and observed Madeleine's parents, Kate and Gerry, campaigning relentlessly and indefatigably for their daughter's return, I have come to one definite conclusion.

It is that whatever became of the slumbering Madeleine on that dreadful Thursday night, her parents played no part in her disappearance.

In early September, 2007, during perhaps the most sensational week of the inquiry, Kate McCann was declared an arguida (an official suspect) by the Portuguese judiciary.

During her ensuing interrogation, she was treated in a manner which bordered on brutality - remorselessly bullied and hectored in a marathon grilling that would have tested anyone's inner resources to their limits, let alone that of a grief-stricken mother.

At that time, amid mounting speculation about the McCanns' possible culpability, I wrote an article that caused something of a stir and, I am told, exacerbated Kate and Gerry's anguish.

(It also angered my wife, who, with a mother's instincts, has steadfastly believed the McCanns from the outset.)

In that piece, which was based on the facts in my possession - aligned to gut feeling - I voiced the suspicions of many colleagues and a surprisingly large proportion of the watching public, by admitting that I had nagging doubts about the couple's innocence.

It was an honestly held opinion, but now, on the second anniversary of Madeleine's disappearance, I have to confess that I was horribly wrong.

One of two new posters which show Madeleine McCann as she was aged three, and how she might look now, aged six.

One of two new posters which show Madeleine McCann as she was aged three, and how she might look now, aged six.

Why, though, did I think back then that they might be in some way culpable, and why, two years after their daughter vanished, have I so radically changed my views?

As the spring of 2007 progressed, opinions about Kate and Gerry McCann polarised in an extraordinary way, and they found themselves the subject of intense scrutiny.

It was fuelled by their decision to launch an international media campaign, the likes of which had never been seen before, in the hope that it would keep Madeleine in the news and hasten her return.

They hired a succession of PR experts and private investigators, set up an internet site that kept people up to speed with every facet of the case via Gerry McCann's strangely breezy web diary, jetted around the world to appear on TV and even secured an audience with the Pope.

All this frenetic activity was paid for by a fund whose coffers were swelled by tycoons such as Sir Philip Green and Sir Richard Branson; and it made many people deeply uneasy.

Ironically, discussion of their campaign techniques also distracted the world from the very objective the McCanns and their supporters were trying to promote: namely, finding their missing little girl.

Observing from close quarters, I was among those who found it all rather unedifying. During those early months I was perturbed by the McCanns' demeanour.

Clinging for comfort to Madeleine's favourite soft toy, Cuddle Cat, Kate appeared unreachably distant.

Her husband, by contrast, seemed positively chipper, and there were days when the Leicestershire cardiologist almost appeared to relish his highprofile, globetrotting new role.

With hindsight this was a ridiculous and unjustifiable rush to judgment. For how can any of us know what constitutes 'appropriate' behaviour for parents robbed of a child so swiftly and left in limbo, unable to escape the darkest fears of their imagination?

As their spokesman Clarence Mitchell remarked to me this week, after it was suggested that Kate again appeared close to the edge on returning from an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show in America, the couple would have been damned in some quarters however they had reacted.

He was right, but I was not alone among those who allowed their personal observations of the McCanns to colour their opinions about the case.

Gerry and Kate McCann talk with Oprah Winfrey about the ongoing search for daughter Madeleine who went missing two years ago this Sunday

Gerry and Kate McCann talk with Oprah Winfrey about the ongoing search for daughter Madeleine who went missing two years ago this Sunday

And the more I examined the story, as they and their team presented it (in the absence of any information from the legally constrained Portuguese police), the more sceptical I became.

There were all manner of reasons why the suggestion that some fiend had simply carried off Madeleine into the night just didn't seem to add up.

For one thing, Praia da Luz is not some bustling, mainstream Mediterranean resort where a stranger could easily slip in undetected.

It is little more than a village, serviced by one main access road. In early May, it is particularly quiet (the more so now that many holidaymakers refuse to venture there).

Furthermore, the apartment the McCanns had rented was on the ground floor, on the corner of a well-lit street and passageway.

Although the McCanns and their friends - the so called Tapas Seven - were dining in a restaurant obscured by a 6ft wall, they were less than 100 yards away.

Examining this scene time and again, measuring out precise distances and times, it seemed inconceivable that anyone would have the audacity, let alone the wherewithal, to break into the flat and snatch a three-year old girl sleeping beside her younger twin siblings without being caught.

The alternative theories seemed equally outlandish. Some ventured that Madeleine had woken up bewildered in a strange country and wandered off to look for Mummy and Daddy, only to fall down the freshly dug roadworks by the apartment, which were filled in a few days later.

