News from March/April 2010 that is not covered elsewhere on the site
Shannon Matthews cops drafted in to search for Maddie, 18 March 2010
Shannon Matthews cops drafted in to search for MaddieDaily Star
By Jerry Lawton 18th March 2010
THE police team who found hoax kidnap victim Shannon Matthews are to probe Madeleine McCann’s disappearance.
West Yorkshire Police’s Homicide and Major Enquiry Team (HMET) will study Portuguese police files.
Madeleine’s doctor parents Kate and Gerry, both 41, are said to be “delighted” at the move. It follows a meeting with Home Secretary Alan Johnson at which they begged him to relaunch the official search for their daughter.
He asked the Child Exploitation Centre And Online Protection Centre to appoint a new investigating force.
They have called in HMET, whose officers found Shannon, then aged nine, alive 24 days after she vanished in Dewsbury, West Yorks, in February 2008.
Detectives worked out her disappearance was a plot to claim reward money dreamed up by her mum Karen, 34, and stepdad’s uncle Michael Donovan, 40, who were jailed for eight years Portuguese and British police forces have been at odds since Madeleine vanished from her family’s Algarve holiday apartment in May 2007, days before her fourth birthday.
A source told the Daily Star: “It’s hoped we can clear the decks and start over again.”
The case was archived as unsolved in July 2008, and the McCanns, of Rothley, Leics, have had to hire private detectives to search for her.
British Special Police are taking up the case of missing Maddie, 18 March 2010
British Special Police are taking up the case of missing Maddie Expressen
Now police are investigating Maddie McCann’s disappearance again.
By Sofia Johansson Thursday, March 18th, 2010
LONDON. Maddie McCann’s disappearance is being investigated again.
Now experienced police kidnapping investigators are to take up the case again.
It is the police team that managed to find the kidnapped girl, Shannon Matthews, 9, after she disappeared in February 2008, which will now go through the investigation of Maddie McCann’s disappearance again.
Police files will be examined
The team from the police in West Yorkshire, HMET, is to review the Portuguese police files.
The decision has been taken after Maddie’s parents had a meeting with the British Home Secretary Alan Johnson in which they asked him to take up the case again.
– “It’s hoped we can clear the decks and start over again,” says a source, according to the Daily Star.
Madeleine McCann disappeared from the family’s holiday apartment in Praia da Luz in Portugal in May 2007.
Shannon cops join hunt for Madeleine McCann, 19 March 2010
The West Yorkshire Police squad which found missing schoolgirl Shannon Matthews is to help in the search for Madeleine McCann.
The move follows a private meeting between Madeleine’s parents Kate and Gerry McCann and the Home Secretary Alan Johnson.
The Child Exploitation Centre and Online Protection (Ceop) has now approached West Yorkshire Police’s major inquiry team which found missing Dewsbury nine-year-old Shannon Matthews in March 2008.
The YEP understands a “scoping exercise” is being carried out by Home Office officials to decide whether a new investigation is necessary.
The approach to West Yorkshire Police is believed to have come direct from Ceop but they have refused to comment on any specific case.
A spokesman said that it was “sensible” for their organisation to avail itself of any expertise or knowledge available when carrying out inquiries into the exploitation of any child whether it was a high profile case or not.
The investigation into Shannon’s disappearance was led by Det Supt Andy Brennan. After a 24 day search she was found alive – hidden a few miles from her Dewsbury Moor home in the base of a divan bed at the house of her mother’s uncle Michael Donovan in Batley.
In January 2009 Donovan, 41, and Shannon’s mother, Karen Matthews, 33, were each jailed for eight years for kidnap, false imprisonment and perverting justice. They had hoped to claim £50,000 reward from newspapers.
Maddie disappeared from her parents holiday apartment in Praia da Luz on Portugal’s Algarve coast in May 2007. Portuguese police were unable to determine whether she had been abducted and “archived” their inquiry in July 2008.
