The parents of Madeleine McCann have issued a heart-wrenching message on what would be their daughter’s 18th birthday.
Madeleine was three at the time of her disappearance from an apartment while her family vacationed in the seaside town of Praia da Luz, in Portugal’s Algarve region, in 2007.
Her parents Kate and Gerry took to Facebook on Wednesday with a message for Madeleine’s 18th birthday.
“We love you and we’re waiting for you and we’re never going to give up,” they wrote.
Despite the high-profile nature of Madeleine's disappearance and media coverage since, Wednesday's anniversary is expected to be a muted affair.
A source close to the family told AFP the McCanns were very private people and would only comment if there was a fundamental development in Madeleine's case.
Her parents' priority, they said, was to protect Madeleine's younger brother and sister from the media spotlight, so they were only currently updating the public through their official website.
A week before Madeleine's birthday, in a message coinciding with the 14th anniversary of her disappearance, Kate and Gerry McCann wrote of the years that had been "lost or stolen" with their daughter.
They added they "hang on to the hope, however small, that we will see Madeleine again".
Lead in the Madeleine McCann disappearance
Madeleine’s parents have long held hope their daughter will be found alive.
Hans Christian Wolters, a prosecutor in Braunschweig, Germany, told reporters in June last year authorities believe Madeleine is dead.
Mr Wolters made the statement after German police identified a suspect, who they named as Christian Brueckner, as a man possibly responsible for her death.
The suspect spent numerous years in Portugal, including in Praia da Luz around the time of Madeleine’s disappearance, and has two previous convictions for “sexual contact with girls.”
Police in Portugal and the United Kingdom confirmed the lead.
Mr Wolters told AFP that the authorities had "several proceedings being brought against the suspect, but in all cases we do not yet foresee an end to the investigation".
Reports in the British press earlier this month claimed that police in Germany had hoped to charge him with a 2004 rape, carried out only a 30-minute drive from where Madeleine went missing, within three months.
Mr Wolters said, however, that the three-month time frame was "unfortunately a false report".
Brueckner, who is suspected of raping an Irish tour representative, is currently serving a seven-year sentence in a prison in Hanover, northern Germany, for the rape of a 72-year-old American in Praia da Luz in 2005.
London's Metropolitan Police continue to treat Madeleine's disappearance as a missing person inquiry and said investigations were ongoing.
with AFP and The Associated Press
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