People around the world will light candles for missing Madeleine McCann tomorrow as her parents mark an agonising year without her.
It was at around 9.15pm on May 3 last year that the little girl disappeared from her bed in her family’s holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, southern Portugal.
Kate and Gerry McCann will spend tomorrow at home in Leicestershire in the UK, with their three-year-old twins Sean and Amelie.
Special church services will be held in Portugal and Britain to mark the sombre anniversary.
Supporters of the McCanns are also being asked to light candles, shine torches or turn on a porch lamp between 9.30pm and 10pm tomorrow night to symbolise the period when she went missing.
Everton, Madeleine’s favourite football club, will join in by switching on the floodlights at its Goodison Park ground at this time.
The campaign – named “Light The Way Home” – has been organised by Helping to Find Madeleine, an independent group of the McCanns’ backers.
Everton’s chief executive, Keith Wyness, said: “The message being sent out is a simple one. The search must go on.”
After completing an exhausting round of interviews with British and foreign media today, the McCanns will mark tomorrow’s poignant one-year landmark privately.
They may attend a service of prayers for Madeleine and other missing children at Rothley’s Anglican parish church of St Mary and St John.
Their lawyers have advised them not to return to Portugal because they remain arguidos, or formal suspects, in their daughter’s disappearance.
Instead a number of relatives – Mr McCann’s brother John, his sister Trish Cameron, her husband Sandy, and Mrs McCann’s cousin Michael Wright – will travel to Praia da Luz on their behalf tomorrow.
There they will attend a service in the Algarve village’s church of Our Lady of Light at 6.30pm.
Robert Murat, the third arguido in the case, is maintaining a low profile and has left Praia da Luz to avoid any extra publicity.
He said: “The anniversary is for a little girl who went missing – Madeleine.
“The anniversary is not about us, the McCanns, the PJ or anything else but a little girl going missing.”
Like the McCanns, he strenuously protests his innocence.
Madeleine was three when she vanished from the Ocean Club resort in Praia da Luz while her parents dined with friends at a nearby tapas restaurant.
The past 12 months have been a whirlwind for Mr and Mrs McCann as they have gone from victims to reluctant media stars to suspects.
Their plight attracted the support of celebrities and wealthy businessmen including David Beckham, Harry Potter author JK Rowling, music mogul Simon Cowell and Sir Richard Branson.
At the end of May they embarked on a tour of Europe and North Africa to publicise Madeleine’s disappearance, which included a meeting with the Pope in Rome.
Over last summer their relationship with Portugal’s Policia Judiciaria (PJ), the detectives leading the hunt for the young girl, deteriorated.
At the same time, Portuguese newspapers published a series of stories, quoting anonymous police “sources”, suggesting officers believed the couple could have been responsible for Madeleine’s death.
Things came to a head in early September, when the PJ recalled Mr and Mrs McCann for fresh interviews and named them both as arguidos.
Justine McGuinness, at the time the McCanns’ spokeswoman, revealed that detectives accused Mrs McCann of accidentally killing her daughter.
Two days later, on September 9, the family returned from Portugal to the UK.
An emotional Mr McCann read a statement on the tarmac at East Midlands Airport in which he said: “Despite there being so much we wish to say, we are unable to do so, except to say this: we played no part in the disappearance of our lovely daughter Madeleine.”
Since then the couple have continued their campaign to find the missing girl and Mr McCann has returned to his job as a consultant cardiologist at Leicester’s Glenfield Hospital.
Metodo 3, the Spanish private detectives hired by the McCanns at a total cost of about £300,000, have followed up leads all over the world but so far without success.
In one of their final interviews before tomorrow’s anniversary, the couple said the landmark was a “last chance” in their search for Madeleine.
They are appealing for anyone who has spoken to the police about her disappearance to contact them.
Mr McCann said: “This is a last chance to capture a lot of information which has maybe gone into the investigation and we are not privy to.
“Clearly we need to know that everything has been done. What we are asking people to do is if you have given information to police, Crimestoppers, the Portuguese police, we are asking you to give it to us as well.
“We are a year down the line and seemingly no closer to finding Madeleine.
“We have got little bits of the jigsaw but huge gaps and we have a resource, we have set aside considerable resources on this task.”