Since then her parents have employed private detectives to continue the hunt for their daughter.
THE man who named Shannon Matthews’ kidnapper Mick Donovan to police told last night how the weirdo bounced her on his knee at a funeral.
Ryan Baynes spoke after police swooped to free nine-year-old Shannon and arrest warped Donovan.
She had been held for 24 days – a mile from where she vanished on her way home from school.
Police smashed open the door of a flat, led Shannon to safety and then dragged Donovan out.
Shannon’s mother Karen, 32, said tonight she was overwhelmed at being reunited with her daughter, and “just couldn’t stop crying, knowing she’s back where she belongs”.
Her father, Leon Rose, said he was “buzzing” at his daughter’s safe return, and said when he saw her he would “grab hold of her and gave her a cuddle and tell her I love her”. Dad-of-two Ryan, 29, called cops days after Shannon’s disappearance. He told them Donovan – the uncle of the little girl’s stepdad Craig – had behaved strangely at a family funeral six weeks before her disappearance on February 19.
While other mourners quietly paid their respects, Donovan, 39, began bouncing Shannon on his knee – and paying her “far too much attention”.
Ryan already knew Donovan’s computer had been checked by police. And he told The Sun that the oddball loner, had a reputation for “acting oddly” around children.
He also knew Donovan had snatched back one of his two daughters after his ex-wife was given custody following their bitter divorce.
Ryan, a tiler from Dewsbury, West Yorks, said: “Donovan behaved very strangely at that funeral. He was bouncing her up and down on his knee. Everyone at the funeral noticed it and thought it was far, far too close. “Mick’s always been odd around kids. He really cracked up when his own kids were taken off him.”
Within days of Shannon’s disappearance Ryan realised Donovan may have her and called Crimestoppers at Wakefield police station.
He gave them Donovan’s name and the address in nearby Lidgate Gardens, Batley Carr. Police acted after realising Ryan’s information matched that given to them by a concerned neighbour of Donovan.
The woman, called June, apparently told cops she heard a child’s footsteps in his flat above her – but knew no kiddies lived there.
Police had also been contacted by the charity Missing People who had been tipped off that Shannon might be in Lidgate Gardens.
A spokesman could not confirm when the report was received.
Last night Ryan told The Sun: “I’m just glad she has been found alive and very glad I helped.
“Donovan is a very sick man to have done this. He’s a monster.” At one point Ryan was so concerned his information was not being acted upon that he considered finding Donovan’s flat himself.
He said: “I was expecting a call back from the police to say they either arrested him or discounted him. But each time I called I was told it was being ‘looked into’.
“I even thought about taking a ladder down to Batley Carr, finding where Donovan lived and looking through the window of his flat to see if Shannon was there.” Donovan is the brother of Alice Meehan, the mother of Craig Meehan – who is the partner of Shannon’s mum Karen Matthews.
Devastated Alice said: “I can’t believe he had Shannon, my own brother. It feels like he has brought shame on our family. I have great mixed feelings because he is family and he’s done this.”
Craig, 22, lived at Alice’s home in School Lane, Dewsbury, but left to live with Karen. Yesterday police were guarding the School Lane home as forensic teams combed it.
Earlier this week mother-of-seven Mrs Matthews, 32, said she believed someone she knew had snatched her daughter to hurt her. But Karen did not suggest who could have taken the shy youngster, simply saying: “She got abducted. That’s all I can say.” Ryan revealed last night that he saw Donovan only last week, while Shannon was still captive. Ryan had gone to the home of a family member to pick up a DVD to help him with his studies for a college course on electrics.
Donovan is related to a woman at the house and was behaving in a “strange, agitated” state, Ryan said. He went on: “The guy just struck me as really weird as soon as I walked into the room.
“He is a skinny bloke with thinning hair and was wearing a scruffy suit. He didn’t introduce himself to me or say anything.
