Madeleine McCann timeline: Key dates in investigation as suspect identified

 Christian B has been formally named as a suspect in the Madeleine McCann case. (PA/Getty)
Christian B has been formally named as a suspect in the Madeleine McCann case. (PA/Getty)

Portuguese police have reportedly apologised to Madeleine McCann's parents for the way detectives investigated the case and treated the family.

Madeleine disappeared 15 years ago from a holiday home in Praia da Luz, Portugal, where she was on holiday with her parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, who left the then three-year-old and her younger twin siblings asleep in their apartment while they had dinner with friends.

A police investigation to find her, Operation Grange, has cost £12.5million and so far not produced any convictions in relation to the case.

But earlier this year, Portuguese police formally identified German national Christian B as a murder suspect.

Now, according to BBC Panorama, Portuguese police have also apologised to the McCanns for the way their investigation was handled.

During questioning of Madeleine’s parents in September 2007, detectives made them both “arguidos” – or suspects – in their daughter’s disappearance.

That status was eventually lifted and the investigation was shelved in 2008, but the couple remained under suspicion in Portugal for years.

According to Panorama, a delegation of senior Portuguese police officers travelled from Lisbon to London earlier this year, where they met and apologised to Mr McCann.

The delegation reportedly said the initial investigation was not handled properly, insufficient importance was given at the time to missing children, and officers did not properly appreciate the McCanns’ position as foreigners in an environment they did not understand.

Watch: Portugal names convicted child abuse Christian B as formal suspect in Madeleine McCann case

Here are the main events since the toddler disappeared.


– May 3: Kate and Gerry McCann, from Rothley, Leicestershire, leave their children asleep in their holiday apartment in Praia da Luz in southern Portugal while they dine with friends at a nearby tapas restaurant.

Nothing is amiss when Mr McCann checks on the youngsters just after 9pm, but when his wife goes back at about 10pm she finds Madeleine missing.

Jane Tanner, one of the friends dining with the McCanns, reports having seen a man carrying a child earlier that night.

– 14 May: Detectives take Anglo-Portuguese property developer Robert Murat in for questioning and make him an “arguido”, or formal suspect – but this is later withdrawn.

– 11 August: Exactly 100 days after Madeleine disappeared, investigating officers publicly acknowledge for the first time that she could be dead.

– 7 September: During questioning of Mr and Mrs McCann, detectives make them both “arguidos” in their daughter’s disappearance – but this is also later withdrawn.

– 9 September: The McCanns fly back to England with their two-year-old twins Sean and Amelie.

A poster showing missing girl Madeleine McCann in Glasgow where the UEFA Cup Final between two Spanish teams will be held.
A huge search was sparked for the missing toddler. (PA)


– 21 July: The Portuguese authorities shelve their investigation and lift the “arguido” status of the McCanns and Robert Murat.


– 12 May: Mrs McCann publishes a book about her daughter’s disappearance, on Madeleine’s eighth birthday.

Scotland Yard launches a review of the case after a request from Home Secretary Theresa May, supported by Prime Minister David Cameron.

EMBARGOED TO 1915 WEDNESDAY JUNE 3 File photo dated 2/5/2012 of Gerry and Kate McCann whose daughter Madeleine disappeared from a holiday flat in Portugal in 2007 at a press conference in London where they hold an image of what Madeline might look like as an older girl. A German prisoner has been identified as a suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine, detectives have revealed. The Metropolitan Police have not named the man, 43, who is described as white with short blond hair, possibly fair, and about 6ft tall with a slim build.
Gerry and Kate McCann pictured in 2012 with an image of what Madeleine could look like. (PA)


– 25 April: Scotland Yard detectives say they believe Madeleine could still be alive, release an age-progression picture of how she might look as a nine-year-old, and call on the Portuguese authorities to reopen the case, but Portuguese police say they have found no new material.


– 4 July: Scotland Yard confirms it has launched its own investigation, Operation Grange, into Madeleine’s disappearance two years into a review of the case. It has “genuinely new” lines of inquiry and has identified 38 people of interest, including 12 Britons.

– 24 October: Portuguese police confirm that a review of their original investigation has uncovered new lines of inquiry, and they reopen the case.

The Apartment block in Praia Da Luz, Portugal where Madeleine McCann went missing from in 2007.
The Apartment block in Praia Da Luz, Portugal where Madeleine McCann went missing from in 2007. (PA)


– 29 January: British detectives fly to Portugal amid claims they are planning to make arrests.

– 3 June: Sniffer dogs and specialist teams are used to search an area of scrubland close to where Madeleine went missing.

– 12 December: Detectives begin questioning 11 people who it is thought may have information on the case.

RETRANSMISSION ADDING NEW INFORMATION. Undated family handout photo of Madeleine McCann taken in Portugal at 17:15 on Wednesday May 2, 2007.
No trace of Madeleine has ever been found. (PA)


– 16 September: The Government discloses that the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine has cost more than £10 million.

– 28 October: Scotland Yard cuts the number of officers working on the inquiry from 29 to four.


– 30 April: The McCanns prepare to mark 10 years since their daughter’s disappearance with a BBC interview in which they vow to do “whatever it takes for as long as it takes” to find her.


– 3 May: Local media reports say Portuguese detectives are investigating a foreign paedophile as a suspect in the abduction of Madeleine.

MILAN, ITALY -  This undated handout image supplied by the Carabinieri Milano shows a police mug shot of Christian Brueckner, a suspect in the disappearance of three-year-old Madeleine McCann in 2007 from a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal. The image was taken in 2018 in Milan where Brueckner was arrested and extradited to Germany for the rape he is currently imprisoned for. (Photo by Carabinieri Milano via Getty Images)
A German prisoner, later named as Christian B, 44, has been formally identified as a suspect. (Getty)


– 3 June: Police reveal that a 43-year-old German prisoner, later named as Christian B, has been identified as a suspect in Madeleine’s disappearance.

– 4 June: Scotland Yard’s Operation Grange, which had received £12.3 million in funding up to April 2020, is still a missing person inquiry as detectives have no “definitive evidence whether Madeleine is alive or dead”.


– 4 May: Kate and Gerry McCann post a statement on the Official Find Madeleine Campaign website saying they still cling to the hope of seeing their daughter again as they prepare to mark her 18th birthday on May 12.


– 21 April: Christian B now 44, is made an “arguido”, a formal suspect, by Portuguese authorities.

– 11 October: Prosecutors charge Christian B with five sexual offences in Portugal - unrelated to the McCann case - between December 2000 and June 2011. They include raping and beating a 70 to 80-year-old woman at her holiday flat; beating and forcing a girl aged over 14 to perform a sex act; raping a 20-year-old woman from Ireland and exposing himself to two young girls.


– 20 April: The charges lodged against Christian B are dropped after the court in Germany ruled it had no jurisdiction over the case.

Any possibility of a fresh rape trial disappears.

– 3 May: The McCann family mark the 16th anniversary of Madeleine's disappearance, saying she is "still very much missed" and they "await a breakthrough".

– 22 May: It is reported that police are to begin searching an area near a reservoir, about 30 miles (48km) from Praia da Luz. Police say they will begin searching the Arade dam on 23 May.