It’s that time of year again when crazy conspiracy theorists are out in full force to mark one of the grimmest unsolved mysteries in recent memory—the disappearance of British 3-year-old Madeleine McCann from a holiday resort in Praia da Luz, Portugal. It has been 10 years since the young girl vanished while her parents, Kate and Gerry, dined with friends at a nearby tapas bar on the compound.
Though McCann would have been nearing her 14th birthday, her parents still haven’t changed one thing in her little girl room in Leicestershire, England, which is still complete with her fourth birthday gifts that remain unopened on her bed. As they do every year, they will celebrate her birthday on May 12.
In the decade since she’s been gone, her parents have faced relentless scrutiny and accusations from people who think they intentionally or accidentally killed her and hid the body. Even the chief investigator, Goncalo Amaral, whose book The Truth of the Lie is convinced they were involved. There are theories that she was kidnapped for a childless couple, or snatched by a sinister pedophile ring led by a man from an e-fit drawing.
The most recent theory is that the British secret service or MI5 colluded with the McCanns to cover up their daughter’s death.
But Maddie is still missing.
Ian Horrocks, a retired Metropolitan Police homicide detective who is now a senior consultant BGP Global Services, believes McCann is still alive.
“Having visited the scene, it is easy to see how Madeleine could have been snatched and her abductor made good his escape in less than two minutes. By turning right from the apartment, he could have been totally out of sight within 30 seconds,” he told The Daily Beast in an email. “The talk of Madeleine being kidnapped by a pedophile ring, or people traffickers, for a client in some distant place, or some of the even more farfetched theories may be worth discussion, but are not in my opinion credible. Likewise, the idea that a random burglar suddenly deciding to take a child instead of valuables is also unlikely.”
Horricks is adamant that the McCanns are not involved. “I also do not believe that anyone with any sense believes that they killed Madeleine deliberately, so this leaves a tragic accident. Even if such an accident had happened, is it feasible that they would not immediately seek assistance and call for an ambulance? 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 his daughter’s body and dispose of it, and then calmly go out for dinner. This is ridiculous in the extreme,” he says, though many conspiracy theorists believe that’s exactly what happened.
Instead Horricks thinks McCann was targeted after the abductors studied their behavior, which should be a lesson to all young families who may easily fall into set routines. The McCanns had dined at the complex every night, taking turns with their travel companions at 20-minute intervals to check on their children after they put them to bed in their holiday suite nearby. Horricks believes this adherence to a routine made it easy to take the child.
“Whoever abducted Madeleine was then able to put their plan together. The routine of Mr. and Mrs. McCann and their friends, along with the regular checking of the children could have been easily observed, as well as the fact that access via the patio door was simple,” he says, noting that Madeleine’s father physical checked on the Madeleine and her younger siblings at 9:05 p.m., but that the next person to check, a family friend, just listened at the door. It was only when Madeleine’s mother, Kate, checked at 10 p.m. that the young girl was discovered missing. That gives the abductors nearly an hour to make their getaway.
“Whether they were local to the area or a visitor, I am of the view that Madeleine was seen early in the week, and from then the plan was developed to abduct her,” the detective says. “If local, they could have initially stayed in the area, and if from further afield, would have left on Thursday, and possibly even vacated their accommodation before this.”
On this basis, Horricks and many others, including McCann’s parents, believe she may still be alive. “Also, don’t forget that whoever took Madeleine knows that she could be recognized at any time and therefore they will go to any means necessary to ensure this does not happen,” he says. “Could her hair be dyed a different color, has she got a tan, is she now speaking a different language?”
If she is alive, Horricks wonders if she, like other teenagers, will start to wonder where she came from. “Madeleine, if alive, is now a teenager. She may become curious as to her background. No one knows where this could lead.” Hopefully for the McCanns, it would lead her home.