“He was walking around the room in a world of his own. He seemed agitated and was just staring out of the windows, sitting down, getting up and staring into space again.
“I was told later that he was on some kind of medication. But he certainly wasn’t behaving like a regular bloke.”
Members of Donovan’s family also told Ryan that the weirdo lived in a “make-believe” world.
Ryan said: “He once told them he had a new girlfriend who was a high-flying solicitor. That turned out to be a load of rubbish.
“He also spoke of relationships he had with women. But no one ever saw any of them.
“Someone close to him told me he was known for telling lies and making up stories. He just lives in a fantasy world – but people thought he was harmless.
“God knows what must have been going through poor Shannon’s mind, being held captive.
“But at least she has got out safely. I could feel in my water he might have been involved – it was a gut instinct.”
Donovan was investigated by social services over allegations of neglect involving his children three years ago. The two daughters are believed to be in foster care.
West Yorkshire Police said in a statement last night: “As part of ongoing investigations, detectives and specialist search officers attended a house at Lidgate Gardens, Batley Carr, Dewsbury, at 12.30pm this afternoon.
“During a search of the house, officers located Shannon Matthews who was found concealed in the base of a divan bed.
“A 39-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of abduction at the address and is currently in custody at a West Yorkshire police station.”
West Yorkshire police have placed an Emergency Police Protection Order on Shannon as a matter of procedure. A spokesman said Shannon had seen her parents but would remain with police until fully interviewed by officers over the next few days.
He explained: “Shannon has been away from home almost four weeks. As part of our ongoing inquiries, and following medical checks, police will begin the process of interviewing Shannon.
“This may be a long process, but throughout this inquiry our main focus has been and continues to be Shannon’s welfare.
“We have therefore taken the decision that, for now, it is in Shannon’s best interests that she be made subject of an Emergency Police Protection Order.
“This will remain in place until we have had time to establish the full facts of what happened in the time since her disappearance.”
Mrs Matthews and stepfather Craig Meehan looked tired and drawn as they left Dewsbury Police Station at 8pm last night.
Shannon had a “comfortable and settled night”, police said today. She spent the evening watching films and playing with a kitten and has had breakfast this morning.
The youngster was questioned by specially-trained officers today to try to find out what happened since she went missing on February 19.
Mrs Matthews and Mr Meehan arrived back at the family home at 4.40pm accompanied by two plain-clothed police officers after spending the night at a hotel.
A neighbour visited the parents said Shannon is ‘doing fine and is expected home soon’.
Cheshire Constabulary: Force Procedures/Missing Persons, 25 March 2010
Cheshire Constabulary: Force Procedures/Missing Persons PDF
Author: D. Clarke 25/03/10
Missing Person Definition
The ACPO definition of a missing person is:
“Anyone whose whereabouts is unknown whatever the circumstances of disappearance. They will be considered missing until located and their well-being or otherwise established.”
Potential Links to Serious Offences
The majority of missing persons inquiries are quickly resolved. In a few cases, however, the report of a missing person is the first step in a major crime case. Therefore the initial stages of any missing person inquiry should commence on the basis that the case may escalate into a serious crime inquiry. It is always easier to rein back from the early stages of a major inquiry than it is to recover missed opportunities resulting from miscalculating in the early stages.
One of the fundamental facts to be determined in a missing person investigation is the reason why the subject has disappeared. In cases where the circumstances are suspicious or unexplained, use the maxim:
‘IF IN DOUBT, THINK MURDER’
Failure to apply such thinking in past cases has led to the loss of valuable investigative opportunities and could ultimately result in failure to trace the missing person or to gather sufficient evidence to convict a perpetrator.
The status of the relationship between the missing person and the person making the initial report can also be important. Experience suggests that it would be wrong for investigators to always assume such relationships are stable. There have been numerous cases where the person reporting the crime and/or the missing person has been found to be the perpetrator of the crime.
