Stolen in the Night

05/17/2007 at 12:00 PM EDT

Stolen in the Night
Kate McCann (grabbing a quiet moment with husband Gerry in Portugal on May 13) has taken to carrying her daughter's pink stuffed toy.
Armando Franca/AP
Stolen in the Night

Madeleine's grandmother said the distraught Gerry and Kate (with twins Sean and Amelie) were "just getting by, day by day."

ARMANDO FRANCA / AP

The incident took place under eerie circumstances. The McCanns, both 38, and both of whom are physicians from the village of Rothley in Leicestershire, England, had been staying at the Ocean Club resort in Portugal's Algarve region with Madeleine and their younger twins, Sean and Amelie, 2. On the evening of May 3, the couple put the kids to bed in the ground-floor apartment and went to a tapas restaurant with friends about 50 yards away. They say they checked on the children every half hour. But when Kate arrived at 10 p.m. she found Madeleine missing. Police speculate that an intruder may have entered through the rear patio doors. Over the next several days a dragnet turned up no sign of the child. Early on, a distraught Kate appeared before news crews clutching Madeleine's pink stuffed toy, looking on as Gerry declared, "Words cannot describe the anguish and concern we are feeling."

Some of the initial British press coverage questioned why the couple had left the children with no babysitter. But friends of the family's said the parents, who had struggled with years of infertility before having their kids through in vitro fertilization, felt safer by not entrusting them to a stranger's care. "They did everything to protect those kids," says Gerry's sister Philomena McCann. "It's not like they'd gone out gallivanting – they were just having something to eat." Indeed, those closest to the McCanns described Kate as a devoted mother who had scaled back to working only a day and a half a week as a general practitioner (Gerry is a cardiologist) so that she could be with her children. "She misses her daughter so much," says Philomena McCann. "She's working to keep her career up but spends the majority of her time with the kids."

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