Madeleine McCann: Parents were convinced they found missing daughter and had plane on standby

Hatty Collier
Missing : A photo of Madeleine as the tenth anniversary of her disappearance approaches: PA

Private investigators searching for Madeleine McCann were so convinced they had found her that a plane was put on standby with its engines running ready to collect the missing girl.

Clarence Mitchell, the McCann’s media spokesman, has revealed two heartbreaking moments in the first 12 months after the girl’s 2007 disappearance in which her parents, Kate and Gerry, believed they had found their daughter.

Writing in the Telegraph, Mr Mitchell, who has acted as the family’s spokesman for the last decade, described how a blonde, English-speaking girl was located in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco.

He said: “All the information coming back to us suggested heavily that it could be Madeleine, so much so that an aircraft was put on stand-by, with its engines running, waiting to fly to pick her up.

“Kate and Gerry sat tight. They had learned by that stage to be sceptical, not to give in to natural hope only for it to be dashed. They preferred to wait until the Moroccan authorities had checked it out. And when they did, it became clear she was not Madeleine.”

Missing: Madeleine McCann (PA)

Mr Mitchell also described another occasion in which Madeleine’s parents believed they may have found their daughter after he received chilling phone calls from a man repeatedly naming a farm where she was being hidden.

The moment came when they family were still in the Portugese resort of Praia de Luz just weeks after she vanished from the family’s holiday apartment there on May 3. Mr Mitchell had been sent by the British government to the Portugese resort to assist the family with the huge media interest.

He said: “Shortly after I arrived, I started to get phone calls, always at three o’clock in the morning, always the same ghostly man’s voice, repeatedly naming a farm where she was being hidden.”

Plea: Gerry and Kate McCann (PA)

Mr Mitchell said British police recorded the calls and a farm, fitting the man’s description, was located near Seville, over the border in Spain.

He said the farm was raided and looked exactly as described but Madeleine was not found and the tip-offs were never explained.

It comes as the McCann’s prepare to mark the 10th anniversary of their daughter’s disappearance.

The family, of Rothley, Leicestershire, have vowed to "never give up" hope of finding their daughter, who would be 13 now.

Earlier this week Assistant Met Commissioner Mark Rowley said there were "significant investigative avenues" of "great interest" to police.

Last month the Home Office confirmed £85,000 was being given to police to cover operational costs from April to September. More than £11 million has been spent on the UK’s inquiry so far.