She was beautiful from the moment she was born, said her parents, burning pride in their words and a smile on their lips.
They talked about what they had gone through to conceive her - the anguish of infertility and the stress of IVF - and reflected on the joy of parenthood, experienced with their little girl and her little brother and sister. “It was all I’d dreamed of; me with three kids. It was perfect,” said Kate McCann of her past life. One she may never know again.
What struck me, as along with practically every family in the land I watched Monday night’s Crimewatch Madeleine McCann special, was that such a long time has passed since the night their three year-old disappeared, it has enabled Kate and Gerry to talk about her without pain and anger clouding her memory. Similarly, the first few days of that fateful holiday before Madeleine went missing can now be recalled with joy. The passing of time has given back to them those last few days of togetherness and the memories of their beautiful girl, happily splashing in the pool, snuggling up for a story.
But what they hoped in the face of logic for was that time had not stolen away other very vital memories - from people who were in Portugal’s Praia de Luz that night six years ago, or knew others that were. The world knows the face of Madeleine McCann in minute detail. How could anyone forget those incredible eyes, fringed with inky lashes and strikingly marked? But six years on, could anyone remember with pin-sharp clarity a detail that might, along with hundreds of others, help to solve the mystery of Madeleine?
It seems they could. There were thousands of calls - an unprecedented response. Images of a possible abductor, walking to the sea, a child in his arms, sparked names.
Others who have lost children, like Sheffield’s Debbie Needham, mum of Ben, and Andrew Gosden’s Doncaster mum and dad Kevin and Glenys, must have watched and wished for the same opportunity. They must have it. Their loss is not one iota less.