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Portuguese police apologize to Madeleine McCann’s parents

FILE - Portuguese police have apologized to the parents of Madeleine McCann for their handling of the three-year-old's highly publicized disappearance in 2007. Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Portuguese police have apologized to the parents of Madeleine McCann for the way the family was treated during the investigation into their three-year-old daughter’s disappearance in 2007.

Earlier this year, a group of senior police officers from Lisbon travelled to London to meet with Madeleine’s father Gerry McCann, according to BBC Panorama. The officers reportedly apologized to Gerry for the handling of their investigation.

Madeleine went missing from a hotel room in Praia da Luz, in Portugal’s Algarve, while on vacation with her family in May 2007. Gerry and Kate McCann were dining with friends at a nearby tapas bar, leaving Madeleine and her two siblings asleep in their bedroom on the evening she vanished.

Her disappearance launched a cross-country investigation and resulted in an international media frenzy. Publicity for the case only increased when Gerry and Kate were named as formal suspects, or “arguidos” in Portuguese. The parents were questioned by police, who at the time believed they may have staged the abduction.

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In the years since Madeleine’s disappearance, Portuguese police have said their initial investigation was improperly handled.

Gerry and Kate were cleared of suspicion in 2008. They have not commented publicly on the apology from Portuguese police.

Where is the investigation now?

In the more than 15 years since Madeleine’s disappearance, Portuguese officials have collaborated with English and German police in an attempt to locate the girl and her kidnapper.

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In June 2020, German police said Madeleine is assumed dead. British authorities continue to treat her disappearance as a missing person case.

Click to play video: 'Madeleine McCann presumed dead by German authorities'
Madeleine McCann presumed dead by German authorities

Later in 2022, authorities appeared to make an advance in the cold case when German police named Christian Brücker, a convicted sex offender, as a formal suspect.

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It was the first time a formal suspect had been named in Madeleine’s case since her parents were declared “arguidos.”

Brückner, who is German, is currently serving a seven-year prison sentence for raping a 72-year-old woman in 2005 in the same area where Madeleine went missing. He has separately been charged with rape, sexual assault and sexual assault of a child.

Brückner has not been officially charged in Madeleine’s case. He has denied any involvement.

In May, police in Portugal launched a new reservoir search for Madeleine’s body at the behest of German authorities. During the search, officials used rakes and hoe-like tools to prod the ground beside the Arade dam, about 50 kilometres from where Madeleine vanished. German prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters said police in Portugal were investigating the area “on the basis of certain tips” but did not share any other information.

Click to play video: 'Madeleine McCann: Police begin new search in Portugal reservoir for missing girl'
Madeleine McCann: Police begin new search in Portugal reservoir for missing girl

Wolters this week praised the apology from Portuguese police to the McCann family.

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“It’s a good sign,” he told the BBC. “It shows that, in Portugal, there’s development in the McCann case.”

Madeleine’s disappearance remains unsolved. This year, on the 16th anniversary of their daughter’s disappearance, Gerry and Kate said Madeleine is “very much missed.”

The family said it is “hard” to describe how they feel. They shared the poem The Contradiction by Clare Pollard because it “resonates strongly with us.”

“I cannot hold you, yet I do: // please let me hold you in my head // and where you are now, hold me too,” the poem reads.

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