New Report Finds Madeleine McCann Could Be Alive—And Living as Someone Else’s Daughter

A report by a former British police detective finds McCann, the four-year-old who went missing in 2007 during a family holiday in Portugal, is likely being raised by another family as their own. Barbie Latza Nadeau on the latest.

AP Photo

The case of Madeleine McCann, the young British girl who disappeared from her parent’s holiday suite in the Algarve, Portugal, on May 3, 2007, when she was just shy of her fourth birthday, has been one of the most sensational missing person cases of this era. In Portugal, the case has been closed since July 2008, when Madeleine’s parents, Gerry and Kate, were cleared as chief suspects. They say they’ve never given up hope. Now, for the second time this year, an authoritative voice from the United Kingdom is giving the McCann’s reason to believe that their daughter might still be alive.

In April, Scotland Yard called on Portuguese authorities to reopen the cold case after translating and examining 100,000 pages of investigative documents from which they identified some 195 missed leads from the initial investigation. Then, this week, retired Metropolitan homicide detective Ian Horrocks published his own comprehensive report based on an independent investigation that concludes the most likely scenario was that Madeleine was abducted by a family who may be raising her as their own daughter.

Horrocks, who headed one of Scotland Yard’s kidnapping and special investigation teams for more than five years, now consults for media outlets and private individuals. In February, he was commissioned by The Sun newspaper to investigate the shortfalls of the McCann case. Horrocks traveled to Portugal to review the crime scene and talk to local authorities, and just released a comprehensive independent analysis of the case, weighing what he says is concrete physical evidence against simple logic to come up with a plausible explanation for what happened to Madeleine. “I have tried to look at this with fresh eyes untainted by what has been written in the past, much of which has been totally uninformed and not based upon any evidence,” he wrote in the report obtained by The Daily Beast.

In the report, Horrocks says there are four possibilities to explain what happened to Madeleine, but only one that makes sense. He completely dismisses the theory that Madeleine died accidentally or was killed by her parents. “The thought that Kate and Gerry McCann had anything to do with the death of their daughter, whether being directly responsible or covering it up is frankly preposterous,” he said in an interview. In his report, he asks, “Are we saying that they coldly decided that Madeleine was dead and then put together an elaborate plan to dispose of her body? Did Gerry McCann simply walk down the road with a bag containing his daughter’s body and dispose of it, and then calmly go out for dinner? This is ridiculous in the extreme.”

The detective also pours scorn on a second theory, that Madeleine wandered out of the holiday apartment and was snatched from the street or got lost. He says that if the young girl had left the apartment, she would have walked directly down the floodlit walkway to where her parents were dining at a tapas bar about 130 feet away. “She would not have wandered far, and the chances that at this very moment a predator being there who is attracted to this age of victim is so unlikely that it goes beyond reasonable consideration,” the report says.

He is also skeptical of a third theory, that Madeleine was abducted by predatory pedophiles and assaulted and killed. Horrocks says Madeleine, at just 4 years old, didn’t fit the normal profile of a victim of pedophile kidnapping. Madeleine’s younger twin siblings were also asleep in the apartment and they were left undisturbed. “I do not believe that Madeleine was abducted with the intention of some sort of long-term grooming and abuse similar to that experienced by Jaycee Dugard or Natascha Kampusch,” Horrocks says. “Both of these girls were substantially older when they were taken.”

Instead, he believes that the McCanns were pinpointed the moment they arrived at the holiday resort. He says the perpetrators likely watched them for their first few days of their vacation, studying their routines and Madeleine’s behavior so they would be ready when the opportunity to snatch her presented itself. It would have been quickly apparent to anyone watching that it was the McCanns’ holiday habit to feed the children and put them to bed and then dine at the restaurant nearby. The McCanns, along with their friends who were holidaying with them, took turns walking back to the apartment to check on the children at 20 to 30 minute intervals. Then, he says, just after 9 p.m. that night, the perpetrators took her. “The people responsible will not have a close extended family,” otherwise someone in their family might have recognized Madeleine, he says. “I do not think that they have any children of their own. I also believe that they could have rationalized it in their minds by thinking, They’ve got three, we haven’t got any.”

If Horrocks’s hunch is right, then Madeleine is out there somewhere. He says the police in Portugal have a responsibility to go back to square one and investigate the case as if it just happened. He also condemns the Portuguese police for not immediately issuing her photo to local news media and for becoming too focused on the parents, rather than following various leads that could have led to her recovery. He says there are scores of people who were staying at the holiday village who have still not been questioned about what they may have seen or heard that night. “The reality is that in such cases it is fundamental that the investigators keep an open mind and work to the evidence, not what they think may have happened. Also, their belief should be that they are looking for a live child and not confirmation of the death.”

Horrocks believes that Madeleine will be found one day: “Is believing that Madeleine is alive being overly and unrealistically optimistic? I do not think so, and until there is categorical evidence to the contrary, I will continue to believe this.” But whether those in charge of finding her have the same belief could make all the difference between whether they find her or not.