Madeleine McCann’s parents posted a poignant tribute today to mark their daughter’s 20th birthday: “We love you and we are waiting for you. We never give up.’
Kate and Gerry wrote ‘Happy Birthday Madeleine. Still missing. Still sorely missed. Still watching. As long as necessary.’
The post on the Find Maddie campaign’s official Facebook page accompanies a cherished last photo of her as a three-year-old, beaming in a pink sun hat and holding tennis balls.
The website is viewed by thousands of supporters around the world.
The McCanns’ will “quietly” remember their daughter at a small party at home with their 18-year-old twins Sean and Amelie.
Madeleine McCann, then three, went missing while on holiday with her family in Praia da Luz, Portugal, in May 2007, and disappeared without a trace from their accommodation
Madeleine McCann’s parents posted a poignant tribute today to mark their daughter’s 20th birthday
They harbor a glimmer of hope that she might still be alive, 16 years after she was snatched from a Portuguese holiday apartment in May 2007.
Maddie’s great-uncle Brian Kennedy said: ‘Sixteen years without someone and still not knowing where they are is a very long time. Even if it was bad news, it would give us closure in some ways. But without closure there is still hope.’
Gifts and cards from relatives and well-wishers to mark the special day are collected and kept in a keepsake box.
Once Maddie’s pretty pink bedroom in her house in Rothley, Leicestershire, over the years had become a shrine to her with memorabilia adorning it.
Maddie McCann went missing nine days before her fourth birthday from a holiday apartment in the Algarve while sleeping alone with her younger twin siblings
Kate and Gerry McCann with their daughter Amelie at the Rothley village prayer service to mark the 16th anniversary of their daughter Madeleine’s disappearance
But it’s not known if the room has since changed use or been given to one of her siblings, as Gerry has previously said: “Soon there will be a practical question of what to do with a ‘spare room’ that is one of the needs twins. .’
A family source said: “Another birthday is coming up and still Kate and Gerry have no idea what happened to their daughter, and whether she is dead or alive and still waiting to be found.
It’s a difficult time for them, but they will remember Madeleine with a silent celebration behind closed doors.
“There will be gifts, prayers, cake, fond memories, and most of all, hope.”
Family, friends and supporters attended a poignant anniversary gathering for Maddie last Wednesday, May 3.
During the wake, Maddie McCann’s younger sister spoke publicly for the first time, saying it was “nice to have everyone here together, but it’s a sad occasion.”
Kate McCann’s best friend was by her side as they celebrated the 16th anniversary of her disappearance last week.
Fiona Payne, 50, who was one of seven friends with the McCanns the night Maddie disappeared, has often been described as Kate’s “rock” over the years.
Both doctors, best friends, nicknamed “Charlie’s Angels” by a colleague at the hospital where they worked together, bear an uncanny resemblance to their long blonde hair and now both wear reading glasses.
At Wednesday night’s gathering in memory of Madeleine in Rothley, Leicestershire, Fiona and Kate chatted only to each other and to other benefactors.
Fiona read a moving poem ‘Hope is the thing with feathers’ by Emily Dickinson.
Ex GP turned medical worker Kate, 55, said afterwards: ‘Like every year, we gathered in our village to celebrate the anniversary of our daughter Madeleine’s abduction.
“It was a special event and wonderful to feel the hope and warmth of those who were there.”
Kate and respected heart doctor Gerry, 54, had posted a message earlier that day saying their daughter was ‘still very much missed’ and that they are ‘waiting for a breakthrough’ in the police hunt for her.
They wrote: “The police investigation continues and we are waiting for a breakthrough. Thanks everyone for your support – it really helps.’
Kate and Gerry McCann said they still find it “hard to find the words” to express how they feel on the 16th anniversary of Madeleine’s disappearance, saying they are still anxiously awaiting a “breakthrough” in the case
Image shows the house in Lagos, Portugal, where three-year-old British girl Madeleine McCann disappeared in 2007
When three-year-old Madeleine went missing from a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal, it was Fiona who helped comfort her broken friend, and she’s been there for her ever since.
Maddie had been sleeping alone with her younger twin brothers while her parents were having dinner with their seven friends at a nearby tapas restaurant.
Kate had said, “We talked and cried and held each other. It was like a horror movie that just wouldn’t end.’
Fiona and her husband David were among Kate and Gerry’s seven friends who had eaten together that evening at a nearby tapas restaurant.
Kate and Gerry McCann pictured with their daughter Amelie (bottom right) during the prayer service
The seven friends – three couples and the mother of one of the mothers – had joined the McCanns in Praia da Luz for a vacation together, and the nine adults along with their eight children.
The adult group was dubbed the Tapas 7 as they were dining with Gerry and Kate at the hotel complex’s tapas restaurant the night Madeleine went missing.
Each of them cooperated voluntarily in the Portuguese and British police investigation and none of them were ever made ‘arguido’ – persons of interest – in the investigation.
In addition to Fiona and her husband Dr David Payne, there were Fiona’s mother Dianne Webster, Rachael Oldfield, a recruitment consultant, and her husband Matthew and Jane Tanner and her husband Dr Russell O’Brien.
German police are convinced Maddie is dead and plan to charge prime suspect Christian Brueckner – sensationalized almost three years ago – in her kidnapping and no body murder.
But it recently emerged that the convicted pedophile may never face trial in the high-profile Maddie case, and with unrelated alleged sex offenses, due to legal technicalities about the jurisdiction of foreign courts.
Brueckner, 45, is currently serving a sentence in a German prison for the rape of an American tourist in the same resort town of Praia da Luz Maddie disappeared in May 2007.
He has vehemently denied any involvement in her kidnapping.