The parents of Madeleine McCann have spoken of the hurt caused by ‘fake news’ and how they are now trying to protect their 12-year-old twins from online abuse.
In a deeply moving interview to mark the tenth anniversary of Madeleine’s disappearance, Kate and Gerry McCann also tell of a “new normality” of adjusting to life after so long without their eldest child.
The McCanns also disclose they are taking their legal battle with the former Portuguese detective Goncalo Amaral to the European courts after a ‘terrible’ judgment that ruled in his favour.
Madeleine was just three when she vanished from the family’s holiday apartment in Praia da Luz in the Algarve on May 3 2007, sparking the biggest missing persons’ hunt in history.
In their interview with the BBC’s Fiona Bruce, Mrs McCann said they would do “whatever it takes for as long as it takes” to find their daughter.
Of the anniversary, Mrs McCann said: “I never thought we’d still be in this situation, so far along the line. It’s a huge amount of time. In some ways it feels like it was only a few weeks ago, in other times it has felt really long. But it’s a hard marker of time.
“It’s time we should have had with Madeleine. We should have been a family of five for all that time. It just feels stolen.”
Asked about the ‘cruel and distressing’ postings on the internet, Mrs McCann said the couple did their best to avoid social media. But she said she was anxious for their children Sean and Amelie, who were two at the time, but are now beginning to use social media themselves.
“Our worry is for our children,” said Mrs McCann, 49, a former GP, who disclosed she has started working again in medicine but not as a general practitioner, “I think we’ve tried to educate them a little bit as well because obviously it’s not just us that has fallen victim to the downside of social media.”
Of the vile postings, she said: “I think it has been shocking... that aspect of human nature that I hadn’t really encountered before.
“It’s been striking and quite hard really to get your head round. Because why would somebody write that? Why would somebody add to someone’s upset - why would someone in a position of ignorance do something like that?”
Mr McCann, 48, a cardiologist, said: “I don’t want to dwell on the negative aspects too long, but I think in this era of ‘fake news’ it is extremely topical and I think people just need to think twice before what they write and the effects it has.
“Certainly I know ourselves with our own experience, both in the mainstream media and also on the internet, we just say I am not going to believe that until I see evidence of it.
“I’m sure it is a very small minority of people who spend their time doing it, but it has totally inhibited what we do. Personally, we don’t use social media, although we have used it in Madeleine’s campaign.
“But for our twins who are growing up in an era where mobile technology is used all the time, we don’t want them not to be able to use it in the same way that their peers do.”
The couple, from Rothley in Leicestershire, lamented that they had only been able to enjoy their “little perfect nuclear family of five” for such a short period of time.
Mr McCann, acknowledging the passing of time, said: “You adapt and you have a new normality. And unfortunately for us a new normality is a family-of-four.
“The last five years in particular has allowed us to really properly devote time to looking after the twins and ourselves and of course carrying on with our work.
“At some point you’ve got to realise that time is not frozen and I think both of us realise that we owed it to the twins to make sure that their life is as fulfilling as they deserve, and we have certainly tried our best to achieve that.”
The couple suffered not only the agony of not knowing what happened to their daughter but their misery was compounded by finding themselves accused by the Portuguese police of somehow being implicated in Madeleine’s disappearance.
Although they have been formally cleared by both Portuguese and British police for almost a decade, they remain locked in legal battle with Amaral, who was sacked from the case but wrote a book about it. The McCanns successfully sued Amaral for libel but the ex-detective won the latest round of the bitter dispute in the Portuguese supreme court.
Mr McCann said they would take the case to Europe because “the last judgment is terrible”, adding: “We’ve got to challenge it, and we will do.”
Mrs McCann said: “I find it all incomprehensible to be honest
“It has been very upsetting, and it has caused a lot of frustration and anger which is a real negative emotion.
“I just have to hope that in the long run that justice will prevail.”