Despite five years having passed without any confirmed sighting of their daughter, the parents of Madeleine McCann said yesterday they are now more hopeful than ever that she would be found. In a round of interviews on the eve of the date she went missing in 2007, Gerry and Kate McCann said the search had been given fresh impetus after a year when they felt that the authorities had given up hope.
They said they had no doubt that the Portuguese authorities would finally reopen the investigation into their daughter's disappearance in the light of a review by Scotland Yard that has already identified nearly 200 new potential lines of inquiry. The investigation in Portugal was closed in 2008, and authorities there said it would remain so unless credible new evidence came to light.
"There's a lot changed in the last year," said Mr McCann, 43. "I think we are more hopeful now of finding Madeleine than we have been at any point since the early days after she was taken." He said that a year ago the couple had "felt that we were on our own and the authorities had given up. We're in a much better place now."
The family appealed directly to David Cameron last year, leading to a review conducted by the Metropolitan Police, bringing together files from British and Portugese officers and from private detectives employed by the McCanns. The team has gone through about a quarter of the vast amount of material and identified gaps in the original inquiry. But the ultimate decision to re-open the case rests with the Portuguese authorities.
"If people want to find Madeleine, we need the case to be reopened," said Mrs McCann. The Met last week released a manipulated photograph to show what Madeleine might look like five years on from the day she vanished while sleeping with her two siblings in the family's holiday apartment in the resort town of Praia da Luz.
"I actually feel really hopeful about that image," said Mrs McCann. "I didn't get upset, I didn't burst into tears. I looked at it and I felt really hopeful." The couple said their twins Sean and Amelie, now aged seven, are "absolutely fine" despite the disappearance of their older sister when they were two.
The McCanns' spokesman, Clarence Mitchell, said it was "deeply shocking" that a taxi driver who claimed to have picked up Madeleine the night after she vanished had never been interviewed by Portuguese police. Antonio Castela, 72, said he told police that three men, a woman and a young girl resembling Madeleine got into his cab an hour's drive from Praia da Luz the day after she went missing.