I would well believe that this was the most reported-on missing persons case ever, as it is claimed to be. Blonde-haired British Madeleine, aged nearly four, went missing from her family’s holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, in the Algarve area of Portugal, in May 2007, making this probably the most reported-on family vacation of all time to boot.

Her two-year-old siblings, Sean and Amelie, were asleep nearby at the time. Her parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, both doctors and practising Roman Catholics- I don’t know what that’s got to do with anything either!- were absent from the apartment at the time.

They were having a boozy holiday dinner in a so-called ‘nearby’ tapas restaurant, but I saw the map of that restaurant in relation to the apartment where the children were sleeping, unsupervised. It may be many things, people, but I would never have deemed it to be ‘nearby.’

I’m probably not the only person who would frown on the notion of leaving kids alone while the parents go out for the night, and for doing this exact thing, the McCanns probably lost a fair amount of public sympathy.

But it seems to have been common enough practice in this resort, even though the resort provided both a babysitting service and a night creche. Why would you not just use one of these, and be safe rather than sorry? Still, it’s easy to be wise in hindsight, and it’s even easier to judge the actions of others.

The ‘Tapas Seven,’ as they are known, all friends of the McCanns’ who dined together on that fateful night, maintain that they were all running back and forth from the restaurant all night checking on the kids, but, when Kate went to do her own checks around ten o’clock, Madeleine was gone from her room, the only clue to her disappearance an open window…

That’s when everything goes a bit mad. I hope it’s not a ‘spoiler’ to say that this excellent and thorough documentary series doesn’t hold the answers to the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. Madeleine has never been found, alive or dead, and people today are probably no nearer to finding out what happened to her than they were back in 2007.

What the eight episodes do is just collate all the information available on the case and dole them out to us in fifty-minute bursts. It looks extensively at the night of the disappearance, and the actions of the McCanns and the Portuguese police shortly afterwards, when, apparently, a lot of time was wasted and opportunities to find the child were botched or overlooked at first on the part of the police. There are so many theories about what might have happened to Britain’s best-known little missing person.

Did the McCanns, both doctors and Kate a qualified anaesthetist, accidentally over-sedate the child to make sure she slept while they were out for the evening, and then stage an abduction to cover it up? We see a journalist asking the McCanns if they dosed the child up on Calpol before heading out for the night, to which they reply in the negative.

One fact in favour of this ‘over-sedation’ theory seems to be the fact that Sean and Amelie, the two younger McCanns, themselves slept all the way through the furore that was the immediate aftermath of the discovery of the disappearance. On the other hand, if this theory is correct, where is the body? How was it made away with so successfully that it was never discovered?

Did an opportunistic paedophile take Madeleine, someone who perhaps knew that the kids would be alone that night while the parents dined out? Was she stolen to order by someone who really wanted a child of their own and couldn’t have one in the usual way? If this was the case, I wonder how the new ‘parents’ of a stolen child could ever hope to be happy with their new little daughter, knowing that their happiness was entirely based on another family’s misery.

Was she snatched by an international paedophile ring? Men were apparently seen hanging around the apartment and the little resort town around the time of the disappearance. They may have been something to do with it, or they may not have been. It’s as simple, and as complex, as that.

According to one of the private detectives the McCanns hired further down the road- I mean time-wise, not geographically!- there are ‘dark’ parts of the Internet where paedophiles can go and say what they’re ‘into’ and be supplied with it. That poor detective really looked like he had seen some things that he wished he could un-see, if you know what I mean, but some things, once seen… Well, you know yourself.

We hear from two men who were considered suspects by the police at one time, but no longer: Robert Murat, an English chap living in Portugal, and Sergey Malinka, a young Russian computer expert who had once done some work on a website for Murat.

We see what happens when the McCanns are named as ‘arguidos,’ or suspicious persons, themselves for a while by the Portuguese police, and how upsetting this was for the couple, because, as they said themselves, if the police thought the McCanns had done something to Madeleine, then they weren’t out looking for the ‘real’ culprit.

There were hundreds of sightings of little blonde girl children all over Europe after the disappearance, and those all had to be looked into. We hear from the double-glazing millionaire and his son who felt pity for the McCanns and involved themselves in the case, helping with some of the sightings. I didn’t care for either of these two lads. They seemed a bit, I don’t know, entitled or something, to me. Like, okay, we have money so we’ll conduct this investigation however we want. I didn’t really dig them.

We hear from Justine McGuinness, the McCanns’ first PR person, and Gonzalo Amaral, the detective who first worked on the case in Portugal and ultimately wrote a book about it. We hear from friends of the McCanns, who have nothing but sympathy for the couple, and we see loads of footage of the McCanns talking to the press, Kate clutching Madeleine’s favourite toy, Cuddle Cat, all the while.

We also hear from some people who have the temerity to suggest that other kids go missing too, but not all of them get the money and publicity thrown at them that the Madeleine McCann case was able to avail of. Hundreds of kids world-wide go missing every year. Anyone who actively looks to re-unite them with their parents is a hero in my book.

The weirdest thing of all about this baffling disappearance- well, one of them!- is that Madeleine would be eighteen years old now if she was still alive, which, hopefully, she might be. Maybe someone took her who then brought her up with kindness and care. It’s not outside the bounds of possibility.

For the public though, she’s frozen in time, like a fly in amber, as that cute little blonde four-year-old with the happy smile and that distinctive dark strip on the iris of her left eye. It’s one of the iconic images of the twenty-first century. Let’s hope that, one day, we find out the truth about what happened to her.     


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books: