3-year-old Madeleine McCann's disappearance from her parents' holiday apartment in the Praia da Luz resort in Portugal in 2007 triggered one of the biggest investigations in the UK, with her case still believed to be 'the most heavily reported missing-person case in modern history.' Nearly 11 years on, there are still no leads as to her whereabouts, with her parents getting increasingly distressed and downtrodden.
March 5 marks the 50th birthday of Kate McCann, Madeleine's mom, and while for most the day marks a special milestone, all Kate hopes for is to find her eldest daughter once again. More than £11m of tax-payer money has been spent on Scotland Yard's Operation Grange after the McCann family's plea led to David Cameron's government opening the investigation in 2011 but to little avail.
It has now emerged that the police are looking for an additional £154,000 to continue the investigation, and could shut it down if that funding is not received within the next month. This news is said to have heavily impacted Kate, who to this day, still yearns for the return of her daughter.
Commenting on the issue, a Home Office spokesperson said: "The Home Office has provided funding to the Metropolitan police for Operation Grange and the resources required are reviewed regularly with careful consideration given before any new funding is allocated."
The family remains in a somber mood, despite recently celebrating the 13th birthdays of their twins, Sean and Amelia this past month. Kate and Gerry, Madeleine's father, are said to have offered prayers in their lost daughter's name, 'wherever she is.'
According to close friends and family, the impending closure of the investigation has hung like a dark cloud over the parents, with one friend telling the Sun: "Kate's big birthday is another tough date for her. While celebrations go on, there is always a reminder that Madeleine, who would now be a teenager, almost 15-years-old, is still missing."
"Kate's only birthday wish is to find out what happened to her eldest child and she hopes and prays that police will be granted extra funds to carry on their important work to help find her," previously confessing that the 'worst thing is not knowing,' and that the family just wanted to know whether Madeleine was alive or dead.
A report states that the team of four Met police detectives assigned to Operation Grange - the number was originally 29, but was later cut down - have less than four weeks of guaranteed funding and that they have applied to the Home Office for more money 'to pursue one significant final line of inquiry.'
Another one of Kate's close friends was quoted telling the Sun: "They're trying to keep her buoyed up and helping her celebrate a significant birthday. It's a few months of milestones - the twins became teenagers last month, Kate's turning 50, Gerry's 50th birthday is in June."
She continued: "While the family's determined to have fun and enjoy as normal a life as possible, these occasions are marred with a tinge of sadness because Madeleine is not here to join in the celebrations," adding that next week's Mother's day will mark Kate's 11th without Maddie and that the mom previously described the day as 'a constant reminder that one of my babies isn't with me.'
According to the Guardian, both Kate and Jerry have previously stated that they would never give up looking for their lost daughter and have reportedly saved up over £700,000 in public donations and profits from Kate's bestseller book which they can use to aid the Met police investigation if/when it comes down to it.
It appeared as though the Met police had reached a breakthrough in 2013 but that had proven to be a false dawn. Four suspects had been identified, in what many believe is a case of child trafficking, and interviewed by Portuguese and English officers, but no further action was taken.
The Met Police remain cautiously optimistic on the situation, with a spokesperson quoted saying: "Right now, we are committed to taking the current inquiry as far as we possibly can and we are confident that will happen. Ultimately this, and the previous work gives us all the very best chance of getting the answers - although we must, of course, remember that no investigation can guarantee to provide a definitive conclusion."
The police revealed in May last year that the gargantuan investigation had seen them comb through over 600 individuals and review over 40,000 documents since its inception, revealing the scope of the work that is currently being done to ensure Maddie's return.
Clarence Mitchell, a spokesperson for the family said: "Kate and Gerry are extremely grateful to the police for all they have done and are doing in the continued search for Madeleine. They are very encouraged that there remains work to be done that requires a request for an extra budget and they remain thankful to the Home Office for considering it."
The family does have contingencies in place if the Home Office does not approve of additional funds. Madeleine's fund, 'Leaving No Stone Unturned' was set up shortly after the toddler's disappearance with the purpose of 'securing her safe return to her family.' A family spokesperson said: "Money in the Madeleine Fund gives Kate and Gerry the option to pick up their own inquiries again, if they choose, with private investigators.'
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