The Disappearance Of Madeleine McCann Is Netflix's Most Gripping True Crime Series Yet

By GQ Staff
17 March 2019
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The eight-part documentary sheds light on the missing child case that’s gripped the world for over a decade

On May 4, 2007 the world awoke to news that Madeleine McCann, then an unknown three-year-old, was abducted from her family’s apartment in Praia da Luz in Portugal.

What transpired since has become the most well-known missing child case, gripping the world for over a decade with the singular image of Madeleine, staring at the camera curiously with her wispy blond bangs and baby teeth, becoming instantly familiar.

Now, twelve years since her disappearance, a new documentary promises to shed some light. Despite investigators from the UK and Portugal searching for evidence for all these years, Netflix’s The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann seeks to reveal new theories into what happened when Madeleine vanished in 2007.


The eight-part documentary series, which features over 40 interviews with key investigators, journalists, and friends familiar with the decade-long case seeks to instil hope for Madeleine’s return. Jim Gamble, top child protection cop in the UK’s first Madeleine investigation, says, “I absolutely believe that in my lifetime we will find out what has happened to Madeleine McCann.”

He adds, “There’s huge hope to be had with the advances in technology. Year on year DNA is getting better. Yea on year other techniques, including facial recognition, are getting better. And as we use that technology to revisit and review that which we captured in the past, there’s every likelihood that something we already know will slip into position.”

Some of those interviewed argue that the toddler was taken to another foreign country. The documentary suggests that Madeleine was likely to have been kept alive by child traffickers because, as a middle-class British girl, she would be more financially valuable.

Julian Peribanez, the private investigator hired by the McCanns, explains: “They usually go for lower-class kids from Third World countries – that’s the main supplier of these gangs. The value that Madeleine had was really high because if they took her it’s because they were going to get a lot of money.”
Large sections of the eight-part series delves into human trafficking, which regularly involves the supply of a child to desperate people wishing to be parents, or sickening paedophiles.

The theory that Madeleine was taken by child abusers was briefly considered when the toddler disappeared from the apartment where she was left sleeping with her two siblings, as parents Gerry and Kate McCann dined in a restaurant within the Ocean Club resort where they were staying.

Unfortunately, bungling Portuguese cops, who instead devoted their time to trying to pin the blame on the parents, didn’t prioritise that line of inquiry. 

The documentary also explains how Portugal is the perfect location or child traffickers because it’s well-placed, allowing abducted children to be instantly taken overseas by boat or driven across Europe.

According to Deadline, Madeleine’s parents did not participate in the upcoming series. On March 6, they posted a short statement on their website, explaining their decision not to contribute to the series.

“We are aware that Netflix are planning to screen a documentary in March 2019 about Madeleine’s disappearance,” they wrote. “The production company told us that they were making the documentary and asked us to participate. We did not see and still do not see how this programme will help the search for Madeleine and, particularly given there is an active police investigation, could potentially hinder it.”

There’s no denying that the true crime genre is one of Netflix’s most popular. Recent series like The Ted Bundy Tapes and Abducted in Plain Sight proved an instant success, and conversation around them blew up on social media.

But as the documentary’s executive producer, Emma Cooper, said: “We’re trying to lay out as much detail as we can about the case – and if it could jog someone’s memory in some way then that would be amazing.”

She adds, “Keeping any search for what happened to Madeleine in the consciousness – particularly globally – is something that’s so important. As we show in the documentary, other children are found – so you have to hope.”

The documentary will be available in full to Netflix’s 159 million subscribers around the world on March 15.

Via GQ Australia