Editor's note: Reports say British police have been given permission to dig at sites in Portugal close to where Madeleine McCann disappeared, though this has not been confirmed by Portuguese or British authorities - David
Madeleine Beth McCann (born 12 May 2003) disappeared on the evening of 3 May 2007 from her bed in a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, a resort in the Algarve region of Portugal, sparking what one newspaper called "the most heavily reported missing-person case in modern history." Her whereabouts remain unknown.
Madeleine was on holiday from the UK with her parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, her younger twin siblings, and a group of family friends and their children. She and the twins had been left asleep at 20:30 in the ground-floor apartment, while the McCanns and friends dined in a restaurant 50 metres (160 ft) away. The parents checked on the children throughout the evening, until Madeleine's mother discovered she was missing at 22:00. At first the Portuguese police seemed to accept that it was an abduction, but after misinterpreting a British DNA analysis they came to believe that Madeleine had died in the apartment. The McCanns were declared arguidos (suspects) in September 2007 but were cleared when Portugal's attorney-general archived the case in July 2008.
The parents continued the investigation using private detectives until Scotland Yard opened its own inquiry, Operation Grange, in 2011. In 2013 Scotland Yard released e-fit images of men they wanted to trace, including one of a man seen carrying a child toward the beach that night. Shortly after this the Portuguese police reopened their inquiry. Operation Grange was scaled back in 2015.
The disappearance attracted sustained international interest and saturation coverage in the UK reminiscent of the death of Diana in 1997. The McCanns were subjected to intense scrutiny and false allegations of involvement in their daughter's death, particularly in the tabloid press and on Twitter. They received damages and front-page apologies in 2008 from Express Newspapers. In 2011 they testified before the Leveson Inquiry into British press misconduct, lending support to those arguing for tighter press regulation.