LONDON – The parents of a British girl who has gone missing in Portugal for 12 days have vowed not to leave the country without their daughter.
Revealing a determination to overcome the devastation that has engulfed them, Madeleine McCann's parents renewed appeals Sunday for their daughter's safe return.
Gerry McCann revealed that he and his wife were receiving help from a trauma consultant and were keeping a positive outlook. "Until we have concrete evidence to the contrary, we believe Madeleine is safe and being looked after," he said
The father of the missing girl also thanked those who had made financial offers to help bring about Madeleine's safe return, as well as the media for covering the story so closely.
The story of Madeleine's disappearance in the Algarve coastal region of Portugal has touched the hearts of the nation and beyond. Rewards totaling £2.5 million (nearly $5 million) have now been put on offer for anyone who can help provide information leading to the safe return of Madeleine.
Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson, Harry Potter author JK Rowling, and "American Idol" judge Simon Cowell are among those who have contributed to the reward.
Close friends of the family have said "a tidal wave" of devastation has torn the couple apart but that they have been gaining strength from the support of family, friends and the many church services they have attended.
Millions across Portugal joined them on Sunday as the largely Catholic nation marked the 90th anniversary of the famous "Fatima visions" in which the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to three peasant children in central Portugal.
On Saturday, Madeleine's 4th birthday, the missing girl was added to the prayers as 300,000 attended a service in Fatima, Portugal.
For nearly two weeks now, Madeleine's mother, Kate McCann, has prayed for the ordeal to come to an end and has often been pictured holding onto her daughter's favorite toy since her disappearance on May 3.
Kate McCann a Roman Catholic, has regularly visited a local church in Praia da Luz, where congregation members have also shed tears with her. Earlier in the week, she fought to hold in her emotions as the vicar led prayers for her daughter. "We give to you little Madeleine, and ask your protection on her, we ask your grace to be upon her," Fr. Haynes Hubbard prayed.
The Algarve community has praised the mother's bravery. Denise Ryans, who has lived in the Algarve for 12 years, told the Daily Telegraph: "I am so pleased that Madeleine's mother felt strong enough to come (to the church). I can't imagine what she is feeling.
"The fact that she was able to be here meant a lot. I was sitting behind her and could feel the emotion from her.
"The service was wonderful," Ryans added. "It was a great comfort. We hope for the best. All we can do is pray."
In Britain, meanwhile, the mother of a boy who was missing for nearly two months before being found safe said yesterday that she was praying for Madeleine.
Sally Jones spent 56 days desperately waiting for news of her four-year-old son, Simon, who had been held in a hostel only two miles from her home in Hemel Hempstead, Herts. Simon's kidnapper, Peter May, was jailed for 10 years last June.
Jones said: "You just go numb after a while. I had two other boys to look after, so that helped occupy my mind. My message to Madeleine's parents is 'You have got to hope until there is no hope.'"
In recent days, Portuguese police have shifted their local search to an international child abduction inquiry, following suspicions Madeleine may have been taken out of the country.
The international crime stoppers number is +44 1883 731 336. People with information about Madeleine are able to call anonymously.