Ten years after the mysterious disappearance of British girl Madeleine McCann, a service was held in her memory Wednesday evening at the church in the seaside resort of Praia da Luz in southern Portugal, marked by the absence of her parents.
On May 3, 2007, a few days before her fourth birthday, “Maddie” disappeared from her family’s holiday apartment in the Algarve village as her parents dined with friends at a nearby restaurant, sparking one of the biggest searches of its kind in recent years.
Despite a wide range of suspects and theories about what happened, no one has ever been convicted over her disappearance.
“It’s a very sad story, a very sad case and we all hope that we turn up on that. Our thoughts are with the family and with Madeleine,” said English tourist Tracy, 42, who came to attend the service.
Another British tourist, Roney, 48, said: “It’s important to keep Madeleine’s name alive and to pay respect to a little girl who never came home.”
Both had previously gone to a cliff overlooking the sea to release pink balloons to mark the anniversary.
About 50 Anglicans and Catholics attended the service in the little whitewashed church where Maddie’s parents Kate and Gerry McCann used to gather after their daughter vanished.
The ceremony was led by Canadian Anglican pastor Haynes Hubbard, who had officiated at the church at the time of the girl’s disappearance.
An English father, James, 43, accompanied by his little daughter, paused in front of a photo of Maddie surrounded by flowers at the entrance of the church.
“I just explained to my daughter that it was a little girl who got lost about 10 years ago. I just wanted to show her the photo to explain what happened,” he said.
The McCanns, who did not attend the service in Portugal, on Sunday told the BBC they still hope to find their daughter alive.
“My hope for Madeleine being out there is no less than it was almost 10 years ago,” said her mother.
The McCanns attended a service Wednesday with about 200 people in the small town of Rothley, in central England where they live.