Madeleine McCann's parents miss 17th anniversary prayer vigil as 'faker' shows up

Madeleine McCann disappeared seventeen years ago
Madeleine McCann disappeared seventeen years ago -Credit:ITV

The parents of Madeleine McCann didn't attend a prayer vigil on the 17th anniversary of her disappearance- after a young woman who insisted she was their missing daughter turned up.

Kate and Gerry were said by a family member to be away at a secret location on a “much needed” long weekend break.

A crowd packed into the Baptist Church in their home village of Rothley, Leicestershire on Friday night 17 years on from Madeleine's disappearance.

In a message read out by her parents they told of how the absence of their daughter "still aches". They said they were sorry not to be there and thanked people for coming together to "share hope for Madeleine and other missing children".

But a young Polish woman who insists she is Madeleine turned up with a letter she hoped to give the McCanns, the Mirror reports.

Julia Wandelt known as the “Maddie faker”, later told of her “disappointment” that they hadn't been present. The 22-year-old insisted she is "not a liar" and wanted to ask them to do a DNA test to prove she is Madeleine.

Speaking after the 45-minute service, she said: “I am Madeleine McCann. I have never stopped believing it and I have come here because I want to ask Kate and Gerry to do a DNA test. They haven’t done one to prove I am not their daughter.” She added: “No I am not crazy. I am not a liar." Her presence later became known to family members and church representatives.

A message from Kate and Gerry was read out during the gathering of friends and well wishers and they apologised for not being present.

Read by vicar the Rev. Robert Gladstone from the local parish church, it said: “Good evening, we are sorry that we cannot be with you tonight but we thank you for coming together and wanting to share your hope for Madeleine and other missing children. It's 17 years since Madeleine was taken from us. It's hard to even say that number without shaking our heads in disbelief."

"Whilst we are fortunate in many ways and able to live a relatively normal and enjoyable life now, the 'living in limbo' is still very unsettling. And the absence still aches."

Kate’s uncle, retired head teacher Brian Kennedy and his wife Janet, read verses at the service. Mr Kennedy said: “Each time we hope this annual occasion will be the last. The search for Madeleine continues."

Adults and children then lit candles in Maddie’s memory, and prayers were said. Supporters also read out mantras including “Never give up”, “don’t forget about me,” “still missing, still missed” and “all children are precious.”

The McCann’s are holding on to a glimmer of hope that their daughter, who would now be aged 20, nearly 21, could still be alive.

The latest public anniversary gathering comes at an awkward time as the prime suspect in Maddie’e disappearance, Christian Brueckner has gone on trial in for horrific, unrelated sex offences.

German police are convinced Maddie is dead and have been intent on charging prime suspect Brueckner - sensationally named nearly four years ago - with her kidnap and “no body” murder.

The convicted paedophile is currently on trial in his native Germany for five unrelated rapes and sex offences, three involving minors. Brueckner, 47, is also serving a sentence for the rape of an elderly American tourist in the same resort of Praia da Luz Maddie was snatched from.

Mr Kennedy - Maddie’s great uncle - said he was "encouraged by people turning on an extremely unpleasant rainy night.” He said: “Kate and Gerry have gone away, they didn't tell me where and I didn’t ask, and it is a bit of a clash. But they work very hard and they needed a break very much."

Gerry, 55, is a renowned heart doctor while former GP Kate, 56, is now medical worker.

It is not known if they have taken their 19-year-old twins Seam and Amelie away too. Mrs Kennedy later went to greet Julia, hearing a visitor from Poland was present, but not realising she was an impersonator. She said: “Please help me to meet Kate and Gerry. I am very disappointed they are not here.”

She handed over a letter, which was taken by the vicar, and they assured her they would pass it on. Julia became infamous last February after she insisted she was the missing British toddler in spurious posts on social media with her username '@IamMadeleineMcCann'. But she was persuaded to take a DNA test and the results proved conclusively that she had no relation to Madeleine. She then revealed she regrets making the claims online after she received torrents of abuse and death threats in the wake of her headline-grabbing stunt.

But tonight she insisted: “I am Madeleine McCann, and I’ll prove it.” British Police have just been granted new funding of nearly £200,000 by the Home Office to keep their investigation, codenamed Operation Grange, going. So far Scotland Yard’s 13-year inquiry, which officers are still treating as a missing person case, has cost the taxpayer a staggering £13.2 million.

A Home Office spokesperson has confirmed: “Ministers have approved a request to provide up to £192,000 for Operation Grange in 2024-25 in line with our Special Grant processes. The total figure is just under £13.2 million since 2011."

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