A woman who worked for the Ocean Club Apartments as a child minder, and who had looked after the McCann children a number of times, has opened up about the terrifying night Maddie disappeared.
‘A parent came to me and said there was something going on, and said someone’s looking for a child, I didn’t instantly think it was Maddie,’ the unnamed woman told the Mirror.
‘A couple of minutes later I walked into Kate crying, friends comforting her, Gerry looking under cars, and it just blew up. I don’t even think she saw me. I just stood next to her and tried to comfort her.
‘She was pacing up and down. The worst possible thing had just happened to her.’
The news of Maddie’s disappearance prompted staff to search far and wide.
‘We were told to start looking in bins in case her body was in there. It was at that point we realised this was serious.’
She recalls how she was horrified at the lazy response from the local police, and how evidence would have been contaminated in those first few hours.
‘I know I didn’t step into that apartment but pretty much everybody else did. So, evidence gone, nothing. There was nobody there to say, ‘We need to lock this off now.’ The police didn’t get there for ages, maybe an hour and a half, so we were looking for her. And at the end of the day, no matter how much you’ve been trained with children, we were children, mainly teenagers, we’re not police.’
Seeing Kate and Gerry McCann that night, the nanny is convinced that the parents had no involvement in Maddie’s disappearance.
‘[Kate] was crying, but almost in a catatonic state, and Gerry was very distressed,’ she recalls.
‘That’s the one thing I really remember from him, looking under the cars. I can’t forget that.’
She also says it wasn’t unusual at the apartments for parents to leave kids in the rooms and go to dinner - however staff were also warned that the town, Praia da Luz, wasn’t the safest either.
Female staff were told to never venture off of the site alone, and were even given rape whistles.
When asked if she thinks Maddie is still alive, the former child carer says she is hopeful.
‘I hope she is still alive.
‘It’s probably very naive, but the best case scenario of a very horrible situation, is that she was procured and taken for a rich person who didn’t have children.
‘I can’t go anywhere else in my head. I can read it about other people and know how horrible that seedy world is where children are sold. But my brain won’t go there with her. I just switch off.
‘I wonder if she’s alive. Does she even remember? Does she remember her parents?
‘It’s Madeleine, she’s gone missing but it would just be the best day ever if I could be told that she’s been found.’