Saturday May 12, 2007
The father of missing Madeleine McCann has described a “tidal wave” of devastation wreaked by her abduction.
At a special Mass held in Portugal on Saturday – Madeleine’s fourth birthday – Gerry McCann told villagers that he and his wife Kate had drawn “strength, hope and courage” from the support they had received in Praia da Luz, across Europe and around the world.
Speaking with emotion but determination, he told the packed church: “We are looking forward to the day when Madeleine returns to us as a joyous one.”
It is the first time he has spoken at length about the tortuous days he and his wife have suffered as they wait for news. He told the congregation at the tiny 16th century church of Nossa Senhora da Luz: “Today we should be celebrating the fourth birthday of our daughter Madeleine. Instead we have had to remember what a normal, beautiful, vivacious, funny, courageous and loving little girl that we are missing today.
“I like to think about the effects of Madeleine’s abduction from us nine days ago like a tidal wave. The devastation – which was tremendous – was greatest for Kate and I.”
The couple were showered with kisses, hugs and flowers as members of the congregation queued to greet them at the end of the service. His wife, who in recent days has appeared increasingly drawn, smiled as scores of villagers lined up to kiss her on each cheek. Among the presents which had been left at the front of the church before the service were a yellow fluffy duck, a multi-coloured striped handbag and a fluffy pink flower with a yellow smiling face.
The McCanns had spent much of the anniversary in private and away from the ill-fated Algarve complex from where their daughter vanished nine days ago. Meanwhile, as messages of support continued to flood in, a reward of £1.5 million was offered for information leading to Madeleine’s safe return.
Stars including author JK Rowling, footballer Wayne Rooney and music mogul Simon Cowell all contributed to the fund. The Harry Potter writer pledged the largest single amount, although the figure has not been revealed, while Cowell pledged £50,000 and Rooney, together with his fiancee Coleen McLoughlin, offered £25,000.
Among the others pledging money to the fund were business leaders like Sir Richard Branson (£100,000), retailer Sir Philip Green (£250,000) and Everton chairman Bill Kenwright (amount not disclosed). Mr Kenwright told the News of the World, which announced the reward: “If it helps towards the reunion it will be the best cheque I’ve ever written.”
The group offer is in addition to rewards of £1 million already made by a Scottish businessman and £100,000 from a colleague of Kate McCann. But despite the massive rewards being offered for information which results in Madeleine’s safe return, there remains no evidence of firm leads.