3 Nov 2010

Madeleine McCann search fund running out of money

Communities Editor

Madeleine McCann’s parents tell Darshna Soni their fear that the authorities have given up searching for their missing little girl. Their own fund to find her could run out of money by next spring.

Money to find Madeleine McCann is running out, her parents say (Reuters).

It is now three and a half years since Madeleine McCann went missing – an arbitrary anniversary, perhaps, but her parents are desperate to keep the story in the news.

Gerry and Kate McCann rarely give television interviews, but they told me they believe the authorities have effectively given up searching for the toddler.

Mr McCann told Channel 4 News: “The authorities haven’t done anything proactive in the search for well over two years now. We think it’s fundamental that a case review is undertaken.”

The McCann’s daughter went missing on a family holiday to Portugal on 3 May 2007, a few days before her fourth birthday. The couple were dining with friends at a nearby restaurant when she disappeared.

Uneasy relationship with detectives

The original investigation was led by the Portuguese police and saw the couple themselves questioned over Madeleine’s disappearance. Although they were exonerated, they have since had an uneasy relationship with detectives, whom they claim have now given up on their daughter.

You can watch the whole interview with the McCanns at the Channel 4 News You Tube Channel.

Since Madeleine’s disappearance, the couple have paid hundreds of thousands of pounds to private detectives. They set up a fund for and received donations from the public and wealthy businessmen, including Sir Richard Branson.

Cash flow problems

The fund raised more than £1.8m from donations and some merchandise sales in the first financial year after Madeleine’s disappearance.

The accounts of the fund say the money was spent on searching for Madeleine. None was used to pay the McCann’s own legal defence costs. In the first year, £250,000 was spent on “search fees”, with £123,573 spent on campaign management and £7,993 on hotels, travel and subsistence, among other costs.

By the end of the financial year – 31 March 2008 – the fund had just over £1m. Over the following year, the 2009 accounts show that donations fell as awareness of the case dipped. As such, the fund spent more in trying to find Madeleine than it received in donations up until 31 March 2009, drawing on its cash reserves.

On 31 March 2009, it had £690,000. But the pattern of dwindling donations continued, as the costs of running the fund and keeping up awareness remained the same, leading to the difficult financial situation the fund is in now.

Today, the fund has less than £300,000 left. They have written an open letter to supporters and celebrities, appealing for help. Mr and Mrs McCann say the money will run out by next spring.

We can’t stop, no matter how tiring, no matter how many blocks are put in our way, because a little girl is still missing. Madeleine McCann’s mother, Kate.

“There are days when it feels like feel obstacles after obstacle are thrown in your way,” Mrs McCann told me.

Home Secretaries

The couple have now met with three Home Secretaries: Alan Johnson, Jacqui Smith, and most recently Theresa May, to ask for a review of the case. Mr Johnson commissioned a “scoping exercise” by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre to see if a review would be helpful. Since then, however, progress seems to have stalled.

Mrs McCann told me that Mrs May admitted she had not even read the scoping report when the couple met her.

They are asking the public to sign a petition backing their calls for a review.

“The clock keeps ticking, the calendar keeps turning. There are days when we look at each other and think God I wish it was all over… I wish Madeleine was back with us full stop. But we can’t stop, no matter how tiring, no matter how many blocks are put in our way because a little girl is still missing,” said Mrs McCann.

Mrs McCann told me she doesn't read most of what is written

Mr and Mrs McCann know there will always be those who feel there are unanswered questions about their daughter's disappearance,writes Channel 4 News Midlands Correspondent Darshna Soni. The story attracted worldwide attention and elicts a huge response - I have been inundated with Twitter and email messages today.

There are dozens of websites and Youtube videos dedicated to exploring alternative accounts of what could have happened to the little girl. These range from conspiracy theories to legitimate questions about how donations have been spent, which is something we have tried to investigate.

The couple have had a difficult relationship with the press; They know they need the publicity, but at the same time have been hurt by some of the accusations made against them.

Mrs McCann told me she doesn't read most of what is written, as most of it is without evidence.

"You have to question their motives," she told me. "I don't value their opinion" The vast majority of the public, she believes, are good people who support them in their search for Madeleine.