Her name was Madeleine McCann. She was three and had been enjoying her time in Praia da Luz, spending time with her parents Kate and Gerry.
The presumption was she would be found within hours. But those hours became days, then months and now years.
Kate and Gerry faced the agony of losing their daughter and also being eyed by many as a suspect. Their behaviour on the night she went missing – they were having dinner nearby while their daughter slept in an unlocked room – was also scrutinised.
It has since emerged that there is evidence Madeleine was murdered. A suspect has been identified by German authorities but is refusing to co-operate.
Kate and Gerry issued a heartfelt message of hope to mark today’s anniversary of Madeleine’s disappearance.
On the Official Find Madeleine Campaign Facebook page, they said they never give up hope of finding their daughter alive, adding: “Never stop believing in hope because miracles happen every day.”
Police continue to investigate the disappearance, but the family are aware that there will come a time when detectives may have to drop the case.
It emerged in the last week that Kate and Gerry could fund a private £750,000 search for their daughter if the police hunt for her ends.
The search for Madeleine has so far cost £12.5 million and a decision is currently being made on whether it will be funded further.
But sources say parents Kate and Gerry are prepared to continue looking for their daughter if the official police investigation ends. A friend of the family said: “Kate and Gerry know the police investigation cannot go on forever. But they will never give up looking for Madeleine.
“When it is shelved, and if there is no result, Kate and Gerry will use money in the fund to continue the hunt.
“That is what it is there for. They paid for their own team of private investigators initially and when the official inquiry ends they will do so again although in the past it has proven to be extremely costly.”
Accounts for the year ending 2020 show a company called ‘Madeleine’s Fund: Leaving No Stone Unturned Ltd’ has a balance of £773,629.
It was set up in 2007 after the three-year-old disappeared in Praia da Luz, Portugal, to handle donations from well-wishers.
Sources say Kate and Gerry are prepared to continue looking for their daughter if the official police investigation ends.
Christian Brueckner, 44, and a convicted paedophile, has been named as a suspect. There is proof he was in the area at the time of her disappearance, but there is not thought to be enough evidence to charge him.
Despite the Metropolitan Police still treating Madeleine as a missing person, the hunt for her may be ended if there are no more fresh leads.
A Home Office spokesman said they were giving “careful consideration” to a request for extra funding for the police investigation.
The Find Madeleine website describes the fund as ‘a not-for-profit company which has been established to find Madeleine McCann, support her family and bring her abductors to justice’.
If she is found, any remaining money will be donated to help with similar cases.
The couple, from Rothley in Leicestershire, have not yet publicly commented on the fund.
Brueckner, from Germany, is currently serving a seven-year jail sentence for raping a 72-year-old woman in the same resort in the Algarve, and is also a convicted paedophile.
He had lived in the resort of Praia da Luz at the same time as Madeleine’s disappearance, but has previously said he is innocent of any crime relating to the three-year-old.
That denial has also been repeated by his lawyer, who has insisted Brueckner had nothing to do with Madeleine’s disappearance and police should “expect to order holy water as a long drink in hell’ before he will cooperate with their investigation”.
Police both in the UK and in Germany appear frustrated at not having evidence string enough to charge him.
Speaking in December, German prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters said: “At the moment our evidence is not so strong we are sure he will be sentenced by the court.
“Maybe we need one witness who can tell us the things we don’t know.”
Mr Wolters revealed they would not need to find Madeleine’s body in order to prosecute Brueckner of her murder.
When asked if he had any forensic evidence placing Brueckner inside the flat where Madeline was sleeping, Mr Wolters replied: “I have an answer but we have decided not to divulge this information. I can’t say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ as that would bring a thousand other questions and I cannot go into details.”