Police to unveil new child abduction alert system, 04 April 2010
Police to unveil new child abduction alert system Independent
By Chris Greenwood, PA Sunday, 4 April 2010
Police will unveil a new nationwide alert system for enlisting the public to help them rescue abducted children next month.
Officials have been working behind the scenes for months to iron out bureaucratic hurdles to broadcasting sensitive information.
The new network, comparable to the amber alert system in the United States, will be compatible with other European countries for the first time.
As a result a continent-wide alert could be issued in circumstances where youngsters may be taken across national borders.
Kate and Gerry McCann have campaigned for such a system to be introduced since their daughter Madeleine disappeared in Portugal in May 2007.
They emphasised how the first hours after an abduction are crucial and that an alert would spread information more quickly.
Although some 100,000 children are reported missing to police each year, senior officers expect the national alert to be used extremely rarely.
The upgraded child rescue alert system will use new computer software to handle the anticipated deluge of calls from concerned members of the public.
Similar alerts in France provoked 600 calls within the first three hours, leaving investigators struggling to prioritise information.
Regional and national television and radio stations will broadcast messages, in some cases interrupting scheduled programmes.
Those behind the system also hope to eventually use internet and text messaging as well as motorway information signs.
The system is being co-ordinated by the National Police Improvement Agency (NPIA) and any national abduction will be led by Greater Manchester Police.
Chief Constable Peter Neyroud, who heads the NPIA, said the new alert will be launched on May 25, International Missing Children’s Day.
He said: “Child Rescue Alert is a powerful tool in the fight against child abduction in the UK.
“About 100,000 children are reported missing to police each year. Many are quickly reunited with their families but only a very small number are abducted.
“By establishing a powerful partnership between the police, media and the public, Child Rescue Alert allows information about the child and the suspect to be shared in just a few hours of a disappearance when the criteria for such an alert are met.
“These are often the vital hours which could literally mean the difference between life and death.
“Child Rescue Alert is not expected to be used often, as strict criteria must be met, but it is a valuable tool available to a senior investigator to be used in the right situations.
“We plan to increase public awareness about the scheme in the coming months so people understand how it works and what to do in the event an alert is launched.”
Work on the improved system began after the NPIA won a share of one million euros (£886,000) from the European Commission alongside France, Holland and Belgium.
Portugal, Spain and the Czech Republic have already introduced their versions of child abduction alerts that link with the European network.
The previous national alert system was established in 2006 and has only been used on a handful of occasions.
They included an incident when a six-year-old girl was found under a bed after being missed in a search and a child left strapped into a car stolen by thieves.
Investigators believe about 700 child abductions are reported each year, the vast majority of which involve the break-up of their parents.
The rescue alert will be used alongside low-profile techniques such as studying CCTV, checking financial records and tracking mobile phones.
An alert can only be issued when the child is aged under 18, there is a reasonable belief he or she has been abducted and could be in imminent danger.
The message will include a description of the child, the location and nature of offences and description of the suspect and any vehicle they are using.
Lady Catherine Meyer, who founded the charity Pact, Parents and Abducted Children Together, welcomed the move.
She said: “I am delighted because it is something that I have been campaigning for for many years.
“This is very exciting because for the first time the UK will have a co-ordinated response.
“The problem here was we had so many different police forces and different departments dealing with different areas.”
Lady Catherine set up Pact several years after her two young children failed to return from a trip to their father in Germany, despite a court order.
By ANTONELLA LAZZERI Published: Today (04 April 2010)
THE parents of missing Madeleine McCann were “delighted” yesterday as police announced plans to put the whole of Britain on alert if a child is abducted.
Kate and Gerry, both 41, have campaigned for the public emergency system – which could see radio and TV shows interrupted – since their daughter vanished in 2007.
The Child Response Alert would see a youngster’s description and information such as a suspect’s car registration flash up on motorway boards in an appeal for help. Details could eventually be sent to millions of mobile phones.
