Three-year-old Madeleine McCann vanished from Portugal while on vacation with her family in 2007. Kate and Gary McCann had taken their family to Praia da Luz resort in Portugal, where they were enjoying a warm summer holiday with their three children.
The McCanns left Madeleine and her two younger siblings alone in their hotel room on May 3, 2007, to visit a nearby restaurant with some friends. When the couple returned to their hotel room two hours later, they found Madeleine missing but her siblings unharmed.
The McCanns would later recall that the morning before her disappearance, Madeleine had asked her parents why they hadn’t responded to her the previous evening when she cried for help. The parents began to wonder if someone had been able to access their apartment while they were away, and began to panic about what happened to their daughter.
The initial investigation centered around a person of interest named Robert Murat. Murat, then 33, is a British-Portuguese real estate consultant who lived near the resort. Locals placed him near the McCanns’ room around 9 PM on May 3, and some noted they saw him carrying a child that evening.
The police investigated Murat’s home and eventually cleared him of any suspicions. The authorities reportedly found no evidence linking the real estate consultant to any abductions despite a thorough investigation of his residence.
At one point, the authorities considered investigating the McCanns themselves. Some postulated the couple may have fabricated the abduction story in an effort to cover up Madeleine’s accidental death under their care. However, police dropped this line of inquiry in 2008 after finding no evidence to support such a theory.
The case became a media sensation in the UK by 2008. Madeleine’s story was one of the most widely-covered missing person cases in history, with authorities fielding thousands of anonymous tips regarding her possible whereabouts.
Theories regarding the girl’s fate have ranged from the plausible – perhaps a local trafficker kidnapped her for nefarious means – to the absurd – maybe she simply walked away from the resort and got lost.
Some investigators have noted that the region the McCanns chose for their vacation is quietly a hotbed for sex offenders, and the area reports an unusually high amount of criminal activity.
Madeleine McCann’s disappearance remains unsolved nearly 15 years later. The truth may never reach the light of day, though investigators continue to hunt for answers to bring the McCann family closure.