The parents of a 4-year-old British girl who disappeared last month from a hotel room in Portugal say they believe she is still alive. They vow to continue traveling throughout Europe publicizing the case of Madeleine McCann in order to generate leads for investigators.
“I think it is important to remember that at this time we don't have any evidence at all to say that Madeleine isn't alive and well,” Kate McCann said during an exclusive interview Friday with TODAY host Meredith Vieira. “Therefore, that does give us hope. It is important for us to stay positive and focused, both for us and for Madeleine.”
McCann and her husband, Gerry, appeared via satellite from Madrid. In Spain and elsewhere across Europe, enormous media interest in the case has kept their daughter’s photo and abduction in the headlines.
“Any parent can understand our preoccupation for finding Madeleine,” Gerry McCann told Vieira.
The McCanns were vacationing in Portugal and were dining at a resort hotel in the seaside village of Praia de Luz on May 3 when Madeleine disappeared. The couple took turns checking on their three children, who slept unsupervised in a hotel room less than 100 yards from the dining room. Their 2-year-old siblings, Sean and Amelie, apparently did not awaken when someone presumably slipped into the room and snatched Madeleine from her bed.
When Vieira asked the McCanns about criticism they’re receiving in the European media for leaving the sleeping children unattended, Kate McCann said, “I think at worst we could possibly call ourselves naive, but we are very responsible parents and we love our children very much.”
The search for Madeleine and quest for publicity is leading the McCanns all over Europe. On Wednesday, the devout Catholics prayed with Pope Benedict XVI in Rome for their daughter’s safe return.
Enduring the uncertainty
“How have you and Gerry gotten past these few past weeks? What has sustained you?” Vieira asked Kate McCann, who clutches Madeleine's favorite stuffed animal, “Cuddle Cat,” almost non-stop.
“Certainly, the first four days it was incredibly difficult, as any parent can imagine,” she said, choking back emotion.
“We have a tremendous amount of support from close family and friends,” Gerry McCann said. “We have also taken a tremendous amount of strength from our faith, and our hope, and our good wishes of the local community of Praia de Luz who have supported us throughout this.”
The couple’s other children are too young to understand what is going on, but they do inquire about Madeleine's whereabouts, the parents said. Sometimes they point to her picture and say her name, but they have no real concept of time, which the couple finds fortunate. “I think they are too young, to be honest Meredith. They were sleeping as well,” Kate McCann said. “They are aware that Madeleine is not around. Amelie has made the comment, ‘Where's Madeleine?’”
That’s the question all of Europe is asking.
Because there has been no ransom demand, the McCanns assume their daughter is still alive. They cling to the hope that someone will recognize Madeleine from her photo and give police the tip they need to find her.
Madeleine, who is 2-feet-11-inches tall with blond hair, has one distinctive feature. Her right eye has a dark birthmark in its hazel-green iris.
“We are confident that the police have a large amount of information that has been given to them by members of the public,” Gerry McCann said. “There are a number of leads which have been followed. I think it is also fair to say there is information that is not being divulged to us ... for operational reasons.”