A similar system in the US has saved 400 kids in the past seven years – 80 per cent within 72 hours of being snatched.
Yesterday, the McCanns said: “We are delighted and relieved that this system is being introduced. The first hours after a child goes missing are crucial.” Madeleine – now six – vanished from a holiday complex in Praia da Luz, Portugal.
Her parents, of Rothley, Leics, saw the US Amber Alert system on a trip to Washington. It is named after nine-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was abducted and murdered in Texas in 1996.
Kate and Gerry went to Brussels to beg the EU for a UK version. Some 100,000 kids a year are reported missing in Britain, but most are found quickly.
The alert system – which will link to police in Europe – would only be used in a few cases where a child is believed to have been kidnapped and in danger.
It will launch on May 25 – International Missing Children’s Day – and be co-ordinated by the National Police Improvement Agency.
NPIA Chief Constable Peter Neyroud called it a “powerful tool” which will bring together police, media and the public within hours.
He said: “These are often vital hours which could mean the difference between life and death.”
BRITISH police are to launch a new probe into missing Madeleine McCann after massive failures were found in the Portuguese investigation.
Our top child protection cop Jim Gamble has completed a fresh look at the three-year-old investigation for the Home Office.
He told ministers there were huge holes in the original inquiry that need to be revisited if they want to “come close” to reaching UK standards.
It will come as a bitter pill for Portuguese investigators who have fended off criticism since Maddie disappeared in 2007.
Portugese police left ‘gaping’ holes
But parents Kate and Gerry McCann, both 41 and both doctors, are “delighted” at the move.
Failures in the original investigation are said to be “so gaping” that British authorities feel it is their duty to look at it again.
This time police will review all the leads using technology and standards expected in a homicide or kidnap case in the UK.
Mr Gamble, head of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, found a basic failure to collate information and join up links that should have been made.
Telephone records were not properly analysed, missing early opportunities for leads.
And Kate and Gerry McCann were named as Arguidos, or formal suspects, by Portuguese police – something that the review says would not have happened if the probe had been carried out in the UK.
Mr Gamble found no evidence sufficient to make them suspects. His findings have now been formally submitted to the Home Office with recommendations to re-investigate.
The damning review has now set the Association of Chief Police Officers the difficult task of trying to decide who takes on the mammoth task. It is already predicted to be “an extremely costly” investigation that, even if done properly, will probably never be solved.
Damning: Jim Gamble
A source said: “It is something that has to be reviewed. It is only right that the McCanns are given the satisfaction that everything that could be done has been done. It now comes down to who is up to the job.”
The Home Secretary Alan Johnson is expected to announce that the new probe will NOT be carried out by Leicestershire police, the McCanns’ local force. The review has highlighted failures within their handling of the case and ruled them out of the review.
Instead ACPO are now asking around their top cops to see who could take on the very difficult and complex investigation.
The source added: “It will be extremely costly and sadly is unlikely to result in a positive outcome.
“As much as we would all like this to end with good news for the McCanns, the fact is there have been a lot of missed opportunities and no-one will ever be able to reclaim the time and evidence lost.”
Two thousand pages of evidence released earlier claimed Portuguese detectives failed to follow up leads.
Home Secretary Alan Johnson ordered officials to examine the “feasibility” of British detectives having a fresh look at all the evidence back in March.
Kate and Gerry McCann, of Rothley, met Mr Johnson to plead for help in their search for their daughter who vanished aged three from a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal.
Maddy cops £22K bill for 196 jet trips, 26 April 2010
A british police force took 196 flights to Portugal costing £22,000 in the first year of the search for Madeleine McCann.
And it ran up 709 days supporting her parents, Gerry and Kate, and helping Portuguese cops.
Flights to Portugal by Leicestershire Constabulary from May 2007 to July 2008 cost £22,055.