Or had she been snatched by paedophiles and smuggled out of Portugal, perhaps across the Spanish border an hour's drive away, or on a waiting boat - a possibility that gained credence after witnesses said they had seen a girl resembling Madeleine with a man near the harbour?

As this last scenario gathered momentum, I went to Morocco, following one of many supposedly reliable eye-witness sightings of the little blonde girl with a distinctive 'flash' in her right eye.

The trail led to a remote village high in the Atlas mountains, where Madeleine was believed to be held captive in some farmhouse - but, like so many other such claims in Belgium, Holland, Spain and, most recently Malta, it came to nothing.

In the meantime, the spotlight had fallen on Robert Murat, an entrepreneur of mixed British and Portuguese extraction whose mother lived just a few hundred yards from the McCann apartment.

In the estimation of one over imaginative reporter, he appeared to have acted strangely while working as an interpreter for Portuguese police investigating the disappearance.

Such was the police's desperation to solve a case that threw their deficiencies into stark relief that, without any discernible foundation, Murat was also made an official suspect.

Every aspect of his personal life was minutely examined, and when it was found that he had made a late-night phone call to a Russian computer nerd with whom he was friendly on the night Madeleine was taken, this was taken to be highly significant.

Murat was then the subject of all manner of lurid smear stories. Yet when I tracked him down at his sister's country guesthouse and became one of the few reporters to interview him at length, I did not recognise the man in these articles.

As he spoke lovingly about his own infant daughter, and described how it felt to be falsely accused of the most terrible crime imaginable, I became convinced of his innocence - and wrote as much.

Yet, at that stage, I still couldn't be so sure about the McCanns, and when Kate was arrested I came out and said so.

I asked Clarence Mitchell this week how they had reacted. 'Kate and Gerry didn't like the piece, but at the end of the day you have the legitimate right to question anything as a journalist.

Hope: One of the posters being released by the Find Madeleine Campaign

Hope: One of the posters being released by the Find Madeleine Campaign

'Given the flavour of what came out in the Portuguese media at that time it was understandable; regrettable but understandable.

'But when you meet them, and get to know them, you realise quite quickly that they aren't making this up. And when Madeleine is recovered, a lot of people will regret what they wrote.'

Sadly, I am not at all sure that she ever will be found.

Flawed as the Portuguese police case against the McCanns clearly was, it is not so much the hard evidence that now convinces me that I was wrong, but our old friend gut instinct, which in my case has completely changed after following the case from a distance for many months.

I have come to admire the McCanns for their cussed determination and refusal to alter course, despite all the criticism.

When I spoke to Madeleine's two grandmothers this week, that admiration was cemented. 'The whole family are physically exhausted. Kate, in particular, is very tired after coming home from America,' her mother, Susan Healy, told me from her Liverpool home.

'She has had a hectic couple of weeks and really needs to recharge her batteries, but I don't think she has thought about stopping. Not for a minute. I don't think either of them can stop - that's the awful thing.

'They are just stuck in a situation where they don't have a lot of control. The only control they have is to remind people that Madeleine is still missing. That is why they do it.

'You have to understand that everything Kate does - everything - is done because she wants her daughter back. That's the only question they ever ask themselves: will this help us find Madeleine? Nothing else is of any importance.

'If Kate ever gets to the end of the line - I mean, if they got to the stage where they thought there was nothing more they could do - then that would be very difficult. But it would appear that they haven't reached that stage.

'Madeleine is their daughter and they've simply got to carry on. I don't know whether they would call it optimism or not, but they have to keep hoping. If they shrugged their shoulders and said "OK, she's not alive any more," they would be letting her down, wouldn't they?'

In Glasgow, Mr McCann's mother, Eileen, told me much the same thing. 'There's nothing to say that Madeleine isn't alive, so why would they think otherwise?' she said. 'We never even discuss any other possibility.'

You can only applaud such spirit. But if, against all the conceivable odds, Madeleine really has survived, what has become of her?

This week, in a TV reconstruction of her abduction, the latest private detectives to be hired by the McCanns - two experienced former CID men from the North of England, whose no-nonsense approach contrasts sharply with that of their expensive and unproductive predecessors - may uncover fresh clues.

After sifting through reams of previously unexamined Portuguese judicial documents and reinterviewing key witnesses, there is talk of a new 'mystery man' apparently seen loitering near the apartment on that fateful Thursday night.

The programme will not solve the most enduring and troubling missing person inquiry of modern times, of course. Nor will it silence the whispers from those who still harbour lingering doubts about Mr and Mrs McCann.

Nevertheless, we can be sure that they will continue to carry their cross with stoicism.