Tuesday 17 October 2017

'I pray she will come back one day' - Solemn service marks 10th anniversary of Madeleine's disappearance

Candles are placed next to a photo of Madeleine McCann inside the Church of Nossa Senhora da Luz in Praia Da Luz, Portugal, where a special service was held to mark the 10th anniversary of her disappearance. Photo: Steve Parsons/PA Wire
Candles are placed next to a photo of Madeleine McCann inside the Church of Nossa Senhora da Luz in Praia Da Luz, Portugal, where a special service was held to mark the 10th anniversary of her disappearance. Photo: Steve Parsons/PA Wire
Tributes inside Rothley Parish Church, Leicestershire Photo: Alex Britton/PA Wire

Alexander Britton and Claire Hayhurst

The family of missing Madeleine McCann has said there is still hope - as services were held in Portugal and Leicestershire to mark the 10th anniversary of her disappearance.

Madeleine was three when she vanished from apartment 5A of the Ocean Club resort at about 9pm on May 3 2007.

Flowers, balloons, a picture of the little girl, a heart made of rocks and a teddy bear with a yellow ribbon have been placed outside the church in Praia da Luz.

Meanwhile in Rothley, Leicestershire - the village where the McCanns live - a service to remember missing children including Madeleine was held at the Parish Church.

The family of Madeleine McCann have said they "miss her every second" as they reflect on 10 years of "stolen time" without her.

Kate McCann wrote a letter to the people of Praia da Luz on May 3, exactly a decade after she vanished from their holiday apartment in the Algarve village.

Kate and Gerry McCann arrive for a service to mark the 10th anniversary of the disappearance of their daughter Madeleine Photo: REUTERS/Darren Staples
Kate and Gerry McCann arrive for a service to mark the 10th anniversary of the disappearance of their daughter Madeleine Photo: REUTERS/Darren Staples

Members of the congregation at the Church of Nossa Senhora da Luz wept as the letter from Mrs McCann was read at a special service.

The service, attended by about 40 people including those who helped search for the little girl in 2007, took place at 9pm - about the time that she disappeared.

Mrs McCann wrote: "To our dear friends.

"Ten years without Madeleine. If I'd let that thought even enter my head back in May 2007, I wouldn't have lasted another day.

Photo: Steve Parsons/PA Wire
Photo: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

"And now, a decade on... it is still inconceivable. How can it be?

"Our little girl who brought us the gift of parenthood. Ten years on. We miss her every second.

"Despite the evil and hurt that has come our way, we have been very fortunate, having witnessed and experienced goodness and kindness in great abundance during this long and difficult period of 'stolen' time.

"We are especially grateful to our friends and supporters in Luz for being strong enough and brave enough to keep Madeleine and our family in your prayers and in your hearts.

"Your love and compassion has given us fortitude over the years and sustained our hope in immeasurable amounts.

"There will never be too many times to thank you... and so 'thank you' for everything... but above all, for not giving up on Madeleine.

"With our love and our very best wishes, Kate, Gerry, Madeleine, Sean and Amelie - and all our family."

Speaking after the service, Madeleine's great aunt Janet Kennedy said the family were "very moved" by the gathering.

She added: "The idea was 'yes, it's 10 years, but we're not going to be ground down by this' because the essential message is we still have hope."

Brian Kennedy, Madeleine's great uncle, said: "I met quite a few press people 10 years ago and I would never have believed at that time we would still be here talking to you, seeing you, having services and so on as long as this.

"But as the poem says 'for as long as it takes'.

"I don't know where the end is or how it will end but nobody else does. There's hope."

Inside the church, photos of Madeleine and other loved ones who have disappeared were displayed with messages attached to yellow ribbons.

One, written by Lily, said: "I pray that Madeleine is found safe wherever she is. And that one day she will return."

Another read: "I pray Madeleine will come back one day."

The service, led by the Rev Rob Gladstone, began with Cat Stevens' rendition of Morning Has Broken and included tea lights being lit for missing children.

A special assembly was held at Rothley School to pray for Madeleine and other missing children, with new ribbons tied to the Tree of Hope which was planted in 2007.

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