The force said: “Officers used budget airlines.”
Madeleine, from Rothley, vanished from Praia da Luz on May 3, 2007, aged three. Revealed under the Freedom of Information Act, the total cost of the first year of the probe to the force was £500,000, most of which will be met by the Home Office.
New hope for the McCanns?, 26 April 2010
New hope for the McCanns? Woman magazine (appears in paper edition)
As they continue to hunt for Madeleine, Kate and Gerry McCann have won a victory for missing children everywhere
Report: ANNA KINGSLEY Issue: 3 May 2010 (published: 26 April 2010)
As her kidnappers threw her into the boot of their car, Mara Downes thought she caught a glimpse of a shovel – that meant just one thing to the 13-year-old: they were going to kill her and bury her body. Trapped in the darkness, she started to pray. And thanks to an Amber Alert, Mara’s prayers were answered. Just over three hours later a woman saw a TV news alert about Mara’s abduction and realised she’d seen the kidnappers’ car. She called police, who found and freed Mara. ‘It worked so well,’ says Mara’s mother, Martha. ‘She would have died in that boot.’
Mara’s incredible rescue isn’t as unusual as you might think. Thanks to a nationwide system in America that spreads information across the country as soon as a child is reported missing, nearly 450 children have been found safe and well. And now, thanks to relentless campaigning by Kate and Gerry McCann, a similar set-up is about to be launched here in the UK. It’s welcome news for the couple, who will be marking the third anniversary of their daughter Madeleine’s disappearance next week.
When the police announced plans to launch the scheme straight away, Kate and Gerry said they were very delighted. It’s one of the things they’ve been working towards since their daughter first went missing.
‘We’re delighted and relieved that this system is being introduced, because the first hours after a child goes missing are crucial,’ they said. ‘We know it saves children’s lives, and it doesn’t cost a lot.’ Kate and Gerry, both 41, first heard about the US Amber Alert system on a trip to Washington.
It’s named after nine-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was abducted and murdered in Texas in 1996.
A similar scheme has also been adopted in France and Belgium. It’s designed to spread information, including up-to-date photographs of a missing child, as widely as possible during the critical first six hours following an abduction, as this is when they’re most at risk. The alerts wil lalso pass on details of where the child was kidnapped, a description of suspects and any vehicle that may have been used in the abduction. Radio and TV stations will broadcast newsflashes every 15 minutes for up to six hours.
Crucially, the new network will be compatible with other European countries so that a continent-wide alert could be issued when police fear a child may have been taken across national borders.
The breakthrough is good news for the McCanns, who’ve struggled over the past three years to stay positive. Speaking on a visit to Portugal to see their lawyer, Kate admitted she still goes into her lost daughter’s room every day. ‘We haven’t changed a thing. There’s still a lot of pink. I go to Madeleine’s room twice a day – it’s a comforting feeling.’
Gerry added: ‘There are several cases, some recent, of missing children that were found. That makes us believe our daughter could be alive – and that’s why we continue to have hope.
Last month Kate and Gerry got a boost when the police team who found hoax kidnap victim Shannon Matthews agreed to investigate Madeleine’s disappearance. The team from West Yorkshire will be studying the Portuguese police files, which include 2,000 pages of sightings, tip-offs and potential suspects, many of which were never properly investigated.
The McCanns feel sure that a European version of the Amber Alert would have helped in the search for their daughter but are trying to focus on the future. They’ve always been adamant that the loss of their child would make a difference.
If anything positive can come from the disappearance of Madeleine, maybe it’s the creation of an effective system for recovering missing children, in the hope that no other parent will have to suffer the torment Gerry and Kate have suffered over the past three years.
Was that Maddie?
* 2007 CCTV footage in a New Zealand shop shows a child hand-in-hand with a man in a white T-shirt and black shorts.
* 2008 British holidaymaker Jean Godwin, 56, saw a girl ‘100% Madeleine McCann’, being dragged by gypsy women 30 miles from where she was snatched.
