Madeleine McCann's parents post messages of 'hope' in face of anger after £150k cash boost

Devastated parents of other missing children questioned why the McCanns were "getting priority treatment" after the Home Office gave the Met Police the money to chase a vital “final line of inquiry”.

Madeleine was three when she was last seen while on holiday with her parents in Praia da Luz, Portugal, in May 2007.

Force bosses have been applying for funds every six months to continue the inquiry that has cost £11.75million so far.

Amid a backlash following the cash injection, the Find Maddie Campaign website updated its cover photo.

The word “hope” was accompanied by a brief note to supporters: “We just want to thank you for continuing to be by our side and keeping Madeleine in your heart.”

Former GP Kate and heart doctor Gerry, both 50, from Rothley in Leicestershire, are “incredibly grateful”, according to family spokesman Clarence Mitchell.

He said: “They are very encouraged that the Met Police still believe there is work left to be done in the search for their daughter and they remain incredibly grateful to the Home Office for providing an extra budget for the investigation.”

Heartbroken parents of other missing children slammed the decision to give Scotland Yard an extra £150k in the hunt for Maddie.

The seven-and-a-half year Maddie inquiry – codenamed Operation Grange – has so far cost British taxpayers £11.75million.

Paul Whinham, 69, from Wallsend in North Tyneside, has been searching for his 31-year-old son Michael for three years.

Speaking to the Sun Online today he said: “After a six month investigation the Chief Inspector of Northumbria Police told me ‘I’m sorry Paul there’s no more money to keep on going, the case is closed but if you want to declare your son dead it takes six years’.

“They gave me all the options, I’m not knocking them. They said ‘we can only do what we can’, which is fair enough, they’re not magicians. I agree with that.

“If any new evidence comes to light, if there’s any more sightings or anything, I was told to get in touch with them.”

He added: “But then I find out this week yet another £150,000 is going from the Home Office to the Metropolitan Police to keep Operation Grange going.

“Even police have said there’s no other evidence, there’s nothing that’s come to light in 10 years. Why? Why are they keeping going? Why?

“Why is one family getting all this priority? There are 135,000 missing people in this country.

“But there were 29 dedicated officers searching for Madeleine McCann. Ben Needham didn’t have that. Claudia Lawrence didn’t have that. It frustrates me.”

Paul has previously written to the Home Office asking why all missing people weren’t being treated equally.

He said: “The policing minister Nick Hurd wrote back to say that every inquiry gets the same treatment, but then went on to say that when Theresa May was Home Secretary she set up a special unit to look for Madeleine McCann.

"If that’s not preferential treatment, I don’t know what is.

“I wrote to Theresa May and I said ‘can you please stand in front of 135,000 loved ones of missing people in this country and justify how these people have got priority treatment'".

The 69-year-old said he’d been paying off the mortgage on his son’s house for the last three years out of his pension.

He said: “They’re repossessing my son’s house because I’m a pensioner and it should have been redeemed for £87,000 in April and they’ve been pretty sympathetic because they’re aware of all the details.

“Can you imagine what I’m going through?

“Can you imagine how I feel when I’m putting my son’s clothes in bin liners and I’ve got nowhere to put his furniture?

In a separate case Karen Downes, 53, said she felt “very angry” other children, including her daughter Charlene, were “simply being forgotten”.

She said: “A child goes missing in the UK every three minutes. What about all those others who never come home again?”

No trace has been found of Charlene, 14, since she was last seen in Blackpool on November 1, 2003 – despite huge publicity and a £100,000 reward.

Last year detectives finally released the only CCTV footage of her on the day she vanished – after it lay unnoticed on police shelves for 13 years.

Two takeaway workers were acquitted of her murder in 2007 after a trial heard her body was chopped up and had "gone into kebabs".

Karen added: If they are going to plough money into the search for Madeleine, then they should do the same for all the children who are missing.

"She didn’t even go missing in this country – it’s really a matter for the Portuguese police, and yet the money just keeps on rolling in for the search.”

Ben Needham’s mum, Kerry, has previously criticised the cash given to the Maddie search, saying it “hurt her”.

She said: “As Ben's mum I'm not taking anything away from them. We haven't had a fraction of that help.”

Operation Grange has been one of the longest, most high-profile and costly police investigations in history.

Some 600 'persons of interest' have been examined and 'sightings' of Madeleine — in Brazil, India, Morocco and Paraguay, on a German plane and in a New Zealand supermarket — assessed.

The Portuguese investigation of Madeleine's disappearance was criticised by the British authorities as being not fit for purpose.

Scotland Yard began an investigative review into the disappearance in 2011, on the orders of then-Prime Minister David Cameron.

Not one piece of forensic evidence linked to the little girl has been found since she vanished.

And despite trawling through thousands of tip-offs and potential sightings, police have not confirmed that a single one was her.

A Scotland Yard spokesman confirmed: “We have confirmed that Special Grant funding of £150,000 will be provided to the Metropolitan Police Service for the six-month period to 31 March 2019. This is an ongoing police investigation.”

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