‘I just want to hug her’: Madeleine McCann’s father sobs as he insists his daughter is still alive and believes they will one day be reunited
- Gerry McCann said he has ‘painful’ dreams about Maddie who vanished in 2007
- Surgeon said it was ‘just a feeling’ and an ‘instinctive reaction’ they will reunite
- In an emotional BBC Radio 4 interview he revealed his battle with mental health
Madeleine McCann’s father insisted she is still alive and he will give her a cuddle when they are reunited in a tearful interview yesterday.
Gerry McCann revealed he has ‘painful’ dreams about his little girl who was just three years old when she disappeared in 2007 during a family holiday in Portugal.
The surgeon, 50, said it was ‘just a feeling’ and an ‘instinctive reaction’ that he will see his daughter again.
Kate and Gerry McCann during an interview with the BBC’s Fiona Bruce last year
‘I just want to hug her and hold her and cry… a lot,’ he sobbed.
Mr McCann also revealed that he and wife Kate, who did not take part in the interview, also had to cope with the guilt of having left Maddie.
‘I couldn’t get the darkest thoughts out of my mind. We felt guilt that we were responsible for allowing someone to steal our daughter,’ he said.
‘We gave someone an opportunity. We let her down. I was sure she had been abducted.’
In an emotional BBC Radio 4 interview the eminent cardiologist told of his own battle with mental health, being ‘completely distraught and feeling helpless’ in the early days of his daughter’s disapearance and the ‘shock, horror, panic and terror’ as he felt trapped in the darkest tunnel.
At times during the rare and powerful broadcast Mr McCann openly wept – the first time he has publically shown emotion since Maddie was snatched during a family holiday nearly eleven and a half years ago which turned his life into ‘like something out of a horror movie.’
Madeleine McCann went missing from her hotel room in Portugal in 2007
The show was broadcast a day before Scotland Yard’s funding for the Maddie hunt is due to run out.
Whilst Met Police have requested more money from the Home Office to keep their search going it has not yet been approved.
Reliving the trauma of the night his daughter went missing and the following months as he and Kate fell under suspicion he told how they had been ‘paddling furiously above the water trying to keep afloat but so close to drowning.’ adding: ‘We were just crumbling.’
And even today Mr McCann still suffers and is haunted by nightmares although he admits ‘people help you and time makes the pain ease’.
He told in the hour-long drama ‘Pearl: Two Fathers Two Daughters’ of recent dreams about Maddie – he has no idea is she is dead or alive – revealing: ‘They are not as frequent but they are painful when it happens. I thought about it early on, if Madeleine was still, is still alive.’
He started sobbing: ‘I just want to hug her, to hold her to cry – a lot. Never a day goes by when I don’t think of Madeleine. She was absolutely amazing and we had such an incredibly special relationship.’
He described the early days after Maddie was snatched from the family apartment in Portugal’s Praia da Luz as ‘like something out of a horror movie – like a nightmare’ and he said the lack of information from the Portuguese police was ‘almost paralysing.’
The heart doctor, who works at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester, confessed he found it difficult as a man to seek professional help to ease his anguish, saying: ‘I didn’t think I would be the sort of person who would need counselling or respond to it.’
It was his idea to go on holiday to The Algarve with friends and he recalled that ill fated night – May 3, 2007 – when Maddie disappeared, sparking the world’s biggest ever missing child mysteries.
He said: ‘Kate came running back and raised alarm bells, saying ‘Madeleine’s missing, she’s gone’. I said: ‘She can’t be gone’. I was completely in shock.’
He scoured the apartment where Maddie had been left sleeping with her younger twin siblings Sean and Amelie ‘looking in the bedroom, checking everywhere even under the sink in the cupboards. It was disbelief, shock, horror and then the panic and terror.’
The toddler disappeared from the Praia da Luz resort (pictured) after her parents left her to have dinner with friends
After searching the holiday complex and outside in the streets the broken couple returned to their room ‘absolutely distraught.’
Mr McCann said: ‘There was an overwhelming feeling of pain and helplessness. Every moment we couldn’t find her it got worse and I remember being slumped on the floor.
‘I called some of my family members and said “Pray for her”. I wanted to believe there was a God.
‘We were at the centre of a ripple of a tidal wave that was crashing down on all our family and friends as they heard the news.’
He told of his frustration with the Portuguese Police that ‘nothing was happening’ to find Maddie, who he feared could have been smuggled out of the country by car or boat.
He said: ‘It was devastating and no one was in control or giving us advise. I was expecting a Metropolitan type response.
‘We couldn’t eat or sleep, it was like a sickness with the fear and anxiety manifesting in physical symptoms, and we just cried.’
In their darkest hours over the years Maddie’s parents have turned to counsellors.
On the night she vanished one grief expert told the couple who were blaming themselves: ‘You sound like model parents’.
Mr McCann, again sobbing, told the programme: ‘At the time that was something we really needed to hear.’
