The Mysterious Disappearance Of Madeleine McCann

This year will mark 14 years since the mysterious disappearance of Madeleine McCann, a British girl a few days shy of her fourth birthday, who went missing while on vacation with her parents in Portugal, as the BBC reports. The case captivated the world when the story made headlines in May of 2007, and as time progressed, there was a continued growing media interest in what happened to the toddler. The suspicious vanishing of the child while vacationing with her parents raised a series of questions from Portuguese investigators and people following the story.

Suspicion eventually surrounded her parents, Gerry and Kate McCann, and there were many doubts about their parenting responsibilities. Investigators at one point even suspected them of guilt, writes the Statesboro Herald. Though they were cleared, a dark cloud of skepticism continues to follow the couple more than a decade later, and there have never been any solid leads or answers to how their daughter vanished, or where she is today.

The night Madeleine McCann went missing

British couple Gerry and Kate McCann (pictured above) were on vacation with a group of friends and their children at a rental seaside villa called Ocean Club in Praia da Luz, Portugal. They had been in the country since April 28. On the night of May 3, the friends all decided to go out to dinner at the resort's restaurant and leave all of their children behind asleep. Madeleine was back in her parents apartment with her two-year-old twin siblings. According to BBC, the parents had all agreed to watch the children one by one with a rotation system — checking on them on every 10-15 minutes. The system was going fine until Kate's check-in. When she went to check on her three kids, she noticed that Madeleine was not in her bed. This set off a villa-wide search for Madeleine, but there was no sign of the toddler.

The following morning authorities were called and opened an investigation into her search. That same day the McCanns make a public plea to the media about their missing daughter. No one knew where she was. During the initial stages of the investigation, authorities suspected that Madeleine was abducted and likely still alive. The Scottish Sun reported that police would question Robert Murat, a man they suspected to be responsible for the abduction, but they would later dismiss any suspicion about his involvement.

The aftermath of Madeleine's disappearance

The search for Madeleine would go on for three months with no answers, and in August 2007 officials said they didn't have confidence she was alive.

The following month, the McCanns were named as possible suspects in their daughter's disappearance and questioned. In a few days, the couple would finally leave Portugal with their twins and return to the U.K. But mounting suspicion followed.

In the months after Madeleine McCann's disappearance, the growing media frenzy followed the couple and the case. In July 2008, Portuguese officials dropped the couple as potential suspects and they won a libel case against several publications accusing them of Madeleine's disappearance, reported the BBC. The story thrust the McCanns into the spotlight, as they conducted interviews and appeared in documentaries about their missing daughter.

Over the years, new theories and leads would surface. But in 2020, a new individual came under suspicion. A German man by the name of Christian Brueckner (pictured above) was named as the lead suspect in the case. The Independent reports that the convicted sex offender lived near the Ocean Club around the time the McCanns were vacationing there.

Prime Suspect: The Madeleine McCann Case, a Discovery+ documentary series currently streamingexamines how he came to be a suspect.