Madeline McCann parents: We haven't given up hope of finding our daughter
Published 24/12/2015 | 11:21
Kate and Gerry McCann "have not lost hope" of finding their daughter, the couple said in a heartfelt Christmas message to supporters.
In a year where they were forced to shut the official Find Madeleine appeal's Twitter account because of persistent online abuse, the couple also thanked the public for their "amazing support".
They also welcomed the "progress" of the Metropolitan Police investigation Operation Grange to trace their daughter, saying it was "moving in the right direction" despite the inquiry being scaled back in 2015.
Three-year-old Madeleine McCann disappeared from the family's holiday apartment in Praia da Luz in Portugal in May 2007.
In a statement posted to their website and the appeal's official Facebook page, the couple said: "Merry Christmas to all our supporters.
"Your compassion and help has once again spurred us on through another year and never fails to astound us.
"We really appreciate how lucky we are to have such amazing support behind us. Thank you."
The couple, whose daughter would have turned 12 this year, added: "It is our ninth Christmas without Madeleine. As always, she is very much on our mind and in our hearts and Christmas preparations.
"We have not lost hope that we may get to celebrate another Christmas with her.
"If anything can drive us on, that most definitely will."
Since 2011, the Met have been assisting in the search for clues as to what happened to the youngster with officers last year visiting the Portuguese holiday resort.
The couple had previously praised the "meticulous and painstaking work" of detectives, and have again offered thanks to the police.
However, this year the number of officers working on the case was reduced.
The Home Office said in June that the investigation had cost £10 million, with a further £2 million budgeted for the year ahead.
The McCanns added: "Thankfully, the police investigation has made progress over the year.
"Whilst it is never as much or as speedy as we, or the police would like, we are moving in the right direction and that's the positive.
"Patience and perseverance are virtues which we've acquired in abundance over recent years - another positive."
Kate, who is ambassador for charity Missing People, also paid separate tribute to the "full and successful year" of that organisation's work.
In a personal message to their supporters, the couple thanked people for their Christmas cards, saying it gave them hope that their daughter was still very much in the public's thoughts.
They said: "Thank you also for all the lovely Christmas cards we've received.
"It gives us a lot of pleasure and comfort to sit down together and share your kind messages, with the reassurance that Madeleine has not been forgotten."
The couple concluded their season's greetings saying: "And so a new year approaches....new energy, new opportunities, new hope.
"Wishing you all a very happy, healthy and peaceful 2016 - Kate & Gerry."
In October, the couple announced they were closing the appeal's Twitter account because of "toxic" comments directed at them, accusing their critics of trying to "damage the search for Madeleine".