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Timeline: Madeleine McCann case

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 06 August 2009

It began on May 3 2007 with the disappearance of a three year-old girl.


May 3
Kate and Gerry McCann leave their three children in bed in their holiday apartment in the Ocean Club resort in the Algarve village of Praia da Luz and head for dinner with friends at a nearby tapas restaurant.

At 10pm Mrs McCann goes to check on the children and finds Madeleine has disappeared.

May 14
Police launch a search at the home of Anglo-Portuguese man Robert Murat, just 100 yards from where Madeleine was snatched.

Mr Murat is taken in for questioning, but is not formally arrested.

May 15
Police officially class Robert Murat as an "arguido", or suspect. He claims he is being made a "scapegoat" in the investigation.

May 16
Detectives swoop on the Praia da Luz home of Russian computer expert Sergey Malinka, who designed a website for Mr Murat, and interview him.

May 17
It emerges that Portuguese police are investigating telephone calls between Sergey Malinka and Robert Murat on the night Madeleine was abducted.

Kate McCann (credit: Reuters)

May 30
Kate and Gerry McCann attend an audience with the Pope at the Vatican as they travel around Europe to publicise their campaign to find Madeleine.

June 6
While in Berlin, Madeleine's parents are forced to deny any involvement in her abduction when asked by a German journalist if they had anything to do with her disappearance.

July 6
Dutch police reveal they have arrested a man in Eindhoven suspected of attempting to defraud Gerry and Kate McCann demanding £1.35m for information on her whereabouts.

August 4
Police launch a second search of Robert Murat's house.

August 6
A Portuguese newspaper reports that British sniffer dogs have found traces of blood on a wall in the apartment where Madeleine went missing.

Detectives now believe it is most likely Madeleine is dead, having been killed accidentally, the Jornal de Noticias claimed.

August 8
A friend of the McCanns says she is disgusted at an apparent smear campaign against them.

Rachael Oldfield, who ate with the McCanns on the night Madeleine disappeared, said: "I think there are some leaks coming from the police because a lot of what I have read recently has been completely untrue."

August 9
The McCanns insist they will not be "bullied" into leaving Portugal by the growing backlash against them.

August 12
Mrs McCann tells Woman's Own magazine that she would rather know her daughter was dead than live in limbo forever.

August 15
Blood traces found in the bedroom where Madeleine was sleeping the night she was snatched were not hers, The Times reports. Forensic results show the blood came from a man, it adds.

August 21
A friend of the McCanns hits back at smears about him printed in Portuguese newspapers.

Dr Russell O'Brien, 36, was among the group the couple were dining with on the night Madeleine went missing. Portuguese newspapers have printed allegations about him.

In a statement, Dr O'Brien and his wife Jane Tanner said: "These reports in the Portuguese press are completely untrue and extremely hurtful.

September 6
Mrs McCann arrives at a Portuguese police station to undergo further questioning by detectives.

Mr McCann will be reinterviewed separately by police the next day.

What is an 'arguido'?

Channel 4 News online explains what it means to be a 'formal suspect' in Portuguese law.
Read more

September 7
Portuguese police name Mrs McCann an "arguida". She returns to face another five hours of questioning by police, but is not formally charged with any offence.

Mr McCann arrives at the Policia Judiciaria - Portugal's CID - at 3.35pm, minutes before his wife left looking drained and shell-shocked.

He is questioned for eight hours before leaving the station shortly after midnight. During the course of the interview Mr McCann is also declared an arguido.

Mr McCann's sister Philomena McCann said detectives offered Mrs McCann a "deal" - a guaranteed jail sentence of no more than two years - if she confessed to accidentally killing her daughter.

September 8
It is announced the McCanns will return home to Rothley on the flight they had originally booked before being named arguidos.

A family spokesman stresses they are returning with the full agreement of the Portuguese authorities.

September 9
The McCanns return to Britain under a cloud of suspicion, following claims in Portugal that they were responsible for their daughter's death.

"We have played no part in the disappearance of our lovely daughter, Madeleine" said Gerry McCann.

September 10
Police sources tell Channel 4 News that they have been tapping the phones of Gerry and Kate McCann for many weeks.

Septebmer 11
Police hand their files over to Portuguese public prosecutor.

October 2
Goncalo Amaral, the detective in charge of the inquiry, is removed from the case after criticising the British police in a Portuguese newspaper interview.

