Madeleine McCann Mystery

Kathryn Walker '26

On May 3, 2007, a young girl by the name of Madeleine McCann disappeared while her family was on vacation in Portugal. Almost 16 years later, a young woman claims to be the missing child.


Madeleine McCann was born to Kate and Gerry McCann and grew up in Rothley, a town in Leicestershire, England. In late April of 2007, when she was three years old, the McCann parents took Madeleine and her younger twin siblings on holiday to the Praia de Luz resort in Portugal with a few other family friends. Only a few days later, she would disappear forever.

A few days into the trip, Kate and Gerry McCann and their friends decided to go to the resort’s tapas bar around 8:30 pm. The adults created a rotating system where one would go back to their rooms to check on the sleeping children every half hour. At 10 pm, when Kate took her turn, she came back screaming. Her daughter was gone. The authorities were notified immediately. The police, resort staff, and volunteers searched for Madeleine until the early hours of the morning, yet her whereabouts remained a mystery. A local man by the name of Robert Murat was identified as an early suspect, but no evidence was found to incriminate him. 

When the media caught wind of Madeleine’s disappearance, the story spread like wildfire. She quickly became one of the most famous missing persons cases in recent history. Many theories arose about the situation, some of which questioned Kate and Gerry’s innocence. Madeleine’s parents were indeed considered official suspects, but there was never any evidence to support this claim.

On May 15, 2007, twelve days after Madeleine’s disappearance, the Madeleine Fund was established. According to their website, the mission of this organization is: “To secure the safe return to her family of Madeleine McCann who was abducted in Praia da Luz, Portugal on Thursday 3rd May 2007; To procure that Madeleine’s abduction is thoroughly investigated and that her abductors, as well as those who played or play any part in assisting them, are identified and brought to justice; and To provide support, including financial assistance, to Madeleine’s family.” 

In the months and years following Madeleine McCann’s disappearance, the investigation never ceased, but its publicity and progress slowed. However, it was brought back into the spotlight when a new suspect, Christian Bruenecker, was identified– the first since 2007. Bruenecker is a German man with a history of child abuse and drug trafficking. He was reportedly living in a van in Portugal at the time of Madeleine’s disappearance, but no arrest has been made. 

The most recent updates include a Polish girl named Julia Wendell, who claims to be Madeleine McCann. A private investigator and medium, Dr. Fia Johansson, has been helping Julia share her story via Instagram. Julia was interviewed recently in an episode of Dr. Phil. Many people doubt Julia’s claim, but until the DNA test results come back, no one can know for certain.