* May 2009 Viewers in Canada called a TV station after seeing footage of a girl who looked just like Madeleine McCann singing in a school choir from a news bulletin. She was similar to an image FBI artists had produced.
Woman magazine: New hope for the McCanns?, 26 April 2010
‘Disgraceful’ hate group on Facebook poking fun at Madeleine McCann, 30 April 2010
Thousands of people have joined a sickening “hate group” on Facebook which pokes fun at missing Madeleine McCann.
The page on the social networking website has about 6,500 “fans”, several of whom have posted obscene jokes about the little girl.
Others have directed abuse at her parents, Gerry and Kate.
Facebook said it had begun to remove the most offensive postings yesterday after being alerted by the Leicester Mercury.
However, it said it would not be pulling down the page, nor removing many other offensive comments.
The founder of the page, which was set up in late February, has posted regular updates, boasting about the number of members it has attracted and suggesting he or she knows where Madeleine is.
In one entry, the person writes: “(This) seems to be the place people have chosen for disrespectful Maddie jokes, and I LIKE it!!”
Gerry and Kate McCann, from Rothley, said yesterday they hoped Facebook would remove any “libelous or deeply offensive” comments, but they said they would not be commenting further.
Their spokesman, Clarence Mitchell, said: “We simply will not dignify these sorts of sites with any kind of comment whatsoever.
“Their disgraceful nature speaks for itself.”
In a statement, Facebook said that while it would always take down indecent comments about children as soon as it was made aware of them, other potentially offensive comments would not be removed.
The company said: “While we sometimes find people discussing and posting about topics that others may find controversial, insensitive or even offensive, it is not alone a reason to remove the discussion.
“The unfortunate reality is that ignorance still exists, both on and off Facebook, and we believe such ignorance won’t be defeated simply by covering up the fact it exists but rather by confronting it head on.”
The page had gained 17 new “fans” yesterday by 5pm.
The Leicester Mercury learned about the group after a concerned Facebook member got in touch.
They did not wish to be named, but said: “We find it sickening that people have such a terrible attitude to other people’s grief.”
Members were posting jokes on the page as recently as Wednesday.
A spokeswoman for Leicestershire Constabulary said it would not comment on the page because the investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance was being led by Portuguese police. Madeleine went missing from Praia da Luz, Portugal, in May 2007.
Kate and Gerry McCann have welcomed progress on developing a Europe-wide alert system for missing children.
The couple, speaking days before the third anniversary of the disappearance of their daughter Madeleine, said they were “delighted and relieved” that the cross-border scheme, boosted by one million euros of EU funding, was now going ahead.
Euro-MPs overwhelmingly backed the idea last year and endorsement from EU government ministers six months ago turned it into official EU policy.
Now the EU funding has paid for studies into the details of cross-border co-operation, and the UK part of the missing child early warning network will be launched on May 25 – International Missing Children’s Day.
“We very much welcome this new initiative and we hope that a truly integrated European alert system can now be developed and used to combat child abduction,” said the McCanns in a statement.
“The first hours after a child goes missing are crucial and if such international co-operation stops just one child from being abducted, then all the work involved will have been worthwhile.”
The couple have campaigned for Europe to adopt a US-style system that is able to track abducted youngsters across the continent if necessary.
They wanted an existing patchwork of partial national monitoring systems across Europe to be linked up to match the French national child alert system which allows the authorities to flash up electronic missing child information on French motorway signboards within thirty minutes of a confirmed case of abduction.
European Parliament vice-president Edward McMillan-Scott, the Yorkshire and Humber MEP who helped the McCanns launch their campaign, said: “If we can organise severe weather warnings, we can save missing children by the same procedures.
“It costs nothing but it saves young lives. I hope the incoming government in Britain will take this as seriously as the Americans and the French – and now the EU.”