June 2, 2014 5:55 am

Timeline of events: Madeleine McCann disappearance

This file picture taken on May 13, 2007 shows a poster displaying the police and a newsdesk number for missing British girl Madeleine McCann hung on a street in the southern Portuguese beach resort of Lagos.

Getty Images/File

TORONTO – Police investigating the disappearance of Madeleine McCann have cordoned off an area of scrubland near where the British girl vanished seven years ago.

Officers placed yellow-and-white police tape today around the waste ground, which is slightly larger than a soccer field, and were expected to examine the area in coming days.

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McCann vanished from a vacation home in Portugal’s Algarve region on May 3, 2007, days before her fourth birthday.

The case has generated intense media interest worldwide.

Here’s a look back at the events surrounding the case:

2007

May 3, 2007: Madeleine goes missing from a Portuguese villa while her parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, have dinner with seven friends at a nearby
restaurant.

Her parents say they checked frequently on their three children sleeping that night in the apartment in the town of Praia da Luz in the Algarve region. Kate
McCann reportedly went to check on the children at 10 p.m. to find Madeleine had disappeared.

Madeleine goes missing nine days before her fourth birthday. Dozens of Portuguese police helped by search dogs look for Madeleine.

May 4, 2007: Police state they are unable to reveal details of the investigation under Portuguese secrecy laws.
May 5, 2007: Police reveal that they believe Madeleine was abducted but that they believe she is still alive. A sketch of the suspect is released but media reports state it is vague and simply features the back of a man’s head.

May 8, 2007: Police say they are unsure of Madeleine’s whereabouts after investigating more than 350 suspicious incidents.

May 11, 2007: Soccer star David Beckham makes a televised appeal, asking the public to call with any information.

May 12, 2007: Madeleine turns four-years-old.

May 14, 2007: Madeleine’s parents say they will not return home until their daughter is found. Robert Murat is named an official suspect.

May 17, 2007: The website www.findmadeleine.com is launched.

May 30, 2007: Madeleine’s parents meet with Pope Benedict.

June 1, 2007: Kate and Gerry McCann hold a news conference in Spain, pleading with local police for help.

June 22, 2007: A worldwide balloon release marks the 50th day since Madeleine disappeared.

Aug.  6, 2007: Reports state sniffer dogs have found traces of blood on a wall of the apartment where Madeleine went missing.

Aug. 11, 2007: Investigators publically acknowledge that 100 days after Madeleine went missing; they believe the young girl could be dead.

Sept. 6, 2007: Kate McCann is questioned for 11 hours as a witness by police.

Sept. 7, 2007: Portuguese police officially name the McCanns as suspects and both are questioned.

Oct. 2, 2007:  Goncalo Amaral, the head detective in the inquiry, is removed from the case after criticizing the British police.

Dec. 22, 2007: The McCanns send a public message to their daughter, stating: “Our only Christmas wish is for you to be back with us again.”

Portuguese authorities close their investigation, and say they are no longer considering the parents or Murat as suspects.  They release thousands of pages of evidence from the case, including a number of reported sightings of the girl.

ONE YEAR LATER

February 4, 2008: Portugal’s top detective says that police were “hasty” in making the McCanns suspects.

April 10, 2008: The McCanns call for a Europe-wide missing child alert system in Brussels.

July 21, 2008: Police state the McCanns and Robert Murat are no longer suspects.

TWO YEARS LATER
Aug. 6, 2009:
 Private detectives release a sketch of a woman whom they believe might have information about Madeleine.

The woman, a “Victoria Beckham lookalike,” reportedly had an Australian accent and was spotted by two British men in Barcelona, Spain, three days after the girl disappeared in Portugal. The woman reportedly spoke with one of the men, but investigators refused to give any details on the content of the conversation.

Sept. 23, 2009: The McCanns return to Lisbon for the first time since their daughter’s disappearance.

Nov.  3, 2009: UK police release a 60-second video of how Madeleine might look now, aged six-years-old.

THREE YEARS LATER

Jan.  12, 2010: The McCanns face former Portuguese police officer Goncalo Amaral in a libel court over his claims that Madeleine is dead and that they were involved in her disappearance.

Amaral made the allegations in his July 2008 book “Maddie: The Truth Of The Lie.”

March 6, 2010: The McCanns criticize the release of previously unseen files on their daughter’s case to British newspapers.

Nov. 2010: The McCanns announce they’re writing a book about their daughter’s disappearance.

December 2010: The McCanns issue a Christmas appeal for help in the search for Madeleine.

FOUR YEARS LATER

May 2011: The McCanns ask British Prime Minister David Cameron to launch an independent investigation into the disappearance of their daughter.

In an open letter in the Sun newspaper published on Madeleine’s eighth birthday, around the fourth anniversary of her disappearance, Kate and Gerry McCann urge the prime minister to secure a formal inquiry.

“It’s not right that a young, vulnerable British citizen has essentially been given up on,” the letter states.

June 13, 2011: Kate McCann appeals to ministers to provide more help for the families of loved ones.

July 28, 2011: A British tourist in India claims she
saw Madeleine in a market in the northern city of Leh.

The tourist says the child was with a French woman and a Belgian man.

The McCanns say their private investigator is looking into the claims, but downplay the credibility of the report.

Oct. 19, 2011: Kate and Gerry McCann launch their book “Madeleine” in Madrid. The book was written by the couple and is an account of how their daughter vanished in 2007.

FIVE YEARS LATER
April 17, 2012:
 Spanish police search for Madeleine in a holiday resort in Costa del Sol following a tip from colleagues in Portugal.

April 24, 2012:  British police ask Portugal to reopen the case, saying that as the fifth anniversary of her disappearance approaches there is a possibility she is still alive.

Police also release a new image of what McCann would likely look like today, expressing hope that she would be found even years after the then-three-year-old vanished.

May 3, 2012: The parents of Madeleine say they believe Portuguese authorities will eventually reopen the investigation into their daughter’s disappearance.

Madeleine’s father Geri tells journalists that there was “ongoing dialogue” with officials in Portugal. “I am sure the investigation will get opened again in due course,” he says.

SIX YEARS LATER

July 4, 2013:  British police say they have launched a full investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine and want to trace 38 “persons of interest” in the case.

Detectives also say it’s possible that Madeleine is still alive.

Oct. 14, 2013:  Portugal’s public broadcaster says prosecutors are now reopening the police investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, after a review of evidence found new leads in the case.

SEVEN YEARS LATER

June 2, 2014: Police investigating the disappearance of Madeleine cordon off an area of scrubland near where the British girl vanished.

Officers placed yellow-and-white police tape around the waste ground, which is mostly level and slightly larger than a soccer field, and were expected to conduct a forensic examination of the area in coming days. Officials have previously said detectives may use excavators, dogs and ground-penetrating radar as they scrutinize the terrain.

READ MORE: Police prepare for search in Madeleine McCann case

Officials made no immediate comment on Monday’s developments. Cases that are under investigation in Portugal are covered by a judicial secrecy law, which forbids the release of information.

- With files from the Associated Press

© Shaw Media, 2014

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