Mr McCann also started questioning his faith, saying: ‘I found it hard with all those millions and millions of prayers and it hasn’t had a better outcome. I find it very difficult to accept.’
And when the police spotlight fell on them and they became arguidos – suspects – in their daughter’s disappearance, he said they were ‘ripped.’
He added: ‘It was impossible and unbearable, the whole journey was like something out of a horror movie, like a nightmare.
‘I completely lost faith in the Portuguese police and there was an orchestrated media campaign that made us guilty and had a huge impact on us. We were struggling so much it was hard to support each other.
‘It was touch and go and there were days when you felt you were going under.’
At times Mr McCann said he felt he could see a light at the end of the tunnel which gave him a glimmer of hope amidst the despair – saying: ‘It would make the goal of finding Madeleine more achievable.’
He said the twins helped keep them going and the ‘enormous support’ from family, friends and members of public and Scotland Yard’s investigation Operation Grange launched in May 2011 gave them ‘a new normality.’
He clings onto a glimmer of hope Maddie – who would now be 15 – could still be alive.
Crying once more, he said: ‘My instinctive reaction is I feel we will be reunited at some point. I don’t wish her dead. It’s a terrible thing to say and it sounds cold but I can’t live this way for 15 more years, drained and exhausted.
‘You have your crutches, whether it be people or distractions, but you can’t live without an ending n a day to day basis, it completely drains you.’
He often wonders what life would be like with his eldest child around but insists: ‘We have to focus on being a family of four not a family of five.’
He said: ‘I looks at Amelie and how she has developed and can’t help think what would Madeleine look like and be doing. Anniversaries and birthdays are very difficult and occasions like the days she should have gone to school.’
Mr McCann recalled fond memories of Maddie, the longed for child he and Kate had through IVF treatment.
As a baby suffering from colic he used to lay her on his chest and rub her back.
He said: ‘She used to pull the hairs on my chest and it was really painful but it seemed to ease her burden. I formed a really strong bond with her at a very young age.’
They would often watch her favourite TV programme together Dr Who starring David Tennant ‘sitting down in their little snug’ and at other times he would observe her running around the garden with her brother and sister or going swimming.
He revealed her room at the family home in Rothley, Leicestershire, was ‘pretty much the same’ with the bedding and stars on the ceiling and a wardrobe full of birthday and Christmas presents.
But he found it difficult having other people visiting it because it was like ‘defiling Madeleine.’
But he stated: ‘You adapt to your situation, it is human nature. We are incredibly resilient and people help you and time makes the pain ease.
‘But the grief and loss is always there. I don’t know how we have coped.’
How the disappearance of Maddie McCann has unfolded over 11 years
May 3: Gerry and Kate McCann leave their three children, including Maddie, asleep in their hotel apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal, as they eat with friends in a nearby restaurant. When they return, they find Maddie missing from her bed
May 4: A friend of the McCanns reports of seeing a man carrying a child away in the night. Meanwhile, airports and borders are put on high alert as search gets underway
May 14: Robert Mural, a property developer who lives a few yards from the hotel, is made a suspect by Portuguese police
May 30: The McCanns meet the Pope in Rome in a bid to bring worldwide attention to the search
August 11: Police in Spain acknowledge for the first time in the investigation that Maddie might be dead.
September 7: Spanish police make the McCanns official suspects in the disappearance. Two days later the family flies back to England
July 21: Spanish police remove the McCanns and Mr Mural as official suspects as the case is shelved
May 1: A computer-generated image of What Maddie could look like two years after she disappeared is released by the McCanns
May 12: A review into the disappearance is launched by Scotland Yard, following a plea from then-Home Secretary Theresa May
April 25: After a year of reviewing the case, Scotland Yard announce they belief that Maddie could be alive and call on police in Portugal to reopen the case, but it falls on deaf ears amid ‘a lack of new evidence’
Kate and Gerry McCann mark the fourth anniversary of the disappearance of their daughter Madeleine with the publication of the book written by her mother
July 4: Scotland Yard opens new investigation and claim to have identified 38 ‘people of interest’
October 24: A review into the investigation is opened by Portuguese police and new lines of inquiry are discovered, forcing them to reopen the case
January 29: British officers arrive in Portugal as a detailed investigation takes place. During the year, several locations are searched, including an area of scrubland near the resort
October 28: British police announce that team investigating Maddie’s disappearance is reduced from 29 officers to just four, as it is also revealed that the investigation has cost £10million
April 3: Operation Grange is handed an additional £95,000 by Theresa May to keep the investigation alive for another six months
March 11: Cash is once again pumped into keeping the investigation alive, with £85,000 granted to keep it running until September, when it is extended once again until April next year
March 27: The Home Office reveals it has allocated further funds to Operation Grange. The new fund is believed to be as large as £150,000
September 11: Parents fear as police hunt into daughter’s disappearance could be shelved within three weeks by the new Home Secretary amid funding cuts
September 26: Fresh hope in the search for Madeleine McCann as it emerges the Home Office is considering allocating more cash for the police to find her