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Parents of missing Madeleine ‘more hopeful than ever’

The parents of missing British girl Madeleine McCann said Wednesday they were more hopeful of finding her than at any time since she vanished in Portugal five years ago.

Kate and Gerry McCann said they hoped Portuguese authorities would re-open the investigation into their daughter’s disappearance after “new information” came to light in a British police review of the evidence.

“We’re probably more hopeful now than at any point in the last five years,” Madeleine’s father Gerry told reporters in London a day before the fifth anniversary of the girl’s disappearance from the Praia de Luz resort.

“The chances of finding Madeleine have increased… If people want the case solved and want to bring the perpetrators to justice, the best chance is to formally reopen the case,” Gerry McCann said.

“We have to believe that people want to find Madeleine. If that’s the case I’m sure it will be reopened.”

Madeleine went missing on May 3, 2007, just short of her fourth birthday, from a resort apartment during a family holiday as her parents and friends ate tapas in a nearby restaurant, in a case that drew intense media attention.

Her parents have never abandoned their high-profile campaign to find her.

The McCanns said they could not comment on the nature of the new information, but Scotland Yard said last week a review had unearthed 195 “investigative opportunities” as it sifted through evidence.

The British force said it had only completed a quarter of the review and was working on the assumption that it was possible Madeleine was still alive.

But after Scotland Yard’s statement, Portuguese police said they had no evidence to cause the judiciary to declare a reopening of the investigation, although detectives would continue to “re-examine elements of the inquiry”.

The Portuguese investigation, in which Madeleine’s parents were declared suspects but later cleared, was closed in July 2008.

“In Portugal it’s really quite uncommon for a case to be closed unsolved after such a short period,” Gerry claimed on Wednesday.

The British couple appealed to the public to contact police with any information or sightings after police released an age-progression image of Madeleine as she would look now, ahead of her ninth birthday on May 12.

“There’s a real possibility that she’s out there alive,” Madeleine’s mother said. “We’re so much more positive and confident than a year ago.”

Gerry McCann cited Jaycee Dugard, Shawn Hornbeck and Elizabeth Smart — youngsters who re-appeared after abductions in the United States — as giving Madeleine’s family hope.

“The younger a child is when they are taken, the more likely they are to be kept,” he said.

Kate said their younger children, twins Sean and Amelie, seven, had coped well with their sister’s disappearance and the ongoing search.

“They’re fantastic, they do everything seven-year-olds do… one of the very important members of our family just happens to be missing,” Kate said.

But the two children “will want to carry on the search” when they are older, she said, and their parents do not want them to inherit the “pain, sadness, frustration and anger” that they have experienced themselves.

“We don’t want them to have the burden of this, to be looking and looking and looking and not being able to stop.”