LONDON — Wednesday marks the 10th anniversary of the disappearance of 3-year-old Madeleine McCann from a vacation apartment at a resort in southern Portugal as her parents ate at a nearby restaurant.
What happened to Madeleine on May 3, 2007, remains a mystery, but a number of theories have been investigated by police. Here are five possibilities:
PHOTOS: The search for Madeleine McCann
Stolen to sell
One theory is that Madeleine could have been stolen by traffickers for a childless couple. Her 2-year-old twin siblings were left undisturbed in the apartment. “If you were stealing on spec, you would have taken one of the twins. Not both, just one,” detective Colin Sutton told the Mirror. “So it goes back to a specific order for a young blonde girl. Has a young blonde girl died and their parents want to replace her? Or is there another reason for stealing to order?”
Burglary gone wrong
Madeleine could have been taken and possibly killed by thieves after she woke up and disturbed them during a burglary. Carlos Anjos, the former head of the Portuguese police officers' union, told the BBC’s Panorama program that the burglary theory "is absurd." He added: “Not even a wallet disappeared, no television disappeared, nothing else disappeared. A child disappeared."
Abducted by pedophiles
One line of investigation by Portuguese detectives is whether Madeleine was snatched by a pedophile ring based in the region. In 2014, police in the United Kingdom revealed that a 10-year-old British girl was sexually assaulted in Praia da Luz in 2005, two years before Madeleine’s disappearance from the same resort town. Nine sexual assaults of British girls ages 6-12 were reported to Scotland Yard in the area in the three years before Madeleine disappeared, The Telegraph reported. An Irish couple told police they saw a man carrying a child who fitted Madeleine’s description near the apartment on the night of her disappearance. The man has never been found.
Wandered off by herself
Madeleine could have woken up and left the apartment to look for her parents, Mark Williams-Thomas, a former police officer and investigative journalist, told U.K. broadcaster ITV. “I think Maddie was aware they were in the tapas bar in the resort. In order to get to the bar, you have to come out of the premises, walk on a public road and go back in again.” Some media have speculated that Madeleine might have then been killed in an accident. Danny Collins, another investigative journalist, thinks Madeleine left the apartment in search of her parents and was abducted and possibly sold, The Sun reported.
Abducted by parents — theory discounted
Portuguese police suspected Madeleine’s parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, of involvement early in the investigation. Former lead investigator Goncalo Amaral, who was fired in October 2007, claimed in a 2008 book, The Truth of the Lie, that Madeleine died in an accident in the apartment and her parents then faked her abduction. The McCanns were “arguidos” — official suspects — until July 2008, when the Portuguese attorney-general said there was no evidence to link them to Madeleine’s disappearance. Portuguese police have been criticized for possibly missing other leads while investigating the McCanns.
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