Madeleine McCann disappearance: A timeline

Three-year-old Madeleine McCann vanished from a Portuguese holiday apartment almost 15 years ago.

In the intervening years, a huge, costly police operation has taken place across much of Europe.

Madeleine’s parents, Kate and Gerry, say all they have ever wanted is to find their daughter.

Here is the story so far.


On 3 May Madeleine, from Rothley, Leicestershire, is on holiday with her family at the Ocean Club in Praia da Luz, Portugal.

    • Her parents go for dinner with a group of friends at a restaurant in the complex. Madeleine and her younger brother and sister – twins – stay in the apartment, 100 yards away
    • The adults had devised a rota system to check on all their children during the evening
    • When it is the turn of Kate McCann, she discovers her daughter, Madeleine, has gone
    • Police are called and staff and guests at the complex search for her until daybreak
    • Border police and airport staff are put on alert and hundreds of volunteers join efforts to find Madeleine in the following days

On 12 May, the McCanns say they “cannot describe the anguish and despair” they are feeling.

Portuguese police say they believe Madeleine was abducted but is still alive and in Portugal.

On 26 May, police issue a description of a man seen on the night of Madeleine’s disappearance, possibly carrying a child.

In June, a Portuguese police chief admits vital forensic clues may have been destroyed as the scene was not protected properly.

In July, British police send sniffer dogs to assist the investigation, and inspections of the McCann’s apartment and rental car are conducted.

By August it is 100 days since Madeleine disappeared. Investigating officers publicly acknowledge she may not be found alive.

On 6 September, Portuguese police interview Kate McCann as a witness. On 7 September, detectives make the couple “arguidos” and days later, the McCanns return to the UK. Prosecutors later say there is no new evidence to justify re-questioning them.

Gerry McCann releases a video in November saying he believes his family was watched by “a predator” in the days before his daughter’s disappearance.


On 20 January the McCanns release sketches of a suspect, based on a description by a British holidaymaker of a “creepy man” seen at the resort.

In April, Portuguese police fly to the UK to sit in on interviews conducted by Leicestershire Police of the McCanns’ friends they had dinner with on the night Madeleine disappeared.

On 3 May, one year since the disappearance, Mrs McCann urges people to “pray like mad” for her little girl.

By July Portuguese police say they have submitted their final report on the case. Weeks later, authorities shelve their investigation and lift the “arguido” status of the McCanns.

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See Also: Polish woman claims to be missing child Madeleine McCann:

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