Almost 10 years to the day since the three-year-old was last seen, a carer who looked after the youngster at the resort has described the fateful moment Kate and Gerry McCann realised their daughter was gone.
She recalled a fraught night spent looking in bins and under cars as the alarm was raised, while a manhunt was launched as Kate McCann broke down saying: “They’ve taken her.”
The nanny, who has not been named, said: “A parent came to me and said there was something going on, and said someone’s looking for a child, I didn’t instantly think it was Maddie.
"A couple of minutes later I walked into Kate crying, friends comforting her, Gerry looking under cars, and it just blew up.
She recalled a fraught night spent looking in bins and under cars Madeleine McCann: The search continues Fri, February 24, 2017
These are the various computer generated images of how Maddie might look now
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Madeline McCann went missing from a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, in Portugal’s Algarve 9 years ago.
"I don’t even think she saw me. I just stood next to her and tried to comfort her.
“She was pacing up and down. The worst possible thing had just happened to her.
“I think I said something like, ‘She’ll be found, these things happen all the time.’
Madeleine went missing from the family’s holiday apartment
I think a lot of things should’ve happened differently
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“She was crying, but almost in a catatonic state, and Gerry was very distressed.
“That’s the one thing I really remember from him, looking under the cars. I can’t forget that.
“We were told to start looking in bins in case her body was in there. It was at that point we realised this was serious.”
She and other workers scoured bins and pipes leading to the sea in the hours after Maddie’s disappearance, as well as combing Praia da Luz’s winding streets until the early hours of the morning.
The former nanny firmly believes the toddler’s parents were not involved in her disappearance, a claim which has dogged the couple since that night.
She said: “I tell them no, there’s no way at all. A, timings and B, where it was, their reactions, the whole thing. Not a chance.”
Maddie’s former carer claimed the resort was so unsafe nannies were given rape whistles
The nanny described the youngster as a “a real cutie and a real sweetheart”.
She said: “She was easy for us, and you were happy to sit and help out this pretty little girl who’s really nice.”
But she criticised the police who she said took 90 minutes to arrive, hampering any realistic chance of finding Maddie, while their tardiness meant the crime scene was not secured meaning potential evidence could have been contaminated.
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And Madeleine McCann's former carer claimed the resort was so unsafe nannies were given rape whistles and told not to leave by themselves.
She worked for for travel firm Mark Warner at the the Ocean Club resort, which was run by the company until 2015, and looked after Maddie several times.
The childminder said: “I just couldn’t get over how different it was to other Mark Warner resorts.
The nanny described the youngster as a “a real cutie and a real sweetheart”
“We were told, ‘Here’s a rape whistle, don’t go anywhere by yourself, ever.’ There’d been a girl attacked the year or so before in Praia da Luz.
“It didn’t sound like a family resort to me.
“I think a lot of things should’ve happened differently. Unfortunately the effects were catastrophic.”
Madeleine went missing from the family’s holiday apartment as she slept next to her twin siblings, Amelie and Sean, while her parents dined at a nearby tapas bar.
Operation Grange, set up by the Met to investigate her disappearance, received £85,000 from the Home Office to continue its probe until September.