October 9
The case is taken over by Paulo Rebelo, a senior detective with Portugal's investigative Policia Judiciaria normally based in Lisbon.

October 25
The McCanns release a new artist's impression drawn by an FBI-trained expert showing the man described by Jane Tanner.

November 1
Mr McCann returns to work as a consultant cardiologist at Leicester's Glenfield Hospital.

December 22
Mr and Mrs McCann send a public message to their daughter, telling her: "Our only Christmas wish is for you to be back with us again."


Madeline McCann (Getty)

February 4
Portugal's top detective, Alipio Ribeiro, says in a radio interview that police were "hasty" in making Madeleine's parents suspects in her disappearance.

March 19
Mr and Mrs McCann accept £550,000 libel damages and front-page apologies from Express Newspapers over allegations they were responsible for Madeleine's death.

April 7
Three Portuguese detectives, led by Mr Rebelo, fly to Britain to re-interview the seven friends on holiday with the McCanns when Madeleine vanished.

April 10
Speaking in Brussels, Mr and Mrs McCann call for a Europe-wide missing child alert system.

But this is overshadowed by a leak of the couple's first police interviews, which reveals that Madeleine asked her mother on the morning before she vanished: "Mummy, why didn't you come when we were crying last night?"

April 26
In an interview for a BBC Radio 4 documentary, Mr McCann says he believes his daughter is still "probably alive" and that there is "absolutely zero" evidence to suggest otherwise.

April 30
An ITV documentary reveals that the McCanns almost decided against leaving their children behind when they went out on the night Madeleine disappeared.

May 3
A tearful Mrs McCann urges people to "pray like mad" for Madeleine as she and her family mark the first anniversary of the little girl's disappearance.

July 17
Mr Murat receives £600,000 in libel damages from four newspaper groups over "seriously defamatory" articles connecting him with the child's disappearance.

July 21
The Portuguese authorities shelve their investigation and lift the "arguido" status of the McCanns and Mr Murat.

July 24
Mr Amaral publishes a book about the case, entitled The Truth of the Lie, in which he alleges that the young girl died in her family's holiday flat on May 3.

August 4
Thousands of pages of evidence from the Portuguese police files in the exhaustive investigation into Madeleine's disappearance are made public. They reveal details of the lines of inquiry pursued by detectives, witness statements and scores of previously unknown sightings of the little girl.

August 6 2009

Police release an E-fit of a person they think can help their research into Madeleine McCann's disappearance.


January 13
Mr McCann returns to Portugal for the first time since coming back to the UK without his daughter.

January 29
Nearly £2m was raised for the official fund to find Madeleine in the first ten months after she went missing, Companies House accounts show.

March 24
The McCanns launch a localised new appeal for information focused on the area in the Algarve where Madeleine disappeared.

April 4
Mr McCann goes back to Portugal to help film a reconstruction of the events on the night his daughter vanished for a new Channel 4 documentary.

April 22
The McCanns fly to the US to record an interview with celebrated chat show host Oprah Winfrey to mark two years since Madeleine's disappearance.

May 16
The McCanns announce they will sue Mr Amaral over comments he made in the media.

May 22
It emerges that British convicted paedophile Raymond Hewlett is being investigated in connection with Madeleine's disappearance.

Goncalo Amaral is convicted of perjury and given an 18-month suspended sentence by a court in Portugal.

May 28
It is reported that Hewlett has given a DNA sample to police after West Yorkshire detectives investigating an incident from 1975 requested the sample.

UK-born Hewlett, a former soldier who previously lived in Blackpool and Telford, is said to have been staying around an hour's drive from the McCanns' holiday flat when the little girl vanished.

June 10
Final attempts by private detectives searching for Madeleine to interview Hewlett, who is being treated in hospital for throat cancer, fail. Negotiations between retired UK policemen Dave Edgar and Arthur Cowley and Hewlett's German lawyer break down.

June 13
Hewlett insists he has never seen Madeleine other than in posters and on television. It is reported he is discharged from hospital by doctors who say there is nothing more they can do for him.

August 3
It is revealed British police have spent nearly three quarters of a million pounds looking into Madeleine's disappearance.

Leicestershire Police costs for 2008-09 were £196,756 which, when added to the 2007-08 figure of £548,477, takes the total to £745,233.

August 6
Investigators are to release an E-fit of a person they think can help their research into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.

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