The case of “Maddie” McCann – a chronology


16 years ago, three-year-old girl Madeleine “Maddie” McCann disappeared in Portugal. A German is suspected of murder. A chronology.

So far all traces had gone in the sand. But Kate and Gerry McCann, the parents of the missing “Maddie”, pushed the investigation forward again and again. They have been in the dark about their daughter's fate for 16 years. Now, at the instigation of German authorities, the area on a lake in Portugal has been searched “because of new developments”. The Braunschweig public prosecutor's office said that whether the objects found could substantiate the suspicion against a 46-year-old German for the murder of her daughter will be revealed by the evaluation of the finds.

3. May 2007: Three-year-old Madeleine “Maddie” McCann disappears from a hotel room at the luxury resort in Praia da Luz on Portugal's Algarve coast. Parents Kate and Gerry McCann, two British doctors, were about 50 meters away at dinner. They left their three children sleeping in the holiday apartment.

7. May 2007: On British television, Kate McCann begs potential kidnappers to release the child. The parents are addressing the public with a media campaign. Photos of the girl, shortly before her fourth birthday, go around the world. Celebrities offer four million euros as a reward for information.

14. May 2007: Portuguese police arrest a first suspect. He denies the allegations.

30. May 2007: On the fringes of a general audience at the Vatican, Kate and Gerry McCann speak with the Pope. Benedict XVI blesses the parents and a photograph of the missing girl.

Comfort: Kate and Gerry McCann 2007 at Pope Benedict XVI

June 2007:With the efforts of the parents to involve the international public in the search, the criticism of this approach is growing.

5. August 2007: Body-sniffing dogs are said to have found clues that indicate that Madeleine died in the hotel room. Investigators assume that the child died in the apartment. The investigators are now concentrating on the parents and their acquaintances.

6. September 2007: Kate and Gerry McCann are now officially suspects. According to media reports, the police assume that it was an “accident”. The parents had made the body disappear.

December 2007: By the end of the year, witnesses stated that Having seen Madeleine McCann in Portugal, Morocco, Malta and Belgium Police investigations with identikit images yield nothing.

March 2008: Several British tabloids have apologized to the McCann family for reports blaming them for the disappearance and death of Madeleine and are paying compensation to Kate and Gerry McCann.

21. July 2008: The Portuguese police stopped the investigation after 14 months without results. There is no evidence of a crime. The parents are no longer classified as suspects, but the case is ongoing.

January 2009: Kate and Gerry McCann  hire a team of former Scotland Yard investigators to find their daughter.

Just before her 4th birthday: “Maddie” McCann

May 2009: Two years after Madeleine's disappearance, her parents are begging possible kidnappers for their daughter's release. They appear on Oprah Winfrey's talk show in the United States, which is watched by millions of viewers. British media release new images created by forensic experts showing the child's suspected current appearance.

March 2011:Kate and Gerry McCann unsuccessfully protest against the sale of a book written about the case by former Portuguese chief investigator Gonçalo Amaral. In essence, he represents the thesis that the child died in 2007 in the family's holiday hotel in Portugal and was not kidnapped. The parents had something to do with the disappearance.

May 2011:Kate McCann is publishing a book with her version of the story. The then British Prime Minister David Cameron announces new investigations. The team checked a total of 30,500 documents over a period of two years.

After a call in the ZDF In the search program “Aktenzeichen XY”, the investigators received more than 500 tips in 2013

25. April 2012: British police say Madeleine McCann may still be alive. There are indications of gaps in the investigation.

2013: The German, who is now suspected of the crime, is being questioned by the investigators for the first time. He was reported to the police, but there was insufficient evidence to arrest him.

October 2013: Portuguese authorities are reopening the investigation. There is new evidence.

June 2014: A renewed search for traces of the missing girl on three vacant properties near the Portuguese resort where Madeleine McCann disappeared yields no leads.

April 2017: British police have found the Haven't given up hope for a solution to the case. Four Scotland Yard officers are still involved in the investigation. Kate and Gerry McCann say in an interview with the BBC they are continuing to do everything they can to find their daughter.

October 2017 :According to media reports, the Scotland Yard special commission “Operation Grange”, which has been dealing with the girl's disappearance for six years, has a new lead.

April 2019: Netflix publishes a documentary about the case – without the participation of Kate and Gerry McCann. The couple then faced hostilities. In return, they accuse the makers of the documentary of obstructing the investigation with their series.

The suspect could have used this VW bus on the night of the crime, according to the BKA

27. March 2020: UK investigators are requesting additional funding to continue investigating the whereabouts of Madeleine McCann.

3. June 2020: The Federal Criminal Police Office announces that a 43-year-old German sex offender who is in custody has been identified as a suspect. A murder investigation is ongoing against the man who lived in the Algarve in 2007.

25. May 2023: Police officers from Germany, Great Britain and Portugal search the area around the Arade reservoir in Portugal for three days. Items possibly related to Madeleine McCann's disappearance are secured. According to the public prosecutor in Braunschweig, the evaluation of the objects will show to what extent they are actually related to Madeleine McCann's disappearance.

This article was originally published in 2020 and updated in June 2023.