Madeleine: Timeline of key events

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The Independent Online

2007

* May 3 - Kate and Gerry McCann, from Rothley, Leicestershire, leave their three children asleep in their holiday apartment in Praia da Luz in southern Portugal while they dine with friends at a nearby tapas restaurant.

There is nothing amiss when Mr McCann checks on the youngsters at just after 9pm, but when his wife goes back at about 10pm she finds three-year-old Madeleine missing.

Jane Tanner, one of the friends eating with the McCanns, later reports seeing a man carrying a child away earlier that night.

* May 5 - Portuguese police reveal they believe Madeleine was abducted but is still alive and in Portugal, and say they have a sketch of a suspect.

* May 14 - Detectives take Anglo-Portuguese ex-pat Robert Murat in for questioning and make him an "arguido", or official suspect.

Officers also search the home he shares with his mother in Praia Da Luz, just 100 yards from where the youngster was snatched.

* May 25 - Detectives finally release the description of the man reported by Jane Tanner three weeks earlier following pressure from the McCanns, their legal team and the British Government.

* May 30 - Kate and Gerry McCann meet the Pope in Rome in the first of a series of trips around Europe and beyond to highlight the search for their daughter.

* August 6 - A Portuguese newspaper reports that British sniffer dogs have found traces of blood on a wall in the McCanns' holiday apartment.

* August 11 - Exactly 100 days after Madeleine disappeared, investigating officers publicly acknowledge for the first time that she could be dead.

* August 31 - The McCanns launch a libel action against newspaper Tal & Qual over a front-page story which claimed police believe they killed their daughter.

* September 7 - During further questioning of Kate and Gerry McCann, detectives make them both "arguidos" in their daughter's disappearance.

* September 9 - The McCanns fly back to England with their two-year-old twins Sean and Amelie.

* September 11 - Portuguese police hand the papers in the case to the public prosecutor, Jose Cunha de Magalhaes e Meneses, for him to decide whether to bring charges against anyone.

* 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 who is 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 - Gerry McCann returns to work as a consultant cardiologist at Leicester's Glenfield Hospital.

* November 19 - A BBC Panorama documentary screens a video of Gerry McCann speaking of his belief that a "predator" was watching his family in the days before Madeleine's disappearance.

In the same programme Mr Murat's mother, Jenny Murat, accuses three of the McCanns' friends of lying about seeing her son on the night of May 3.

* November 22 - Portugal's attorney general, Fernando Jose Pinto Monteiro, says the huge publicity surrounding Madeleine's disappearance could have resulted in her kidnapper killing her.

* November 29 - Forensic experts from the UK and Portugal meet at Leicestershire Police headquarters to discuss DNA samples collected during the inquiry.

* December 13 - Francisco Marco, the director general of Metodo 3, a private detective agency being paid by the McCanns, claims he knows who took Madeleine and that he could have her back with her family before Christmas.

* 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."

2008

* January 9 - Mr McCann plays down speculation they may approve a movie about Madeleine's disappearance after their spokesman meets the IMG agency, the firm behind the award-winning drama-documentary Touching The Void.

* January 20 - The McCanns release police artist sketches, based on a statement given by a British holidaymaker, of a man they believe may have abducted Madeleine.

* 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.

* February 13 - Portuguese justice minister Alberto Costa says the police investigation into the young girl's disappearance is nearing its end.

* 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 8 -Three Portuguese detectives question the "Tapas Seven" - friends who were with Kate and Gerry McCann on with them the night that Madeleine disappeared.

They sit in as detectives from Leicestershire Constabulary interview the friends in Britain who dined with the couple close to their holiday apartment in the resort of Praia da Luz.

* April 10 - A leak of the couple's first interviews reveals that Madeleine asked her mother the morning before she disappeared "Mummy, why didn't you come when we crying last night?"

* April 10 - The McCanns, speaking in Brussels, call for a Europe-wide missing child alert system.

* April 13 - Solicitors Simons Muirhead and Burton, acting for Mr Murat, confirms he is suing 11 British newspapers and one TV station for libel.

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

* July 1 - Portuguese media are reporting that police are dropping their investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann due to a lack of evidence.

* July 20 - Portugese police shelve the Madeleine McCann investigation due to a lack of evidence. Kate and Gerry McCann are formally cleared of involvement in their daughter's disappearance after having their status as "arguidos", or formal suspects, lifted.

* July 21 - The official police report on the investigation into Madeleine McCann's disappearance is apparently leaked on the internet.

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