British police are pushing Portugal to reopen the case of a missing British girl almost five years after she vanished while on a family trip to the country. In a news conference Wednesday, police said they had hundreds of new leads and released an image of what Madeleine McCann might look like today.
Much like the unsolved Etan Patz case that fascinates many in the United States decades after the little boy disappeared in New York City, the story of the girl who disappeared after her parents put her to bed has haunted Britain. Madeleine McCann was almost 4 when she went missing.
The Times' Kim Murphy wrote at the time:
The McCanns had gone on a family vacation so typical during drizzly British springs: to the sunny Praia da Luz beach resort in Portugal. Her parents, well regarded physicians and doting parents, said they tucked her and her younger brother and sister into bed. Then they took a calculated risk, locking the apartment door and going a hundred yards down the street for a quick dinner.
Every half an hour, the couple said, one of them would walk back to check on the kids. They found nothing but sleeping children until 10 p.m., when Kate McCann found the children's bedroom window open and Madeleine inexplicably, agonizingly gone.
When the case was first being investigated, detectives named three people as suspects: her parents, Kate and Gerry, and a Portuguese man named Robert Murat. All denied being involved and police never charged them. Portuguese authorities closed the enigmatic case nearly four years ago.
British Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood said a team of police officers had pored over the evidence seeking new information and found 195 more leads, the Associated Press reported Wednesday. The little girl could still be alive, police said.
Redwood dismissed the idea that her parents were involved in the disappearance, telling the Guardian that detectives believe Madeleine was abducted in "a criminal act by a stranger."
Though British police have put new energy behind the case, the choice to reopen it isn't in their hands. "I should stress quite clearly that the decision is in Portugal," Redwood told AP.
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Photo: Madeleine McCann, left, before she went missing almost five years ago, and an age progression computer-generated image of her at 9. Credit: Teri Blythe / Metropolitan Police