Madeleine McCann: Parents 'hang on to hope' ahead of 18th birthday
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Madeleine went missing from a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal, shortly before her fourth birthday
Madeleine McCann's parents say they are hanging on to the hope of seeing her again as they prepare to mark her 18th birthday.
In a statement, Kate and Gerry McCann said they still need to know what happened to her, "no matter what".
Madeleine disappeared on 3 May 2007, shortly before her fourth birthday on 12 May.
People usually gather in her home village of Rothley in Leicestershire to mark the anniversary.
However, the pandemic meant this could not happen so online prayers were said instead.
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In their statement, Kate and Gerry McCann said: "Every May is tough - a reminder of years passed, of years together lost, or stolen.
"This year it is particularly poignant as we should be celebrating Madeleine's 18th birthday. Enough said."
They said the Covid-19 pandemic had made the year "even more difficult for many reasons", but were thankful the investigation to find Madeleine had continued.
Kate and Gerry McCann - shown here on the first anniversary of Madeleine's disappearance - said this May was "particularly poignant"
"We hang on to the hope, however small, that we will see Madeleine again," they said.
"As we have said repeatedly, we need to know what has happened to our lovely daughter, no matter what. We are very grateful to the police for their continued efforts."
'Never give up'
The Reverend Rob Gladstone, vicar of Rothley Parish Church, asked people to continue to pray for Madeleine's family and the families of other missing children.
"In just a week's time, Madeleine will be 18, a very significant event in the life of every family, and so we want to pray especially for Gerry and Kate in the days ahead," he said.
"The family wish us to never, never, never give up, to leave no stone unturned, not to forget about Madeleine and to recognise that although still missing, she is still missed."
During the online service on Monday, he also read a poem called The Beacon, which was written by Poet Laureate Simon Armitage especially for the family.
The Madeleine McCann case: A timeline
Madeleine went missing from a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal, on 3 May 2007 while her parents were having dinner at a nearby restaurant
Her whereabouts remain unknown, despite her disappearance being the most heavily reported missing person case
In Britain, the most recent Metropolitan Police investigation, which began in 2011, has cost more than £11m
The case has been the subject of multiple documentaries, including a Netflix series criticised by Madeleine's parents
German prosecutors, who have identified a suspect, said Madeleine is assumed to be dead
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