Madeleine McCann: Five theories on what happened to missing child

Madeleine McCann
Madeleine McCann

The disappearance of three-year-old Madeleine McCann from her bed in a Portuguese holiday apartment nearly 10 years ago still remains a complete mystery.

The case of the little British girl, smiling in a family snap from under a pink sun hat while clutching tennis balls just days before she vanished, touched a chord with parents all over the world.

Kate and Gerry McCann took to Facebook this week to speak about the “horrible marker” of stolen time with the decade that has passed since their eldest daughter went missing.

Just days before her fourth birthday she was left with her baby twin siblings, Sean and Amelie, asleep in a ground-floor apartment while Kate, Gerry and friends dined at a restaurant just 50 metres away in the resort of Praia da Luz.

Her parents checked on the children throughout the night and discovered to their horror that she was missing at around 10pm on the night of Thursday, May 3, 2007.

The ensuing weeks and months played out every parent’s worst nightmare – but the couple said this week they never, ever imagined they’d still be looking for answers 10 years on.

Experts believe there are five theories which could explain what happened to the toddler.

1. The most likely scenario is thought to be that she was kidnapped to order by a trafficking gang who had been watching the holiday group and their nightly routine of leaving the children asleep in the apartment while they dined nearby.

Detectives believe she could have been abducted to order by people looking for a young blonde girl – possibly parents who had lost a similar looking child, which could explain why her baby siblings were left behind.

Irish couple Mary and Martin Smith saw a man carrying a pyjama-clad child matching Madeleine’s description at around 10pm, 500 yards from the apartment, heading towards the beach. 

His identity has never been revealed, but it is now thought it could have been a parent carrying his child back from a night creche.

2. The chances of a predatory paedophile coming across Madeline that night and abducting her have also been considered, although it is thought to be very unlikely, especially due to her young age.

Raymond Hewlett was living just an hour’s drive from where Madeleine vanished in a campsite with his wife and children.

A British couple informed police that the 64-year-old told them he had spoken to gypsies who were interested in buying youngsters.

Former soldier Hewlett, who was jailed several times for sexually assaulting young girls, said he had refused to sell one of his six children to the group.

It is also reported that he boasted about making a “good business trip” with his family to Morocco for a mystery “sale”. 

Before Hewlett died in 2010, he reportedly wrote to his estranged son saying Madeleine had been “stolen to order” by a gypsy gang.

3. The scenario that the young girl wandered off and had a fatal accident has also been posed, but it is thought unlikely as she left behind the Cuddle Cat toy which she brought everywhere with her.

4. Police have also considered the theory that she was killed as part of a burglary gone wrong, but it is thought doubtful that a burglar looking for laptops or passports would make the huge leap to taking a child.

There were reports that mobile phone records put convicted burglar and heroin addict Euclides Monteiro in the area on the night of the disappearance.

The family of Monteiro, who died in a tractor accident in 2009, insisted he was at home that night and it was reported in 2014 that he had been ruled out as a suspect

5. A lone intruder who sexually assaulted five girls aged between seven and 10 in the Algarve, including two in Praia da Luz, between 2004 and 2006, remains on the loose, but he was discounted as there were no abductions.

Witnesses describe the man as having dark, tanned skin with short, dark unkempt hair who spoke in English with a foreign accent. 

The McCanns were initially treated as suspects but have since been cleared and endlessly continue their search for their daughter.

“Thankfully, there is an active police investigation to try and find Madeleine and bring her abductor to justice”, said her parents this week.

“We will go on, try our hardest, never give up and make the best of the life we have.”

Anyone with information about Madeleine McCann’s disappearance should call the Find Madeleine investigation line on: 0044 845 8384699 or email: